Posts : 8701
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Him Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:53 am|| |
Time for a new challenge, and building on the last month's prompt, we'll go the other side of the gender divide with:
The him in question can be of any species, can be a memory, a dream, tangible, pleasant, threatening, influential, or be a lost friend. It can be anything your amazing minds can come up with.
Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before moving on to June, as comments are the only thanks our writers get.
What are you waiting for? Get writing!
Posts : 64
Join date : 2018-09-14
|Subject: Re: Him Thu Jun 11, 2020 8:46 am|| |
There’s a small nondescript town somewhere on the dusty planes surrounding the Stoneface Hills. A one-horse-town existing only because of the way station for the new stage coach line, mostly it consists of entertainment for their customers and a few families desperate enough to stake in a prosperous future of the place which might never come true.
Opposite the station is a small sheriff’s office, the building so new one can still smell the resin bleeding out of the pine tree boards. A brand-new sign tells everyone concerned that B. Cute is the name of the law in this place.
He’s in his early twenties, lanky, bright-eyed and cursed with hair the color and texture of dusty straw. Recently he’s been occupied with the most important case of his new position as a lawman.
The stagecoach has been robbed in his district. The passengers have finally arrived and as his luck went, he already has one suspect in his custody. A man of about his own age is held captive and all he needs to solve the case and boost his career now is evidence. The man’s belongings offered no proof of him being involved, but an eyewitness would be as good as physical evidence as well, maybe even better. But although there were three women – well really girls - riding the coach at the time of the robbery, their value as eyewitnesses is more than questionable. The questioning of two of them was more than disappointing and his hope is on the last one, the oldest of three sisters who is sitting opposite his table right now.
Grace Turner is no classical beauty, but easy on the eye with her milk-white skin and long strawberry hair. The young sheriff smiles gently at her as he starts his inquiry.
“It seems your sisters were quite distracted and too upset for a reliable testimony, so I do hope you can help me identify the evildoer who scared you and your poor sisters so much, and relieved the coach of a strong box containing a $2.000 payroll. So please tell me, did you get a look at him?”
“Oh yes, I had a very good look at him indeed.” Virgin like she blushes.
“What did he look like?”
“He was definitely the most handsome man I have ever seen.” The young woman sighs.
Sheriff Bell rolls his eyes. “I was thinking along the lines of a description.”
“Yes. What was he like?”
“Handsome, strong, polite, very gentlemanly in fact.” Her eyes become a dreamy look and her face softens.
“His physical features would be more helpful, ma’am,” the Sheriff presses on. “I suppose he was young, slender, about 6 feet tall, dark-haired and dimpled, wearing a brown suit, right?”
“Oh no, not at all! That’s not him
,” she insists. “Tall he was, with broad shoulders and muscular arms – he picked me up as if I was weightless when I stumbled and almost fell - handsome face, tanned skin with a shimmer of gold to it, soft features, honey colored curly hair, sensual lips – oh so kissable and inviting - eyes the color of forget-me-nots ... or rather cornflowers?”
The young Sherriff rolls his eyes again, fighting visibly for patience. “I think this is enough of a description of this one man. What about the others?”
“There must have been more than one of them.”
“Really...? I don’t remember having seen anyone else besides him
The Sheriff heaves a deep sigh of resignation as he sees his presumably prospering career vanishing into thin air...
A few yards away a young man listens to the exchange attentively with a broad smile on his face. He doesn’t seem to mind that he is locked up behind bars, but looks rather contented. His smug smile disappears as the sheriff turns around. Innocence and trust are all that emerge from his big brown eyes as he watches the lawman stride over, after he has shown the young lady out.
“Well, Sheriff, seems like we have to part ways now.”
“Why would you think that?”
“I heard your interrogation of your witness, well there was no way to avoid it. I don’t exactly fit her description of the man you’re looking for.” Long slender fingers run through dark-brown hair and push it out of his face. “As I told you before, I am William Gates, travelling salesman in corsetry and lingerie – as you should already know, since I suppose you checked out my goods very thoroughly by now.” A glint of mischief flickers up in the corners of his eyes but it is gone too soon to be noticed by the blushing lawman. “Maybe we could find a nice present for Missus Cute? Do you think she would be interested in silk stockings or a nice little something in white lace? There’s nothing that suits a beautiful woman better than a lovely smile and white lace, if I may express my humble opinion...”
“A cute Missus is none of your business,” the sheriff cuts him off harshly.
“Of course, not. I’m truly sorry, Sheriff.” His expressive face emphasizes the seriousness of his apology, but his eyes keep twinkling. “But if I may be so bold to remind you: by the letter of the law you can’t keep me prisoner forever, if you haven’t got any evidence.”
“By Jove, I know, you’ve been there,” Sheriff Cute grunts.
“I don’t know what you know, Sheriff, but I know, that I’ve been nowhere near Copperhead Pass for an entire week. You can ask my customers in Silver Gulch and Miller’s Crossing – if they will be so brave to admit their purchases that is. But with enough persuasiveness and encouragement you should be able to round up at least one or two of them – searching in the right places where questions about an issue like that - a woman’s underdressing - wouldn’t be considered too improper and hurt nobody’s decency and ... uhm ... reputation
.” Another wide smile lights up the handsome face which some might assess as somewhat impish, even devious, if they had a close enough look, which doesn’t apply to the young Sheriff, who develops a new shade of a pinkish complexion.
He looks at the suitcase filled with unmentionable women’s things, trying hard to chase pictures of one particular pretty girl of Madam Rose’s Parlor of Love
showing them off, out of his mind – and the way she may reward such a gift. His glance pans over the door, the desk, back to the cell and the man in his custody. He heaves a deep sigh and unlocks the door.
“I suppose you’re right. I aim to use my time searching for the man I can pin down for the robbery, not some little sidekick nobody even noticed. You can’t be of any importance anyway. If you were in on the robbery, they probably payed you off and kicked you out as soon as the deed was done. You really don’t look like a hardened criminal to me. You better learn how to keep your nose clean, before you get yourself in some serious trouble.”
Within a blink the happy smile of his captive is gone and the young man’s faces clouds over. He opens his mouth, stops, swallows hard and then nods slowly. “I am – grateful – for your opinion,” he declares seriously in a gravely and somewhat tight voice. “I wish you good luck in finding a man more wicked than me and capable of planning a raid so expertly, that I would pass as his unnoticed ... sidekick
Without haste he picks up his belongings as the Sheriff hands them over. He places the hat on his head with more deliberate care than necessary, thrusts out his hand to the Sheriff and squeezes his just a notch more than comfortable. “I thank you for your hospitality and your good advice, Sheriff Cute. Be sure I’ll never forget your name.” His dark-brown eyes glitter in an almost unsettling way, but within an eye’s blink the uncomfortable feeling is gone.
He nods at the Sheriff one more time and leaves. Fifteen minutes later all that is to be seen of him is a dust cloud raised by the pounding hooves of his horse as he’s heading out towards the distant hills.
When he reaches them, his mood is already better. He follows a hidden path into a small cleft cut into a steep cliff towering over a little creek. At the metallic click of a cocking gun he freezes and conjures a smile on his face. “It’s me, Kid. Relax.”
“Heyes, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you forever.”
“I had a little talk with B. Cute...”
“Bee Cute?” his partner snorts. “You couldn’t wait to spend your money on some girl?”
“Not exactly, Kid. B. Cute ’s the local sheriff.”
Instantly, Kid Curry’s good mood disappears. “The sheriff? Are you crazy?”
“No, he had more luck than common sense, when he snatched me right away as I checked out the new stage schedule. Fortunately, my disguise worked perfectly and he had no hard evidence, besides his eyewitnesses.”
“Eyewitnesses? So how did you get away then?”
“Praise the Lord for your looks, Kid. You’ve got such a conspicuous attitude...”
?!” snaps the Kid, his blue eyes narrowing.
“Keep calm, Kid. You did us a favor this time. You just have to learn to keep a low profile on the job ...”
“Says the man who’d love to paint our names in bright-red letters on every coach we take.”
“See, Kid, I was thinking about that, too. I don’t think we should do coaches anymore. It’s too unpredictable: the exact time, the route, the number of passengers - we could do way better going for trains.”
?” Kid Curry’s temper is rising with every word. “Now I know that you’re outta your mind! How would the two of us stop thousands of pounds of fast-driving metal?”
“You’re right, we would need more manpower, but the profit would be remarkable. We could make ourselves names.”
“Names? What names?” the Kid asks suspiciously. “Like in ‘reward on our names’?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. They should know who’s faster and smarter than they are - every time, everywhere!”
“You really mean it...” the Kid moans and turns away.
“Yeah, sure. Wouldn’t you like them to know your name? Be someone, not a no one anymore? Hear your name spoken with respect? Think of the advantage it would give us – way less resistance and risk when they know with whom they are dealing – and just think of the impression it would make on the girls...”
Blue eyes light up with new interest. “Maybe your idea ain’t as stupid as it sounds...”
Heyes laughs and lays his arm around his partner’s shoulders. “Aw, Kid, I knew you would see my point. Let’s give it a try, huh? If it doesn’t work, we can go back and do something else anytime.”
“Sure, I’m sure!”
Kid Curry doesn’t look convinced at all. “Well, just let’s get outta here before one cute sheriff gets smart and follows your tracks. We can talk about it on our way.”
Heyes smiles brightly, pats Kid’s shoulder one last time and off they go, laughing and racing each other up the hills towards new heights, only limited by the sky.
Posts : 42
Join date : 2018-03-02
Age : 58
Location : New York, NY
|Subject: Re: Him Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:11 am|| |
Some more scenes from the work in progress that I excerpted last time. If you didn't check in last month, my story "Millicent" introduces the woman who's in all of these scenes. The story is part of the Blue Sky series, wherein Heyes and Curry have gotten the amnesty and run a security services agency. But the "Him" this month is another former member of the Devil's Hole Gang.
These scenes take place some time apart, in and around the main plot.
I. [At the boardinghouse]
Kyle began making his way down the staircase at his boarding house, yawning. He’d stayed too late at the saloon last night, or rather upstairs, with Rita, the girl there he was sweet on. Oh, he knew he was just a customer, but Rita was always so nice to him, he could pretend to himself it was something real. There was movement from below, and he stepped to one side to let an unfamiliar woman pass.
“’Lo, ma’am,” he mumbled.
The woman, a head taller than he was, peered at him through thick spectacles as she passed. “You wouldn’t be Kyle Murtry, would you?”
“Yes’m,” he said. “Think I’m the only feller livin’ here at the moment. Rest is all ladies.”
She thrust out a hand, for a businesslike shake. “Millicent Bradley. Friend of Ella Heyes’. Visiting for a couple of weeks. Heard a little bit about you at dinner last night.”
Kyle smiled awkwardly. “’Bout the security firm? Or,” he dropped his voice to a confidential whisper, which was in actuality quite a bit louder than he thought it was, “or ‘bout the old days with the Devil’s Hole Gang?”
“Bit of both really. Ella’s husband is really quite the storyteller when he gets going, and Mister Curry, well, they’re very amusing together. Not precisely what I thought former outlaws of their stature would be like, though of course my criminal practice tends in a different direction.”
“Hey!” said Kyle, slightly nettled. “I’m a former outlaw, too.”
“Though of somewhat less stature,” pointed out the woman. Her eyes widened, and she put her hand to her mouth, her expression horrified. “I am so very sorry, Mister Murtry. That was awfully rude of me. Sometimes I speak without thinking.”
Kyle gave her his best mean outlaw look for a moment, but couldn’t hold it for long. He chuckled.
“Naw, fair’s fair. There was never a reward out on me. And if’n you mean the other thing, well, when I say I’ve always looked up to Heyes and the Kid, well, I mean that literal-like.” His teeth were crooked, but his smile was good-natured, and since Millie was tall, he was looking upward a few inches at her, too.
“Friends, then?” the woman looked relieved.
“Why not? You’s the other lady lawyer, ain’t you? Miz Ella was sayin’ how nice it was, not bein’ the only one anymore.”
“Miss Millicent Bradley, Esq, at your service,” she said, producing a business card from her pocket and handing it to him. This time she laughed, “Sorry, force of habit.”
Kyle gave a friendly nod, and tucked the card in a pocket without looking at it. “See ya ‘round, Miz Millicent.” And he continued on downstairs, to the boardinghouse dining room, where hopefully Miz Lou had saved him some breakfast.
II. [At the offices of Heyes & Curry Security Services]
“The thing is,” said Millie, “I don’t think your friend Kyle is so unintelligent as he sometimes seems. I think he’s become that because he’s been told it so many times that he believes it.”
“So at some point,” Heyes followed up, “some teacher or something just kept telling Kyle he was stupid, and he actually became stupid?”
“Well, the difficulty in reading would have reinforced that, but essentially, yes. He was told he wasn’t intelligent, and after awhile, he believed it. He presented himself that way, and people around him accepted it.”
Kid Curry nodded. “Remember, Heyes, back at the Valparaiso Home? Old Mrs. Randall was convinced I was none too bright and had me half-believing it. Took me awhile after we left before I realized she was dead wrong.”
Heyes frowned. “I do remember. And I half started to believe it too. Early on with the gang, I wasn’t real eager to let you have much to do with planning jobs. ‘Til the Hendersonville bank job went so very wrong?”
The Kid chuckled. “Yup. You were so mad when you realized I was right. But Kyle?” He looked at Millie inquisitively.
“I’ve been paying attention to his mistakes. I was a schoolteacher before I became a lawyer, and I’ve run into something similar once or twice before. There’s a doctor in Germany who gave it a name, just recently. It’s called dyslexia – his brain doesn’t process all the letters the right way.”
Gloria exclaimed. “That’s why he has so much trouble with filing, then?”
“I think so. He may have trouble distinguishing some of the letters, or they just look wrong.”
“So I won’t give him those tasks, anymore. That’s easy enough.”
“I have noticed,” Jed said, thoughtfully, “that since he’s spendin’ a lot more time with us, and not able to see Wheat very often, there’s been a definite improvement.”
“Yeah, Kid, me too. Like we’re rubbing off on him or something. Not just the fact that he washes regularly, now, either. And what about him hangin’ out with Jeremy?” He turned to Millie. “You know Ella’s law partner. He and Kyle go for a beer sometimes, and Jeremy really seems to enjoy spending time with him. And Jeremy’s a real smart guy. Eastern-educated, and has the second-biggest collection of books in Blue Sky, after my wife.”
“Well,” said Millie, “I suspect this is a mild case. There are some things he can do to improve his reading, some exercises I tried with a few of my students. If you think he wouldn’t be offended, I’d be happy to have a talk with him.”
Heyes and Curry exchanged looks. “I think,” said Jed, “that if you treat it like a secret — like you’re the only one that’s figured it out — then it’d be just fine.”
“Best coming from a woman,” Heyes added. “He won’t feel like he’s got to pretend.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do.” She polished her glasses, and took her leave.
III. [At the Blue Sky Saloon]
Millie’s train was later that afternoon, and she had one last errand. It was the only one of the prominent establishments in town that she’d never set foot in, during her weeks in Blue Sky – the saloon.
She poked through the batwing doors, blinking behind her spectacles while her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. “Hello? Anyone here?”
A woman in a cheap-looking satin-wrapper, her hair only half arranged, came out. She stared Millie up and down. “Yes?” she said in a hostile tone. “You here to hand out tracts or somethin’? Cause we already know we’re goin’ to hell. No need to rub it in.”
Millie shook her head. She caught sight of her severe bun and her simple dark dress in the mirror. “Why no – though I suppose I must look like some kind of mission lady. I’m here to see a Miss Rita? We have a mutual friend – Kyle Murtry.”
The woman gave a half-smile, and a moment later, a pretty girl, short and dark-haired, appeared. She was wearing a cotton housedress -- Miss Rita was clearly not open for business yet. She looked at Millie strangely.
“Don’t worry,” Millie said. “I’m not here to convert or condemn. I’m here because I hear you’ve been keeping company with Kyle Murtry pretty regularly.”
A troubled expression crossed Rita’s pretty face. “You got a problem with that? Gonna tell me to back off and leave him alone?”
Millie smiled, and shook her head. “Oh heavens, no. I’m here to encourage you. I think you might be just what he needs.”
“He ain’t been in lately, or if he’s been in, just for a drink or two. Guess he’s got better company to keep, nowadays.” She looked again at Millie, frowning a little.
“That’d be my fault.” Millie chuckled. “In part. We’ve been keeping him busy lately, between one thing and another. But I know he’s been thinking about you. And he’s a good man, our Kyle.”
Rita smiled, now. “Sure is. He’s kind to me, and never takes advantage. And he’s gentler than a lot of others who come in. He likes to make sure I have a good time, too.” She blushed. “Guess I shouldn’t talk about such things with a proper lady like you.”
Millicent looked her straight in the eyes. “Nonsense. Just because I’m a maiden lady, doesn’t mean I’m not aware such things exist. I think he could make somebody a good husband, and I think that somebody could be you. He’s starting to develop the confidence he needs. But he’s never going to be clever or handsome or tall.”
“Oh, I don’t care about that. Steady’s better’n clever. And in this trade some of the handsomest treat you the worst. ‘Sides, not every man can look like Kid Curry.”
“I hope not. That would be terribly confusing.”
Rita frowned for a moment, and then said, “Oh, I didn’t mean just like him. I meant that good-lookin’.”
Millie shook her head. “I thought Ella’s one was supposed to be the handsome one. Of course, she would think so, wouldn’t she?” She shrugged. “I was the oldest of twelve, and I grew up mothering my brothers and sisters. Took the romance right out of me. Made me realize I wanted to be a single lady from an early age.”
“I could see that,” Rita nodded.
“I’ve discovered that Kyle’s had some difficulty reading because of a condition he was born with. I’ve given him some exercises that should help, and I hope he sticks with them.”
Rita looked wistful. “Never learned to read, myself. Wish I had.”
“Well, that’s just perfect, then. Because Kyle needs to reinforce what he’s learned, and what better way to do it than to teach you?”
“Do you think he would?”
“I know he would,” said Millie, with absolute certainty. “It would make him feel proud, and it would give you a chance to talk to him, outside of your professional capacity.” It was her turn to blush a little. “I think you need to make sure he sees you in a different light. Not just as a client, but as a friend. As someone who could love him, if you think you could.”
“You think he could . . . you know. That he’d want to get serious? Despite my bein’ a . . . you know? A whore.”
Millie smiled, that same lovely smile that disarmed everyone who’d judged her at first sight. “He doesn’t exactly have a blameless past himself, Rita. But he may assume you only like him because he’s paying. It’s up to you to show him otherwise.”
Rita smiled back now, warmly. “I will. And thank you. Thank you so very much.”
“Good luck. Just — if you pick it up fast, and I think you will, make sure you don’t outshine him too quickly. Let him think he’s teaching you for awhile.”
“’Cause he’s got his pride,” Rita nodded.
“Men.” Millie shook her head. “I work with a lot of them, and they do take some managing.”
“Sure do,” said Rita. “And no fooling.”
Posts : 834
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 45
|Subject: Re: Him Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:12 pm|| |
Letter of the Law
“Aw shucks.” A frustrated Jed Curry spoke under his breath. Drumming his pencil on his desk, he once again repeated the phrase in his mind. Aw shucks. Suddenly, realization struck him. “Aw,” he said softly to himself. Yes, ‘aw.’ Grinning, he wrote it down.
A moment passed before he recognized adding an L made it ‘awl.’ It looked funny, though. Shouldn’t it be spelled ‘all’? Hmm. But, wait. He’d heard his mother use the word when referring to something other than a group of things. What was it? He searched his memory for the moment in time. A year ago? No, too long. Last month? Maybe. Hmm. His father’s birthday … oh yeah, she referred to a tool she had used to punch holes in a small piece of tanned hide for a tobacco pouch for his father as a birthday present and had called it an awl. Once again, he wrote down the word.
He reviewed his paper carefully. Aw and awl. There had to be something else. His thoughts transported him back to this morning, to breakfast. His sister practiced the new hymn she would sing in front of the congregation for next Sunday’s service. Something about it spoke to him, but he could not remember all the words. Only a part of the chorus had stayed with him, its catchy refrain repeated but monosyllabic—la, la, la, la, la. Even to his young mind, it seemed more a nursery rhyme than something lauding the Creator. But, although a growth spurt in the last few months put her a full head above him with the curves of womanhood, his sister was but two years older than he. Re-focusing from his digression, he wrote ‘la’ in his best hand.
So, three—three words to match the letters in the word. Was there anything else? Could he find a fourth? A, L, W, in alphabetical order, or L, A, W in spelling order. A? Yes, A. A law, a boy, a school. Yep, one of the three articles. So, ‘A’ found its way to the page.
A cramp in his hand made him put his pencil down on the desk. He stretched his hand as he often saw his pa do after gripping an ax handle too long. Splaying the fingers outward for a few seconds and relaxing them, over and over, provided some relief. At the same time, he reviewed his work. Four words from three letters—not too bad. He grinned. Not too bad, indeed! Looking around, he noticed a number of classmates still writing and thinking, thinking and writing. Finally, the teacher announced, “Time’s up, class. Pencils down, please.”
A class full of expectant eyes focused on the young woman. Miss Jones arrived only a month or two ago, replacing Miss Smith, his former instructor, who had recently married and settled on her new husband’s ranch a few miles down the north road. He missed her and did not understand why the school board would not let a married woman teach. Something about keeping the house and tending to her husband, his mother told him, and of course, starting a family. But, since she was nowhere near with child nor all of a sudden struck dumb as to imparting knowledge to young minds, he found the whole notion silly. But, most of all, he missed her. He thought he should ask his pa permission to visit her sometime, maybe bring another jar of his mother’s preserves to supplement the one he gave her when she first married. Yes, he would like that very much.
In the meantime, he heard his name called and broke from his reverie. “Jed, would you like to read us your word and what you got from it?”
Aw shucks, why did she have to call on him first? There was no way out of it, so he stood next to his desk, paper in hand. “My word was ‘law.’ From it, I got aw, awl, la, and a.”
A boy seated two desks over said, “There’s only one l in law, so ‘all’ doesn’t work.”
Miss Jones noted, “That’s correct, Bobby. Jed, please spell ‘awl.’
“A, w, l, awl,” Jed responded.
The girl next to Bobby spoke up. “My ma taught me how to use an awl, so Jed’s right.”
“That’s why I didn’t know about it. It’s for woman’s work!” gloated Bobby. “Jed’s a sissy if he knows what it is. What are ya, Jed, a mama’s boy?”
“No! I just saw my ma use it is all.”
“Enough, Bobby. You owe Jed and the class an apology,” chided Miss Jones. “Men use awls all the time working with hides. It’s not just woman’s work.”
Jed turned all shades of red. Bobby Johnson was a sometime pal, sometime bully, and Jed liked to keep on his friendly side. It just made life easier on a fourth-grader. But to force Bobby to say he was sorry? No, Miss Jones, please don’t, he thought. Miss Smith knew the kids well and would not have done that
With all eyes on him, Bobby had no choice but to utter a muffled “sorry” to the class. He side-eyed Jed, who looked at the floor to avoid eye contact. Jed hoped this would blow over quickly and not have him ridiculed as a laughing stock for Bobby and his cohorts. Of course, what he really wanted was to sit down, so, thinking his turn done, he did.
But, Miss Jones had other ideas. “Jed, what was that last word on your list?”
The boy scrambled to his feet, knocking a book off his desk in his haste. Laughter erupted, flushing Jed’s cheeks all the more. Clearing his throat, he found his voice. “A, ma’am.”
The teacher looked deep in thought. “I’m not sure ‘a’ complies with the assignment.”
“But it’s a word.”
“Yes, but it’s also just reiterating a letter on its own.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jed could see Bobby smirk in delight. The teacher could dole out comeuppance as well as Bobby could and maybe even save him the trouble.
Jed thought what his cousin Han would do. Han possessed a wonderful vocabulary and a silver tongue that never failed to have a comeback that left everyone speechless. If only Jed could do the same.
“We’re waiting, Jed.”
Put on the spot yet again, Jed could hear Han in his ear as if he were next to him. The boy looked straight at the teacher. “Yes, ma’am, it’s a word and a letter in law. And if it’s the law, it has to be right.”
All eyes in the class looked from Jed to Miss Jones. They could see her mind working, processing what she heard from a nine-year-old boy. It sounded so, so correct, and if she dared say, profound, unlike anything she had heard from the mouths of babes in her short teaching career. All this from an assignment to see what words could be extracted from a master word, one per student. Hmm, what to make of this?
Finally, still not knowing quite what to say and wanting to move on from this embarrassing situation, Miss Jones looked at Jed, still standing by his desk. “Very good, Jed,” she said, “I’m sure you’ll be a man of the law someday.”
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
Posts : 43
Join date : 2019-09-15
Age : 46
Location : United Kingdom
|Subject: Re: Him Sun Jun 14, 2020 10:40 am|| |
The Preacher, formally known as Reverend Henry Jackson, a small town minister from Virginia, took a large gulp from his whisky bottle as he sat watching the world go by. Drink had long ago lost its ability to drown the memories and now only slightly dimmed the pain, but still there was comfort in the lost hours that alcohol brought. He'd enjoyed preaching in his little church and had been popular and considered a good man, well respected in his small community. He'd had a lovely wife then, Caroline, as warm and beautiful as a summer's day, a wonderful daughter as pretty and loving as her Mama, but then the fever had taken them both, alongside a good many of his congregation. He lost everything important and found something else entirely in the bottom of a bottle.
He still hung onto the trappings of belief, but wasn't sure whether he still believed, certainly he could offer no comfort, when he was lost, so he left what little remained of his home and drifted, working only to make sure he was never short on drink.
It was in a small town, not far from Boulder, that he'd first seen them. Two young men, with the confidence that youth and having lost nothing brought, had steamed into town with a rag tag group on their heels. They sauntered into the saloon, laughing and Preacher felt a stab of envy at how carefree they were. He'd been sat on the boardwalk trying to be invisible, out of luck, out of money and most importantly out of drink. He could have sworn they'd not even noticed him, but not long after they'd entered, the boyish curly haired one came back out and said with a smile. “You're looking a little lonely there” and placed some money into his hand, heading back into the saloon without giving him a chance to refuse or even thank. The Preacher spent the money in the usual way and when he'd surfaced they were gone. It was only later that he found out who they were. The Heyes_Curry gang, newish, but already gaining a reputation for being very successful.
Only a few months later, he crossed paths with them again, this time on the inside of a slightly better class of saloon. He'd somehow found himself riding out with them when they left town the next day. The Heyes_Curry Gang gave him a home of sorts and had provided him with some direction, not to mention he always had enough money for alcohol. He'd realised only later, that he'd been wrong about one thing, their confidence wasn't due to never having lost anything. No-one asked anyone in the gang how'd they'd got there, it was an unspoken rule that was firmly adhered to. But one hot August night, driven from sleep by the call of nature, he'd heard them talking in muffled tones as he headed back inside.
“Sometimes don't seem like 15 years, Heyes, but more often it feels a lifetime away and I can't remember a damn thing about them. “ Curry's voice was slurred as if drunk, which was unusual. Curry liked a drink, but rarely drank enough for it to be noticeable.
The Preacher had felt like he was intruding on something intensely private and stood back, careful not to be seen. He heard Heyes murmur something, but didn't catch the words, only Curry's half laugh in reply. Preacher feeling like he'd overheard enough, crept back inside. He was pretty sure he'd not been noticed, although he knew Curry had heard something, by the way he'd put his head on one side. Fifteen years ago, they'd have been children, he wondered how they'd survived.
A few weeks later, a raid gone wrong had led to several of the gang being injured, but Heyes and Curry had made sure not a single one of them had been left behind, that commitment was more than most gang leaders had. Breathless and exhilarated after they'd met back up at Devil's Hole, they'd clasped shoulders and grinned at each other, the world down to just them for a few moments and Preacher had felt a tug of envious grief as he watched them from his perch, holding his bandaged arm, craving a drink. There was no doubt they'd saved his life.
Now, several years later, it felt like he was again losing something special. After a few difficult months, with only limited success, Heyes and Curry were leaving, to try their luck at going straight. It left The Preacher in a dilemma, stay on, with Wheat as leader or make his own way again. Neither idea appealed, which was why he was sitting in a quiet town watching the world go by. Another half bottle later and he'd made his decision, go out on his own.
Posts : 5114
Join date : 2014-07-12
Age : 52
Location : Scotland
|Subject: Re: Him Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:06 pm|| |
Oh goodness, it's been so long since I've written anything. I am extremely nervous about posting, especially since this story has not been beta'd. Anyway, here goes.Keep him safeNobody knew how the horse had made its way into their hideout without anyone noticing. It definitely was no wild horse, as those tended to do all they could to stay out of corrals and definitely did not come with tack provided. But the saddle and bridle on the fence had turned up together with the four-legged intruder, leading the Devil’s Hole gang to assume they had arrived together, even though they had separated at some point before their discovery. Most of the gang never learned its story, the reason for its appearance amongst them, and that was probably for the best.Wheat Carlson was not having a good morning. He was hung over and had just burned his tongue on his first cup of hot coffee. The sudden commotion outside in the compound did not help his poor aching head or his mood. Neither did the sight, and sound, of his second in command come bursting through the door. Blue eyes wide and mouth open, Kyle was a picture of astonishment. Then he started jabbering something about Wheat having to come and look because there was a horse in the corral. Oh, why did he have to be saddled with a partner like this? What the heck was so special about a horse in the corral? It was where they kept horses, for Pete’s sake.His headache got worse and a vein at his temple began to throb.Kyle insisted that the horse was none of theirs, a stranger. That finally got Wheat’s attention, as it should have been impossible for a mouse to slip into Devil’s Hole unnoticed, much less a horse, with or without rider. And there must have been a rider, since Wheat had never heard of a horse untacking itself and then stowing away the gear. But none of the lookouts had raised an alarm during the night. So apparently someone had snuck into his hideout, stashed their horse and skedaddled without anyone noticing. If Kyle’s story was true and not some prank, some gang members were headed for a headache of their own. Oh yes!Giving up on his coffee and even the idea of breakfast, the outlaw leader stalked out of his cabin, followed cautiously by the smaller man who didn’t like the look Wheat had given him, as if it was all his fault. The gang members in the yard, sensing their boss’s mood, stood back, opening a clear path to the corral with its mysterious new occupant.Wheat stomped right up to the fence and glared at the offending animal. The horse calmly looked back, flicked its ears and shook its mane. The outlaw, considering himself not a bad judge of horseflesh, quickly assessed the animal. Kyle had been right, for once: it was definitely not one of their string. It looked spirited, healthy and well enough cared for. Properly muscled, obviously used to a bit of work. Good chest, promising stamina. Yup, a nice enough horse, and, important to outlaws, nothing flashy or showy. A sorrel, no, a claybank dun with his light golden-copper coat showing the characteristic darker stripe along its back and darker, more reddish, mane and tail. The only markings were a small irregular star, shaped a bit like a lightning bolt, as well as a narrow snip on its nose and a white pastern on its near hind leg.It reminded Wheat of a sorrel he had ridden a few years back, when he first took lead of the Devil’s Hole gang. Maybe he would claim the horse for himself, if none of the others fessed up to smuggling it here for some reason. That brought him back to the problem of how the animal had gotten into one of the West’s most hidden and best guarded outlaw hideouts. Time to solve this mystery. He rounded on his men with the full menace a hangover topped by a bad morning could produce.Two hours later, his headache had become bearable thanks to enough coffee, and he had finally managed to eat some breakfast. Both of which combined to make him feel better and improved his mood. He sure had put the guards from lookout point in their place, but they still swore that neither rider nor horse had passed by them, and all of the other gang members stubbornly insisted they had heard or seen nothing during the night and knew even less about their baffling visitor. So the origin of the horse remained a mystery. And this mystery left a bad feeling in Wheat’s gut. Horses didn’t fall from the sky and they didn’t just turn up in an outlaw compound. Only, this one had.Kyle’s attempt at cheering him up earlier by saying that not even Heyes and Curry ever had horses wanting to join the Devil’s Hole gang by themselves had made the gang laugh, but had not had the same effect on their leader. It had only reminded Wheat of the sore point of his predecessors’ enduring fame.He decided to make a last attempt at solving the mystery and check the tack properly himself. Maybe he would find some clue about their origin or at least the last owner. He sighed. You just couldn’t rely on Kyle to do a proper job of anything that didn’t require explosives.In the barn, once his eyes had become accustomed to the dim light, he quickly found where the gear had been stashed. Nothing special about saddle or bridle. Both were quite unremarkable ordinary, showing no memorable horsehair hitching or personalised leather work. They also had no names embossed, cut out or simply written on anywhere. No blanket roll, canteen or rifle shoe which might have held a clue. The nondescript plain utilitarian saddle bags were empty – or so they had seemed. On reaching in, just to make sure, Wheat’s hand encountered an envelope stuck to one side. He had not noticed it at first because its yellowish colour blended in with the leather. It looked like the kind of stationary some hotels provided to guests for messages. Curious, and feeling a little triumphant, he fished it out and received his second shock this morning.It was addressed to him.The neat block letters had been penned by a hand obviously not much used to this task, but it was also evident that great care had been taken with each stroke. Oh, he didn’t like this. Under the guise of hitching up his pants, he quickly scanned around to make sure that none of the gang were about and watching. Good. Nobody had seen him make his find. He decided to keep it that way, and with the ease of lots of practise slipped the envelope quickly out of sight. He would open it in the privacy of the leader’s cabin.The envelope contained just one slip of paper, folded once. It wasn’t a letter, really, only containing a short message written in the same carefully determined hand. It was short and seemed innocent enough. But Wheat knew from long experience that in his line of work things that appeared harmless or simple at first had a tendency to end up anything but.He read the missive again, shaking his head, trying to fathom what it all meant. His brow furrowed and his moustache bristled. Something was definitely not right here. He had a bad feeling.“Wheat,I didn’t know where else to bring him.Keep him safe.Please.K.C.”Wheat felt his headache return, even more strongly. He could only think of one man with the initials “K.C.”: Kid Curry. One of the former two leaders of the Devil’s Hole gang. A man who had never been too fond of him – a feeling he returned wholeheartedly. A man who had usually told Wheat what to do (or not to do), told him, or threatened him, hand hovering close to that far too speedy six-gun of his. In short, a man who did not say “please” easily. Not to Wheat, anyway.And what was this gibberish about not knowing where to bring him and keeping him safe? Who was him? The horse? Wheat snorted. Granted, the Kid could become attached to anything, but he had never been this sentimental about a horse; no outlaw could afford to. What was so special about this one? And anyway, it was not the Kid’s type of horse; the gunny had always preferred bays or browns and generally more placid animals. The claybank dun in the corral looked like he could be a handful. Thinking about it, it was just the type of horse the Kid’s partner and former joint gang leader, Hannibal Heyes, would have preferred. That one had always gone for fiery reds. But that made even less sense. Kid Curry leaving Heyes’s horse to Wheat’s care? Yeah, right.What was Kid Curry up to? If he was playing some angle, he just couldn’t see it.Why sneak into the Hole without an explanation? The note certainly provided none.Why stash the animal here, of all places? Devil’s hole was no livery stable, dammit!And why just one? These two were inseparable, even if they split up on occasion.No matter how he looked at it, it didn’t make any sense, which made him feel a whole lot of uneasy.Then there was the question of how they had gotten in? Maybe… Yes, that must be it. He had suspected for some time before he took over the gang that they had discovered a secret back way into the Hole. Of course, they had denied it. But Heyes had always been a sneaky sort. It would be just like him to keep something like this back, to himself (and the Kid, naturally). Clever, really. Ahem. Resentment joined the unease and general bad feeling.So, what had brought them, or at least the Kid, back to Devil’s Hole?Huh, easy, that one: they were in trouble, of course. Again. And needed his help. Again. What else was new? Wheat’s fingers tapped on the table in annoyance. Then again, there hadn’t been any news lately about them getting caught, or really anything about them at all. The fingers stilled. And it had been quite some time since Heyes and Kid had last asked the gang’s help, for that caper with the Mexican lady and the Texan cattle baron.So why make such a mystery out of it now? Oh yes, something was very much wrong here. Several somethings. Wheat picked up the piece of paper again. For instance: Why did Kid leave the note? It was always Heyes, taking the lead, making contact, talking to people, writing notes, telegrams, instructions. Big-mouthed Heyes, not his quiet partner.Yes, Wheat definitely had a really bad feeling about this all. Dropping the note once more, he sighed, leaned back in his chair and brushed a hand through his hair. Whichever way he looked at it, whatever was going on, there was not much he could do about it. Making up his mind, he decided to keep the note secret. At least until he knew more. Yes. The others did not need to know everything, least of all how much it had unsettled him. No point in making them ask questions he had no answers to. In the meantime, he would claim the horse, not as his main mount, you understand, but keep it in reserve, just in case, no bad, no foul. And if he didn’t hear from the Kid again – well, all the better, really. At least that was what he kept telling himself.Days passed, turned into weeks and then months. Several months had gone by since the horse had appeared at Devil’s Hole, when the first rumours reached them. Kid Curry had been in a shoot-out. Kid Curry had killed an upstart young gunslinger. Kid Curry had bested a famous bounty hunter. Once they started, they did not abate. And always just about Kid Curry. No mention of Hannibal Heyes.Then rumours that they had split up. Heyes had retired from his gunslinging partner who had become too ungovernable. The Kid had murdered Heyes. No, Heyes had been killed by someone else and the Kid was now out for revenge.Wheat didn’t like the rumours. Didn’t like them one bit. True, neither had he particularly liked the men the rumours were about; these two could be aggravating as hell. Still… True also, they had made a really stupid decision, trying to go for amnesty. Wheat huffed. As if any governor would ever grant amnesty to Heyes and Curry. Yea, right. And pigs might fly. But he had to admire their persistence. He’d have long since told the governor what he could do with his bit of paper and where exactly he could stuff it. A nod. Yup. But they had stubbornly refused to give up. And he had to admit, however grudgingly, that he respected them for that.If there was any truth to those rumours, and he had an inkling which ones might be closer to it, they had not deserved this.Then, one day, Wheat’s horse stepped into a gopher’s hole and broke a leg. Riding double behind Kyle, he decided to replace the dead animal with the clayback dun. There was no point in keeping the horse in reserve any longer. Kid Curry had never returned for him, and it had been too long. He doubted he ever would now.Wheat had kept the Kid’s note, and on returning to the leader’s cabin at Devil’s Hole, he took it out once more. Reading it again after all this time, against the backdrop of the rumours, it now took on a new, more sinister meaning.“I didn’t know where else to bring him.Keep him safe.Please.”So this was what the bad feeling all those months ago had tried to tell him.How had he not seen it before?Of course Kid had not spoken of the horse.The note wasn’t simply asking for a favour.It was more like a condemned man’s last request.How could he have been so blind?It was high time to have a good look for that secret back way into Devil’s Hole and, well, whatever else he might find.He went back out to saddle his new horse. And yes, he promised the Kid with a long, tired sigh, he would honour his wish and do what he could to keep – him – safe.Notes:I am so glad to finally have this off my chest – or out of the recesses of my mind. It has been lurking there ever since I wrote “The Shot” in 2015, is basically a stand-alone follow-up. The general idea was part of my vision of “The Shot”, but I decided to leave it out of that story. Over the years, I have played with different scenarios, different perspectives and lead characters, but they never panned out. A few nights ago, a plot bunny finally obliged. Well, not so much obliged as beat me over the head with it and forced me at gunpoint to write the night through without stopping until it was finished. Then guess my surprise on checking up this month’s challenge theme the next day. That bunny must have known it, I sure didn’t. As if the theme was tailor-made for my story. Spooky!
For all ASJ horse lovers – I apologise for the false claim of Wheat riding a sorrel in the pilot episode. Any true fan will of course know that it was not a sorrel, but the one and only Clay, the claybank dun, himself. Before he was “stolen” by Heyes… ;-) I know, Clay is the horse most associated with Heyes, but in fact, the first time he rides him is in “Never Trust an Honest Man”. In a way, this story brings him full circle back to his original rider (in ASJ).
If you noticed my mention of horsehair hitching: it was introduced to several Western prisons from the 1880s, and I read that knowledgeable people could tell when and where pieces had been made due to colours, patterns and styles used. A hitched bridle might have provided Wheat with a clue to a prison and maybe he would have known some inmate(s) there.Here is a link on horsehair hitching: https://www.cowboysindians.com/2016/04/hitched-horsehair-bridles-have-a-history-behind-bars/
As for inspiration/background to the story:I firmly believe that Kid would not have risked burying Heyes in some town, even under his alias. The danger was just too great that knowledge would spread of who Joshua Smith really was and he just would not have been safe.His wouldn’t have been the first famous outlaw’s grave or remains to be disturbed by ghouls. Check up on the sad story of Big Nose George Parrott. Detailed story can be found here: https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/big-nose-george-grisly-frontier-tale#:~:text=Wikipedia.,inaugural%20as%20Wyoming's%20governorI summarise from Wikipedia: He was an outlaw, a horse-thief and robber, in the late 1870s who, with his partner in crime, had a reward of $10,000 (later even $20,000) placed on their heads when they killed two law enforcement officers in 1878 who tracked the gang after a botched train robbery. In 1880 they were captured and Big Nose was returned to Rawlins, Wyoming, where he was sentenced to hang in April 1881. During an attempt to flee, he was grabbed by a mob and lynched. Uncomfortable similarities (and outlook), anyone?But his story gets worse. Two doctors, Thomas Maghee and John E. Osborne obtained his body (because no family came forward to claim it) and determined “to study his brain for clues to his criminality”. They did not restrict themselves to this, however. The sawn-off top of the skull was made into an ashtray and given to Maghee’s assistant (Lillian Heath, who later became the first female doctor in Wyoming), who still had it in 1950 (it is today in the Union Pacific Museum of Omaha, Nebraska). They also removed skin from Parrott’s thighs and chest and sent it to a tannery in Denver, where it was turned into a pair of shoes and a medicine bag for Osborne. It is not known what became of the bag, but the shoes were still in John E. Osborne’s possession when he became governor of Wyoming in 1893, and he famously wore them to his inauguration (ball). Simply search on the internet for “Governor of Wyoming” and “shoes”, if you don’t believe this. You can even find pictures. The shoes are today in the Carbon County Museum of Rawlins.And this story is not as unique as one could hope. There are other tales of unsavoury outlaw artefacts or of entire preserved bodies or skeletons being put on display for money (e.g. Elmer McCurdy, killed in 1911, whose body was displayed in a funeral home, carnival and side shows and a fun fair until 1976).I could just imagine some unscrupulous doctor or medicine show man, upon realising who Joshua Smith really was, obtaining rights to the body (for studying it for criminology or simply under false pretences, e.g. claiming to be a long-lost relative) and happily carving it up, all legally, and selling parts off for souvenirs (and sadly, I can just see railway barons, bankers and Wyoming governors lining up for the sale), or displaying the remains as a curiosity all over the West.Isn’t it really a sad irony, considering our boys’ worst adversaries, that Parrott’s body parts ended up belonging to and being displayed by a governor of Wyoming, a bank (where Osborne later worked), and a railway museum (among others)?
No, Kid could not risk something like that. But somehow, I also can’t (or really don’t want to) see him burying his partner just somewhere meaningless in the wilderness. It makes complete sense to me that, given Heyes died within a few days’ ride of Devil’s Hole (in my original vision of “The Shot”), Kid would have brought him home. After all, they did spend the happiest and best years of their lives there (apart from their childhood). The Devil’s Hole gang were still friends, even if a little uneasy ones at times, and our boys could trust them more than anyone else.
Finally (yes I know, I do ramble on), need I say that I really like Wheat, especially as portrayed by Earl Holliman? Yes, he is an outlaw and proud of it. But like our two pretty good bad men, despite grumbling and blustering, he does right by his friends, as evidenced in “The Day They Hanged Kid Curry”.You clearly cannot rely on him to do something as mundane and lawful as paying for a telegram, as it simply goes against his grain, but I am convinced you could absolutely trust him to protect a former comrade, a fellow outlaw, even one who had strayed and retired (but never completely switched sides).
"I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
|Subject: Re: Him || |