The Hat Trick
Rebecca’s head started to throb after the sharp stabbing pain of her initial thump to the head started to recede. She sat back on her heels and rubbed it in the darkness of the leg well of the desk.
She started in surprise at the sound of masculine throat clearing his voice somewhere above the thick mahogany. She had been so engrossed in her search for the small pieces of metal type that she hadn’t even heard anyone come in to the office. Her brown eyes surfaced over the desktop, quickly drinking in the tied down guns at her eye level before she tilted her head back to glare at the two men who dared to walk into her business dressed in such a manner.
“What do you want now?” she demanded.
The dark man’s face lit up in a glittering smile which dimpled his cheeks and warmed his dancing, black eyes. “Not much of a welcome. You lose many advertisers that way?”
Rebecca climbed to her feet, wishing that her dark coiffure hadn’t started to unravel like a badly made basket after being caught on her way out from underneath the desk. “Take your advert elsewhere. I’m sure that Meagher will give you an employee discount at the Herald,” she barked, puffing futilely at the lock of hair which insisted in falling over her right eye in a most undignified fashion.
“Ma’am, we’re looking for work, we were told that you had just had an advertisement placed and we wanted the details.”
Rebecca glanced down at her hands, black with printer’s ink and quickly reconsidered her urge to rub them on her skirt. Her temper was quick at the best of times, but outright sabotage to her little newspaper and a thumping blow to the head had already ignited her short fuse. “Really?” she snapped, sarcastically. “You expect me to believe that? Wearing guns like those?”
The blond one spoke at last, his eyebrows arching upwards with a wry grin playing over his infuriatingly engaging face. “Ma’am, you seem to think that we work for someone you don’t like much,” he folded his arms and tilted his head to the side. “We don’t. We’re passin’ through town and we’re lookin’ for some work.” The two men glanced around the newspaper office, taking in the scattered metal type scattered over the floor and the printing press tipped over on its side in the back room. “Did something happen here, ma’am? You seem, well, kinda rattled?”
“Rattled! You want to see rattled? How about I get you both out of here at the point of a gun? Would that do it?”
Kid Curry gave a smile at the very thought of this petite, gamine figure drawing on him. “Sure would, ma’am, but we don’t want any trouble. We’ll go. We’re just worried about you, that’s all!”
Rebecca gave a snort of derision through her pert little nose, blasting the tendrils of hair and adding a comical effect which robbed her tirade of its sting. “Yeah, right; Meagher sends in his heavies to scare me off and now sends you to back it up? There’s no need. No-one can run a newspaper in this town except him. He’s won. Just tell him that I’m leaving.”
The two men darted a look at one another as it struck Rebecca that they had the same kind of shorthand as an old married couple.
“Seems like a good idea, Ma’am. Guess we’ll do the same. When you leavin’?”
They watched as her pretty face started to turn puce from the neck up as the Kid realized that he had said the wrong thing.
“I’m going, that’s all you need to know. Get out! Right now!”
The fashionable hat topped off the woman’s glossy, ebony hair, whilst her calm demeanor completely betrayed the heart thumping loudly in her chest. Her little handbag was heavy and leaden, dragged down by the weight of the handgun inside. Rebecca had lurked outside of the bank for three days now trying to pluck up the courage to go inside and take that final, fateful step.
“You can do this,” she muttered to herself. “They won’t be expecting a young woman to hold them up. Just stay calm.”
“It’s nearly closing time, ma’am.”
“It won’t take long. I promise.”
“Mr. Mathers. I’m the manager. Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Oh, I do hope so,” her hand crept down to her bag.
“Hands up! No one touch anything.”
Rebecca’s heart leapt into her mouth as two men swept into the building at one minute to closing time. One held them at gunpoint whilst the other pulled down the blinds and locked the door. They both had their faces masked by their bandanas and their hats were pulled low, showing only their eyes.
The fairer of the two looked at Rebecca and indicated with his gun. “You too, ma’am. Hands up.”
Her hands shot up, stunned at the speed of events. She had not planned on this. Her knees stared to tremble. What would they do if they found out that she was armed?
“Get in the office, now!”
She felt her stomach flutter with nerves as her control over the situation was slipping away from her. These men were ruthlessly commanding and worked like a well oiled machine as they made sure everyone filed into the manager’s office.
The teller was forced into a seat where he was quickly bound and gagged before the manager’s hands were tied behind his back in his chair. The dark one then turned his attention to Rebecca, snatching away her handbag and pitching it into a corner where it landed with a leaden clunk as the two robbers shared a look of knowing humour.
So much for the comfort of her handgun. “OWW, does it need to be so tight?”
She felt a hand pat her shoulder as she heard a small laugh close to her ear. “Yup. Don’t want you doing anything silly, do we? Gotta stop that.”
This was a serious knot. She could not get out of these bonds. She had never been tied up before and sheer helplessness started to swirl through her, eating into her confidence and robbing her of her poise. She stared to visibly tremble as she realized that as a journalist she had covered many robberies but had never fully realized just how frightening they could be. How could she have considered putting these poor bank workers through an ordeal like this? Thank god she had been stopped before she had gone too far.
The dark one pointed his gun at the manager’s head. “I want the combination to the safe. Now!”
The manager scowled at him. “No way.”
The dark robber pulled up his gun. “You want to play hard?” he aimed at the teller who strained at his bonds in terror.
“No,” shouted Rebecca, moving in front of him defensively as her real panic began to spiral. “You can’t do that. Leave him alone.”
The dark gunman turned and gave her a long, hard look her before he addressed the manager again. “I want the combination to the vault or someone will get hurt.”
Mathers threw a contemptuous look at both raiders. “You don’t scare me. Use those guns and the place will be surrounded before you know it. I ain’t giving you nothing”
“We don’t scare you? How about anyone else?” The dark-eyed gunman strode over Rebecca and looked straight into her eyes. “Ma’am, you scared?” Rebecca looked down unable to hold his intense, dark eyes. “Don’t look like everyone else agrees with you, sir.”
“I’m not talking.” The manager gave both criminals an angry stare. “You won’t use those guns in here.”
The fair haired one walked over to Rebecca and draped a careless arm round her shoulder, provoking a little gasp of alarm. “You don’t need a gun to hurt someone,” he eyed Mathers threateningly, but was met with a defiant silence. “Your call, sir,” he pulled Rebecca around to look into his clear blue eyes before looking back at the manager. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”
Rebecca felt herself grabbed by one arm and dragged roughly from the office before she was pushed into the office next door. He made sure that he pulled down the blind before he pushed her up against the wall and leant on it with a hand either side of her head before he whispered in her ear. “No need to be afraid, sweetheart. No one’s gonna hurt you, not while I got a breath in my body. I’m a friend of your pa.”
She sucked in a breath unsure if she had really heard what she thought she had as he continued.
“You were gonna hold this place up, weren’t you?” he muttered accusingly.
“No,” she hissed, shaking her head furiously.
He pulled down his bandana and revealed the handsome face of the blond gunman who had walked into her fledgling newspaper office yesterday. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You’re too like your father; and your mother for that matter. We need to scare you straight.”
“You know my mother? But she’s a respectable woman? She doesn’t mix with the likes of you.”
He gave a small laugh of derision. “She sure is, but all her friends ain’t... and she’s handled a few guns in her time herself.”
“What?” Confusion swirled around her addled brain. Things were moving far too fast for her to keep up. Her mother was a pillar of society, working hard for female emancipation and education. She had urged her to follow her dream into journalism, even encouraging her to strike out independently with her own newspaper when nobody would employ a woman. Were the stories of her colourful past true? She had never really believed them but now she wasn’t so sure.
“How?” she asked, lamely; unsure how these men could know so much about her, and how her mind operated.
“We’ve been watchin’ you. It’s taken you a while to pluck up the courage, but you got it together to try today. We had to stop you. You were about to throw your whole life away. He ain’t worth it, Becky, he just ain’t. There are better ways to deal with a man like Meagher.” He smiled. A warm, broad grin that made his warm, blue eyes smoulder. She felt her fear start to subside a little.
“This is it, Becky. What you want is in that safe deposit box and we’ll get it for you, but you can’t crack these modern safes. You gotta help us. You need to scream for help so the manager gives up the combination.”
She shook her head. “I can’t scream.”
“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”
“I don’t... I’ve never... “
The robber fixed her with his cobalt eyes. “Becky, you need to scream for help. Work with me here.”
“Please, no! Stop it.”
The gunman arched a brow. “That’s useless.”
Rebecca gave him a plaintive look of helplessness. “I’m not the screaming type. I’m more of a shouter like my mother.”
“We need to get into that vault. You know what’s in there and so do we. If you won’t scream, I’ll have to make you.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, her dark eyes widening apprehensively.
“Last chance.” he grinned, as his bright blue eyes twinkled with mischief and a gloved hand approached...
Heyes stood at the door of the office holding a gun on the two staff members, completely unprepared for what he heard drifting through from the office next door.
“What are you doing? Don’t you dare... DON”T YOU DARE!” There was the sound of scuffling before, “Get that thing away from me. Don’t you dare; don’t touch me with that thing. OOOW, THAT HURT!”
There was more scuffling and then a thud before screams started to drift through the wall, growing in intensity, interspersed with begging. “Please don’t. NO!” The cries grew. “STOP IT, NO; NO!” The screams began to be interspersed with what sounded like heavy sobbing and gulps of air. “Aaaaaargh. Please!”
The manager gave Heyes a look of repugnance. “Man’s an animal. Ought to be destroyed.”
Heyes raised his gun and pointed it at him with a dangerous glare. “Care to share that with him when he comes back in here?”
Mathers looked at him and remained silent as Heyes anxiously wondered what on earth was going on. This wasn’t acting.
“NOOOOOO, please! AAAAAArgh,” was followed by whimpers and convulsed wailing.
“In God’s name; what’s he doing to her?”
Heyes threw him a mean look as he privately shared his concern, but the Kid wouldn’t hurt her... would he? “Want it to stop? You know what to do.”
“PLEEEEASE, NOOOO,” more weeping drifted through the wall. “AAAAARRRGHH, I’m begging you! No more. PLEEEASE; I can’t take it.”
“Have the combination. I can’t take it anymore,” Mathers’ face glistened with beads of nervous sweat.
Heyes let out a low whistle which was returned from the neighbouring office. There was one more scream and then the bank fell silent. A few minutes later the Kid lead Rebecca back, her hands still tied behind her back. Her previously immaculate hairdo was lopsided, tousled and becoming undone with wisps of hair falling down her back and over her mottled face. Her eyes glittered with tears and she was still gasping and breathing heavily.
Heyes threw a concerned look at his partner who returned it with a wink. “Right,” said Heyes. “Combination... or it starts again.”
“No” wailed Rebecca, pulling away from Kid. “I can’t. Tell them, I’m begging you.”
Heyes stared into the safety deposit box at the piles of cash, his heart sinking at the temptation. He was alone; the Kid still holding a gun on the hostages. “Just like the old days,” he murmured to himself. “Nostalgia sure isn’t what it used to be. We need the papers from the safety deposit box. That’s what we came for. That’s what she needs.”
The Kid walked over to Rebecca and pulled her up, holding a gun to her head as he glared at the bank staff before dragging her bodily from the office. “We’re taking some insurance with us gentlemen. If you don’t want her to get hurt you’ll lie low for as long as possible.”
They rode at full speed for about two miles before they slowed down and Heyes twisted round and slammed the Kid with angry, accusing eyes. “Let’s have it. What in god’s name were you doing to her back there?”
The Kid threw back his head and gave a belly laugh, regarding Rebecca with twinkling eyes. “Are you tellin’ him or am I?”
Rebecca looked indignant. “When are you going to untie me?”
Kid ignored her. “I was tickling her feet.”
“What? It sounded like you were murdering her.”
“She’s ticklish, real ticklish,” he gave her a hug and chuckled as he looked fondly down at her, “ain’t you, darlin’?”
“That’s not all he did.”
“No? I hesitate to ask this. What was it that “thing” you’d better not touch her with?”
“He stuck it in my backside!” Rebecca protested loudly.
Both men began to break up.
“She was useless... couldn’t scream... I had to get a reaction fast.”
“You hurt me.”
“Oh, hush now, Becky. The only thing hurt is your dignity,” chuckled the Kid.
The Kid shook his head. “I think it’s best that you keeping acting the meek little hostage for a while yet. If the posse catch up it’ll be more believable if your hands are still tied.”
Heyes and the Kid exchanged a wry smile. Both knew that it would make no difference to any posse if she was untied. They could both see the umbrage in her eyes and knew that all Jed was trying to do was avoid a stinging slap to his face.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To your mother,” barked Heyes. “Wait until I tell her what you were going to do. Holdin’ up a bank indeed; are you an idiot?”
“Maybe she takes after her Pa more than we thought?” snickered the Kid.
“I was trying to do the right thing.”
“If I agreed with you we’d both be idiots,” snapped Heyes.
“How do you know my mother? And what do you know about me?”
“I’ve known your mother since before you were born. She told me that you’ve been investigating political corruption and that you were ignoring the threats. For God’s sake, girl. You’re supposed to be smart.”
“Just what the hell do you know about anything?”
Heyes swung round and gave her his most intimidating stare. “Less of that language, young lady. I know that you were investigating political corruption, that Mayor Meagher and his cohorts started threatening you to make you back off. I know that you’ve been checking out the bank where Meagher has a safety deposit box full of his papers and borrowed books from the library about safes and their mechanisms,” he gave her a chilling smile. “I also know that you had a handgun in that bag of yours.”
“You just know it all don’t you, Mister...”
“Smith. Joshua Smith... and no, I don’t know it all, but I do know something you don’t. Meagher’s real name is Tom Bartlett. He’s a very dangerous man and he’s wanted for murder. He wouldn’t think twice about killing you.”
Rebecca shook her head in confusion.
“How do you know that?”
“I didn’t until I saw him. The papers we took from the safety deposit box also to help prove it. You got a story... a great story that’ll give you a future and a name as the kind of journalist you want to be.”
“You know Bartlett?”
“Yup,” replied Kid. “Your Pa had a run in with him, so did your Ma. I suppose it’s only fittin’ that you make it a hat trick.”
Rebecca sat in pensive silence for a few moments as they rode off into the afternoon. “My father? You know my father? Why would he care about all of this?”
Heyes took a deep breath. “He cares; a lot. He just couldn’t build a life with you - for your own good, Anya.”
“That name is only for family.” The porcelain brow creased in consternation as she hooked the Kid with questioning, dark eyes . “Is he really Hannibal Heyes?”
“Yup,” replied Kid darting a look at his greying partner, knowing the agony he was beating down.
Rebecca frowned, her pensive eyes processing all this new information. “I never quite believed my mother. I thought she was trying to throw me off the scent of somebody we knew by naming Hannibal Heyes. What’s he like? I’ve never even met him.”
The Kid heaved a heavy sigh. “You have, Darlin’. You just didn’t know it. Ask your mother. We'll be meetin' her soon enough.”
"You could have met him any time you wanted, Anya. You just had to ask. That was the deal."
"But I never believed her. A famous outlaw? It just sounded too ridiculous."
Heyes shook his head. "It's true. You'd better start recognising what's staring you in the face if you're going to be any kind of journalist."
The young woman's eyes widened, her lips parting as she noticed the dark man in a way she never had before. The dimples, the eyes, the pert nose. "It's Yo..."
But Heyes had already kicked his mount into action. He was already gone.
Historical note – the term “hat trick” had been widely used in the British Isles since 1858 but wasn’t used in the US press until the 1940s. I’m using some artistic license here and guessing that Irish immigrants and English immigrants would have used the term to their children to get the expression into common usage in the USA by the 1940s.