The End of the Hole Chapter twenty-four
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: The End of the Hole Chapter twenty-four Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:18 pm|| |
THE END OF THE HOLE
Jed Curry sat on the train, his body moving slightly with the swaying motion as the passenger car clattering along the tracks. He just sat quietly with his arms folded and his head leaning back against the headrest and looking out at the passing landscape. It was a cold and gray day with some white patches of snow still to be seen scattered here and there. But on the most part the bare wet ground was dominating the territory and the hope, at least, of warm spring days to come was in everyone’s mind.
The train had already clattered its way passed Laramie but Jed had stayed on this time, going all the way to Porterville for a change. Lom has sent a telegram requesting that the Kid come for a visit with him first, before seeing Heyes as there were things they needed to 'discuss'. Kid didn't think anything of it, assuming that it would have something to do with the interview with the governor. So he'd caught the mid-week northbound instead of the weekend special and was going the extra distance. If he timed it right he could visit with Lom for a day and then backtrack and still visit with Heyes on their usual day.
There weren’t too many other passengers on board this time as it was still a little chilly for unnecessary travel and most families were waiting until a trip would be more pleasant. Besides, mid-week was usually for more business travel anyways and Kid wasn't surprised that most of the other passengers were all men. The atmosphere was quiet and relaxed, with very little conversation amongst the occupants. The majority of them were reading a newspaper or, like Jed, simply staring out the windows at the passing landscape.
Of course Jed wasn’t really seeing the landscape go by him. He had been along this route so many times now that it really didn’t hold any interest for him. No, his mind was on other things, things miles away and into the future. He wondered how Kenny was going to respond to the letter he had written to Heyes at Christmas. The one that had included the little aside to the guard concerning their plans. Would Kenny be willing to help? Would Dr. Morin? It was asking a lot and Jed knew that; it could be putting their very livelihoods at risk and good government jobs were not that easy to come by.
Beth had wanted to come with her friend on this visit, but Jed didn’t think that this trip was a good one for that type of get together. This was almost like more of a business trip—a gathering of information and a testing of the waters. And aside from that, Belle had been right in the surmise that Jed would want his first visit with his cousin after the winter hiatus to be private—just two friends reconnecting. Of course a guard would be there as well, but they were used to that by now and generally ignored his presence. Not much they could do about it anyways.
Beth could come next time, Jed promised her, after they had a better idea of how things stood. Who knows? Maybe after their meeting with Governor Moonlight Heyes would have his pardon and there would be no need for Beth to come out to the prison again at all. Somehow Jed felt skeptical about that though, like that would be too easy and it just wasn’t Heyes’ fate to have things come easily.
Then Jed became aware of a disturbance in the atmosphere of the passenger car and he dragged himself back from his inner thoughts to re-assess his surroundings. His first awareness of something different was the nervous countenance of some of the other male passengers; the second indication was the presence of a very large man making his way down the isle in Curry’s direction.
Geesh! That guy’s big! And Jed found himself mimicking the reactions of the other passengers in his attempt to avoid eye contact with the man and thereby, hopefully avoid notice. Then Curry groaned to himself as the mountain stopped beside his seat and then—oh no!—actually slid in between his seat and the next, then sat down facing the Kid and was apparently expecting some kind of response.
Jed saw nothing else for it, and in order to avoid being rude and thereby possibly angering his new companion, he put on a smile and acknowledged the man. Then his jaw dropped in surprise as he realized that he actually recognized him and then suddenly he wasn’t such a threat after all.
“Deputy Shoemacher!” Jed greeted him. “What are you doing here?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing Mr. Curry,” came back the quiet, unassuming response. “Didn’t really expect to see you back in Wyoming.”
“Well, I’m just on my way to see Heyes in Laramie,” Kid informed him. “I haven’t seen him all winter so this is the first chance I’ve had. Sheriff Trevors knows about it, so…is there a problem?”
“Nope,” Mike answered. “Just so long as that’s the only reason you’re on this train.”
“Ahhh, yup,” Kid assured him, thinking that this was a rather odd conversation. Then he smiled, trying to lighten the mood a little. “How is Rick Layton doing? I haven’t heard anything about him for over a year now.”
“He’s fine,” Mike informed him. “He doesn’t do work for Morrison anymore—not since, well—you two. He used his share of the reward money to upgrade his ranch and then he went and took himself another wife. A young widow who came with a whole parcel of ready made young-uns so Rick’s got his hands full now.”
Jed smiled. “Yeah, I guess he does. Glad to hear things are working out for him.”
“Yup,” Mike agreed. “Alright,” he continued as he used his bear paw sized hands to push himself to his feet. “My advice to you Mr. Curry is to keep your head down and stay outta trouble.”
“Ahhh, yeah,” Jed answered him with furrowed brow. “I’ll certainly try to do that, Deputy.”
“Oh, and when ya’ see Heyes, tell ‘em ‘no hard feelings’.”
“Sure! Ahhh, yeah I’ll do that.”
The big deputy turned and walked back the way he came, leaving in his wake a number of very relieved gentlemen who had—thank goodness!—avoided his attention.
Jed sat back and folded his arms, a very perplexed expression on his face. What in the world was that all about? But before he could spend too much time pondering this question he began to feel the train slowing down and then heard the engineer up front leaning on the whistle for all he was worth. Jed sat up and looked out the window and a dreadful feeling of déjà vu swept over him.
For sure and wouldn’t ya’ know it! They were in very familiar territory and as the brakes on the locomotive shrieked painfully in their efforts to stop the train, Kid groaned and sat back in his seat. They were getting robbed—dagnabbit!! No wonder people were getting fed up with all the robberies along this route! Jed was getting fed up with it and he used to be one of the fellas doing all the robbing!
He sat up straighter still as the train finally came to a halt and then peered out the window in hopes of catching sight of the men who were pulling the heist. Chances were good that it was his old gang, since this was their territory. He had to admit that curiosity and the opportunity to see the fellas again was tugging pretty hard at him.
Then he heard rifles being cocked and activity going on around him in the car. He looked over to see a number of the other men who had been sitting quietly and minding their own business were suddenly on their feet and ready for action. Some of the others were just as confused as Kid was and were looking around, wondering what was going on. But there were enough others who had rifles that were conveniently ready for use and suddenly he felt his blood turn to ice water in his veins.
Was this a set up? Was this a trap? Deputy Shoemacher coming back to talk to him, finding out—why was Mr. Curry on this particular train? Well why was Deputy Shoemacher on this particular train? And then an even worse thought hit Kid right between the eyes! Was Morrison on this train? OH CRAP!! He had to get out! He had to warn his old gang!
Jed was just about to his feet when the whole train car exploded with the reports from numerous Winchester rifles discharging at once. Suddenly glass was everywhere and the air was filled with smoke and Kid, along with the other non-combatants were instantly on the floor and covering their heads. Then all hell broke loose!
Armed men took up positions on both sides of the car, ducking down beneath the shattered windows and firing at will at any target that presented itself. Bullets were crashing into the car as well, sending more glass flying into the air, and chipping away at the wooden interior causing lethal missiles to shoot out and embed themselves into anything that got in their way.
Jed was on the floor between the seats, knowing that it was too late to give warning, too late to help any of his friends out there in no man’s land! He rolled himself into a ball, covering his head with his arms as the world exploded around him! He could feel the glass and wood splinters hitting him and thanked goodness for his thick sheep skin coat and he wouldn’t feel the glass and wood embedding themselves in his hands until later!
Right then all he knew was chaos with the acrid smell of gun powder burning his nostrils and the wild yells of men, both inside the car and outside, caught up in the adrenaline rush of battle. Jeez! How long could this go on for?! How many of his friends were dying out there? And here he was lying on the floor, unable to move, unable to help! Even in the shock of this assault he knew that if he pulled his gun and started shooting the ambushers, he’d be dead in seconds! Oh God! If Morrison was behind this, those fellas out there didn’t stand a chance!
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity though it was only about ten minutes, the shooting began to ease off. The yelling of men and screaming of dying horses quieted and the armed men in the car began to stand up from behind their cover and breathe a collective sigh of relief. Then the adrenaline rush hit again and there were yells of exuberance and laughing and cheering and victorious back slapping.
“YEAH! We got ‘em boys! We got ‘em!”
“Finally!! The Devil’s Hole Gang! WHOOPIE!”
“OHH BOY! Did ya’ see them two stragglers make a run for it? They’re gonna fly straight back to their hide out—and won’t they be in for a surprise then! Damn, now I kinda wish I could be part of that posse that’s gonna run ‘em to ground and them outlaws find out they got nowhere ta’ go!!”
“Hey, c'mon now Henry! You can’t have all the fun! Let them fellas have their share! Besides, we got most of ‘em right here!! YAHOO! This is gonna be some payday!”
Jed didn’t move, he felt paralyzed with fear over the fate of his old gang. He was shaking with his own adrenaline rush but he couldn’t move. He remained rolled in a ball with his bloodied hands covering his head and prayed that this wasn’t actually happening. This couldn’t be happening!
Then he felt hands grab him by his coat and drag him out from between the seats. He was hauled to his feet, his legs still shaking and he had to grab hold of the back of a seat in order to stay standing.
Jed looked at the faces around him and—oh jeez!—could this day get any worse? Morrison was standing there, sneering at him.
“Well look here, boys!” the sheriff gloated. “we caught ourselves the biggest fish of them all! Too bad we gotta throw ‘em back.” Then Morrison grabbed him by his coat collar and started dragging him towards the exit. “Ya’ might as well be of some use Curry—you can help us identify the corpses!”
Wheat, Preacher and Lobo sat their horses just inside the copse of trees waiting with gleeful anticipation as the train of their choice plied on the brakes and started coming to a halt before hitting the barrier of fallen logs. Hamilton and Charlie had done a good job of setting up the barricade so that any engineer worth his salt would know that to try and run it would risk derailing his locomotive. Yeah, Wheat’s boys were real good at their jobs.
Word had gotten to them that this particular train would be carrying a large payroll to make up for the ones that hadn’t made it through during those devastating winter months. It should be a real good haul, and the gang needed it too after the lean winter they had put in. Time to get the money flowing again and this payroll was just the ticket.
Everyone knew their jobs and everything was going like clockwork! The train screeched to a halt and Wheat gave the signal for the outlaws to break cover and make the charge! He knew Kyle would be on the other side of the train with his trusty stash of dynamite all set to blow that safe and then the gang would be in tall cotton again! With his regular boys and the new hires the gang was fifteen strong and even with the five that were left to guard the Hole there were enough men here to take this train, easy. And they wanted it!
Everybody put their horses into a full gallop and came at the train, whooping and hollering and firing their guns into the air to intimidate any of the more adventurous passengers. This was their day—this was their train!
Then all of a sudden, rifle fire began streaking out at them from the windows of the two passenger cars and the tables had been turned.
Before any of them could comprehend what was happening Lobo’s horse went down in a heap. There was no scream of pain, no thrashing of hooves—one second it was galloping full speed ahead and the next it was a crumpled mass of blood and shattered bone plowing into the ground. Lobo flew over its head, hitting the dirt hard and sending a spray of it up into the air as he did a flailing somersault to land heavy, face up and motionless.
Wheat tried to pull his horse up but the animal was spooked now and ignored the bit hauling on its mouth. It saw the motionless form of its stable mate suddenly loom up in front of him but still had the presence of mind to lift up and jump over the obstacle rather than plow right into it. But then its forelegs came down hard right on top of Lobo, breaking his right arm and shoulder and crushing the right side of his rib cage before it carried on running, frantic to get away from the hot gashes that the rifle bullets were leaving in its flanks!
Wheat finally got the animal’s head turned to the left, forcing it to slow down and follow the direction its nose was being pulled in. Then the gang leader was shooting for real now, aiming at the windows of the cars. All he could do was hope that by chance he would actually hit something since there was nothing to be seen except for rifle fire coming at them!
Preacher was back where Lobo had fallen. He’d dismounted from his horse and was using Lobo’s dead animal for cover and shooting back at the train even though, like Wheat he couldn’t see anything to actually shoot at! They were into it now, no turning back, no time to get to cover! Bullets were everywhere; the air reeked of gun smoke!
Preacher’s horse shrieked and went down, the innocent victim caught between fire, legs thrashing and kicking wildly against its death agony. Even with its lungs punctured it tried to get to its feet when another volley of bullets blew apart its skull and mercifully put it out of its misery.
Charlie and Hamilton came galloping back from the head of the train, shooting and yelling to beat the band. One would wonder why they didn’t just hightail it outta there, but they couldn’t believe that it had been a set up! Surely it was just a few of the passengers getting uppity! They’d had that happen before and all it took was a little show of force and the insurgents would go limping back to their seats and behave themselves. By the time the outlaws realized that this was more than just a minor resistance it was too late and they were into it.
Charlie had his rifle up and was shooting it at the train while at a full gallop, but that didn’t save him. The fire from the train changed its focus from Wheat and Preacher over to the two new comers and Charlie took a full onslaught to the chest and fell without a sound.
Hamilton tried to pull up and turn tail but his horse was in a panic and finding it’s all out gallop being hindered it lunged into the air and then started to buck. Hamilton fought to bring the animal back under control but the horse was so frantic that it fought back against it’s rider all the more until it lost it’s footing and went over in a shower of billowing dust and flailing hooves.
Panicking even more now that it was down, the horse began to kick wildly, frantically trying to get back onto its feet. It finally got half way up but then its forelegs got tangled up in the reins and it went down again, this time landing on top of Hamilton and pushing the horn of the saddle into his shoulder, breaking the outlaws collar bone. Hamilton was trying desperately to get away from the thrashing animal but luck just wasn’t with him this day.
The horse rolled over again, kicking out with its hind legs, trying to get into position so that it could heave itself back up onto its feet. The hooves lashed out like a pile driver, striking the outlaw in the head, caving in his skull and breaking his neck.
Finally and only then did the animal scramble to its feet and then take off in a panicked gallop to join up with its stable mates. By this time Wheat had had enough! He allowed the two loose horses to come up to his and then reaching down, he grabbed the reins of Charlie’s animal and somehow managed to strong-arm the small herd over to where Preacher was still taking pot shots at anything he could.
But even Preacher knew when it was time to call it quits and as Wheat and the horses came close to him, he abandoned his hiding place, made a grab for Charlie’s horse and swung himself aboard. Then the two men and three horses made a bee line for the same copse of trees where all of this had started from and prayed that none of the bullets being fired after them would find their mark.
On the other side of the train, Kyle and four of the relatively new gang members didn’t even have a chance to reach the baggage car. They had been waiting at a discreet distance for the train to be secured before Kyle would move in with his dynamite to blow the safe and collect their pay. Then the first sounds of gunfire caught their attention just in time for the youngest member, a lad by the name of Les Howard to take a full rifle barrage in the chest!
Both his and Kyle’s horses reared in fright and Howard fell to the ground and choked out his life’s blood before ever knowing the thrill of being a real-life, honest to goodness outlaw. Running away from home hadn’t been such a good idea after all.
The next volley of gun fire took out two more of the outlaws in one go. Black Henry Smith took a direct hit to the head and his horse took off at a gallop with the lifeless body eerily staying upright in the saddle for a good thirty feet. The torso swayed and the arms flailed unnaturally until it finally over balanced and tumbled to the ground. The horse kicked at it and then galloped on, heading for home!
In the same instant ole’ Dan, who was new to the gang, but an old hand at outlawin’ all the same, had begun to think that he was invincible until he met his maker that day. The law got him with a vengeance to make up for previous lost opportunities and he fell to the ground with a bullet through his throat, two in his left lung and the last going right through his left eye.
Kyle knew when it was time to skedaddle. He pulled his horse around and put it into a very willing gallop back towards cover when he felt himself get punched in the shoulder. He knew he had been hit, but he hung on and kicked his horse for more speed. Then suddenly there was no horse under him anymore and he was airborne and he could see the ground coming at him at a terrific speed. He hit hard, plowing into the dirt and tasting the grit in his mouth, mixing with his chewing tobacco. The air and his chewing tobacco were forced out of him as he did a flip and came crashing down on his back. He lost consciousness to lie in a limp and bleeding heap not far from the body of his dead horse.
The final member of that group, George Carmon had booted his own horse into a gallop the instant Howard had gone down! He took off in the opposite direction from the one Kyle ultimately chose and headed towards the front of the train. Once he came level with the engine he turned his horse to gallop away at an angle towards the bend in the tracks and disappeared around it. He never did return to Devil’s Hole which turned out to be a very wise—or very lucky choice on his part because it meant that he could go on living a while longer to rob and steal another day.
Back in the copse of trees, Wheat and Preacher were finally able to bring their stressed horses to a halt and they turned around to quickly survey their situation. All five were breathing heavily and shaking and all five were bleeding from more than one close call. They stopped and peered through the trees back at the train, mainly to see if any others from the gang had made it out, if any more were coming. But all they saw was a mess of strewn bodies of horses and men, and none of them were moving.
Then men were coming out of the passenger cars, men with rifles and tin stars now pinned to their vests that glittered in the sunlight. Wheat cursed. Then he suddenly caught his breath and he and Preacher exchanged looks.
“No,” Preacher mumbled. “it can’t be.”
“Yeah, it can’t be,” Wheat snarled. “but it is! I’d recognize that sheep skin coat anywhere!”
“You know that blessed boy wouldn’t turn on us!” Preacher insisted. “You know he wouldn’t!”
“All I know is what I’m seein’!” Wheat insisted. “and what I’m seein’ is a yella bellied traitor!”
Then Wheat caught his breath again and grabbing Preacher’s arm he gestured towards the second boxcar. The doors had just slid open and a ramp was being pulled out until the one end of it landed on the ground. Then horses were being led out and some of the men from the second passenger car mounted up on them and began to check over their firearms. Wheat and Preacher exchanged looks again.
“You got any ammunition left Preacher?”
“As the Lord is my witness, I do not.”
“Time to leave!” Wheat ordered needlessly. “You better pray to that God of yours that these horses still have enough left in ‘em to get us back to the Hole!”
Devil’s Hole. Mid morning. The majority of the gang members had ridden out about an hour ago to go tackle their first train of the season. Everyone was relieved that winter had finally broken its hold over the outlaw hideout as even with rationing, the food supplies for both men and horses was starting to run thin. There had even been some contemplation of killing off the last few chickens in order to tie everyone over. But then there would be no eggs until the chickens could be replaced and eggs seemed to be the mainstay these days.
So they’d made do with omelets and oatmeal and the horses ate straw just so they could at least feel like their bellies were full, and they made it through to the spring. When word of the over-sized payroll came through everyone was jubilant in anticipation of a good score and there-in lay the main difference between Heyes and Wheat.
For one thing Heyes would never have allowed the gang to head into winter without enough stores and money to see them all through. Even if there hadn’t been much in the way of jobs to do, Heyes was just too good a poker player and he would have made sure there was enough for everyone. Also, he would have been very suspicious of such a good haul coming through right when they needed it the most. He would have done his research and made sure it was legit before sending his men into the fray—and he wouldn’t have cared how hungry they were—he would have been more careful!
But Wheat was a hothead and he sure wasn’t the thinker or the poker player that Heyes was and as far as he was concerned, this train was pay dirt. This train was gonna get them on their feet again. This train was gonna change everything.
The morning of the big day dawned cold and damp, but nobody cared about that, everyone woke up in good spirits and boisterous moods. The coffee tasted real good that morning and even the oatmeal was palatable, this was gonna be a good day! Even the fellas who would be staying behind were excited. Of course, everyone wanted to be part of the heist, but there always had to be somebody staying behind to watch over The Hole. It was an accepted reality and just part of being a member of a gang.
There were five men left behind that day. Tom and Chuck who were brothers and had joined up with the gang about two years ago had drawn the look-out duty. Actually Chuck had drawn the duty and Tom had volunteered to be the second since the two of them preferred to stick together and that suited everyone else just fine. Curly Red Johnston, who had come up from the Red Sash Gang along with Black Henry Smith was a little ticked at having to stay behind. He was still recovering from a bad bout of the flu but despite his disappointment, had to admit that he was still not up to the physical exertions that a train heist would demand. So he accepted his lot and settled in at the Hole for a day of rest and anticipation.
Most the of the morning he spent playing cards with Benny who’s horse had fallen on him and he’d broken his collar bone, so he was out of the heist. And then there was Roger who had joined up with his buddy Les but Wheat didn’t want to have more than one young greenhorn on the same job at the same time, so the two had drawn straws and Les had won. Wheat assured a disappointed Roger that he could join them on the next job. So the three men, or should we say, the two men and the boy played cards to help pass the time until the job was done and the celebrating could begin.
It couldn’t have been too much past noon when the quiet day suddenly took a turn for the worse. A loud dynamite blast from somewhere back of the Hole rent the air and shook the buildings, causing dust and dirt and spiders to fall from the ceiling to land in their coffee cups and amongst their game. The dishes rattled and the wood stove shook. The three fellas sitting in the bunk house all stared at each other for a beat of time and then they were suddenly on the move, grabbing gun belts and rifles as they made a run out to the yard!
At first there was nothin’ to see and then three sets of eyes watched as another stick of dynamite came sailing through the air to land on the roof of the recently vacated bunkhouse. The three outlaws made a run for cover, their arms over their heads to protect themselves and just as they made it behind the outhouse another explosion shook the ground. Planks of splintered wood went flying in every direction and then the bunkhouse trembled for a moment before what was left of the roof collapsed in upon itself.
Inside the structure the table and chairs had been strewn aside and broken apart by the blast and the falling debris. The wood stove had been knocked over, its contents scattering across the floor. Within seconds the burning embers settled in amongst wood splinters and ratty carpeting and the entire wooden structure was very quickly engulfed in flames and falling apart.
The three men behind the outhouse were trying to get themselves organized under short notice. They split up, each one choosing a new hiding place and with shaking hands and racing hearts, waited and watched to see what was going to happen next! This couldn’t be happening! Devil’s Hole was supposed to be impregnable—nobody could get in without the lookouts seeing them!
But somebody had gotten in, and now they were coming! The outlaws heard the thundering of the horses’ hooves before they could see anybody—it sounded like an army and they were coming fast, yelling and shooting their guns. Then another explosion as more dynamite hit the barn and that structure went down amongst a shower of wood and straw and bedding material. The straw inside the barn ignited instantly and then that building along with the bunkhouse was quickly engulfed in flames and burning to the ground.
The horses in the paddock were panicking, their screams filling the air as they ran circles around inside their enclosure, frantically looking for a way out and away from the flames. Finally, in their mindless panic, one animal got pushed into the railing of the fence and its weight caused the wood to splinter and come apart. The other horses, seeing an opening all charged for it at once, knocking the first animal to the ground and trampling over it in their haste to get away. More railings were pushed down and broken as the horses galloped through, leaving the fallen horse thrashing and bellowing where it lay. He was desperately wanting to join his stable mates, but for some reason was unable to get up and away from the flames.
Then the posse came galloping through the smoke and dust and found themselves being assaulted by three of the half-wild mangy curs who had decided to make the Devil’s Hole their home. They didn’t appreciate these intruders charging in and upsetting everything and were doing their best in the way of growling and yapping to let it be known. Unfortunately their efforts were for not, and men and horses weren’t the only ones to die that day.
Ignoring the yapping and soon to be expired dogs, the posse had instantly split up. Three or four riders headed off in different directions in order to cause confusion, and to lay waste to the remaining structures standing in the yard. Three of the lawmen also made a bee line, following the panicked horses down the main trail leading to the lookout post—Tom and Chuck were about to have company!
Meanwhile, Curly Red had made the mistake of running into the barn as his place of concealment and was instantly knocked to the floor when the dynamite did its damage. He didn’t even have time to scream when the burning roof caved in on top of him and mercifully broke his back and bashed in his skull before he could actually burn to death.
Benny did marginally better. He had ducked in behind the chicken coop and despite his broken collar bone had been able to put his six shooter to good use. With the structure itself and the confusion of flapping, fluttering hens and feathers creating decent cover, Benny had laid in a blanket of fire. He had brought down one of the posse men and two of their horses before he found himself surrounded and done for. He wasn’t about to give up though—prison wasn’t for him, so even though he knew he didn’t stand a chance, he kept firing at his assailants.
He hit one of them in the leg and knocked another one out with a bullet clipping the man’s temple before his guns were empty and he had no time to reload.
Then he pulled a knife from his boot and with a snarl of defiance he lunged at the closest rider, leaping up and grabbing hold of him, causing both men and the horse to over balance and topple into the ground. Before the dust had even begun to settle Benny plunged his knife into the man’s torso and felt the blade slide in between his ribs but the lawman still had enough wits about him to box the outlaw on the ears and then push the man away from him.
Both horse and rider had scrambled themselves into the clear and then three rifles discharged at once and Benny took all three hits to the chest. He fell back into the dust, choking up blood and trying to keep breathing with three punctures to his lungs. Two men had dismounted to tend to their wounded comrades and to stop the bleeding caused by Benny’s knife thrust, but nobody bothered to tend to the fallen outlaw. Not that he could have been saved anyway.
So Benny was left lying in the dust, gasping out his last breaths while the blood from his injuries seeped out from the exit wounds in his back and spread in a deep dark pool as it slowly soaked into the dirt. It was better this way, he thought as the calmness and euphoria of death washed over him—so much better than what had happened to Heyes! Who’d want that? No…this was so much better……
Roger meantime had made his desperate run for the leader’s cabin. He was young—no more than fifteen and he and his best buddy Les had thought that this was going to be a great big adventure. Yeah, join up with the Devil’s Hole Gang and have the time of their lives! But now Roger was running for his life and he was scared to death. He wasn’t thinking about where he was going he was just looking for cover and he ran to wherever his legs took him.
He charged up the steps and through the front door, looking around him in a panic. His breath was coming in gasps as sobs of terror were taking him over and he started running again, bashing through another door and finding himself in one of the bedrooms. He grabbed the quilt off of the bed and for some reason that he didn’t understand, or even stop to question; he wrapped the quilt around him and then backed himself into the far corner of the room, facing the door.
His whole body was trembling and his teeth chattered in fear as his legs gave way beneath him and he sank to the floor. There he sat, with his knees drawn up and the quilt pulled tightly around him, praying to God for salvation and waiting for the end to come.
Outside, four of the posse members spied the lad running for the cabin and decided to go in after him rather than simply burning him out. He hadn’t fired a shot in their direction and he looked no more than a terrified teenager so they thought they’d give him a chance. Even at that though, they entered the cabin cautiously and with guns at the ready—even a teenager can fight back when cornered and nobody wanted to take a bullet for their kindness.
Within minutes the lawmen had spied the trembling quilt in the corner of the bedroom and had made a unified run at it. The quilt was ripped aside and then a screaming Roger was hauled to his feet and unceremoniously pushed face down onto the bed. His hands were roughly pulled backed and cuffed behind him and as he lay there shaking he was thoroughly searched and what weapons he had on him were instantly confiscated. He was then hauled to his feet again and manhandled out into the main room of the cabin and then shoved into a chair by the table and told to stay there.
Two of the men remained to guard the prisoner while the other two went back outside to help with the assessment and clean up whatever was left of this nest of rats that had been allowed to continue on being pests of the territory for far too long. Roger was beginning to calm down just a bit as he slowly came to realize that he was still alive and was more than likely to remain that way—just don’t do anything stupid, he told himself, thinking that all he really wanted to do now was go home.
Keeping their eyes peeled in the direction of the out of sight railroad tracks, Tom and Chuck waited expectantly for the gang’s return. They should have hit that train by now and be heading back towards the Hole where they could all get their shares divvied out and then start making plans for a grand night on the town! As long as Wheat didn’t hold everybody back a day or two to let things calm down. Damn! That would be irritating! A fun night in Carbondale would just about suit everybody right about now!
Then they heard the explosion. The brothers locked eyes and neither of them made a move for a good thirty seconds—probably because they were each waiting for the other one to take charge and decide what they should do. Then finally Tom, who was after all the oldest figured that he better call the shots and make a decision.
“Ahhh, maybe you better ride back up to the yard and see what that was.”
“I know what that was!” Chuck insisted. “Why don’t you ride up and see?”
“Cause I’m the oldest, and I’m sayin’!” Tom insisted. “Besides it’s probably just Roger playin’ with Kyle’s dynamite. I mean, nobody can get into the Hole without us seein’ em!”
“Well why don’t we both go see then?”
“Cause one us has gotta stay here and keep watch!”
“But what if…?”
And then another loud explosion coming from the yard drowned out Chuck’s continued protesting and again both brothers stopped talking and stared at each other with opened mouths. Then they could hear the distant rifle fire coming from the same direction and that got them really nervous.
“What the hell is goin’ on up there?” came Chuck’s anxious query. “I don’t like the sound of that at all!”
“We should get up there and take a look,” Tom suggested, though he didn’t sound very enthusiastic about that idea. “You know—just to make sure everything’s alright.”
“I donno,” Chuck considered the options with eyes wide with a growing fear. “I think we should just high tail it outta here.”
A third explosion rent the air and they could hear the distant neighing of terrified horses and even more gun fire. Chuck got to his feet and was making to run down to their own horses that were tethered in the little grove behind them. Tom jumped up and grabbed him, stopping him in his tracks.
“We can’t abandon our post! Wheat’s trustin’ us!” Tom pointed out, all indignant at the idea of running.
“Yeah and what if Wheat ain’t comin’ back!?” Chuck reasoned. “I don’t like this, not one little bit!”
And then Chuck started to fight against his brother with the full intention of getting his horse and getting outta there! The battle went on for a precious five minutes with both brothers, as usual determined to have their way. Then they both stopped the struggle with each other and looked up the trail leading to the hideout. They could hear horses coming towards them at a full gallop and then getting outta there became a moot point when their own horses, already nervous from the explosions, began to panic. They pulled back on their tether lines and started to buck and fight against the restraints until the lines broke and they were free.
Just then the herd of loose horses from the paddock came barreling around the corner and barely even acknowledged the two men running down the small incline in a futile attempt to grab their own horses before they took off. The two saddled horses were having none of it and they jumped away from the men and joining up with their stable mates the whole herd galloped on past and headed down hill towards open country.
“Dammit!” Tom yelled, throwing his hat on the ground. “What are we gonna do now!?”
Then a rifle shot cracked, the sound coming from the distant grove of trees in the direction from whence the loose horses had come. Before Tom could get an answer from his brother, Chuck’s eyes flew wide open in surprise as his head jerked to the side and blood splattered out from the sudden gaping hole in his head. Chuck dropped to the ground like a sack of flower, the look of disbelief still on what was left of his face.
Tom screamed in rage and pulled his six-shooter while spinning around towards the direction of the shot but he never got a chance to pull the trigger. More rifle shots came at him and he took two direct hits to his chest, one to his right arm and one right in the middle of his forehead. He dropped down to lay sprawled beside his brother, their life’s blood pouring out of their open wounds to mingle darkly together before pooling and then sinking down into the damp cold ground.
The small group of men then emerged from the trees and loped their horses over to the fallen men, their rifles out and ready just in case either of them was still alive and kicking. As they got closer though it became apparent that caution at this point was unnecessary and the four men returned the rifles to their scabbards and dismounted. One of the men had two scabbards, one on each side of his saddle, and having returned the Winchester to its resting place he then took hold of the other and pulled a Sharpe’s repeating rifle out from its place and set about readying it for use.
Meanwhile the other three kicked over the two corpses so that they were both lying on their backs in the hopes that they could maybe identify them. Hmmm, kind of a hard call on that one. Oh well. Then they looped ropes around their ankles and two of the fellas remounted their horses and headed back up towards the Hole, dragging the two dead outlaws along behind them.
The two remaining men tethered their own horses in an out of the way spot, grabbed their Winchesters again and headed up the small incline to settle themselves down at the look out station. They’d wait there all afternoon if needs be, waiting just in case any of the gang made it out of the ambush at the train and tried to make it back to the ‘safety’ of the Devil’s Hole.
Wheat and Preacher were riding as though the very hounds of Hell were on their trail, whipping and spurring those poor horses into giving all they had to get them back safely to the Hole—or die trying! Hamilton’s horse was still galloping along with the others, and though he was tired as well he didn’t have the extra weight of a person on his back so he was doing better than they were. Besides, he wanted to get home too.
The two men barely spoke to each other. They were focused more on the ground ahead of them to avoid pit falls, and occasionally sending nervous glances behind them to check on the progress of the posse. They knew that the pursuers were there and on fresh horses too, so why couldn’t the outlaws see them? Why were they holding back? They must know that if their quarry made it to their sanctuary the race would be over, the outlaws would be safe. No one has ever been able to force their way into the Hole, it’s just never been done! So what was going on? It was almost as though the posse was letting them get away.
This situation was more nerve wracking than having the posse right on their tail and shooting at them! It didn’t make sense and the closer the two men got to Devil’s Hole the more anxious they became. Then two things happened almost simultaneously that caused the outlaws to pull up short and reconsider their options.
They were still a couple of miles away from the approach to their hideout when they came galloping up a hill and round a corner and almost plowed full force into a group of loose horses that had been stopped there to graze. That was odd in itself, but then the fact that two of them were fully tacked up made it more than just odd; it made it scary.
All the horses reacted to the sudden intrusion, the loose ones dancing about with heads and tails up and blowing their displeasure. The two men were just getting their horses pulled about and headed in the right direction when they both froze and then felt real fear tingling down their spines. Black smoke was billowing up into the air right above where they knew the buildings of their hideout were located!
“What the hell?!” Wheat swore.
The two men exchanged worried looks and then realizing that the Hole was no longer safe they turned their tired horses away from the access trail and taking the chance, because they had no other choice, they galloped them out across open country. They hoped they could reach that other grove of trees before that posse put in an appearance . Once there, they could then get onto the less known tracks that were hidden in amongst those gulley's and hopefully get their pursuers off their trail.
All the horses joined up then and went for a race, but the gamble they took did not pay off and the race was destined to be short lived. They didn’t hear the rifle shot over the thundering sound of hooves pounding into dirt, but they both saw Hamilton’s horse stumble and then go down in a tangle of flailing legs and an explosion of dirt. The loose horse coming up right behind it could not stop or maneuver out of the way in time. It plowed right into the mass at full gallop, causing it to do a complete full somersault through the air before crashing down heavily onto its back.
That was all the outlaws saw of that wreck as they galloped onwards and then Wheat felt a shock wave go through his own mount when the animal took a hit in the shoulder. The horse grunted and then crumpled into the ground, rolling over onto its side it began kicking violently in its fear and anguish and futile attempts to regain its feet. Wheat was thrown clear and then scrambled to get out of the animal’s range, nearly getting trampled by the other loose horses coming up from behind.
Preacher spun around and galloped back to his leader. The two men locked arms and Wheat was hauled up behind Preacher’s saddle and they were off and running again. Then bullets were striking the ground in front of the horses’ feet causing the animals to put on the brakes and pivot to get away from their invisible attackers. They were headed back towards Devil’s Hole, but there was nothing they could do about it—the posse was on to them, pushing them in the direction they wanted the outlaws to go.
Preacher knew that his horse could not keep up the fast pace while carrying two men. He was doing his best to maneuver them into position alongside one of the loose but saddled horses so that Wheat could transfer over. A dangerous move to make while at full gallop, but neither of them saw another choice—all stoppers were out and they were going for broke!
They actually got into position and Preacher was able to reach out and grab hold of the loose horse’s bridle and though that horse laid its ears back and tried to kick at them, Wheat made the jump and with a frantic grab for the saddle horn was actually able to stay on! At that point Preacher hauled his horse’s head around and again angled it away from the direction of the hideout. But by this time they were in range of the look out station and even above the sound of thundering hooves and the wind in their ears, they could hear the boom of the Sharpe’s rifle letting fly!
Preacher’s horse went down this time, the heavy bullet going right through Preacher’s leg, shattering the bone and then carrying on through the horse’s ribcage and blowing apart its lungs. The horse went down in a heap, like a lead weight with an anchor attached to it and Preacher hit the dirt and rolled clear and then tried to stand up.
Wheat was attempting to get back to him, to return the previous favour, but the Sharpe’s spoke again and Preacher’s body jerked as the bullet zinged through his upper chest. He collapsed down beside his horse and lay where he fell.
Wheat cursed again and hauling his horse around he spurred it back up to a gallop and raced across the open ground, making for the trees. Suddenly he found himself with the advantage for a change; he was riding a relatively fresh horse and he knew the lay of the land like the back of his proverbial hand. He knew that the posse was closing the gap between them and could feel the wiz of bullets flying passed his ears. He also suspected that whoever was wielding that Sharpe’s rifle would be making a run at him from his other side, hoping to cut the outlaw off and prevent his escape. But Wheat knew he was going to make it—if he could just get to those trees before another lucky shot took either him or his horse down.
He wished that the last of the loose horses would stop following him as they were making it pretty hard for him to disappear into the woodlands. The tracks they were all leaving and the noise they were making would keep the posse right on his trail until they ran him into the ground. If he’d still had ammunition for his revolver, or a rifle with this saddle he would shoot the horses in order to be rid of them. But he had neither so he just had to keep going with the herd in tow.
He finally made the trees and pushed his horse along a steep and narrow trail that he knew led down into a gulley, from there he could back track and find the head of another well hidden trail that would take him across a narrow creek and then into a dark valley. Now that particular valley had a real narrow entrance and to anyone who didn’t really know the land it would appear to simply be a dent in the rocks with a grown over trail leading to a dead-end. But Wheat knew better and as the sound of pursuit fell further and further behind he made for that narrow valley and the only chance he had left to get out of this alive.
The gloaming was settling in over the landscape by the time Wheat finally felt that he had covered his trail enough that the posse would not be able to track him further that night. He trotted his horse through the narrow creek, up the far bank and then led his small herd towards the narrow valley entrance.
That night, inside his hidden valley Wheat finally felt safe enough to stop for a few hours rest. He didn’t dare make a fire, but he untacked the two horses that had been wearing saddles and turning them loose to graze, he used the underside of the saddles as a seat and a backrest and then wrapped himself up in the two saddle blankets. He was hungry and exhausted, but at least he was warm. And it wasn’t raining—thank goodness!
Sitting there all bundled up he assessed his situation. He had no food, no rifle and no ammunition for his revolver, nor did he have any money to purchase any of the above items. Devil’s Hole was no longer a safe hold out and he had no idea how many, if any of his gang were still at liberty or even alive for that matter. He had four horses with him and two saddles so he could sell most of them—he only needed one horse and one saddle after all. But he would need money, for sure, and a place to hole up for awhile and wait for things to settle down.
Then he needed a plan. His eyes hardened and his jaw tightened as anger once again took over his thoughts. 'Damn that Curry! That bloody no good, back-stabbing son-of-a-bitch! I’m gonna kill that bastard. I don’t know how, but somehow I’ll find a way. I’m gonna get him for this if it’s the last thing I do!'
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: The End of the Hole Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:31 pm|| |
Jed was still reeling from shock when Morrison grabbed him by the coat and hauled him off the train. He couldn’t believe what was going on around him—this was just insane! He felt totally abandoned, like a cat suddenly thrown in amongst a pack of wolves and the wolves were all grinning over the thrill of the kill. Even the other non-combatants were joining in on the good spirits since once they had realized what was going on, they were all for it. About time somebody did something about those damn outlaws!
Kid’s nerves were so on edge that he jumped and quickly looked around as the baggage car door slid open noisily and the wooden ramp was pulled out and dropped to the ground. He groaned at the sight of the horses being led out and a select group of men mounting up and getting prepared to chase down the fugitives.
Kid had no idea who was down and who had gotten away. All he heard was that two of the outlaws had made a dash for the woods and were probably headed back to Devil’s Hole. He was also able to pick up from the joshin’ and jokin’ that that plan of action was a good thing for the lawmen, but not such a good thing for the outlaws. What had happened? No assault against the Hole had ever been successful so why were these men so cocky in their belief of success this time?
Kid just stood leaning against the side of the passenger car, shaking his head—until the bodies started to show up and then he felt like he was going to be sick. Morrison came over to him and grabbing him by the arm started hauling him over to where the men were depositing the dead and wounded.
“C'mon Curry, this oughta be easy for ya’,” Morrison chided him. “I know most of these fellas, but a second opinion is always welcome.”
Kid hated every minute of this, but he forced himself to look. He needed to know as well so he could tell Heyes—Ohhh, Heyes. This was going to be hard news for him. They may have stopped running with the gang years ago, but Heyes still thought of them all as friends, and well—his gang. This was gonna be hard news. Kid went over to the first bloody mess that was dragged over and he looked into the dead face.
“Ahhh, jeez. That’s Charlie,” Curry told the Sheriff.
“What about this one?”
“I don’t know him.”
One of the local deputies who was standing behind his boss stepped forward then and took a look at the dead outlaw.
“I think that’s Hamilton,” he informed Morrison. “Kinda hard to tell with his face all crushed in like that, but it sorta looks like it could be him. He used to be over Arizona way, but I heard that he joined up with the Devil’s Hole some time back.”
Curry’s brow creased as he took in that name.
“Matt Hamilton?” he asked the deputy.
“Yeah, that’s it,” the deputy confirmed.
“Ya’ know ‘em now Curry?” Morrison pushed him.
“No, I don’t,” Curry still insisted. “but Heyes would know him.”
They carried on then to another body that was broken and covered in blood and again Curry felt like he was going to be sick as he looked down into a familiar face.
“Oh, I know him,” the sheriff smirked. “That’s Maurice Lobinskie.”
Curry frowned. Maurice Lobinskie? No, that’s…oh—Lobo! Funny, Kid had never thought about the fact that Lobo would actually have a legitimate name. Of course it made sense; what mother would call her son ‘Lobo’? But then, what mother would call her son ‘Maurice?’ No wonder the man was so mean. That was almost as bad as ‘Hannibal’!
“Yeah, but he’s still alive,” Mike informed the group.
Kid perked up. “He’s what?”
“Yup, believe it or not,” Mike confirmed. “He’s broke up pretty bad, but he’s still breathin’. Remains to be seen if he makes it to town though.”
Then the group was distracted by the commotion caused by more bodies being dragged through the train from the other side. More bloody, broken masses for the Kid to identify. Oh what a God awful day this had turned out to be and then a thought suddenly occurred to him and he breathed a truly heartfelt sigh of relief; Thank goodness Beth hadn’t come with him on this trip. If this day coulda been made worse—that would have done it!
“Oh, jeez. That’s ahhh, what’s his name,” Kid was struggling with this one. He knew the man, but not really well as he hadn’t run with the Devil’s Hole during Heyes and Curry’s time. “OH! Ah, Black Henry Smith,” the name finally clicked. “But what was he doin’ up here? He usually ran with the Red Sash Gang.”
“That gang broke up about six months ago,” Mike informed the Kid. “I heard that Smith and Curly Red Johnston came this way—I guess this confirms it. Don’t know where Ed Starr went though, probably up into Montana.”
Kid nodded, and then somewhat unexpectedly found himself looking into the fresh, youthful face of Les Howard and he groaned with sadness and disappointment, shaking his head in regret. He knelt down beside the slim body and laid a hand on the bloodied shoulder.
“You know ‘em?” Morrison asked.
“No,” Jed admitted. “but he’s just a kid—a boy! Dammit! What was Wheat thinkin’ letting a youngster like this join the gang?”
“What does it matter?” Morrison commented. “He’s dead now. What about this one over here?”
Kid stood up and followed the Sheriff over to the last body. It was a real mess, having been hit a number of times and Kid had a hard time getting a good look at the face. All he could really tell was that it was an older man and Kid didn’t think he knew him.
“Oh that’s old Dan Willoughby!” one of the older deputies announced with a laugh. “Man, you just never know what fish you’re gonna catch when ya’ throw the net!”
“Dan Willoughby?” Morrison queried. “I thought he’d up and died years ago! What do ya’ know!”
Kid felt drained. He stood quietly for a few minutes, hands in his pockets, head down trying to process all the emotions that were coming at him from every direction. The last thing he was expecting at that moment was to hear a familiar voice.
Jed swung around and found himself looking into the bright blue eyes of Kyle Murtry. But the expression coming through the blood on the outlaw’s face was not one of pleasant surprise, but more of disbelief and then anger.
“What did ya’ do, Kid?” Kyle asked him through his physical pain and emotional disillusionment. “What did ya’ do to us?”
“What? Kyle….” Kid was taken aback by the accusation in the other man’s tone and expression. “I didn’t do nothin’ Kyle.”
“But what you doin’ here then?” Kyle asked him still barely able to believe his own eyes. “You set us up?”
“NO! Kyle, I would never….I was just….”
But then a deputy grabbed hold of Kyle’s uninjured arm and half dragged, half pulled the wounded and dazed outlaw over towards the baggage car. He would be spending the trip into Murreyville in the company of the corpses and of Lobo, who might very well be a corpse by the time they’d bother getting him to a doctor.
Kid started to go after him, to try and explain that him being on this train was just a coincidence and that he’d known nothing about this, but Morrison grabbed his arm and stopped him.
“Get back on board, Curry,” the sheriff told him.
“Look, how about if I ride the rest of the way in the baggage car?” Curry asked. “I need to talk to him.”
“No,” Morrison denied that request. “I want you where I can see ya’. Besides, we got one more stop to make before getting into town and I might just be needing your expert opinion again.” Morrison was actually looking pleased at Kid’s discomfort and he smiled. “That’s the problem with switchin’ sides Curry; ya’ can’t help but make enemies outa old friends. Better get used to it.”
Curry was of a mind to protest this dictate, but then he felt the presence of a number of deputies standing around him, just waiting for him to put up a fight. He thought better of it and with a quick glance of regret back towards the baggage car he pulled himself up onto the landing of the passenger car and went inside.
It wasn’t long after everyone got settled into their seats that the engineer sounded the whistle and train began moving again. Curry sat alone and just stared out the window trying to come to terms with this strange and tragic day. What had once been a relaxing and familiar landscape was now a battle scene dotted with dead horses. The animals had been striped of their tack since those items that were salvageable could be sold to help pay for the new prisoners’ upkeep. The horses themselves were just left laying out there, waiting patiently for the scavengers to come around and do the cleaning up. It’s an ill wind indeed that doesn’t bring good to something.
Twenty minutes later the train began to slow down again and was gradually coming to a full stop. Kid was not in any hurry to get up because he knew what was coming and he was dreading whose body he might be having to identify next. But then the other passengers in the car started moving over to the one side of the train to stare out the windows and they began laughing and making celebratory comments once again.
Oh no, Kid thought to himself; anything that these fellas could be that pleased about could not bode well for him and a part of him didn’t want to look at what all the excitement was about. But then curiosity got the better of him and he stood up and glanced out the windows along with everyone else. Sure enough, what everyone else on board was laughing and cheering about brought a knot to Kid’s stomach and a tightness to his throat.
Black smoke, bellowing clouds of it rising up into the air above where he knew the outlaw hideout was located. Devil’s Hole was burning. His home for, how many years? It was going up in that black bellowing smoke and then it hit Kid as surely as though it were a slap in his face; he was witnessing the end of an era. He was witnessing the closing of yet another chapter in his life, once and for all and forever more. It’d been a long time since he had felt this much alone.
As the train eventually came to a stop, Curry could see more horsemen approaching the locomotive from the direction of the burning hideout. He sighed with disappointment; a number of the riders were leading horses that were loaded down with motionless burdens that could only be more dead bodies. The only bright side to this group is that there was at least one uninjured outlaw who was being brought back in handcuffs instead of a body bag.
Curry straightened up and followed the other men outside in order to meet up with the new arrivals. There was no getting out of it, so may as well just get it over with.
There were whoops and hollers and sounds of great merriment from the two groups of men as they met up alongside the train. Curry stood back from the celebration, definitely feeling like the odd man out until he glanced over at the youth sitting on the horse with his hands cuffed behind him and looking very forlorn indeed.
Curry sauntered over to him and placed a placating hand on his leg to get his attention. The lad looked down at him with worried eyes. Curry sighed to himself; this youngster was no older than the boy who’s body was wrapped up in a tarp and lying inside the baggage car.
“What’s your name Son?” Curry asked him gently.
“Roger Cartless, sir,” the lad answered back.
“How old are ya’?”
Curry shook his head, anger rising up in him again at Wheat allowing such young boys to join the gang. Heyes would never have done such a thing.
“What the hell were you thinkin’?” Curry mumbled, addressing the comment to the absent Wheat, but young Roger thought that Kid was asking him.
“Me and my best buddy, Les,” Roger explained. “we thought it would be an adventure. Join up with a real outlaw gang, you know. We thought it would be fun. Do you know where he is sir? Les? He went with the gang to help on this job.”
“Curry!” Morrison called him. “Get over here!”
Kid glanced over at the Sheriff, almost wishing he didn’t have his amnesty so that he wouldn’t be disappointing anyone by pulling his gun then and there and shooting the lawman through the head. As it was, he just nodded.
“Curry?” Roger asked, a slightly awed ting to his tone. “You’re Kid Curry?”
“Yeah,” Curry answered absently, almost regretfully. Then he looked back up at the boy with sincere sadness in his expression. “I’m sorry Roger, but you’re friend’s dead. These men killed ‘em.”
“No,” Roger denied the truth of it. Then his face broke apart and he started to cry. “No! He can’t be! This was supposed to be fun!”
“Yeah,” Curry sighed sadly. He gave Roger another consolatory pat on the knee and then turned and went back to the group now standing around the prone figures that had been laid out on the ground.
Curry looked down at the two brothers, Tom and Chuck and shook his head.
“I don’t know them,” he said listlessly. “They must have joined up after Heyes and I left.”
Then he went over to another body and again shook his head. “No, don’t know ‘em.”
“That’s Ben Jensen,” piped up one of the lawmen. “He used to ride for the ‘Widow Creek’ gang, until it got broke up. I guess he came north and joined up here. Bad luck for him.”
Kid took in that information without so much as a nod of acknowledgment. It was like he just wasn’t feeling anything anymore. His nerves were so frazzled over who would be the next body he’d recognize, who would be the next friend he would identify, that he was burned out on emotion. Or so he thought.
He was walked over to the next body and the blanket was flipped back from the dead face and Curry’s heart broke.
“Aww no,” he moaned and he dropped down to his knees beside his dead friend.
Morrison smiled, knowing they’d hit pay dirt. Curry gently touched the face of the dead man and then clutched at the bloodied shirt, his breath was raged as, jaws clenched, he fought the sobs that were threatening to burst through the tightening of his throat. He pulled the man into an embrace, feeling the hot tears attacking his eyes and beginning to fall and there was nothing he could do to stop them.
“Aww no,” he mumbled again. “Preacher. Not Preacher. He usually winters down in New Mexico! What the hell was he doin’ here?”
“I tell ya’ Sheriff,” Deputy Jack Strode commented. “that new marksman you hired is even better than Layton. Jorgensen musta been close to a mile away when he made that shot and it couldn’t ‘a been a cleaner hit. Blew apart his heart right on the first try.”
“Yeah,” Morrison agreed, with a self-satisfied smile. “Getting’ ‘The Preacher’ is definitely an added bonus. The reward on that assassin alone will be more than all the rest of these low-lives’s put together. That bastard! Goin’ around quotin’ scripture but ain’t above hiring out to kill for money.” The sheriff snorted derisively. “What a hypocrite! Probably better that he’s dead; saves the territory paying good money to have ‘em hanged!”
Curry laid the body back down again and covered the face with the blanket, and then he just knelt there, staring down at it and getting his emotions back under control. Crying in front of lawmen! That wasn’t the right thing to do at all! Get it together, he reprimanded himself. Grieve for these friends later, when you’re alone—or with Heyes. Ohhh, this was gonna be hard on Heyes. Everybody liked The Preacher.
“Where’s Carlson?” Morrison asked, looking around. “I don’t see his body anywhere here. Don’t tell me we missed ‘em!?”
“There’s still two unaccounted for,” Jack told him. “One up at the hideout got buried under a burning building so we haven’t dug him out yet. And Preacher was with someone who unfortunately got away from the trap. Hogan and his group are runnin’ him down now.”
“Well, I doubt that Carlson would have stayed up at the Hole while a robbery was going on,” Morrison surmised. “He must be the one making a run for it. Dammit! Why can’t anything go smoothly!? The deal with the governor was that we get every last low-life, thieving one of them! Carlson may not be the leader that Heyes was, but he was still the leader, so Hogan damn well better get ‘em!”
This outburst was met by silence from the group of men milling about. Everybody had been feeling pretty good about the way things had turned out, but the reprimand from their boss sorta put a damper on things. Obviously nothing short of perfect was going to be acceptable.
Kid glanced up from his own mourning as a still sobbing Roger was dragged past him to be incarcerated inside the baggage car alongside of Kyle, and alongside the bodies of all his compatriots, including that of his best buddy, Les. Kid sadly shook his head; all of this, for what? The only one in this group who was really worth anything was Preacher, but even at that once the rewards were divvied up between all these men it would hardly have been worth their while. So why bother? Kid just couldn’t understand it.
“Okay!” Morrison announced. “Let’s get these bodies loaded up! And you fellas—get these horses back into that second baggage car! C'mon! Let’s get moving! C'mon Curry!” he said as he grabbed Kid by the back of his coat and hauled him to his feet. “You’ve said your ‘goodbyes’, so get on board!”
The rest of the trip in to Morrison’s home town of Murreyville was completed in painful silence for the ex-outlaw. Everybody else around him was chatting away in quiet comradery, pleased with a dangerous job well executed. Even the other non-combatants who, like the Kid had been aboard this particular train by mere coincidence were joining in on the light-hearted celebration.
Kid now wished that he had disembarked this train in Laramie as is his usual trend. If only Lom hadn't requested he stop by Porterville first, he could have avoided this whole unfortunate situation. Now the question presented itself to Kid's mind. Why had Lom requested he come see him? Had Lom known about this? Had he known and not said anything? Not warned them? Anger filled his thoughts and now, more than ever, he was eager to have a visit with their 'old friend' Sheriff Lom Trevors.
It was late evening by the time the train stopped at the posse’s destination. Everyone working for Morrison disembarked to help unload bodies and horses, and to get the two prisoners over to the jailhouse. Kid tried to get over to Kyle, to talk to him, to tell his friend that he hadn’t been a part of this, but Morrison wouldn’t let Curry get near the prisoners.
He saw a disheveled Kyle look at him with a very hurt expression on his face and Kid shook his head at him, trying desperately to get the message across. But Kyle just looked away and then he was gone, out of the lightened platform of the train depot and into the darkness of the street, heading over to the jail.
Then Lobo was being hauled out of the baggage car and was carried over to the doctor’s office. Kid sighed a little bit in relief; at least Lobo was still alive—for now anyways, and Lobo was tough, if anybody could pull through something like this, he could. Kid found himself wondering where Wheat was and hoping that the outlaw was still on the loose and, if he was smart, heading for parts unknown. Hopefully he wouldn’t try something stupid; like breaking Kyle out of jail! Not with Morrison in charge; Wheat would only succeed in getting himself killed.
Then the train whistled in preparation of pulling out of the station and Curry knew he had better get on board or be left behind. The last place he wanted to be stranded was here! He was just about to turn and climb back aboard when he caught Morrison’s eye and the Sheriff smiled at him, nodded and tipped his hat to the ex-outlaw. Curry’s jaw tightened and his right hand that had developed a mind of its own, was trying oh so hard to go for his gun. But Curry controlled it and with tight lips and a burning in his heart he ignored the Sheriff’s jibe and climbed on-board the departing train.
Needless to say, Jed Curry did not sleep a wink that night. Usually, as we know, Curry does not have trouble sleeping, even on a moving, rocking passenger train; but this night was not usual, and sleep did not come. Every time he closed his eyes, all he would hear was gunfire and screaming horses and yelling men; all he’d see was blood, and bellowing black smoke and Preacher’s dead face lying there in the dirt. And a young boy crying; ‘He can’t be dead! This was just supposed to be fun!’
So Kid sat, his head leaning against the back rest of the seat and wrapped up warmly in his sheep skin coat. He stared out the window seeing only darkness and his own reflection and just as Heyes had done almost two years ago, he reflected on his life and how he’d come to all of this. And he felt, now more than ever that he was just as much a prisoner of his past mistakes as his partner was a prisoner in his cell. Only goodness knew if either one of them would ever be free again.
The following morning dawned gray and chilly just like the day before and Kid didn’t feel at all like getting out of his warm cocoon in order to go get a cup of coffee. But caffeine was calling to him so eventually, as other passengers on board were slowly rousing themselves and heading to the dining car, Curry gave in and did the same.
Most of the talk going on around Curry was about the excitement of the previous day. The passengers who had been on the train for the event were all quite happy to describe everything in great detail to the passengers who were new arrivals. Curry tried to ignore it as he sipped his coffee and did his best to eat a plateful of scrambled eggs and ham, but he couldn’t help but notice the occasional comment made in his direction and eyes looking at him curiously. If there was anyone in the dining car who hadn’t known who Curry was, well they knew it now.
Finally, at about 10:30 in the morning, the train pulled into Porterville and Curry was able to disembark and get away from the curious looks and whispered comments of his fellow passengers. He might not be an outlaw anymore, but apparently he was still a celebrity of sorts—still someone worth gossiping about. He sighed dismally; was that ever going to go away?
The walk along the boardwalk from the train depot to the sheriff’s office was completed in a daze. Curry was exhausted, emotionally and physically—he was worn out. But he had to talk to Lom, had to find out what the hell was going on. He walked into the office to find Deputy Harker Wilkins and Sheriff Lom Trevors deep in discussion over their routine for the day. Both lawmen looked up at the sound of the door opening and then a heavy silence ensued when they both recognized their visitor.
Curry just stood at the door, holding onto the knob and stared at his friend with what could be described as an accusing look to his eye. His exhaustion was apparent. Lom broke the standoff, and with a sigh he looked to his big deputy.
“You best go make the rounds without me this time Harker,” he told him. “Kid and me got some things to discuss.”
“Oh well! If that’s what you think best Sheriff,” Harker agreed, though you could tell he wasn’t too comfortable about leaving the sheriff alone with this crafty outlaw. “I’ll just go do the rounds on my own then.”
Nobody moved. Harker and Jed stared at each other.
“Off you go then Harker!” Trevors reminded him.
Harker jumped. “Oh, Yessir Sheriff. I’ll just ah…just go do the rounds then…ha!”
The big deputy made his way over to the exit and Jed wisely stepped out of his way to give him room to pass. Then Jed closed the door and continued to stand in the threshold looking sadly over at the lawman.
“C'mon Kid.” Lom offered as he moved over to his desk. “Sit down and have some coffee.”
“No,” came the cold reply.
Lom looked up, taking note of the tone in Kid’s voice and wondered fleetingly if he’d have enough time to grab the rifle lying on his desk if the ex-outlaw decided to turn mean. Then he relaxed and tried to have some faith in the level of the other man’s common sense. He was hurting, confused and maybe even angry, but he wasn’t lethal—that much Lom was sure of.
“Don’t tell me you were on that train,” Lom stated by way of opening up conversation.
“Did you know about this?” Kid asked him, ignoring the obvious question.
Lom regretfully nodded. “Yeah, I knew about it.”
“AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME!?”
“That’s right Kid, I didn’t tell ya’.”
Kid’s temper had taken hold and he came at the sheriff in an angry charge! Lom used all of his self-control to not back off or to make a grab for the rifle, knowing that either action would only ignite the anger even more.
“WHY NOT!?” Kid yelled at him as he came up to the desk. “THOSE WEREN’T JUST MY FRIENDS WHO GOT BUTCHERED UP THERE—SOME OF EM’ WERE YOURS!”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Lom asked him, forcing himself to look squarely into those icy blue daggers. “Do you really think this was easy for me? But I made my choice years ago Kid, just like you and Heyes did! Ya’ can’t stand on the fence forever, ya’ gotta decide which side you’re on!”
“You shoulda told me Lom!” Curry insisted, his anger a slow burn now. “I coulda warned them!”
“AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHY I DIDN’T TELL ‘YA!” Lom yelled back, getting angry himself now in his own defense. “I knew that’s exactly what you would do! Throw away everything you and Heyes worked so hard for! And for what!? Those fellas made their choices Kid, just like we did! Sometimes that’s the price ya’ gotta pay.”
“WHY!?” Kid was back up to yelling strength. “The rewards for that whole gang won’t even come close to covering the expenses of that venture! WHAT WAS THE POINT!?”
“Sit down Kid.”
“SIT DOWN!” Lom insisted. “That was not a request!”
The two men were locked in a silent contest of wills until Kid finally sighed and relented. He knew that Lom wasn’t going to tell him what it was all about unless he complied and right now, information was what he wanted more than anything. He looked around for a chair, then slid it over to the desk and grudgingly sat down.
Lom relaxed, then pulling open the top drawer of his desk he pulled out the inevitable bottle of whiskey and two glasses. He filled both and slid one over to his companion.
Lom gave him a look that didn’t need words to back it up. Again, it was not a request. Kid hesitated a moment then picked up the glass and downed the contents in one swig. Lom did the same and then he re-filled both glasses and put the bottle away. Both men were beginning to calm down.
Lom sat down himself then and gave a heavy sigh.
“Outlaws have had their day, Kid. This was bound to happen sooner or later, you know that,” the sheriff began. “You and Heyes saw the writing on the wall six years ago and thank goodness you got out of it while you could.”
“That didn’t help Heyes much did it?” the Kid snarled bitterly.
“I know,” Lom conceded. “But if you’d stayed with the Devil’s Hole you’d both be dead now and you know it. It was a loosing game—now more than ever.”
“Why?” Kid asked him. “What’s so different about ‘now’?”
“I know you don’t follow politics too much Kid,” Lom explained. “but Wyoming is heading full steam towards statehood but that wasn’t going to come about so long as the Territory was still being basically strangled by gangs of outlaws. In order to show that Wyoming had enough population, enough industry and enough maturity, to warrant statehood, Governor Moonlight had to find a way to clean up the gangs and get rid of the strong holds.”
Lom paused here for a moment to let this sink in and took a sip of whiskey from his glass. Kid just stared at the desk in front of him, and basically forgot about the shot glass he was holding in his hand.
“So,” Lom continued. “Moonlight had been impressed with how Morrison had handled bringing in you and Heyes and he offered the sheriff quite a large sum of money to hire as many men as he felt he would need and gave him access to all the resources he’d want in order to bring down the Devil’s Hole Gang—among others”
Kid’s jaw clenched in anger. “So Morrison had a lot more at stake than just the reward money.”
“That’s right,” Lom agreed. “The reward money on most of those fellas was just an extra tidbit compared to what Moonlight is payin’ ‘em to get the job done.”
“That Morrison is gonna get himself shot one of these days,” Curry growled. “and I just might be the one who does it!”
“Now you’re talkin’ stupid!” Lom admonished him. “And if I didn’t know it’s just cause you’re hurtin’ right now, I’d lock ya’ up for makin’ threats!”
“The guy’s a bastard!” Curry insisted.
“Only cause you’re lookin’ at ‘em from the wrong side of the fence, Kid!” Lom pointed out. “To the honest hard working citizens of this Territory, Morrison is quickly becoming a hero. He’s the one who is finally getting the job done! Finally clearing out that nest of thieves who have been running rough-shod over the territory for years. People have gotten fed up with it Kid. Now maybe you and Heyes held some favour with folks cause you focused on the larger corporations and showed a bit of class when it came to dealing with the average citizen, but even so, people just aren’t going to put up with it anymore.”
Kid sat back in his chair, and finally remembering the shot glass he was holding, brought it up to his mouth and downed the drink again in one swig.
“But how?” Kid asked. “Devil’s Hole has always been secure. How did they get in?”
Lom sat back in his chair and looked off into the middle distance for a few moments. Then he sighed and looked Kid in the eye.
“You remember Seth Flannigan?” he asked.
Kid creased his brow in thought. “Ahhh, Flannigan…the name sounds familiar, but….”
“He was up at the Hole the same time as we were,” Lom explained. “When Big Jim was still runnin’ things.”
Kid shook his head, still at a loss to place the man.
“Young fella,” Lom continued. “a little older than Heyes, but acted younger. Tall, skinny with that long stringy blond hair.”
“OH!” the penny finally dropped and Kid remembered him. “oh yeah. He was always pushin’ me for a fight.”
“Right,” Lom agreed. “and Jim finally got tired of him pushin’ his weight around and kicked him out.”
“Yeah okay,” Kid agreed. “I got ‘em now. What about him?”
“Well, seems he got himself into a lot of trouble down in Utah,” Lom explained. “He went and killed somebody and they locked him up for life.”
“Well, that don’t surprise me,” Kid commented dryly. “What’s that got to do with Devil’s Hole?”
“I’m comin’ to that,” Lom insisted. “It seems that he got tired of sitting in prison so he started makin’ noises like ‘he knew a back way into Devil’s Hole’ and stuff like that. The law ignored him on the most part—these guys are always talkin’ big but end up with nothin’ to offer. Then Morrison found out about it and he went and had a talk with ole’ Mister Flannigan.”
“Back way?” the Kid asked. “The only back way that I know of was that winding little track that went through the rock face. That thing wasn’t even wide enough for a pack mule to get through and even at that Jim had us dynamite it so that it was blocked completely. Then—he still insisted on having a sentry on it through the dry months! So did Heyes for that matter.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lom admitted. “I remember pulling that duty sometimes, what a pain—eight hours of sittin’ there lookin’ at nothin’!”
Kid actually laughed. “Yeah!” he agreed. “You’re not the only one who hated it Lom. None of us were excluded from it—worse duty you could pull! The only good thing about winter was that the snow was so deep back in there that a snowshoe rabbit couldn’t get through so we didn’t have to watch it!”
“Yeah well,” Lom shook his head a little regretfully. “unfortunately Wheat got sloppy and he stopped putting sentries on that back trail even during the summer months. I guess he figured that it was blocked up solid so there was no need to keep watchin’ it.”
Kid groaned. “Oh no,” he mumbled. “What the hell was he thinkin’?”
“He was thinkin’ that he was secure,” Lom commented dryly. “Then there’s ole’ Flannigan carrying a grudge and thinkin’ that he just found his way out of a life sentence. And he was right. Morrison and Moonlight made a deal with the governor of Utah stating that if the information Flannigan gave them led to the downfall of the Devil’s Hole gang then Flannigan would receive a full pardon and be a free man.
“Then, as the snows started to melt away, Morrison began sending reconnaissance up into those hills and they found that back trail and started hanging around, just to see if anyone up at the Hole would notice them. Nobody did. So, that’s when they started formulating a plan. They sent out word that a large payroll was coming through on that particular train, knowing that the gang would be desperate for a good score right around now. Get the majority of the gang out of the Hole and then blow open that back trail and take it by storm. They had very little resistance.”
Heavy silence settled in over the sheriff’s office. Curry didn’t know whether to be angry or sad—and angry at whom? Wheat or Flannigan? Or both! Wheat for being an idiot and Flannigan for being a traitor, selling out the whole gang for the price of his freedom! Well, he’ll be spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.
Finally Kid gave a big sigh and brought himself back to the present.
“So, the new governor is the one behind this sneak attack?” he asked quietly, almost making it a statement. “He’s the one who put up the money to hire Morrison to get it done?”
“Yeah, that’s right Kid,” Lom conceded, knowing exactly what the next question was going to be.
“And this is the same governor we’ve got an appointment to go see in ten days with the intentions of asking him if he would please give Hannibal Heyes a pardon?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Don’t give up on it Kid,” Lom tried to sound optimistic. “We’ve got a good case.”
“Yeah right!” Kid shot back sarcastically. “He’s gonna laugh us right outa his office—that’s if we can even get into his office in the first place!”
Kid’s fist came down onto Lom’s desk, and then he was up on his feet and pacing, frustration written all over his countenance.
“Don’t tell me to calm down Lom!” Kid snarled at him. “That’s my best friend locked up in there! I promised him I’d get him out!! I promised him!! ‘Hang on Heyes; we’ll get ya’ outa here, just hang on a little bit longer’! Dammit!!”
Lom sighed and didn’t say anything more. He could completely understand the Kid’s frustration, cause he was feeling frustrated too. Heyes seemed to be adjusting better to prison life lately, but even Lom knew that he couldn’t hold on forever and for what? If every hope they had kept getting squashed under their feet, what was there left to hold on for? His biggest concern now was that Kid was going to do something rash. Something he wouldn’t be able to walk away from.
Gradually Kid calmed down again and with one last hand through his curls, he came and sat back down in his chair. He just stared at the desk for a few minutes, and then he came to a decision and looked Lom straight in the eye.
“I want to go up to the Hole,” he announced.
“What?” Lom asked, not sure he had heard right.
“I wanna see the Hole,” Kid repeated. “I gotta….I gotta see how it is.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Kid.”
“Lom, I’m going up to the Hole,” Kid insisted. “You can either come with me or not—but I’m goin’!”
Lom sighed and nodded, recognizing Kid’s tone and hard look and knowing that there was no arguing with him at this point.
“Alright Kid,” Lom agreed. “I suppose Harker can look after the town for a few days. I’ve got some things to look after tomorrow, so we can head up there on Tuesday. How’s that?”
“In the mean time you can stay at my place again,” Lom offered. “Give ya’ a chance to rest up a bit. Ya’ look like hell.”
Curry nodded. He felt like hell. Then he groaned as he remembered something.
“What about him?”
“He was expecting to see me this weekend,” Kid admitted. “Ahhh, I better send him a telegram, let him know I’ll be delayed a week. Jeez, our first visit since the fall and all I’ll have to bring him is bad news.”
Two days later Lom and Curry, along with their two horses and a pack mule were heading up towards what was left of Devil’s Hole. It wasn’t exactly a short ride and they knew that they would be camping out for one night at least before making it to the closest approach to the hold out. But Kid felt the need to see it and so they went.
The second day on the trail they saw another group of riders coming down the side of the mountain ridge towards them. This group was leading two pack mules; one for carrying supplies and the other carrying a more grisly package. As the second group got closer to the two men they could smell the tangent odour of smoke and burnt flesh and knew that they were carrying back the body of the outlaw who had died in the barn.
The two parties stopped and acknowledged one another. Kid nodded to the one man in the group whom he recognized.
“Hey Curry,” Jack responded, and then nodded at the sheriff. “Sheriff Trevors.”
“Deputy,” Lom greeted them. “You fellas been up at the Hole?”
“Yeah,” Jack admitted looking a little regretful. “Morrison wanted us to dig out this one and bring ‘em back for identification. Though if ya’ ask me; it’s a waste of time. He got burnt up so bad there’s nothin’ recognizable about ‘em. Process of elimination would suggest that it’s Curly Red Johnston and I would have been just as happy to leave it at that.”
He swallowed, looking just a tad bit pallid at the morbid job that had been handed down to him.
“What do ya’ mean ‘process of elimination’?” Curry asked.
“Well, that kid, Cartless said that Ben Jensen and Curly Red Johnston were the only fellas with him at the Hole when they got hit,” Jack explained. “The two Bishop brothers were on lookout and they’re accounted for, so the only one who wasn’t accounted for was Johnston.” Here Jack shrugged his shoulders. “So, process of elimination.”
Curry and Lom both nodded silently, feeling the need to show some respect to the dead man, outlaw or not.
“What’s gonna happen to Cartless?” Kid finally asked.
“Nothin’,” Jack admitted. “He’s just a kid, hadn’t broken any laws yet, except he was hangin’ out with known outlaws, but that don’t matter. Morrison got in touch with his folks and they’re comin’ ta get ‘em.”
Curry nodded, relieved. “Good.”
“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “I guess the other one, Howard, his folks are comin’ up as well to claim the body and take it home for burial. It’s a shame, that. A real hard lesson for Cartless and I just hope he takes it serious and doesn’t go off playin’ ‘outlaw’ again.”
“I think he’s had enough of the ‘outlaw life’,” Curry said. “He was pretty cut up over losing’ his friend.”
“Yup, I guess,” Jack agreed. “Well, we best be gettin’ on here. The sooner I can get away from this body the better I’ll like it.”
“Yeah, okay Deputy,” Kid tipped his hat.
“We’ll see ya’ later gentlemen,” Lom commented.
Then Kid pulled up his horse as he remembered something.
“Any sign of Carlson?”
“Nope,” Jack informed him. “That outlaw done disappeared in a wisp of smoke. And Morrison’s none too pleased about it either, I can tell ya’.”
“Yeah I bet,” mumbled the Kid dryly. “What about Lobo?”
Kid nodded acknowledgment and the two groups parted company and carried on their separate ways.
Five hours later the two friends would have been able to tell that they were approaching the entrance to the Hole even if they hadn’t recognized the landscape. The arid smell of wood smoke was so heavy on the breeze that even the horses tossed their heads and snorted in irritation.
Kid began to feel sick even before they entered the yard and by the time they pulled their horses up and dismounted, he was thinking that maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to come up here after all. But now that he was here he was determined to see it through, he had to know for sure that this chapter of his life was truly gone—he had to see it for himself.
What he saw was total devastation. Even after the time that had passed, smoke still lifted up from the blackened ash covered remnants of what was once a collection of sturdy buildings. Kid walked forward, looking around and trying to get his bearings; with no buildings or other structures around it was hard to know exactly where he was in the lay out.
Then he saw what was left of one of the rocking chairs that normally sat on the front porch of the leader’s cabin, and then, yeah there were a couple of the posts and some of the steps that led up to the front door. This was all that was left of the structure that was recognizable—other than the solid stone cooking stove with the blackened tin coffee pot still setting on it. And some of the pots and plates and utensils scattered in amongst the pile of smoking, blackened pieces of wood.
Kid stopped and stared at the debris, thinking how odd and out of place those items looked now, and then he looked again upon the blackened rocking chairs. How many times had he and Heyes sat right there on that porch, drinking coffee, or something stronger and discussing a new plan. Or going over a job and thinking about how they could do it better next time. Or just sitting there, not discussing anything and smoking cigars and drinking whiskey and quietly appreciating a peaceful evening.
Those had been good times, Kid thought. He’d forgotten how good they had been until now, standing here in the middle of this destruction and reminiscing about it. He sighed and moved on. There was the barn, or what used to be the barn. The paddock fence was still standing—on the most part, though definitely blackened by fire. Some of the railings and posts had been splintered and knocked down, probably by horses trying to get out and away from the flames. What a mess.
Then there was the bunkhouse with again, the only thing left intact was the old black cast iron cooking stove, tipped over onto its side, surrounded by more of the same ash covered debris. And then, oddly enough, the outhouse which hadn’t been touched by fire and still stood, keeping a solemn watch over its fallen neighbours.
Then Kid turned and saw the chicken coop and he groaned. He went back to that day, oh so many years ago when he had returned to the Hole with a box full of hens because he wanted fresh eggs for breakfast. Can’t have fresh eggs without hens! Heyes had laughed; 'What are we gonna do with a bunch of hens!?' But Kid had been determined and he set about banging and hammering and trying to put together a chicken coop.
Heyes had finally taken pity on his cousin and came over to help—just as Jed knew he would and together they had planned out and built the best chicken coop Devil’s Hole had ever seen. Kid couldn’t help but smile at the memory that always made him smile even when he was sad; of Heyes walkin’ in amongst the chickens and spreading the grain around for them. ‘Here chick, chick, chick.’! and clucking away to them just like old times. And Curry smiled.
It was so unlike the adult Heyes to be in there feedin’ the chickens, and yet so much like the child Hannibal whom Jed so clearly remembered; out there in the back yard of the Heyes’ homestead, feedin’ the chickens. It had been like a jump back in time then, and again now. Kid furrowed his brow as he thought about it; it was two jumps back in time; him standing here now and thinking back to the outlaw leader feeding the chickens and himself then, watching him and thinking back to the child Hannibal, feeding the chickens. Ohhh, this stuff could get weird.
Kid sighed and shaking his head he turned away from the blackened, charred chicken coop and walked further out into the open yard. He caught sight of the foul heap of burnt carcasses where the posse men had dragged the dead bodies of the horses, dogs and chickens that had been unfortunate enough to get caught up in the middle of this cruel slaughtering, and all of a sudden he started to retch. A slight breeze had come up, and it was enough to assault his senses full force with the strong pungent smell of burnt wood and flesh mingling together. That odour had been with them all along, but the sudden assault the wind had kicked up brought with it a rush of memories that the Kid had not expected and had been in no way prepared for. He grabbed onto the side of the outhouse and vomited.
Lom, who had been holding back and letting Curry make his rounds and come to peace with this devastation on his own, had started to come forward. But he stopped after only a few steps, knowing that his friend would rather be left in privacy right now, and so he waited and held the horses and mule.
He was finding the odour that permeated the hideout to be sickening as well but not so much as to cause him to loose his breakfast. Being here again certainly brought back his own rush of memories, but he knew that this must be much harder on the Kid. He waited patiently for him to gain control again and then walked over to him, leading the horses.
“You alright Kid?”
“Yeah,” Curry answered, though sounding a little strangled.
He went over to his horse and taking the canteen from the saddle; he took a drink, swished the water around in his mouth and then spit it out. He took another drink then and swallowed it. He poured more water into his cupped hand and splashed it over his face and then took another, longer drink. Lom waited patiently.
“Sorry,” Kid said, once he got his breath. “It’s just that smell—it took me by surprise.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty strong alright,” Lom agreed.
“No, it’s not that,” Curry told him. “It’s just….it’s the same smell after those raiders attacked our farm. That same mix of burning wood and animal flesh.” Kid retched again, but he managed to keep everything down. “Oh, jeez. I gotta get outa here. Let’s go Lom.”
“Okay,” Lom agreed. “You’ve seen enough?”
“Yeah. Everything’s gone. There’s nothin’ left here for me now, it’s all gone. Let’s go.”
The ride back to Porterville was a quiet and solemn one to say the least. Curry was in mourning and Lom was wise enough to leave him alone.
Heyes sat; staring silently at nothing over the Kid’s left shoulder. Finally he gave a little cough and swallowed.
“Charlie Hadden’s dead?” he confirmed, still not looking the Kid in the eye.
“And Matt Hamilton too—well, that’s no great loss,” Heyes continued on, mumbling more to himself than to his friend. “Too bad about the Red Sash fellas though, they seemed alright.”
“So…ahhh…Kyle and Lobo are in custody,” He reiterated as though repeating the information over to himself would help his brain to work its way through the shock and allow him to accept the truth of it all. “and Wheat’s on the run.”
“Yeah Heyes,” Curry confirmed again. “at least that’s how things stood when I left Porterville yesterday. I don’t know what Lobo’s chances are of pullin’ through—he was pretty badly broke up.”
“Hmmm. Might be better off if he just died,” Heyes mumbled. “Better than comin’ here.”
Curry made no comment about that. He knew Heyes was hurtin’ and that he was struggling to come to terms with it. He also knew that Heyes had yet to confirm the one death that was the hardest of all, that maybe if he didn’t ask for confirmation he could convince himself that he simply hadn’t heard it. But if nothing else, Heyes was a realist and finally, through the hurt and the bitterness, he swallowed again and shifted a little anxiously in his chair.
“And Preach…..ahhh—Preacher? He’s dead?” and he forced himself to look over and meet his cousin’s eyes. The pain that he saw there answered his question even before Curry nodded.
“Yeah Heyes,” Curry whispered. “Preacher too.”
“What was he doin’ up at the Hole?” Heyes asked softly. “He usually winters down in New Mexico.”
“Yeah I know,” Curry shrugged. “I donno.”
“The Hole’s gone,” Heyes stated, matter-of-factly. “Well……”
The two friends sat in silence again for a few minutes.
“I’m sorry Heyes,” Curry finally said. “Not much of a reunion, bringing ya’ news like this.”
“Yeah….not your fault Kid,” Heyes assured him. “I’m glad you told me. Better than havin’ Carson rub it in my face. He would have loved that—musta stuck in his craw not bein’ able to say anything.”
Kid gave a little smirk. “Yeah, I’m sure.” Then he looked back at his cousin, concern creeping into his eyes. “You gonna be okay Heyes?” he asked. “Not gonna go off and do somethin’ stupid are ya’? Kenny was concerned about that—well we both were. You’ve been doin’ so much better lately, stayin’ outa trouble an’ all. You’re not gonna give Carson a reason to start beaten’ on ya’ again are ya’?”
Heyes sent his cousin a sad smile. “No Kid, I’m not gonna go do anything stupid.”
“Okay good,” Kid nodded, but he still needed more of an assurance. “You gonna be okay Heyes?”
Heyes gave the Kid the benefit of a full dimpled smile this time.
“Yeah Kid, I’m gonna be okay. Don’t go worryin’ about me,” then he dropped the smile and sent his own look of concern over to his cousin. “You gonna be okay?”
Kid smiled. “Yeah Heyes, I’ll be okay.”
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: The End of the Hole Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:34 pm|| |
Later in the day Kenny did a quiet stroll past Heyes’ cell with the intention of just doing a quick walk-by check on the inmate. The guard had noticed the convict being escorted back into the prison proper after his visit with Jed and he’d looked wrung out. Just staring ahead and focusing on nothing—almost like he was in shock. Kenny knew he wouldn’t feel right heading for home that night if he didn’t make sure the inmate was okay.
The guard came level with the cell door and, as was said, fully intended on simply glancing in at the occupant and then carrying on. But what he saw Heyes doing while he sat on his cot and leaned in concentration over his little table caused Kenny to suddenly change direction and cross the threshold.
Heyes glanced up, startled and then seeing that it was a guard, even Officer Reece, he instantly dropped his gaze and sat back, away from the table.
“No, it’s alright Heyes,” Kenny assured him. “There’s no problem.”
Heyes nodded and visibly relaxed but still didn’t look up.
“I’ve noticed you playing with this deck of cards before,” Kenny explained. “I’m curious about what it is you’re doing.”
No response from the inmate. Kenny rephrased the sentence.
“Show me what you’re doing with the cards.”
A ghost of a smile played across Heyes’ lips and he sat back up again and pulled the cards into a deck. Kenny stepped forward, watching intently. He’d never really noticed Heyes’ hands before and it surprised him to see how delicate they were. Not feminine in any way, most definitely masculine, but lithe and graceful with the long, slender fingers dancing over the cards, seducing them it seemed without touching them, into doing what he wanted them to do. It was amazing just to watch that.
Heyes had picked up the deck of cards and was beginning to shuffle them, the smile on his face becoming broader as he warmed to his audience.
“The object of this game,” he explained as he dealt out the cards. “is to deal out twenty-five cards and then try to make five pat hands out of them.”
Kenny creased his brow skeptically. “You can do that?”
“Hmmm,” Heyes nodded. “Nine times outa ten—usually.”
Kenny smiled. “Show me.”
“Jed,” Kenny greeted his visitor at the front door. “Come on in.”
Curry felt a little awkward at first, stepping through into the front hallway of Kenny’s home, but Ken ushered him forward, showed him where to hang his coat and hat and gun belt and then led the way into the well lit and homey kitchen. A motherly woman turned to greet him with a smile. She had brown hair turning to gray that was pulled back into a bun, with dark blue eyes and a round and pleasant face. Like Belle, she had a way of making a stranger feel right at home.
“This is my wife, Sarah,” Ken introduced them. “Sarah, this is Jed Curry.”
“Ma’am,” Curry nodded.
“Mr. Curry,” Sarah came forward and shook his hand. “Finally I get to meet one half of the partnership that’s been giving my husband so many sleepless nights.”
“Ahhh, Ma’am?” Curry asked, a little confused.
Kenny smiled and sent his wife a teasing reprimand.
“Later,” he said. “We can get into that after supper. OH! Here come the kids! Behave yourselves now, we have company.”
Two well grown boys had heard the voices in the kitchen, and knowing who was expected they had quickly made their way into the room to join them and meet their infamous visitor. They both were looking a little awe struck and nervous, but grinning too.
“Jed, these are two of my boys,” Kenny introduced them. “The older one there is Charlie and the one hiding behind him is William. Boys, say ‘hello’ to Mr. Curry.”
Jed smiled and shook hands with both boys who reciprocated with slack jaws and wide eyes.
“Howdy Charlie, William.”
“Hello Mr. Curry,” came Charlie’s response, but William just stared, not quite sure what to do with his hands.
“Our oldest boy, Joseph is back east in college,” Kenny explained. “though I could have sworn that we usually have one more off-spring underfoot at dinner time.”
Sarah smiled. “I think Evelyn is a little shy about meeting you, Mr. Curry. Give her a moment and she’ll show up.”
Curry smiled. “No need for her to be shy Ma’am, I won’t bite,” he joked. “How old is she?”
“She’s six,” Sarah answered. “and quite the little tomboy!”
Curry smiled even more. “Oh I wouldn’t worry about that Ma’am,” he assured her. “I seem to recall knowing a couple of other young tomboys who have managed to grow up into fine young ladies. One of ‘em is actually getting married this summer.”
“Well that’s reassuring!” Sarah admitted with a laugh. “Not a lost cause then?”
“Please, call me Sarah,” she told him. “Kenny has spoken about you and your partner so often, I feel like I’ve known you for years.”
“Oh, yes Ma’am….ah Sarah,” Curry smiled. He always had trouble switching over to the more casual address when it came to the older ladies—it made him feel as though he wasn’t showing them the proper respect.
Sarah smiled at his discomfort but felt assured that he would get over it.
“Dinner will be ready in about half an hour,” she announced. “If you gentlemen will excuse me.” Then she creased her brow as she turned back to the stove. “Where is that girl? She’s supposed to be helping me here. Boys! Go find your sister!”
“Aww, Ma!” came the unified complaint, but they were shooed out of the kitchen anyways to go accomplish their mission.
“Come on Jed,” Kenny suggested with a smile. “let’s get out from underfoot.”
The two men headed into the sitting room and while Jed settled into one of the comfortable armchairs, Kenny poured out two glasses of sherry and passed one over to him. He tapped Jed’s glass in a silent salute and then sat down himself and took a sip and gave a sigh.
“It’s always good to get home,” he commented.
“It’s a nice home to get home to,” Jed agreed.
Kenny smiled. “Yeah. I’m lucky. I know that,” he admitted. “I see some of those young men who end up at the prison and I just thank my lucky stars that my boys seem to be getting off on the right track.”
“Well, a good solid home life—decent parents—that can make all the difference,” Jed observed, and then added, almost to himself. “If me and Heyes had had……” He stopped himself and smiled a little abashedly; he hadn’t meant to go there.
Kenny settled back into his chair and studied the young man sitting across from him.
“Did Heyes get the chance to tell you about the orphans?” Kenny finally asked.
Jed creased his brow. “Orphans? No.”
Kenny smiled and shook his head. “That’s a shame—he was excited about it and was looking forward to telling you. I guess that other news kinda got in the way.”
“Yeah,” Jed agreed and looked down at his drink. “How was he after I left? Was he okay?”
“I think so,” Kenny informed him. “I went by to check on him and he was playing with that deck of cards you gave him. He seemed alright.”
Jed nodded. “Good. That’s a good sign. He’ll do that when he’s working something out in his mind, working through things. That’s good. It’s when he stops doing something; just sits and stares—that’s when ya’ gotta watch out.”
“Was it bad?” Kenny asked. “What happened?”
Jed nodded sadly. “Yeah, it was,” he said. “I was right there, and the sheriff in charge of it; Morrison, well me and Heyes, we’ve had ‘dealings’ with him before and he made me look at all the bodies in order to identify them. He already knew most of ‘em, but he just wanted to rub my nose in it.”
Kenny frowned. “Not very diplomatic,” he mused. “I guess you knew most of ‘em?”
“Yeah,” Jed conceded. “A couple of ‘em were friends. And it’s likely you’re gonna be meetin’ a couple of others of ‘em sometime in the near future, if things go as planned.”
“Ahh okay,” Kenny acknowledged that. “I’ll have to get the rundown on them when the time comes.”
“Yeah,” Jed said again. Then he became quiet and Kenny knew there was something more coming, something that was obviously bothering the younger man. Finally Jed looked up with a sigh and smiled sadly over at his host. “I see your sons there and think ‘thank goodness they’ve got a decent home and a decent start’. Me and Heyes were younger than they are when we got started on the wrong foot—just, nobody to show us different. And then on that train I almost saw history repeating itself, but things worked out better for one and worse for the other.”
Kenny frowned and sent Jed a questioning look. What did that mean?
“There were two young fellas who’d just joined up with the gang,” Curry explained. “Fifteen years old, best friends and from what I could tell; from pretty decent families too. But they got the idea that it would be ‘fun’ to run away from home and join an outlaw gang.”
“Yeah,” Curry continued. “One of them youngsters got shot dead, right outa the saddle. The other one, well hopefully he’s back home by now but he’s taken a hard lesson back with him. Had to lose his best friend to find out that being an outlaw ain’t quite so glamorous after all.”
It was Kenny’s turn to nod and then take a sip of his sherry. “That’s sad to hear,” he admitted, not being able to help but think of his own sons. “But in a way that takes us back to something that Heyes was going to ask you, but since he didn’t have the chance, I guess it falls to me.” He smiled ruefully. “Somehow I had a feeling it would.”
“Oh?” Curry asked. “What’s that?”
“Right,” Curry commented. “You mentioned that before. What was that all about?”
Kenny smiled. “Sister Julia asked Heyes if he would go to the orphanage and spend some time talking with the children. You know; answer their questions about what life was like as an outlaw, that sort of thing. Ohhh, he didn’t want to at first—he was scared to death.”
“What?!” Curry asked incredulously. “Heyes scared to talk about himself? I don’t believe it!”
“Mmmm hmm,” Kenny nodded. “Put out every excuse he could think of. But the Sister finally convinced him to do it—and not surprisingly—once he found his footing he kinda enjoyed himself.”
“Now that sounds more like it!” Jed admitted. “He had a good time?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Good,” Jed emphasized. “Heyes needs some good times these days.”
“Yup,” Kenny agreed, and then sent Jed a scrutinizing look. “The children enjoyed it too—so much so that they became quite enthusiastic when Heyes suggested that you should come out and spend some time with them as well.”
Curry turned pale. “Me?”
“Aww no,” Jed back tracked. “Heyes is the talker, not me. I’d be no good at that.”
“Well, just think about it,” Kenny suggested. “A couple of the boys there would be close in age to the ones who got themselves mixed up with your gang. A word of caution from you would go a whole lot further than anything the Sisters’ might have to say.”
“Yeah, I suppose…” Still, Jed did not sound too enthusiastic.
Then a small voice over at the doorway caught their attention and both men looked over that way.
“There she is!” Kenny announced his whole face lighting up with paternal pride and he stretched out his arm to beckon her over. “Come on in, Sweetheart and say ‘hello’ to Mr. Curry.”
Rushing footsteps filled the sitting room as the young girl ran to her father’s protective arms. Once there, she stood, snuggled up beside him and then turned to shyly acknowledge their visitor.
Curry sent her his most reassuring smile. She was a pretty little thing, with her mother’s brown hair and dark lashes nicely contrasting with her father’s gray eyes; her features were unusual—and striking. She was going to be a looker that was for sure.
“Evening Miss…Evelyn isn’t it?” Curry greeted her.
“Yessir,” came the very quiet response, and she turned and hid her face in her father’s shoulder.
Kenny laughed and gave her a reassuring pat on the back. “Is supper ready?” he asked her.
She nodded silently.
“Good!” Kenny stated. “Come on Jed, let’s go eat. We’ll discuss that other matter after supper.”
The mood around the supper table became light and amiable quite quickly as the two boys got over their shyness and the inevitable questions started coming at Jed faster than his fast draw could have stopped them.
“Are you really as fast as they say?” Charlie asked over a mouthful of biscuit. “I mean, they say you’re so fast, ya’ can’t even see it.”
“I don’t know,” Jed admitted. “I injured my shoulder a while back and it’s taking time to get it workin’ right again.”
“What happened?” asked William. “It get broke?”
“Broken,” Kenny corrected his youngest son. “And I’m not so sure that Mr. Curry wants to discuss that right now.”
“No, that’s okay Kenny,” Jed assured him. “I don’t mind answering their questions.”
Ken smiled and nodded.
“That’s right,” Jed answered the question. “It got broken quite badly and it’s taken some time to heal up properly.”
“Ohhh,” came the unified response.
“But you’re still fast ain’t ya’?” William continued to hold the floor.
“Aren’t you,” Kenny piped in, though he felt as though he was fighting a loosing battle.
Jed smiled. “Yeah, I’m still fast.”
Both boys smiled broadly. It just wouldn’t be right at all if Kid Curry was no longer the fastest gun in the west.
“Can we see it?!”
“Yeah! Can we!?”
“Not tonight boys,” Kenny stepped in. “Maybe another time.”
“How come your eyes are so blue?” came the quiet, tentative question from little Evelyn.
Kenny and Sarah were doing their best to stifle a laugh. Curry was caught flat-footed and just stared at her with his mouth open for a couple of beats. The inquisitive gray eyes gazed back at him, awaiting an answer.
“Ahh, well….” then Jed couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “well, I suppose you’ll have to blame my mother for that,” he explained. “She was real pretty; with long blond, curly hair and the most brilliant blue eyes you would ever wish to see. Like looking into a clear mountain pool with the summer sun shining on it.”
Evelyn smiled and was instantly in love.
Kenny’s eye brows went up at the look that came over his daughter’s face and then he sent what only could be called a teasing smile over to their guest. The two older boys rolled their eyes and groaned. Girls are so silly!
Sarah was still smiling as she pushed herself away from the table. “Come along Evelyn, help me get the desserts. No, no Jed,” she stopped him from rising with a quick hand gesture. “You just stay put, you’re our guest tonight.”
“Oh, yes Ma’am.”
Evelyn smiled openly at her new ‘boyfriend’ and then quickly climbed down from her chair and scurried after her mother to help with the next course.
“Boys, how about you clear up the plates,” Kenny suggested. “Help your mother.”
Once the two men were left alone at the table for those few moments, Kenny sent a humorous look over to Jed.
“I can’t see you having any trouble at all impressing a room full of orphans,” he reiterated. “And I thought you said that Heyes is the only one with the ‘silver tongue’.”
Jed just rolled his eyes, looking a little uncomfortable.
After supper was dispensed with Jed and Kenny again retreated to the sitting room and settled in to the comfortable arm chairs with their second cups of coffee. It was time to get down to the real reason for the social call. Kenny had had plenty of time to think about the request and he knew how important it was, but he was still struggling with just how much he would be willing to stick his neck out.
“I agree that it’s an important issue,” Kenny stated. “The prison system really does need an overhaul, especially with Wyoming trying to attain statehood, but I have to be very careful here.”
“I know,” Jed agreed. “That’s why I don’t want to pressure you or Dr. Morin to give us any more than you’re willing to. I don’t want to see anybody loosing their jobs over this—or worse.”
Kenny looked off into the middle distance for a moment, struggling with himself.
“Yeah,” he finally agreed. “I have my family to consider—and with the boys all coming of age now it would not be a good time to be out of work. Joe is already in to his second year at college and of course Charlie is eighteen now and just chomping at the bit to join him there. William will probably be right behind him.” Kenny sighed and ran a hand through his hair in what seems to be a universal indication of stress. “Even with there being some benefits with my job to help out with education, it’s still an expensive undertaking.”
Jed nodded, thinking that was the end of it.
“But,” Kenny continued. “I’ve always told my boys to stand up for what they think is right, even if it means going against the popular belief. What kind of father would I be if I didn’t live by my own teachings? What I see in that prison on a day to day basis is enough to make one reconsider the options.”
Jed looked up, feeling hopeful.
“It’s not just the excessive physical punishments inflicted on the inmates,” Kenny reflected. “But I have begun to doubt the legitimacy of the very structure of the prison system itself.”
“In what way?” Jed asked, not wanting to mention at this juncture that their lawyer had already mentioned the possibility of presenting their case in a hearing based on that very topic. He also knew that the guard was sticking his neck out just making the statement and Kid wanted to be sure that Kenny would look at this as his idea, not Curry trying to pressure him into anything.
“This dictum that it’s for an inmates’ social well-being that they are not permitted to speak,” Kenny carried on hesitantly, but now that he’d opened up the topic, he was still determined to have his say. “The idea being that if the inmate is silent it will give him time to reflect on his crimes and wish to attain absolution.”
Jed gave a sardonic snort, giving his opinion on that decree.
“Yeah,” Kenny agreed with a nod. “I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Rather than the inmate becoming reflective and appreciative, many of them slide away in the opposite direction. A new convict who comes into the system quiet and unassuming will often, over time become aggressive and volatile. Then, depending on their own individual personalities they either continue with the aggressive behavior until they need to be further restrained, or they sink into a depression that may ultimately end in suicide.”
“Oh jeez,” Curry groaned, running a hand over his eyes. “That’s worse than I thought.”
“I’m talking about the long term inmates now,” Kenny pointed out. “Not the fellas who are in for five years or less. A five year sentence is do-able. An inmate can see the end of it and they can usually hold on until they are released. It’s the fellas who are looking at a ten to twenty year sentence—or life, they’re the ones who for lack of a better term, can end up going insane.”
“Yeah,” Curry mumbled and then reiterated; “The fellas who are looking at twenty years to life.”
“Yes,” Kenny agreed, knowing exactly where Jed’s thoughts were going. “That’s why I’ve tried to keep Heyes occupied with—anything! Keep his mind active, keep him from sinking. I mean, Heyes came into the system already kicking and fighting, already volatile and unpredictable—already angry. It didn’t take much for Carson to push his buttons.”
Jed just nodded; he knew Kenny was right in that Heyes hadn’t done himself any favours with his aggressive stance and it was mainly due to Kenny’s diligence that the convict had been able to adjust at all.
“I know you’re doing a lot for him,” Jed finally commented. “and believe me; we all very much appreciate it.”
Kenny smiled. “Yes. Your friend, Miss Jordan has already expressed her thanks on that account.”
Kid perked up with a raised eye brow.
“Beth?” he queried. “Oh yes! She mentioned that she met you. She was very impressed.”
“Likewise,” Kenny smiled again. “Not too many young ladies will stand up to two men with bully clubs, even if it is to protect a friend!”
Jed stared at Kenny for a moment, not quite sure he’d heard that right.
“She did what!?” he finally asked.
Now it was Kenny’s turn to be surprised. “She didn’t tell you?”
“Well. The beating Heyes took in the infirmary that day would have been a lot worse if Miss Jordan hadn’t gotten in between him and Carson and Thompson. I think they stopped more out of surprise than any feelings of intimidation, but it still did the trick. And it took a lot of courage on her part. She’s quite the young lady.”
Kid sat back with a sigh. “Yeah, well now that you mention it I guess it’s not so out of character for her. She put herself between me and a deputy’s rifle at one point and probably saved my life by doing so.”
Again, it was Kenny’s turn to stare back at Jed in a moment of surprised silence. Then he whistled softly and shook his head.
“Yeah,” Kid commented dryly. “I don’t know whether she’s courageous or just naive, probably both! I’m afraid that one of these times she going to get herself hurt, or—killed.” Jed’s voice caught a little bit with that last word and Kenny raised an eye brow at him. “She’s just so headstrong! Her and her sister both!”
“Or just fiercely loyal,” Kenny suggested. “I think that once she develops better judgment she’ll be a real force to reckon with. I’m glad she’s on our side.”
“Yeah,” Jed smiled. “If—when we get Heyes outa prison a lot of it will be due to those two young ladies, that’s for sure.”
Silence reigned again for a few moments while both men sipped their coffee and disappeared into their own thoughts for a time.
“Which way do you think Heyes is likely to go?” Jed finally asked.
Kenny creased his brow, not sure what Jed meant by that. Jed met his eyes, a worried expression settling over his features.
“Extreme aggression or suicidal?” Jed extrapolated.
“Oh,” Kenny muttered and then thought about it. “I don’t know,” he finally admitted. “It’s hard to predict. Someone who’s quiet and seems well adjusted will just suddenly explode one day and go on a rampage—it’s hard to know. Some of the warning signs for a suicide are of course; on-going depression, lack of appetite or when they do eat, it’s usually by themselves, in their cell.
“Heyes was displaying a lot of those tendencies during his first year here—along with the aggression, which is why I tried to get him involved with other things. Like you said; keep his mind active and challenged and we might just keep him sane. If we can keep him busy hopefully he’ll get through it alright. ”
“Is it working?”
Kenny nodded. “For now—yes,” he answered. “This past winter he has done very well and it looks as though he is dealing alright with the bad news that you had to bring him. I’ll still be keeping a close eye on him though; sometimes the shock of news like that can take a few days to sink in.”
“DAMMIT!” Kid expostulated as he punched the arm of his chair. “I gotta get him outa there! I just don’t know what else to do at this point Kenny!”
Kenny nodded. Though he was a little surprised by Jed’s sudden outburst, he could certainly understand it and tried to be a little more optimistic.
“The two extremes are not always the case,” he pointed out. “Many long-term inmates adjust to their lives in the prison and end up being role-models for the others. It wouldn’t surprise me if Heyes goes that route. He’s back to enjoying Dr. Slossom’s sermons and the little word challenge’s she gives him certainly keep his mind occupied.”
Ken’s deliberate attempt to change the mood of the conversation worked and Jed actually laughed. Being reminded of that game lifted him up out of his slump.
“I don’t know whether to thank ya’ or curse ya’ for giving him that dictionary!” Kid admitted. “Now he’s got me playen’ word games too!”
Kenny smiled again. “We’re not really supposed to give gifts to the inmates, but I thought that would be a worthwhile exception.”
“Yeah, well he certainly latched onto that game,” Jed admitted. “and I suppose it is kinda fun.” Jed laughed again as he remembered Heyes’ enthusiasm at the start of it. “He loves to throw words at me that he knows I won’t understand, but I guess it’s just his way of getting me involved with it too. So, that’s alright.”
“And that brings us back to something else that I think will be good for Heyes and that you could also become involved with in order to help your partner deal better with his life as he knows it now.”
Kid looked at Kenny suspiciously, knowing he’d walked right in to that one.
“The orphanage,” Jed stated.
Kenny nodded. “It’ll not only help Heyes to know that he’s doing something worthwhile, but it’ll be helping those kids too. Hearing it right from the ‘horse’s mouth’ sorta speak will do a lot more to deter them from the outlaw life than any pleading or threats of punishment is going to do.”
“I suppose it would, wouldn’t it?” Jed commented, thinking back to the two young men who had both paid a heavy price for a bad decision.
“Umm hm,” Kenny agreed.
“Well, give me a head’s up when he’s going to go back and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Good!” Kenny responded, and then he turned serious again. “As for our other topic of conversation, do you have anything in the works now?”
“Yeah,” Jed admitted. “We have that appointment to see Governor Moonlight to discuss the possibility of a pardon, but after this latest event, I’m not holding my breath on it. I’m really beginning to think that we’re going to have to hit the governor’s office with a hearing, and bring as much information to the table as we possibly can.”
“Well,” Kenny sighed. “if it comes to that, I’ll submit my records for consideration and I’ll see if Morin is willing to do the same. I’d rather not appear in person though, after all the Auburn Prison System is the one paying my wage and helping to send my kid’s to college.”
“I know Kenny,” Jed conceded. “Anything you feel comfortable submitting will be appreciated. Thank you.”
Just then there was a thumping of running feet on the floor and little Evelyn came charging in to give her Pa a kiss on the cheek.
“Time for bed, little one?” he asked her.
“Yes Pa,” she admitted with a shy smile over to Jed. “Ma said to come in and wish everyone a good night and to say goodbye to our guest.”
“Good night sweetheart,” Kenny said to her and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the forehead. “Say ‘goodnight’ to Mr. Curry.”
Having been given permission, Evelyn then ran over to Jed and gave him a big hug around the neck and a kiss on the cheek as well. Jed couldn’t help but feel flattered and he grinned broadly with being so honoured.
“Goodnight, Mr. Curry.”
“Goodnight, darlin’,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure to meet you.”
Evelyn blushed sweetly, and was in no hurry to release her hold, but Sarah was waiting for her at the doorway and soon stepped in to break it up.
“Come along little one,” she said as she came up and took her daughter’s hand. “You’ve said your ‘goodnight's, now it’s time for bed.”
Evelyn released her hold on Jed’s neck, but smiled up at him and gave him a little wave as her mother ushered her away. Jed chuckled as he watched her go. Then he settled back again and met the amused eyes of her father.
“You’ve got a real nice family here Kenny,” Kid complimented him and Kenny beamed with paternal pride. “I can only hope to be so lucky one day.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes to you too, eventually,” Kenny assured him. “More coffee?”
Later that night Jed was in his hotel room, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, thinking about all the turmoil of the past week. It had been a real doosey alright and it wasn’t over yet.
Kyle would be going to trial soon and it would probably be pretty cut and dry; the only question being, how long would he get. Certainly not the same sentence that Heyes had received, that was pretty much a given. But still, up in air as to what exactly the court would feel an outlaw of Kyle’s duration would be deserving of. Jed worried about how Kyle would make out in prison; he was none too bright, but he was a gentle soul and might not be able to stand up for himself. Of course Heyes would be there to watch out for him, but then that could bring trouble of its own. Kid sighed. He was going to be having more than one inmate to come visit if things went the way it was expected. He sighed again. Two birds with one stone—maybe three.
And that brought up the question of Lobo. Kid wasn’t sure what he hoped would happen with that. Part of him wanted the outlaw to recover from his injuries; there’d been so many deaths already. But another part of him sorta agreed with Heyes’ morbid comment; That Lobo would be better off dead than ending up in prison. But still, Lobo might not get too long of a sentence—it was hard to tell. And he was just mean enough to survive his injuries and get through his sentence just to spite everybody At which point he would get out and probably go right back to outlawin’—he just didn’t have anything else.
For that matter, neither did Kyle.
And what about Wheat? Where was he? Did he take off for parts unknown, or was he lying low, hoping for a chance to spring Kyle? Secretly Kid hoped that Wheat had done the smart thing and headed away from the usual haunts, someplace like Washington or Idaho or maybe even Canada. Just go someplace where nobody knew him and he could start over, ‘cause with Morrison on his trail he didn’t stand a chance if he stayed around these parts! But Wheat never was all that smart, was he?
And then there were four! Oh brother! Heyes could go ahead and reestablish his old gang right there inside the prison—wouldn’t that be fun! Well, at least they could all look out for each other then and Carson wouldn’t stand a chance. Yeah, that would kinda’ turn the tables a bit.
Then Kid started thinking about the meeting they had set up with the governor and he snorted derisively even though there was nobody else in the room to hear him. Fat chance that was going to do them any good! Obviously Moonlight wasn’t going to be interested in giving Hannibal Heyes a pardon, not if he was willing to offer Morrison even more money than the official rewards would bring in order to insure the end of the Devil’s Hole gang! Kid sighed into the darkness and ran both hands through his hair.
All of this was just getting to be too much—how had it all become so complicated? All they wanted was a clean slate—a chance to start over again. Was that really too much to ask? Apparently so, Kid answered his own question.
God, he missed his cousin! He felt like they were drifting away from each other, their lives heading down two different paths that were taking them further and further apart as time went on. But neither of them was able to stop their individual journeys’, or turn around and join up with the other one again. This just wasn’t the way it was supposed to be!
All these thoughts and questions were whirling around in Kid’s head, making it impossible for him to settle into sleep. Geesh! He thought to himself as he rolled over onto his side. I’m turning into another Heyes! Thinkin’ and worryin’ about stuff I can’t do nothin’ about! DAMMIT!
He flung the covers off and quickly got out of bed—no point whipping a dead horse so he may as well go out and do something about it! He got dressed and headed outside, making his way over to the brightly lit and obviously still active saloon.
Stepping into the bright and noisy establishment he headed over to the bar and ordered a whiskey, then taking the shot glass in his hand he turned to survey the room. There was the usual card games’ going on as well as other fellas just sitting and chatting with friends or flirting with the very attentive saloon gals. Curry looked around with a little more scrutiny, searching for someone in particular and it didn’t take long before he spotted her. He smiled and motioned her over.
She lit up, and it wasn’t just an act for a paying patron either. Though she knew that she would be getting paid for her services, Jed Curry was one of her favorite customers. Not only was he painfully handsome, but he was a generous and versatile lover as well—getting paid for it was just an added benefit! She smiled and turning her back on the idiot who was trying to flirt with her, she sashayed over to the bar and snuggled up to the blond ex-outlaw.
“Why, good evenin’ Jed,” she cooed at him. “I was beginnin’ to think that I wasn’t gonna be seein’ ya’ this trip.”
“I know Marian, I know,” Kid smiled at her. “but I got to thinkin’ about how pretty you are and I knew I just couldn’t leave town without a visit to my favorite girl.”
“Uh huh,” Marian responded with a laugh. She knew a line of bullxxxx when she heard it, but that was alright, it was all part of the game. She discreetly placed her hand on his hip and then slid it down to nestle comfortably against his groin. “You feelin’ restless tonight sweetheart?”
“Well, when ya’ ask it like that, how can a man say ‘no’?” Jed answered and he caressed her arm and leaned in for a kiss. She met him halfway and at the same time gave a slight squeeze of her hand right where it counted. Curry groaned; he couldn’t help it. “Upstairs,” he breathed into her ear. “Help me forget my worries.”
Marian smiled and she and the bartender exchanged a knowing nod. Then she took her project for the evening by the hand and led him over towards the stairs. Jed followed very willingly and by the time they were half way up, he was the one in the lead cause he knew the way so well…..
To Be Continued.
Author’s note; Curry’s reminiscence of Heyes feeding the chickens was inspired by InsideOutlaw’s ‘Eggs’ challenge story. I asked for and was given permission from her to reference it in this chapter. Thanks InsideOutlaw!
Posts : 483
Join date : 2013-08-31
Location : Madrid
|Subject: Re: The End of the Hole Chapter twenty-four Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:11 am|| |
Really intense descriptions here, and the destruction of the hole was really vividly painted. Jed too, is coming to his own realisations. I loved the line, "And he felt, now more than ever that he was just as much a prisoner of his past mistakes as his partner was a prisoner in his cell."
|Subject: Re: The End of the Hole Chapter twenty-four || |
The End of the Hole Chapter twenty-four