New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:16 pm|| |
Jed Curry was seething. He was angry with himself afterwards because he really should have been prepared for the outcome, indeed he had predicted as much after the raid on Devil’s Hole. Still, he had allowed himself to hope and that hope had set him up for disappointment.
He got a hint of what was to come right at the beginning of the meeting. Governor Moonlight had given Steven a hearty handshake, Lom an average one and to Jed, he had barely clasped his hand and had not even pretended to make steady eye contact. There was a time when Curry would have felt intimidated by such an acknowledgment from a high up official, now all it did was tick him off.
“Well, Mr. Granger. I can certainly see that you have done your homework,” Moonlight commented while he flipped once again through the paperwork that Steven had presented him with. “But I really don’t see anything here that would suggest that Mr. Heyes is deserving of a pardon or even a reduction in his sentence for that matter.”
“Surely Governor Moonlight, you must see the parody of justice in this case,” Steven pushed. “For a man who has never committed murder or even assault for that matter, for him to be sentenced to life in prison is very extreme to say the least.”
“On the contrary Mr. Granger,” Moonlight countered him, totally ignoring the fact that one of the individuals whom he would be referring to was sitting right in front of him. “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry created havoc amongst the honest hard working citizens of this territory—and they did it for years! Now perhaps Mr. Heyes never killed or ‘assaulted’ anyone in the most basic meaning of the terms, but he and his partner still caused a great deal of harm, undermining the very structure of the territory’s financial base!”
“No more than any number of other outlaws who have gone through the court system and received far less stringent sentences,” Steven pointed out. “Why should Mr. Heyes…”
“I have gone over the testimonies’ from the trial,” Moonlight cut the lawyer off. “I have read the statements made by witnesses and comments and observations made by Judge Parsons. Mr. Heyes was disrespectful to the court right from the beginning and even behaved in a threatening manner towards at least one of the witnesses brought forward to testify. He was given more than one warning to conduct himself in a more respectful manner and yet declined to do so. The man is a scoundrel to say the least and has shown that he has no respect for the law what so ever.”
“That’s not the true situation at all!” Curry jumped in, much to Steven’s chagrin. Lom inwardly groaned. “Heyes and I tried for five years to earn that amnesty. We worked hard for it because we knew how important it was. Heyes’ disrespect wasn’t towards the law or the court, but towards a man who was willing to knife his friends in the back in order to safe himself!”
For the first time during this meeting, Governor Moonlight acknowledged the ex-outlaw and looked him straight in the eye. But the look was hard and unconditional, showing nothing but disdain for the man sitting before him.
“From what I can see, Mr. Heyes was simply attempting to pull another ‘con’,” Moonlight growled quietly, his thick black beard bristling. “Only this time he was attempting to hood winkle the legal system of this territory. It was becoming obvious even to him that the day of the outlaw was coming to an end—he even states as much in his own testimony! His attempts to gain an amnesty were based more on his desire to avoid prison time than any new found respect for the laws of this country!”
“With all due respect…” Curry tried to protest, but again was cut off.
“Don’t insult me by even pretending to have ‘respect’ for this office, Mr. Curry!” Moonlight shot back at him. “I was appalled by Mr. Warren allowing himself to be pressured by public opinion into granting you an amnesty! But I suppose I should have expected as much! After all—what else can one expect from a bloody Republican! If it was within my power to do so I would rescind that damned amnesty, have you thrown in irons and taken directly from here to the Territorial Prison where you could re-join your partner until hell freezes over!”
And this is when Curry started to seethe.
“Governor Moonlight!” Steven quickly interjected before his client did something he would later regret. “I remind you that we came to this meeting in good faith. That you would honour the legal standing of my client and respect his status as a citizen of this country! You have no right to make such a threat against him!”
“That is the only reason he is still seated in my office as a free man!” Moonlight pointed out. “If the law, as it stands now protects this man from being sent to prison, then there’s not too much I can do about it. But to expect me to grant a pardon to Hannibal Heyes after he has been fairly tried and sentenced is utterly ridiculous!”
“I believe the point that we are trying to make here Governor, is that it was NOT a fair trial!” Steven reiterated. “That a twenty years to life sentence far exceeds what was fair considering the nature of the crimes for which Mr. Heyes was being tried for!”
“Matter of opinion, Mr. Granger.” Moonlight pointed out. “Mr. Heyes lied continually throughout his trial—claiming to have gone straight, only for it to be revealed through the testimonies of others that he had done no such thing. Indeed, he was using the trust that had been given to him by his friends as the very tool he needed to deceive them. Hardly someone who would be worthy of that type of trust again.”
“Considering that I am one of those friends whom he deceived,” Lom spoke up for the first time. “and I have forgiven him that deception once I came to understand the justification of it….”
“Then you are a fool, Sheriff Trevors,” Moonlight accused him. “And for a lawman of your standing, that is a sorry thing to see. I am a busy man gentlemen—I have given you my answer to your request and that is the end of it. Good day.”
The three men sat at a table in the café, drinking coffee and discussing the meeting and its repercussions. Or perhaps we should say that two sat and discussed the meeting. One sat, tight lipped and silent, staring into nothing and strangling his coffee cup.
“I guess that settles it,” Steven was commenting. “The next step is a hearing. Moonlight can’t just arbitrarily brush away a formal hearing. If the evidence is strong enough he will have to respond to it.”
“Yeah, but is the evidence strong enough?” Lom questioned with a bit of doubt in his tone. “What else have we really got that wasn’t presented to him here?”
Steven glanced over at Jed. “What do you think Jed?” he asked his client. “Is it likely that Officer Reece and Dr. Morin will testify on Heyes’ behalf?”
“No,” was Jed’s curt and angry response.
“No?” Steven reiterated. “Not at all?”
Jed sighed and relaxed a little, realizing that remaining in a snit wasn’t going to help their situation at all.
“They’re both willing to submit their records, but not appear in person,” Jed filled in the blanks. “They’re concerned that they could lose their jobs if they do any more than that.”
“That’s understandable,” Steven nodded. “It would be putting them on the spot. Hopefully the records of unwarranted abuses will be enough. Then we have Beth’s eye witness account, and if Sister Julia is willing to testify—that would help too.”
“To be quite honest Steven,” Jed admitted. “I can see this plan helping us if all we wanted to accomplish was to question the Auburn Prison System. But I don’t see how it is going to get Heyes outa there! It might change the way he’s being treated, which is certainly better than nothing but how is it going to affect his sentence?”
Steven was contemplative. “Well, we will continue to question the legitimacy of that sentence and suggest that he has already suffered enough punishment and therefore is deserving of a pardon at this time. Especially if he continues to behave himself and stays out of trouble—that could only be to his benefit.”
Lom and Jed exchanged glances. It’s true that Heyes had done well through the winter, but how long could he keep that up? Or was he going to behave in a manner similar to what Kenny had described to Kid; put on an act of acceptance and co-operation until one day something lights the fuse and he explodes.
Just then Betsy came over with the coffee pot to refill cups and take their dinner orders if they planned on eating.
“It sure is nice to see you again Steven,” Betsy commented as she filled their cups. “It’s been a long time. I hear you’re betrothed.”
Steven smiled. “Yes. A young lady in Colorado.”
“That’s nice,” she congratulated him sincerely. “When is the big day?”
“Oh, ah—end of July,” Steven actually had to think about it as his mind had recently been filled with other matters.
Betsy smiled. “Well, she’s a lucky lady.” Then she acknowledged the other two patrons, her smile broadening when her glance rested on the Kid. “Hello Sheriff, Mr. Curry.”
“Ma’am,” Lom nodded a greeting and left it at that since he knew that her attention had already moved on to his companion.
“Evenin’ Betsy,” Jed greeted her. “Still working here, I see.”
“Well, I am part owner now, so I guess I’ll be working here for a while,” she announced with a proud smile. “You tend to put more effort into a place that’s your own!”
“Congratulation,.” all three men responded.
“That’s quite an accomplishment!”
“Good for you.”
Betsy beamed and her eyes twinkled over at Jed even more. Lom rolled his eyes and Steven just observed the interchange with a humourous smile. There was just something about both partners that the ladies found irresistible. Lom surmised to himself that Heyes could probably be sitting here with shaven head and sunken cheekbones and still command the majority of the feminine attention.
“So,” Betsy continued, trying to pull herself out of those enchanting blue eyes and return to the matter at hand. “are you gentlemen having supper tonight?”
“We have some real nice venison steaks tonight with all the fixin’s and then some berry cobbler for dessert. How does that sound?”
Everybody perked up at the sound of that and Jed realized that he actually was hungry despite his bitter disappointment at the outcome of the meeting.
Three weeks later Heyes was down on the work floor going through the old routine of making a broom and trying to stay out of trouble. It was a good thing that this particular duty was down to basic motor skills now because Heyes had his mind on other things and yet was able to accomplish his tasks without reprimand from any of the guards.
He was still having a hard time accepting the fact that his old hideout was gone. It just didn’t seem possible and he was surprised at how empty he felt inside knowing that his ‘safety net’ no longer existed. He’d always felt that if for some reason the amnesty didn’t go through, well he and Kid could always go back home even if it was just to lay low for a while and make a new game plan. The fact that their lives had taken paths that led them in a different direction from that was irrelevant—he still felt vulnerable now that the Hole and the gang members who inhabited the Hole were no longer there for them.
Then there was more bad news. Kid, Steven and Lom had all come by after their visit with Governor Moonlight to let him know how things had gone. Heyes really hadn’t expected anything other than what had happened, but he was still disappointed. Their only hope now was that the current trend of Wyoming governors coming and going within a short period of time would continue and Moonlight would soon find himself replaced by somebody named Moonbeam, or Sunshadow or Starlight or…..
Oh well. Heyes really was beginning to settle in to life at the prison. It’s not that he no longer held out any hope for release, he just wasn’t hanging on a hook, expecting it to happen overnight. He had adjusted, as Kenny suspected he would if he just gave himself the chance and stopped fighting it. Life went on; dull and mundane for the most part, but still punctuated with highlights and accomplishments and he’d developed a way to find pleasure in the smallest of undertakings.
He was busy in his own mind, musing over life as he knew it now when he became aware of a guard’s uniform moving into his peripheral vision. He glanced up and then instantly dropped his gaze and felt a slight tingle of apprehension tighten up his shoulders as he recognized Carson standing beside him.
“Convict, follow me.”
Oh crap! Now what? Heyes put down his work tools and followed the senior guard across the work floor and over to the ‘pat down’ room, as Heyes had begun to refer to it in his own mind. Carson opened the door and hustled Heyes inside and then none to gently shoved him up against the wall for the usual frisking down.
The guard wasn’t exactly respectful in his head to foot search of the inmate and upon reaching Heyes’ privates made sure to be as harsh and probing as possible without being obscene. Heyes winched and sucked his teeth at the intrusion and then his upper lip curled in a silent snarl, knowing full well that Carson was deliberately being an ass by exerting his dominance in that manner.
Then the belt was cinched around Heyes’ waist and he was pulled around and his hands snapped into the cuffs. The whole time this was going on Carson was staring at the prisoner, trying to intimidate—to make him squirm and though Heyes could feel the intensity of it, he refused to comply. He stood stock still while being shackled and kept his eyes diverted and his expression blank. He didn’t know what was going on, but he wasn’t going to give Carson any excuse to turn him into a punching bag for the rest of the afternoon.
Finally Carson couldn’t drag this particular procedure out any longer and the inmate was taken out of the room and then over to the exit from the ward that led into the official area of the prison. Heyes’ heart sank as he realized he was being escorted to the warden’s office again. Damn! Heyes had gotten used to not having to deal with Warden Mitchell and the little game he was insisting on playing with the inmate, but now here they were, heading right back into it again. Heyes gave an inward sigh. Damn.
They entered the head office and stood silently in front of the desk, waiting for acknowledgment. Warden Mitchell sat quietly, flipping through a folder of papers and didn’t bother to look up at his company. He knew who was there.
“So Mr. Heyes,” Mitchell began, still without looking up. “It appears that we will be having a couple of your compatriots coming to join us soon.”
Silence. Heyes hadn’t heard a question in that run of words.
Mitchell looked closely at the head page of one of the folders. “So,” he continued again. “Mr. Kyle Murtry. Apparently his wound was not too bad after all and he was tried quite quickly. Obviously not much of an outlaw since he only garnered two years with us. Probably get out after eighteen months if he behaves himself.”
Mitchell tossed that folder aside and opened up the other one. His lips pursed in concentration. “Maurice Lobinskie. Still recovering from his injuries, hasn’t gone to trial yet. Never the less, I’m sure he’ll be along soon.” Mitchell condescended to look at Heyes. “What can you tell me about these two men Mr. Heyes?”
“Ummm, I don’t know a Maurice Lobinskie,” Heyes admitted.
Mitchell opened the folder again and re-read the statistics.
“Nick name ‘Lobo’. Ran with the Devil’s Hole Gang for the last fifteen years. That would put him there during your reign Mr. Heyes. How could you not know him?”
“Ohhh,” Heyes was enlightened. “Yeah, I know Lobo. Didn’t know his legal name is all.”
Silence. Mitchell sighed. This particular inmate could be so trying sometimes.
“What do you know about them Mr. Heyes?” Mitchell reiterated.
“Oh! Umm. Well, they’re both outlaws, sir.”
Carson’s bully club snapped Heyes’ right leg out from under him and in a shower of déjà vu the inmate found himself collapsed on the floor and wondering if he should bother getting back to his feet again or not. The question got answered when Carson grabbed him by an arm and hauled him back up again.
Mitchell looked over at him like a parent coming to the end of their patience at a misbehaving child.
“I’m getting tired of this game we are playing Mr. Heyes,” Mitchell admitted. “And I am particularly getting tired of your flippant answers. You like to play the fool, but I’m well aware of the fact that you are far from it. When I ask you a question I expect a reasonable answer. Now again; what do you know about these two men Mr. Heyes?”
Heyes’ lips tightened in irritation, but he was also very much aware of Carson’s close presence behind him and that guard’s willingness to do him harm. He sighed and doing his best to relax his demeanor and putting on his verisimilitude attire, he became complacent.
“Ah, both those men were kinda at the bottom of the barrel when it came to the gang members,” Heyes commented. “I seem to recall that Murtry was good with dynamite as long as you didn’t leave him alone with it for too long. And Lobo—ah,” Heyes shrugged. “He was there for fifteen years?”
“I guess he was good at following orders,” Heyes surmised. “He musta' spent most of his time in the bunkhouse and wasn’t all that noticeable in any way, cause I don’t really remember anything remarkable about him.”
“Really,” Mitchell commented dryly.
“I know you have friends on the outside, Mr. Heyes,” Mitchell informed the inmate, suddenly changing the subject. “Indeed, they are making their presence well known. Your lawyer in particular seems to enjoy keeping me informed of all the things I’m doing that are not acceptable. However, just this morning I received a very interesting letter from our governor. I’m sure you must feel honoured that the governor of the Territory actually takes time out of his busy schedule to notice you.”
Mitchell stopped and sat quietly for a moment while he watched the inmate for some reaction to this. Heyes covered any reaction and, truth be known; did not feel honoured at all.
“Apparently Governor Moonlight has also had to deal with some harassment from your ‘friends’,” Mitchell continued. “He sent them packing when they actually suggested that he grant you a pardon. Still, I’m sure you’re already aware of these transactions but what you may not be aware of is the extent to which Governor Moonlight is in support of how I conduct affairs here at the prison.”
Here Heyes’ heart sank. The hopes of getting a governor in office who might actually be willing to be reasonable were being repeatedly squashed beneath the inmate’s feet. Now, if Moonlight were actually lending his support to Mitchell and his regime then Heyes didn’t stand a chance. Hearing or no hearing; the door leading to Heyes’ freedom had just been slammed in his face. Again. Heyes couldn’t help but show his disappointment.
Mitchell smiled, knowing he had won the day this time.
“So,” Mitchell summarized. “It doesn’t really matter how much your friends want to shout and wave their fists, if the governor of the Territory is not interested in their complaints then there is no reason why I should be concerned about them either.
" Now, having said that I will inform you that I am very much aware of your duplicity concerning our previous agreement. Over these past eighteen months you really haven’t brought me any information of any value, what-so-ever. And I must admit that at this point, any information you might see fit to pass on to me would be highly unreliable.”
Again, Mitchell smiled at the inmate and Heyes was working his poker face for all he was worth.
“You will be allowed to carry on with your privileges,” Mitchell continued. “Hell, you can even go visit the little orphan children if you want to, but be warned Mr. Heyes, that I am watching you. Any deviation from the rules, any misconduct or lack of respect towards the guards will be met with most harshly. Your friends can rant and rave and carry on about abusive treatment and unfair conditions all they want to, but it’s not going to do them or you a lick of good. You are mine now Mr. Heyes, and I will do with you as I choose. Do we understand one another?”
Heyes stood silently. The disdain that he usually felt for this man seated before him doubled in its intensity, but now added to it the convict also felt real fear. He hated it. It was not an emotion that he was accustomed to feeling, and yet it was one that seemed to be attacking him more and more since his arrest nearly two years ago. Before that he had always felt confident that he could talk himself out of any tight corner that he found himself in. Then he’d come up against Morrison and the rules had changed. Slowly but surely he had been pulled deeper and deeper into the quagmire and any semblance of free-will had been striped away from him. He was well and truly trapped and he knew it.
Heyes did not answer the question fast enough and Carson gave him a sharp whack on the back of his thigh as a reminder.
“Yessir,” came out as a forced breath. “We understand one another.”
“Good. You may return to your duties.”
Heyes did return to his duties for the hour that was left of the working day, and though he got through it alright, again his mind was not on it. Carson smirked a bit at the distracted and slightly worried expression that stayed with the convict for the rest of the shift. He noted that even over supper Heyes was distant and his appetite practically non-existent.
Indeed, he was so wrapped up in his own concerns that on his way back to his cell with his usual cup of coffee, he started up the stairway to his level without paying too much attention to his surroundings. Then, quite suddenly he realized that one of the numerous prison cats had become entangled in his feet upon the stairs and amongst the loud yowling of the indignant cat and the clatter and clang of his dropped coffee cup, Heyes found himself making a wild grab for the hand railing in order to prevent himself from having a nasty tumble.
The cat took off in leaps and bounds down the steps, ears back and tail high, heading for some dark corning to hide in. It reached the ground level, made a wild skid on the concrete floor while turning a corner and then charged down the hallway and out of sight. Heyes sat on the steps, holding on to the railing until his legs stopped shaking. Dammit! Now he was going to have to get a rag from the kitchen and clean up the spilled coffee—then get himself another cup! He really did need the Kid in here to watch his back, and his feet!
The loud racket had of course caught the attention of some of the other inmates and a couple of the guard and everyone seemed to think that it had been quite a humorous sight. Heyes was not laughing. He hauled himself to his feet with a scowl upon his face and thought about how much he disliked cats—bloody vermin, belonged out in the barn with the rats, and not laid out on the steps just waiting to trip people up!
The next morning Heyes was working the laundry room again and was more than happy to be doing so. He didn’t feel at all like having to deal with the snickering looks from the other inmates over the ‘cat on the steps’ incident, and hopefully by the time he was back working the floor the whole thing will have been forgotten about.
Then, around mid-morning, some movement by the door caught Heyes’ eye and he quickly glanced over at floor level and found himself staring into the intense yellow eyes of the black and white feline. Both parties bristled with indignant self-righteousness and Heyes felt his fists clench while the cat growled softly in its throat and lashed its tail a couple of times.
After thirty seconds of this stand-off the cat’s attention was diverted for an instant by something happening out in the isle way and it made the mistake of taking its eyes off the inmate. Heyes made a quick grab for the handy bar of soap and sent it skimming across the small room at floor level. The cat saw it coming and with a scramble of claws on concrete scampered out of the way just in time for the bar of soap to whack into a guards uniform right at ankle level!
Oh crap!!! Dammit all to hell! Bloody cats!! They should all be roasted on a spit and made into stew!
Heyes and Kenny locked eyes, just for an instant, just long enough for Heyes to see the look of surprised amusement coming back at him. Then the inmate dropped his gaze and stood passive and repentant on the other side of the laundry table not quite sure what to expect for his excellent aim.
“No more convicts looking for a fight so you thought you’d start in on the cats?” Kenny finally asked him with a bit of a smile.
“No sir Mr. Reece,” Heyes mumbled an apology. “Sorry. I didn’t intend to hit you.”
Kenny nodded and made his way deeper into the laundry room.
“I heard about your encounter with that particular tom,” Kenny admitted. “I suppose I can understand you wanting to retaliate.”
Heyes’ shoulders slumped and he made a brief attempt at rolling his eyes—was everybody going to hear about that?
“Be careful though,” Kenny cautioned. “those toms can play dirty if they decide they don’t like you.” Then the guard got down to business. “I wanted to talk to you about the two new prisoners who will be joining us soon. As you know I like to get some background on the new inmates so that I have a better idea of what to expect.”
Heyes glanced up, surprised and then dropped his eyes again and didn’t say anything.
“What?” Kenny asked him. “You were about to say something. What was it?”
Heyes hesitated a moment, not quite sure how much he should admit to but then finally decided that if any of the guards were on his side, it was Kenny. “The warden already asked me about that.”
Now it was Kenny’s turn to look surprised. “That’s odd,” he observed. “The warden doesn’t usually bother himself with new inmates—other than the usual ‘welcome to the prison’ speech. He doesn’t generally deal with them on a day to day basis so….was anyone else with you?”
“Officer Carson,” Heyes informed him.
“Carson. Hmmm,” Kenny pursed his lips. “I wonder what that was all about. What did you tell them?”
Kenny smiled. “I bet,” he commented, but then turned serious again. “Would you be willing to tell me more?”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah.”
“Good. Ahh, Mr. Murtry is expected here tomorrow afternoon,” Kenny explained. “Mr. Lobinskie hasn’t gone to trial yet due to his injuries which were substantial.”
Here Kenny flipped open one of the two folders he had with him and began to read some of the passages to himself as a reminder.
“Crushed arm, broken shoulder and a number of broken ribs. The right lung seems to have been damaged as well so even if he does recover, he’s going to be weak in that area. We’ll have to watch him carefully for signs of pneumonia and other lung ailments during the first winter. I doubt he would survive a bad infection like that.” He closed the folder then and looked at Heyes. “What else can you tell me about him?”
“Well for one thing,” Heyes stated, as he was folding sheets. “don’t call him Mr. Lobinskie, I don’t think even he would respond to that name. We always called him ‘Lobo’.”
“’Lobo’. Yes, I did notice that mentioned in his file. What else?”
Heyes hesitated again, continuing to fold the sheets while he thought about his answer.
“Lobo was always good in a fight,” Heyes began. “He was always loyal to the gang, but not necessarily to the leader—he’d pick and choose whose side he was going to be on depending on who was most likely to win. On the job, you could count on ‘em to do what you needed him to do and to be there in a pinch. But he has a mean streak—don’t ever turn your back on ‘em. I never did.”
“Okay,” Kenny took all this in. “That’ll help. Thanks. What about the other one, Murtry?”
Heyes grinned. “Good ‘ole Kyle,” he said through his dimples. “Kyle is…one puppy short of a litter, if you get my meaning. He’s always so eager to help, to be a part of what’s going on and then tripping over his own feet in the process. He’s like a boy in a man’s body. A small man.” Then Heyes stopped smiling and he became reflective. “I’m worried about how he’ll make out in here,” he admitted. “Carson and Boeman—they’ll figure out real quick that he’s an easy target. Kyle’s not a fighter; he won’t know how to stand up for himself.”
“Alright,” Kenny responded. “I’ll keep an eye on him until he finds his footing. I know you’ll be doing the same.”
“And watch your back.”
“And no more throwing the soap around,” Kenny reprimanded him. “We have plenty of cats here, but soap costs money.”
Heyes rolled his eyes and went back to his laundry duties.
Next day Heyes was over in the infirmary so he missed Kyle’s introduction to the prison proper. If things went the same way for him as they had for Heyes then the new inmate would not be on the work floor his first day so he would have a chance to settle in a little bit. Still, Heyes was anxious, knowing that Kyle would be in for a hard time even just getting used to the idea that he was actually in prison.
The end of the work day finally arrived and Pearson came to escort Heyes back over to the prison proper and supper time. Heyes entered the cafeteria slowly, scanning the various tables and looking for the familiar figure. It didn’t take long for the seasoned inmate to spot the new one; there was just something about the demeanor of a new arrival that made them stick out like a sore thumb.
Kyle was doing more than that. He looked like a nervous bald chicken with one wing in a sling and his eyes were as wide as saucers, looking around at the guards and other inmates like a rabbit at a sharp shootin’ contest. Heyes went to get his own plate of food and then started to walk over to the table that Kyle was sitting at. It was then that he noticed Harris making his move to sit next to the new inmate with intentions of starting early on with the pecking order dictate.
Kyle was uncomfortably aware of the larger man sitting down too close to him for it to just be a casual encounter. Kyle nervously sent a glance his way and Harris smiled like a jackal and reaching over snatched the piece of bread off of Kyle’s plate. Kyle was about to protest but then thought better of it and just hung his head and tried to disappear into the floorboards.
Still grinning, Harris picked up his spoon and was just about to help himself to some of Kyle’s stew when he caught sight of Heyes in his peripheral vision. The seasoned con quickly changed his mind as to how hungry he was and returned his empty spoon back to his own plate. Heyes continued to stand behind him, glaring at him and unlike Carson, he was successful at making his target squirm. Harris picked up the absconded piece of bread and returned it to its original owner, then, without daring to make eye contact he picked up his plate and moved on to sit at another table.
Heyes then sat down next to his friend, keeping an eye on Harris just to make sure he kept going and stayed away. Once satisfied Heyes then turned to smile a quiet greeting to his ex-gang member. The look that came back to him froze the smile on his face and turned his expression to one of wonder with a touch of fear. What had he done to make Kyle so angry with him?
It had always struck Heyes as funny that Kyle had eyes that were just as big and blue and innocent as Kid’s were—until Kid got mad and then they weren’t so innocent any more. But Heyes had never really seen Kyle angry before and the icy blue daggers that were being sent his way pierced his heart and put a knot in his stomach. His feelings were hurt; he thought Kyle would be relieved to see him, maybe even happy so that look of reproach that he received instead of friendly greeting was a blow indeed.
Heyes got over his surprise quickly and sent his friend a questioning look and silently mouthed the word; 'what?' Kyle just pursed his lips and looked back at his food but was showing no interest in touching it. Heyes’ jaw tightened and his expression darkened as he started to feel a little angry himself. He gave Kyle a sharp jab in the thigh with his knuckle to get his attention and when the blue eyes turned to him again, he put more emphasizes on the silent inquiry; 'WHAT?!'
Kyle did a quick glance around, already cautious of the guards, and not seeing any looking their way he turned back to the ex-leader and whispered his accusation.
“Kid betrayed us!”
“No!” Heyes breathed back.
“Yeah, he did!”
“No Kyle! Kid didn’t know….”
The bully club hit the table between them so hard that the dishes rattled and water splashed out of their cups. Both inmates instantly looked away and went passive.
“I can’t believe that I’m seeing you two talkin’ here like it’s an old time family reunion! came Thompson incredulous tone. “You already bein’ a bad influence on the new inmate Heyes? Don’t you think he’s got enough to learn without you leadin’ ‘em astray so soon?”
Heyes remained silent, not sure whether he should answer that with a negative or a positive. Fortunately the guard didn’t seem to expect any answer at all.
“The only movin’ your jaws should be doin’ is chewin’ on supper! You understand!?”
“Yessir, Mr. Thompson,” Heyes answered quickly.
“How about you newbie?” Thompson asked Kyle as he tapped the inmate on the shoulder with the bully club. “You understand?”
Kyle cringed and then sent a nervous glance over to his ‘boss’. Heyes gave him a subtle nod of affirmation.
“Yessir,” came the quiet squeak.
“Good,” Thompson continued. “That’s good to hear. Seems you’re a mite bit smarter than your friend here who’s had a hard time learnin’ the rules. But you seem to be picking them up quite quickly. Now finish up your supper and get back to your cells, I don’t wanna have to be keepin’ an eye on you two.”
Heyes coyly watched the guard move off and once he knew they were in the clear, he picked up his spoon and started to eat. Kyle just sat there like a lump, his left hand cradling the right arm that was still in a sling, and stared dully at the table in front of him.
Heyes nudged him again and then pointed at his plate. Kyle shook his head. Heyes’ anger rose up a second time and his upper lip tightened as he slammed his open palm down on the table with a resounding ‘whack!’ Everyone else at the table jumped and looked over at him but Heyes was only interested in his companion. He picked up the idle spoon and plunked it into the bowl of stew in front of Kyle and pointed harshly at the utensil. He waited to be obeyed.
Kyle sighed and picking up the spoon slowly began to pick his way through the stew. He wasn’t really hungry—why was Heyes being so mean? But Heyes was making a point, not only to Kyle as to who was still ‘boss’, but also to the other inmates. He was letting it be known that Kyle was under his protection and anyone messing with the new inmate would find themselves messing with Heyes. The message was clear and Kyle was left alone.
A month later Lobo showed up still looking sickly and underweight but toting a menacing look to his eye that kept the lower end inmates at bay. Lobo acknowledged Heyes but kept his distance preferring to stand on his own and make his own way than appear to be kowtowing to his ex-boss. Heyes respected the man’s space but still kept a watchful eye on him, hoping that the mean-tempered outlaw wouldn’t get himself into too much trouble right off the get go.
Heyes had felt his heart sink when Kenny had informed him of Lobo’s sentence. The outlaw had warranted eight years and knowing Lobo, he wasn’t too likely to be getting out early for good behaviour. With a little bit of support, Kyle should be able to do his time and then get out a free man. But Lobo carried anger around with him like a shield and Heyes wondered how long it would be before he started making enemies.
Sure enough within the first week Lobo ended up spending a day in the dark cell for starting a fight with another inmate down on the work floor. Then ten days after that Kenny had to lay down the law to him for talking back and coming at the guard in a threatening manner. Indeed, if Heyes thought about it at all he would have recognized his own behaviour repeating itself but though Lobo was devious in his own right, he did not have Heyes’ intellect. He wouldn’t bother taking the time to learn how to circumnavigate the rules but would simply plow right through them thereby causing himself a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
Heyes didn’t know what to do for him other than to watch out for him and try to back him up if he got into something too deep. The new inmate was obviously not recovered fully from his injuries and chances were that he never really would. Any exertion caused him to start coughing and gasping for air and he always seemed to be in pain, which didn’t do much for his already volatile temper. Heyes watched him from a distance and worried, knowing that time would only tell if Lobo adjusted to prison life or not.
It was late spring on the Double J ranch and up on the northern pastures the new foals and calves were showing up one right after another. It was a wondrous time of year for Beth as she just loved to see the new babies arrive, all full of life and potential and playful high spirits. The fact that there were fewer babies arriving this spring due to the harsh winter made these ones all the more special.
Down in the barnyard pasture, Karma, Buck and another mare with a new foal at foot were contentedly grazing in a group, enjoying the warm sunny day and each other’s company. Buck was kept in this field for two reasons, one being that he be easily accessible for his human to catch and saddle up whenever he needed to ride into town or out to check on livestock. The other was to keep Karma company and the big older gelding did seem to have a calming effect on the otherwise high strung mare and Jesse had good reason for wanting to keep her at her ease.
The cargo she carried in her ever extending belly was too precious to be left out on the range with the herd of other brood mares. Indeed, her coming foal could be the beginning of a whole new line for the Double J ranch and that made it more precious than gold, in more ways than one.
Karma herself didn’t really understand what was going on with her body. She just knew that as time wore on she was getting heavier and more sluggish and her appetite was ravaging to say the least! If she ever stopped eating to think about it, she was actually quite relieved that nobody was putting a saddle on her and expecting her to go for a gallop across the landscape. That was something she would normally quite enjoy—but not now, all she wanted to do now was eat, and sleep and swish her tail at the flies.
The other mare and foal were there so that Karma’s baby, once it arrived would have a play-mate. It’s important for young foals to be able to associate with one another as they learn a lot about etiquette and socializing from each other, not to mention its just plain fun to run and buck and play with someone your own age!
On this one particular spring morning, Jesse and Beth were both leaning up against the pasture fence, studying the bulging mare.
“How was she last night in her stall?” Jesse asked his youngest daughter. “Was she restless at all?”
“No,” Beth assured her father. “She was just the same as always. Contented and hungry.”
“Good!” Jesse smiled. “You still check her bag every morning?”
“Yes!” she answered in some exasperation. “But I still don’t know what I’m looking for.”
“You’ll know it when you see it,” Jesse assured her. “You’re used to seeing her bag look a certain way, but one of these mornings it’s going to be different.”
“Yes, but how different? In what way? If you’d just tell me then I would know what to look for!”
“I can’t tell you,” Jesse insisted. “I don’t know how it will be different—it just will be. And you’ll know when you see it.”
Beth sighed in frustration. “Yes Papa.”
Jed came out of the house and seeing them at the fence strode over to join in on the conversation. He would be going to visit Heyes again soon and he was hoping that the foal would hurry up and get here so he could give his partner some good news for a change. Heyes needed some good news right about now.
Jed came up to the fence and casually draped an arm across Beth’s shoulders and she absently reached up and held the hand that dangled down in front of her. Jesse smiled inwardly. For a couple who were not officially courting and indeed, continued to insist that they were ‘just friends’, Jed and Beth were awfully comfortable in each other’s company. As long as they didn’t get too comfortable.
“How is she today?” Jed asked. “Still pregnant?”
“I certainly hope so!” Beth laughed. “Otherwise she better back off all that grass or she’s going to explode!”
“Well, we certainly can’t have that.” Then, with a quick glance back towards the house, added the comment; “Oh oh, here comes trouble!”
The other two people followed his glance and both smiled. Two year old J.J. had run out onto the porch and had stopped to assess the steps in front of him. He absolutely adored his ‘Uncle Thaddeus’ and upon seeing that personage walk out the front door had then been determined to join him to wherever he was going. But the porch steps had always been a stumbling block for him and normally insisted on enticing an adult to pick him up and carry him down to ground level.
Unfortunately as it happened, on this particular morning all the adults were busy elsewhere and J.J. was determined to get to where he wanted to go. The three people standing by the fence watched with curiosity to see what the little fella was going to do. Jay stood with one pudgy little hand on the post and looked at the steps for a moment, considering his options. Then, with hardly missing a beat he turned himself around and with feet first and hands following he toddled his way down backwards, on all fours.
Once he felt dirt under his feet, he straightened up and turning around, he laughed excitedly at his success. He started to run towards his target, then promptly tripped on his own feet and went down face first with a thump and a puff of dust. Everyone at the fence cringed and expected to hear a bellow of tears next, but much to their surprise, it didn’t happen. Instead Jay simply picked himself back up and shrieking with laughter continued on until he made his destination.
Once there he tugged on Jed’s pant leg and then reached his arms up.
“Unca’ Tad’us! Up!”
Jed couldn’t help but laugh. This was a game they played over and over again. “What do you want Little Man?”
“What? Up here?”
Jay gave him a manly punch on the knee. “UP!”
“Ohhh, well why didn’t you say so?”
Jed smiled into those determined brown eyes and then ruffled the boy’s long white blonde hair.
“Okay, up you come!”
Jed reached down and lifted the youngster up onto his knee that he had raised with a foot on the lower plank of the fence. Jay was in heaven and he laughed and giggled and hung onto the upper plank while Jed bounced his knee and gave the little boy a ‘pony ride’.
Jesse smiled while he watched his son.
“I don’t know why that boy likes you so much Jed,” Jesse admitted. “You tease him no end and he just keeps on coming back for more.”
“He’s a glutton for punishment,” Jed explained. “I have a partner just like him.”
“Buck. Wide!” Jay called out, pointing a little finger at Jed’s big gelding.
“No, we can’t ride Buck today,” Jed told him. “He’s not feeling well.”
“Maybe tomorrow, okay?”
“Buck’s not feeling well?” Jesse repeated, suddenly concerned. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s just that same tendon,” Jed explained. “After our ride into town yesterday he came up lame again. I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“How many times is that now?” Jesse asked.
“Just twice,” Jed answered. “I’ll rest him a bit longer this time. Probably just didn’t give it enough time to heal last time. He’ll be fine.”
Jesse made no comment, but his expression remained thoughtful.
“Well, chores aren’t going to get themselves done,” he theorized. “Time we got on with them.”
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:23 pm|| |
The next morning, early, Beth was in the barn to check up on her special project while Sam was busy getting the morning feed ready. She slipped into Karma’s stall with a good morning greeting and a pat on her neck. Karma turned her head and nuzzled her young human friend and then turned her attention back to what Sam was doing.
Beth stroked her neck and then quietly ran her hand down along the mare’s shoulder and around her huge belly and then down along her flanks. She continued to speak quietly to her and then bent over and took a quick look at the bag that was tucked neatly between the mare’s hind legs, all full and round and ready for the new arrival. Beth instantly caught her breath and straightened up with a sudden excited sparkle in her eyes.
“It’s different…” she mumbled to herself.
“What?” said Sam from the feed room.
“It’s different!” she said louder. “Karma’s bag is different!”
And with that the young lady forgot to be a lady and slipping out of the stall she bolted out of the barn and headed for the house at a dead run. She charged up the porch steps two at a time and made a grand entrance into the house just as her mother was dishing out the oatmeal. Jesse looked up from his first cup of coffee and sent his daughter a rather surprised look.
“It’s different!” Beth exclaimed. “You were right Papa! I don’t know how it’s different—but it’s different!”
Jesse looked over at his wife and they both smiled.
“Good,” he stated matter of factly. “Means she’s getting close.”
“Is she going to have her foal today, Papa!?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Jesse predicted. “But certainly within the next forty-eight hours.”
“Oh,” Beth’s excitement collapsed. “That long?”
“You have to learn to be patient Beth,” her mother reminded her. “Karma will have her foal all in good time.”
“Yes Momma,” but she still looked very disappointed.
“Put her out in the field with Buck as usual,” her father told her. “But keep a close eye on her today. If she starts swishing her tail more than usual, or looks at all uncomfortable you bring her back in to her stall and then come get me.”
“Yes Papa,” Beth agreed as she turned to head back out to the barn.
“And tell Sam to make sure her stall is spotless—and put extra straw in it!”
“Yes Papa!” came the response from outside.
That night Beth insisted on sleeping out in the barn—she just had a feeling and Jesse and Belle had both learned not to argue with her when she had ‘a feeling’. So, with Sam going home at nights now to be with his wife, Beth was insistent that she was going to be on watch duty and would not take ‘no’ for an answer.
So, wrapped up in blankets, Beth had settled into a thick straw padded corner of Karma’s stall and was determined to stay awake the whole night in order to keep her favorite mare company.
Two o’clock in the morning, she was awakened from a deep sleep by strange noises and rustling close by her and she instantly jerked her eyes open, afraid that she might have missed the whole thing! She turned up the lamp and was relieved to see that Karma was still the only horse in the stall with her. But the mare was up and circling with her head down and a distracted look to her eye. Buck was awake and watchful over in the other stall.
Beth was on her feet in an instant and hanging the lamp on a hook above the stall door, she went to the mare’s head.
“It’s alright Karma,” she soothed her friend, but Karma was too distracted and though she took comfort in her young human’s company, she continued to pace around the stall and occasionally omitted a quiet groan.
Quickly Beth came out of the stall and made a dash for the house. She was up the stairs to the second floor in a flash and started pounding on the door to her parents’ room.
“Papa! Papa, I think it’s time!” she called. “Papa!”
“What….” came the sleepy grumble from inside.
“It’s time!” Beth repeated. “I think Karma is having her foal!”
“Oh. Alright,” came the still grumbled response. “I’ll be out there in a minute.”
Beth then turned and charging back down the stairs, she ran out the front door and back to the barn, hoping again that she hadn’t missed anything.
Jed was also awake by this time.
Twenty minutes later, Jesse, Jed and Beth were out in the barn getting the mare prepared for the big event. Jesse had wrapped up her tail in gauze to keep it out of the way and kept the pitch fork handy to make sure that the stall stayed clean for the new arrival. The other horses in the barn were all awake but watchful and especially the other brood mare was standing sentinel in the stall next to Karma’s, trying to be calm and reassuring. Buck stood quietly in his stall across the isle. He was a wise old boy and he knew exactly what was going on. Belle was in the kitchen, making coffee.
Karma continued to circle her stall, head lowered and eyes half closed. She was very uncomfortable and didn’t know why, but the humans whom she had come to know and trust were there with her and nobody seemed too concerned. Her friend Buck was standing quietly, sending her silent but comforting assurances and she tossed her head and snorted and continued to circle.
The muscles around her barrel tensed up on her and she tossed her head again with the pain that racked through her body. Her nostrils flared and the whites of her eyes showed and she broke out into a sweat. She didn’t know what was going on, she was getting scared. Then the boss human stroked her neck and spoke quietly to her.
“It’s alright Karma,” Jesse calmed her. “I know this is your first, I know you’re scared. But we’ll look after you. Don’t worry.”
Although Karma could not understand the words, she understood the tone and the assurances behind it and she did calm down a bit. Then her muscles tensed again and she tossed her head and blew out a snort, followed by a groan.
Jed stood quietly outside the stall, not wanting to get in anybody’s way. He’d never seen a foal being born before and he was fascinated by it. He had no intentions of going anywhere. He smiled as he watched Beth soothe the mare and encourage her to be brave. They made a good pair. He thought of his partner, and wished he could be here for this. Jed was going to watch everything and then he could let Heyes know how it all went—next best thing to being here.
Then suddenly Karma lifted her tail and a great gushing of fluid splashed to the floor and she jumped a little bit with the noise it made hitting the straw. Jesse moved in with the pitch fork to clear out as much of the wet bedding as he could.
“That was her water breaking,” Jesse said. “The foal is coming Beth. It’ll be soon now.”
Beth smiled at her father, excited but nervous all at once. She so hoped that everything was going to go smoothly.
Karma circled one more time, and then with another groan of pain she slowly lowered herself down onto her knees and her huge belly followed and then with a grunt she lay down on her side. She stretched out, trying to relieve the cramping and the contractions started in earnest. Nostrils flaring and eyes wide with the pain, she grunted and tossed her head. She shifted, still trying to ease the cramping, but not having much luck, her breathing was heavy and she was sweating with the strain and the anxiety.
Beth sat by her head, stroking her and whispering gently to her and that did help her to stay calm, just a bit. Jesse was squatted down by Karma’s tail, caressing her flank and saying words of soft encouragement. Karma lay her head down again, and waited, knowing instinctively that there was more to come.
Then a strong contraction assaulted her and she strained for all she was worth. Jesse smiled.
“I’m seeing little pink baby hooves,” he announced.
“Really Papa!” Beth was suddenly excited.
Jed quietly came in to the stall and sat down by Karma’s head.
“You go down and help your Pa,” he said to Beth. “I’ll stay by her.”
Beth hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she should leave Karma’s head, but she so wanted to see a foal being born.
“Go ahead,” Jed repeated. “She’ll be fine.”
Beth smiled and quickly went down to squat beside her father. Her face was radiant, her smile unforgettable.
Another contraction—Karma heaved and pushed again. Her nostrils flaring and eyes wide, she strained and pushed and silently endured.
“The front legs are out,” Jesse announced and he had a hold on them and pulled with Karma’s contractions, trying to help her. It was coming.
“I see a nose!!” Beth exclaimed. “A pink little nose!”
“What colour are the legs?” Jed asked.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to tell.” Beth admitted. “Cream, I think—or white.”
Then Karma gave one more huge push as another contraction hit her and then suddenly, with a rush of fluids and the joyous thrill of new life a large and confused cream coloured foal lay sprawled in the straw.
“Oh Papa! Look! It’s a palomino! It is, isn’t it!?”
“I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment,” Jesse agreed.
“Isn’t it beautiful Thaddeus?!”
Jed was grinning from ear to ear. He couldn’t help it.
Karma-Lou heaved herself up onto her side and tried to reach her new baby. She couldn’t quite do it, so she stretched out her front legs, almost knocking Jed over in the process and proceeded to lumber her way to her feet. Then she turned and went to her foal and instantly began licking it.
The umbilical cord had still been attached, but Karma’s movement pulled it away from the baby. Jesse quickly clamped the end of it so that it wouldn’t bleed out and then he stood to let the mare do her thing. Beth wasn’t quite ready to leave, and with shining eyes and a smile that wouldn’t quit she sat by the new baby and patted it and stroked it and spoke congratulatory words to the new mother. Karma continued to lick her new foal.
“Well Jesse,” asked Jed as he stood up. “is it a colt or a filly?”
Jesse sighed, just a little disappointed.
“No, it’s a filly,” he said. “But that’s alright. I can see that I chose the right stallion because the quality is undeniable. I’ll breed Karma back to that same stallion again and then next year we’ll get the colt.”
Jesse stroked the mare gently as she continued to clean her baby. She was still having minor contractions and hadn’t passed the after-birth, so they would be out in the barn with her for a while yet. It didn’t really matter though, because Beth didn’t look as though she intended to go anywhere anyways.
“So what do you think Beth?” Jesse asked her. “Do you already have a name picked out for her, or do you need time to think about it?”
Beth looked up at her father with sparkling eyes.
“She’s so pretty—all golden and white,” Beth said. “As soon as I saw her she reminded me of that meadow up by the creek where the willow tree stands, that meadow gets so covered in daisy’s in the summer time that all you can see as far as the horizon is gold and white! So that’s what I’m going to name her; Daisy!”
Jed smiled. “Well that sounds like a real good name Beth.”
Beth was beaming, taking turns stroking the mare and stroking the foal. This was going to be a night she would never forget and the joy and magic of it would stay with her for the rest of her life.
Then all heads turned as the barn door was pushed open and Belle entered, bringing with her a tray laden with coffee cups and some pastries. Jesse quickly moved over to her to help with the tray, stepping over the three lounging dogs in the process.
“Thank you dear,” Belle said as Jesse took the tray and put it down on a bale of hay. “I thought everyone could do with some refreshment. Has the new arrival arrived yet?”
“Yes,” her husband told her. “A very nice filly. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get Beth to sleep in the house for at least a month.”
Belle smiled in agreement, and as the cups were handed out she went over to the stall to take a look at the new foal.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed and her smile broadened. “She’s lovely! Does she have a name yet?”
“I’m calling her Daisy,” Beth announced as she came over to get her own coffee, not that she would be drinking much of it—too many other things going on!
“Daisy,” Belle repeated. “Yes. Very appropriate.”
Jed was silent as he sipped his coffee. A slight smile still lingered upon his lips but his eyes held a hint of sadness as well. He felt badly that his partner couldn’t be here for this. Karma was so much his pride and joy and being able to witness the birth of her first foal would have meant so much to him. Jed would tell him all about it, of course but that still would pale compared to witnessing it first hand.
Belle came up to him and intuitively knowing what he was feeling, and why, she put an arm around his waist and gave him a hug. Jed smiled and putting an arm across her shoulders he returned the hug and gave her an affectionate kiss on the forehead.
“It’s alright Thaddeus,” she assured him. “He’ll still be happy to hear about it from you.”
Jed nodded but didn’t say anything; his throat was feeling just a little too tight. Then his sad smiled broadened into a wide grin as Daisy tried to stand up.
She stretched out her very long and knobby kneed front legs and then just sat there, swaying and with legs trembling, wondering what the next step was supposed to be. Then she tucked her hind legs under her and gave a heave but as her hind legs lifted her bum up her front legs gave out and she did a nosedive into the straw and suddenly found herself stretched out on her side again.
Everybody chuckled at the antics, but Daisy didn’t think it was funny at all. She pushed herself back up onto her belly again and then just lay there for a few moments and with ears flicking back and forth, she thought about her next strategic move. Well, if at first….the front legs got into position one more time and she heaved again and this time was a little more successful—a little more. She actually got up on all four legs this time, but they were shaking and wobbling and—OH! OH! She over-balanced and took a couple of desperate steps but everything crumpled and she toppled down into the straw again to lay there trembling and frustrated.
The after-birth had been delivered by this time and Karma-Lou instinctively did what she needed to do with it and then went back to nuzzling her foal. Little Daisy tossed her head and snorted but continued to lay where she’d fallen in order to give her new little body a chance to recuperate.
“How quickly should they be able to get to their feet?” Jed asked. “I mean, she’s not even half an hour old and she’s already trying.”
“They need to get up pretty quickly,” Jesse answered him. “For one thing, out on the range they’re vulnerable to predators so instinctively they know they have to be up and moving as soon as possible. Also, it’s vital that they start to nurse right away. There’s a certain nutrient in the mare’s milk that the foal must get within the first few hours of birth or they probably won’t survive.”
“Really?” Jed asked somewhat incredulously. He was learning something new all the time here.
“Hmmm,” Jesse nodded. “If the foal doesn’t get to her feet and start to nurse soon we’ll have to milk the mare and then bottle feed the filly to make sure she gets it.” Then he smiled. “But judging by the way things are going, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”
Everybody looked back into the stall again and sure enough, little Daisy was once more struggling to her feet. She got up onto all four wobbling pegs and just stood there swaying for a bit, almost afraid to move just in case she collapsed again. Then she licked her lips and flapped her tail and took a couple of awkward but successful steps.
Karma brought her head around and licked and nuzzled her baby again, and that act in itself caused Daisy to stagger and sway but she was getting stronger every moment and she was actually able to stay up on her unsteady limbs. She looked around her, blinking and still feeling a little dazed. This was all so new, so many smells and sensations and little instincts tugging at her and it was all so overwhelming.
She could smell her mother and feel her warm tongue caressing her and she felt secure and safe, leaning up against her. But there was another smell attracting her and her little nostrils quivered and she tossed her head again and started to move around, back to her mother’s flanks. The smell was stronger here and it was warm and sweet and it beckoned her and she started to push her little nose against her mother’s belly, searching, seeking out the source of that enticing scent.
Unable to stand by any longer and watch the foal trying desperately to find nourishment, Beth came forward to assist. She spoke softly to Daisy, saying her name and caressing her body and running her hands along the soft neck and stroking her face. Then she leaned down and with her hands directed the soft little muzzle over to a tit. Daisy butted it and investigated it and then latched on and began to nurse.
Beth straightened up with a triumphant grin. She continued to stroke and caresses the foal while Daisy herself suckled contentedly, her little white tail flapping rapidly up and down and back and forth as the warm, strength giving formula flowed into her little body.
Unknown to Beth, her instinctive actions that morning of caressing and speaking to the foal would have a positive and life-long affect upon Daisy and her association with her human companion. Beth had bonded with the new foal just as Karma had done; caressing and stroking the baby, talking to her so that the foals first sensations were the sound of Beth’s voice, the touch of her hand and the scent of her body. And long after being weaned, Daisy would continue to associate those sensations with the comfort of warm milk, with safety and security and contentment.
Daisy suckled hungrily until her little belly was full and round and then her long legs began to shake again and her eyelids became heavy. She barely had time to take two steps away from her mother, and as the sun came up Daisy went down and was instantly asleep. Everybody smiled and released sighs of contentment themselves. Despite the gender of the foal, Jesse was quite pleased with the outcome of the breeding and now that Daisy had done everything exactly the way she was supposed to he felt confident that all was good.
“Well,” Belle sighed. “that was quite a start to the day! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready for breakfast. And OH MY! Jay is probably hollering by now and I completely forgot about him!”
Everybody laughed at that as Belle excused herself from the barn and quickly made her way back to the house. Jed went around and threw flakes of hay into everybody’s stalls while Jesse made sure that Karma had everything she would need for the next couple of hours. He would probably leave Karma and the baby inside for the day since both were quite exhausted from their ordeal and good old patient Buck could stay in as well to keep the new mother company. This was fine by him and he was actually looking forward to becoming better acquainted with the new addition to the herd once she was a little bit older.
Jed gave his big gelding an affectionate rub on the neck and then everyone headed back to the house to help with the breakfast preparations. Quite a start to the day indeed!
Twenty minutes later, just as breakfast was getting close to being ready they all heard a surrey pulling in to the yard and Jed headed out onto the porch to see who their visitor was on this fine spring morning. He smiled as he recognized the driver, but then his expression changed to concern as he noticed the man’s condition.
“Jeez David, you look like you’ve been up all night.”
“Yeah, just about,” the good doctor admitted as he climbed wearily down from the surrey and came forward to tie his horse to the hitching rail by the porch. “I was hoping I could bum a cup of coffee off of Belle before tackling the drive home. I’m exhausted.”
“I don’t suppose that’ll be a problem,” Jed assured him. “C'mon in.”
The two men entered the house and made their way over to the table that was already set for breakfast. Belle came in already carrying a fresh cup of coffee and with one look at the doctor instantly ushered him to a chair at the table.
“Oh for goodness sake, David!” she reprimanded him. “sit down before you fall down!”
David smiled and nodded his thanks as he accepted the coffee and settled down into a chair. Jed sat down next to him and looked at his friend with concern while Beth set another place in front of him and everyone settled in to oatmeal and scrambled eggs and more coffee.
“Coffee is just fine for me Belle,” David lamely insisted.
“Oh don’t be silly,” Belle responded. “You’re here and its breakfast time. Besides, you look like death warmed over. What in the world have you been up to?”
David sighed and took another sip of coffee.
“I’ve spent most of the night over at the Jeffery’s place,” he admitted.
Belle paled noticeably. “Oh,” she mumbled.
“Is everything alright?” Jesse asked.
“No,” David admitted. “Unfortunately they’ve lost their baby.”
“Oh no!” said Belle, obviously disappointed. “How is Maribelle? Is she holding up alright?”
“Yes!” David brightened up as he confirmed that. “I was afraid it was going to be a repeat of the Robertson incident, but fortunately Maribelle is doing fine. She lost a lot of blood and will have to stay bedridden for awhile, but she’s fine. Of course they’re both heartbroken; naturally they were looking forward to welcoming a new baby into their lives.”
Jesse and Belle quickly exchanged a sad glance and then carried on with the current topic.
“I’ll drop by and see her tomorrow,” Belle offered. “I’m sure she’s all done in for today.”
David nodded over a mouthful of oatmeal. He swallowed and then continued on. “Sam’s mother is there thank goodness, and will be helping out. Fortunately she and Maribelle seem to get along quite well and another woman’s support through this will be invaluable. Maribelle is strong and healthy. Once she’s had time to recover, they can try again. It’s not uncommon for a first pregnancy to fail, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t go on to have other children.” David was mumbling the last of this monologue more to himself than anyone else at the table as though he were trying to give himself encouragement that everything was not all bleak and bad news.
Belle smiled, seeing the pained look seep through the weariness in David’s expression. This young man just took every failure so personally.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Belle commented. “They’re young. They have lots of time.”
David smiled a little and nodded, then glanced over at Jesse.
“Don’t expect to see Sam today,” he predicted. “He’s pretty done in himself and probably isn’t ready to leave his wife just yet.”
“No, I wouldn’t expect to see him,” Jesse confirmed. “He can take as long as he likes. We’ll manage until he’s ready to come back to work.
David nodded and then the rest of the breakfast conversation just naturally switched over to the new arrival out in the barn. Beth was so full of exuberance and high energy that David couldn’t help but be affected by it. By the time breakfast was over with he was allowing himself to be dragged out to the barn to view the sure to be sleeping foal.
Belle looked after her daughter, leading the way out the door, feeling disappointed that her kitchen helper was disappearing. Jed stood up and started gathering dishes.
“I’ll help you clean up Belle,” he offered. “Beth is so distracted she’d probably break everything anyways.”
Belle smiled. “Thank you Thaddeus.”
“Well,” Jesse stood up and helped his son get down from his breakfast perch. “I suppose I’ll get started on the morning chores. I’ll see you outside when you’re done Jed.”
Jed nodded and carried on into the kitchen.
“What’s on your mind Thaddeus?” Belle asked as they were busy washing and drying.
“What?” Jed asked, jerked out of his inner musings. “What makes you think there’s something on my mind?”
Belle sent him a knowing smile. “You offer to help with the dishes and then stand here silent as a mouse and yet I can hear you thinking. Come on,” she encouraged him. “I know you want to talk about it or you wouldn’t be here.”
Jed smiled. “Yeah, alright,” he conceded the point. “It’s just….” Then he sighed and tried to formulate his words. Belle waited patiently. “Life is so precious isn’t it?”
Belle’s eye brows went up; that comment surprised her. Then she smiled.
“Yes. It is,” she agreed.
“I never realized,” Jed continued. “I mean….of course I know that people get married and start families and all that, but….I never thought about how fragile it all is. How dangerous, really. Geesh, a woman literally is taking her life in her hands by having children!”
“Yes,” Belle agreed. “Dangerous and glorious all at the same time.”
“But why would you take the risk?” Jed asked, truly confused on this issue. “It seems that for every child that comes into the world there’s another that doesn’t make it and the mother just might not make it either. Why take the risk?”
Belle was silent for a few moments as she tried to formulate a constructive answer.
“Well, for one thing, it’s the natural course of things,” she said. “You meet that person whom you hope will be your life partner and well, children just happen. You don’t think about the risks, it just happens and then you pray that all will be well.” She smiled brightly. “And it’s a wonderful thing Thaddeus when you welcome new life into your world. Children are precious and well worth the risk. Even if later on you sometimes feel like strangling them!”
Jed laughed out loud. “Yup! I can understand that.” But then he went quiet again and Belle knew there was more to come.
“What is it Thaddeus?”
“Life is precious,” he repeated quietly.
“Yes it is,” she again agreed. “It’s never to be taken for granted.” She hesitated a bit as she washed the dishes, knowing that it wasn’t considered proper for a woman to discuss such personal matters with a young man, but Jed was family and he was questioning this issue. She decided to let etiquette slide in favour of helping him to understand. She continued on quietly. “We don’t talk about it much, but Jesse and I know what Sam and Maribelle are going through right now. We’ve actually had five children.”
“Five?” Jed asked, surprised.
“Yes,” Belle nodded. “My first pregnancy ended pretty much the same as Maribelle’s has. It was heartbreaking. Being young and inexperienced we were positive that we would never be able to have children after that!” Belle brightened up and she smiled. “Then the following year I became pregnant with Bridget and everything was fine. Eighteen months later Bethany came along and we couldn’t have been happier.
“ Two years after that I became pregnant again and everything seemed fine for the first six months, but then problems started showing themselves and the baby arrived too early. We had him in our lives for five days and then he died.”
“Oh,” Jed said quietly. He felt a little awkward having Belle speak so candidly with him on this very personal subject but he felt honoured as well, knowing that this could not be easy for her.
“As time went on Jesse and I came to accept that our family was complete,” Belle continued. “and then fifteen years later—what do you know!” She laughed and smiled up at her young friend. “I have been blessed with a wonderful husband and three beautiful children and every day I thank the good Lord for the joys they have brought me. And that Thaddeus is why women accept the risks and cherish every child that comes to us. They are a precious gift.”
Jed was silent for a few moments and Belle could tell that he was processing this information and putting it into the context of his own thoughts. Then he looked up and met Belle’s eyes straight on and the pain she saw in his caused her to place a consolatory hand on his arm and her own eyes silently asked him the question; 'What’s bothering you?'
“I killed four people,” Jed whispered, and then he swallowed and looked away from her, feeling ashamed of himself all over again. “I was young and stupid and so full of anger and I just didn’t realize how precious and fragile life is.”
He shook his head, creasing his brow in thought.
“I look back on what me and Heyes would get up to,” he continued on, with a hint of a smile. “and I cringe now at the risks we used to take. But we never even thought about it—it was just fun! I mean even being chased by a posse, being shot at; it was all a big joke. We’d get back to the hideout laughin’ and carryin’ on with never a thought as to how dangerous our lives were. It took losing friends, and then both of us actually getting seriously injured before we even started to question our choices.
“Now! Jeez Belle, I’m scared all the time,” he lowered his head and his voice went quiet. “I’m scared Heyes isn’t going to make it. That with all these set backs, he’s just going to give up on us and that’ll be another life—gone. He doesn’t see how valuable his life is; just the fact that we all simply survived being born is a miracle in itself!
“Then I turn around and snuff out four lives. I know it’s easy for me to justify that one was an accident and one was self-defense. But two of ‘em I went looking for outa revenge and I had no right to do that; to take their lives away from them.”
Belle smiled sadly and squeezed his arm. “I know,” she said. “But that’s just it isn’t it? You were young and foolish and didn’t realize. I know that it is a burden you will carry with you for the rest of your life. But you must find some way to forgive yourself Thaddeus—forgive yourself and move on. Because if you don’t the guilt of it will eat you alive and cause you so much misery that your life will end up being wasted as well and there’s no point to that.”
“No, I don’t suppose so,” Jed agreed.
“And don’t give up on Joshua,” Belle encouraged him. “I know this is a difficult time for both of you but he does have support there; people who are looking out for him. Didn’t you say he was doing better these days?”
Jed nodded. “Yeah.”
“Have faith, Thaddeus,” Belle said, then she hesitated not sure if she should suggest this or not, but then decided; well there’s no harm in offering. “You know you’re welcome to join me for Sunday Services, Thaddeus.”
Jed grimaced slightly and became a little defensive. “That’s not really my thing Belle.”
“I know,” Belle admitted. “But it might help you to deal with all of this, offer you another way of looking at things.” She smiled at his discomfort. “I’m not suggesting that you devote your life to Christ or anything like that,” she assured him. “Just take from it what you need to help you get through these difficult times. It might help.”
Jed continued to silently dry the dishes, not knowing how to answer that.
“I don’t get into town for services as often as I would like but the offer is there,” she said. “If you decided you would like to come with me one time, just say so and we’ll go. No pressure. I leave it up to you—how’s that?”
Jed nodded, and then he smiled and giving Belle a big hug he kissed her on the cheek.
“Thank you. I will think about it. You’re right though, in that I do need to find a way to deal with this stuff. And I know Heyes is going to services at the prison and is getting a lot out of it—it’s kinda helping him to stay sane if you know what I mean.”
Belle smiled and nodded. “I think the lady preacher as a lot to do with that!”
Jed laughed. “Yeah, I think you’re right. She’s done a lot to keep him interested!”
“And that’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Belle explained. “I’m sure that once Joshua is released he will no longer attend Sunday Services because he will feel that he no longer needs it. But it is giving him something that he needs for now and that is what matters. Do you understand that?”
“Yeah, I do. I’ll think about it,” he agreed and then became reflective again. “I guess seeing that foal born this morning, and then Sam and Maribelle losing their child, it just got me thinkin’ about it all again is all.”
“Well that’s alright!” Belle assured him with a laugh. “If you never thought about things you would never figure anything out. You’d just go through life like a lump on a log! Just don’t get so bogged down in your thoughts that you can’t get out of them.”
“I’ll keep that in mind!”
Then David and Beth came into the kitchen and interrupted the discussion.
“OHH! Mama! I’m sorry,” Beth was truly contrite. “Here, I’ll finish up Thaddeus. I know Papa will need your help today if Sam’s not coming in.”
“Okay fine,” Jed agreed and handed the drying towel over to the young lady. Then he and David headed for the front door.
“That is certainly a fine filly out there,” David commented. “I’m glad Beth showed her to me, today of all days; it sort of helps to end things on a positive note.”
“Well that’s good David,” Jed smiled as he clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright to drive home? You look like you’re about to collapse. I could always saddle up Spike and ride in with you.”
“No, that’s alright Jed. Rudy knows the way home,” David assured him as he yawned. “Will you be going to see Hannibal again soon?”
“Yeah,” Jed told him. “I want to tell him about the new arrival. And I want to check up on those other two fellas who are there now.” He smiled ruefully. “It seems I have more friends inside the prison than I do out.”
David nodded ironically. “Well, I don’t know the other two, but I would appreciate you passing on my greetings to Hannibal,” he commented. “Tell him I’ll write when I can, it’s just that lately, keeping up with the practice and having a new baby at home ourselves—well, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.”
“Yeah, I’ll let him know,” Jed assured him. “He’ll appreciate it, and he’ll understand too.”
“Thanks,” Then David stepped up into his surrey and the two friends said goodbye for the time being.
David turned Rudy’s head towards home and the little horse, ready for breakfast himself, set off at a steady trot and got himself and his human back to town safely.
Jed turned and headed towards the barn, knowing that despite their early morning excitement, he had a busy day ahead of him himself.
The following morning promised to be just as warm and pleasant a spring day as the previous one had been so Jesse decided that a couple of hours out on the pasture would be good for Karma and her foal. The other mare and foal as well as Buck had already been out for a while when Jesse entered the barn and slipped a halter onto the new mother.
He led Karma out of the barn with Daisy glued to her dam’s side, curious about what was going on, but not in any way ready to lose the security of her mother. She moved quickly to keep up, her head held high and her tail flapping trying to take in all the new sights and sounds that assaulted her and finding it all very over whelming!
Rufus and the two little dogs trotted lazily along behind them and Daisy decided that she didn’t like that at all. She kept looking back at them, snorting and arching her neck indignantly, knowing instinctively that they were predators and therefore not to be trusted.
Then they reached the pasture gate and Jesse slid the halter off from Karma’s head and turned the mare loose. Karma snorted and set off at a trot to get out to her favorite patch of grass before the others ate it all up. Taken by surprise Daisy gave a little high pitched squeal in her anxiety that she was going to be left behind! She jumped forward and almost tripped over her own hooves in her hurry to keep up with mom. She just didn’t know how to keep her long legs moving co-cooperatively so that she could stay up right and move forward all at the same time!
Once she caught up to her mother the new baby just could not believe her eyes or her nose or her ears! All three of those senses were on high alert, and then a soft breeze picked up and gently played with her tuft of forelock and the sense of touch kicked in as well. She stood by her mother’s side, making sure to be in constant contact with her while she held her head high and with nostrils quivering and ears flicking back and forth she surveyed her new queendom.
It was then that she noticed the other horses in the pasture and though the two adults ignored the new filly for now, the little black colt that was about a week older than Daisy couldn’t help but notice her. He stood by his mother with ears and tail up and locked eyes with the pretty little girl, wanting desperately to come over and introduce himself—and to play!
He gave a quick glance back to his mother who was of course grazing and then turned his attention back to the new filly. Finally he gave a little snort and with arched neck came trotting over to say ‘hello’. Karma took note of him but wasn’t too concerned. Daisy on the other hand didn’t have a clue as to what to do so she quickly scrambled around to her mother’s other side and then shyly peeked out from under her tail, not too sure about this at all.
Little ‘Spade’ was quite a brave fellow and he came right up to Karma and then stretched out his nose to the filly, wanting to get acquainted. Daisy hesitated and stood hiding behind her mother’s tail, but finally curiosity won over and she tentatively stretched out her neck and the two babies touched noses. Then Spade gave a little squeal and with a buck and a kick of exuberance took off at a long legged gallop over to the other side of the field.
Once he reached the fence he stopped and turned and looked back at the filly, inviting her to come join him. Daisy still wasn’t sure about that, but she did move out from under the tail covering and kept her eyes and ears on that colt, feeling more and more tempted to go play. Spade snorted once more and then came trotting back. They touched noses again and then Spade nuzzled her face and her neck and gave her a gentle nip on the withers, then spun on his little hind quarters and jumped away. This time he stopped about three yards off and turned to face Daisy again, tossing his head and giving a little rear. Well that did it and Daisy, tentatively at first moved away from her mother, but gathered courage as she went and before too long the foals were playing together and all worries were forgotten.
Daisy learned how to use her legs and only ended up face first in the grass four or five times before she finally had it figured out. Bucking ended up being another challenge and though she had no trouble with the take off, the landings had a lot to be desired, often coming down and losing her balance as her legs would go off in different directions and she’d end up toppling over yet again. But, as in most things; practice makes perfect and the more she ran and bucked and kicked and played the stronger her legs became and the more her balance improved.
Then when play was done, both foals would return to their respective mothers to nurse and replenish their energy supply. Once that was accomplished, Daisy’s legs literally collapsed out from under her and she stretched out in the warm grass and was instantly asleep. The sun was shining, a soft breeze was whispering across her baby fuzz and with the reassuring sound of her mother grazing close by, Daisy was content and life was grand.
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:27 pm|| |
On the second day out in the field, Buck decided it was time to introduce himself to the newcomer and nonchalantly started to graze his way over towards his friend and her little filly. Karma noticed him coming their way and started to get a little nervous. Yes, Buck was her friend but Daisy was her first baby and she wasn’t really sure what to expect. She didn’t even let the other mare come too close, fearful that she might try to steal Daisy away from her.
Karma continued to graze, but as the big gelding came closer she laid her ears back and still keeping her nose close to the ground she sent a couple of threatening head tosses his way and hoped he’d get the message. He didn’t. He kept sauntering over and though he had dropped the pretense of grazing, he still kept his head lowered and his ears up and with tail casually swishing; he closed the gap between them.
Daisy watched him come and wasn’t too sure if she liked this or not. She was very curious about the big fellow, but he wasn’t her mother and she didn’t know what to expect. Spade seemed comfortable with him and would often buck and play around him and even go so far as to nibble on his tail and the big fellow just patiently paid him no mind and continued to graze. On the other hand Daisy could feel her mother’s anxiety level increase as the other horse came closer, so of course that made the little filly nervous as well—cause if her mom was nervous, well there must be a reason!
Finally when Buck was within a couple of yards of them Karma laid her ears flat and with mouth open and teeth bared she lunged at her old friend.
‘Keep away!’ She was saying, in no uncertain terms.
Buck deftly hopped out of her way and then turned to face her again, head up and ears pricked.
‘Karma, it’s me,’ he assured her. ‘I’m not going to hurt your baby.”
‘Well, I know it’s you!’ Karma informed him. ‘But I just don’t know about this. She’s still very young and vulnerable—and my mother told me that stallions will kill a foal that isn’t theirs, so you just stay away!’
Buck snorted and shook his head in disgust. ‘For one thing, I’m not a stupid stallion!’ he reminded her. ‘Those idiots only have one thing on their minds and I wouldn’t trust one any further than I could kick him!’
‘Well….I don’t know,’ Karma tossed her head and kept her ears back, but she didn’t lunge at him again. ‘It’s just that she’s my first and I’m scared to death that something is going to happen to her. I don’t know what I would do if she got hurt!’
‘But I’m not going to hurt her, you know that,’ Buck continued to be reassuring. ‘I just want to say hello to our new herd member.’
Karma relaxed her ears a little bit, but she was still uncertain. Then the decision was made for them when little Daisy decided for herself that she was ready to meet this tall dark and handsome stable mate. With neck stretched out and little nose quivering she stepped forward and nuzzled the big dark shoulder belonging to the old gelding.
Karma’s ears pricked up with surprise as she watched her daughter introduce herself.
‘Oh!’ was about all she could get out.
‘Oh my,’ Buck was flattered. ‘Hello little one.’
And Buck swung his head around and gently began to explore the soft creamy fuzz with his nose. Daisy became braver and stepped up along beside him and the two of them explored one another, taking in each others scent. Little Daisy started to move her mouth in a semblance of a sucking motion, indicating her vulnerability, but willingness to accept him as dominate, so long as he please didn’t hurt her. They touched noses and blew into the others nostrils and the introduction was complete.
‘What a fine filly she is,’ Buck complimented his friend. ‘She’s very pretty.’
‘Of course she is!’ Karma was back to her old confident self. ‘She’s mine after all!’
Buck gave a sigh and sat down on a back hoof. Here we go!
‘Just look at those strong legs!’ Karma continued. ‘Not to mention the length of them! And that deep chest! Oh she’s going to be a runner that’s for sure. She’s going to be fast as the wind—I’ll probably be the only one who will be able to keep up with her! And look at her conformation, there’s no beating it—she’s perfect in every way! I know my young human is pleased as can be and I think they are going to be the best of friends. And the boss human is very happy with her as well—but I mean, why would he not be? She is my foal after all….’ And so on and so on.
Buck tossed his head and listened to this monologue and was inwardly pleased. Daisy was a fine filly—no doubt about it and it pleased the big gelding to know that his friend had found something to please her and to make her feel worthwhile again. Ever since her human had ridden away from her that day two years ago she had felt out of sorts—like it was her fault as though she had displeased him somehow and he had turned his back on her.
Oh the young Miss Beth had filled in the gap in many ways and Karma was fond of her, but the mare’s true bond had been with the man and she had felt very much alone for a long time after he left. But now, with little Daisy to fuss over and time distancing the memory Karma was becoming more and more content with her life at the Double J. Things were good again and her life before coming to this place was fading more and more away into the past until it no longer even existed anymore. She was content.
The next morning, Jed was up early to get a good start on the day. It was his intention to feed the horses their breakfast and then walk up the hill at the back of the house to do his daily target practice before the barn chores distracted him from it. When Sam was there Jed often found time in the mid-afternoon for his shooting, but these days the schedule had to be somewhat altered so he found a way to fit in a half hour of practice before settling in to his own breakfast.
Not surprisingly Jed came out of his bedroom, strapping on his holster to find Beth already up and with the coffee brewing. She was eager as well to get out to the barn to help with the feeding and greet a good morning to the new foal. It was going to be a long time before this got old.
Beth smiled cheerfully at her friend and handed him a cup of coffee.
“I was wondering when you were going to finally get outa bed!” she scolded him.
Jed’s eye brows went up. It was an hour earlier than his usual rising time and the sun had hardly put in an appearance yet. There was still the night chill in the air!
“You’re in an awful hurry!” he commented. “That filly isn’t going anywhere you know.”
“I know,” Beth conceded with a smile. “But I figure you’re going to want to practice your shooting before breakfast as well, and you know that I like to watch you do that when I can.”
Jed smiled and nodded. “Yup,” he agreed. “Alright, c'mon then. Let’s get those horses fed.”
The two friends headed down the steps and walked over towards the first barn just as the sun was chasing away the night shadows. It was going to be another beautiful spring morning and the birds were already welcoming the day with their loud chirps and restless flutterings.
“When are you going to see Joshua again?” Beth asked as she followed her friend.
“I was going to go this weekend, but with Sam away I don’t know if your Pa would be too happy with that,” Jed informed her. “Why? You want to come this time?”
“Yes!” Beth was adamant. “You keep saying ‘next time’ and then the next time comes and there’s another reason why I can’t come with you!”
“I know Beth. I’m sorry,” Jed apologized. “Things just kinda got busy there for a while, you know that.”
“I know. But do you think this time I can actually come with you?”
“Yeah,” Jed nodded. “I think it would be good. This way you can tell Joshua all about Daisy rather than just writing it to him in a letter. I think he’d like that.”
Beth smiled. “Yes. That’s what I was thinking too.”
They walked into the barn and the first thing Jed noticed was that there was no nickering from the occupants, demanding their breakfast. The second thing was that every horse in the barn was tense, letting it be known that something in their domain just wasn’t as it should be. Jed felt rather than heard a slight rustling behind him followed by a gasp from Beth that was cut off in mid stream.
Jed spun, his gun whisking into his hand of its own accord and pointing towards the source of the sound. The first thing he saw was Beth’s brown eyes wide with fear and shock. Then he saw the grimy masculine hand that covered her mouth and the arm that came across her left shoulder from behind, pressing her back against the man holding her. Next he saw the gun pointed directly at him and his own gun pointing back and the two men locked eyes. The threat in the air was undeniable.
“Let her go Wheat,” Kid growled his gun steady and aimed directly at the other man’s forehead. “Let her go.”
“Not on your life Kid,” Wheat snarled back. “I need to talk to you, but I ain’t doin’ it without an edge!”
“You ain’t got no edge Wheat,” Kid informed him. “You let her go or I’ll take you out right now—and you know I won’t miss.”
Beth stood perfectly still, looking into her friends blue eyes—like death turned to ice and she knew the difference then, between him practicing and shooting at tin cans and now drawing his gun for real, and meaning it! She felt a shiver of fear go through her, but the fear wasn’t for herself; it was for the man standing behind her because she knew that he was on a fine line right now. The fine line between life and death and that if he did not make the right choice, and make it soon his next step would be into oblivion.
She felt it then; the doubt go through him. And then he knew it, he knew that even though he had a hostage and his gun was aimed directly at the Kid, he knew he held the losing hand. Beth felt the smothering grip across her mouth loosen and the arm release its hold on her. She gasped in a breath of air and quickly stepping away from him, moved in behind her friend.
The two men continued to glare at each other, neither one dropping their aim or relaxing their stance.
“Drop your gun Wheat,” Kid ordered. “Put it away.”
“If I do that how do I know you won’t just shoot me where I stand?” Wheat threw back at him.
“You come in here and you grab my girlfriend and then you accuse me of being the threat!?”
All three people skipped a beat at Jed’s terminology but then they were past it and back to the matter at hand.
“You betrayed us!” Wheat hissed at him in his high pitched voice. “You set us up!”
“I didn’t!” Jed practically yelled back at him. “Now I ain’t talkin’ anymore about this until you drop your gun. I ain’t askin’ ya’ Wheat—I’m tellin’ ya’! DROP IT! NOW!”
Wheat hesitated for a beat, then he tipped the muzzle of his gun upwards and releasing the hammer he slipped it back into his holster.
“Alright Kid, we’ll play it your way,” Wheat backed off. “But you better have a real good reason as to why you was on that train!”
Jed breathed out his tension. The last thing he wanted to do was shoot Wheat, the last thing he needed was another death on his conscience. He relaxed just a bit and then releasing the hammer on his own gun, he also returned it to its holster.
“I’m tellin’ ya’ Wheat I was on that train goin’ ta’ see Lom and then Heyes,” Jed insisted. “You know that was the first train of the season that was sure to get through, that’s why Morrison picked it as a trap! He knew you’d be hungry for it!”
“Why should I believe that?” Wheat questioned him, still obviously very angry.
“Why would I betray you?!” Jed was almost pleading with him. “Why would I do that?!”
“You’d do it if it meant gettin’ Heyes outa prison sooner!” Wheat insisted. “Heyes, now he wouldn’t do that—but you? I never trusted you. The only person in our gang you were loyal to was Heyes! How many times did you threaten me if I so much as questioned anything he said?! How many times did you pull a gun on any of us if we didn’t fall in line?! No; I never trusted you Kid and I wouldn’t put it past you at all to turn on every one of us if it meant getting’ Heyes outa prison sooner!”
Jed stood silently, trying to allow the harsh accusations to sink in. He’d never thought of things that way, it never occurring to him that the other members of the gang only saw him as a threat—as Heyes’ hired gunman. The realization of that hit him hard and the fact that Wheat now stood before him, accusing him of the ultimate betrayal cut him to the quick.
“I wouldn’t do that Wheat,” Jed quietly insisted. “I’d never do that. Jeez, that was one of the worst days of my life; Morrison forcing me to come out and identify….” Jed’s voice caught as he remembered those terrible events.
The Kid’s obvious hurt and distress over the accusation and the memories it brought back did more than anything else to convince Wheat that maybe the ex-leader was telling the truth. The outlaw relaxed his stance a little bit more and then sighed, shaking his head at the deplorable turn of events.
“Okay, alright, maybe you didn’t have anything to do with it. But ya’ gotta see how it looked that way!”
Kid nodded. “Yeah, I suppose. But I give ya’ my word Wheat—I had nothin’ to do with it.”
“So what’s goin’ on Kid? I know Kyle is doin’ time, but did Lobo make it?” Wheat finally asked, his thoughts turning to more practical matters now.
“Yeah, he pulled through,” Kid assured him. “He got eight years though.”
“Ahh, jeez!” Wheat moaned.
“Heyes is watchin’ out for ‘em though Wheat,” Kid told him. “He’ll look after ‘em.”
“Yeah, well that’s fine for Kyle,” Wheat complained. “But Lobo don’t like nobody lookin’ after him—you know that!”
“Yeah, I know,” Kid agreed then sighed and changed the subject. “You got money Wheat? You got food?”
“Yeah,” Wheat told him. “I thought I would head over Kettle Creek way and join up with them boys for a while.”
“Aww, Wheat no,” Kid groaned. “Ya’ gotta stay outa Wyoming. Even here or Montana isn’t gonna be safe for ya’ anymore. Ya’ gotta disappear!”
“No way!” Wheat insisted. “I wanna stay around for when Kyle gets out! I gotta wait for him!”
“Wheat ya’ ain’t thinkin’ straight!” Jed threw back at him. “Morrison’s gonna be comin’ after ya’! I’m surprised he hasn’t already tracked ya’ down. You’ve been up against him before Wheat—ya’ know what he’s like! He won’t quit until he’s got ya’, and he’ll kill ya’ Wheat. He won’t hesitate and you know it!”
“But why?!” Wheat asked incredulously and then posed the question again; “What the hell’s goin’ on? The reward on me ain’t that much—why would he bother?”
“Cause the reward is just the beginning,” Kid explained. “Governor Moonlight hired him and is paying him good money to get rid of the outlaw gangs in Wyoming. Devil’s Hole was just the beginning, he’s not gonna quit with that. He’ll take down the Kettle Creek Gang and the Turner Gang and all the rest of ‘em too. He’s tenacious Wheat; that trap he set up to get me and Heyes was over a year in the making and then six months of planning to take down Devil’s Hole! You being the leader of Devil’s Hole, he’s not gonna let you slip through the net—he’ll be comin’ after you Wheat, and sooner or later he’s gonna get ya’!”
“Jeez Kid!” Wheat’s tone was rising with his stress. “What am I gonna do? The west and outlawin’ is all I know! I got nowhere’s else!”
“You could turn yourself in,” Jed suggested, though he knew that wasn’t going to go over well.
“What!” Wheat exclaimed. “To Morrison!?”
“NO! Not to Morrison!” Kid denied adamantly. Then he sighed and thought about it for a moment. “I could go with ya’ to the Sheriff here in Brookswood,” he suggested. “Sheriff Jacobs is a pretty good sort. Then I’ll telegraph Lom to come and get ya’ and take ya’ back. That way Morrison won’t be able to get near ya’.”
“But I’d still end up goin’ ta’ prison!” Wheat pointed out. “I ain’t doin’ that! If Lobo got eight then I’d end up gettin’ ten ta’ twelve and I ain’t doin’ that!”
“You don’t know that Wheat!” Kid insisted. “You could get out sooner than that and then you’d have a clean slate—you could start over!”
“AT WHAT!?” Wheat hissed. “Like I said ‘outlawin’s all I know! I ain’t got no rich friends backin’ me up—all I got is me!”
“You don’t know where it could lead to Wheat!” Kid pointed out. “Opportunities come along! Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance!”
“NO!” Wheat was adamant. “I ain’t given’ myself up—I ain’t goin’ to prison!”
Kid sighed and his shoulders slumped as he relented.
“Okay,” he said. “But then ya’ gotta disappear. Ya’ can’t wait on Kyle. Head to Mexico or up to Canada, but ya’ can’t stay here Wheat. You’ll die if ya’ do.”
“Fine,” Wheat conceded. “I’ll disappear. Cause I ain’t goin’ ta’ prison!”
Kid nodded. “I’ve got some money up at the house and I’ll gather together some food for ya’, you’re gonna need all you can pack. I’ll be right back. Just wait here and stay outa sight. C,mon Beth.”
He held his hand out to her and with a small smile towards the outlaw, Beth slipped passed him and she and Jed headed back up to the house.
“Those are real good watch dogs we have here Beth,” Jed complained. “We get an outlaw hiding out in the barn and not a peep outa them.”
“I know,” Beth conceded quietly. “It’s not Rufus’ fault. He’s getting old and deaf and the other two don’t start barking unless he does.”
“Maybe it’s about time we thought about getting another dog,” Jed suggested as they headed up the steps and into the house.
“Oh no!” Beth was mortified. “That would just break Rufus’ heart! We can’t just get another dog to replace him until after he’s gone. How often are we going to have outlaws showing up at our place anyways?”
“Well, I can think of a couple of occasions already.”
Fifteen minutes later Jed returned to the barn with the supplies but Wheat was gone, disappearing into the wind and leaving no trace behind him.
Ten days later Jed once again found himself on the train heading towards Laramie. He had taken to reading the paper or finding something else to do to occupy his mind on these trips of late. Staring out the window at the passing landscape only brought with it a cascade of sad memories. As it happened, on this particular trip he had a lot of distraction to keep his mind off things and actually found himself wishing for some peace and quiet!
“Yes, at first I was rather scared,” Beth was telling her friend. “But once I realized that Thaddeus knew the man and had the situation under control then it wasn’t so bad.”
“You had the situation under control?” Clementine sent a skeptical look over to Kid. “You and one of your ex-outlaw buddies were pointing guns at each other and threatening to shoot the barn apart and you had things under control?”
“Gee Clem—you wanna speak up a bit, I don’t think the people in the next car heard ya’!”
“Oh come off it!” she waved a dismissive hand at him. “Everybody knows who you are—get over yourself!”
“There’s still such a thing as being discreet!” Jed was starting to get angry. “And when we’re in with Heyes you let me tell him about what happened. One wrong word and that guard could be all over it!”
“Fine,” Clem commented, in a bit of an indignant snit. “I know when to keep my mouth shut.”
“Will you two stop fighting?!” Beth demanded. “And to think that I was once jealous of you, certain that you were trying to move in and take my man!”
Two sets of eyebrows shot up and Beth smiled coyly.
“I heard you tell that man in the barn that I was your ‘girlfriend’,” she reminded Thaddeus.
“Oh….well. I just meant……”
“He called you his ‘girlfriend’?!” Clem exclaimed
Jed started to feel ganged up on. “NO!...I mean—I did…but…”
Beth smiled and then took pity on her friend and she placed a reassuring hand on his knee.
“I’m just teasing you Thaddeus,” she assured him. “It was a stressful moment and I’m certainly not going to hold you to it.”
“Oh, okay,” Jed commented, not too sure if he was happy with that outcome or not.
“Thank goodness for that!” Clem expostulated and was on the receiving end of two sets of raised eye brows herself. “I just meant that one wedding a year is more than enough!”
Beth smiled knowingly. “Bridget starting to wear on your nerves?”
“Oh you don’t know the half of it!” Clem complained. “Morning till night! All day long all she talks about is this silly wedding! I’ll be so glad when it’s all over and done with then she and Steven can go play ‘house’ on their own time!”
“I think the whole idea of gettin’ married is that they’d no longer be playin’ at it,” Jed remarked caustically. “I think by then they’re pretty serious.”
“Oh, you know what I mean!” Clem shot back at him. “I do like Bridget, but I am so ready to have my house to myself again.”
Both Jed and Beth smiled at Clem’s predicament. Young ladies in love can be so irritating sometimes.
Heyes was really looking forward to Kid’s visit this time. He had received a letter from Belle letting him know about the Jefferies’ losing their baby and that Thaddeus would be delayed getting away from the ranch until Sam was able to return to work. Heyes understood that, but he still held a bit of a grudge against Sam and though he tried to be sympathetic to their loss, he was having a real hard time feeling sorry for him.
When the door opened to the visiting room Heyes was surprised, but pleased in a way as well, to see Beth and Clem step in before his partner followed them. Murrey went and tapped on the door leading into the prison proper and when Davis answered he let it be known that they would need more chairs.
Once that was accomplished Kid helped to get the ladies seated and sent Heyes a rather exasperated look which caused the inmate to smile to himself. Obviously Kid was finding it rather tiring to have the two of them underfoot and instead of Clem being along to chaperone for Beth, Curry was the one having to keep a constant eye on the two ladies.
“How ya’ doin’ Kid?”
Kid rolled his eyes. “I’m fine, I guess,” he responded. “It’s good to see ya’ Heyes.”
Beth smiled over at him. “I wanted to come out to visit you a lot sooner than this,” she told him rather contritely. “but Thaddeus wouldn’t let me. He kept saying that there was too much going on—I suppose he thought that I would just be in the way!” she sent a rather accusing glance over at the person in question.
“Well he was right,” Heyes stood up for his cousin. “Things did get a little crazy there for a while and you were better off away from it.” He smiled to lessen the reprimand. “But it’s good to see you again,” he grinned over at the other lady. “It’s even good to see you Clem!”
“Oh well that’s a fine ‘howdy-doo’!” she complained. “I come all this way just to receive a greeting like that? Why do I even bother?”
Heyes smiled impishly. “You love me and you know it!”
Clem softened her stance; like most of us she couldn’t resist that man when he turned on his charm. “Well of course I love you, you ninny,” she admitted. “You two are my dearest friends. Just don’t be taking me for granted or I may not show up for your wedding day!”
“MY wedding day!?” Heyes’ brows went up. “Since when am I getting married!?”
“Oh you know what I mean!” Clem insisted. “Just don’t assume I’m always going to be around to help you out, that’s all I’m saying!”
Heyes and Kid exchanged humourous glances. To their collective memories it was Clem who was always getting them into trouble, not helping them to get out!
“I swear!” Beth interrupted. “the way you three are always at each other’s throats I’m surprised you’re speaking to one another at all!”
Kid laughed. “Oh, it’s just in fun Beth,” he assured her. “When you’ve known someone since you were knee high to a hitching rail you don’t take insult too quickly.”
“Well I suppose,” Beth conceded, still thinking they were all crazy. Then she smiled over at Joshua. “Did Momma mention to you the good news in her letter?”
“You mean the good news that the world has been saved from Sam’s offspring?”
“HEYES!” Kid couldn’t believe that his cousin had just said that.
Kid scowled at him, not believing for one second that he was sorry.
“NO!” Beth scolded him. “About Karma’s foal!”
“Oh,” Heyes smiled. “Yes, she did mention it, but she left the details for you to fill in.”
Beth beamed. “She had a beautiful filly Joshua! A palomino. She has a white star on her forehead, but it’s hard to tell if she has any white socks yet. I guess we won’t really know that until she sheds out her baby hair. I was right there for the birth and everything. I know you’ll be pleased with her Joshua, she is such a nice little girl.”
“I’m sure I will be pleased with her,” Heyes commented. “But what about your Pa? Is he pleased with her? I thought he was hoping for a colt.”
“Yes, he was a little disappointed about that,” Beth admitted. “But overall, he’s very happy with her and will breed for the colt next year.”
“How does he know he won’t get another filly?”
“I don’t know,” Beth admitted with a shrug. “But he seems quite confident that we won’t.”
Heyes glanced over at Kid, and he shrugged his shoulders as well. He had to agree with Beth on that as well; Jesse seemed pretty sure.
“Does she have a name?” Heyes asked.
Heyes laughed. “Yeah, that suits!” Then his expression turned a little melancholy. “How’s the mother? How is Karma?”
“She’s doing really well Joshua,” Beth assured him. “She seems really happy being a mother, she’s just so proud of her foal. And Buck is enjoying the babies too!”
“Really?” Heyes asked, glancing over at his cousin.
Kid smiled. “Yeah,” he agreed. “That old gelding really seems to like being out with the youngsters. Go figure.”
“Hmmm. Imagine that.”
“How are Lobo and Kyle doing Heyes?” Kid asked, changing the subject. “Are they settling in okay?”
Heyes’ light-hearted demeanor dropped and Kid almost regretted asking him, but Heyes understood him wanting to know.
“Well, you know Kyle—he just carries on being Kyle,” Heyes answered with a bit of a smile. “He’s doing okay and I’m keeping an eye on him. I expect he’ll be outa here in no time and looking for a job.”
“But Lobo,” Heyes sadly shook his head. “He’s not well Kid. He got broke up real bad by that horse and even Doc Morin is worried that he won’t last the winter. His lung was damaged, and even now he coughs all the time so if he were to get pneumonia……”
“Plus he’s so hardheaded,” Heyes continued. “He fights against the rules, fights against the other inmates, fights against the guards. He’s already been in the dark cell twice and I don’t know how many bruises he’s sporting from the bully clubs! I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking!”
“Maybe the same thing you were Heyes!” Kid reminded him. “Seems to me you were doing the same things!”
“I wasn’t that bad.”
“Yeah Heyes, ya’ were.”
Kid gave a frustrated sigh. “Well, if ya’ get the chance say ‘hi’ to them for me. I’ll come and see them as soon as they’re allowed visitors.”
Heyes smiled. “Yeah, I’ll let them know. I don’t think either of ‘em has anyone else. The Devil’s Hole Gang was all the family they had.”
Then Heyes and Curry locked eyes for a moment, each of them acknowledging their own good fortune in that they had one another and a family as such to go home to.
“Speaking of which,” Curry began and gave Heyes a look that only Heyes would understand. “I had another family member stop by the other day.”
“Ahh,” Heyes nodded. Wheat had shown up.
“He was still angry about a misunderstanding between us, but we talked about it and he’s good now.”
“Oh good,” Heyes responded. “So, what’s he up to these days?”
“Moving around a lot,” Kid told him. “I suggested that he go visit a mutual friend of ours, you know—take care of some old business. But he wasn’t ready to do that.”
“Oh. Too bad. There’s not too many options open for him these days. Times are getting tough.”
“Yeah, I pointed that out to him,” Kid continued. “but, you know how stubborn he can get.”
Heyes grinned. “Yup. You expect to see him again?”
“Probably not Heyes.”
Heyes nodded sadly. “No. Probably not.”
Then he took a deep breath and glanced back at Murrey. Murrey returned his gaze. Heyes smiled at him and then turned his attention back to the Kid. “Things have taken a turn for the worse around here too,” he said, and without turning this time he shifted his eyes towards the guard.
Kid waited. Obviously it was something he wasn’t willing to speak about given the current situation.
“I know it’s a long trip, but could you ask Steven to come by again?” Heyes continued. “I need to speak with him.”
Now Kid was worried. “Yeah Heyes, I can do that,” he agreed. “Do you want me to come back with him?”
“Yeah, if you can,” Heyes answered. “That’d be good.”
“Why are you two being so vague?” Clem piped in. “I can’t even figure out what you’re talking about!”
Heyes, Curry and Beth all sent her incredulous looks. Even Beth could understand their reasons for covertness and wondered why in the world Clem was being so obtuse! Then Beth quickly picked up the conversation to get things flowing again and cover up the blunder.
“Is Sister Julia here today?” she asked.
“No, I don’t believe she is Beth,” Heyes answered her. “The infirmary has been pretty quiet these days so she hasn’t been coming over as often.”
“That’s too bad,” Beth was disappointed. “I was hoping to see her.”
“You could always swing by the convent,” Heyes suggested and then he smiled. “I believe you know where it is.”
Beth grinned. “Yes alright,” she said, accepting the slight teasing. “I might just do that.” Then she glanced over at Thaddeus. “Would we have time?”
“Yeah I suppose,” Jed agreed. “You’ll have to show me where it is though, I’ve never been there.”
Murrey shifted his weight and Curry sighed.
“I guess it’s time for us to be heading out,” he announced.
“Already?!” Clem complained. “We just got here!”
“Hour’s up,” Kid explained.
“Well how would you know that Kid?” she demanded. “You’re not carrying a watch!”
“I just know Clem, alright!” Kid was starting to get frustrated all over again. “Just take my word for it!”
“Fine!” she retorted. “Geesh, no need to get testy!”
The three visitors started getting to their feet and then for the first time, Beth realized that Joshua was wearing shackles. She had wondered why he wasn’t bringing his hands up onto the table but it had not occurred to her that he didn’t do it because he couldn’t.
“Oh,” she commented, not being able to hide the tinge of shock in her voice.
Heyes sent her a regretful smile. “The lot of a convict,” he said, trying to make it sound light.
“Yes I suppose,” Beth agreed. “Silly of me. I just didn’t realize. I wanted to give you a hug goodbye.” Then she glanced hopefully over to Murrey. “May I give him a hug goodbye?”
Murrey actually sounded repentant. “No Miss, I’m sorry,” he informed her. “You need to stay on the other side of the table there.”
“Oh,” she mumbled, her disappointment obvious. Then she looked into her friends’ dark brown eyes and her heart went out to him. “I miss you so much Joshua. May I come back to see you again?”
Heyes smiled, wondering how he could have been so proud as to deny his friends the right to come and visit with him if they so wished to do so. There were so many other inmates here who had no one who cared enough to make the trip and here Heyes had been pushing his friends away because of his own shame and embarrassment.
“I’d like that Beth,” Heyes assured her. “I want to hear first hand all about Daisy. And I understand that we actually do have a wedding coming up this summer and I want to hear all about that as well.”
Beth smiled broadly when Heyes mentioned Daisy, but then rolled her eyes at mention of her sister’s wedding nuptials. She for one will be quite happy when the whole thing was over and done with.
Clem rolled her eyes as well. “Oh brother!” dhe voiced Beth’s opinion completely. “Well, better you than me!”
Then Murrey stepped forward, and taking Heyes by the arm, encouraged him to his feet and began to lead him back towards the door.
“I’ll see ya’ Heyes,” Kid said. “Steven and I will get back as soon as we can.”
“Yeah, okay Kid,” Heyes answered. “Ladies. Thanks for coming; it was real good to see ya’.”
Then Heyes was taken back into the prison proper and the door leading to the outside world was shut behind him.
As the three friends were riding back into Laramie in the rented surrey, Clem was sitting back and chatting away endlessly about how much better Heyes was looking these days and isn’t it a good thing that he was staying out of trouble now. She didn’t really notice that the couple up front was not responding to anything she was saying and in fact, neither of them was really listening to her at all.
Both Jed and Beth were thinking back on their visit with Heyes and though neither of them said anything to the other, they were both thinking about the same thing. What had Heyes meant ‘things were taking a turn for the worse’? That had not sounded good. Beth was thinking that she would ask Sister Julia to keep an extra special eye on her friend over the next little while. Jed was thinking that he would stop by Kenny’s place before leaving town and ask the guard to keep an extra eye on Heyes over the next little while.
Something had changed and neither one of them liked the sound of it at all. Clementine chatted on.
To Be Continued.
Posts : 483
Join date : 2013-08-31
Location : Madrid
|Subject: Re: New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:15 am|| |
An interlude which does help to keep the story fresh with the arrivals of some of the gang. Your knowledge of horses rally comes through here.
|Subject: Re: New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five || |
New Arrivals Chapter twenty-five