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 The Letter Chapter fourteen

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Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

The Letter  Chapter fourteen Empty
PostSubject: The Letter Chapter fourteen   The Letter  Chapter fourteen EmptyThu Sep 19, 2013 3:50 pm

THE LETTER  Part one

 It was an evening at the beginning of the second week of the New Year when David sat down at his desk to write a letter.  He contemplated for a few moments; quill in hand, not quite sure how to begin.  Then he decided; at the beginning was probably the best.  He dipped the quill in the ink bottle and began to write;

 'Dear Hannibal;  

 I apologize for not writing to you sooner.  You are correct of course in requesting information concerning your cousin, since you are indeed his closest friend and only legitimate family so you certainly have the right to know.  I should have written to you sooner but things have been so tumultuous here since our return from Wyoming that I just didn’t think to do it.  Again, I apologize for this.  I suppose another reason for not writing to you is that I don’t really understand myself what is going on with Jed.  Part of his distress at first was due to withdrawal from the morphine he had been taking, but he’s well past that now and is still behaving erratically  He has simply replaced one drug with another—the other being alcohol.
 I know he is doing this because he is depressed, but it is the reason for the depth of his depression that I don’t understand.  He is understandably upset over your fate, as we all are, but though the rest of us are doing what we can to pressure the governor to grant you your pardon, Jed seems to prefer to simply get drunk every night.  We are all surprised and confused by this behavior, not to mention disappointed, as we assumed that he would be the first to be coming to your rescue!
 I have sent a letter to a friend of mine back East who has done some study of addiction and acute depression with the hopes that he can give me insight into Jed’s problem.  In the mean time I am trying to make myself available to Jed whenever he needs to talk, but if he won’t even try to help himself, it’s difficult for me to force it on to him.  As far as I am aware he is not even continuing with the stretching and exercises that I gave him to do to help his shoulder heal properly.  Before his trial he was very consistent with keeping this up, but now, it’s like he just doesn’t care anymore.
 Fortunately, throughout most of the trip home from Cheyenne Jed was asleep, only waking occasionally due to bad dreams or necessity.  We all disembarked in Brookswood except for your friend Miss Hale who continued on to Denver, with promises of everyone keeping in touch etc. etc.  I also parted company with the Jordan’s at this point and walked the rest of the way to my home.  I believe Jesse hired a surrey to take the rest of them out to the ranch……'

 Jed was sitting in the front seat of the surrey with Jesse beside him, driving the team of horses out to the ranch.  Beth and Bridget were sitting in the back bundled up against the chill, but still talking and laughing about their adventure.  The two men up front were quiet, each in their own thoughts until the horses were jogging down the tree lined lane towards the Double J.  Then Jed spied ole’ Buck still out in that same field with Karma.

 “Oh, Jesse!  Stop for a moment will ya?”  Jed asked.  “I’d like to say hello to my old friend out there.”

 ‘Oh, sure,”  Jesse agreed, and pulled the team to a halt.

 The two horses, both looking fat and shaggy with their winter coats on, snorted and came trotting over to the fence to greet whoever was coming into their ‘territory’  They were both looking bright eyed and healthy and Buck gave a nicker as he recognized his human standing at the fence.  Jed smiled and gave his big gelding an affectionate slap on the neck.

 “Hey there old friend, how ya doin’?”  he asked the horse, and Buck gave him at rather boisterous head butt as though asking him the same question.

 Karma-Lou was also standing by and stretched out her nose to Jed and gave him a checking over to make sure he was who she thought he was.  Then she turned her attention to the lane, and with head up and ears pricked to their utmost she scanned the distant horizon, waiting expectantly for her own human to put in an appearance.  She opened her mouth and set forth a whinny and then continued to wait and watch hoping to see the familiar figure come walking over the ridge.
 Kid felt his heart nearly break in two.  He gave her a pat on the neck, and rubbed her mane.

 “No Karma,”  he told her sadly.  “he’s not here.  He’s not coming.”  

 Karma cocked an ear towards him and then as though in understanding, she relaxed her stance and brought her head around to give Jed a friendly nuzzle. He gave her a gentle pat on the neck and she turned, and along with Buck, trotted back out into the field to continue their grazing.  Jed turned back to the surrey.

 “They’re looking in fine shape,”  he said to the girls. “You’ve both done an excellent job of looking after them.”

 “It was a pleasure to look after them for you Thaddeus,”  Bridget assured him.  “They’re wonderful horses, both of them.  We can see why you and Joshua are so fond of them.”

 Jed just smiled and stepped back into the surrey.  Jesse clucked to the team and they continued on to the house.  Rufus finally put in an appearance, better late than never to greet the home comers.  He woofed excitedly, his tail wagging as he trotted stiffly over to meet the surrey.  Peanut and Pebbles came charging out of the barn after him, yapping their heads off and then close behind them, came Sam.
 Jesse turned the team towards the second barn and Sam stepped forward to hold the bridle of the near horse while everyone disembarked the surrey.

 “Afternoon Sam,”  Jesse greeted him.  “Everything alright?”

 “Oh yes sir, Mr. Jordan,”  Sam assured him.  “Everything is fine.  Hello Miss Beth, Miss Bridget.”

 “Hi Sam,”  Beth greeted him with a smile.

 “Hi,”  Bridget answered, barely giving him a look and certainly not a smile.

 Sam sighed and then looked over to Jed.

 “Mr. Curry,”  he greeted him, a little apprehensively, not sure what kind of reception he would receive from that gentleman.  “I’m glad to hear that everything worked out for you.”

 “Hello Sam,”  Jed answered and then stepped forward and shook his hand.  “It’s good to see you again.”

 Sam smiled, relieved.  It seemed that Mr. Curry at least had forgiven him.

 “Take the horses in and settle them for the night Sam,”  Jesse instructed him.  “You can return them to town when you go in tomorrow.”



 Jed turned towards the house to see Belle come down the steps and then run towards the group.

 “Oh Thaddeus!  Welcome home!  It is so good to see you!”

 Jed grinned broadly.  “Hello Belle.”

 She came up to him and gave him a big hug.  He returned it with a kiss to her cheek

 “Come on into the house,”  she said.  “I’ve had a hearty soup simmering on the stove just waiting for you to get home.  You all must be chilled to the bone.”

 This statement was met with total agreement from all quarters and everyone headed for the house looking forward to the opportunity to warm up and settle in.  Belle turned to Sam as he was leading the team into the barn.

 “You come in too and join us Sam,”  Belle invited him.  “As soon as you get those horses put away.”

 “Yes, ma’am, I will!”  Sam answered.  “Thank you.”

 Inside the ranch house, it was warm and should have been inviting, but Jed felt uncomfortable.  Everyone quickly removed their heavy coats and scarves and settled in around the same dinning room table and were quite happy to tuck into hot soup and warm freshly baked bread.  Jed joined in as was expected of him.  He laughed and talked and they discussed the ranch, but just like at the dinner party, his heart wasn’t in it.  All  he really wanted to do was run away and cry somewhere, but there was nowhere else for him to go.

 “I’ve set up that same room for you under the stairs, Thaddeus,”  Belle told him.  “I hope that will be alright for you.”

 “Yes ma’am, that’ll be fine,”  Jed answered, then noticed Belle’s admonishing look and he quickly added. “...ah, Belle.”

 “David suggested that I put you to work right away,”  Jesse informed him.  “but if you want to take a day or two….”

 “No,”  Jed cut him off.  “I need something to do.  Whatever you want Jesse.”

 Jesse and Belle exchanged a quick look and the girls were suddenly silent.

 “Okay, fine,”  Jesse agreed.  “Tomorrow morning when Sam takes the surrey back into town why don’t you go with him with the buckboard and help him bring back the supplies for the week?”


 Just then Sam himself came in the front door, and removing his heavy coat and work boots came and joined them at the table.  Belle was quick to put a bowl of soup in front of him and offer him some bread.  That done, she turned and headed for the day nursery as young Jay started to stir and was making it clear that he wanted to join the party.

 “Jed’s going to go into town with you tomorrow Sam,”  Jesse informed him.  “give you a hand with the supplies.”

 “Oh, sure!”  Sam accepted that with a smile.  “I hope we can get there and back before the first snows hit.  You can practically smell it in the air.”

 At that point Belle returned with Jay in her arms.  It was obvious, even wrapped in a blanket that he had grown plenty in the few months that Jed had been away.  But even at that the scene around the table was too much like a disturbing déjà vu. It was so much like the first lunch he and Heyes had enjoyed in this same room that all of a sudden Jed felt like he was going to throw up.

 “Thaddeus, why don’t you take JJ for a bit?”  Belle suggested.  “Get re-acquainted.”

 “NO!”  Jed practically shouted at her.  He shoved his chair away from the table and was on his feet in a flash, backing away from her.

 Belle jumped in surprise and took an involuntary step back herself.

 “Jed….”  Jesse said, in a warning tone.

 “I’m sorry,”  Jed said, trying to calm down, knowing he was behaving in an unacceptable manner, but unable to stop himself.  “I’m sorry.  I’m tired.  I’m just going to go to my room for a while.”  and with all eyes upon him, he turned and went in to hiding.

 Belle sent a questioning look over to her husband.  Jesse sighed and shook his head.  There was going to be some more ‘pillow talk’ come evening, he could tell.

 Jed closed the door behind him and was instantly pacing the room.  He was agitated, frustrated, angry—hurt.  All these emotions hitting him at once and he had no control over them and he felt like he needed to hit something or someone!  He unstrapped his gun belt and threw it into the chair which in itself suggested his uncharacteristic moodiness.  Running his hands through his hair, he clenched his fists around the curls and held on like his very life depended on it.
 His sob came suddenly and uncontrolled and he clamped down to suppress it, but failed totally.  He sat down on the bed and stared out that same window at the two horses out in that same field and the sobs attacked him. He grabbed the pillow, and flinging himself back across the bed, he hugged it to his face to try and suffocate the sounds, or suffocate himself—whichever came first.
 He rolled over onto his side and pulling his knees up he cried into the pillow like a baby and the sobs racked his body until he was fighting just to breath and his chest ached and his throat burned and he continued to sob.  And somewhere, in between the gasps and the anguish he was pleading, over and over and over; “Heyes!  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry….!”

 “What was that all about?” Belle asked, snuggled in her husband’s arms.  “He didn’t even come out for supper.”

 “I don’t know,”  Jesse admitted.  “David says he’s depressed and that we just need to give him some time, but I’m at a loss as to how to deal with it.  I guess just putting him to work would be the best thing right now.”

 “Hmmm,”  Belle agreed.  “Keeping him busy can’t hurt.  And I’m sure the girls will help to bolster his spirits.”  Here Jesse shifted a little, uncomfortably.  “What?”

 Jesse sighed.  “I wasn’t sure whether to mention this or not, but I suppose you do need to know.  The morning after the trial, we all met over at the café for breakfast, but Jed didn’t show up.  David decided to go back to the hotel to check on him and he wasn’t in his room nor had his bed been slept in, so the two of us went in search of him.  Well we found him passed out at one of the seedier saloons in town.  
 “Apparently he had gone over there shortly after we had all retired for the night.  He took himself one of those gals and he treated her pretty rough.  I swear, I felt like beating some sense into him myself right then and there—give him a taste of what he had been dishing out, but he was passed out cold from all the drinking he had done and wouldn’t have felt it anyways.  Plus David wouldn’t let me though he was pretty sickened by the whole affair as well.  
 “The Madam there told us not to worry about it, that it was common for some of the customers to get a little rough, no big deal,”  Jesse sighed again and Belle could feel him shake his head at the absurdity of the whole episode.  “so, David and I hauled Jed back over to his hotel room to sleep it off until the train was due.  Then we hauled him onto the train and brought him home.  I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about it because the girls have always been around, so maybe tomorrow….still,”  he continued.  “I don’t really feel comfortable with either of the girls being around him without one of us there.  At least for now.  I just don’t trust him.”

 “Oh no,” Belle whispered.  “Poor Thaddeus!”

 “What?!”  Jesse quietly exclaimed, not sure he heard right.  “What do you mean ‘poor Thaddeus’?  You didn’t see that young woman he beat up!”

 “No, I know!”  Belle insisted as she gave her husband a light squeeze on his arm.  “I’m not saying that was acceptable—of course it wasn’t!  It’s just that Thaddeus is such a gentle soul…”  here Jesse laughed derisively at this.  “I know,”  Belle repeated.  “but if you weren’t so angry with him right now you would realize how much pain he must be in to cause him to behave that way.
 “I hate to admit it, but I would be more inclined to believe that Joshua had done something like that rather than Thaddeus.  Joshua can be very masterful and intimidating sometimes.  I have no trouble believing that he was the leader of The Devil’s Hole gang—he just has a way about him, he just naturally takes control.  But not Thaddeus; he’s too kind.”

 “I don’t know Belle,”  Jesse disagreed.  “you didn’t hear the testimonies at the trial.  More than one person commented on Jed’s temper and that Hannibal was the only one who could control him when he got like that.  
 “I was asked if I had ever felt threatened by  either of them, or concerned for the safety of my family with them around.  I answered truthfully at the time, that I never had.  But now?  I would not be able to give the same answer.  I do fear for their safety around Jed now and I don’t want either of the girls to be alone with him until he can prove to me that he is worthy of that trust.”

 “Alright,”  Belle agreed.  “I don’t believe that he would ever hurt any of us, but I’ll accept your decree.  But I am also going to do everything I can to help Thaddeus get through this.  I know that he’s a good person and now that he has his freedom, I’d hate to see him throw it away.  We just need to help him find his footing again.  These last four or five months have been very hard on him.”

 Jesse chuckled and gave his wife a hug.

 “Oh brother!  You and David!”  he said.  “You’re each just as stubborn as the other!”

 “Yes, we are,”  she agreed with a smile.  “Now, what about this Mr. Granger who I am apparently going to be meeting at Thanksgiving?”

 “Oh no…”  Jesse groaned.

 “What?”  Belle asked, a little concerned.  “Don’t you like him?”

 “No, no, I like him well enough,”  Jesse put in.  “it’s just that I was hoping to actually get some sleep tonight.”

 “Oh a couple of more minutes won’t hurt you!”  Belle insisted.  “I’m just curious.  You wouldn’t have invited him all the way out here for the holiday if you didn’t think he was worthy.  You saw him in action in the courtroom—does he appear to be an honourable person?”

 “Well, yes,”  Jesse admitted.  “he worked very hard on both cases and certainly spearheaded the campaign against the governor’s office, which, it seems, did help Jed’s case.  And he’s still willing to stay with it to get Hannibal pardoned.  It’s not going to be easy though.”

 “Hmmm,”  Belle agreed, and then elaborated.  “Still, often some lawyers can bend the truth a bit in order to win a case, twist people’s words to mean something that wasn’t intended.  Did you see any of that with Mr. Granger?”

 “No,”  Jesse admitted.  “Indeed, that better describes the prosecuting attorney, Mr. DeFord.  He had quite the talent for leading testimonies in the direction he wanted them to go.  Indeed, he would have won both cases if the governor hadn’t stepped in with Jed’s.  He was this close to getting that young man hanged.  I may be angry with Jed right now, but I don’t believe that he deserved that.”

 “So are you saying that you think Mr. DeFord is a better lawyer than Mr. Granger?”  Belle asked, almost teasingly.

 “No!”  Jesse defended himself.  “Not a better lawyer as such, perhaps just more experienced.  Mr. Granger is still a young man and new to the bench, which is the only reason we were able to retain him for the defense—no other lawyer in town wanted the job!  In that light, I think he did very well, and once he gets more experience under his belt he should  make a fine attorney, and from what I’ve seen, an honest one too.”

 “So he should be able to provide for Bridget and a family without too much hardship?”  the practical side of the mother asked.

 “Certainly,”  Jesse agreed.  “I think he will be very successful.”

 “And Bridget is obviously fond of him,”  Belle pointed out.  “that was clear as soon as she got home from Joshua’s trial.”

 Jesse sighed.  “There you go again,”  he complained.  “Now how could you have possibly known that?”

 “Oh, there was far too much correspondence between them for it to just be about their campaign!”  Belle explained. “Her letters to him were very time consuming and well thought out.  Whenever a letter arrived from him, she often retired to her room to read it alone before letting Beth in on what was said.  If it was all just about their assault on the governor she would have been sharing those letters with Beth right away.”
  Belle smiled and again gave her husband a squeeze on his arm.  “No, I wasn’t at all surprised when you told me of his intentions.”

 “You’re too much!”  Jesse complained.  “How am I supposed to surprise you with anything when you’re always two steps ahead of me?”

 “Well, I’m not always, Dear.  Just when it comes to our girls and affairs of the heart!”

 “Well, personally, I think Mr. Granger is a good sort,”  Jesse put in.  “but of course I wanted you to meet him before giving permission for anything ‘official’.  But I think you will like him.”

 “I’m sure I will,”  Belle agreed.  “It ought to be a full house here for the holidays!”

 “Yes, it probably will be,”  Jesse seconded, and then gave his wife another hug.  “So can I go to sleep now?”

 Belle chuckled.  “Yes you may.  Love you.”

 “Love you too.  Now goodnight!”

 The next morning was a surprise for Belle and Jesse.  Jed was up early and already had the coffee going when Belle came down to start breakfast.  She smiled at him and actually gave him a morning hug.

 “You’re looking in better spirits today Thaddeus,”  she told him.  “did you sleep well?”

 “Yeah, I did,”  he lied.  “Thought I would get an early start on things since it is my first day on the job here.”

 “You must be hungry since you didn’t eat any supper last night,”  Belle commented.  “We’ll get some oatmeal going first and then how about some flapjacks and bacon?”


 “Sam ought to be in soon,”  she informed him.  “He generally takes meals with us now since the other hands are up at the line cabin to take care of the stock through the winter.  It gets kind of lonely for him out in that bunkhouse all by himself.”

 “So Sam is working out okay here is he?”  Jed asked.

 “Yes he is,”  Belle admitted.  “He works very hard and has done nothing to make us regret bringing him back on after…well, you know.”

 Jed smiled.  “Yup,”  he poured coffees out for them while Belle set the pot on the stove for the oatmeal.  “It don’t appear that Bridget has quite forgiven him though.”

 Belle sighed as she hugged her mug of coffee.  “No,”  she admitted.  “I think Sam has burned his bridges there.  But he does seem to be getting on well with Maribelle, the young lady in town, so I don’t think he’s going to be too heartbroken that Bridget has set her sights on another.”

 “Ohhh, so Jesse has told you about that has he?”

 “Oh yes,”  she admitted with a smile. “What do you think of him Thaddeus?  Is he worthy of our eldest daughter?”

 Jed smiled.  “Well, after what happened to Heyes I was ready to write him off as useless,”  Jed confided.  “but once I got a taste of how ruthless it is in a courtroom I ended up admiring him just for being able to stay afloat.”
  Then he nodded.  “Yeah, I think Mr. Granger would make a pretty good match for Bridget.  If my opinion counts for anything these days.”

 “Of course it counts!”  Belle assured him.  “and from what I’m hearing of this young man, I think you are probably right.  He seems to be willing to carry on pushing for Joshua’s pardon as well, so that certainly speaks well for him.”

 Jed’s smile dropped and was replaced with an anxious, almost guarded demeanor.

 “Have you been in touch with Joshua yet?”  she asked tentatively.

 “No,”  Jed admitted blandly. “I doubt that he would want to hear from me.”

 “Why would you think that?”  Belle asked, concerned.  “Of course he’ll want….”

 “NO!”  he looked at her with eyes on the edge of threatening and he started to back away.

 “It’s alright Thaddeus,”  she said gently and put a quiet hand on his arm, instinctively seeking to calm him—to prevent him from bolting to his room again.  “don’t worry about it.  Come; help me slice up some bacon for breakfast.”

 Jed’s demeanor instantly softened and he relaxed with a self-conscious smile.  He stepped forward again and focused his attention on getting breakfast ready.
  Belle gave a silent sigh of relief.  Unlike her husband, she could see right away that Thaddeus was deeply wounded, but just as with everyone else, she couldn’t understand why.  But Belle, being Belle, would take him under her wing and do everything she could to help him heal and hopefully understanding would come in time.
 Then there was a stampeding on the stairs and the rest of the Jordan clan were coming down for breakfast.  Jay started to cry.

 Early afternoon found Jesse sitting at the large table doing paperwork for the ranch when he heard the buckboard returning from town and then the inevitable chorus of dogs barking in joyous greeting.  He put aside the figuring he was doing, shrugged on his coat and headed outdoors to help with the unloading.  But as soon as he got out onto the porch, it was obvious that something was wrong; no Jed.  Jesse practically growled to himself.
 He plunked down the steps and headed over to the barn where they would be storing most of the supplies and took hold of one of the bridles. Sam climbed down from the driver’s seat, already shaking his head.

 “Where is he?”  Jesse demanded.

 “I don’t know, Mr. Jordan,”  Sam answered, feeling like he was to blame.  “We got in to town fine and he seemed to be in good spirits.  I went straight over to the mercantile and Mr. Curry, he took the team and surrey back to the livery stable.
 “ Anyway, short time after that he met me at the store and helped to get everything loaded into the buckboard n’ all that.  We were gettin’ on fine, talkin’ about stuff, you know, but then when we was gettin’ ready to come back here, suddenly he says that he’s gonna go over to the saloon and play some cards n’ stuff and that  he’d make his own way back here.  Well, I didn’t know what to say to change his mind n’ all, and he didn’t give me a chance to anyways—just walked away.”  

 Sam shrugged self-consciously, feeling responsible, but still hoping he wasn’t going to get yelled at.

 Jesse sighed, and his jaw tightened as he tried to keep his frustration and anger in check.  

 “It’s alright Sam,”  he assured the young man.  “it wasn’t your fault.”


 “Where’s he getting the money for all this?”  Jesse commented, more to himself than anyone.

 “I donno,”  Sam answered with another shrug and then began to unload the wagon.

 Jesse stared off down the road towards town, a pensive expression on his face.

 “He better not be stealing it,”  he mumbled to himself.

 When Jed finally returned, it was three days later and he was riding a rented horse.  He wasn’t drunk, nor was he hung-over, and he didn’t look like he’d been in any fights, but he was tired.  Actually, exhausted would describe his condition better.  He tended to the horse, more out of habit than through any sense of responsibility and then staggered into the house and without a word to anyone, disappeared into his room and collapsed on the bed.  He didn’t move for the rest of that day and all that night.
 The next morning, again he was up early and getting coffee going before anyone else had begun to stir.  He said not a word about where he’d gone or what he’d done, or even any apology for causing days of needless worry for three ladies who cared deeply about what happened to him.  Jesse was about ready to wring his neck.  Belle kept the peace.
 That day he helped Sam with the chores around the barns and then saddled up Buck and joined Sam on a ride up to one of the northern pastures. It was time to check on the livestock there and make sure they were all getting enough to eat in preparation for the upcoming winter months.  It started to snow.  Just a dusting, nothing to panic about, but that didn’t stop Bridget from panicking.  'What if Stev….err, Mr. Granger couldn’t make it for the holiday?  Nothing could be worse than that!'
 The next morning Jed saddled up Karma Lou, since Buck still seemed tired from the previous days’ excursions and after giving assurances that he would be back in a few hours, headed into town, leading the rental horse back to the livery.  Everyone was on pins and needles, wondering if he would indeed return and what would be the consequences if he did not.
 All was well though, and two and a half hours later he and Karma Lou came trotting back into the yard, minus the rental horse just as more snow was starting to fall.  Jed tended to Heyes’ mare and got her and Buck settled in to lunch and entered the house to get some lunch himself.  For the rest of the afternoon, he chopped firewood and  helped Sam with getting the barnyard livestock tended for the night.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  Maybe Jed was finally starting to settle in and everything would be fine…..  

 By the time Heyes received David’s letter it was well into the final week of January 1886.  There had been such a heavy snow fall over the Friday night that a number of the inmates were ‘volunteered’ to go outdoors on the Saturday and shovel the yard so that horses and wagons could actually get into the prison.  Since Carson took great pleasure in antagonizing the ‘great outlaw leader’ Heyes and Boeman both were a part of that work detail.
 Heyes wasn’t sure if Carson was simply trying to set things up so the two adversaries would end up in a scuffle or if he just liked exerting his dominance over the two alpha wolves in the pack to remind them who was really in charge.  Unfortunately Boeman wasn’t smart enough to realize that the head guard was manipulating him and seemed to think that Heyes was being deliberately antagonistic.  Heyes was doing his best to avoid both gentlemen.
 Now, Heyes being a man who didn’t care much for physical exertion at the best of times found the job of shoveling snow out in the cold quite exhausting work.  He knew he was going to be sore the next day and that put him into a rather snarky mood even before the muscles started to actually ache.  Then to add to his irritation, Boeman took every opportunity to bump into his rival, knocking him off balance on the slippery footing, or misjudge where his shovel was going and give Heyes a sharp rapping on the ankles.
 Every time this happened Heyes would send a quick glance over to Carson, expecting him to give Boeman a reprimand but none ever came.  Carson would just smile and watch, obviously anticipating an entertaining scuffle once Heyes got tired of the abuse and finally lost his temper.  It never happened.
 What did happen was come the end of the day when Boeman showed up for supper, he arrived in the cafeteria with a limp, a black eye and a split lip.  When Kenny asked him quite directly what had happened, he simply stated that he had fallen on the slippery steps out in the yard and had no other comment to make.  Odd thing was; nobody recalled seeing him do that.  Kenny was suspicious and Carson felt that he had been cheated out of his fun.
 Once supper was done and over with, a very sore but self-satisfied Heyes returned to his cell with a cup of coffee.  He was feeling chilled by his time outside and it was his intention to curl up with his blanket and continue reading ‘Around the World in 80 Days’.  He found instead David’s letter waiting for him. Finally!!  Some news from home!  Some news that might actually make sense.  Surely David would know what was going on with the Kid; David was a doctor after all.
 But once he settled in to read the narrative, his hopes fell.  Just as Clem had stated in her letter, David was at a loss.  Jed seemed to be getting over his moodiness early in November and everyone had breathed a sigh of relief.  The month had gone by quickly and the Jordan’s were busy getting ready for the first of the big holidays, especially since company was coming.  Jed had even volunteered to stay out in the bunkhouse with Sam (Heyes bristled at the mention of that young man’s name) so that Mr. Granger could occupy the spare bedroom during his visit.  All seemed well….

 The afternoon before Thanksgiving, Jed drove the buckboard into Brookswood to collect more supplies and to meet the train that Steven Granger would be arriving on.  There was quite a layer of snow on the ground, but the day was clear and bright and the roads hard packed so all of Bridget’s fretting had been for naught!  The train even arrived on time which, Curry thought to himself, was a most unusual occurrence and would hopefully bode well for the holiday.

 “Mr. Granger!”  Jed greeted the attorney as he disembarked.  “how was your trip?”

 “Mr. Curry.  Fine, fine,”  Granger answered as he hoisted his one satchel up onto the buckboard.  “I take it you’re settling in alright?”

 “Yeah, sure.”

 The drive back out to the ranch went by quickly as the conversation flowed quite easily between the two gentlemen.  Of course Steven’s first comments were concerning Bridget and asking after her well-being.  Then it moved on to Bridget’s parents and how were they doing and had Jed heard them make any comments concerning Mr. Granger?  And what type of a person was Mrs. Jordan?  Was she strict and hard to please, or was she approachable?  Was she open to the idea of Mr. Granger courting her daughter?  What about Bridget coming to work for him if he moved to Denver?  Had Mr. Curry heard anything at all?
 Jed smiled and patiently listened to this monologue until it eventually petered out and Steven finally stopped talking and just sat there looking pensive.

 “Well, I tell ya’,” Jed finally commented.  “Belle Jordan is one of the kindest women I’ve ever met; she’ll put you at your ease.  Just be yourself and try not to try too hard.”

 “Yes. Of course,”  Mr. Granger didn’t sound too convinced.

 But Steven had to admit that Jed was right.  Once he had been welcomed into the Jordan’s home, Belle’s natural warmth and kind spirit quickly put him at his ease and he relaxed.  Then, when Bridget entered the room, well the instant and obvious pleasure that beamed from his countenance upon seeing her again made everyone smile knowingly and the visit was an unqualified success.
 As it turned out Jed ended up having the bunkhouse to himself and the dogs when he wasn’t doing chores or in the house helping to entertain. Sam had been invited to spend the holiday in town with Maribelle and her folks and Jed had volunteered to take over his duties so he could have a few days off and enjoy himself.  Bridget couldn’t have been happier with this development, since the last thing she wanted was that puppy hanging around when she had a real man showing her attention.
 Jesse had begun to ease up on his decree concerning Jed, after all, it had been a month or so and that young man seemed to be in a much better frame of mind.  Beth couldn’t have been more pleased to have her friend joining them at the table for Thanksgiving dinner and spent most of the evening chatting with him exclusively and flirting shamelessly, but so sweetly that no one was offended.  On the contrary, Jed seemed to be enjoying the attention and was the perfect gentleman for the duration of the evening..
 Throughout the dinner, discussion did turn to Mr. Granger moving his practice to Denver in the hopes of being able to become more acquainted with Miss Jordan.  It was also suggested that Bridget come to work for Mr. Granger, as his assistant as she obviously had an interest in the law and a very bright mind to go along with it.  There was certainly some hesitation about this as it seemed to both parents that Bridget was a bit young to be moving to the big city on her own.  It was at this point that Jed stepped in, much to Mr. Granger’s undying gratitude

 “She could always stay with Clementine,”  Jed suggested.  “She lives just outside of Denver and has a spare room.  She and the girls seemed to get alone quite well in Cheyenne so…”

 Steven and Bridget looked very hopeful.  Belle and Jesse looked skeptical.

 “Is she responsible?”  Jesse asked.  “Seemed to me that she was quite a free spirit with the gentlemen in Cheyenne.”

 “Well, yeah, she can be,”  Jed admitted.  “but she has a solid character and would take the responsibility seriously.  She would certainly look out for Bridget.”

 “Papa?   Wouldn’t that be alright?”  Bridget asked, hopefully.  “I mean, you have met her and she is an older lady and we do get along.”

 Jed smiled at the ‘older lady’ reference, Clem probably wouldn’t think too kindly to that description!

 “Well,” Jesse contemplated.  “we’ll see.  Perhaps—if she agrees to it.”

 “I’ll send her a telegram tomorrow and see what she says,”  Jed offered.  “But I think she will be agreeable.” Then under his breath, he added; “She owes us one.”

 Then, unfortunately the topic turned to Heyes and his pardon.  Belle noticed right away that Jed’s demeanor changed and he became somewhat withdrawn from the conversation.  No one else took note and the conversation continued on in that line.

 “We really need to hit the governor hard now,”  Steven was saying, becoming animated with the topic.  “He thinks the pressure is off because he granted Jed his amnesty, but we have to let him know that it’s not over yet.”

 “I’ve already sent letters out to people who wrote in before,”  Bridget stated.  “asking them to do so again.  Plus Mr. McCreedy and Miss Hale agreed to get right on it once more.  No one is giving up that’s for sure!”

 “Yes, Sheriff Trevors also is going to be sticking to it,”  Steven commented. “Oh!  And I received a telegram from a Mr. Briscoe—apparently from the Bannerman’s Detective Agency?”

 Kid groaned.  Oh no.  “What did he have to say?”  Jed asked, already feeling apprehensive.

 “Well, he apologized for not getting in touch sooner,”  Steven explained.  “Apparently he has been out of the country on a case for six months and didn’t even get the telegram that Mr. Heyes sent him until after the trials had begun.  Otherwise, he would have been right there, testifying on your behalf’s.”

 “Uh huh,”  commented Kid skeptically.  “typical.  Just like Harry; suddenly being available to help as soon as it no longer mattered.”

 “I haven’t responded to that telegram yet, Mr. Curry,”  Steven informed him, sensing the pessimism.  “would you prefer that I ignore it?”

 Jed sighed.  “No, I guess not,”  he conceded.  “every little bit helps and I guess Harry does the best he can—usually.”

 “Fine,”  Steven agreed, though wondering at the relationship that his two clients had with this agent; Jed didn’t seem to have much regard for him.  “I’ll get in touch when I get home.  Let him know that any support he can give would be welcome.”

 Gradually dinner started to wind down and Jay started to demand attention, Beth went off to tend to her young brother while Belle and Bridget began the clearing up.  Jesse offered brandies to the two young men still seated at the table, but Jed got to his feet, declining the offer.

 “I’m tired,”  he offered as an excuse.  “I think I’m going to retire to the bunkhouse.”  and promptly made a discreet exit from the family gathering.

 Jesse watched him leave, a concerned expression on his face.  He had to admit that Jed Curry was a hard man to figure out.  He found that he got along with Hannibal a lot easier, they just seemed to connect somehow.  But Jed was different.  He was a closed book.  Jesse had to admit that Belle seemed to be able to draw the young man out more than he could—and David.  There was obviously a friendship there between Jed and David, but even that relationship seemed to be strained these days.
 Jesse sighed and then turned his attention to the young man still sitting at the table.

 “So, Mr. Granger,”  he began as he poured them a couple of drinks.  “when exactly would you intend on moving to Denver?”

 Steven stayed on for a couple of more days, but then had to sadly depart since he did have a practice to run—and a governor to harass.  But he promised to keep in touch, both on the personal level and the professional one.  He also gave Bridget many assurances that he would start making plans to move his practice to Denver in the spring time and to officially begin courting her at that time.  Jesse and Belle both seemed agreeable to this so long as Miss Hale would accept the responsibility as chaperone.
 Jed continued to help out at the ranch and was quite reliable so far as his duties were concerned.  But he still had a tendency to disappear on Friday nights and not return until Sunday afternoons.  Jesse was again becoming concerned about the young man’s state of mind.
 Beth was disappointed.  After the Thanksgiving dinner, she had thought that Thaddeus actually was enjoying her company, but now he was back to barely acknowledging her.
 Then, one evening after supper, when it was Bridget’s turn to look to their brother and Beth was helping her mother with the clearing up, she broached the subject.

 “What’s the matter with him Momma?”  she asked all concern.  “He never used to behave like this?”

 Belle sighed.  She knew that this conversation was going to happen sooner or later.  “I know sweetheart,”  she consoled her daughter.  “I don’t fully understand it either.  I just know that what happened to Joshua has hurt him deeply and he’s struggling with it.”

 “But I would have thought that he would be wanting to help Joshua, just like the rest of us,”  Beth reasoned.  “but he’s not doing anything.  He just keeps going into town to drink and spend time with ‘those girls’!”

 “Beth!”  Belle exclaimed.

 “Oh Momma!  Don’t think that I don’t know what goes on there!”  Beth admonished her mother.  “I’m not a child you know!”

 Belle smiled and relaxed her indignant stance.

 “No, you’re not are you?”  she admitted.  “I keep forgetting how quickly you girls are growing up.  Now here’s your sister already on the verge of being courted by a very capable young man,”  she sighed with acceptance.  “You’re not little girls anymore.”

 “So what do I do?”  Beth asked.  “How do I get Thaddeus to notice me?”

 “He notices you sweetheart,”  she assured her daughter.  “believe me, he does.  But he has his mind on other things right now and until he comes to terms with that he’s not going to be ready for anything more.”

 “But he doesn’t seem to mind spending time with the girls at the saloon,”  Beth pointed out.  “Why does he prefer their company over mine?”

 Belle had to stop and think about that one.

 “The girls at the saloon are just a diversion,”  she finally explained.  “He’s not serious about them.  They’re just frivolous company; they help him to feel better just for the short term, because he’s not ready for anything long term yet.  In a way, he’s showing his respect for you in that he is backing away, and not taking advantage of your feelings for him.”

 “But I want him to take advantage of my feelings for him!”

 Belle laughed, knowing that her daughter was still too naïve to understand what she was saying.

 “No you don’t,” she said.  “You want him to respect you.  You want him to court you the way Mr. Granger is going to be courting your sister.  And believe me, courting is not what he’s doing with those saloon girls!”

 “Yes, I suppose,”  Beth admitted.  “but how do I get him to do that?”

 “Give him time,”  Belle told her daughter.  “don’t chase after him.  Be there for him when he wants your company, be supportive of him when he needs your support, but don’t chase after him.  Wait until he’s ready to come to you.”

 Beth gave a long suffering sigh.  “That could take forever!”  she complained.

 “Yes!”  Belle agreed.  “sometimes it can take a long time to convince a man that it’s his idea to come courting!”

 Heyes ran out of candle light before he could finish David’s letter but maybe, he decided this wasn’t such a bad thing.  David’s news seemed to be all bad and Heyes was having a hard time digesting it all in one go.  He didn’t really feel well as he had a bit of a headache and a slight cough was starting to invade his chest.  It would seem that a day of working outside in the cold had not done him any good at all.
 It was still early evening, but the cells had been locked down for the night and Heyes blew out what was left of his candle and decided to settle in and try to get some rest.  Maybe he would feel better in the morning.  After all, it had been a very strenuous day and he was tired.
 Surprisingly enough, he fell asleep quickly and stayed asleep until the early morning hours.  He lay awake, bundled up in his sweater and socks and blankets waiting for the morning buzzer to sound and thinking that maybe, he had dodged the bullet on this one.  He really didn’t feel too bad.  Could be the sudden outdoor exercise had taken his system by surprise and all he’d needed was a good night’s sleep.
 Finally the morning buzzer sounded and Heyes began to unwrap himself from the bedding.  The cold air hit him like cascading ice water and he began to shiver.  He pulled his blanket up around him again as he sat on the edge of his cot not wanting to lose its warmth.  The night shift guards were starting to make their final round for roll call so that they could then go home to their own warm beds and have those precious twelve hours away from this place.  They were in no mood for doddlers.
 Heyes jumped as a bully club banged into the open door of his cell.

 “C'mon Heyes!  On your feet,”  Davis ordered.  “It might be Sunday but that don’t mean you can spend all day in bed!”

 Heyes nodded, grumbling to himself and then got to his feet.  He started to walk to the opened door, but he didn’t make it.  His legs suddenly felt like wet noodles and a ringing dizziness assaulted his head as he collapsed to the floor of his cell.  Through the spiraling blackness that he was falling through he could hear voices in the distance, calling out;

 “C'mon Heyes!  Where are ya?!”  then…”Oh crap!  Convict down!  Cell number 312.  Has the Doc showed up for work yet?......”

Last edited by Keays on Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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The Letter  Chapter fourteen Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Letter Chapter fourteen   The Letter  Chapter fourteen EmptyThu Sep 19, 2013 3:55 pm

The Letter Part two.

When he woke up again, he had no idea how much time had passed. He was lying in a bed—not his bed; he wasn’t in his cell, he was in an open room. His head hurt and it felt like it was made of lead, he was finding it hard to breathe and he was hot. He tried to move and was instantly assaulted by a coughing spasm that left him gasping for what little air he could draw into his lungs. Doc Morin was over to his bed in an instant.

“Easy young fella,” he soothed him as he helped Heyes to settle back onto the pillow, and then put a hand to his patient’s forehead and then his cheeks. Heyes thought the doctor’s hands felt unusually cold. “Hmmm. You’re still burning up. This is what you get for barely eating enough to keep a damned chipmunk alive.”

Doc Morin disappeared for a few moments and then returned with a cup in his hand. He lifted his patient up to a partly sitting position and supported him there while pushing the cup to his lips.

“Drink this. It’ll help you sleep.”

Heyes tried to comply, but his throat didn’t want to open up and accept the liquid. He drew some into his mouth and then choked and started to cough again.

“I know. Take it easy, a little bit at a time. Come on, try again.”

And so it went. It probably took twenty minutes for Morin to get the full cup of fluids down Heyes’ throat, but one sip at a time, between bouts of harsh coughing finally got it done Heyes was exhausted. He could feel himself slipping away even before the doc had settled him back into the pillow.

He heard a voice; “How is he Doc?” it sounded like Kenny. Heyes didn’t hear the response, just a rumbling that he knew was a voice and then he was gone, into oblivion again.

For the next forty-eight hours Hannibal Heyes was barely aware of himself. He thrashed and struggled with inner demons while the fever took hold and ran its course. He dreamed about his sister. She was a young adult and she was calling out to him, asking him why…why….

“Why did you leave me Han? You were my older brother; you were supposed to protect me. Why did you run away?”

And they were in the dark cell, but he could see her and she was surrounded by a halo of bright light and she was reaching out to him begging for help and then her hair caught fire and she was surrounded by flames and the bright light around her expanded and radiated out from her glowing form. Heyes tried to reach out to her, but he was belted in and his wrists and ankles were shackled and he couldn’t get to her and then the floor of the cell suddenly became like thick rolling mud and she began to sink into it.

“Help me Han! Help me! Why did you run away?”

“Jenny!! Jenny! Noooo!” and he struggled and fought against his bonds and tried so hard to get to her but to no avail. She continued to burn and to sink into the mar until the blackness engulfed her and the fire was snuffed out and Heyes was left alone and in total darkness and he screamed.
His face and neck and shoulders suddenly felt cool and he was calming. He was floating and drifting up and out of the dark cell and then he was in light and he became vaguely aware of his immediate surroundings. Someone was pressing a cool damp cloth against his brow and face and speaking softly to him. She appeared to be dressed like a nun and his fevered eyes focused on the dangling gold cross around her neck.
Odd, he thought, what would a nun be doing in the dark cell? Then he thought, almost with a sense of relief; 'Am I dead? Am I in heaven? Is the struggle over?' Then he dismissed that thought with an inner snort. 'Right, not much chance of me going to heaven.' Then he was gone again—drifting. And then the Kid was there, laughing at him.

“Ha, ha! You’re in prison and I’m not! Serves you right you arrogant bastard!!”

“No Kid! No! I didn’t mean to be. Come back. Come back! Don’t leave me here!”

“Come back. Come back,” the Kid repeated mockingly. “Why would I do that? All you ever did was put me down, tell me I was stupid. Why would I come back to that? I’ve got a life now…..a life now….a life…..”

Kid drifted away, out of reach, out of sight. Heyes thrashed and yelled and tried to follow him, but then he was in the dark cell again and all was blackness. He got bogged down in the rolling mud and it was pulling him down, down to Hell and he screamed again.
He awoke, but only just barely. Dr. Morin was standing over him feeling his forehead and checking his vital signs.

“He’s still feverish,” the doctor was saying to someone Heyes couldn’t see. “But I believe he has finally turned the corner. Your diligence just may have pulled him through this Sister.”

“Ohh, I do hope so,” Sister Julia answered. “He’s not a bad man…bad man…..bad man……” and Heyes was gone again.

Next time he woke up, he was lying on his side with his knees drawn up—his usual sleeping position these days. He felt as weak as a half drowned humming bird but his mind was clear and he could breathe. A man was standing there in his line of vision; he was touching Heyes’ shoulder and giving it a slight shake.

“Heyes,” said a very familiar voice. “you awake?”

“Lom?” oh jeez, even to Heyes his voice sounded weak and distant.

“Yeah,” came the answer. The man turned and pulled over a chair. He sat down and was then in the patient’s line of sight.

Heyes looked at him, not totally convinced that he was real. He reached out a trembling hand and touched his friend on his knee.

“Is that you?” he whispered. “Are you really here?”

Lom smiled and took Heyes’ hand in his. Heyes didn’t retract it. “Yeah Heyes, I’m really here. Being an officer of the law gives me some privileges. You’ve had quite a rough go of it. We were afraid we were going to loose you.”

“How’s Kid?”

Lom smiled and shook his head. “Jeez Heyes, you’re just barely back to the land of the living and all you want to know is ‘How’s Kid’?”


“Get some rest,” Lom told him. “We’ll talk about Kid later.”

“Lom, don’t leave me here,” Heyes whispered as he drifted off into sleep again. “Please, don’t leave me…..”

Lom sat for a long time holding his friends hand and watching him sleep. That quiet but desperate plea cut him to the quick, especially since he knew that there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it right now. They were all still trying, but Governor Warren just wasn’t listening. It was going to be hard, turning his back on his friend and leaving him in this place, and even more so after having seen him like this.
When Lom had first walked in to the infirmary he had seen the prisoner lying in the bed, but Dr. Morin had had to assure him that the prone man was indeed Hannibal Heyes. Lom would not have recognized him as the high spirited outlaw leader whom he had known for so many years. If they had passed in the street, Lom would have walked right by him.
It wasn’t just the shaved head and the prison garb nor the worn out and pale complexion from having been extremely ill for the past week. Maybe it was all those things put together and combined with his weight loss and the sunken cheek bones and the shadows under the eyes. But whatever it was, Heyes was a changed man and it broke Lom’s heart to see him reduced to this in such a short time.
Then to have to turn around and leave him here. Sometimes Lom regretted putting on a sheriff's badge. Sometimes.

The next day Heyes was actually sitting up and Sister Julia was helping him eat some broth. He felt silly having to be spoon fed, but he also knew that he was still very weak and would have had a hard time doing it himself. He also liked the company and if letting her spoon feed him soup would keep Sister Julia sitting on his bed and talking to him, well, he could make that sacrifice.

“Why are you here Sister?” Heyes asked her, still sounding very weak even to himself. “How did you know I was ill?”

“On my last visit I asked the warden to let me know if you ever needed anything,” she explained. “so when you became ill, he was good enough to contact me. Then you had mentioned Sheriff Trevors in your letter to me, so I took the liberty of contacting him.”

“Oh,” Heyes responded a little self-consciously. “How long have you been here?”

“Five days,” she answered as she sent another spoonful of broth his way. “Once I got here I couldn’t leave you. You were very ill.”

“Oh,” he said again. “I’m sorry. I’ve kept you away from your other duties.”

The Sister smiled at him. “Tending to the sick and less fortunate is part of my duties Joshua. Did you think we just sit around the convent and pray all day?”

Heyes smiled weakly. “No, I guess not,” he admitted. “I guess I just never thought of myself as being in that category.”


“Less fortunate.”

The Sister dropped her smile and looked him in the eye. “I don’t think of you in that category either Joshua.”
She put down the bowl of soup and picking up his hand in both of hers she raised it to her mouth and kissed it. Heyes felt his throat tighten, he wasn’t used to such an open and honest display of affection.
“I don’t care what you have done in your past,” she continued. “or what the law thinks you deserve. I just know that you have a kind heart because I have seen it and from what Mr. Trevors says there are plenty of other people out there who agree with me. I know it is difficult, but don’t give up hope.”

Heyes smiled awkwardly, he couldn’t think of anything to say. Then Lom approached the bed and saved the situation. Heyes smiled up at him.

“Howdy Lom.”

“Heyes,” Lom greeted him. “You’re looking a little better today. But what the hell…oh, sorry Sister…don’t they feed ya in here?”

“It’s not that the prisoners don’t get fed Sheriff,” Dr. Morin, who had overheard the comment, informed them. “There’s just not much we can do if the prisoner refuses to eat.”

Then two very reprimanding looks got sent Heyes’ way. He kind of shrugged, self-consciously.

“You know me Lom; I never was one to eat much.”

“Yeah, but ya usually ate enough to keep yourself alive!” Lom retorted with a bit of heat. “You’re not doing anybody any good if you starve yourself to death.”

Heyes looked away from their accusing stares and though he made no comment his thoughts were clearly written across his face. Sister Julia gave his hand another gentle squeeze.

“It does matter, Joshua,” she assured him. “Your welfare matters to a lot of people. So you start looking after yourself better, alright?”

Heyes gave her a half smile. Was that a woman thing; being able to read a man’s mind like that? Belle would do it on a regular basis, and now the Sister appeared to be just as proficient with that same ability.

“Alright Sister,” he agreed. “I will.”

“Good! Now, on that note I will leave you two men to talk and I will return later with more soup!”

She got up from the bed, took the bowl and left the men alone. Lom looked around for a chair and then again dragged it over to sit down beside his friend.

“So Lom. How’s the Kid?”

Lom sighed. He had hoped to not have to jump right into that. Heyes just wasn’t looking up to handling a whole bunch of bad news, but that seemed to be all Lom had to give him.

“I donno Heyes. He’s disappeared.”

“WA….WHAT!?” Heyes suddenly sat up straighter and then was attacked by a brutal coughing spasm that must have lasted a good five minutes.

“Aww jeez Heyes! Here drink some water!”

“Sheriff, perhaps you should leave him alone for now, let him get some rest.”

“No!” Heyes managed to gasp out between coughs. “No, I’ll be fine.”

Morin looked disapprovingly at the patient and his friend.

“Well, alright,” he mumbled, obviously not happy with it. “But not too long. And for Christ's sake take it easy, you don’t need a relapse!”

Heyes nodded as he got his breath back and settled into the pillow again. He hated to admit it but the coughing spasm did leave him feeling exhausted and though sleep was again threatening to overtake him, he forced himself to stay focused. He needed to find out all he could about his cousin.

“What do you mean, he’s disappeared? When?”

“About a week after Christmas,” Lom admitted. “Apparently he and Jordan had a blow out and Jordan sent him packing. Nobody’s heard from him since.”

“Oh no,” Heyes groaned. “What was it about, do you know?”

“Kid has been drinkin’ Heyes, too much, and being abusive,” Lom explained.” I guess Jordan had just had enough of it.”

“What’s going on with him Lom?” Heyes asked. “I got a letter from David saying pretty much the same thing. This just isn’t like him, it’s just….no…” Heyes stopped talking, a pensive look crossing over his face.

“What?” Lom asked.

Heyes looked at Lom, thinking about it for a moment, and then…”No, this is like him.” Heyes changed his mind. “This is just like how he was at Valparaiso, when we were kids. He was so hurt and angry over what had happened to our folks, but there was nothing he could do about it so he lashed out.”

“Yeah,” Lom thought about that himself. “that would make sense. He was very angry about the amnesty deal; almost told the Governor to shove it if it didn’t include you as well.”

Heyes smiled. “Really?”

“Hmmm,” Lom commented. “Mr. Granger and I had to really talk him into signing the papers, but it went against his grain that’s for sure.”

Heyes suddenly threw the blanket off of himself and started to get out of bed.

“I’ve got to get back to my cell!” he insisted. “I’ve got to write to David!”

“Whoa! Whoa, you’re not going anywhere Heyes!” Lom countered and caught his friend under the arms just as Heyes’ knees buckled and he began sliding to the floor.

Suddenly Dr. Morin was there too and they both hoisted Heyes back onto the bed, despite his many protests. Lom couldn’t believe how light he was. Even without Morin’s assistance the sheriff would not have had any trouble at all getting Heyes back up onto the bed. The man literally was wasting away.

“No, no, I gotta write to David,” Heyes continued to insist even as the blanket was being pulled back over him.

“Heyes, relax!” Lom said. “Calm down. I’ll bring ya' some paper so you can write him a note from here. I’ll make sure it gets to him. You just get better. And for God’s sake; EAT SOMEYHING!”

“No…I have to….” Heyes tried to fight the doctor, to get up again, but his strength failed him and amongst beads of sweat and another coughing fit, he collapsed into his pillow.

“I think you’d best go now Sheriff,” Morin insisted. “I’ll give him a sedative to calm him down and he’ll sleep.”

“Yeah, alright,” Lom agreed. He put a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “Take it easy Heyes. I’ll see you later, okay? Get some rest.”

“Yeah, okay,” Heyes barely got the whisper out. “see you later….”

It hadn’t been Kenny Reece’s’ life-long ambition to become a prison guard. That was hardly the first choice of a career for a young man growing up in a wealthy family in Tennessee. But like with so many things the war had changed all his plans and set his life upon a different path that was not of his choosing.
His family had owned large properties and raised fine riding and carriage horses for the other well to do citizens in the South. It was a good life filled with social events, and good friends along with the status and respect that as a young man he had taken for granted would always be his. He would eventually inherit and take over the running of his family’s business and he was courting and totally expected to marry one of the prettiest belles in the county. Life was good; he was a happy man.
Then the war, which had been brewing for some time but had never seemed to threaten the Reece family, since they were so prominent and therefore above such nonsense, finally exploded in their faces. Kenny Reece, being young and foolish thought it would be great fun to join up to help fight for the confederate cause. He would be an officer after all, and therefore not have to worry about actually getting down and dirty with the regular folk. It would be an adventure.
Well, it didn’t take long for the adventure to become a nightmare. The viciousness and brutality of that war shattered Kenny’s delusions of grandeur long before the first year of fighting was passed. Then the war didn’t end! Long after everyone was ready to give it up and just go home, the battles raged on. The predictions of a short and conclusive ‘skirmish’ were soon buried under a never ending pile of broken dreams and broken lives.
Kenny lost everything dear to him. His mother died of the fever, his father was killed trying to protect their property. All their finely bred and high strung horses were confiscated for the army’s use never to be seen again. Their fine home ransacked and burned to the ground. He lost count of how many people he saw blown up or maimed for life—many of them his friends. The world had gone mad and Kenny struggled just to hold on to his own sanity.
Then when the war was finally over, he came home to find nothing there for him anymore. His family and home were gone and his fiancé had given up on him and married someone else who still had something to offer her. With only his severance pay to live on he turned his horse around and headed west.
He worked his way along, taking jobs as they came up and living hand to mouth for over a year. Still, it was better than what he had come from; here at least nobody was trying to shoot him—usually. He did however find it worth his while to loose his southern accent. The further west he went the more people would look at him suspiciously and ask him where he was from, and what side did he fight for? So he studied the western dialogue and worked hard at mastering the different sounds. It wasn't long before he could get by with just a slight twang which usually only showed itself when he was angry or stressed. He survived.
He found work mainly with the ranches that always seemed ready to hire drovers or wranglers. Not surprisingly he showed an aptitude for breaking horses, so he often got hired for that type of work. Still, it was nothing like the lifestyle he had come from; he was used to being the man who did the hiring not the man asking to be hired. It was a difficult transition.
For the first few years he just kept drifting, following the herds and taking work where he could get it. He finally ended up in Montana on one of the bigger ranches and settled in as the permanent wrangler there. Then what often happens when nature is allowed to take its own course; he met another young lady and took himself a wife.
Then allowing nature to take its course again, the children started to arrive. Within five years Kenny had three sons and a career as a wrangler was beginning to look a little inadequate. He wanted to be able to offer opportunities to his children that a wrangler’s pay just would not accommodate. He began keeping his ears and eyes open for a career that could offer the stability and income he would need for his growing family.
Then he got word of the brand new Territorial Prison being built in Wyoming and that naturally guards would be needed. Kenny took the article home to discuss with his wife and they viewed the pros and cons. Perhaps it was not a very prestigious job, and it could be dangerous—dealing with convicts. But then breaking out half wild horses could get pretty dangerous too and Kenny wasn’t getting any younger. If he could handle a wild three year old bronc he was reasonably confident that he could handle an uppity convict. Plus it was a Government job, which meant stability, good pay and possibly benefits to help send the boys to college. There were pre-requisites of course. No previous criminal record, able to read and write English and those with military experience, especially officers would have priority.
It sounded like the perfect fit. So Kenny kissed his wife good-bye and headed to Wyoming to see if there was a future for them there. As it happened, the officials doing the hiring felt that Kenny was a perfect fit as well and he was hired on the spot. Since he didn’t have any previous experience as a guard he was not given the highest position, but seeing as how he had been an officer in the war (despite the fact that it was for the confederacy), he was given a position of some seniority. All that was left for him to do was find a place to live, move his family over and be ready to start work as soon as the prison was open for business.
When Hannibal Heyes had arrived at the prison Kenny Reece had been working there as a guard for thirteen years. His oldest son Joseph was getting ready to go back east to college to study engineering. The two younger boys were still going to classes in Laramie but also had aspirations of furthering their education. A daughter had been added to the brood and had definitely become the apple of her father’s eye. Life was pretty good for the Reece family, and on the most part Kenny liked his job; he knew the rules and he knew what he had to do to enforce them.
Some of the things, of course, he didn’t much care for. He had seen more than enough brutality in the war and didn’t much care to have to see any more. Unfortunately the nature of his work made it impossible to avoid it altogether so he learned how to cope and to deal out corporal punishment when it was called for. Often, he found that taking away privileges worked just as well, if not better on the most part, but there were still rules to be followed and hard men to be kept in line. He learned early that to allow a convict to know you were soft could be dangerous.
Kenny took the time to learn something about each of the new inmates so that he would have a better idea as to what to expect from them. Carson’s rule of thumb was simply to beat them into submission; using physical and mental abuse to break their spirit and force them into compliance. This technique worked on many who passed through their doors, but occasionally it would back fire and then the guards would end up with an inmate who was seething inside and just waiting for the opportunity to strike back—consequences be damned.
Hank Boeman was one such individual and Kenny kept his eyes on that one; he was going to be trouble one day. Hannibal Heyes had the potential of being another, but with one significant difference. Hannibal Heyes was intelligent. He had learned the rules very quickly, and once having learned them, figured out how to break them without getting caught and subsequently avoiding punishment. So when Boeman had shown up for supper that winter’s evening all battered and bruised, Kenny had known right off that it wasn’t from slipping on the steps.
No one had witnessed the incident so there wasn’t really anything that could be done about it, and Kenny wasn’t so sure he wanted to anyways. Boeman had been pushing Heyes ever since the younger man had been incarcerated, it was only to be expected that sooner or later one of them was going to be knocked down a peg. But Kenny also knew that Carson was hoping that Boeman would be the one coming out on top; that guard never did like to see intelligence and charisma displayed by an inmate and he’d try to crush it at any opportunity that came his way.
As previously stated, Kenny was just as quick to delve out punishment as any other guard was, but he didn’t like to see a man beaten into the ground—mentally or physically. There was no need for it and often resulted in an inmate becoming even more vicious and unpredictable than he had been when he first arrived. So once Kenny realized that Carson had singled Heyes out to be his new pet project, he did everything he could to counter the effect.
He made sure that Heyes actually received the mail and parcels that were addressed to him. He also left a copy of the Cheyenne Gazette on his cot so that he would know that his partner was safe. Then he got him a break from the work floor by setting him up in the laundry room once a week. And we already know how he arranged for Heyes to receive reading material that was more on a level with his intellectual abilities.
Still, Kenny could tell that Heyes was not adjusting well to prison life. He did his work and stayed out of trouble on the most part, but he was depressed and sullen and he wasn’t eating enough to maintain his strength. So Kenny wasn’t really surprised when he arrived to start his shift to discover that Heyes had taken ill and was at the infirmary. It really wasn’t uncommon for new inmates to become ill during their first winter in the prison. They hadn’t had a chance to adjust to the conditions yet but if they survived the first winter then usually they would be okay.
Still, it was touch and go for a while and Kenny found himself relieved when he learned that one of the Sisters of Charity had come over again to help with the care of a particularly ill inmate. So often their diligence had made the difference between an inmate recovering or succumbing to the illness. As Heyes’ fever finally broke and he was becoming more lucid, but still not well enough to return to the cell block, Kenny made a point during his lunch break to bring over the letter and the book that the inmate had been reading before he had collapsed.
It was during this visit while Heyes was asleep and the Sister was taking a much needed break that Dr. Morin called Kenny over for a conference.

“What’s your opinion of Mr. Heyes?” Morin asked. “Would you feel that he is a candidate for a Trustee?”

Kenny sent a speculative look over at the sleeping inmate.

“No,” he finally stated. “Not yet anyway.”

“No?” Morin repeated, surprised at that answer. “What the fxxk do you mean, no? I have found him to be very courteous and polite when he comes over here to exchange medical journals. He is obviously highly intelligent. Sxxt, I’ve given him books that took me months to plow through and finally come to understand—he’s returned them in a week. I thought at first that he was just covering up, that he wasn’t really reading them, so I tested him with a few random questions,” Morin smiled and shook his head. “That bastard. He answered them all correctly, without hesitation so he was obviously retaining what he was reading.”
Here Morin hesitated and glanced over at the inmate with a regretful sigh. “It’s a shame really; with a brain like that he could have done anything he wanted but he ended up choosing a life that would ultimately lead him here. A real fxxkin' waste.”

“And that’s just the problem,” Kenny answered. “He’s too damn smart for his own good. You’re right, he could have done anything with his life, but he chose to live outside the law.
“ Don’t ever forget who he is Doc. Don’t ever forget it. Hannibal Heyes can be very charming when it suites him, but he can be very devious as well. He learned the rules here very quickly and then he learned how to manipulate them. Any of the other inmates rub him the wrong way, he waits until the right opportunity presents itself and then he retaliates. He doesn’t react right away, on the spot cause then he knows he’ll end up in the dark cell. He bides his time until he gets the offender alone and then lets him have it.
“When Kelly and Kristiansen ended up with bloody noses and black eyes, I thought it odd that they both insisted that they’d tripped or walked into something. Then I thought about it for a bit and realized that they had both, on different occasions done something that had irritated Heyes. I saw it in his eyes; just a flash of anger and then it was gone, so I thought nothing more of it. Then a week later—ten days later they show up injured. So that got me paying more attention.
“Then there was that work detail that went outside to clear snow from the yard. Carson is itching for a fight between Heyes and Boeman so of course he puts the two of them out there working together. I think; well, let’s just wait and see what happens. Sure enough, Boeman pushes for a fight, and Carson does nothing about it. I figure, give it a week and see if Boeman shows up with some bruises. Wouldn’t you know, it only took a couple of hours and all of a sudden Heyes was looking pretty pleased with himself.”

“So you’re saying that Heyes can’t be trusted,” Morin stated.

“I’m saying; you got to watch him,” Kenny elaborated. “As you’ve already noted, he’s an intelligent man. A gifted man even. If we can give him enough things to keep him occupied he might just survive this place. But I’m just saying; don’t forget he’s in here for a reason. He has no respect for rules and if he comes to feel slighted, or hard done by, well, I just don’t know him well enough yet to be able to judge how far he would go.”

“I guess I’m already agreeing with your observation to some degree,” Morin continued. I think we need to give him something more to do that is going to challenge him intellectually, or he’s going to get himself into trouble. Since the fever broke, I’ve noticed the way he sleeps and it worries me.”

“What do you mean?” Kenny asked.

“He sleeps curled up, in a ball,” Morin explained. “That’s not good. I see an inmate sleeping like that especially so early on in their incarceration it sets off warning bells. It tells me they’re not adjusting. They’re retreating deeper and deeper inside themselves until one day they just don’t come back out again. For a man of his intelligence it would be a real shame.”

“Yeah,” Kenny agreed reflectively. “I’ve seen that happen before. They usually end up suiciding.”

“Exactly,” Morin emphasized. “Now if we could just give him something to hold on to, something that would give him a reason to keep going, well; maybe we could prevent that from happening.”

“Hmmm,” was Kenny’s response. “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, since that smart-axs Wickham got paroled I’m finding myself in need of another assistant over here,” Morin answered. “even just one day a week. That would give him one day in the laundry room, one day over here helping me and then only three days on the work floor. He’d have to be a Trustee though, but if we could get the warden to agree to that, we might just save his life.”

“I donno,” Kenny admitted, reflectively. “There are a lot of utensils over here that could be used as a weapon not to mention a lot of medications he could get into.”

“Those things are always kept under lock and key.”

Kenny smiled. “The locks you have on these cabinets aren’t going to stop Hannibal Heyes, Doc. Like I said; don’t ever forget who he is,” but then Kenny sighed and leaning against the counter he folded his arms and gazed over at the sleeping inmate. “On the other hand, if he recognizes it as a privilege, something he would look forward to doing it might just be all he needs to help him adjust to life here.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Morin pointed out.

“Let me think on it a bit Doc,” Kenny suggested. “I’ll keep a close eye on him over the next week or two and if things look good I’ll speak to the Warden about it.”

The two men locked eyes for a moment and then they both looked over at the sleeping man. The seed of an idea had been planted.

The next day Heyes was feeling quite a bit better, so much so that he had taken the time to look around his environment. He realized that the room he was in wasn’t quite as open as his first impression had made it. It was actually just a large ward that could only be entered through a locked door and was just as much a prison cell as his own sleeping accommodation was.
There was more furniture and locked cabinets filled with medical supplies and a few other beds spread out in case there was a real run on patients. At this particular time Heyes was the only occupant which was odd, considering the time of year. But as luck would have it, Heyes was the only one who was sick, or injured at that particular time so he was the sole occupant.
Sister Julia had been in earlier to help him with breakfast, and though he hadn’t really needed her help anymore he allowed her to do it just to have the company. Then a little later in the morning Lom had shown up to say goodbye.
He was a little disappointed in the change he saw in his friend. Not that he wasn’t happy to see Heyes looking better; it was just the other look that he didn’t like. Though Heyes was pleased to see his friend, the defenses were up and there was a hardness to his expression that hadn’t been there before. Just try to hold his hand now and it would probably become a fist in your face.
Lom found himself a chair and dragging it over to the bedside, sat down and smiled at him.

“I gotta be headin’ home Heyes,” he informed him. “There’s talk of another snow storm headin’ this way so I better be makin’ tracks before it hits.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Heyes answered, disappointment flitting across his features. He knew he would be going back to his cell soon. Back to the loneliness, back to the cold, back to the silence. He handed Lom a slip of paper. “Here,” he continued. “if you could mail this to David, I’d appreciate it. I’ll write him a longer letter after I’m finished reading the one he sent me. In the mean time, I hope this will give him something to go on.”

Lom nodded and took the letter from him, and then it became quiet between them for a moment. Lom really didn’t know what to say. He truly wished he could take Heyes away from here, just take him home. But he couldn’t. Heyes knew that and Lom knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier.

“Hang in there Heyes,” Lom finally said. “We’re all working at it, you know we are. But Governor Warren took so much flack for giving Kid his amnesty that he doesn’t dare do the same for you. We may have to wait until a new governor comes in to office and then start putting pressure on him.”

“How long do you think that’ll be?”

“I donno,” Lom admitted. “But there’s been some talk that Warren is in to some shady dealings, maybe he’ll be ousted. Who knows? Just hang on, okay?”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed without too much conviction, then out of the blue; “I’m worried about Curry. I’m afraid of what he might do.”

“Yeah,” Lom agreed. “he’s like a powder keg right now. I keep expecting to hear that he’s robbed a bank, or started shooting up a town or something. It’s like he’s running scared and without you with him, who knows what he’ll get up to. You always could keep him focused.”

“I know,” Heyes agreed. “but he did the same for me Lom. He kept me grounded too.” Then Heyes smiled a little bit. “I’d get going on about some wild scheme and he’d just look at me with ‘that look’ and I’d know I was pushing the limit a bit. He just seems to know when something’s not right; he kept me honest,” he smiled. “if you can say that about a couple of bank robbers.”

Lom smiled. “I know Heyes,” he said. “I’ll make sure David gets your letter and maybe it’ll give him some ideas. Right now all we can do is wait and hope that the Kid shows up again and has enough common sense to not go and do something really stupid. Then maybe we can get this whole thing worked out.”

Heyes nodded.

Lom smiled and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I best be goin’ Heyes. I’ll keep you up to date as best I can and in the mean time; eat something, will ya? You’re wasting away!”

“Yeah, okay Lom,” Heyes agreed. “Keep in touch—please!”

Then Lom was gone. Heyes instantly felt all alone again as though the world outside had totally abandoned him. He tried to convince himself that that wasn’t the truth, but he just couldn’t shake the feeling. With a heavy sigh, he turned back to David’s letter and continued to read where he had left off before his illness had hit. Maybe there would be something in there that would give some clue as to where the Kid had gone.

'Christmas Eve Day.'
David continued. 'Trish and I had planned on meeting the Jordan’s at the church for the social where there was going to be carolers and the usual hot apple cider and baked goods—all that stuff that comes with the holidays. I was hoping that Jed would be with them since I suspected that Christmas was going to be difficult for him to get through. Belle mentioned that he was becoming more and more moody as the big day approached, so I was hoping, if I could just talk to him a little….'

Jed didn’t ride in to town with the family that afternoon. There were some things he wanted to get done around the barn first and then would ride in on his own later and meet them there. Should be fun, and being able to listen to Christmas carols being sung by a choir on Christmas Eve would be a real treat. Yup—would be real nice, spending Christmas with a family again.
A few hours after the Jordan’s had left for town, Kid finished up what he’d wanted to do—mainly just hanging back because, for some reason it just didn’t feel right, going into the church as one big family. Didn’t feel right at all. So, when he felt that enough time had elapsed he saddled up Buck and rode into town on his own. He put his horse up at the livery for the duration and began walking towards the town square with every intention of joining up with the family as soon as he could track them down. He knew it was important to the girls that he be there with them all. He knew that, and had every intention of doing it.
But as he walked through the cold winter wonderland and could smell the roasting chestnuts and the hot apple cider, he felt a tightness come into his chest that had nothing to do with the chill in the air. People were walking passed him, all in gay festive spirits laughing and talking and some, especially the children were even singing carols as they danced along the boardwalk in anticipation of the holiday fun. Jed’s pace began to slow down and as the singing from the church began to reach his ears his expression went from pleasant expectation to anxious concern.
He stopped dead in his tracks. He couldn’t do this.

‘Then Christmas. Sure would be nice to spend Christmas with a family again.’

‘Sure would.’

His chest tightened up even more and his throat burned as he choked back the sob that was threatening to break forth. He turned on his heels and headed for the saloon—he needed a drink, or two or three.
As the evening's festivities quieted down and families began to dissipate, Jesse was beginning to feel a certain amount of irritation. All three of his ladies were disappointed that Jed had not put in an appearance. Beth especially had her heart set on the family outing including her friend. Well, there was still Christmas day to look forward to and everyone would be home for that.
David stayed out of it. He was a little concerned for Jed, and he knew Jesse was ticked and would probably be giving the young man what for as soon as they got home. But Jed was a big boy and he and Jesse were just going to have to figure out how to work this out between them. David had let Jed know often enough that he was open to talk anytime Jed wanted to, but the offer had not been taken up—so David knew he had to back off. As hard as it was, he had to wait until his friend would finally be ready to come to him. Or not.
So, with Beth, Bridget and Jesse Jr. settled in under piles of blankets and pillows in the back of the surrey, and Belle snuggled in beside her husband up front, the Jordan family said their good-night's to the Gibson’s and headed for home. But much to everyone’s surprise and Beth’s further disappointment, when they arrived back at the ranch Jed was nowhere to be found.
Jesse had given Sam some time off so he could go and spend the holidays with his mother. Sam had been trying to convince that woman that it was time to sell her little house and move to Brookswood. She was getting older and Sam would feel a lot better if she were closer to him, and he also wanted her to meet Maribelle, since that relationship seemed to be getting quite serious. Sam had a good sum of money in the bank now what with his own savings and his portion of the reward on Heyes and Curry. He felt he could afford to look after his mother properly now and all he had to do was convince her of that. It could turn out to be an interesting Christmas for that particular young man.
So while the rest of the family hurried into the house to get warmed up, Jesse set about unharnessing the team and putting them away for the night It was then that he discovered that Buck also was absent from his stall, and Karma nickered with relief at having company in the barn with her again. Jesse started grumbling to himself as he went about getting the barnyard livestock all fed and settled for the night and then returned to the house himself for a good stiff drink. He hoped Jed would at least have the courtesy to show up for the next day—and be sober! If he didn’t it was not going to be a merry time for anybody and Jed would definitely be hearing something about it!
Five days later when Jesse headed out to the barns to do the morning feed and turn out he noticed the door to the one barn swinging open. The three dogs came out to greet him, wanting breakfast so obviously nothing was really amiss or Rufus at least would have been barking.
Jesse entered the barn to the nickerings of the numerous horses inside and noticed right off the bat that Buck was back in his stall. Odd thing was, the horse was still fully tacked up and the stall door, like the barn door was wide open. Jesse came down the isle and giving the big gelding a rub on the nose, took a look inside the stall. Sure enough, there was Jed sprawled out in the straw, sound asleep.
Jesse took a deep breath and told himself to keep his anger in check at least until he’d had a chance to talk to the kid. He stepped forward and gave Curry a kick on the bottom of his boot.

“Hey Jed. Wake up!” another kick. “Wake up!”

Curry jerked awake and his right hand instantly went for his holster, but he stopped himself in time and looking up at Jesse, yawned and stretched.

“Where the hell have you been?” Jesse demanded.

“In town,” Curry mumbled.

“In town?!” Jesse repeated, no longer even trying to keep his anger in check. “Do you have any idea what you have been putting this family through?!”

“Oh, sorry,” Curry responded as he picked himself up and started brushing straw from his hair. “I got busy.”

“BUSY!?” Jesse repeated again. “You knew the girls were looking forward to you being here for Christmas! What in the world could have been so important that you were willing to disappoint them like that?!”

“I donno,” Curry shrugged noncommittally. “I met some friends over at the saloon and we had some drinks and then….”

“Then you spent five days over at the brothel!” Jesse finished for him.

“Well what if I did?!” Curry demanded, starting to get a little angry himself. “You’re not my father! I don’t need your permission to…!”

“No! I’m not your father!” Jesse cut him off. “And I’d be damned disappointed in you if I was! Where the hell you getting the money for all this?”

“None of your business!” Curry yelled back. “God dammit! The way you and David keep nagging at me I may as well be in prison too! What the hell do I owe you anyways!?”

Well that did it, and Jesse who very rarely looses his temper lost it big time right then and there. With one quick stride into the stall he sent a vicious right upper hook into the Kid’s jaw and sent him into the back wall of the stall. Buck jumped and started blowing. Jed went down in a heap, but was quick as a cat up on his feet again, steaming mad and ready for a fight. But the look in Jesse’s eye stopped him in his tracks and though still angry and no way near ready to apologize, he had enough sense to back off and stay away from his six-shooter.
It was all Jesse could do to not take the advantage and beat that young man to a pulp—fastest gun in the west be damned!

“I think you’d better leave Jedediah,” Jesse said, through clenched teeth. “Go to where ever it is you like to disappear to for days on end. Only this time maybe you better think about what it is you really want because I’ve about had it with who you are now!”

Then with that, Jesse turned and stormed out of the barn and headed back to the house before he did something he really might regret later. Half way there he intercepted his youngest daughter as she was making a dash towards the barn herself. He reached out and grabbed her arm as she ran passed him, swinging her around to a stop.

“No, Papa!” she insisted. “I heard Thaddeus! I want to see him!”

“NO! Get back to the house!”

“But Papa! Please…!”


Beth looked like she was going to start crying, but she turned on her heels and ran back the way she had come. She charged up the steps and through the front door, passing her mother who was just getting Jay ready for breakfast. She hardly gave her surprised mother a glance as she stomped up the stairs to her room to have a hissy-fit all on her own.
Belle watched in concern as her daughter disappeared into her bedroom and then turned to speak to her husband when she heard him enter through the front door. One look at the expression on his face however, and she decided that now was one of those few occasions when talking was not going to help. She watched, opened mouthed and silent as he seethed past her and disappeared into the kitchen. She went over to the front door to close it and then saw Thaddeus out in the yard. She was just about to call out to him, when he mounted up on his horse and booting the animal into a full gallop, took off down the road towards town.
Belle just stood there for a few minutes, her mind trying to work out what exactly had just happened. She felt a chilling dread come over her and hoped that whatever had happened out in the barn wasn’t going to be irreparable; that this wasn’t going to be the last time she would see Thaddeus.
'MEN!' She thought with a flash of anger. 'Too prideful—the whole lot of them!' Then J.J. reminded her that she was holding him out on the front porch and it really was cold out there.
Upstairs Beth was into a full fledged crying fit. She couldn’t ever remember the last time she’d been this angry; it really had turned out to be the worst Christmas ever! She was lying on her bed and crying into her pillow when she heard the sound of galloping hooves coming from outside. She jumped up from her bed and ran to the window overlooking the yard, just in time to see Thaddeus heading away from the property, full speed towards town.
Her first impulse was to run out of the house, saddle a horse and go after him! But even in her agitated state of mind she knew that wasn’t going to happen. For one thing, her papa would stop her and then she’d really be in trouble. And for another, her mother’s words came back to her, unbidden but sensible;

‘Don’t chase after him. Wait until he’s ready to come to you.'

Beth rested her chin on her arms upon the window sill. She swallowed her hurt and wiped away her tears and tried really hard to be sensible.

'… for now that is all I can tell you Hannibal. We have no idea where he went. He’s not in town as I checked the saloon and the brothel and no one there has seen him. I even checked the jail, but no luck there either. I have asked Sheriff Jacobs to let me know if he hears anything and I also sent a telegram to Lom Trevors to let him know what’s happened. Maybe Jed headed back there. I hope he hasn’t gone too far as the weather has been nasty of late.
Jesse feels bad about it all now. The middle of winter is not the best time to send someone packing, but he lost his temper and just wasn’t thinking. We’re all hoping that Jed has simply holed up somewhere safe until the weather improves and then he’ll send us word. And of course, I’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.

Your friend,

David Gibson.'

To Be Continued

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PostSubject: Re: The Letter Chapter fourteen   The Letter  Chapter fourteen EmptySun Jan 26, 2014 7:53 am

You packed a whole lot into this one and both are self-destructing in their own ways.  I think you captured the way they are seen in cannon to show how they are doing that too.  One retreats into  themselves and closes down, the other over indulges in drink and explodes easily.  Very well doen but hard to read - in a good way.

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