Posts : 834
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 45
|Subject: Calling a Bluff? Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:18 pm|| |
Calling a Bluff?“That’s right, I’m calling your bluff!”
Blue eyes met black. “I’m not bluffin’!”
Hannibal Heyes’ brown eyes followed the action from his seat.
“That’s a might’ fancy gun ya got there, but I’m betting you don’t really know how to use it. It’s probably all just for show.”
“You’d be bettin’ wrong, friend. Now I don’t want any trouble, so how’s about we just forget it.”
“Nobody calls me a cheat and gets away with it!”
Heyes knew better than to interfere, but the situation perhaps demanded it. “Look, friend, my partner here, he’s not bluffin’, and you did cheat. Matter of fact, if you give me a chance to show ya…”
Black eyes regarded brown momentarily. “Don’t ‘look friend’ me! You gonna let your partner fight his own fight, or is he too used to hiding behind his mama’s skirts?”
Only Heyes noticed the barely imperceptible change in Kid Curry’s breathing. Blue eyes did not leave those of his opponent.
Black eyes shifted back to Kid’s blue. “Well?”
Without flinching, the ex-outlaw held his ground, his manner matter-of-fact. “Well, what?”
“I told ya, and I’m still calling your bluff.”
“And I said, ‘I’m not bluffin’. Now that hasn’t changed, and it won’t.”
“And I’m not a cheater.”
Heyes stood. “So, gentlemen, what we have here is a stalemate.”
The stranger shifted his eyes between the two, but now addressed Heyes. “Mister, you called me a cheat first. Maybe YOU’d like to draw.”
Heyes glanced at Curry before regarding the stranger. “Look, I’m not trying to start trouble. But you did cheat, and I can prove it. Simple as that.”
Suddenly, gasps filled the saloon. “Get the sheriff!”
Kid Curry stood with gun drawn.
The stranger lay on the floor with a bloodied left hand. The black eyes searched for his pistol. It lay where it landed, ten feet behind him.
Curry strode to the sidearm, kicking it further out of reach. Satisfied the stranger was disabled for the moment, Kid returned to his bleeding partner and knelt beside him. “Joshua? Hey?”
Grimacing, Heyes’ brown eyes met Kid’s. His hand clutched his side. Smiling wanly, he lost consciousness.
“So, go over that one more time.”
“Look, Sheriff, I told ya three times already. The story’s not gonna change. Can I PLEASE just go see about my partner?”
“In a bit, maybe. You’re the only one left standing, so run that by me again.”
The blond ex-outlaw sighed. “Sheriff, ya got lots of witnesses in that saloon. Somebody’s story’s gotta agree with mine.”
The lawman handed Kid a mug of coffee, then sat down at his desk to face the cowboy. “Now, relax, son. Nobody’s accusing you of anything. Just run that by me one more time.”
Curry tried to lose the frustration he felt, but wasn’t altogether successful. “We were playin’ poker, my partner and me, with those four other guys. The one who pulled the gun – Trace, you called him?”
The sheriff nodded.
“Well, he kept winnin’, hand over hand. One or two of the others said how lucky he was, and he just kept winnin’. After a while, my partner said how he knew Trace was cheatin’ and all, and Trace told my partner he’d best watch his mouth. And the others looked kinda funny at Trace, suspicious-like, and my partner asked him to roll up his sleeves. He wouldn’t. Then he drew his gun and waved it in my partner’s direction.”
The lawman’s brow furrowed. “Go on.”
Kid sighed. “Well, like I told ya, once he – Trace – pulled his gun, I asked him to put it away, real calm-like. He wouldn’t, and I asked him again, and said it’d be best if he went outside to cool off. Then, he stood up and backed away from the table, put the gun back in his holster, and challenged me. I got up and faced him, and told him again to go outside – that I knew how to use a gun, but didn’t wanna have to. He told me I was bluffin’, and I told him I wasn’t – a coupla times. Then my partner tried to reason with him and wound up shot in the bargain. And when I saw him draw, I drew and got in a lucky shot, after he’d already shot my partner.”
The sheriff regarded Curry. “All right, son. You’re right, your story didn’t change.” He stood. “I’ll walk with ya down to the doc’s to see how your partner’s doing, but I’ll have your gun belt first. It stays locked up until we work this out to my satisfaction.”
Kid hesitated for a moment, then rose, undid his holster, and handed it to the sheriff.
“Just a flesh wound to his side – looks a lot worse than it is. That bump on his head from the fall’s what dazed him. He’ll be up and about in a few days, but until then he needs to rest.”
Kid Curry and the sheriff listened. The blond man let out a breath. “Thanks, Doc, that’s good to hear. Can I take him back to the hotel?”
“Tomorrow, maybe. Let’s watch him overnight. If all goes as well as I expect, that shouldn’t be a problem. But he’ll need tending.”
Kid smiled. “I’ll watch him, Doc. Thanks.”
The sheriff spoke, “Doc, what about Trace?”
The doctor regarded the lawman. “Another flesh wound, and a broken knuckle.” Then he turned to Curry. “Just curious, son – was that fancy shooting, or were you just lucky?”
Kid eyed the medical man questioningly, his feelings guarded.
“The way you got his hand and all, he’ll be laid up a good while. If you wanted to hurt a man just enough not to be able to use his shooting hand for a spell, you did a good job of it.”
Curry gulped, his usual coolness almost deserting him under the scrutiny of a lawman who seemed smarter than average – or at least more thorough. He spoke in a low tone, almost apologetically, “Just lucky, I guess.” With pursed lips, he looked at the floor, avoiding the gazes directed at him.
The sheriff faced the physician. “Doc, I’ll have both their gun belts. No one’s going to be tempted to draw until I get to the bottom of this.”
“Ya know, Heyes, you look like a mess,” Kid Curry plumped pillows and got his partner settled into bed in their hotel room.
The ex-outlaw leader winced. “Damn it all, Kid, I’ll STAY a mess if ya keep yanking me forward!”
Curry stopped in mid-motion. “Sorry, Heyes. Just want ya better so we can leave. I don’t like the way the sheriff is so interested in us. … Well, in me.”
Heyes took the last pillow, grimacing as he tried to find a comfortable position. “I don’t like it, either. But ya did what ya had to do. There’s no way around that.”
Kid turned from Heyes to the window, taking a long look at the main street below. “I know. Guess I’m worried the sheriff suspects somethin’, but I don’t know what. He took both our guns. Ya know how nekkid I’m feelin’?”
Heyes flinched at the sudden sideways glance at his partner. Blue eyes locked on his. “I know. But he took the other guy’s, too, didn’t he?”
Curry turned back to the bed. “Yeah. But I still don’t like it. Says he has to piece everything together.”
“So, let him do his job, Kid. So far, he doesn’t seem to suspect anything – from what you said, anyway.”
“I’m not sure, and I got a kinda bad feelin’ about it. And hangin’ around here too long can’t be good, either. We’re better off leavin’ town – the sooner, the better.”
Heyes chuckled. “That’s always the best course for us, especially where a sheriff’s involved. But, so far, so good, huh? And hopefully, it’ll stay that way. You said he seemed to believe you, and there’s lots of witnesses. He’s just being methodical, I suppose.” He yawned.
A look of concern. “Y’okay?”
Heyes nodded. “Just tired.”
“Ya need to rest.” The blond man also yawned, and stretched.
“I’ll be fine, Kid. Wouldn’t hurt you none to get some sleep, too. Ya can’t stay up all night fretting about me and not expect to feel it the next day.” Another yawn. Heyes patted the spot on the bed next to him. “Come on. Lay down. It’ll make the time go faster.”
Kid Curry knew when he was defeated. “’Kay.”
Two ex-outlaws soon were dozing.
Two days on, Heyes felt considerably better, gingerly moving around – albeit, with some pain. The headaches that resulted from his fall had practically disappeared. The wound in his side itched a lot, to be expected with the scabbing. However, the doc still recommended bed rest.
“Kid, how do ya expect me to read with all the racket you’re making? The floor squeaks! Can’t ya pace somewhere else? You’re like a caged bird. You’d think it was you laid up and me all worried!”
The blond man stopped in his tracks. “It’s that sheriff …”
“Yeah, I know. For two days now; I know. Look, Kid, you’re probably worrying about nothing. You’ve barely been out of this room, so he hasn’t really talked to ya since the day of the shooting. What would he suspect?”
“I don’t know, but there’s somethin’ goin’ on. Got a feelin’; not a good one.”
Heyes sighed. “Ya gotta get your mind on something else.” Pausing a moment, he extended his arm in his partner’s direction, offering his book. “Come on, Kid. Read to me. Maybe it’ll help me get some of that sleep you say I’m always missing.”
Curry stared at the volume for several long seconds. His expression dubious, he finally took it. A brow arched as his eyes met Heyes’.
“Oh, sorry, page 55.”
“Thanks.” Curry flipped to the designated spot. Perusing, he started pacing again, slower this time.
Heyes waited. “Just start at the top.”
The dark-haired man watched, expectantly.
Kid slowed further, but did not stop, eyes not leaving the volume.
Heyes fidgeted against the pillows, finally finding a comfortable spot.
A slight change of head position signalled the averting of blue eyes from left to right side of the book.
Heyes scratched his head, stretched, leaned back.
The page crackled as Curry turned it.
Heyes chuckled softly to himself and closed his eyes.
The next day, Kid Curry entered the lawman’s office. “You want to see me, Sheriff?”
“Sit down, Jones.”
Curry kept his nervousness hidden as he seated himself
The officer picked up a stack of papers and ruffled through it. “These are sworn statements from witnesses to the shooting. They corroborate your story, so you’re in the clear. Thought you’d like to hear that.”
Kid’s countenance brightened. “Yes, sir.”
“But, there’s something interesting, too. To a person, they said they’d never seen anything like it – your shooting. They said you drew lightning-quick; no hesitation. And dead aim, like a trick shooter.”
Blue eyes narrowed.
“So, that brings to mind your statement about it being a lucky shot. One might say, more like quick and accurate – shooting just enough to disable the man. And they said you told Trace you knew how to use a gun. That true?”
Kid managed to keep his voice steady, and his nerves and patience in check. “Sheriff, I told ya that, a couple of times. I do know how to use a gun, and I generally hit what I aim at. But, can’t say I’m that fast. Was just lucky. I told ya. It’s a blur. It all happened so fast …” He shrugged. “He drew, my partner went down … Suppose I just reacted.”
The sheriff’s brow furrowed. “So, you don’t know if you aimed for his gun hand?”
Kid shook his head. “No. I was probably just tryin’ to hit his arm.”
“You weren’t trying to kill him?”
Curry suddenly rose.
The lawman reacted in kind, hand on his gun butt.
Kid instinctively reached for his hip, grabbing – nothing. He closed his eyes momentarily, opened them, let out a breath.
Two pairs of eyes locked. Several long seconds passed.
The ex-outlaw gulped and averted his eyes. Finally, softly, “No.”
Blue eyes studied the lawman. The voice remained soft, but strong. “No, I didn’t try to kill him.”
“You said it happened real fast. But you’re SURE you weren’t trying to kill him?”
The sheriff sighed, rubbing his forehead. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d presume you were someone I should know about.” A beat. “You’re quick, though. Good reflexes. There’s no doubt of that. And you wear a fancy rig – low and tied tight, at the ready.”
Kid pursed his lips.
“And your partner’s Smith?”
Kid summoned all the charm he could muster in an awkward moment. “Sheriff, there are lots of people named Smith and Jones in the world. I’d hope we’d have more imagination if we were tryin’ to hide somethin’.”
The sheriff considered Curry’s statement, scratched his head. “All right – Jones. I have to believe you until I hear something different. So far, everything you’ve said’s held up.” He came around the desk. “Come on, let me buy you a drink. I’ve put you through enough.”
“I appreciate it, Sheriff, but I really need to get back to my partner.”
“From what Doc tells me, he’s up and around some, and he’ll be ready to travel in a day or two?”
“You two do seem anxious to leave town.”
Curry did not miss a beat. His steady gaze held the officer’s. “We have to meet a friend, and we’re overdue.”
“A lawman – sheriff.”
“And he’d vouch for you – if necessary?”
The sheriff moved toward the door. “Sounds like your partner can take care of himself for a bit longer. Now, about that drink.”
Checking his guardedness, Kid nodded. “Okay.”
The sun shone brilliantly as the two strode abreast down the boardwalk. Crossing the dirt road, they headed toward the nearest saloon.
Suddenly, Curry noticed a glint. A loud crack sounded. As if in slow motion, the Kid tackled the sheriff, whose hat flew from his head, landing twenty feet behind him.
Deputies and others moved toward an alley opposite.
Shouts. Shots. Silence.
Hannibal Heyes sat astride his horse as he reached the sheriff’s office. Shifting to keep an upright position, he appeared uncomfortable as he watched Kid Curry dismount and tie both their reins to the hitching rail.
The blond man looked up at him. “Do you want to come in?”
Heyes shook his head. “I had a hard enough time getting mounted. Do what you have to do, and let’s get out of here.”
“Be right back.”
Kid opened the sheriff’s office door and went inside.
The lawman was alone. “Ready to head out?”
“Yup. My partner’s outside waitin’, and I came to get our guns.”
Without hesitation, the sheriff stood and walked to a safe. Turning the dial several times, he opened it and pulled out two gun belts. He regarded the rigs before putting them on the desk. “Look them over – everything’s there. Nice guns, both of them.”
“Thanks,” Kid said nonchalantly as he reached for his holster and began buckling it.
The sheriff watched as he tied the rawhide string snugly around his thigh. “Those quick reflexes of yours – probably saved my life. Who knew Trace was a good shot with the other hand? Although, I think he was aiming for you. Far as I know, he had no grudge with me.”
Curry finished with his gun belt and faced the lawman. “We’ll never know, will we?” He smiled. “A new hat might be in order, though.”
The officer held up a gray Stetson. He put a finger through a gaping bullet hole in the front of the crown and turned it to show a smaller one in the back. “You got that right, Jones. We didn’t find the bullet. If I ever do, I’ll keep it as a souvenir – and a reminder.”
Kid looked quizzically at the lawman as he reached for Heyes’ gun belt. “A reminder?”
“Yup. I’m grateful, and beholden to you.”
Curry felt his cheeks flush. “No need. Anyone woulda done it.”
The lawman chuckled. “Maybe. But I don’t think they’d have been as effective.”
The officer put the hat down and extended his hand. They shook.
Curry was surprised at the warmth in the man’s voice. “Bye, Sheriff.”
“You and your partner ride safe, Jones.”
Kid nodded, relieved. He smiled to himself and strode toward the door.
As he reached it, the sheriff called after him, “KID?!”
He turned. “Huh?”