Gone Fishin' Chapter eight
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:56 pm|| |
GONE FISHIN' The un-edited version is posted in the 'Adults only' link.
Three pairs of brown eyes and one pair of blue looked up and down the unimpressive, main street. “So; this is Jacksonville?”
“Lovely - even the ice is brown,” murmured Abigail, stepping back from the splashes of grimy slush being cast up by the wheels of a passing wagon.
Harry cast out an arm. “The hotel’s over that way.”
“Yeah, maybe we’ll cheer up after a meal?” the Kid suggested. “Christmas sure is over, ain’t it?”
Abigail frowned. “We can’t eat together. We’re not supposed to know one another.”
The Kid’s face fell. “Does that mean I’m supposed to eat with Harry? I think Heyes should stick with him, and I should play your husband.”
Harry scowled. “No offence meant, huh, Kid? Why don’t I play her husband, so you two can stick together?”
Abigail sighed. “Because you’re already playing the detective, and they already know you as that. You’ve been here before, remember?”
“Oh, yeah, right. I forgot.” Harry frowned. “Hey! I’m not playing detective. I am one.”
“Glad you remembered,” muttered Heyes. “Look, Abigail and I are man and wife, Harry’s a detective, and the Kid’s a drifter. We got off the same train, and that’s it. Stick to it. We can meet secretly if we have to.”
“Why do you get to be her husband?” the Kid demanded.
“I guess she doesn’t mind sharing a room with me, Kid,” snorted Heyes. “Maybe she thinks it’s a bit more... realistic?”
Abigail lifted her bag and headed towards the hotel. “Why don’t I just dress up as a nun and dump the lot of you. Why am I so popular all of a sudden?”
“It ain’t that, Abi.” The Kid slid a surreptitious glance at Harry, “I guess I’ll be lonely...” he dropped his voice to a whisper, “or stuck with Harry.”
Abigail nodded. “Fine. Meet Mr. Heyes in the saloon, ‘remembering’ him from the journey. Make friends, play poker, have a drink. You all need to be mixing with the locals to see what we can find out. Just don’t win very often. Try to be normal.”
Heyes flashed a dimpled grin. “I’ll do my best, Abi, but I can’t promise ‘normal.’ What about charming?”
“I’ll settle for useful.” Abigail lifted her skirts, stepping down onto the boards placed to protect footwear from the paste-like, half-frozen mud.
“What about me, I’ll be on my own,” moaned Harry, despondently.
“You can go to the saloon, can’t you?” Abigail negotiated her way over the planks to the opposite sidewalk, “and I’m sure Jed and Mr. Heyes can sneak into your room with a bottle, and give you a game of cards or two sometimes. I won’t be doing any of those things. I don’t gamble.”
Heyes held up a hand to help her climb onto the sidewalk. “Not with cards, you don’t, Abi. You work on short odds plenty of other times though. You make my blood run cold with the risks you take.”
“Most women find that men are a big enough gamble,” she looked up at the hotel sign before she grinned at Heyes. “Stop looking so happy, Mr. Heyes. You’re supposed to be married.”
“Yeah,” Heyes chuckled, “time to look downtrodden and put upon. Let’s have dinner and then meet in our room. We finally have privacy to talk about our next move.”
Heyes opened the door in response to the tentative tap, smiling at Harry’s excessively furtive glance around the hall. “Get in here, Harry. You couldn’t look any more suspicious if you had a bandana and a gun.”
Harry closed the door quietly behind him. Abigail sat on the end of the bed, leaning against the brass bedstead. He wandered over to the wooden chair in the corner, the Kid already occupying the one beside the dresser.
Heyes dropped a shot glass on the top of the dresser and produced a bottle. “Drink?”
Harry nodded. “I wasn’t expecting that. Yeah, a drink’d be great.”
Heyes handed the glass over to the detective before lifting his own from the nightstand and sitting beside Abigail.
“So, we finally have privacy. What do we think the plan is?”
“Well, I think I need to start asking more people in town if they have any idea where Mitchell went,” Harry suggested.
“Nah, not yet,” Heyes shook his head. “Just hold tight, wait until we infiltrate the people here, then Abi can work on the fall out when your questions annoy them.”
“So what do I do until then?” Harry demanded.
Heyes shrugged. “Buy a book? Try to look as though you’re following a lead, but keep away from anyone in particular until we tell you who to question.”
“Who did you deal with here?” Abigail asked. “I need to find out about them and their backgrounds before I target them.”
“The telegraph officer at the Western Union, he goes by the name of Rosenberg.” Harry sipped pensively at his whiskey. “And the man who runs the newspaper here, The Weekly Epitaph; his name was Stanton, Ed Stanton. He was some kind of relative – he called Mitchell ‘Uncle George.’”
There was a moment of silence. Everyone felt the instant stress in the room and as a unit, they all glanced over at Curry.
“Stanton!” The Kid’s blanched face stood out in the shadows.
Abigail frowned. “Do you know that name?”
“Stanton...” The Kid’s voice trembled. “There was a Mrs. Stanton at my trial.” He raised haunted eyes. “I killed her pa.”
Abigail stood, assessing the Kid’s reaction, surprised at how this name seemed to have hit him like a rock between the eyes. She walked over and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Why, Jed?”
The Kid gulped, shaking his head and dropping it into his hands. “Is that why? Oh my God, Beth! What did I do to her? This is my fault?” He stared at Heyes with angst whirling in his deep-blue eyes. “Heyes, I’m so sorry. I nearly killed you.”
Abigail crouched, putting a hand on each knee. “Why, Jed,” she probed gently and sensitively. “Tell me why you killed him, so I can help?”
“Revenge. He was one of the raiders who killed my folks. I didn’t know a girl was there until it was too late. She saw it all.”
The room fell silent, punctuated only by the Kid’s heaving breath. Abigail stood and hugged him to her. “Jed, I understand revenge. I wanted to see the man who killed my father dead, it consumed me... it changed me.”
The Kid turned glittering eyes up to her. “There was a little girl there, not much older than Anya. I’m no better than he was. I killed her pa, right before her eyes.”
Abigail shook her head. “That’s not true. You killed out of revenge. He killed and raped people who’d done nothing to him. What was the woman’s first name, Jed?”
The Kid’s eyes seemed to focus on something disturbing in his mind’s eye. “Julia, Julia Stanton.”
“Harry, was Ed Stanton’s wife called Julia?” Abigail demanded.
Harry shook his head ineffectually. “I dunno. I never got that far.”
Abigail fixed Harry with a determined stare. “Harry, I need you to send a telegram urgently. Get the transcript from the trial sent here. I need it, right away.”
“I guess I need to get down to the newspaper office tomorrow,” mused Heyes. “I’ll see if he’s got anyone advertising for help, and find out what I can, that way.”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, most of the Missouri Bushwhackers were protestant, we have to take a shot in the dark; so tell them I am too, and ask where the nearest church is. It might get him to open up, and I can start to mix with the women.” She glanced over at Harry. “Why are you still here? You need to formally request the transcript.”
“Yes, Harry – now!” Abigail turned back to the Kid, holding his lost, foggy head in his hands, the curve of his back almost like a fetal curl. She looked down on him, the famed gunman, able to chill even the most hardened criminals with one icy glance; but all she saw was a frightened little boy cradling himself in mute comfort. “Och, mo bhalachan.” She embraced him around the shoulders. “Jed, don’t. Please don’t beat yourself up about this, we don’t know anything yet. Besides, why would killing that man provide a motive to hurt Mr. Heyes, or Anya. It doesn’t add up.”
“Maybe they decided to hurt anyone close to me?” moaned the Kid.
“But Anya’s not close to you; well she certainly wasn’t then, you didn’t even know her when Beth was shot...and I hadn’t been in your life for ten years,” Abigail dropped her fingers under his chin, drawing his face up to hers. “No. There’s more to it. You know when everything drops into place, and this isn’t it, I’ll stake my life on it.”
The Kid’s eyes followed Harry from the room, watching the door close behind him. “Abi, you don’t know how it feels to kill anyone. How it stays with you.”
Her eyebrows arched. “I was charged with murder, Jed. Have you forgotten that?”
The Kid’s eyes closed slowly, guilt gnawing in to his heart. “Yeah, I had for a moment; but it’s not the same. Becky’s blood was still warm on your skin. This was wilful, ice-cold murder.”
“No, Jed, it wasn’t. It was a passion which had burned in your heart since you saw your family butchered. It was calculated; but no court would hang you for it, in fact many men would have done the same.”
The Kid turned his face up to her in surprise. “You think so?”
She nodded. “I know so; don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t right – anymore than it was when I shot Knap, but an eye for an eye is so primal it’s in the Old Testament. It’s been around since the dawn of time, because it’s part of us.” She gripped his hand, addressing him gently. “We all do things wrong, Jed, but this doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you a normal human being, with all the frailties which come right along with that condition.”
The Kid shrugged. “So, she’s no worse if she’s takin’ revenge either.”
Abigail embraced the Kid once more. “You’re wrong. You never went after anyone but a cruel man, Jed. It wouldn’t even have occurred to you to hurt that girl, intentionally or otherwise. Whoever’s doing this is hiding, and hurting people who did nothing but care for you.” She pulled back, holding his face in both hands. “You’re better than that – better than anyone involved in this murderous campaign. If they have a problem, they should deal with you, but I suspect they’re afraid to. Drink your whiskey, in fact, if there’s another glass I’ll join you.”
They paused for a few minutes in subdued silence, gently nursing their blues along with their drinks; their respective pasts hanging over them like a sombre fug of regret.
Heyes shook his head. “Kid, we are who we are. Maybe we’re worse than we want to be, maybe we’re even working on selfish self-interest; but we’re trying to make things right. What does the bible say about rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents? I was at my lowest point, and just wanted to die; but look at the Christmas we just had. It had enough memories for a lifetime,” Heyes and the Kid locked eyes in an unspoken conversation. “Prison taught me some important things. When you think it’s all over, when you think there’s nowhere else to go... when you think you’re done...you’re not, there’s more! It also showed me you can’t learn from your mistakes until you’re done denying them. You admitted it Kid. You apologised. If anyone’s got issues they should deal with you, not Beth or Anya.”
The Kid sighed. “Heyes, would it have helped if any of the men who hit our places had apologised? It ain’t enough.”
“Nope, it’s not, Kid. But it’s a start. It’s something to build on. I know it’d help me to know they regretted it... and meant it.”
Blue eyes burned across the room. “Yeah, I guess it’s a start. Maybe they need to know I really am sorry.”
Abigail hugged the Kid close once more. “It’s all you can do, extend the olive branch, maybe write a letter and wait, but I do think you need to keep a low profile, or even leave. Go back to Kansas City; if you’re recognized here it could lead to a bullet in the back. It’s too risky for you, Jed.”
“But you need me,” the Kid protested.
”We need you safe and well, Jed. Go back to Mayzee’s, it’s not too far, but this isn’t a good place for you,” murmured Abigail. “We’ll see you on the train in the morning. You need some good guns to make sure you’re safe. Don’t shave, pull your hat low, and keep low profile. We’ll get Harry to get you a ticket in the morning.”
Ed Stanton smiled at the dark eyed man in the brown suit who stood looking at the notice board. “Can I help you?”
Heyes turned, nodding gently before he tore his gaze away from the advertisements. “I’m looking for work. I’ve just arrived in town with my wife, and the newspaper office is usually a good place to start.”
“What line are you in?”
“Banking, clerical work, that sort of thing, although I can turn my hand to just about anything if I have to. I’m not scared of hard work,” he lied. “I was brought up on a farm.”
Ed lifted a wire basket and flicked through some paperwork. “What brings you to this town? You got folks here?”
Heyes’ eyes darkened. “Nope. I’ve got nobody left but my wife.”
“No? Then why choose here?”
Heyes shrugged. “Because I got married and I got to thinking of starting a family. I came from hereabouts as a boy. I swore I wouldn’t come back, but there were good memories too.”
“You came from here?”
“Nah, the general area, but I’ll settle in the first nice town with a future. We’ve moved twice already. The wife has firm views on what makes a good place to raise a family; church, schooling, community – that kind of thing. She found the others a bit rough and ready.”
“Maybe it’ll be third time lucky,” Ed placed some papers on the desk. “Can you read?”
Heyes nodded. “A real bookworm. I always have been.”
Ed narrowed his eyes pensively. “Here are some ads. Have you ever worked in a newspaper office?”
Heyes arched his eyebrows. “Never. Why? Have you got something?”
“This town’s growing, which means more news. It’s getting harder and harder to man the desk, get the stories, and set the type all on my own. I was thinking about taking on someone else.” Ed’s pale blue eyes drifted up and down in appraisal. “You seem like an educated man. What’s your name?”
“Chester Brown. I could man the desk, but I know nothing about setting type,” Heyes sighed.
“I wouldn’t expect you to know that, but if you’re literate I can teach you.” Ed walked around the desk and perched on it. “Your wife; is she from around here too?”
Heyes shook his head. “Scottish. She used to be a schoolteacher.”
Ed’s brow furrowed as he processed the information. “Scottish? A good hard-working people.”
“Yup, and hard-headed,” Heyes chuckled. “Her folks were farmers, just like mine, but they made sure she was educated too. Her pa had a thing about that.” Heyes slipped into his smoothest, scam-artist persona. “Speaking of Abigail, is there a church locally? A protestant one? She asked me to find that out.”
Ed’s eyes brightened. “Certainly; On Union Street, my wife, Julia, and I attend there. Newcomers are always welcome. Abigail? A lovely name.”
“Thanks, so is Julia.” Heyes let his shoulders relax as though a burden had just rolled off. “Now this job, how much would it pay?”
Ed stood. “Come tomorrow and see if you suit the work. I won’t pay until I can see if you’re a quick learner. If you are, I can offer fifteen dollars a week.”
Heyes gave the proffered hand a firm shake, his eyes glistening as he spoke with real veracity. “This is more than I could have ever hoped for. Abi will be delighted, and don’t you worry – I’ll pick things up so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
Cage stepped off the train in Cheyenne Wyoming bundling his warm winter coat even more snugly around him. Damn but that wind was cold! Didn't it ever let up? He stood on the platform, head and shoulders above everyone else and looked around to get his bearings.
He already had an appointment set up with Judge Parsons for the following morning, but in the mean time he had another errand to run. He quickly got himself booked into the hotel for the night and then hailed a cab to take him to the Government buildings and hoped that he would be able to get more than just a few questioned answered there.
It took him a little while of hallway cruising before finally finding the office he sought. He was far more familiar with this building's equivalent in Colorado but basically they were all laid out the same so very few questions were needed before he was headed in the right direction. Then there it was; the sought after office door, with the top half made up of frosted glass and the heading printed across it in black lettering; United States Marshal's Service. Wyoming Division.
Cage turned the door knob and entered, finding himself in a small waiting room with average carpeting on the floors and a few fairly comfortable armchairs in attendance for those awaiting an audience. A couple of long strides took him up to the secretary's desk and that gentleman turned a progressing shade of pale as his eyes were drawn up the height of the man until finally connecting with the blue eyes that stared down at him.
“Ahh...”- gulp- “...may I help you sir?”
Cage took perverse pleasure in towering over the secretary, knowing full well the effect his above average height had on most underlings.
“I would like to have a word with your boss...a Mr. Collins, is it?” Cage informed him. “It won't take long and it is important.”
“Oh, well he is rather busy...” Cage leaned over the man just a touch further, his blue eyes hardening. “...but ah..oh...perhaps he can fit you in if it's just for a few moments.” The secretary gulped again and stood in preparation of interrupting his superior. “Who may I say is calling?”
“Micajah Attwater.” Cage informed him. “Pinkerton's.”
“Oh! Ah, yes. Just a moment please.”
The secretary scuttled away, knocked on the door to the inner office and entered upon hearing the acknowledgement. He closed the door behind him and Cage stood quietly, waiting while the sounds of muffled murmuring drifted to him from behind the barricade. An eyebrow went up when the only decipherable word; 'Pinkerton's!?' came at him like a shot through a pillow.
The door opened and the secretary emerged and with a nod and a smile, motioned the large detective into the Director's office. Cage stepped forward and extended a hand to the seated individual and smiled a greeting.
“Good afternoon Mr. Collins,” Cage said. “Thank you for meeting me on such short notice.”
“Short notice!?” Mr. Collins extrapolated, ignoring the proffered hand. “More like no notice! What the hell does a Pinkerton want with the Marshal's Department!?”
“Well....” Cage explained, taking note that a chair had not been offered. “we have reason to believe that one of your marshals may be inadvertently crossing over into one of our ongoing investigations. I was hoping we might head off any misunderstandings that might arise because of this.”
“Really,” Mr Collins was sceptical. “And what investigation might this be?”
“My colleagues and I have been looking into a number of assaults made against a young woman in Colorado. It appears there were a number of people involved in these attempts on this woman's life and the trail leading us to the main suspect has taken us all the way into Kansas and Missouri. Indeed, it was in Jacksonville Missouri that a Marshal Morrison intruded on our investigation, effectively scaring off the suspect before we had a chance to apprehend him.”
“Really,” Mr. Collins sounded sceptical again. “Marshal Morrison?”
“Yes,” Cage confirmed. “That was the name given to my junior detective when he arrived in Jacksonville just before Christmas. I would appreciate it if you could get in touch with your Marshal and call him off, or at least inform him of our involvement in this case and that we would be quite appreciative of any information he has already gathered.”
Collins smiled wisely. “Yes, I'm sure you would be,” he snarked. “In any case, your junior detective got his information wrong.”
“Oh? In what way?”
“Marshal Morrison was injured in the line of duty a couple years ago and he is hardly in any condition to be traipsing off across the damn country in search of elusive so-called murderers!” Collins informed him. “He is in semi-retirement and is mainly stuck behind a desk! So, as you see you have been mis-informed. Perhaps your junior detective is still too junior to be allowed out on his own yet.”
Cage smiled a smile that Heyes would have recognized from early on in their acquaintanceship. “Yes. I had heard that the Marshal had been injured. Terrible thing that.”
“However, wounds do heal,” Cage conjectured. “Perhaps he has gone off on some mission of his own—one that you are not aware of.”
“I am aware of everything my marshals are doing, Mr. Attwater!” Collins growled back. “Now if you don't mind, I have a lot to get done today and you are here without an appointment! Good day!”
“Ah, yes. One more thing though, before I go,” Cage refused to take the hint. Collins was turning purple. “Perhaps you could tell me where I might find Marshal Morrison so that I may discuss....”
“NO!” Collins was adamant. “GOOD DAY MR. ATTWATER!”
A couple of hours later found Cage settling down to a nice dinner over at one of the finer dining establishments in town. A perfected steak and a bottle of dry red wine was being greatly appreciated by the Pinkerton man who felt at this point that the only thing missing was the company of a fine lady—preferably one with a Scottish accent. Oh well, he needed to access his professional intentions anyways.
He wasn't too discouraged by the lack of information he received from Mr. Collins. It really wasn't any less than what he had expected. If the Marshal's Office did know what Morrison was up to then obviously they were keeping it under wraps—under cover, perhaps? But at least still working within the boundaries of the law. If, on the other hand Morrison had disappeared without the knowledge or direction from his superiors then that would suggest that Heyes and Curry were right in that the Marshal was coming after them. Thirdly, if Morrison was indeed sitting behind a desk in his hometown then Cage would personally see to it that Harry found himself another line of work—preferably in Alaska!
It didn't matter to Cage that Collins had refused to give him Morrison's home town since Cage already had than information. Cage had simply asked the director about that just to see how far he could push the man before getting an eruption. Not that far, as it turned out. Cage smiled at the memory.
So—game plan. Tomorrow morning he would keep his appointment with Judge Parsons then he would catch the train, or the coach to Murreyville and do some detection work himself. Ask some questions, knock on some doors. Who knows? Maybe Morrison was to be found at home—Cage highly doubted it though.
“Julia?” Abigail’s eyes gleamed. “It’s her. It’s got to be. So, we have to find out if Mitchell was related to her or her husband.” She tapped her fingers pensively against her chin. “There has to be a link between this and what’s going on. I don’t believe in coincidences.”
Heyes frowned. “But you told the Kid you didn’t think it was connected.”
“I told him I didn’t think it was the answer to everything, that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.” Abigail picked up her hat, adjusting it in front of the mirror. “I’ll head to the church tomorrow,” a smile twitched mischievously at her lips. “I must check it out and see if I deem the place suitable for my pious needs. If the whole family are from here it could be fairly easy for us to find out the connection.”
“And how do we go about following Mitchell’s trail.” Heyes raised his eyebrows in question. “I find it hard to believe she’s going to tell you where he’s gone.”
“The same way the law always works – follow the money.” Abigail smiled at Heyes as he held the door open for her. “He worked for nearly thirty years, and built up some savings. He won’t have just walked away from all that, and from what Harry told me, he sold his house too. He’ll have done something with that cash, and that’s how we’ll find him.”
“But how?” Heyes held out an arm to escort Abigail down the hallway, “he won’t have been stupid enough to have forwarded the money from one bank to another.”
Mystery played in Abigail’s dark eyes. “I would never have shown you when you were a criminal, but now?” She shrugged. “You have great promise. There’s no harm in you knowing it.”
“No harm?” He looked down at her. “Abigail, if I can get off this parole, or at least get the terms relaxed, I plan on opening a detective agency.”
“Yes, with the Kid. We know how to plan the best robberies, plug the holes in those and we’ll stop just about anyone, but you... you could teach me things.”
They walked downstairs.
“And where are you planning on opening this detective agency, Mr. Heyes?”
He hesitated. “I like where I live, Abigail. There’d be no point in lying... and if I have to start it while I’m still on parole, I couldn’t really move anyway.” He felt her stiffen beside him. “What do you think about that, Abi?”
“I think you’ll be a wonderful detective, Mr. Heyes. In fact, I think you’ll be wonderful at anything you set your mind to.”
“That’s not what I’m asking, and you know it, Abi.”
He felt her breath come in heavy gulps beside him. “Does anyone other than Jed feature in your plans?”
He clasped the hand she had on his arm. “Abi, you and Anya give me the reason to plan a life. What do you think of those plans? Could you share them? Would you move Anya?”
He felt her fingers tighten around his. “Yes, Mr. Heyes, I can share them. I can teach you what I know and, when it’s right, I will be prepared to move.” Abigail looked up at him. “I’m only trying to make sure things are stable for her, Chester.” She grimaced. “Why did you pick that name? It’s almost as bad as Hannibal.”
“A horrible name is a good alias,” they clattered out onto the sidewalk, heading to the restaurant. “Nobody ever thinks you’d choose a name like Chester.”
They paused at the restaurant door.
“You’ve given me a lot to think about,” Abigail smiled at him. “Besides, you’ve met Mrs. Adler. I don’t think I could take her nosiness after having been involved in a shootout, and having had strange men staying in the house overnight, I need to think about moving now anyway.”
The next morning found Cage enjoying a hearty breakfast and some 'good' coffee for a change. That's not to say that Mayzee couldn't make good coffee, but Cage liked his with a little bit more bite to it than what his sister tended to perk for breakfast. Now the one time they let Heyes make the coffee—that was good coffee! It was nice to know the man had some talents aside from blowing up safes and running a scam. Cage had his doubts about how those two were going to make out trying to make honest livings and he sat munching on his toast as he calculated their chances.
Suddenly he realized that he had allowed time to slip away from him. He took one more appreciative gulp from his coffee cup, got himself organized and then bundled up in preparation for the walk over to the courthouse. It was still a chilly morning and snow was threatening which was not good news for him. He wanted to get over to Murreyville after this appointment and then get back to Abi with whatever information he was able to collect, so snow would not help their plans at all right now.
He stepped out onto the boardwalk and gave an involuntary shiver as the morning air hit him and he buttoned up his coat even higher and began the quick walk that would hopefully only take about ten minutes.
“Good morning Judge Parsons.” Cage extended his hand and the Judge accepted it. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”
“That's fine, Mr. Attwater,” Parsons assured him. “I don't have a case until this afternoon so we have a few moments. It's a little early for drinks—would you care for some coffee?”
“That would be fine, thank you.”
“Bring in the coffee tray will you?” he ordered. “I could do with a cup myself after that travesty of a hearing this morning!”
“Have a seat Mr. Attwater,” Parsons offered. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“Thank you sir.” Cage settled into the plush leather armchair and anticipated a strong cup of coffee after his rather chilling walk over to the courthouse. “Have a difficult case this morning?”
“Oh just some petty nickle and dime thief, thinking he was going plea bargain because he's out of work and has a wife and new baby to feed!” the Judge snorted in disgust. “A man breaks the law he should expect to have to pay the price! If he couldn't afford a family then he shouldn't have started one!”
“Ahh, yes. Of course.” Cage shifted uncomfortably. “What was his sentence?”
“I was planning on sending him to the Territorial prison for a year!” the Judge grumbled. “But Sheriff Turner—damn but that man can be a bleeding heart sometimes!--Anyway he said the family truly was destitute and the defendant had been working, but fell off a ladder and broke his leg so he lost his job and hadn't been able to find another.” Parsons rolled his eyes at what he thought of that excuse. “Suggested we might be doing better in the long run if we found him a job! Can you imagine!? Man breaks the law and instead of being punished for it we find him a job!? What the hell is this territory coming to?”
“Yes,” Cage commented. “How radical.”
“Yes!” Parsons didn't notice the ironic tone. “Oh well. I suppose if it keeps him off the streets. And apparently the prison is getting somewhat over crowded these days. Hear tell there's plans to move it to Rawlins eventually but I think it's just talk—damn, the prison isn't that old, no reason to replace it yet. What do they think? The territory is made of money!? Hell, if we become a state this year like everyone's predicting I think whatever money there is will be going into other things! Replace the prison—what the hell are they thinking?”
“I have heard that some of the inmates are having to double up now, it's so over-crowded...”
“So what?” Parsons snorted. “Do they think it's a hotel? Next thing ya' know they'll be demanding rights....”
Fortunately this colloquy wanna be was cut short by Jackson returning with the coffee.
“Here you are sir,” Jackson acknowledged the guest as he placed a cup and saucer on his side table. “Would you like cream and sugar?”
“Just some cream, that would be nice. Thank you.”
Jackson then placed another cup and saucer in front of his boss and then leaving the trolley with the carafe for refills, he discreetly left the office.
Both gentlemen took an appreciative sip from their cups and then settled back to get down to the real reason for the visit.
“So,” Parsons began. “you mentioned some interest in the Heyes case.”
“Yes, that's correct.”
“Wanting to do a case study are you?” Parsons assumed with a smug smile. “The best way to catch them at their game is to study someone who was at the top of it! And he would be a good one to study that's for sure! Typical arrogance and self-serving attitude. Truly believed he was justified in the things he did! Even lied to his friends...” Parson took another sip of coffee and shook his head regretfully. “Talk about a travesty! I still can't fathom why Frank Warren gave him a parole—even a conditional one!”
“You are aware that Mr. Heyes was subjected to the most brutal forms of punishment—even torture while in the custody of the territorial prison, are you not?”
“Oh, I'd heard rumours!” Parsons waved it off. “I've known George Mitchell all his life, I'm sure any punishment he delved out would have been fair and well warranted.”
“Then why was Mr. Mitchell removed from that office?” Cage asked candidly.
“Because some soft-hearted mamby-pambies were putting the pressure on, that's why!” Parsons was starting to bristle, maybe this large detective wasn't a cohort after all. “Mitchell could be a bit of a hard case sometimes, but that's what we need in that prison—goodness knows where it's going to go with that Reece fella running the joint! Probably be giving them all hot showers and fleece pillows before too long!”
“Still, I have done some research into Mr. Heyes' case and I must say that I agree with the ruling on this,” Cage informed the judge. “His treatment while in the prison was questionable to say the least and so brutal that it ultimately drove him to attempt suicide. Hardly a shining moment for the Auburn System when it leaves the inmates feeling so hopeless that death appears preferable.”
“Not my problem Mr. Attwater,” Parsons pointed out with a firm jaw. “Once Mr. Heyes was sentenced and incarcerated his treatment was no longer in my jurisdiction.”
“Which brings us to the main reason for my visit,” Cage informed the Judge. “There is some—question concerning the length of sentence that was handed down to Mr. Heyes. Many felt that it was 'extreme' to say the least. Which is I'm sure, one of the reasons Governor Warren saw fit to release him on parole.”
“EXTREME!?” the Judge expostulated, his whiskers bristling. “I would have sentence that son of a bitch to double what I gave him if it could have been mortally possible!”
“But why, Mr. Parsons?” Cage enquired, being somewhat taken aback by the Judge's open hostility. “The man was not up on murder charges and indeed, he and his partner had been straight for....”
“Oh don't get me going on that!” Parsons snapped back. “Going straight! What a load of horse dung! The man was a liar—through and through! Even lied to his own friends!” Parson shook his head in disbelief. “And those same friends were still standing by him! My God! Even knowing he had lied to them, they still....”
“Well, in reading over the transcript, I believe....”
“NO! No, no...Mr. Attwater!” Parsons cut him off. “This is exactly why I gave that man the sentence that I did. Here was this young man standing before me who had everything going for him. He was brilliant, charismatic and in the prime of life—he could have been anything! Life was at his fingertips! But he chose to use his God given gifts to swindle, to manipulate and to outright, openly steal from the citizens of this territory! He was a con man Mr. Attwater! A professional gambler and a swindler who, as I observed at his trial; had no real intent of reformation!” Mr. Parsons sat back in his chair and shook his head again, this time in regret. “My goodness, when I think of the people who's lives were ruined due to that man's callous thievery. A more fitting punishment would have been for him to work himself into the ground until he paid all those people back! Why, myself personally know of a number of fine upstanding business men who were financially compromised because of Hannibal Heyes and his gang! He undermined the very foundations of this territory. We would have been a state years ago if not for the likes of him....”
“Oh come now, Mr. Parsons!” Cage was incredulous. “You can't seriously blame Hannibal Heyes as being solely responsible for holding back the progress of the territory! There are far too many other factors involved and he was just one man....!”
“One man who caused a great deal of damage, Mr. Attwater!” Parsons stuck to his guns. “As I stated; I know of a number of honest upstanding business men who faced ruin because of Hannibal Heyes so don't try to tell me that I gave him too hard a sentence....”
“That sounds to me like you might have had some personal vendetta against Mr. Heyes,” Cage pointed out. “If that is the case then it should be declared a mistrial and Mr. Heyes be awarded a full pardon....!”
“MISTRIAL!? Don't insult me Mr. Attwater!” Parsons was in an indignant fury. “I never allow my personal feelings to interfere with my professional opinion. I would have handed down the exact same sentence to Hannibal Heyes no matter who his victims were! He had no respect for my court and no remorse over his behaviour!
“On top of that, If Mr. Heyes' attitude continued in that vein even after he arrived at the prison then it does not surprise me that George Mitchell was so hard on him! Mr. Heyes was incorrigible! An outlaw through and through and in every aspect! Goodness knows what larceny that man is getting up to now that he is on the loose again!”
“There are law officials keeping a close eye on him, Mr. Parsons,” Cage assured him. “I don't think you need to worry about him blowing up any safes. Well—illegally that is.” Parsons furrowed his brow at that last comment, but Cage continued on before the Judge could question it. “So there was no agreement then between yourself and Mr. Mitchell to—shall we say; exact some form of revenge against Mr. Heyes for his previous wrong doings?”
Mr. Parsons was beginning to turn purple as his eyes bulged from his head in outrageous indignation. Cage smiled inwardly; he loved pushing these high officials right to the point of exploding. For one thing, it was only when they reached that point that Cage felt confident that he would actually be hearing the truth from them.
“Are you daring to suggest that I am a corrupt official of the courts, Mr. Attwater?” Parsons was seething. “I'll have you know that I have never abused my position as a judge of this or any other territory! For you to even suggest that I would be in some sort of collaboration with George Mitchell simply because our acquaintanceship goes back some years, is absolutely ludicrous—and INSULTING! Mr. Heyes received a sentence based on his own arrogance and self-righteous attitude! How dare you make such an accusation!”
“Indeed, Mr. Parsons,” Cage smiled winningly. “I perceive that I have made a misjudgement. But we must check out all angles—I'm sure you understand....”
“No I don't understand!” Parsons yelled at him. “What do you mean by coming in here and accusing me of such a thing!?”
“I do apologize,” Cage assured him. “It would appear that someone is indeed seeking to exact revenge upon Mr. Heyes or Mr. Curry, or perhaps both. It seemed to start with Mr. Heyes while he was incarcerated in the prison since the treatment he received there was questionable to say the least. It came to light that Mr. Mitchell might have been the instigator behind much of the abuse, even to the point of attempting to frame Mr. Heyes for the murder of the prison physician.
“Unfortunately we have not been able to come up with a motive for these attacks or for the ones aimed at Mr. Curry so when it came to light that you and Mr. Mitchell knew one another and indeed, grew up in the same town, well; we deemed it worthy of some attention.”
“We?” Parsons snarled. “Do you mean to tell me that you are actually working with those two outlaws!? You?--a Pinkerton man!? Working with outlaws!?”
“Ex-outlaws, Mr. Parsons,” Cage corrected him.
Oh, here came the colour purple again. “This is incorrigible! Just how low will you private detectives go to dig up dirt on people!?”
“Oh believe me—we have hardly begun to dig,” Cage responded with another smile. “Ah—might I ask after those businessmen you mentioned; the ones who were financially compromised....”
“NO!” Parsons had had enough. “I suggest you leave—NOW! I have a case to prepare for this afternoon and I have a lunch date—that's if I can still eat lunch! DAMMIT! Good day, Mr. Attwater! Mr. Jackson will show you out!”
Out on the front steps of the courthouse, Micajah Attwater stood and smiled upon reflection. He had visited two government officials and had been thrown out of both offices. 'Nope' he thought with much satisfaction; he hadn't lost his touch!
Cage buttoned up his coat against the chilly gusts of wind that always seemed to accompany a visit to Wyoming. Kind of made him wonder why anyone would chose to live in such a bleak and sometimes harsh territory. But then Cage was a city dweller and never really could get into the heads of people who headed for the great outdoors and the wide open spaces. Seemed kind of a hard way to live your life when you didn't really need to.
He was continuing to muse upon this subject when his eye caught the sign of the sheriff's office that was located right next door to the court house. He decided to make a quick right and drop by for a visit.
Stepping inside the office, he immediately unbuttoned his coat again as the warmth from the stove with the perpetual coffee pot upon it was a bit overwhelming compared to the chill of the outdoors. Nobody was up front in the main office, but Cage knew that someone would have to be around, if not the sheriff himself then one of the deputies so he was willing to wait a few minutes.
Sure enough he heard voices coming from the cell block area and then the heavy wooden door leading to it opened and the sheriff himself entered the office, carrying an empty tray.
“Oh.” Turner was taken a little by surprise, but he recovered quickly and smiled at his visitor. “Sorry, didn't know anyone was here. Just giving our one and only guest his lunch. What can I do for you?”
“Sheriff Turner, hello,” Cage greeted him and the two men shook hands. “I'm Micajah Attwater, with Pinkerton's and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to answer some questions.”
Turner furrowed his brow, not sure if he liked where this was going. Even honest to goodness lawmen tended to get nervous when a Pinkerton showed up. “Questions about what?”
“Nothing too damning Sheriff,” Cage assured him. “Just your take on the Hannibal Heyes trial that's all. I know it's a while back now but if there is anything you can recall about it that you might have some opinions about.”
“Oh, well yeah. I suppose that's alright.” Turner put the tray back on the other desk and hung the keys to the cell block on it's proper hook. “My deputy will be here in a few minutes to relieve me and then I was going to go have some lunch. You're welcome to join me if you like.”
“Thank you.” Cage was genuinely pleased. He was starting to get hungry. “That would be fine.”
Last edited by Keays on Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Gone Fishin' Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:16 pm|| |
Half an hour later found the two gentlemen over in the same cafe that had been so often frequented by those two notorious prisoners, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry while they had each awaited their respective trial dates. Betsy, the young waitress/co-owner was quick to serve them with the standard cups of coffee and a smile. She knew Sheriff Turner of course, but the rather large blond man with him was a stranger, but always ready to appreciate a handsome fella, she gave him a warm welcome. But oh my! What lovely blue eyes he had!
“Good afternoon fellas,” she greeted them with a twinkle in her own eye. “What can I get for you today, Sheriff?”
“What's the lunch special Betsy?” Turner asked her.
“It's the roast beef sandwich with my beef barley soup,” she announced. “Lots of vegetables and as much as you want. And then coffee, of course.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Betsy looked over at the stranger.
“That sounds pretty good to me too ma'am,” Cage agreed. “It's a good day for hot soup.”
“Yes it is,” Betsy agreed, and headed off to the kitchen to get the orders.
“So...” Turner appraised the young man sitting across from him. “Hannibal Heyes' trial, huh? That does go a ways back now. What can I tell you that isn't already on record?”
“Just your impressions,” Cage responded. “What you thought about the proceedings and of course the outcome. Did you have any feelings that maybe something was not quite above board?”
Turner sighed reflectively as he thought back to over five years ago. “Well, it was an unusual case, simply by the fact of who the defendant was. Security was tighter than usual—everyone was on edge. Especially after Heyes' attempt to escape.” Turner smiled. “That man was not an easy keeper. I must admit I have wondered occasionally how he was making out. He didn't seem the type who would settle into prison life all that easily.”
“No,” Cage agreed. “He did have a hard time of it.”
“I'm not surprised,” Turner informed him. “I heard that he's out now. On a conditional parole.”
“Yes, that's right.”
“How's that going for him?” Turner asked with a hint of scepticism. “As I say; he was not an easy man to deal with—was always bucking authority, didn't like to follow rules that weren't of his making. Seems to me that a conditional parole might be hard for him to abide.”
“Yeah, that's for sure,” Cage mumbled with just a hint of resentment. “Still, I think prison knocked a little bit of sense into him because compared to what he had in there this parole is pretty lenient. And he's got friends who aren't going let him go astray too easily.”
“That's good.” Turner nodded. “I don't like to see people end up in prison for the rest of their lives. Especially a man so young and with so much to offer, if he can just get things turned around. I hope he can do that for himself.”
“Hmm.” Cage nodded then turned the conversation back to his intent. “What did you think of the sentence he received? Did you think it was fair?”
Just then Betsy showed up with a tray full of their lunch and the conversation took a break.
“Here you are gentlemen,” Betsy offered as she placed the hearty looking sandwiches and steaming bowls of soup down in front of them. “I hope you enjoy. And don't forget, the soup is all you can eat!”
“Thank you Betsy. Looks good.” Turner smiled at her while appreciatively eyeing his lunch.
“Thank you ma'am.”
“Just give me a wave if you want anything else.” She smiled at her two patrons and then went on about her own business with her other customers.
Cage got them back onto the subject in hand while they tucked in to lunch. “So, did you think the sentence was fair?”
Turner hesitated a moment, considering his answer. “Well....it was a hard sentence I know. But I also know that Judge Parsons doesn't put up with disrespect in his courtroom. And Heyes was very disrespectful. Still, I didn't expect the Judge to give him life.”
“So you think it was a harder sentence than the Judge would normally have given under those circumstances?”
Turner took a bite of sandwich mainly to give himself some time to consider the question. Cage did the same, giving the sheriff time to gather his thoughts.
“Well,” Turner finally answered. “at the time, yeah I thought it was unusually harsh, but as I thought more about it, it kinda made sense. Judge Parsons is a fair judge and an honest judge—I'd stake my career on that. But he can be a hard judge too. There is no gray area for Mr. Parsons; you're either a law abiding citizen or you're an outlaw. He wants to see this territory grow—as we all do—but he seems to have made it his own personal goal to rid the territory of the numerous outlaws who have roamed and stolen freely over the years.
“I think Marshal Morrison was quite a favourite with Mr. Parsons as they are both of the same mind when it comes to dealing with the outlaw problem. It's a good thing the man who shot Morrison up is dead himself, cause if he was ever to be brought before Judge Parsons. well—I doubt he'd live much beyond the next day.”
“So you'd say that Judge Parsons and Marshall Morrison are friends?”
“Well.....I don't know if I'd go that far,” Turner speculated. “Let's just say they share a common goal and therefore they respect one another but live in two very different worlds.”
“Hmm.” Cage nodded. “So you don't think that there was anything below board at Heyes' trial. That Judge Parsons didn't have some kind of personal vendetta against Heyes?”
“No, I never got that impression,” Turner assured the detective. “Like I said, Judge Parsons tends to be hard on all outlaws who come before him and Heyes' own attitude just made things go harder for him.”
“Were you aware that Judge Parsons and Mr. Mitchell were friends?”
“Who's Mr. Mitchell?” Turner enquired.
“The warden out at the prison during the time of Heyes' incarceration.”
“Oh.” Turner reflected. Then... “No, I wasn't aware of that. Does it matter?”
“That's what we're trying to ascertain here Sheriff,” Cage emphasized. “Judge Parsons gives Heyes an extremely hard sentence, Warden Mitchell supports and even encourages harsher than usual punishments upon the inmate while incarcerated at the prison. Then we discover that Parsons and Mitchell are childhood friends. Any of these things by themselves would not arouse suspicion, but put them together and we wonder if there is a conspiracy here.”
“A conspiracy?” Turner was sceptical. “Why? What reason would either of them have?”
Cage sighed, trying not to show his frustration. “I know. We haven't been able to find any real motive for either of them to want to harm Heyes or Curry.”
“Then why are we here talking about it?” Turner was getting frustrated himself. This was going nowhere.
“Because things did happen at that prison, Sheriff Turner!” Cage told him. “Punishments that were unwarranted! Abuses of authority! Even false accusations of murder. And it doesn't end with that. Mr. Curry's fiance has also been threatened on more than one occasion. The leads that we have been following led us straight to the former senior guard at the prison and then from him to Warden Mitchell. Then we discover a link between Mitchell and Judge Parsons who, coincidentally was the same judge who gave Heyes an excessively harsh sentence. So I'm sure you can see why that would encourage us to look at the judge a little bit closer.”
“Yes, alright,” Turned conceded the point. “But as I said. Judge Parsons has always lived up to the 'honourable' status of his title. I don't care what the reasons are behind your suspicions, I don't believe that Judge Parsons would degrade himself to the point of being involved in such a conspiracy. It just goes so totally against the nature of the man himself.”
“Even if personal friends of his have suffered financial losses due to the illegal activities of Heyes and Curry?” Cage pushed.
Turner nodded. “Even if,” he answered, pointedly.
Cage sighed with acceptance. “Alright. I'll go with that for now. What about Marshal Morrison?”
“More soup, gentlemen?” Betsy interrupted them.
“OH! Yes,” Turner was quick to agree. “It's very good soup Betsy. But then I don't know of anyone else in town who can make soup the way you do.”
Betsy smiled at the compliment. “Why, thank you Sheriff. It does seem to be popular. How about you Mr.....?”
“Attwater, ma'am,” Cage introduced himself, quickly standing up and taking her hand. “And yes, I would also appreciate some more. And some of that fresh baked bread I can smell all the way out here. You sure know how to get a man's attention!”
Betsy peered up at him, marvelling at his excessive height. “Why thank you!” she flirted playfully, knowing that he was referring to the enticing aroma of the bread and not her own comely features, but she pretended to take it both ways.
“Oh!” Cage was suddenly embarrassed, knowing how his comment had sounded. “No, I...”
Betsy laughed and reached up to pat a placating hand on his very broad and manly chest. “That's alright, Mr. Attwater. I was just teasing you. I'll get you some more soup AND the freshly baked bread. And more coffee!” And off she went to tend to that task.
Cage sat back down again, feeling a little off center but still appreciating the very fine figure as it walked away.
“Don't worry about Betsy,” Turner assured him. “She's harmless. Sweet little thing...I don't know why she hasn't found herself a husband yet. Plenty enough have tried. Oh well, anyway—Morrison. What about him?”
Cage was drawn back to the topic at hand. “Oh! Ah, how—mobile is he?”
“Mobile?” Turner reiterated then shrugged. “Better than a year ago, but he'll never be what he was.”
Cage nodded. “Is he angry about that?”
“I suppose, to some degree. Wouldn't you be?”
“They say he killed the man who did it to him,” Cage commented. “Shouldn't that be enough?”
Turner leaned back in his chair and sent Cage a suspicious look just as Betsy returned with fresh soup and warm steaming bread.
“Here you are gentlemen. Enjoy.” She smiled at each man in turn, but noting the slightly stressed atmosphere between them she turned the smile towards herself and made a discreet withdrawal.
“I don't know, Mr. Attwater,” Turner stated somewhat irritably. “Walking around with a bullet in your lung might cause you to hold a grudge. Even if the man who did it to you is dead.”
“Hmm.” Cage nodded agreement as he took a piece of bread and slapped some butter onto it. “So, unable to exert revenge upon the guilty party, then perhaps the next best thing? Especially when insult is added to injury. Heyes and Curry were friends of Wheat Carlson; they rode together.”
“Common knowledge Mr. Attwater,” Turner stated. “What is your point?”
“Morrison put in a lot of time and energy organizing the operation that ultimately ended in the capture of Heyes and Curry,” Cage re-capped. “Not only their capture, but something that no other lawman or bounty hunter had been able to accomplish before him; he got them to trial. Then after all that work and time and energy, Jed Curry is awarded his amnesty! Other than the time he spent in various jailhouses awaiting trial, he doesn't spend a day in prison! Add to that the fact that Heyes, who originally was put away for life, ends up receiving a parole after only serving four and a half years and is now out and walking about as a relatively free man. That must be sticking in Morrison's craw.”
“Maybe,” Turner sort of agreed. “Though he never mentioned anything to me about it.”
“No, well he wouldn't would he?” Cage pointed out. “If he has been mulling over all of this with the intention of 'taking the law into his own hands', then he wouldn't be too likely to be spreading his discontent around.”
“That's a serious accusation to be making against a respected law officer,” Turner informed him as he helped himself to more bread. “It seems to me that you are fishing, Mr. Attwater—and not too successfully, at that.”
“Well, one doesn't catch the big fish unless they are willing to head into deep waters,” Cage philosophized.
Turner dunked his bread into the soup trying to decide whether to be irritated or angry or both at this private detective questioning the ethics of a respected legal official. Finally he decided to take the high road and let it go.
“Then I suggest you go fish where you are most likely to find them,” he commented to his lunch companion. “Go talk to him himself.”
“Yes, I intend to,” Cage informed him. “I was just getting a feel for what you think of him—having never met the man. Unfortunately I have reason to believe that Marshal Morrison will not be at home, still it's worth the trip to find out.”
“Good. Betsy! More coffee when you have a moment!”
“Coming right up Sheriff!”
Abigail opened the door to the church, looking around at the timber-built building. The smell of the pine resin and linseed oil hanging in the air told her it was fairly new. She walked down the aisle calling out tentatively. “Is there anyone here?”
A sharp-faced woman popped her nose around the door, her pinched face pulled tight by the bun of ashen pleats sitting at the nape of her neck. “Can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Abigail Brown. My husband and I have just moved to this town and this church was recommended to us. I thought I’d come along and have a look.”
The woman’s face split into a smile. “New members are always welcome. I’m Mrs. Wutherspoon; my husband is the pastor here. The place is new; it was only built at the end of last year, so everything is just as we’d want it.” She cast a hand around. “As you can see it’s a good sized space for worship. We also have a small kitchen and general area out to the left here.” She led Abigail through the door she had appeared from. It had a sink furnished with its own pump and a very small range, capable of taking about two or three pans.
“Very well-appointed, I must say,” Abigail turned impressed eyes on the matron. “You seem to have thought of everything. At home we had to bring hot food to church events in baskets of straw. You can cook and keep a few things warm here.”
Mrs. Wutherspoon beamed proudly, opening a cupboard. “Ah, yes, we even have crockery for hot beverages for meetings. The ladies welfare committee is meeting in about twenty minutes, we like to do whatever we can for the deserving poor. Would you like to stay and meet them?”
Abigail’s eyes widened enthusiastically, biting back the question as to what the church considered the undeserving poor. “That would be marvellous. I do think one has to meet the ladies to assess if this is the right congregation. Women are the heart of the church.”
Mrs. Wutherspoon nodded vigorously. “I couldn’t agree more. Men left to themselves can quickly degenerate. They do need the gentle guiding hand of a softer sex,” the matron paused. “What denomination are you?”
“At home I was free kirk, but I don’t expect to find that anywhere without a large Scottish population.”
“We have five or six Scottish people who worship here, Mrs. Albertson is the only woman; the rest are men.” Mrs. Wutherspoon dropped her voice conspiratorially, “she is VERY Scottish. Have you heard the language? Pre-Christian I hear. You’d have thought they’d have been happy to let that go. Two of the men speak it as well, the rest are more cultivated, like yourself”
Abigail couldn’t resist a grin. “Really? I speak Gaelic, Mrs. Wutherspoon. How lovely! This must be a good match for me if there are other Gaels.”
“Well, I can’t promise well be as plain and stripped down as the free church, but there are no Roman practices here, I can assure you. Mrs. Albertson has told me all about your church.”
Both women’s attention were drawn to the main door opening, casting caustic winter sunshine over the floorboards.
“Talk of the devil!” Mrs. Wutherspoon announced without a trace of irony, “Mrs. Albertson, this is Mrs. Brown, who is thinking of joining our little church. She is from your part of the world.”
Abigail launched into a conversation with her countrywoman, smiling not just at the chance to use her mother tongue, but at the matron’s disapproval of anything pre-Christian; which Abigail did not hesitate to share with Mrs. Albertson. The two women chatted and laughed, while the pastor’s wife wandered off, shaking her head in dismay at what she considered to be the aboriginal babble being spoken in the house of god. “I’ll put some coffee on. The other ladies will be here soon.”
“Mrs. Stanton? I’m Abigail Brown. I do believe your husband is giving mine a trial at the newspaper office. It’s lovely to meet you.”
Brown defined Julia Stanton; from her pale-brown, sausage-like ringlets, to the sepia toned clothes. Even her beige face was scattered with cinnamon-coloured freckles. She blinked hazel eyes under a set of substantial eyebrows. “Mrs. Brown? Oh, yes, Ed did mention your husband. He’s there today, I believe?”
“Yes,” Abigail smiled warmly. “Chester’s never done any printing before; I’ll have no hard feelings if it doesn’t work out. I have every confidence he’ll find something soon, he’s a very able man. So, how active are the women’s groups in this church? Do you have any concentrating on education? I used to be a schoolteacher.”
Julia gave Abigail a sympathetic smile. “What a shame you’re married. The town would never consider employing a married woman, but we’re just desperate for a teacher.”
“Really? Perhaps I can help out until you find one, on a purely charitable basis to help the town? I don’t believe in married women working either, but we all have to contribute to society regardless of our marital status, don’t we? I don’t have a home to keep at the moment, so time is resting rather heavily on my hands.”
Julia’s eyes widened. “Oh, I must tell the mayor! Between you and me, I do believe he will bite your hand off for the help. We have various women working through a roster,” she raised a cynical eyebrow. “With a varying degree of success; some of the ladies can barely pronounce words of more than two syllables, and as a mother I have grave concerns about what they are learning. Some of them do not attend church at all, but as they are literate he allows them to participate, but what more can you expect from a Frenchman?”
Abigail’s smile widened, children were an unwitting fund of repeated titbits and gossip. This was almost too good to be true. “Shall I see him? How can I find him?”
“Mr. Raboteau is the undertaker; you’ll find his office on the main street.”
“Mrs. Stanton, it has been wonderful meeting you, and the other ladies. I’ll go and see him now, shall I?”
Heyes picked up the tiny metal blocks of type, examining them closely. Yes... this was a ‘b’; or was it a ‘d?’
“Yeah, look at each one. You’ll soon get to be able to read them like normal words and sentences, despite them being mirror images. You just need to get your eye trained. Some firms have steam driven presses,” Ed Stanton shrugged ruefully. “I can’t afford one of those, so we’re down to elbow grease. The metal type goes into the frame to make the forme. These formes then go into the coffin, and these are then put together to make the stereotype. That stereotype can then be inked and can be put in the press so the same page can be printed over and over again. Some folks also call the plate a cliché, so if you hear both terms, they mean the same thing.”
Heyes smiled uncertainly, looking at the myriad of metal bits. “You make it sound really easy.”
“It is easy, once you get the basics. We’ll do one together and then you can do one on your own.” He handed Heyes a form and a notebook. “These large ones are for the headlines. They snap in, like this...”
Ed Stanton folded his arms and sat back with a smile. “I’ve gotta give it to you, Chester. You learn fast. You’ve set a whole page on your first day, and corrected my grammar.”
Heyes gave a self-depreciating shrug. “I hope you didn’t mind that, I just thought if it’s going to print, it’d better be right.”
Ed shook his head. “Not at all; I aim for this to be one of the most professional outfits in the state. I’m ambitious and I appreciate a fresh pair of eyes on the page.”
“You set up five pages in the time I set up one,” Heyes protested, modestly.
“Yeah, but for your first time, that was great,” Ed’s smile stretched into a grin. “And only a few sentences were upside down. Nope, that’s a good start. You got a job if you want it.”
Heyes face dimpled with delight. “I sure do. I never thought of getting into the newspaper game, but it sounds real interesting. Is there any chance I can go and get stories too?”
“Hey! One step at a time, Chester. Let’s get the printing side, and manning the desk, under your belt before you turn into a cub reporter, huh? But you sure are keen - and I like that. ” Ed chuckled. “I don’t know about you but, I feel like we’ve both got something to celebrate. Fancy a drink?”
Heyes nodded. “Sure do, I can’t stay long though; the wife’ll have been kicking her heels at the hotel all day and she’ll be bored. The sooner I get us a little house the better, but now I’ve got a job, we can start looking.”
“Yeah, they need something to keep them busy, bless ‘em. Women just aren’t too good at filling their time until they have something to look after. I’ll ask around and see if anybody knows of anything. The hotel must be eating up your cash.”
Heyes stood on the sidewalk and watched Ed lock up the office before falling in beside him as they strolled towards the saloon. “It all seems to be coming together; the job, maybe a nice little house.” Heyes paused. “Which bank do you recommend? We need to put our nest egg somewhere safe.”
“The Mercantile Union,” Ed said, without hesitation. “I’ve used it all my life, all the family use it. It’s on Mitchell Street.”
“Mitchell Street?” Heyes queried. “I guess that’s named after someone?”
“Yeah, Thomas Mitchell, he founded a trading post which grew into a town, but became the town’s first mayor. He also fought bravely in the war along with his sons and nephews. They’re quite a family around here.” He smiled proudly. “We’re related to them, on my wife’s side.”
Heyes pursed his lips. “So how come it’s called Jacksonville, if it was founded by a Mitchell?”
“Two neighbouring towns joined together. They got the name because they were the biggest, and the railway station went to them. Mitchellston is just a suburb now, but Julia’s still real proud of the connection.”
“I don’t blame her,” Heyes laughed. “The only thing I’ve had named after me was a dog – and they never could house train the thing.”
The stagecoach ride over to Murreyville was anything but, well—pleasant. It was cold and a little crowded, especially when you're the size of one and a half regular humans. Why so many people would be interested in stage travel at this time of the year was beyond Cage. Why couldn't these people just stay home?! And WHY?—for goodness sake would you bring an infant along?
When the coach finally arrived at its destination no one was more relieved to disembark than the Pinkerton man. As usual he made a bee line for the hotel and booked himself a room for the night, got settled into it and then headed over to the cafe for a bite of lunch. Hopefully they would have the stove on over there so that he could also warm up.
“What'll ya' have?” asked the ever present waitress.
Cage looked up at an older woman with a hard face and the attitude to match—quite the contrary to the pert little Betsy over in Cheyenne, and Cage didn't feel inclined at all to give her a smile or an introduction.
“Beef stew if you have it,” he ordered bluntly. “With some bread and coffee.”
Then she was gone and Cage rolled his eyes. Good thing he wasn't planning on staying for long in this town 'couse what he had seen of it's inhabitants so far didn't encourage further acquaintance. When the waitress returned with his cup of coffee he did however venture a question.
“Is the marshal in town today?”
“I donno,” came back the stoic response.
“Okay,” Cage knew he wasn't going to get much out of this one. “Where might I find the town sheriff then?”
“I would assume at the town sheriff's office.”
“And where might that be?”
She gave a derogatory snort. “Well if you didn't see it when you came outa the hotel then your mother gave birth to a one-eyed son!”
Cage's jaw tightened in irritation, suddenly he wasn't feeling all that hungry. “Well I didn't see it, but thank you for informing me as to its location.”
She snorted again. “Right.”
Then she was gone again and Cage watched her leave with a certain amount of appreciation. But not the same appreciation he felt in watching Betsy leave, but just simply the fact that she was leaving. He sighed and then looking around, he spotted the town's paper over on another table and did a quick grab for it. At least it was something to do until his lunch arrived.
Cage discovered the same thing that Harry had; one small town paper is pretty much the same as another. People were people and the things they tended to get up to were usually all along the same line. The only thing he did find different in this paper was the number of times their marshal was mentioned. It seemed that Tom Morrison was quite the popular official and according to this paper's reporter; apparently could do no wrong.
Marshal Morrison was a hero who had been brutally and tragically struck down in the line of duty by that low down dirty outlaw, Wheat Carlson! The only saving grace being that Morrison had exacted his revenge and struck that dastardly coward down and pounded him to smithereens into the dirt of the Wyoming landscape! Cage snorted with amusement at the drivel that the common folk seemed so intent on believing and was caught muttering something about imbeciles by the waitress returning with his lunch.
She frowned at him and clattered the dishes down in front of him a little bit louder than was necessary and then returned to her duties in the kitchen without so much as a smile, or an 'enjoy your lunch'. Cage sighed with acceptance of the cold shoulder and was determined to take what he could from his meal and then go in search of the marshal.
After a second cup of coffee while he finished browsing through the paper, Cage was finally ready to brave the chilly day once again and make his way back towards the hotel. Once he got to that general vicinity he began to look around at the surrounding buildings and couldn't see one that looked remotely like a sheriff's office. Finally he stopped a gentlemen who was walking passed him and made the enquiry.
“Can you tell me where the sheriff's office is?”
“Yeah sure,” came the hoped for response. “Just walk down this way another block and turn right, It'll be just around the corner there.”
Cage carried on muttering certain obscenities towards the completely unhelpful waitress. How could being situated around the corner from the hotel suggest that one would see it from that structure!? He shook his head in disbelief; geesh, some people!
He walked quickly along the boardwalk, rubbing his hands together and blowing into them to warm the fingers. It really was getting cold again and he sent an anxious glance up into the heavy gray skies, hoping that the snow would hold off until he had finished his business. Coming around the corner he did then indeed spot the required building, the sign on the front announcing it's official function for all to see. SHERIFF'S OFFICE. MARSHAL TOM MORRISON. SHERIFF MIKE SCHOMACHER. Hmm, well—somebody ought to be at home.
He stopped inside the building, knocking the snow off his boots and then quickly shutting the door in order to keep the heat in and the cold out. Once again he found the front office empty and was about to call out when a quiet, rather unassuming voice came up from the back room.
“Be right there,” it informed him. “Help yourself to a coffee if ya' want!”
“Thank you! I'm fine.”
“Suit yourself,” said the voice, obviously coming closer.
Then Cage got hit with one of the more intense shocks of his life. He suddenly found himself eye to eye with a man who could meet him on level ground! Actually, though Cage hated to admit it since it threw his well balanced world into a spinning shambles, this man standing before him might actually, well maybe just a little bit—be a tad—but certainly not too much—bigger than Cage himself!
The two men stood eye to eye and nose to nose and simply stared at each other for the space of a couple of heartbeats. They both obviously needed time to recover from the shock and quickly gather together their own personal versions of self-image before being able to move on into casual conversation.
Finally the spell was broken and Cage extended a hand for shaking. It was gathered in by an equally impressive paw and each man tested the grit of the other in the guise of a greeting.
“Ahh, Sheriff Schomacher, I presume?” Cage finally managed to enquire.
“Yes,” came the quiet, unassuming response. “How can I help you?”
“My name is Micajah Attwater,” Cage informed him. “I'm a detective with Pinkerton's.”
“Oh,” Mike nodded. “Well, what's a Pinkerton's doing in these parts? Usually the marshal handles anything out of the ordinary that comes up.”
“Actually it's the marshal who I was hoping to have a word with,” Cage responded. “Is he available?”
Cage waited, hoping that more would be forthcoming. It wasn't.
“Well...will he be back soon?”
“Nope. Kinda doubt it.”
“Do you know where he went?”
Cage sighed; this was getting frustrating. “Sheriff, please—it's important that I speak with Marshal Morrison. Are you sure you have no idea where he went or when he will be returning?”
“Tom tends to come and go as he likes around here Mr. Attwater,” Mike informed him. “He did say something about meeting up with a friend, somewhere back east—but not too far back. He didn't seem to know when he would be returning.”
“Oh, I see,” Cage commented. “You wouldn't happen to know this friend's name would you?”
Cage sighed in frustration again. He had come to realize that the rather large sheriff wasn't being deliberately uninformative—he was simply a man of few words. Cage decided that he was going to have to try and dig a few more words out of him that's all.
“Actually I think I will have a cup of coffee it that's alright,” Cage asked him. “That wind out there is pretty biting.”
“Sure is,” Mike agreed. “Help yourself.”
Once Cage a poured his coffee, Mike sat down at the desk and offered a chair to his guest. The two men sat and assessed one another again.
“Were you involved with the Heyes and Curry cases at all?” Cage suddenly enquired.
Mike's hand instantly went up to his mouth and massaged his gum line through his cheek. Cage thought that a rather odd gesture.
“Oh yeah,” Mike told him. “Got to know Heyes real well.”
“You did?” Cage was slightly encouraged. “How did you get on? I've heard he was not an easy man to deal with.”
“Aww, he was alright,” Mike told him. “Just had to know how ta' handle 'em.”
“Oh,” Cage nodded. “So. The two of you got on okay then?”
“Yeah. On the most part. Except for a minor disagreement when we parted company.” And the hand went up to the cheek again. “But, no—on the most part I got on with Heyes alright.”
“Oh. Good.” Cage took a sip of coffee. “How about the marshal? Did he get along with them alright as well?”
Mike hesitated with that question. “Well, not so good,” he finally admitted. “But Tom was in charge of them two. He had accepted the job of capturing them and bringing them to trial—something nobody else had been able to manage. He wasn't gonna put up with any nonsense from them, so I guess they probably thought that he treated them pretty hard. But he got the job done—he got 'em to trial.”
“Yes he certainly did that,” Cage agreed. “And then Curry got off scott free and Heyes is out walking around on parole.”
“Yup,” Mike nodded. A heartbeat of silence. “What's your point?”
“Well....it wouldn't be surprising if the Marshal felt a little resentful about that—considering all the work he had put in to capturing them and getting them to trial and everything. Perhaps he felt that the legal system had let him down.”
“Never said nothin' to me about that,” Mike told him.
“Nothing?” Cage asked again. “Even when Hannibal Heyes was released on parole after only serving four and a half years?”
Cage was again feeling frustrated; getting information out of this man was like trying to get a smile out of that waitress. “How about you Sheriff?” Cage tried to keep the conversation going. “You committed a lot of your time and energy to that endeavour; how did you feel about Curry getting his amnesty and Heyes getting out on parole?”
Mike shrugged. “Didn't bother me. Didn't get to know Curry too well, but like I said; Heyes was an alright kinda fella. A bit flighty but they say those genius types can be like that. Naw, I was kinda glad Heyes got out actually. The sentence he got was pretty harsh and he just didn't seem like the kinda guy who would settle into prison life all that easily.”
“Oh. Well did the marshal resent the fact that you were happy about Heyes' release?”
“Did you tell him?”
Cage sighed again in frustration and then finished off his coffee. “Alright Sheriff, thank you for your time. This conversation has been very—enlightening.” He stood up and Mike followed suit. The two men shook paws again and Cage prepared to face the cold one more time. “If you think of anything else—oh, no. Never mind. Have a good afternoon Sheriff.”
“Sure will. Same to ya'. And if ya' see Heyes, say 'howdy' for me.”
“Yes I will Sheriff,” Cage agreed. “Good day.”
Cage walked back the way he had come and decided that it was time to stop in at the saloon for a beer or maybe a whiskey, yeah a whiskey would really warm the soul. That had been a very frustrating conversation. Just what was Marshal Morrison up to? Obviously the man wasn't in his top form so what would make him pull up stakes in the middle of winter and head down to Missouri? Something was up, but what? Had Morrison teamed up with Mitchell to exact their own brand of justice on Heyes and Curry? Or was Morrison working on his own? Nobody seemed to know or was willing to say what was legit.
The judge appeared to be a dead end—but maybe not. What of his businessmen friends who'd been burned by Hannibal Heyes and the Devil's Hole Gang? Maybe they were behind all those attacks. They'd have the money to finance something like that and probably wouldn't hesitate to spend it towards a worthy cause. Maybe Mitchell is working with them behind everyone's back! It'll be interesting to get back to Missouri and find out what the other members of their little team were finding out in Jacksonville. Maybe that's where all this is going to tie together.
Cage went into the saloon and ordered himself that whiskey. He still had one more stop to make before rejoining his companions. He didn't really know why, but he felt the need to touch base with the warden out at the prison. Maybe there's a few more things that could be beaten out of Harris before all of this was said and done.
Heyes glanced over at Harry sitting in the corner of the restaurant, tucking his red and white checked napkin into his collar with the relish of a circling vulture.
“The Mercantile Union,” Heyes whispered to Abigail.
She dropped her menu, smiling at him with eyes full of mischief. “We’d better get Harry to do it properly. We need the exact amount he drew out, the amount he got for his house, and anything else like a safety deposit box. The records need to be accessed officially.”
Heyes frowned. “Why, Abi? What good does that do us?”
“Because a man like Mitchell’s not going to walk around with his life’s savings in his pocket, he’s going to put it somewhere safe – like a bank. That’s how we catch him. We get an idea where he’s gone from the family, and check the banks in the area. If a lump sum of a similar amount is paid in during the right time frame, it’s probably a lead to his new identity. It’ll be minus some living expenses of course.”
Heyes frowned. “It could be anywhere, even the other side of the country.”
Abigail nodded. “That’s where detective work comes in. We try to narrow it down, and then check the banks in that area to find a match.” She arched an eyebrow. “Sometimes if we are very lucky, we can just get the information, but it is another way to track people.” She gave an enigmatic smile. “One of a few methods we use.”
Heyes sat back. “So you check all the banks? Depending on how well he knows anyone in the new bank, he might find out and disappear again.”
“Exactly.” Abigail nodded, “so we have to be discrete.”
Abigail fingered the little silver cat at her neck. Her eyes glistened with unspoken roguishness and mystery. “Yes, and you cannot assist with this. You are on parole. You cannot be caught doing anything which may be deemed illegal.”
“You break in and check the records?”
“Oh, Mr. Heyes,” she whispered. You make it sound so crude. I investigate; quietly, and prudently, and covertly, leaving no trace that I was ever there. Nothing is taken and everything is left just as I found it.”
Heyes lips firmed into a line. “You break in? Harry’ll skin you alive if he finds out.”
“Harry was never a good enough detective to be trusted with the tricky jobs, Mr. Heyes,” Abigail smiled at the approaching waitress, “and you worry unnecessarily. He’ll never find out. I’ll make sure of it.”
Jed clomped up the steps to the Stamford's residence and was just knocking the snow off his boots when the front door was flung open and the ex-outlaw found himself being assaulted by a whirlwind of skirts and high laughter.
“JED! You made it!”
“HEY! Beth darlin'!” Jed laughed as he gathered her into his arms. “Course I made it! The trains are still runnin', don't ya' know!”
“Oh I know,” Beth admitted as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “But I still always worry that something is going to detain you. What a lovely surprise to hear that you were heading back again so quickly!”
“Yeah well, it got a little awkward for me to stay in Jacksonville,” Jed explained as he made his way into the front hall with Beth still hanging off his neck. “But it sure is good to see you again.” Then he took his lady into a full embrace and gave her quite the intense kiss before anyone could come by and interrupt them. Beth responded wholeheartedly.
“Thaddeus! Close the door for goodness sakes!” came Belle's voice from the kitchen area. “Then come into the kitchen. I've had a hearty soup simmering, just waiting for your arrival.”
Jed's eyebrows went up as he retracted from the kiss and he grinned. “Ohh! Soup! Just the day for it!”
“Oh you!” Beth complained and then slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “Sometimes I think you would rather eat than kiss me!”
“Get used to it darlin'!” Jed grinned and headed for the kitchen with an arm around Beth's waist, propelling her along with him. “Nothin' gets in between this man and a meal!”
Stepping in to the warmth of that universal meeting place, Jed quickly stripped off his coat and hat and hung them off the back of a chair. He then went over and gave Belle an appreciative hug.
“Thaddeus, it's good to see you,” Belle told him and gave him a smile. “Come, sit down and I'll get you some soup and bread. Then you can tell us what's brought you back here so soon.”
Jed nodded and took a seat with Beth sitting down beside him, but before he could begin his narrative there was a loud thumping of feet and the kitchen door flew open.
“Uncle Jed!” came the joyous greeting from the youngest of the Jordan clan. “Will you come outside and play with me!?”
“Ah, not right now Jay, my man,” Jed told him. “Maybe later okay?”
“Aww! Nobody wants to play with me!”
“Thaddeus just got in the door, Jay!” his mother admonished him. “Let him get some lunch. Besides, Anya should be done with her classes by then and I'm sure she'll play with you. You both had fun out in the snow yesterday.”
Jay still hung his head in disappointment. “I know. I just wanted Uncle Jed to play with me.”
“What were you doing before I got here?” Jed asked him, feeling sorry for the little man.
“Well why don't you bring your drawing in here and work on the table?” Jed suggested. “That way you can keep me company while I have my lunch.”
Jay instantly brightened up. “Yeah!” And off he went to get his supplies.
Belle sent Jed a long suffering look. “Really Thaddeus. That boy needs to learn that he can't be constantly pestering you. You are far too lenient with him.”
“Aww, he's alright Belle,” Jed assured her with a smile. “I kinda enjoy playing with 'em.”
“Well, alright,” Belle conceded as she placed a bowl of thick turkey soup and warm bread down in front of him. “but he'll run you ragged if you let him.”
Jed smiled. “Hopefully I can drag lunch out long enough for him to forget about playing outside and then let Anya distract him.”
Belle laughed as she set two more bowls down for herself and her daughter. “You'll make a fine father yet, Thaddeus!” She settled down and helped herself to some bread. “So, tell us; what brings you back so soon?”
“Aw well,” Jed began. “someone in town would have recognized me, so I had to get out.”
“Oh?” asked Belle. “Who was that? Not some sheriff was it?”
“No no,” Jed assured her. “Besides, nothing a sheriff could do to me now. No, it was...” he hesitated a moment, not sure about bringing up this topic over lunch, but then decided to go ahead with it. “Beth, do you remember at my trial—that woman who, well...she witnessed the murder of her father?”
Beth furrowed her brow and thought about it for a moment. “Yes. She seemed very upset. She actually accused you of shooting down her father in cold blood!”
A sadness clouded Jed's eyes for a moment as he reached over and squeezed Beth's hand. “Beth, darlin'--I did shoot him down in cold blood. And I did it right in front of her—much to my everlasting regret.”
“I know,” Beth admitted in a small voice. “But you had good reason.”
“No Beth,” Jed denied that sanction. “No reason would have been good enough for what I did to her. But I was young and stupid and—angry. And now it seems it might very well have come back to bite me in the butt. It seems that she and her husband are now living in Jacksonville and that she is related, either through blood or marriage to Mr. Mitchell.”
Even Belle gave a small gasp at that information. “Really? Oh my goodness.”
“We don't know if they are the ones who are actually behind all of this stuff, but in any case, I had to get out of town.” Jed continued to explain. “She would have recognized me and then that would have blown our whole cover story.”
“Yes, it certainly would have!” Belle agreed. “My, but this mystery is just getting deeper and deeper all the time. Just how many people can be involved in it?”
Jed shrugged. “I have no idea!”
The door swung open again and a certain little boy put in an appearance, his drawing paper and crayons getting dumped unceremoniously onto the kitchen table. Then Jake toddled in behind, quite certain that he was missing out on something important.
Later that evening, after supper was done and put away and all the resident children had gone to bed, Jed and Beth were able to sneak in a little bit of time to themselves. It happened quite innocently of course; the young couple had offered to put the children down for the night while Belle, Hester and Mayzee relaxed with tea and darning along with the usual evening gossiping and Henry settled in to read the paper. The two practising parents even took the time to read bedtime stories to the two different groups of children much to the appreciation of Anya and the two young boys. The two older girls were beyond this nightly ritual but they still played along with Beth's animated recital until sleepy little eyes had begun to droop and shoulders had snuggled into the pillow.
Jed had finished up with the boys before Beth was done and rather than going down to join the others in the sitting room, he decided to sit down on the top step of the second floor landing in order to wait for her. Ten minutes later he heard the door to the girls' room open and close and he smiled up at his lovely lady as she gave a sigh of relief and sat down beside him.
“Well, that's done,” she announced quietly as she snuggled up against her fiance. “Little Becky is such a character; her mind is so quick it's intimidating sometimes.”
Jed chuckled. “She comes by it honestly. I just hope she doesn't end up having the same problems as her father does when it comes to shutting it down at night,” he contemplated. “That's something Heyes has had a hard time dealing with.”
Beth shrugged as she considered this possibility. “She doesn't show any indication of that now,” she observed. “I mean, she's very active and high-spirited during the day, but when it comes time for bed, it's like a candle being blown out; she's just shuts down quite quickly.”
“Yeah, but Heyes didn't start have problems that way until he was older; around eighteen,” Jed recalled. “It was like all of a sudden, the problems of the world became his and his brain went into over-drive trying to solve them all. I donno, maybe that will settle down once this stuff is all sorted out and he and Abi can get on with a normal life.” He laughed softly. “If anything those two do can be considered 'normal'.”
“I hope so,” Beth agreed. “Joshua deserves some happiness—and so do you! You've both paid your dues, Jed. Whoever is causing this strife now is just sick as far as I'm concerned. Why can't they just let you get on with your lives?”
Jed sat quietly for a moment, his thoughts far away while he held her close. “The need for revenge can be a powerful thing Beth,” he finally mused. “It's something that grows and becomes more demanding with the passage of time. Mrs. Stanton had a lot of time to brood over what happened to her father. She didn't care about what he had done to my family; she was so young at the time she would never even have considered that and as she got older the anger would have taken such a hold by then that she wouldn't be able to see beyond it. It's tragic; what happened. My childhood was destroyed because of her father and the men he rode with and then I turned around and did the same thing to her.”
Beth leaned in even closer, wrapping her arms tighter around her man. She could feel the pain that these memories were stirring up in him and she wished she could make it all go away. She felt helpless in this situation, knowing that this went beyond her powers to heal and that all she could really do was simply to love him and support him in this. As far as Jed was concerned this was exactly what he needed from her and she gave it freely.
He shifted his position a little bit and with his free hand, gently stroked her cheek with his finger and then turned her face towards his. They gazed into each other's eyes for a moment; blue into soft brown and then as though from some unseen signal they both leaned forward and lips coming together, they kissed, gentle and lovingly. Beth turned her body into him and her arms encircled his waist and held on tight and his left hand cupped the back of her head and the kiss became more passionate.
Finally they separated just to be able to catch their breath and Jed continued to give her little butterfly kisses along her neck which caused her to tremble and shiver with excitement. They heard Mayzee laugh down in the sitting room, and sending a pensive glance that way, Beth pulled back and taking Jed by the hand she stood up and pulled him along with her. He smiled and willingly followed as she led him into the nearest empty bedroom. He quietly closed the door behind them as Beth went over to the nightstand and lit the lamp that was there. She only turned it up half way so the light remained muted and soft and then she quickly returned to her lover to be embraced by him again.
Before she knew it her back was against the wall and Jed was caressing her body through her dress and his kisses were so passionate. He felt her mouth open to him and her warm tongue enticing him, inviting him to come inside and play. He leaned into her even more, feeling her teeth against his lips, feeling her breasts against his body, pressing into him as her breathing increased with her desire.
He could feel his own body reacting to her and his hand came up and cupped her breast while his fingers played with the nipple through the restricting material. Beth moaned with her desire and her body arched away from the wall as he continued to kiss her mouth and her neck and her jaw line and then nibble on her ear. She wanted him so badly; her body was aching for him, longing for him, opening up for him......
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Gone Fishin' Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:43 pm|| |
He pulled away. His breathing was heavy and he groaned, but he still pulled away, his hand leaving her breast and gently cupping her face again.
“Beth, we can't.....”
Disappointment washed over her as her body trembled with her desire.
“But...I want you to.”
“I know,” Jed whispered. “I want to as well, but....this isn't right. We can't. Aww Beth, darlin'--I love you so much, but we have to wait. You know that.”
“No we don't,” Beth informed him, her eyes bright with excitement and desire. “We don't have to wait. Hester showed me how to....well, how to prevent....anything—from happening.”
Jed tensed and pulled back from her with furrowed brow. “What do you mean; Hester showed you? Showed you what?”
Beth squirmed a little bit, suddenly feeling his disapproval. “Well, you know. Prevent 'it' from happening. We can have 'relations' now and we don't have to worry about—consequences.”
“Hester spoke to you about that?” Jed queried, feeling slightly defensive. “Why?”
“Well, like she said; it's not to prevent us from having a family, but giving us the option of being able to plan it,” Beth explained, feeling a little frightened now that she had garnered her lover's disapproval. “What's wrong with that?”
“I don't know,” Jed admitted as he stood back from her now and tried to digest this revolutionary information. “It just don't seem right somehow. It don't seem respectful.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Jed was stumbling, having a hard time articulating what he felt. “It would be like I was just using you for sex, like some saloon gal. But Beth, you're gonna be my wife—it just don't seem proper to be....using that. I want to have children with you Beth.”
“And I want to have children with you too,” Beth assured him. “More than anything, I want that.”
“Well, then why would you want to use something like this?”
“Because I want to be able to plan them,” she explained. “The one thing I learned in helping Momma with J.J. is that raising a child is very hard work. I can't imagine how Momma did it with the two of us so close together! She must have been run ragged!”
“But look at how close you and Bridget are,” Jed continued to press his point. “You're best friends. Do you think you would have that kind of relationship with her if you were years apart?”
“You and Hannibal are two years apart and he's your best friend,” Beth pointed out. “Two years I think I could handle, just not one right after another. I want us to have time to enjoy our children, Jed—and to enjoy one another. Not be run into the ground chasing after a whole brood, right from the very start. Can't you understand that?”
Jed sighed. To give him credit he was trying to see her point of view, but it was difficult. “I donno Beth. It just don't seem decent for a married woman....”
Here Beth put hands on hips and took on a knowing expression. “Oh come now Jed,” she began. “What do you think Maribelle is doing? David told them not to even try for any more children because it would be too dangerous for her! Do you think they just stopped having married relations?”
“BETH!” Jed was incensed. “You shouldn't even be thinking about things like that! I sure never thought about it!”
“Well you better believe that Sam thought about it!” Beth chided him and then laughed at his shocked expression. “Oh c'mon Jed,” she gently teased him. “there's nothing wrong with it.” Then she sighed again as Jed looked hurt by her reprimand. “Are you angry with me?” she asked him. “Are you disappointed?”
Jed looked into her soft eyes, now showing worry and concern that she had pushed him away from her and he felt contrite. He smiled at her and taking her into his arms again he kissed her on the forehead and stroked her blond hair.
“No,” he assured her. “I'm not mad at you, just—caught flat footed is all. I want us to be able to talk like this; to be able to discuss things. I love you Beth, I want you to be happy. Just give me some time to get used to this idea, okay?”
Beth smiled then too and snuggled into his embrace. “Okay,” she agreed. “But you know now; we don't have to wait, if you don't want to.”
Jed chuckled at her wording. “Oh, I see! It'll be me who doesn't want to wait, hmm?”
Beth giggled at being brought to task. “Well...you know...!”
“Ah huh.” Jed kissed her again, but then his expression turned serious. “Still, Beth darlin'...we have to wait.”
He felt her body slump slightly in disappointment. “But why? We don't have to worry about....”
“I know,” Jed assured her. “But that's not why. That first time was beautiful. It was wonderful.”
“Yes, it was wasn't it.”
“Yup.” Jed smiled with the memory of it. “And at first I didn't feel guilty about it at all. I figured we were both adults, we loved each other and I was gonna marry ya', so what was there to feel guilty about? Even Heyes had been pushing me to get on with it and thought it was great that we had....”
“You told Hannibal!?” Beth stiffened a little bit with guilty embarrassment but then she relaxed and gave a knowing smile. “Of course you told Hannibal! What was I thinking?”
“I didn't have to tell him!” Jed laughed. “He knew it the minute he saw me! Don't ask me how, but he did. And even he thought it was a good thing and that I had nothin' ta' feel guilty about.”
“But then you did?”
“Yup,” Jed conceded. “After awhile I did start to feel guilty about it. I donno. It was like, well Heyes and I were used to just taking whatever we wanted and I never thought about how our actions might affect anyone else. The only person I felt any kind of loyalty or obligation towards was Heyes and nobody else mattered. But all of a sudden things had changed. Ya' know I wasn't really worried about you getting pregnant, because like I said, I want us to have children so that would have been okay.
“What terrified me was what that would have done to your folks. I suppose I just didn't know where the line was until I had stepped over it and then the guilt hit me like a sledgehammer. After everything your folks have done for me and for Heyes. They took us in. After all the bad things we had done and the problems we brought with us, they took us in and allowed us to become part of your family. Your Pa trusted me with something precious and that was how I repaid him? I betrayed that trust Beth and the only thing that could have been worse than that would have been for him to find out about it.
“For so long Heyes was the only family I had but all that has changed now. Not just for me but for him as well. We've both grown beyond what we had and what we were. We have a larger family now and that means other loyalties and different obligations.
“I don't know what's going to happen between me and Heyes, and that scares me. As you pointed out yourself; I love him like a brother, but brothers can drift apart; they fall in love, get married and start their own families and sometimes that pulls them in different directions. If that happens between me and Heyes, well I suppose that's just life and people move on, but I hope it doesn't happen like that. I want us to stay close, to raise our families together but I don't know if that'll happen or not.”
Jed paused here and took Beth's face in his hands and turned her eyes up to meet his. “But either way Beth, darlin'...you're my family now and your folks are my folks. I can't begin our lives together knowing I had betrayed that trust. That first time, well...it just happened and we can't take it back. But it's not going to happen again. I'm going to marry you Bethany Jordan and we're gonna have a parcel of young'uns! But I'm gonna do your folks proud, and we're gonna do this the right way.”
Beth blinked as she stared up into his brilliant eyes and she felt a tear forming and then roll down her cheek. She sniffed and smiled as he wiped the tear away with a thumb. She nodded.
“Yes,” she whispered with a quiet sob. “You're right. We can wait.”
He smiled at her, kissed her on the forehead and pulled her into a tight hug.
“I love you,” came out in unison.
Abigail walked around the playground, casually observing the children milling around in squealing murmurations of excitement, desperately trying to avoid the attentions of Billy Richardson who was ‘it’. She strolled over to the corner of the school house and glanced down the side, acutely aware of the appeal dark corners held for rule breakers. Her eyes fixed on the small, freckle-faced boy who was hacking his lungs out with his red-haired, rapscallion of a sidekick shrouded in a cloud of smoke. She fought to conceal the delight tugging her mouth into a smile. She had been here nearly two weeks, and she finally had the chance to have a long conversation with the Stanton boy on his own.
“Smoking! In my school!” Abigail bellowed. “Edward Stanton and Eugene O’Shea, get inside, right now.”
She followed the boys into the schoolroom, assessing the pair. Eugene was the more pugnacious of the pair, with a cantankerous swagger and an aggressively thrusting chin, but his hard front did not fool Abigail who had already heard a great deal about his drunken, abusive father. The boy was clearly damaged.
“Well? What have you got to say for yourselves?”
“Póg mo thóin,” Eugene muttered under his breath.
Abigail’s eyes widened, he’d cursed her in Irish, but this one sounded exactly the same in Scottish. “Diabhol beag!”
She sucked in a breath and let loose a stream of Celtic invective which not only held the children’s attention, they were transfixed. Eugene’s normally shifty demeanour dissipated as he stood as though caught in a headwind, blinking futilely as the torrent swept over him. Abigail finished and stood glaring at him with her arms folded, tapping her toe on the floorboards.
“Miss? You speak Gaelic, Miss?”
“Fluently! I suspect you only know a few words. Isn’t that right, Eugene? Just the odd curse or swearword? The fun stuff.”
Her glower told the boy that she didn’t see any real fun in his comment at all. He dropped his head. “So you know what it means, Miss?”
“Not only did I understand every word, I have no intention of doing it, and I doubt anyone else will either. I suggest you do it yourself, if you are limber enough. Now, back to the point, why were you smoking in my school?”
Eugene gave a surly shrug. “I just do, Miss. I’ve done it for ages.”
“Eugene – you do not do it any more. I understand that some of the mothers covering around here are afraid of your father, so were a bit lax in disciplining you. Let me be absolutely clear. He does not frighten me, and you do not impress me. Whilst you are in my care you will obey the rules, just like everyone else; or you will face the consequences. Do you understand?”
Eugene bristled. “I ain’t scared o’ the cane.”
“Cane?” Abigail shook her head. “Oh, no, Eugene. You don’t get to walk out of here and boast of how tough you were in the face of pain.” A wicked smile spread over her face. “I am far more creative than that. You will wipe the blackboard, and clean out the fireplace first thing in the morning for me for one week. You will also help the little ones with their coats, clean all the slates, clean the dusters, and fetch the chalks.”
“But them’s teacher’s pet jobs!” Eugene protested.
“Precisely,” grinned Abigail. “I suspect you have been hit rather a lot in your young life, and it does not appear to be having a beneficial effect. I think I’ll try a different tack, but it’s a shame some of the boys may laugh at you.”
“Do you want me to make it two? If you do not want my full attention, Eugene, make sure you comply with school rules. You may go. I want to speak to Edward now.”
Edward Stanton Junior watched his accomplice stalk from the room. “Are you gonna hit me, Miss?”
“I have no aversion to using corporal punishment where I see it as being appropriate, but I believe that a child should learn from punishment, and I will always find the method which I believe will give the miscreant the biggest lesson. I’m taking you home to your parents after school, Edward.” She sat and indicated to a chair next to her. “I expect they will have a great deal more to say on the matter than I ever could.”
Edward’s mouth fell open. “You can’t tell my ma, she’ll skin me alive.”
“Quite; so it’ll save me the job, Edward,” Abigail patted the chair next to her. “Sit down, now I want you to tell me why you did such a thing. You are normally such a conscientious student.”
The child dropped his backside into the seat. “They said it was great. Manly.”
“As manly as somebody dying of phthisis? That’s how you sounded to me.”
“Gene says it takes everyone like that at first.”
“Eugene also said that Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark. I really would not turn to him as the font of all knowledge.” She softened her tone. “Edward, when good students begin to act out, there’s usually something else going on. Is everything alright? Are you being bullied?”
“Bullied? No, Miss. I ain’t bein’ bullied.”
“What then, is everything alright at home?”
Abigail gave the boy a sympathetic smile as he hesitated, trying to form his thoughts into a sentence. “My Ma is unhappy, she lost her uncle and she loves him. She’s been shoutin’ at me a lot, she’s real easy upset.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. A bereavement? Your mother never said her uncle had died. She must have been very close to him.”
Edward shook his head. “He ain’t dead, Miss. Just moved away, but she’s upset because he had to go.”
“Had to?” Abigail knew it was time to tread very carefully. The child could not report back to his parents that his teacher had been prying. It had to look natural.
“Men were looking for him, so he had to leave town.”
Abigail nodded. “I can see why that would be upsetting for your poor mother. Has he gone far?”
“Oh, no, Miss, but ma was real angry. So was pa.”
She laid a hand on the child’s arm. “So, you’ll be able to see him if he’s not gone far? That’s not too bad is it?”
“We can’t see him, miss. Ma says the men might be followin’ her, that’s why she’s angry. She says they’re bad men.”
“Oh, how very sad. I can see why your mother would be upset, loving a man so much but not being able to see him.” She caught her breath. “Where has he gone?”
“Ma says I can’t tell.”
Abigail’s heart sank. It was time to back off. “Then you mustn’t, Edward. You’re right. Now, will you promise me you won’t smoke again, and that you will comply with the school rules?”
Edward rattled his head vigorously up and down. “Yes, Miss. I promise.”
She patted his arm. “As you have had such a hard time recently, I will give you one more chance. I will not tell your parents as long as you promise to behave. Will you?”
Edward’s face lit up at the prospect of a reprieve. “Oh, yes, Miss. I will!”
Abigail nodded. “Then go, and behave yourself. Your mother has had enough to worry about recently, and I don’t want to add to it. This will be our little secret, unless I find you misbehaving again.”
Edward stood, hardly believing his luck. “Miss, can I tell the boys you gave me the cane?”
Abigail stood, absently nodding. “If you like, Edward. I don’t mind; just be good, will you.”
Heyes lay back on the bed with his hands behind his head. “Abi, will you stop pacing? What’s wrong with you?”
Heyes arched his brows, suddenly understanding how annoying he’d probably been for the Kid over the years. “Tell me what’s bothering you, maybe I can help?”
She frowned. “I can’t.”
“Can’t, or won’t?” Heyes asked, pushing himself to a sitting position.
“Can’t... won’t, oh, it’s both.” She turned, striding off towards the window again.
Heyes stood. “It’s been a long time since I had to make you talk, I wonder if I’ve still got the knack?” Abigail turned distracted eyes on him as he came up behind her and slipped a hand around her waist. “What is it?”
She gave a heavy sigh. “I can’t. You’ll want to get involved and it’s simply not possible. It would breach your parole.”
“What would, Abi?”
She simply looked off into the corner. Heyes swung her around and gave her a gentle shake. “Talk to me! What can’t you tell me?” He paused. “You’re frightening me now, Abi.”
She smiled softly and laid a hand on his cheek. “There’s nothing for you to be scared of. I’m trying to think of a way of doing something by myself which takes two people; oh, if only Jed was still here.”
“Whatever it is, it’s illegal, or you’d ask Harry.” He pulled her over to the bed.
Abigail shrugged. “It could be done legally, but the Stantons' would probably find out what I was up to and warn Mitchell. It has to be covert.”
Heyes narrowed his eyes. “What does?” Abigail bit into her lip, but remained silent. “You asked for it,” he muttered, pushing her onto the bed. He knelt on top of her with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “I know how ticklish you are, and you’re all healed now; so talk.”
“I’m trying to protect you, Mr. Heyes. You’ll insist on doing something, and I could never live with myself if you ended up back inside because of me.”
He grinned and shook his head. “If we’re going to get married, you’ll have to learn to obey. It’s part of the deal.” He ran his long fingers over her, chuckling as she writhed and squealed beneath him. “Nah, on second thoughts, we’ll do it this way. It’s more fun.”
She choked back her hysterics. “Stop it! People will hear.”
“Then talk,” he started again, this time tickling with a vengeance.
“No! No more... fine, I’ll tell you,” she grabbed his wrists, “as long as you promise not to get involved. You just give me ideas; deal?”
He dropped down, catching her lips in a long kiss. “I had hoped that I already gave you ideas.”
“You’re certainly a distraction,” she wound her fingers through his hair and drew him to her, nibbling along his jaw line.
“I’m worried about you, that’s all.”
“Then tell me, Abi. Maybe I can suggest another way? I don’t want to go back inside either.”
She hesitated, clearly thinking deeply before she finally spoke. “I need to hold up Western Union.”
“Huh?” Heyes’ jaw dropped. “In God’s name, why?”
“Because I need to see their records. Julia Stanton’s uncle hasn’t gone too far – her son told me. She’ll certainly have been in contact with him, but if Harry gets the records officially there’s a very good chance the Stantons will find out their contact has been investigated. She’ll find another way of warning him and he’ll go to ground. It has to be secret.”
“So break in. You could do that standing on your head.”
“It’s manned twenty four hours a day, Mr. Heyes. There’s always somebody there. The only way I can think of doing it is a hold-up,” she stared at him in challenge, “unless you can come up with one of your famous plans? How do we get into somewhere which is constantly manned, without them knowing we have looked at their records?”
“I can’t help thinking about a prostitute.”
Abigail scowled at him. “That’d better be a suggestion for our problem with Western Union.”
He dropped a light kiss on the tip of her nose. “You must have thought of that too, Abi.”
“People know me here, and I only have a very basic kit for disguise. I’m the schoolteacher – I can’t be seen going into the brothel.”
“But I can, so can Harry.”
She dropped back on the bed, her mobile face reflecting her whirling mind. “I was trying to keep you out of it, and Harry’s such a bad judge of character. We have to be careful about using prostitutes; we don’t know which one Ed Stanton favours. It’s another way we can be found out.”
“We don’t know he uses one at all, Abi.”
“Mr. Heyes, the average married man has sex outside of marriage twice a week,” she flicked up an eyebrow, “and you’d better not be one of them.”
“Average!? How dare you!?” He caught her mouth with his own, probing deeply. He released her; her heart skipping a beat at the devilment dancing in his eyes again. “I’m going to have to prove myself, aren’t I?”
Thank goodness he was on a train again! The stagecoach ride into Murreyville had been just enough of a reminder to Cage as to how much he hated coach travel! He was just too big to fit comfortably on those seats which of course had been designed for the average physique. As long as he could get a bench seat to himself then train travel was far more preferable. Luck was with him, or perhaps simply the time of year as there weren't too many people riding the train and Cage found himself able to stretch out in a whole compartment all to himself. This was doable.
He had sent a quick telegram to Warden Reece, informing him of the impending visit and then had made a dash for the train, getting to the station just in time to jump on board. He got settled and went over some of his notes just to keep things fresh in his mind, but the ride to Laramie was not that far so it wasn't long before he was gathering up his belongings and preparing to disembark.
Once more he settled into the hotel and thinking that one of these days he would have to put down some roots and establish a permanent residence. Well, especially now if he was going to be taking over the role of full-time father to Jake. Yes, that would dictate some changes in his life, he would have to be at home a lot more often than he had been of late. Might even need to hire a nanny to help out as well. Oh, what was he thinking!? Of course he'd have to hire a nanny! He still had to work for goodness sakes!
The skies finally gave up the pretence as he was driving out to the prison and white flakes were slowly beginning to drift down through the cold, bleak air. He sighed and slapped the horse's rump with the lines to encourage it to pick up the pace a little bit and the horse didn't seem to mind obliging. They arrived at the prison in record time and a good thing too because Cage's hands were well on the way to being too numb to hold the lines.
He had never been to this prison before and it was indeed a bleak structure to gaze upon. He wasn't sure if this was just because of some of the atrocities he had heard about that had gone on behind those walls, or if it was the weather. But either way he felt a chill go through him as he approached the front doors and had to force himself to enter the building even though he knew he was simply here on business and was not going to be entering the prison proper.
Upon entering the business area of the prison though, Cage felt the warmth creep into his extremities and instantly felt the better for it. He actually began to remove his gloves and unbutton his coat as he made his way over the the reception desk. Even though Cage would not have known the difference, there had been some changes made in this department. Officer Murrey stood up from his desk and greeted the visitor. Mr. Thompson was no where to be seen.
“Mr. Attwater?” Murrey assumed.
“Yes, that's right.”
“Fine sir.” Murrey smiled at him. “The warden is expecting you. If you'll just come this way.”
Murrey led him the short distance over to the office door, knocked upon that barrier and opened it without waiting for a response from inside.
“Mr. Attwater, Warden.”
Cage entered the office to find himself facing a pleasant enough looking official and instantly felt at ease with this man. Kenny smiled and standing up, came forward to shake his hand.
“Mr. Attwater,” Kenny greeted him. “Good to meet you, please have a seat. Murrey, bring us some coffee will you? I'm sure our guest is feeling the cold.”
Cage stripped off his coat before sitting down and then sighed with the relief of the comfortable temperatures.
“It's certainly pleasant enough in here,” he commented. “Although I do recall Heyes stating that the prison was cold as hell frozen over during the winter months.”
Kenny smiled again and nodded agreement. “Yes. It used to be quite uncomfortable working here in the winter—for inmates and guards alike. I've made a few changes in that direction.”
“Oh,” Cage nodded with approval. “I'll let Heyes know.”
“I'm actually pleased that you decided to swing by here Mr. Attwater, despite the weather,” Kenny began the discussion. “I have some information that I wanted to pass on to Heyes in their investigation, but I have no way of reaching them. I take it you will be seeing them again shortly?”
“I expect so, yes,” Cage informed him. “They could be on the move but we agreed to leave messages and such at the Pinkerton office just so's we don't lose track of one another.” He smiled. “If Heyes is anything like Abi when she's on the scent they could be just about anywhere.”
Kenny looked a little suspicious at this comment. “Is Heyes not being monitored?” he asked the Pinkerton. “You do realize that is a condition of his parole; that an appointed official would know at all times where he is and what he is doing. I thought that was you. Are you telling me that you do not know where he is?”
Cage felt a slight apprehension, as though he were a schoolboy being reprimanded by the principal for some misconduct. Fortunately it was at this point that Murrey re-entered the office carrying a tray with two cups of coffee and a jug of cream. He set the tray down on a side desk and turned to the visitor.
“How would you like your coffee, Mr. Attwater?” he asked pleasantly.
“Just some cream would be fine,” Cage answered distractedly, thinking he could use something stronger right now, but coffee would do.
Murrey prepared his cup and then set it down on the side table next to Cage's chair. He prepared the next cup the way he knew his boss liked it and set that cup down on the desk. He then made a discreet exit. Cage and Kenny looked at each other. Kenny was obviously waiting for an answer.
“Ah, yes that's correct, Warden,” Cage assured him and then took a sip from his cup. Kenny continued to wait. “We decided that the best way to cover all the leads was for us to separate. I transferred responsibility for Mr. Heyes over to a Mr. Briscoe. He is a Bannerman detect.....”
“BRISCOE!” Kenny actually raised his voice, which is a rare occurrence for him. “You put Harry Briscoe in charge of Hannibal Heyes!?”
Cage actually felt the need to defend his motivations to this man, which was odd since Cage considered himself to be quite the competent detective and shouldn't have to explain his reasoning to anyone other than his boss. Still, this unassuming prison warden had an air about him that demanded respect and Cage found himself scrambling to put the man's concerns to rest.
“Mr. Heyes is under my authority throughout this whole investigation, however it has become necessary on occasion for us to separate in order to follow up on different leads. I personally did not feel comfortable sending Harry Briscoe to Cheyenne in order to interview the Judge. He seems competent enough to handle smaller assignments, but keeping his head above water while dealing with Judge Parsons seemed to me to be a little out of his reach,” Cage explained. “I assure you Warden Reece that I am aware of what Heyes is doing and Heyes promised to respect Harry's authority in this matter.”
Kenny sighed, and sitting back in his chair, took his coffee cup with him and nursed it for a few moments as he gave himself time to digest this new bit of information. Then he chuckled, with almost a hint of playful maliciousness.
“That must be driving Heyes nuts; having to concede to Harry Briscoe,” Kenny finally speculated but then he sobered and looked Cage in the eye. “I hope he keeps to his word on this. I like Heyes. Oddly enough both he and Jed became friends over the years that Heyes was here and I would hate to see him throw it all away on this. I don't want to see him sent back.”
“None of us do, Warden Reece,” Cage assured him. “Abi is with him, and believe me; if anyone can keep him in line, she can. Briscoe is the official, but Abigail Stewart is the incentive. I feel very confident that Heyes will behave himself.” Then Cage smiled. “He met his daughter, did you know?”
Kenny's eyebrows went up and he sat forward again with a smile on his face.
“No I didn't,” he admitted. “Did it go well?”
“I would say that it did, yes,” Cage informed him. “They have still chosen to keep the paternity a secret even from the child herself, but there was an instant connection between them that could not be denied. I really don't think that Heyes is going to do anything to jeopardize that.”
Kenny nodded in agreement, a soft smile still hovering. “You may very well be right Mr. Attwater,” he stated. “That child has a strong hold on him. She was the only thing that kept him alive in here, I'm sure of it. Let's hope she will continue to keep him safe.”
“Yes,” Cage agreed as he sipped his coffee again. “Ah, the main reason I wanted to see you Warden was to possibly ask Mr. Harris a few more questions concerning his involvement in this case. We seem to be having a hard time tying everything together, perhaps Mr. Harris.....” Cage stopped talking as he noticed Kenny regretfully shaking his head.
“Is this a problem?”
“I'm afraid Mr. Harris is no longer with us,” Kenny admitted somewhat reluctantly.
“Oh,” Cage was surprised. “He's already been transferred back to Kansas? Well, I suppose those citizens are also eager for justice, but I would have thought he'd be here through the winter at least.”
“No, Mr. Attwater,” Kenny informed him. “he was not transferred.”
Cage creased his brow in confusion. “Well then....?”
“I have been working here at this prison for twenty years now,” Kenny informed the detective. “and I still don't understand how the 'silent grape vine' works. But 'work' it does.” Here Kenny sighed again, looking very regretful. “There are some crimes that even a hardened convict cannot abide. When most of the inmates here can accept a man raping and torturing to death a prostitute and perhaps, even his own wife—committing those same atrocities against a young child is not so readily accepted.
“Many of our inmates here are fathers themselves and when word of what Mr. Harris was suspected of doing got around, I'm afraid.....” Kenny frowned even more and shook his head. “We do what we can to keep the prisoners safe here, no matter what their crime. I still don't know whether the fight on the work floor was a deliberate distraction or simply a snatched opportunity, but whatever the case when all was said and done, Mr. Harris had been attacked. He was thrown off the third level walkway and hit the concrete work floor head first. Just about every bone in his body was broken. I'm afraid he did not survive.”
“Oh,” was Cage's stunned response. “I see.” Having a cup of coffee handy was certainly a useful distraction. “Hardly a great loss though, really...”
Kenny stiffened slightly, taking offence. “Perhaps not Mr. Attwater,” he countered. “but it is still my responsibility to keep the inmates safe. I failed Mr. Harris in that regard and despite what his crimes were he still had the right to a legal trial. Vigilantism is not acceptable in a civilized society and I regret that it was allowed to take precedence here in this situation.”
“Oh, well yes of course! You're quite right Warden Reece. I meant no disrespect,” Cage quickly assured him. “It's just—well the nature of that crime was quite disturbing to many of us. As you say; we are all father's ourselves, and....”
“Yes. I know,” Kenny quietly conceded as he reflected back on his own reaction upon hearing of that despicable attack and the fear and the anger he had felt himself for the safety of his own daughter. “But we must try to rise above those feelings of revenge. That is the one thing that separates us from the men who are incarcerated here.”
Cage smiled. “Good point. Ah, you mentioned that there was something you wished to discuss with me...?”
“Yes!” Kenny brightened up as the conversation moved away from that dark topic. “After I took over here as warden I began to notice some discrepancies with the bookkeeping. Ahh, income versus expenses, etc. I made mention of this to the Penal Board and they sent over one of their accountants to go over the prison's financial books from the past few years.
“It appears that Mr. Mitchell had a lot more going on behind the scenes than was originally thought. Much of the funding sent here to cover the cost of heating and decent food and winter clothing seems to have trickled away into other, unknown areas. We have nothing to go on, really—no proof that he was embezzling funds, but....I believe the Penal Board had sent someone to discreetly investigate the matter further and perhaps have a word with Mr. Mitchell himself. He would at least be given the opportunity to clear himself of suspicion.”
“That's interesting,” Cage commented as his brain went into gear. “Would you happen to know who the Penal Board sent to speak with Mr. Mitchell?”
“No,” Kenny admitted. “I was not privy to that. Does it matter?”
“Well....” Cage looked introspective as he scratched his chin. “we came very close to having some words with Mr. Mitchell ourselves. Unfortunately he left town rather quickly because there had been someone else in town before us, asking about him.”
“Oh?” Kenny was mildly surprised. “Do you know who it was?”
“He was identified to Mr. Briscoe as the marshal, Tom Morrison.”
“Morrison!?” Kenny was totally surprised. “I thought he was an invalid, just being allotted the marshal's title as an honourary position.”
Cage shrugged. “Apparently he's mobile enough. I swung by his hometown on my way here and the sheriff there states that he has gone to visit a friend back east. Doesn't know when he'll be back.”
Kenny sat back, steepling his fingers and thought about this. “So....nothing official. If he is investigating Mitchell, it's being done undercover.”
“Yes,” Cage agreed, then put out his own hypothesis. “Or, he has secretly joined forces with Mr. Mitchell in his attempts to seek revenge against Heyes and Curry. Morrison put a lot into getting those two to trial and then look what happened.”
Kenny sighed and quietly scrutinized Cage over the top of his fingertips. Finally he straightened up, shaking his head. “I don't know Mr. Attwater. I would have to go a long ways before I could believe that Marshal Morrison would stoop so low. He has always been above board in his dealings with the law. A bit heavy handed at times, I agree—but above board, none the less.”
“Of course,” Cage conceded. “Simply another possibility that we are considering.” He sighed and sat back himself in frustration. “This has been such a tangled web. As soon as we think we're getting close to the end of it, five more leads show up! I just want to make sure we don't miss anything.”
“I understand that,” Kenny agreed. “Perhaps if you will leave me an address so if anything else comes up that I feel is relevant, then at least I can get in touch.” He smiled coyly. “It is most irritating being left out of the loop.”
Cage chuckled and nodded agreement. “I can relate to that. As I said; we are using the Pinkerton office in Denver as our communications center. I'm sure that if you leave a message there, one of us will get it.”
“Alright, thank you,” Kenny answered. “I believe we have that on record here. I'll use that if anything comes up.”
Cage stood up then, preparing to take his leave. “Thank you for your time Warden,” he said, extending his hand if farewell. “I'll be sure to pass on this information to the other members of our team.”
“Good.” Kenny stood up and the two men shook hands. “Send my greetings to Heyes and Jed. I have every intention of taking him up on the invitation to his wedding, so it's time we got this little mystery wrapped up!”
Cage smiled again. “You bet. I'll let 'em know.”
“And watch out for Heyes, will you please?” Kenny's tone was long-suffering. “That man is too damn smart for his own good and he ends up getting himself into trouble.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” Cage mumbled whimsically. “Don't worry Warden, we'll keep 'em straight.”
“Good. Have a safe trip back.” Then... “Mr. Murrey!!”
Harry plonked the tank on the bar, and turned to the boy carrying the parcel behind him. “Thanks, son, here’s the money I promised ya.” He dropped a few coins into the outstretched hand and turned back to the bar where curious patrons were sidling up to look at the bulbous fish darting around with huge, unblinking, black eyes and long, delicate fins trailing behind them like voluminous lace.
“What’s them things?” a stranger asked.
“Fish,” Harry replied, stating the obvious. “Barman, do you have some water to top up this tank? They’ve had to travel with less so it didn’t slop over the side on the train.”
“Well, I ain’t an idiot.” The man retorted. “What kind of fish. I ain’t never seen none like that.”
“Racing fish - real valuable. I’ve been asked to look after them in transit. I’m a Bannerman detective.”
A tall man on Harry’s left leaned on the bar, examining the goldfish close up. “We know; that’s why nobody talks to you.”
Harry scowled and gestured toward the barman pointing at the pump. “And a beer, please,” he turned to the stranger. “You’re talking to me now.”
The smaller man wiped foam from his moustaches. “You ain’t never walked in here with racin’ fish before. Valuable you say?”
Harry nodded. “World class champions. They need someone trustworthy to look after them until their owner sends somebody to take them the last leg of the journey to San Francisco. They’re the new craze – all the rich folks are betting on them. They can race them after dinner, without even mixing with the likes of us. They’re exchanging hands for thousands of dollars.”
A huddle of interest was now forming around Harry, pushing and craning their necks to examine these fascinating new champions which were bobbing and gliding around with their mouths opening and closing in constant expressions of surprise, whilst skirts of billowing silk wafted in their wake.
“That one’s kinda bug-eyed.”
Harry gave a huff of exasperation. “It’s a race, not a beauty contest.”
“What do they taste like?” demanded a small man, pushing in from behind.
“Taste!?” Harry blustered in outrage. “Let’s get something straight. None of ya are gonna eat these fish. They’re thoroughbreds, pedigree, pure-bloods - if these fish could speak, they wouldn’t talk to any of ya.”
“They look like they taste like frilly carrots,” ventured the old-timer to his left.
“I think I saw somethin’ like that in San Francisco, years ago. They had them in a shop window,” muttered another. “T’weren’t so fancy though, just plain gold.”
“Maybe you did, but they wouldn’t have been of this quality.” Harry puffed out his chest. “These are real special.”
“Yeah,” murmured the older man. “The thin one looks kinda elegant,” he stood, drawing his arms in like a chicken, making swimming gestures with his hands and waggling his backside. “Real graceful; is it a girl fish?”
“You tryin’ a matin’ dance, Alfie?” chortled large bearded man. “Mind you, you’re kinda bug-eyed, scaly, and toothless too. You might be her type!”
Heyes appeared, with Ed Stanton at his side, in to enjoy a post-work drink. “What’s this, mister?”
“Racin’ fish,” announced Alfie.
“Fish that race?” Ed queried. “You can do that?”
“There are in my care for safe keeping. I’m a Bannerman man.”
“Yeah,” Ed Stanton grinned knowingly. “You looked for Uncle George and came back with fish? Great work.”
“Nope,” Harry shook his head. “I’m still looking though. They gave me this job in the meantime.”
“Well you mind they don’t get away from you,” Ed turned a cynical smile on Heyes. “You’ll probably turn up an owl instead.”
Harry’s lips formed into a line. “I deal with more than one thing at a time, you know.”
Heyes frowned into the fish tank. “I’ve heard of these, but I’ve never seen one. Can we see them race?”
Harry shook his head purposefully. “NOBODY, gets their hands on these little beggars – not while I’m around.”
There was a general chorus of disapproval from the bar, with cries of, “Ah, go on,” and “What’s the harm,” and one oath calling Harry something starting with ‘miserable, little...’
“How long have you got these things?” Heyes leaned on the bar nonchalantly.
“Five days. The owner is coming for them in person.” Harry downed the last of his drink. “Damn. I sent that boy away. How am I supposed to carry this tank as well as my parcel?”
“I’ll help you,” Heyes chimed in helpfully. He turned, whispering theatrically to the men beside him. “I’ve always wanted to see these things. If I can persuade him to stage a race who’s up for a harmless bet?”
Harry seemed impervious to the nudging and nodding around him as he bent to pick up his parcel.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he whispered in Ed’s ear, “leave it to me.”
“Racing fish?” Harry muttered when they stepped outside into the snow. “What have you gotten me into?”
“A diversion, nothing more, Harry.”
“But fish!?” Harry stepped up onto the boardwalk. “Goldfish?”
“Yeah, but these are fancy ones with long, trailing fins and a different shape body. They look like something special. They’re exotic looking, and folks are likely to believe anything you tell them about something they’ve never seen before, especially when you say they’re not good enough to be near it.”
Harry scowled. “Where’d you get these anyway? I’ve never seen fish like it.”
“A friend in San Francisco got them for me, and sent them by freight.”
“This had better be honest,” Harry muttered.
“It is honest, and you’ll be there to make sure of it.” Heyes gave Harry a dimpled grin of reassurance. “And you need to send a telegram first thing in the morning to say these fish have arrived.”
Harry’s brows met in the centre of his forehead in query. “Why not now?”
“Because the man who’s on duty on Saturday evening is on tomorrow, Harry. Did you get the other stuff I requested?”
“Yeah, but why did I have to go to another town to get that. You could buy it here.”
“No, we couldn’t, Harry,” Heyes stepped through the door Harry held open for him. “And on Saturday night you see why.”
Rosenberg looked up with a smile, but it fell from his face when he recognised the sharp nose and black moustache of Harry Briscoe taking position across the counter from him. “Can I help you, Sir?”
“I need to send a telegram,” Harry handed over a piece of paper.
Rosenberg tried to mask the look of relief which washed over his pale face. “So, just a normal transaction? Certainly,” he looked down at the note and blinked. “Japanese Racing Fish?”
Harry chewed on his cigar. “Yup,” he replied, gruffly. “Long frilly fins, real valuable. I’ve got them until they get collected on Sunday.”
“Racing fish? They race? With each other?”
Harry’s beady eyes darkened with irritation, but he played along. “What d’you think they race with, cats?”
Rosenberg scratched his head. “I’ve heard of fighting fish, but never racing fish.”
“They’re rare; I sure wish I could get rid. What if they die before I can hand them over? It’s a big responsibility.”
“Maybe I could take a look at them? I was bitten by the bug when I was a boy, and I’ve been an ardent ichthyologist ever since.”
Harry shook his head sadly. “Aw, gee. I’m real sorry. That sounds tough, don’t you ever get relief?”
“No, I love fish.”
“Me too,” responded Harry. “A bit of batter and some vinegar... just the job.”
“Are you going to race them?” Rosenberg asked, wearily.
Harry scowled. “No. Have you got my receipt? I’m in a hurry.”
“Could I even see them?” Rosenberg tapped out the staccato message before he entered the transaction into a logbook.
“All kinds of folks are after those little critters, and I’m not taking the chance of somebody dropping something in the water to stop them racing. They stay in my room.”
“I said no, Rosenberg,” barked Harry.
Rosenberg sighed. “Here you go, Mr. Briscoe. You’re message has been sent.”
Harry left the office, wondering who on earth Heyes had made him send a nonsensical message to.
The next man in line bustled up to the counter watching the detective’s departing back with a dimpled grin.
Rosenberg nodded in Harry’s direction. “There’s a man who makes strangers easily.”
Heyes followed the clerk’s gaze. “He’s staying in my hotel, and he’s giving a talk on law enforcement to the women’s welfare group at seven o’clock on Saturday. The fish are in his room.”
“So?” Rosenberg asked, curiously.
“The manager is a betting man; he’s got a bath tub, and a master key.” Heyes arched his brows. “The detective’ll never know. Do you want in?”
Rosenberg gave him a pained look. “Aw I can’t, I’m working on Saturday night, I’m the only one here, damn it. I study exotic fish. It’s my hobby and I’d give anything to see them.”
“Can’t you get cover? I’ve never seen fish like them in my life.”
“Saturday evenings I’m here on my own,” Rosenberg replied.
“So what do you do if you need to use the outhouse?”
“I lock the door and turn the sign around.” Rosenberg shrugged. “If a message comes in it’s recorded on the paper strip. Anything else’ll just have to wait.”
“So?” Heyes’ eyes twinkled temptingly. “Lock the door, who’s gonna know. You’re clearly interested in fish. You just want to see them. It wouldn’t take above ten minutes. Who’s to know?”
Heyes shrugged. “Hey, just think about it. It makes no difference to me, but those things’ll be outta here Sunday morning. It’ll be your only chance.” He handed over his message. “Here, I want to send this to a friend. The wife and I are moving into a little house today. I thought they’d want to know we’re not going to be at the hotel anymore.”
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Gone Fishin' Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:06 pm|| |
Fingers of shadows and light danced over Abigail’s pensive face as she gazed aimlessly into the fire, before she picked up a log and tossed it into the flames. Sparks flew, cracking and spitting, tossing out sparkling, glittering scintillae of light which floated up before dissipating into nowhere. She turned at the sound of the door opening and watched Heyes kick the snow from his boots against the door jamb.
“It’s coming down real heavy now,” he pulled off his jacket and draped it over the back of the chair, looking around the cabin. It had only one room, but it was well provisioned, with a brass bedstead set against the far wall, a table with two chairs in the centre of the room, and a wide roaring fire providing most of the heat and light. “You’ve got a good fire going. It’s real cosy in here.”
“It’s basic, but it’ll do” Abigail wiped away the vestiges of the logs from her hands. “It’s pretty much what we could expect to start with on your income.”
He gave a sheepish smile. “I know, Abi. I’m sorry.” He walked over to the hearth where she knelt and laid gentle hands on her shoulders. “I don’t have much to offer, do I?”
Her fingers curled around his. “Mr. Heyes, you have your whole life ahead of you and more potential than many could dream of. You’ll be fine.”
“There’s a bit of me that can’t quite grasp why good people stayed with me.”
“You reap what you sow – you earned loyalty.” She turned her head to kiss his hand, her thumb tracing a gentle, meandering stroke over his knuckles. “You were a thief, a liar, and a cheat; but you were never cruel. There was always that valuable nugget there, the part your mother would have been proud of.” She felt him stiffen at the mention.
“My mother?” Heyes gave a dry laugh. “After I ran away and left my sister?” He paused. “My heart stopped when I saw Anya run. I suddenly heard footsteps echoing in my memory.” He sighed heavily. “It was like the dead haunting me in the form of the living.”
She grasped his hand more tightly. “Mr. Heyes, I am a mother. We want our children to survive above all else – besides, what could a boy really have done? She would know that you were too young. She’d love her boy, she’d will you to live, and love, and laugh. If you understand nothing else, you must truly get that in your head. You’re all she has left. Make her proud. If Anya reminds you of them, think of it as a whisper of the future.”
Heyes blinked back the sting in his eyes. “You have a way of cutting to the quick, Abi.”
“Good. There’s too much nonsense in your head, you need to concentrate on what matters.” She raised his hand to her lips again. “The future matters, not the past.”
Abigail dropped her head. “The moment, then - just now, the rest will follow.” She paused. “So, we’ve got two days before your plan on Saturday? What if he’s not prepared to go and see the fish?"
Heyes rubbed his face. “I’ve got a backup plan. He’ll get out of there, one way or another - without a shot being fired.”
She arched her brows. “It’s time to send Harry to the Stantons' place. Let’s put the pressure on, and let’s see if they contact Mitchell. Are you sure we won’t even have to point a gun?”
“Trust me, Abi. You’ll have to be fast, but you’ll get a diversion, maybe even two. He might fall for both and give you more time, if we’re lucky.”
Abigail pulled at the hinged metal arms set into the fireplace, designed to swing pans over the flames for cooking. They were old technology, now overtaken by ranges. She had only seen them in very old and poor residences. “Stew, I’ve been busy cleaning, so I made something simple. It’s not exactly Jesse’s standard, but it’s good enough. I’ve made dumplings too.”
“Sounds good, and I’m sure it’s way better than Jesse’s.” He looked around the little house, scratching his head. “Plates? Have we got plates?”
They sat back, full, warm, and contented, basking in the heat of the roaring fire. Heyes tapped the table distractedly, his eyes swirling with nebulous shadows and intricate introspection.
“Penny for them.”
“A penny for your thoughts,” Abigail smiled. “The old saying... what are you thinking about? Or should I say; over-thinking?”
His dark eyes flicked up to hers. “I’m thinking about how natural this feels.”
“It does, doesn’t it? And no horse trough, so I can relax.”
His mouth spread into a grin. “I wish I could say I was sorry about that.”
“You’re incorrigible. That was horrible.”
Abigail giggled. “You devil! I’m glad I pulled you in after me.”
His smile dropped, but his eyes retained the glitter of the thrill. “I am too, Abi,” he reached across the table and grasped her hand. “It got us talking again. It was a start.”
“Yes, I was so miserable without you,” she grinned and caressed his fingers, “it was almost as bad as seeing you again.”
“You do push it, Abi,” Heyes laughed.
“So do you.” She reached over and took his plate. “I’d better do the dishes.”
“In a minute, they’ll keep. You have a forfeit to pay.”
She darted a curious look at him. “A forfeit?”
He stood and walked around the table. “You wanted a penny for my thoughts, and you haven’t come up with the goods. Do you think that’s a good idea with one of the most notorious outlaws in the west?” He took her hand, bringing her to her feet and gave her fingers a delicate kiss. “How do you suggest I collect?”
She shook her head and gave a light laugh. “What am I going to do with you?”
He stretched an arm around her waist drawing her to him. His hot breath smouldered in her ear as he whispered in her ear. “Good question, what are you going to do? We’re alone at last, no neighbouring rooms to keep quiet for. We can do whatever we want.” He gently stroked her cheek. “Thank God those bruises have faded. How could I ever have done that to you?”
She nuzzled into his palm. “Don’t...” She turned warm eyes up to him. “You didn’t do it. You had a nightmare. In fact, you lived a nightmare; that’s what caused it.” She dropped soft kisses over the sensitive, delicate skin, before continuing up to his wrist, caressing the scar with velvet lips.
He pulled her to her feet and drew her to him, murmuring in her ear while nibbling at the shell, causing electric tingles to shoot through her psyche. “Last time was all about me. How about a night for you?”
Abigail drew back. “As I remember it, I was just as bad. It had been a long time for me too. I don’t see that you have any debt to pay.”
“Let me be the judge of that, Abi? You’ve helped me with my dreams; now, that’s either down to you Scottish folks understanding how ghosts work, or you just got there first, and took the time to show me the way.” He tugged her chin up towards him with a crooked finger. “I get some sleep now, and that’s a gift, let me repay it.”
“What did you have in mind?”
A smile tugged at his lips as he drew her towards the bed. “Let me show you.” He leaned forward, a strong arm drawing around her waist before he swung her onto the mattress. “Let me look after you.” He lowered himself on top of her.
He caught her mouth in a deep kiss, his hand working deftly at the buttons of her blouse. He felt her cling to him, dropping urgent little pecks around his throat before sweeping her lips over his Adam’s apple and continuing down to his chest. He pulled back, pushing her back into the pillows with a soft smile. “We’re taking it slow this time, Abi.”
She flicked up an eyebrow. “You decided that, have you?”
He rolled over and lay beside her, picking strands of hair from her face. “Well, was it worth the wait?”
Abigail dragged her arms down, her breasts rising and falling with her still rasping breath. She turned her head, fixing him with swirling dark eyes. “You devil! I thought I was going to explode. Just how long did you keep me going!?”
Heyes slipped out of the rest of his clothes and pulled the blankets over him, nestling back on the pillows with both hands behind his head, answering her with only a glittering smile.
Her eyes widened. “Answer me. Do you really think I’ll let you away with that!?”
Heyes flicked up an eyebrow, giving her a wicked glint. “Well... I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t... but give me ten minutes.”
“Mr. Stanton, Mr. Stanton, come quick. Your wife’s shot him!”
The red-haired boy who had just run into the office wiped his nose on his sleeve and stared at Heyes and Ed with frantic blue eyes.
“Julia?” Ed dropped his pen on the blotter. “Shot who, Gene? What’s going on?”
“That detective, Mr. Stanton, he came to question her about her uncle. She’s gone mad!”
“Oh, Sh*t,” muttered Heyes, turning the sign to closed and turning the latch on the door as he rapidly followed Ed down the sidewalk towards the Stanton place.
Abigail had briefed Harry to be annoying to provoke Julia into action, but she’d possibly overlooked his starting point on the scale of vexation. Upping his game was surely going to take him into dangerous territory.
They got there in about five minutes, and Heyes’ stomach sank to see Harry lying by the front gate. He heaved a sigh of relief as Harry moved, confirming he was very much alive, and well enough to raise his arm to protect his head from the wet mop giving him a thorough thrashing about the head and shoulders.
“Julia!” yelled Ed. “What are you doing?”
She turned a puce face on her husband. “It’s that no-good, low-down, good-for-nothing detective!”
Ed grabbed the mop from her hands. “Did you shoot him?”
“I shot at him,” she propped her hands on her hips. “I missed.”
Harry pushed himself up to a sitting position. “You didn’t miss; you shot a hole in my hat, you’re a female madman!”
Heyes heaved a sigh of relief and crouched down beside Harry. “Are you alright?” he whispered.
Harry shot daggers at him. “You told me to annoy her. She could have killed me,” he hissed.
“I thought you could handle a housewife on your own,” Heyes murmured as he held out a hand and helped Harry to his feet, trying not to laugh at the sight of Harry’s sodden backside; wet and cold with the clinging muddy slush.
“I’ll have the law on you,” barked Harry, snatching up his damaged hat. “You can’t just go around shooting at folks.”
“Folks?” snapped Julia, her eyes glistening with tears. “You’re nothing but a menace. Can’t you just leave me alone? I don’t know where my uncle is, and even if I did I wouldn’t help you hand him over to some murdering low-life. He spent his life working for decency, and this is how you thank him? You should be ashamed!”
“Go away and leave us alone! For the last time - we can’t help.” A furious Ed put protective arms around his wife.
Heyes felt a pang of sympathy for the genuine pain glittering in the woman’s eyes. She couldn’t help who she was related to, and she had witnessed her father’s dreadful murder, but there was a job to be done and he whispered the prompt in Harry’s ear for him to deliver his killer line. He dropped his voice. “Do it Harry. Tell her what we told you to say, I’ll protect you.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but reluctantly continued with his role. “Please yourself, but you should know; I’m not the only one looking for him. He was embezzling from the prison, and the authorities now have evidence. If you don’t believe me, ask him yourself. You know where he is. I know you do.”
Julia screamed like a banshee before launching herself at the soggy Bannerman. Ed caught his wife around the waist, but she kept up the fight, kicking and screaming until she croaked like a demented hen.
Heyes gave a placating smile and grabbed Harry by the scruff of the neck. “I’ll get him out of here, Ed. You look after your wife, huh?” he hustled Harry around the corner before releasing him and straightening his jacket. “Great work, Harry. Even better than I thought you’d do.”
“Great work?” Harry waggled a finger through the hole in his hat. “That could have been my head!”
“But it wasn’t,” Heyes replied calmly. “Let’s get you back to the hotel, where you can have a nice, warm bath and a drink,” he leaned back and glanced at Harry’s soggy derriere. “We need to get that suit dry before we get out of here tomorrow.”
“Yup, there’s a late train at eight o’clock. We’re gonna be on it, all of us. We don’t want to hang around any later than that.”
Heyes pulled out his pocket watch. “Five to seven.”
Abigail darted a glance up and down the street. “He’s not going. If he was going to see the fish he’d be gone by now.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah, it looks like it,” he slipped his watch into his pocket. Well, we’ll have to rely on my backup plan. When he runs out of there you’ll have to be quick, Abi. He won’t have time to lock the door. Just look at that ledger and get out of there.”
Abigail shook her head. “I’m not sure about this.”
Heyes patted her on the arm. “It’ll be fine. Harry will keep watch and delay him if he comes back. Just pretend to be a normal customer, Abi, even if the lock’s been picked. He’ll just doubt whether or not he actually locked it.”
“Heyes you can’t pick locks!” Harry exclaimed. “You’re on parole.”
“I know; that’s why Abi’s doing it. I’ll be nowhere near here.” He raised his hand to wave farewell and clattered off down the sidewalk.
“Did he teach you how to pick locks?” Harry demanded.
“Of course not,” Abigail looked offended. “I learned years before I met him... right before I learned safes. I really should have spent more time on that. I’m useless at safes.”
“I’ve asked you this before, but I’ll ask again...did you used to be a criminal?”
“No,” she fixed him with an uncompromising stare. “And I’ve never even been tempted, Harry.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her eyes widened innocently. “What could it mean?” She glanced away with a secretive smile. “Forget it, look; Rosenberg’s heading out to the hotel. He’s either been busy or his watch is slow. Keep a look out.”
She walked over to the door, pausing only to draw something from her hair.
“A hairpin? For crying out loud, has she been reading dime novels?” Harry muttered under his breath, but he was cut silent when the door slid open, almost as quickly as if she had a key, and entered just like any other customer.
Harry stood on the sidewalk, guarding the group’s bags and keeping a keen eye on the dark January street; watching for Rosenberg’s return to the office. Heyes had made it clear that a backup was needed, because a man with a keen interest in fish would quickly spot ordinary, but fancy, goldfish. Heyes hadn’t been wrong; it seemed no time at all before the tall, lean figure of Ira Rosenberg emerged from around the corner and headed back across the road towards the Western Union office. Harry muttered a curse under his breath and dropped the stub of his cigar onto the boardwalk, grinding it into the dank boards underfoot before setting off to intercept the clerk.
Suddenly, a resounding explosion rent the night air, followed by a huge fireball which leaped high above the roofs. The bright orange flash lit up the darkness, casting long, dark shadows which stood out starkly against the incandescent fluorescence of the blast. As the fireball receded, the street was suddenly filled with the melee of shouting, the squeals of horses, and people streaming out of doorways to investigate the explosion. Rosenberg stood stock-still in shock before he turned on his heel and ran towards the scene of the blast with along everyone else.
A tall, dark figure appeared on the sidewalk and strolled nonchalantly towards Harry, his composure in complete contrast to the chaos of the yelling townsfolk desperately trying to establish what had happened in their quiet, little town.
“Heyes, what, in the name of all that’s holy, did you do to make an explosion like that?” demanded Harry. “I only got you two sticks of dynamite.”
Heyes gave a dimpled grin, watching the confusion and chaos with amusement. “Well, it had to be spectacular, Harry, it’s evening. We all know that a real explosion’s nothing like they’re described in the dime novels. A couple of sticks of dynamite would make a bang, but after the initial explosion the smoke would be lost in the dark. It had to be spectacular to be a good diversion.” He looked around casually. “No sign of Abi yet?”
Harry scratched his head. “So what did you use for the flash?”
“The flour and sugar I asked you to get at the same time as the dynamite. All those little particles hanging in the air make for a spectacular fire flash when they burn. It worked well, huh? Two barrels in the middle of the road with a stick in each one, along with the mixture and it went up with a bang. That’s why I asked you to get everything in the next town - so they couldn’t relate it to us.” Heyes nodded, clearly impressed at his own success. “A bit of spectacular effect – no damage, nobody hurt and nothing illegal.”
Harry shook his head. “Nothing illegal? Have you ever heard of disturbing the peace?”
“Heard of it? I perfected it,” chuckled Heyes. “Ah, here comes Abi?”
Abigail bustled towards them. “Did you see!? I can’t believe the way the sky lit up.”
“Yeah,” Heyes nodded. “I wasn’t sure it would work, but I’ll have to remember that for the future. Did you get anything?”
Her dark eyes gleamed up at them. “She’s been sending messages to a Charles Anderson in Joplin, Missouri; the last one was less than an hour after her confrontation with Harry. It said, ‘irregularities in accounts claimed. Please respond.”
“Anderson,” Heyes looked pensively off down the street. “So, we head to Joplin. I’ll send a telegram to the Kid to meet us there.”
They picked up their bags and headed to the railway station, Heyes stepping gallantly around Abigail to walk on the outside of the sidewalk. “Do you ever feel sorry for the marks, Abi?”
She nodded, slipping a hand around his arm. “It’s hard not to. Julia Stanton is a bit of a tragic figure. She really believes her father and his relatives were innocent soldiers and upstanding men, and she saw her father killed; but the truth is out there and it’s starting to eat at her; what with her uncle’s behaviour, and Jed’s trial. All that aggression is denial – but part of her knows. At best her father stood by and watched what happened to your families, and she understands what that was from the trial; at worst – she believes Jed, and is angry at him for destroying the memory she clung to all these years,” Abigail grimaced. “I don’t believe for a moment that didn’t affect her – she’s too disturbed by it all.”
Heyes sighed deeply. “I like her husband. I sure hope they’re not directly involved.”
“They have a son,” Abigail murmured, “so I do too, Mr. Heyes, I really do.”
Heyes had time to read on the way to Joplin. A.W. Carson, the founder of the Joplin Daily Herald, described the place as consisting of, ‘lead, whiskey, and gambling,’ but the conscientious work of Officer Daniel Sheehan had ‘cleaned up the worst excesses, allowing respectable people to go about their business unmolested provided they prudently kept to their own communities.’ Heyes couldn’t help but grin at the description of Sheehan as a gallant Irish Scholar, fluent in both Gaelic and English, as drilled in military tactics as he was in handling the ‘sirens of sin.’
Yup, If they had to deal with local law, Abigail would be the best placed to get him on side.
Abigail shuffled through some papers, laying some aside on the seat beside her. “Harry, most of the customers hit by The Devil’s Hole Gang used the Bannerman agency. Is there anyone who stood out as being particularly angry at being robbed?”
Harry shrugged. “I dunno. I can’t think of anyone.”
“Can you send a telegram at the next stop and ask? I want to check out a theory.”
“You think we ruined or humiliated somebody powerful, don’t you?” asked Heyes.
“I’m not sure, all I know is that somebody seems to be intent on hurting people close to you both, not just one of you; so it’s the most obvious reason. There may not be a connection to the Stantons at all; Mitchell may have just been a conveniently placed corrupt official.” Abigail turned over another page of her notes. “You have to be very careful not to make the evidence fit an idea you already have in your head. That’s very bad science and you’ll overlook a lead to the real perpetrator. Can you think of a particular enemy, Mr. Heyes?”
“I can’t think of any,” Heyes shook his head. “Sure we annoyed plenty of people, but I don’t think we did anything bad enough for them to do this. They’d have gone after us, not Beth.”
Abigail frowned and looked down at her work. “Did Danny Bilson have any family?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hmm, I’ll have to get Cage to look into that,” Abigail mused. “What about Clyde Ross?”
“Who? asked Heyes.
“The other raider Jed killed. He admitted it in his trial. He went for Jed saying he should have cut his throat like he did his brother’s, then Jed killed him.”
“Sorry, Abi. I’ve no idea,” Heyes frowned. “What are you getting at?”
“I really don’t know. I’m just playing with ideas, but it’s something else to check out.” She returned to her paperwork, chewing idly on her thumbnail.
Heyes returned to his reading. It was clear that the newspaper proprietor saw the local lawman as some kind of hero, probably because Sheehan was a great source of entertaining stories. The corners of Heyes’ mouth twitched as he read of Sheehan’s latest escapades with California Kate, described as being a lewd woman ‘on her regular drunk,’ who was found ‘in a beastly state of intoxication in the alley west of Main Street yesterday. She resisted arrested, fought, scratched, and shouted foul epithets known only to her ilk. In her struggle, she tore off the skirt of her dress, but was finally landed in the calaboose.’ Heyes chuckled and turned the page. Between that, and the catalogue of shootings, Joplin seemed like quite a place.
Abigail craned her neck over his shoulder. “What are you reading, Mr. Heyes?”
“I’m reading up on Joplin.” His dark eyes flicked up to meet hers. “I don’t suppose there’s any point in asking you not to go wandering off by yourself, is there?”
“Why?” She peered curiously down at Heyes’ newspaper. “What have you found out?”
“I’d have loved it in my heyday, but it’s not the kind of place for a man to take his respectable fiancé.”
Harry’s cigar drooped as his jaw dropped open in surprise. “Fiancé!?”
Abigail blushed and glared at Heyes. “We’re not engaged. It’s merely cover.”
Harry smirked wickedly. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” Abigail nudged Heyes. “Tell him.”
Harry was enjoying himself immensely, for once he wasn’t the one caught off balance. “So you won’t be sharing a room this time?”
“No,” Abigail replied, firmly.
“Yes,” Heyes corrected, delivering a purposeful glower at Harry. “Of all the places we’ve been lately, this is one place a woman shouldn’t be travelling alone. We stick to the story, Abi, and no arguments.”
Abigail sat back and folded her arms. “If you don’t want an argument you’re going the wrong way about it.”
“Why are you turning on me,” Heyes protested, “Harry’s the one who’s stirring it?”
Two sets of brown eyes pinned Harry in his Pullman seat. “You’re right. Divide and conquer, how could I have been so stupid?”
“So, answer the question.” Harry folded his arms defensively. “You’re clearly a couple.”
“We have history,” Abigail murmured.
“No kidding,” grinned Harry. “You’ve got chemistry too - not to mention biology. I was there at Christmas, you know.”
“You’re going too far, Harry,” growled Heyes.
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What? The Kid’s engaged. I thought it’d be nice, is all...”
Heyes held Harry’s gaze. “If you want to be nice, give us space, Harry. We hadn’t seen each other for ten years and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. We’re trying to work things out, and this isn’t the town for her to be going solo.”
Abigail looked indignant. “I can manage; I’ve stayed in worse on my own.”
“Abi, even when we were on opposite sides of the law I watched your back when I found you in places like Joplin, if you think I’m going to stop doing that now, you can think again.” He flicked up an eyebrow, “and the Kid’s on his way here too. It’ll be him or me, and you know he’s not going to sit back and leave you unprotected in a rough town either. Take it from me; he can be real stubborn about things like that.”
“I suppose I should be flattered,” Abigail sighed, slipping a hand into Heyes’. “So, we’re ‘married’ again. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I just take it as a slight on my abilities.”
Harry shook his head. “Just how did you two get together in the first place?”
“We robbed a train she was on, and she told the Kid off good and proper,” Heyes' face dimpled into a grin. “She was after us, but got more than she bargained for.”
“As you remember, I chose to pursue murderers instead, Mr. Heyes, it wasn’t because I couldn’t.”
Heyes gave a mischievous twinkle. “Or because you couldn’t do anything until we let you go?”
“Well,” Abigail retorted, “maybe you did that because I smashed you on the head with a jug?”
“I’ve gotta admit, it was a factor,” Heyes gave her a considered look, “but I wanted the killers caught too.”
Abigail nodded. “That’s what saved you; you really cared about those dead girls, both of you. That’s why I walked away, but don’t forget that I did get you both in a jail cell, so you know I could have caught you if I’d really wanted to.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah, we both flirted with danger for a very long time. We were on opposite sides of the law, but matched in every other way,” his hand curled around hers. “I guess we lived like we’d die any time, and that heightens everything. I didn’t realise it’d still feel special to meet as equals.” Abigail sat in silence, but her grip on Heyes’ hand tightened. “She forced a thaw, so it was tough at first.” Heyes gave Harry a simple smile; the type he rarely presented – it had no artifice, no guile, and no ulterior motive – it was merely a display of contentment. “She loved me when I least deserved it, and she pushed me to be better man. It’d be the stupidest thing I’d ever do if I walked away from her and my daughter.”
Harry sat staring pensively at the couple opposite. “Yeah, there’s a right time for us all to get off the road. I might see about an office job after this. Christmas got me thinking it was time to settle down.”
Abigail stood. “I think you boys need to talk, and I need some air,” she dropped a kiss on Heyes’ cheek and folded the transcripts back into the manila folder. “I’ll be on the observation deck.”
The Missouri countryside flashed by in the darkness; showing only in hard, stiff, snow-covered snatches illuminated by the lights from the train windows as they trundled through the night. There was nothing to see, but Abigail wasn’t standing out here for the view. She shrugged more deeply into her coat and allowed her mind to run along with the rhythmic clatter of the wheels, trying to ignore the cold burning into her sinuses. There was so much to think about. Was Julia Stanton a link, or was Mitchell a coincidental official, just in that right place at the right time? She had no doubt they’d catch him, but what if he wouldn’t talk?
She sighed. If she were still a Pinkerton, with access to their records and resources, she would be able to deal with this relatively efficiently, but doing this the hard way was not only frustrating, it was keeping her from Anya.
She had no doubt the motive was to hurt anyone involved with both Heyes and Curry. The gunman who had walked into her hallway that night had looked straight up the stairs – he had been after her daughter, and he had enjoyed the pain in her eyes when he smirked at her. That had stiffened Abigail’s resolve, and she would not rest until this ended; one way or another.
She stepped over to the other side of the observation platform and leaned on the rail – she was convinced the answer lay either in their criminal past or in the raid on their homes all those years ago. They were the only living eyewitnesses? No... Anyone worrying about being identified would dispose of witnesses, not their loved ones. This was personal.
She kicked idly at the rail, unable to pace for lack of room. It all kept coming down to their past. They had hurt somebody; someone vindictive enough to extract the maximum amount of pain, from them, and their loved ones; they were able to access officials and drive men to kill. It all pointed towards a powerful enemy with an axe to grind, and that was where she had to concentrate next.
She turned at the sound of the door to the carriage opening, smiling at Heyes who came out and closed the door behind him.
“You’ve been out here for ages. I was getting worried about you.”
“Me? I’m just thinking.” She stood upright and reached up to touch his face with a gloved hand. “Thank you,” she murmured.
“For what you said in there to Harry, it was lovely.”
Heyes took her hand. “It’s true. You broke my heart when we split.” He gave a rueful chuckle. “I always thought that meant weeping and moping. Who knew it could make you angry enough to put your fist through a door and drink yourself under the table, but I guess that’s not the kind of thing they write poems about though, huh?”
“More of a limerick?” She gave a watery smile. “I’m sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I had hoped you’d understand why we had to go, for both your sakes. You’d have been in jail years earlier, or even dead.”
He looked into her eyes, earnest and tender in the light from the railway carriage. “I know, it took me a long time to get there, but I did. I’m sorry, Abi. All this has really brought it home to me just how right you were. What have you come up with?”
“That somebody hates you both. I’m going to sit down in Joplin and start with a list of everyone you’ve killed – both of you. It’s as good a place to start as any.”
Both Daniel Sheehan and A.W. Carson, were real men and the description of the lawman and the events in Joplin were quoted directly from the Joplin Daily Herald.
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 9:57 am|| |
Aaaah, so much to love about this chapter! The bickering at the beginning was a great start. And there was so much more that made me laugh out loud, giggle with glee and simply enjoy the ride. I will treasure sentences like: "...tucking his red and white checked napkin into his collar with the relish of a circling vulture.", "...new champions which were bobbing and gliding around with their mouths opening and closing in constant expressions of surprise, whilst skirts of billowing silk wafted in their wake.", "You put Harry Briscoe in charge of Hannibal Heyes!?" for some time to come.
And I have a new favourite word: murmuration.
It is fantastic to watch Heyes getting back into his element, role-playing, devising cunning plans (oops, wrong TV series) again, and most of all getting to enjoy some carefree time with Abi inbetween planning, detecting, snarking, conning,....
However did you come up with the racing goldfish? Priceless.
Harry finally gets taught how to do proper detective/undercover work. Does Cage really believe that Harry is in charge of Heyes? Of all the people you could have given the job to, this was truly inspired.
Cage is really growing on me: he intimidates bureaucrats, drives pompous official to and over the edge and most of all feels smug about it - what's not to like? I think at the moment I imagine him a bit like Adam Baldwin's Casey from "Chuck".
And I very much enjoyed "the talk" between Beth and Jed. The poor boy is truly clueless and shocked. Men! Well, times were different. Thank you for including some progressive women. I would really like to know if there was more family planning going on, that never got "officially" reported back then (because the women kept it to themselves). And if, how widespread real knowledge was. I know there were also lots of folk remedies and superstitions.
"I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:22 am|| |
From what I understand, there was contraceptives used during this time, but no it wasn't opening discussed. A doctor would lose his license and possibly even do prison time if he were to opening prescribe birth control to his women patients.
Again though, SK is the technical adviser here. I'm sure she can give you a more detailed answer.
This is another chapter I really enjoyed writing. I had a lot of fun with Cage as he pinned various people down, not to mention his encounter with Mike Schomacher.
And yes, poor Jed. Give him credit, he was trying really hard to understand but Beth was way ahead of him on this one!
This has been fun for me too Steph. I'm jumping ahead and reading the browsing over the next chapter as you go along just to familiarize myself with it all again!
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:52 am|| |
Racing Fish? Just thinking up cons, is all, but I have sworn to use my twisted powers for good.
As far as contraception is concerned, various items have been used since the dawn of time to create a barrier between sperm and the egg. Lemons, pigs' intestines, elephant and crocodile dung, oiled paper; you name it. The nearest to what we would now call the cap was produced in 1838 with the advent of vulcanised rubber (along with rubber, re-useable condoms). It had a variety of names such as the womb veil or occlusive pessary and they were openly sold in newspapers and pharmacies. In the USA the advent of the Comstock Act in 1873 criminalised the advertising, distribution and spreading information about contraception.
For those in the know they could still be purchased covertly and at risk to all concerned. Women would even hand them down in the family after menopause. Enlightened pharmacists, doctors and nurses tried to explain as much as they could, but were very much constrained by the law. The character of Hester Bentham is actually based on a real woman who did exactly this, Mary Edwards Walker. She was also arrested as a spy during the Civil War and later trained to become a doctor. She was an eccentric woman who often dressed in men's clothes and was a brave campaigner for women's rights. She was the only woman to ever win the Medal of Honour in the USA
Margaret Sanger campaigned from 1916 and was arrested multiple times until 1938 when the law was changed and contraception was able to be openly sold again.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:37 pm|| |
Keays: I can imagine that this was fun to write. I also loved the encounter with big Mike, but wanted to keep my comment short (yeah, I know... as if).
Well, well, well, Jed the serial Casanova has never though about contraception. As I said, men...
Just kidding, I am sure he will come around to Beth's point of view.
SK: Thank you for the information. This is really interesting. The prohibition of contraception was a topic in an episode of the "Murdoch Mysteries". I was appalled by this treatment of women.
I must admit I had a sneaking suspicion that there might be a bit more to Hester... But the facts are so much more. Wow, what a woman Mary Edwards Walker must have been.
Could it be that the Comstock Act was influenced by factors like advent of industrial revolution, massive social changes, end of Civil War and that maybe men felt the need to regain/assert their power/masculinity by taking away women's control over fertility?
Did you know that many Native American women were sterilised without their knowledge or assent up until the 1970ies, especially among tribes who were considered to be troublemakers, like the Lakota (or Sioux)? This was a topic in one of the seminars I took at Uni...
"I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:53 pm|| |
I didn't know that these women were sterilised forcibly and that late! Truly shocking! It's only my view, but men who try to stop women controlling their own fertility are controlling not only women, but asserting a powerbase in society.
Hester and Abi are based on real people, and were in a series of mysteries I wrote but took down to do further work on. They were the first thing I wrote and I've learned a lot since then.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
Last edited by Silverkelpie on Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:54 pm|| |
Oh! And you're a Murdoch Fan!?
That's you, me and Keays now. Great series.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
|Subject: Re: Gone Fishin' Chapter eight || |
Gone Fishin' Chapter eight