Dark Corners Chapter ten
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Dark Corners Chapter ten Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:03 pm|| |
Heyes propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at her sleeping form, cherishing the warm softness of her curves and the silken memory of skin on skin.
She had forgiven him; the reminder that he had been pursuing the man who wanted to rob him of a second family had poured oil on troubled waters, but Heyes had learned an important lesson. The world didn’t snap to attention at his word. If he wanted a place in this new life he’d have to prove himself and work for it – nothing would be delivered on a plate, not even a family. The message that freedom came with responsibility had finally been rammed home - thirty nine years too late – but better late than never, huh?
He picked at her curls. There were now a couple of silver strands amongst the lustrous dark curls. A faint smile twitched at his lips at the memory of his shock at the grey which had appeared around his temples on his own re-growth after being released from prison, but, hey – he was nearly forty.
Time had been kind to her – he reflected with a sinking feeling in his gut that it was about time something or somebody was. He had bought that matter-of-fact, business-like front too, until he’d seen how much she really cared about people – especially the ones who had turned their back on her for getting involved with him.
Heyes idly played with a tendril of her hair, winding the corkscrew around his long forefinger, part of him still not believing she’d allowed him back in her bed. Nearly forty, and the first time he’d even been close to settling down; but then he’d never seriously thought about it before. He hadn’t even thought about reaching forty –he never looked ahead at all. That was his whole problem – the only planning he’d ever done was around how to grab the cash and make a clean getaway. He’d never looked at the bigger picture or the implications his actions might have on the rest of his life – and he’d done it again yesterday. He had to grow up. Anya was probably more sensible than he was. He’d thrown away his youth, and he had to be more careful with the rest of his life. Yesterday’s close call had focused his mind.
Abigail stirred and turned over, snuggling into the snowy pillow before reaching and stretching into a yawn. Her eyes flickered open, quickly hooking onto Heyes’ gaze as he leaned over her.
“Morning,” he murmured, gently.
“You’re watching me sleep?”
“Hmm,” he nodded. “I never thought I'd see that again.” Heyes dropped a light kiss on her nose. “Not without committing a felony.”
Abigail blinked away the sleep from her eyes. “The good times aren’t the mark of a strong relationship - it’s how you deal with the bad ones.”
“And god knows I’ve given you enough of those.”
“Neither of us are perfect, Mr. Heyes.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief, “although I’m closer to it than you are.”
Heyes’ face split into a grin. “Yeah, you want to fight over that?”
Abigail propped herself up to a sitting position. “No. Losing yet again will only bring you down. What time is it?”
“Ten past two.”
Abigail shot bolt upright. “In the afternoon?”
“Yes. You needed to sleep. You’d been upset - and up all night.”
“But I have to get over to the jail. We need as much as we can from Mitchell before he’s extradited to Wyoming.” She threw back the bedclothes.
“You need to eat. Have you had anything today?”
Abigail shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll go down to the kitchen. I’ll bring you up a sandwich and some tea while you dress.”
Abigail smiled softly. “Mr. Heyes, you don’t have to start running around after me. It’s behind us. Let’s just learn from it and move on.”
Heyes pulled on his trousers. “I’m not...” He shrugged. “Well, maybe I am, but you still need to have something. I’ll get over to the doc’s while you’re out and see how the Kid’s doing.”
She pulled a brush through her hair. “I’ll pop over once I’m finished at the sheriff’s office. Can you give him my love? He was unconscious when I went yesterday.”
Heyes nodded. “I sure will. Do you think Sheehan will let you get involved in the questioning?”
“Cage will certainly be allowed, and I plan on offering to transcribe all his statements.” Abigail’s reflection smiled from the mirror. “Hopefully, he’ll think I’m useful.”
“He’s no fool. He’ll let you in.” Heyes button up his shirt. “I’ll go get that tea.”
An hour later Heyes was practically skipping through the snow and mud as he made his way over to see how his cousin was doing. He was bundled up in his usual ambiguous coat but for some reason, the fact that it had been freshly laundered seemed to make him feel young again. It just felt so—new! It was still his old coat, still not quite sure what color it wanted to be but now it was downright sparkling in its indecision. Heyes felt good.
He hopped up the stairs to the doctor's front door and pulled the chime.
“Coming! Coming!” came the feminine voice from inside. Heyes waited, feeling a little unsure at that point. He couldn't tell if the lady of the house had said 'Coming' or 'Come in'! The question was soon answered for him when the front door suddenly swung open and the plump smiling face of the doctor's wife greeted him. “Ohh! Mr. Heyes! Yes, yes do come in.”
Heyes grinned and removing his hat he stepped into the front hallway.
“Is my friend awake?” he asked hopefully.
“He was!” she assured him somewhat unhelpfully. “Such a hearty appetite!”
“Hmm hm.” Heyes gave a knowing smile and nodded. “Ahh, may I go back and see him?”
“Oh, of course!” she waved him along the hallway. “My husband is out on his rounds right now, but I'm sure he'll be back soon if you wish to ask him anything.”
“Such as when my friend will be ready to leave? That sort of thing?”
“Yes!” She smiled broadly at this young—well middle-aged man's astuteness.
Heyes inwardly rolled his eyes but outwardly smiled. “Yes, ma'am.”
“Well, I'll leave you to it,” she told him with a knowing smile. “I have my own duties to tend to in the kitchen.”
“Yes ma'am,” Heyes repeated and headed down to the end door on his own. He knocked softly and then opened it just a crack. “Kid...?” No answer. He opened the door a tad more and peered inside. He sighed and smiled quietly has he saw the Kid laying on the bed with his eyes closed—apparently asleep.
He stepped into the room, gently closed the door and tip-toed over to the chair and lifted it into position again. He was just sitting down in preparation of a wait when he saw the blue eyes opening up to greet his. Heyes grinned.
“Hey, how ya' doin'?”
Kid nodded. “Okay.”
“Good. The doc's wife says you've been eating. That's a good sign.”
“Your headache gone?”
“Oh, pretty much. Still feel kinda wrung out though.”
“Yeah, not surprised. You want me to leave ya' alone?”
Heyes smiled again. “Ya' want anything?”
“Some water would be nice.”
“Oh.” Heyes looked around and seeing the pitcher and cup setting on the side table, he stood up and poured out a serving.
Jed started pushing himself up into a sitting position and Heyes quickly turned to help him. He grabbed an arm and pulled his friend up and forward and pulled up the pillows so they'd give him a good backrest and then settled him back into them.
“Thanks,” Jed smiled quietly. “That's better.”
Heyes handed him the cup of water. “Here ya' go.”
“Hmm, thank you.” Kid took the cup and drained the contents in one go and handed the empty vessel back to his cousin.
Heyes glanced at its emptiness with a slight look of surprise on his face. “You want any more?”
“No, that's good.”
“Okay.” He sat back down again. Kid settled his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. “You sure you want me to hang around? I can always come back later.”
“No Heyes. I want ya' to stay.”
“Found out anything from Mitchell yet?”
“No,” Heyes told him. “I think they're going to be questioning him this afternoon. Abi's making sure she's going to be in on it, in any case.”
Jed smiled. “She'll make him talk if anyone can.”
“They won't let me get near him—more's the pity.”
“Ha!” Jed opened an eye and directed it at his cousin. “Best you stay away from that Heyes, or they really will send you back to prison.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
The two men sat in companionable silence for a few moments with Heyes watching his friend with a slightly concerned expression settled between his brows.
“I was hoping you could get out of here today, but you still look kinda piqued,” he observed. “Maybe ya' oughta stay here another night.”
“Yeah, I think so,” Kid agreed. “I don't feel like moving anywhere; not even across the street to the hotel.” Then he smiled and though his eyes stayed closed, the smile became a chuckle.
Heyes grinned in response. “What?” he asked.
Jed gave a deep sigh. “I remember when you took that hit—like this one,” he reminisced. “I asked ya' when ya' thought you might be up to travellin'.” He smiled again. “You admitted that if I had everything figured out that you wouldn't mind resting a day or two, but that if I didn't, then you were ready to go—anytime! I'll always remember you sayin' that Heyes because you looked so done in that a kitten coulda beat ya' up and yet you were willing to drag yourself up onto a horse and get outta there if we had to.”
Heyes smiled and nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, that's what I said. I don't think I coulda done it though, even if the house had been on fire.”
“I know,” Jed assured him. “It's just the fact that ya' said it. Now I appreciate the sentiment even more, ‘cause I don't feel like going anywhere's!”
“You still feel up ta' talking?”
“Yeah,” Kid assured him. “How's Abi? She forgiven you your transgressions?”
Heyes raised his brows in appreciation. “Yeah!” he answered. “She was mad at first but we talked it out. I really showed her who's boss by groveling at her feet and pleading for forgiveness.”
Kid snorted and then groaned with regret as a shot of pain thumped through his head. Heyes grimaced in simpatico. The pain subsided and Kid sighed again. “I guess we're gonna havta get used to that, aren't we?” he conjectured.
“Learnin' how ta' compromise and all that.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Heyes admitted. “It's all part of being in a relationship, isn't it? I guess neither of us have much experience in that.”
“No,” Kid agreed. He was silent for a moment, contemplating and Heyes waited for the rest to come out. “Do ya' think I'm doing the right thing, Heyes?”
Heyes furrowed his brow. “With what?”
Heyes furrowed his brow even more. Where was this coming from? “You having doubts?”
“I wasn't,” Kid admitted. “But now....she is awfully young.”
“Well, yeah but...nothing wrong with that Kid,” Heyes assured him. “Lots of fellas take wives who are a lot younger. Look at Miranda....”
“Yeah, and now she's a widow.”
“That wasn't because of old age, Kid; you know that,” Heyes reminded him. “William got sick.”
“What brought this on? You were real sure before.”
“Yeah, I know. But....do ya' think my ma would approve of her?”
Heyes' jaw dropped in astonishment. That was the last thing he expected to hear coming out of his cousin's mouth. “Well....ah....I mean....” Heyes was noticeably speechless but this time Kid didn't feel smug about it. The self-proclaimed genius quickly recovered himself. “What's not to approve of Kid? Beth is a real fine young lady, from a good family. I think your ma would have taken to her as if she were her own daughter.”
Jed looked over at his cousin, a smile on his lips and hope in his eyes. “Ya' think so?”
“Yeah, of course!” Heyes smiled and gave his cousin a light punch on the shoulder. “C'mon, you're just feeling rattled cause of gettin' shot! You'll see—you'll be feeling better once ya' get on your feet again! You and Beth will be good for each other—you'll see.”
Jed nodded. “Yeah. Will we still be friends though; you and me? Ya' know, getting married might change that between us.”
“I don't see why it would,” Heyes assured him, though truth be known, he had been a bit concerned about that himself. “We're gonna start that detective agency, right? We'll still be partners. Abi and Beth can help out as well—well, until more children start showing up that is...but we'll still be friends Kid—that's not gonna change.”
“Yeah.” Jed sighed, feeling relieved but still a bit trepidatious. “I guess you're right.”
“Of course I'm right,” Heyes stated matter-of-factly. “You just get some rest and you'll be feeling better tomorrow, you'll see.”
“Yeah, alright.” Jed sighed a deep exhausted sigh and closed his eyes again.
“I should go,” Heyes commented, feeling like he was deliberately preventing his cousin from resting.
Jed jerked himself awake again and grabbed Heyes' hand to stop him from leaving. “No!” he insisted and Heyes raised his eyebrows in surprise. “No. There's something else I been meaning to talk to ya' about, but with all this other stuff goin' on—haven't had much of a chance.”
“Oh,” Heyes sat himself back down in the chair and waited. “Sounds serious.”
“Yeah, well. Maybe,” Kid admitted as he looked with tired eyes over to his cousin. “I just wanted to ask ya' how you were doing.”
“Ah, doing?” Heyes creased his brow. “Ya' mean with the prison scare....?”
“No, I mean with Carson.”
“Carson?” Heyes felt a prickling of fear go through him; had that injury caused brain damage after all? “Carson's dead Kid, you know that.”
“Yeah, and you killed 'em.”
Heyes shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Yeah. What's your point?”
“C'mon Heyes, it's me!” Kid sounded insulted. “You've never killed anyone before in your life and then you not only killed Carson, but you killed 'em up close and personal. I know that's gotta be eatin' at ya'.”
Heyes swallowed nervously and looked down at his hands. “Carson was a bastard; he deserved it.”
“Yup,” Kid nodded, in full agreement. “Yup; after all the things he did to you and killing Dr. Morin and everything else that's coming to light; yeah, he deserved it. Was probably gonna hang anyways, or at least do prison time which would be the same as a death sentence. And I'm sure those are all the things you've been tellin' yourself whenever ya' feel the guilt takin' hold.”
Heyes still could not meet his cousin's eyes; why was Jed pushing this? Didn't he have enough to deal with as it was? “I'm fine,” was all the enigmatic, self-proclaimed genius could say.
“C'mon Heyes, I know you,” Kid persisted in persisting even though he was fighting sleep. “You just push things down so deep you pretend they don't exist anymore and that nothin' bothers ya'. This is exactly what you did with Jenny.”
Heyes looked up sharply, surprise vying with sudden hurt flashing across his eyes.
“Aww, I'm sorry Heyes,” Jed apologized. “I know all that stuff was hard on ya' But it does show my point. You bury hurtful things so far and so deep that even you forget they existed. It's no good Heyes. If there's one thing I've learned from David and all that crap I went through; it's that ya' gotta talk about it or it's gonna eat ya' alive.”
Heyes dropped his eyes again and fidgeted with his hands. “There's nothing to talk about,” he lied. “Carson was a bastard and he deserved it. It was either him or me and personally I'm glad it was him.”
Jed gave a big tired sigh. “Yeah, okay Heyes,” he surrendered. “But when you feel like you wanna talk about it, just know; I know. Ya' know?”
Heyes gave a half crooked smile. “Yeah.”
“Ahh, you want me to read to ya' or something?”
“Read to me?!”
“Yeah, why not?” Heyes shrugged innocently. “The doc's got a pretty good library here, I'm sure I could find something.....”
Kid smiled but shook his head. “Naw, that's okay Heyes.” He yawned. “I think I'm just gonna get some more sleep if ya' don't mind.”
“Oh” Heyes sounded disappointed. “Yeah, sure Kid. I'll come by after supper and see ya then, okay? Abi would like to see ya' too, would that be alright?”
Jed settled into his pillows again and closed his eyes. Heyes stayed seated and watched him until he fell asleep and then he still stayed seated, not quite ready to get up and leave yet. That had been an odd conversation right from beginning to end. He and Beth had been champing at the bit to get married and now all of a sudden he was having doubts? It must just be because he's tired, Heyes surmised; he couldn't think of any other two people who so much belonged together. Well, other than himself and Abi, of course!
And he was worried about their friendship? Getting married wasn't going to change that. Look at their own families—the Heyes and Curry clans had bonded even stronger as the families had grown, even buying farms next to one another and working to build them up together. They had almost been like a corporation! The families would still be close if—that—hadn't happened. Heyes was sure of it.
Then he had to go and bring up Carson! Geesh he really was feeling the blues these days. 'Carson! That fxxxing pxxxk!' came to Heyes in Doc's voice and he smiled. He hadn't had a dream about the Doc in some time now and Heyes kinda missed him—didn't miss those night terrors though. No! So, they must have done something right for Doc to have stopped haunting him, but now was Carson going to take over? Heyes had to admit that Kid had hit it right on the head. Whenever he did have time to think about it, he felt guilty; all those times he'd dreamed about throttling Carson's throat and now that it had actually come to pass, he was feeling guilty about it? Geesh!
And all the excuses and reasonings that Kid had verbalized had been the ones Heyes had been telling himself, over and over again. Heyes sighed and watched his cousin sleeping. Yeah, it made sense that Kid would know—of course he would. Maybe one day Heyes would be able to open up and talk to him about it. One day when all of this stuff was behind them they could sit down on the porch at the Double J over a class of wine and they could talk about it. Maybe.
Well, that's if Jed didn't back out of his wedding! They probably wouldn't be welcome at the ranch if he did that at this point. Oh, maybe that's not true. Jesse and Belle would understand but Beth! Beth would be so hurt now if Jed backed out. He wasn't going to, was he? After all this time and all this waiting he wasn't going to break Beth's heart and back out of it?
'No' he wouldn't do that; Heyes was sure of it. He loves Beth; he wouldn't do that. He was just tired right now, that's all it was.
Yeah, Jed was just tired.
The men gallantly stood as Abigail walked into the sheriff’s office. Cage smiled warmly and offered her the seat he had just vacated. “This is the lady I was telling you about. Abigail, this is Mayor Schmidt.”
The Mayor stepped towards her, bristling a grey handlebar moustache over a tobacco-juiced smile and pumped her arm enthusiastically. “Mrs. Stewart? A pleasure and an enigma, I can tell you; and a woman working in the law? A woman who makes a science of it? My wife couldn’t make sense of anything more complicated than a quilt!”
Abigail arched an eyebrow. “Oh, please, Mayor Schmidt, you mustn’t put yourself down like that. I’m sure your mind is a bit more complicated than a quilt.”
The mayor’s bushy eyebrows wavered, unsure whether to be confused or offended. He settled on confused. “Huh?”
Abigail caught the warning glint in Cage’s eyes and decided to play nice. “I mean that a man who has reached the heights of mayor is too smart to saddle himself with a dumb wife, but your modesty is most becoming.”
“Ah, sure...” he patted Sheehan on the back. “Only three weeks since this man was voted in and he bags a criminal like this. Joplin’s going to be a fine town by the time he’s finished with it.”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, indeed. I had some dealings with his predecessor, Sheriff Andrews. He wasn’t keen on listening to a woman. Mr. Sheehan has a more open mind.”
“She knows her stuff,” shrugged Sheehan. “That’s all I care about.”
“Still, a woman in that line?” mused the mayor. “I’m not sure that it’s decent.”
“My late wife was a Pinkerton, Mayor Schmidt,” growled Cage. “There was never a finer woman walked God’s good earth. She cared about people and making sure victims were listened to, and so does Mrs. Stewart.”
“Well, sure,” the mayor eyed the enormous man uncomfortably. “I guess women and children can be victims too, sometimes.”
“So what brings you here?” Sheehan took a seat.
“We know that Mitchell will be sent to Wyoming and we need to question him as soon as possible. I have interviewed Mr. Heyes, and Mitchell continued to make threats to his daughter while they were incarcerated here. He made it clear that the danger is not over, even now he’s locked up.” Abigail looked from the mayor to the sheriff. “There’s still someone out there willing to kill innocent people because they have a connection to Heyes and Curry.”
“Well, if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows, I guess.” The mayor stood. “I’ve got no objections to him being questioned by Mr. Attwater, but a woman?” Schmidt shook his head. “Nah, that’s a step too far.”
Abigail nodded. “I couldn’t agree more, mayor. I’m here purely to offer to transcribe what he says in the interview so we all have a copy. I wouldn’t get involved in any way. That’s why Mr. Attwater is here. I know my place, as I’m sure Mr. Attwater can attest.”
Cage’s eyes widened as he tried to hide his disbelief. “Yeah... your place...you’ve sure mentioned that.”
“I dunno...” the mayor scratched his chin. “What if he swore or talked about anything improper?”
“Then I will leave immediately, Mayor Schmidt, and I have two very fine lawmen here to protect me from Mitchell.”
The mayor gave a sharp nod and headed for the door. “It’s up to you Sheehan. I’ve got every faith in you. I backed you in the election for this role and you’re doing a great job, a real fine job!”
Abigail turned wide, pleading eyes up to the Sheriff. “So, can we question him? What do you say?”
Sheehan folded his arms. “And you’ll keep out of it?”
Abigail pulled on her most innocent mask. “Absolutely.”
Sheehan expelled air through his nose and shook his head. “Sure, why not? I get the feeling you’ll be way more annoying if I don’t.”
“I don’t annoy you, do I? I like you, Mr. Sheehan, I really do,” a pair of brown eyes glittered with contrived hurt.
Sheehan walked over to the filing cabinet and pulled open the top drawer. “I guess ‘annoy’ isn’t quite the word, but any woman who can make Hannibal Heyes panic at the mere mention of her name’s better on my side than against me. I saw him in the cell. That was one worried man.”
“If we’re going to question him from the cell, I’ll sit here.” Abigail took up position on the bunk in the next cell and carefully balanced the inkwell beside her.
Sheehan placed two chairs outside of Mitchells’ cell. “Well he’s not much for sitting since he had that bullet removed from his butt. At least this way he can lie down.”
“It’s my upper thigh!” Mitchell protested.
Sheehan scowled at the prisoner. “This man put it there, and it was slap bang in the fleshy part of your backside. It’s funny how some injuries’ll get you less sympathy than others, not that you deserve much in any case.”
Mitchell turned his fair head to Abigail. “Who’s she? What’s she doing here?”
Cage sat; his blue eyes boring into Mitchell. “Ignore her, she’s my assistant. I’m a Pinkerton and she’s here to write up this interview.”
Mitchell dropped his head wearily on the pillow. “I’m saying nothing.”
“No?” Sheehan rocked back on the chair. “You shot your own kin in both legs and left her to burn to death as a distraction so you could get away. The bullets from Mrs. Stanton’s body have been matched to your gun, and her husband has told the sheriff in Jacksonville that she was coming to see you. You’re gonna hang. ”
Mitchell’s eyes widened. “The bullets?”
“Yeah, your Smith and Wesson. You never thought we’d be able to match them, did you?” Sheehan grinned. “Things are moving ahead all the time. I’m guessing a man like you won’t have it easy, incarcerated in his own prison. You might be kept separately if you cooperate.”
Mitchell sat stewing in silence.
“So,” Cage began, “tell me about this vendetta against Heyes and Curry.” It was a command, not a question.
“Vendetta?” Mitchell parried.
“Yeah. Carson paid Harris to shoot Beth Jordan. He was real frank about that, and Carson was careless, so it was real easy to prove you were paying him. Why?”
Mitchell shrugged. “We knew the Curry and the Heyes families from before the war. They helped some of our slaves to escape. After the war we were ruined, and I guess I might have been hard on Heyes because of his folks. I don’t know anything about payments to Carson or Harris.”
Abigail’s brows gathered, but she kept her head down.
“So you’d met Heyes and Curry as children?” Cage pressed.
“Nope.” Mitchell shook his head. “I never met either of them in my life before Heyes was committed to my jail.”
“But you had a grudge against Heyes? You can’t blame him for the war,” Cage pressed. “What you’re telling me doesn’t make sense. You were on different sides – so what? Most of us were.”
“I’d seen Heyes’ father speak. What he was saying was going to ruin our family and my pa hated him with a vengeance. I guess it doesn’t help that Heyes looks so darned much like his father. I just took against the man.”
Abigail spoke at last. “The transcripts from the trials show that Jed Curry killed Julia Stanton’s father. He was one of the men who hit both the Curry and the Heyes homesteads. The records state that the women and girls were raped and everyone slaughtered. Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry witnessed it, and were the only survivors. Julia Stanton was your niece, wasn’t she, Mr. Mitchell? Those men were your family too.” She paused processing this information. “So Hannibal Heyes’ father was actively against slavery? So were many. Why were they targeted above anyone else?”
“How should I know?” barked Mitchell. “I was just a kid.”
“Were they a bit more active than most? Did they actually help slaves escape?” Abigail demanded. “Your slaves? Did they target the way your family treated their slaves, for instance? It clearly went way beyond politics.”
“I thought she was just here to take notes,” Mitchell protested.
“Your folks raped and murdered families because they disagreed with slavery?” snorted Cage. “And you’re trying to use that to justify torture.”
Mitchell scowled. “Torture? The man was impossible - he needed the strongest of punishments just to make him manageable.”
Cage hooked Mitchell with a glacial stare. “The authorities didn’t agree with you, and neither do I. I’ve seen the scars left by your ‘punishments’ and read the transcripts of the hearing. If you think they were reasonable you won’t mind being left in a strappado position for hours yourself, will you?”
Panic flared in Mitchell’s eyes. “Did you hear that, sheriff? He’s threatening me.”
Sheehan swung casually back on the chair. “Me? All I heard was the runt of a family of murdering bastards being asked to justify torture.” He turned to Abigail. “My apologies for the language, ma’am. Did you hear any threats?”
Abigail looked down at her notes. “Nope. No threat here. Everything’s above board as far as I’m concerned.”
Cage leaned forward in his chair. “In fact, your treatment of Heyes provoked your removal from your position, and the authorities then found out you’d been skimming off money from the prison accounts for years.”
Mitchell shuffled uncomfortably on his bunk.
“Do you need some more morphine, Mitchell?” asked Sheehan.
“Yeah, I’m in pain,” moaned Mitchell.
“Then you’d best get this interview over with.” Sheehan gave a meaningful grin. “I’m not gonna have you claim you were under the influence of drugs and didn’t know what you were saying.”
“You bastard! You’re leaving me in pain to make me talk!”
Sheehan shook his head. “The doctor gave instructions on the exact times you should get your drugs. I’m not running an opium den – this is a jail. Now, apologize to the lady. We’ll have less of that language.”
“That’s alright, I can turn the other cheek,” Abigail murmured, eyeing Mitchell’s bandaged buttock. “Which is more than Mr. Mitchell is able to do at the moment.”
“So, you were behind the jailbreak?” Cage mused. “And all those who gave evidence against you were to die.”
“I’m saying nothing,” Mitchell insisted.
“We’ve got you for your niece’s murder anyway.” Cage folded his arms. “One thing doesn’t fit though. Hannibal Heyes is insistent that you threatened his daughter. You made it clear to him that locking you up did not mean this was over.” Cage stood and began to pace. “Now that tells me somebody else is still out there and everything I know about you says you’re a petty-minded, spite-filled, bully who’d be quite happy to see an innocent, little girl killed just to even up the chips on his shoulders.”
“She’s Heyes’ spawn!” barked Mitchell. “A criminal’s bastard! You make her sound like little Eva.”
Cage’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “You read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ did you? Did daddy approve of the subject matter?”
“’Course I read it, they made us read it at school. It was a load of sentimental, maudlin rubbish!”
Cage nodded. “Yeah, a bit on the sugary side for my taste, but way better than ‘The Planter’s Northern Bride.’ What a load of tripe - but we’re not here to discuss literature. Back to Heyes’ daughter; who else is involved in this with you?”
“Nobody! F*ck off. This interview is over.”
Sheehan glanced over at Abigail, uncomfortable with a woman hearing this kind of language, but she merely fixed Mitchell with a hard stare. Abigail smiled sweetly. “It may interest you to know that Mr. Heyes’ daughter is no longer in the country, Mr. Mitchell. Her mother has taken her to Europe to get her away from all of this. You won’t be able to do anything to her. The child is beyond your reach.”
Mitchell’s jaw fell. “Gone!?”
Abigail and Cage shared a smile of satisfaction. She had hit a nerve, and while they still didn’t know who was out there; Mitchell had unwittingly confirmed that he had been counting on harming Anya from his jail cell.
“Yeah,” Cage confirmed. “England, or Ireland – somewhere like that. She has folks there.” His blue eyes twinkled wickedly. “Disappointed?”
Mitchell’s shoulders slumped. “Why should I care?”
“Yeah, why should you?” Cage’s eyes narrowed, a smile playing over his lips. “But you clearly do. It looks like another part of your plan’s coming undone, Mitchell.”
“I’ve got no plan! Give me my morphine.”
Abigail stood. “Yes. Give him his morphine, sheriff. I don’t think we’re going to get any further with him, so we may as well leave him to the hangman’s noose.”
“F*cking bitch!” screamed Mitchell.
Abigail smiled serenely. “I’ll watch you hang, Mr. Mitchell, and I’ll know it’s an evil put to rest. You’re the kind of murdering scum who has even turned his family against him by killing his niece in the most dreadful manner.”
“The Mitchells’ will still stand against a court - we’re family - blood!”
Abigail nodded. “Julia was a very emotional woman, wasn’t she? I don’t think she’d have been very good at keeping big secrets.” A wicked smile spread over her face, “and Ed Stanton’s not a Mitchell, is he? My guess is that he’s a very angry man. He loved his wife.”
Mitchell began to shake, his face pale with anger. Cage grinned with satisfaction. “Yup, Ed Stanton knows who it is alright, you just told us that as sure as a written confession.”
“And you were careless enough to transfer money in a way which could be traced to Carson,” Abigail tucked her notes under her arm. “My guess is that you were arrogant enough to send telegrams and maybe even arrange meetings with your co-conspirators using your real name.” Abigail watched her words land on the wounded man like a blow before she and Cage shared a conversation in a glance. “You can let your secrets molder in that grave with you, Mr. Mitchell, you’ve told us what we want to know without opening your mouth - and guaranteed that you’re not segregated in prison due to lack of cooperation to boot. Shall we go, Mr. Attwater?” Abigail slipped a hand through Cage’s arm and allowed him to escort her from the cell block. She glanced over her shoulder at the quivering prisoner. “We arranged to meet Mr. Heyes for dinner to celebrate his release without charge. Goodbye, Mr. Mitchell – until your hanging.”
Sheehan followed them back into the main office. “No wonder Heyes looked so worried. We’re not usually so rough on them when they’ve got a death sentence hanging over their heads. They tend to become a suicide risk.”
Cage gave Abigail a hug before she dropped into a seat. She sighed deeply and looked up at him with large, tired eyes. “My eldest daughter was killed in an act of revenge, Mr. Sheehan. She was shot in her pram when we walked in the park. This hits home with me.” She shook her head wearily, staring off into nowhere. “I don’t regret a word of it.”
“Kid’s doing well, but I think he needs a couple of days before he’s up and about.” Heyes pushed his empty plate away. “I can’t wait to leave this place.”
Abigail nodded, toying with her glass. “I don’t blame you. It’s been eventful.”
“Yeah, that’s one way of putting it.” He sighed. “What is it, Abi? You’ve been on edge all night? What have I done now?”
“You? Oh, Mr. Heyes, you haven’t done anything. I wanted you to eat before I asked you something.”
Heyes brows knotted in concern. “Eat? Why?”
She reached out and clasped his hand. “Because you’re still too thin, and you don’t eat when you’re upset.”
A knot of anxiety formed in his chest. “What, Abi!?”
“Something came up during our interview with Mitchell. He’s related to Julia Stanton.”
Heyes nodded. “I know – now.”
Her fingers caressed the back of his hand. “Mr. Heyes, were your parents involved with the Underground Railroad?”
Heyes shook his head in confusion. “My pa was, yeah. He was quite political.” He ran a hand distractedly though his hair. “Why?”
“Mitchell was taken to hear your father speak when he was a child, Mr. Heyes, and he had a profound effect on that little boy, but his family appear to have indoctrinated him with the view that the Curry and Heyes families were instrumental in their ruination. That carried through to the way he felt about you in prison.”
Heyes blinked, emotion still confounding his thought processes. “Huh?”
“Apparently you look a lot like your father, and that got under Mitchell’s skin. He had it in for you from the start because of the family rivalries.”
Heyes frowned. “My family never had a rivalry with anyone. My pa got involved in politics, he spoke at meetings – but so did a lot of folks.”
“And Mr. Curry?”
Heyes bit into his lip. “He was more – hands on.”
Abigail nodded, looking deeply into his eyes. “So the two families were vehemently anti-slavery. Your father was the campaigner, and Mr. Curry was a man of action?”
“What are you saying? That I was tortured because Mitchell hated my pa?”
“Did you ever see black people being hidden?” Abigail persisted.
Heyes eyes turned into absent lenses as he examined his memory. “Yeah, but there were none there when the place was attacked.”
“Mr. Heyes, I think your families were targeted because of their support for the Abolitionists. They even handled some of the Mitchells’ escaping slaves, and your family’s activities still resonate with Mitchell to this day, he took his frustrations out on you.”
“You mean there was a reason?” Heyes gulped heavily. Why were tears pricking at his eyes? “It wasn’t just mindless violence? For me - and for what happened all those years ago?”
She clasped his hand tightly. “Is that worse or better?”
Heyes shook his head aimlessly. “I dunno? Better – maybe? They made a difference? I need to think.” He stared at her with whirling eyes. “Kid’s too sick for this right now.”
“I know, a’gràidh. I had to tell you. You do need to know the truth.”
Heyes’ mobile frown reflected his turbulent thoughts. “Folks used to say pa was a great speaker. He always said there was no point in talking about general principles – you had to grab them by talking about how things affect one person – the one they could relate to the most.” He nodded absently, memories crowding back.
“I wonder? Did he choose an example which hit too close to home for the Mitchells, as well as helping their slaves to escape?” Abigail smiled. “That’s something to be very proud of. He was obviously making a difference – otherwise, why target him?”
She watched his dark eyes drop down to the tablecloth. “But they didn’t just target him, did they?”
Abigail shook her head. “No, they didn’t. We can’t change the past. Mr. Heyes – we can only learn from it.”
“And what can we learn from this? They’re all dead. It’s too late.”
“We can learn what sort of stuff you’re made of - and I can see your father in you – you are a wonderful speaker and you have a nimble mind.” She paused. “We also have it reiterated, as if we needed it, that our children depend on us to keep them safe – even if it means doing something different.”
Heyes’ eyes filled with shame. “You already knew that, Abi.”
“I grew up in a loving family. You grew up in a home and fending for yourself from a very young age; you know it too, and always have, but if you’re honest with yourself you’ll see that you only took responsibility once it was forced under your nose.”
Heyes bristled. “What do you mean by that, Abi? I’ve looked out for people. I’ve looked out for you.”
“I mean you would look out for people when you knew nobody else would.”
Heyes bristled. “That’s a bit harsh.”
She smiled apologetically. “Is it? I didn’t say you didn’t look after people. I mean that responsibility is a lesson you only seemed to have partially learned – arrested at a certain point in development.” She patted his hand. “You’re passed the most recent nightmare, but I think you still have to push through the earlier one. It still affects you. Knowing how can only be a good thing.”
Heyes scowled, privately agreeing with her, but not liking the way she hit the nail on the head. “What about the Kid? Is he the same?”
Abigail shook her head. “No. You have a mercurial mind, but Jed picks up on emotions, and reads people very quickly – faster than you. It’s one of the things which made him such a good gunman. You prefer logic to feelings, and like most of us, you stay within areas where you are most comfortable. Sometimes being smart isn’t an advantage – you can hide behind all those plots and facts.”
Heyes sat back. “And what area do you stay in, Abi? You hide too.”
She dropped her eyes. “I’m scared to open up. I always end up getting hurt – I found it was just easier not to go there at all.”
His fingers curled around hers. “Me too; I guess it’s time for us both to grow, huh?”
“Hannibal Heyes! I told you to set this table, I won’t ask again.”
The boy’s bottom lip pouted and he crawled out from underneath the table. “Yah didn’t ask last time. It was an order.”
His mother’s blue eyes flashed in his direction as her Irish lilt sharpened. “What did you say?”
The boy shrugged knocking the shoulder strap of his dungarees down his arm. “Nothin’.”
She nodded knowingly, but a twinkle of laughter lay deep in the blue eyes smiling down at him. “Keep it that way. Now if you want pancakes, you’d better get the table set.”
The boy’s face dimpled into a grin. “Pancakes? Yeah, I do!”
His mother picked at the strap, pulling it up on his shoulder. “Oh, not again. I kinda regret saying you’ll grow into those.” She dropped a tray full of cutlery in the table. “There you go...”
“What was that?” Mrs. Heyes raised her head in alarm, picking up on the sound of gunfire and the beat of horses hooves. She bustled over to the kitchen window, blanching suddenly...
Hannibal felt himself grabbed by the strap of his voluminous dungarees and thrust into the pantry. “Get behind those sacks and stay there!”
The boy wandered to the back as instructed, his stomach swirling with anxiety. He could hear horses screaming, men shouting, and his mother was yelling at his sister to load the rifle faster against a fusillade of bullets, but he slunk back, frozen with fear. The piercing scream of his baby sister stimulated him into action; he stumbled forward, dragging back the curtain, his breath rasping with trepidation.
“Ma!?” The tears spilled over until they trailed down his cheeks and his trembling chin.
His older sister was sitting on the floor, pushing ammunition into a rifle. She glanced over at him and shook her head, bidding him to get back.
“Hannibal!” His mother embraced him, her voice lacerated with despair. “PLEASE! For once in your life do as I tell you. Get in there! Hide for me. Please...” She thrust him back into the pantry. “My love, please just hide and stay safe for me. No matter what you hear, do not come out.”
She closed the curtain again... the baby was still crying but it mingled with desperate, hellish screaming...
“Mr. Heyes!” He felt himself shaken by both shoulders. His eyes flickered open, suddenly finding himself drenched in sweat and gasping for air. “Mr. Heyes, it’s me.” He felt Abigail’s arms encircle his shoulders and her lips soft against his ear as she whispered reassurances. “Sshh, it was a dream, a'ghaol. Was it your doctor again?”
He sat up; surprised to find the hand he put to his forehead still shaking.
“Was it the doctor? Your friend?” Abigail repeated.
“No,” he mumbled. “It was my mother and sister.” The crying baby suddenly shot through his mind, grating on his nerves and jolting down his spine settling his psyche alight. “Sisters. There were two of them.” He swung his legs over the side until his feet rested on the cold floor. “Two of them. Jennifer - the baby, we called her Jenny.”
He felt a soft hand slip into his and fingers gently sweep the hair away from his forehead in the dark. “We’ll still call her that, Mr. Heyes. And we always will.”
“I haven’t dreamed of that day for years.”
“Well, considering our conversation at dinner it’s hardly surprising, a'ghaol.”
He gulped down a rasping breath. “These are different to the nightmares I had before. Those were showing me something – this was just...” He shook his head in confusion, his eloquence eluding him.
“Memories?” Abigail whispered.
“Yeah, memories.” He sighed deeply. “D’ you know what I’ve got to get, Abi?”
His fingers tightened around hers. “Better memories.”
Abigail lifted the Kid’s tray away and joined Cage on one of the chairs by the window of the hotel room.
“So? What do you think, Kid?” Heyes asked from the end of the Kid’s bed.
“It makes sense.” The Kid sighed heavily and relaxed back on his pillow. “I thought it’d be good to get out to the hotel, but I didn’t know this was waitin’ for me. That explains why so many clues kept poppin’ up – it wasn’t one person – it was a group, all with their own reasons for hatin’ us.” He groaned. “Poor Beth, when I think of what happened to her. Why didn’t they kill me if I was the one they hated?”
“A woman’s hate is more convoluted than a man’s, Jed.” Abigail sipped at her coffee. “Julia knew you’d suffer more if you saw all those around you harmed while you stood around helpless. I have no doubt you would ultimately have been harmed too. After all, Mitchell intentionally targeted you when he knew he was trapped. We were just lucky that his aim was off.”
“Evil,” hissed Harry from his perch on the window sill.
Abigail shook her head. “Damaged – by what she had seen, and a lifetime of indoctrination by her family. I have no doubt she had also been told of the Curry and Heyes part in her family’s decline – just like Mitchell. They had been taught to hate. Conditioned and trained to have one blind, bigoted perspective.”
The Kid nodded. “And Mitchell’s was more straightforward. He hated Heyes and punished him.”
“A more masculine take on revenge.” Abigail put her coffee cup down on the table. “Men and women think differently, and commit crimes in different ways. Again, I have no doubt that Mr. Heyes’ death was the eventual motive there too, but the torture? He was playing with him for a very long time. I think that was to hurt poor Jed again.”
“And it worked,” the Kid murmured.
“So there’s still someone else?” Harry asked.
“He made a point of letting me know that,” muttered Heyes.
“And I made a point of telling him that Anya has been taken to Europe by her mother.” Abigail smiled. “His disappointment was palpable, so he clearly had intentions in that direction.”
“The question is,” Cage sat back and crossed his legs by propping his foot on the opposite knee, “if they think Anya’s gone – who will they go for next? We have to find them and fast. We can’t guard everyone you’ve ever known.”
Heyes nodded. “So, what’s the plan?”
“I’ve contacted the prison authorities and they are looking into all the meetings Mitchell had since the trial. They’re also looking into the history of any telegrams sent either from the prison or personally. The warden is collating these for me. Harry and Curry can wait here until Curry’s well enough to travel to collect them. I want you to contact me the minute you get anything significant.” Cage’s blue eyes burned meaningfully across the room at Heyes. “You are staying with me.”
Heyes smiled and nodded. “Sure, and I’ll do exactly what I’m told. I’m real grateful, Cage.”
Cage’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing.” Heyes smiled ruefully. “You’ve all been working so hard for me, and I almost ruined it all. I was stupid – just plain dumb – and I’m not too proud to admit it.”
There was a collective open-mouthed gawp of amazement before chuckles resonated around the room. “What!?” demanded Heyes, indignantly.
“It’s funny,” Abigail giggled.
“Only you could be so proud about bein’ modest,” laughed the Kid.
Heyes turned wounded eyes on the group. “I can’t win, can I?”
Abigail stood, dropping a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “Aw, don’t let them get to you.”
“Them? You’re the worst, Abi.”
“We’re just not used to it, that’s all.”
Cage sat back with a grin. “I’m just glad that you’ve finally realized whose side I’m on.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah, Abi’s – I know you don’t like me. I was a thief- so that’s fair enough - but in this case, Abi and I have the same at stake.”
Cage’s smile chilled. “Not true. I’m also on the side of justice. Yeah, you were a criminal – but you’ve done your time, and you’ve been wronged. As long as you stay on the straight and narrow I’ll be behind you.”
Heyes tilted his head, considering the reply. “I suppose it’s as good as I’ll get. I’m still grateful, Cage, and I won’t let you down.”
Cage stood. “Good. I’m going to go to Jacksonville to question Ed Stanton. I haven’t decided whether or not Abi will be any use. He might think we entrapped Julia if he sees her.”
Abigail started collecting coffee cups, putting them on the tray. “We promised the doctor we’d let Jed rest. So let’s leave him in peace.”
“Yeah, I am a bit tired.” The Kid smiled at Heyes. “So we split up again, huh?”
“For the last time, hopefully.” Heyes watched Abigail usher Cage and Harry through the door. “I’ll just be a minute.”
Abigail looked down at the cousins together, recognizing their need for time alone together. “Sure, don’t wear him out.” She walked over and dropped a kiss on the Kid’s curls, squeezing his shoulder gently with her right hand. “It’s good to have you back. You gave us all quite a scare, you know. Sleep well.”
The partners watched the door close behind her before their eyes met.
“An eventful few days, huh?”
Heyes nodded. “That’s what Abi said.” Heyes’ eyes became more intense. “So what do you think about what happened to our folks?”
“I tell ya, Heyes. I haven’t had time to think about it too hard. All I can tell you is my gut instinct. I felt proud – real proud – then I was suddenly ashamed.”
“Yup, that’s pretty much how it hit me too, Kid.”
The Kid shrugged. “We should’ve been better men, Heyes. They gave us their names, and look what we did with them.”
Heyes fell silent, that was something he hadn’t considered. Sometimes his taciturn partner had a way of cutting through the claptrap and getting straight to the point. “They died standing up for their beliefs and for other folk. What do we stand for?”
“I guess we’ve got to decide that, and then prove it to folks.” The Kid pressed his head back against the pillow.
They sat in silence for a while, enjoying the comfort of the others’ company before Heyes spoke again. “Do you ever wonder what we’d have been – how we’d have turned out?”
“Sure, but not very often – it makes my head hurt.”
“Yeah, me too, Kid. Me too.” Heyes smiled. “Do you ever lie awake at night wondering where it all went wrong?”
“I used to - until I figured out it’d take a lot more than just one night.”
Cage gave a huff of annoyance when Abigail opened the door. “A wig? What’re you up to, Abi?”
“I’m going to see the minister’s wife.” She hooked on a pair of round pebble glasses and smiled through carefully yellowed teeth. “I’m going to be a relative of Julia’s. If we’ve come back to Jacksonville I might as well see what I can find out, and she was very friendly with Mrs. Wutherspoon. I can pitch my reason for contacting her as an enquiry about the funeral, but not wanting to disturb Ed at this time. Who knows? Julia might have confided in her – it’s worth a try. We’re here anyway.”
“Yeah,” Cage nodded in agreement before gesturing towards Heyes with his head. “What about him though?”
“He’s got a book. He’ll be fine.”
“So? He had a book in Joplin – that didn’t stop him marauding through the back streets like some kind of Wild West Show.”
“He gave me his word,” Abigail replied.
“Yeah?” Doubtful blue eyes glittered at her. “He did the same to me. Look what happened.”
“I am here you know,” Heyes snorted indignantly.
“And that’s where I want you to stay,” Cage sniped back. “The main thing I’ve learned about you is you’ll behave under constant supervision or cornered like a rat in a trap. Otherwise, you’re a loose cannon.”
“Yeah, but this time I mean it, Cage.”
Cage scowled. “So do I. What’s that saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice – I rip your head off...?’”
Heyes arched his eyebrows. “That’s quite not the way I remember it.”
Cage shrugged. “Maybe it’s a prediction?” He strode over and clicked a handcuff around Heyes’ wrist before attaching it to the bedstead. “You can go, Abi. I’ll be down at the local sheriff’s office. Ed Stanton has agreed to meet Sheehan and me there.”
Abigail dropped a light kiss on Heyes cheek. “I’ll let you out when I get back and we can go for some tea. How does that sound?”
Heyes slumped back on the pillows with a bitter sigh. “Don’t be long.”
“It’ll take as long as it takes, Mr. Heyes. You can’t rush these things."
Heyes watched her fasten on a small cape and leave the room with a flirtatious wave. His eyes drifted up to Cage. “You need to learn to trust people, Cage. There’s no need for this.”
“Maybe,” Cage picked up the chamber pot and placed it on the night stand so it was within easy reach for the manacled man. “But there may be a need for this – depending on how long it all takes.”
Cage paused, staring down at his prisoner. “What’re you smiling about?” The blue eyes scanned the scene before Cage bent and started to search.
“This is ridiculous, Cage! I was having a relaxing read. What’re you looking for?”
“This!” Cage announced triumphantly, pulling out a lock pick from Heyes’ belt. “I knew you’d have one on you! C'mon, stand up!”
“What are ya' talking about!?”
“Get on your feet Heyes!” Cage demanded and then by way of showing he was serious he grabbed hold of the front on Heyes' shirt and hauled him to a standing position.
“Aww, c'mon!” Heyes complained. “Ya' found the lock pick, what else do you want!?”
“Marshal Morrison warned me about you,” Cage informed him as he thoroughly gave the ex-con a rather intrusive body search. “Said you always kept more than one of these things on you and since he's the only law man who's ever gotten you to trial I figure he's someone worth listening to!”
Heyes stood with barely tolerated acquiescence as Cage started at the top and worked his way down; he ruffled the dark hair, checked behind ears, along the collar, down each arm and into the cuffs, re-checked the belt and then patted down each leg. Heyes called it quits when the Pinkerton began rummaging through his boots.
“Alright!!” the hard put upon man yelled in frustration. “Just give me a minute!” Heyes sat down again and dutifully pulled off each boot and handed them over.
Cage ran a hand thoroughly over the inside and then down along the seams of the outside, stopping once with a triumphant grin as he slid a second pick out from hiding. He held it up and cocked an eyebrow at his charge.
Heyes rolled his eyes and frowned. “FINE!” he grumbled. “So I carry them on me again! So what!? Doesn't mean I would use them to get away—I gave you my word.”
“Hmm hm.” Cage didn't sound convinced. He finished up inspecting the second boot and then gave them back to Heyes. Heyes grabbed them, grumbling about the injustice of it all and commenced to pull them back onto his feet—not always an easy thing to do with one hand cuffed to a post! Cage looked around the room and spotted Heyes' black hat sitting on the night table. “One more thing to check,” he commented dryly.
Heyes gave a resigned sigh. “Yeah, go ahead! Why not!” he grumbled bitterly. “This is the thanks I get for trying to help out....”
Cage ignored him and picking up the hat, gave it a very thorough search along the brim and inside the band. Nothing there, so he turned the hat over and ran his hand inside the crown and then smiled as he felt something hard and slender nestled in between the silk lining and the felt. He glanced over at Heyes as he pulled out his pocket knife and prepared to do damage.
“Oh no! C'mon!” Heyes protested. “That's a brand new hat!”
“Just a little nick Heyes,” Cage assured him. “Just to see what you have tucked away in here.”
“Alright! There's one in there, just don't....ohhh....”
Cage dug the point of his knife into the silk and gave it a little twitch and then smiled again as he pulled out another lock pick. Heyes was really ticked now and his mouth was set in a hard line of irritation.
“That was a brand new hat,” he grumbled.
“It's still a brand new hat,” Cage assured him. “Nobody can see the snip—it's on the inside. Nobody'll know.”
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Dark Corners Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:22 pm|| |
Cage plunked the hat back down on the night stand and came back over to the disappointed prisoner. He stood there for a moment and just stared down at him.
“What!?” Heyes finally demanded in frustration.
“Do I have your word that you don't have any more lock picks on your person?” Cage asked him.
“I don't see how you could even question that!” Heyes retorted. “If the search you gave me had been any more thorough Abi would have reason to be jealous!”
Cage just smiled at him. “No one to blame but yourself, Heyes. You keep giving your word that you're going to behave yourself and then as soon as the opportunity arises, you break your word. First off you went charging after Carson and damn near got yourself killed and then you did the same thing with Mitchell. It's not going to happen again if I have anything to do with it.”
“I mean it this time,” Heyes insisted. “That scared me, being back in a jail cell with no way out. I don't ever want to be in that position again. I mean it.”
“So I have your word,” Cage persisted. “And you won't try to leave this room.”
Cage smiled and nodded. “Good.” He turned and strode from the room, hesitating briefly to deliver a parting shot. “And just to help you keep that word, I’m locking you in. See ya later, Heyes.”
Heyes picked up his book muttering under his breath. “How can a man reform when nobody trusts him? Ya have to give them some trust so you can see if they can live up to it.”
He slid his fingers over the spine of the book, and with a dimpled grin, pulled out a thin piece of metal and slid it into the lock of his handcuffs. He was free within minutes and walked over to the door, quickly turning the tumblers. He tested the door, opening it, and glancing down the corridor. There was nobody there.
“Yup, they should really try trusting a fella. This’ll drive Cage mad - wondering what I’ve been up to.” Heyes closed the door and returned to the bed, pausing only to stick the chamber pot underneath before lounging back with his book. “Why be difficult, when you can be impossible with so little effort?”
Cage sat down beside Sheriff Sheehan and smiled tentatively at the hauntingly pale man sitting opposite. “My sincere condolences on your loss, Mr. Stanton. I’m a widower myself, so I really know the kind of hole the loss of a loving wife can leave in your life.”
Ed nodded. “Thanks. Do you have children?”
“A boy. My wife died in childbirth. I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose someone in your circumstances. I want to assure you that we’ll do all that we can to make sure justice is served.”
“Thanks, Mr. Attwater, but she died in a fire. What’s all this talk of justice?”
“You already told the sheriff here that she was going to see him in Joplin, and gave the address she was headed for. She was followed, Mr. Stanton. She went to the same place as you said she was headed for, and a man was seen to open the door and let her in. She was shot and left to die.”
Ed Stanton stared at the lawmen with disbelieving blue eyes. “Huh?”
“We have told George Mitchell to expect to be charged with her murder.”
“Shot!?” Ed Stanton dropped his head into his hands, wiping away tears. “Never! This is a mistake.”
“I accused him.” Sheehan leaned forward. “He hasn’t denied it, sir.”
“Has he admitted it?”
Sheehan shook his head. “No, but the first thing I’d do is protest my innocence – wouldn’t you? I told him the bullets we recovered from the scene are a match to his gun, and he looked me in the eye and refused to say a word. He’s a real cold fish.”
Ed started to tremble, the truth hitting him. “She was shot!?”
Sheehan’s eyes glittered apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir. I thought the local law enforcement had told you the full circumstances of her death.”
“I was told she died in a fire! That’s it.”
“She did.” Sheehan darted an uneasy look at Cage. They had to tell the man everything. “She was followed and let into the building by a male. While the house was being watched, smoke was seen coming from one of the windows. Two men ran to try to get people out, but shots were heard. The place was an inferno and they were beaten back. Somebody kept your wife in there until the fire took a good hold, and only one body was found. We think Mitchell shot your wife in the legs so her screams and the fire would be a distraction for his escape.”
The bereaved man shuddered and his eyes glittered with tears, but Cage knew they had to press the message home to get his cooperation. “Would your wife have gone into that building with a man she didn’t know?”
Ed’s absent eyes looked off into the corner. “Maybe, if he’d told her Uncle George was expected soon. She was kinda naive.”
“What we have, Mr. Stanton; is your wife going to meet George Mitchell. She met a man, she was detained in a building until a fire took hold and then shot in both legs to make sure she couldn’t get out; and once we caught the man she was said to have been meeting, the bullets not only match his gun, but when confronted with this information he refuses to say a word in his defence.” Cage held Ed’s gaze. “A court is going to see all that as very compelling evidence – especially as we already have evidence linking him to other murders.”
“I find that hard to accept.” Ed sniffed back his emotions. “Uncle George has been accused of everything from embezzlement to murder – all because of accusations made by Hannibal Heyes and his friends. Heyes is a thief and a liar. Why is anybody even listening to him?”
“Accusations backed up by respected members of the staff, as well as physical evidence, Mr Stanton. Mitchell also admitted to a long standing family rivalry between the Mitchells, and Heyes’ and Curry’s fathers. To anybody objective it stinks of a vendetta, but not one led by Heyes.”
“I really didn’t expect men like you to be on the side of thieves and criminals.”
“Mr. Stanton, we’re on the side of justice. Your personal feelings towards Heyes or Curry are of no concern to either of us,” Sheehan pressed on. “If the court had wanted Heyes to die, they’d have sentenced him to hang. We can’t condone vigilante action.” Sheehan watched his words land. “George Mitchell isn’t a misunderstood public servant. He’s a desperate man on the run who put your wife through a terrible ordeal. She was burned alive – unable to move because she had been shot in both legs. Everyone who heard those screams will never forget them.” He paused. “I know I never will.”
Ed rubbed his face with both hands, his voice rasping with emotion. “For the love of God, will you stop!? Why are you telling me all of this?”
“Because we’re pretty sure he murdered your wife, but we can’t prove it absolutely! We can prove he had a Smith and Wesson gun, the same as the type your wife was shot with, but there are thousands of those. They’re not as popular as the Colt, but, but there must be up to a hundred of them in Joplin alone.” Cage leaned forward. “But how many of those will be wanted men without an alibi? And she wasn’t meeting anybody else. Focus man – are you gonna let him away with this? I know I wouldn’t.”
Ed voiced rasped with emotion. “What do you want me to do?”
Cage’s eyes softened. “We know your wife was in collusion with Mitchell to harm Heyes and Curry, Mr. Stanton.”
“And you want me to tell all about that now?” Ed Stanton snorted angrily. “Haven’t you heard the saying ‘never speak ill of the dead?’”
“Yeah,” Cage nodded. “But we’re in the business of trying to stop folks from being dead in the first place - that’s our priority. A young woman was shot in the throat because she’s connected to Jed Curry, and there has been an attempt to kill a ten year old girl and her mother. This vendetta has affected innocent people – and that’s got to stop. We can prove Mitchell paid the men who carried out those attacks.”
Ed scowled at the lawmen. “You’ve got Mitchell, and Julia’s dead.”
Cage’s steady blue eyes bored into the widower. “They weren’t working alone, Mr. Stanton, and Mitchell gloated about the girl still being hurt. We have to stop that. What age is your boy, Mr. Stanton?”
“Eleven,” Ed murmured.
“The girl is ten, Mr. Stanton. If these people get their way she’ll never reach eleven.” Cage’s voice softened. “I’m asking you, from one father to another, don’t let this continue. She’s a child. What has she done to deserve death?”
Cage sat back to let the point filter through Ed’s labyrinth of emotions, using the silence to drive the man to think long and hard about the choice they were asking him to make.
Ed’s eyes flickered. “She got a bit obsessed with the trials. I truly never knew she’d gotten involved in any kind of conspiracy. I thought meeting up with witnesses was a way of working through her issues with Curry.” He dropped his head, “but I’m not surprised she encouraged her uncle to give Heyes a hard time in jail to make Curry feel bad.” He raised his head again. “You’ll never convince me that she was involved in any shootings, though.”
Cage nodded. “All we know for sure is she was protecting a man who went on the run after being implicated in murder and embezzlement, but we’re asking you to help us. Please! This has cost her life; unnecessarily in my view. Help us to make sure nobody else dies. I believe the danger lies with her co-conspirators and she was naively drawn in. She was useful to Mitchell in helping to cover his tracks when everything went wrong.”
“Who was she meeting up with, Mr. Stanton?” Sheehan asked.
Ed Stanton slumped hopelessly. “You can have her address book and letters from the house.”
“Did you meet anybody else with connections to Heyes and Curry?” Cage asked.
“Yes. Julia wanted to go to the trial to give evidence and I went with her as support. Uncle George took her to Heyes’ trial. I couldn’t close the business twice, you see. She also went to a couple of meetings with a Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Baines, and a Mr. Fletcher. Uncle George assured me they were helping Julia.”
Cage and Sheehan nodded, the message sinking in that Julia had been more involved than her husband either knew or wanted to admit. There was a limit to the cooperation. Ed Stanton needed to hang on to his version of her memory.
“Her letters would be a great help, Mr. Stanton.” Cage spoke softly. They would need his help again – he was sure of it. “I’m sure we’ll find she was drawn in by her uncle. This will help preserve her memory as a gentle, loving mother; being so open will scotch any rumos. Thank you for your help, sir.”
Abigail set down the bottle of ink beside the pan and paper. “Right; let’s start noting the names of the people she was seeing and linking the number of instances.”
Sheriff Sheehan flicked open the wooden box with a moue. “I’m not too comfortable with this. What if she’s been writing about womanly things?”
Cage tossed over the address book. “Here, you do the book – Abi, do the letters. I’ll get the transcripts of the trials so we can compare them.” He walked over to the bags and placed one on the bed. “Did you get anywhere with the preacher’s wife?”
Abigail shook her head. “No. Julia had confided in her that she was helping her uncle because he’d been unjustly accused. It would appear Mrs. Wutherspoon approved – at least until I told her how Julia really died. I do wish people would stop canonizing the criminals just because they have a relationship with them.”
“And you’ve never done that, Mrs. Stewart?” She looked up to see Sheehan’s bright Irish eyes fixing her with intense scrutiny.
“Are you sure? Your relationship with Heyes was something I picked up on right away. Those suspicions have been confirmed by this trip to Jacksonville.”
Abigail’s lips twitched into a smile. “Nobody who has known me for any length of time can accuse me of treating Mr. Heyes with reverence, or any kind of veneration. I was one of his toughest critics. Watching him throw away his potential infuriated me, and I told him so on many occasions.”
“Yet you formed a relationship?”
“No, I can’t say we did – until now. We were drawn to one another, he’s intelligent and charismatic, but I hadn’t seen him for ten years. I only got involved because Beth Jordan was shot in the throat. My relationship with Mr. Heyes grew from that. I’d probably never have seen him again.”
Sheehan nodded slowly. “But you’re not keen on her seeing this man, Cage?”
“Abigail was very close to my wife. I don’t like seeing her with a man like Heyes – I’ve made no secret of that – but she’s a friend, and in my book you’re there for them through thick and thin.”
Abigail laid a hand on Cage’s arm. “And I’m very grateful, but there are innocent lives at stake – let’s not lose sight of that.”
“Yeah, back to work,” Cage replied.
Abigail slipped the first letter out of the envelope and started to read...
“So, witnesses from both trials have been meeting?” Abigail sat back. “So far we have Kenneth Roberts and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Baines, Winford Fletcher, and Julia Stanton and her husband arranging to have tea together. It appears they all attended both trials except for Ed Stanton.”
“Charles Morgan was not welcome as he appeared to be too rough,” chuckled Cage. “Yeah, great judgement, huh? They like a nice, smartly dressed criminal.”
“To travel to both trials shows a real vested interest.” Abigail nodded.
“So, we start to look at all these people in depth? I think we need to see what Harry and Jed come back with to see who we need to prioritise.”
“I’ll get the agency to check into the backgrounds of these folks.” Cage stood. “I suppose we need to go let Heyes out.”
Sheehan frowned in curiosity. “Let him out?”
“Yeah,” Cage grinned. “I handcuffed him to the bed and locked him in his room.”
“You did?” Sheehan chortled.
“Yup, we’ve got enough to do without chasing him down back alleys.”
Sheehan shrugged. “Yeah, but I kinda feel sorry for him, now I find out what happened to him as a boy.”
“Yeah? Well in my book stealing to eat ain’t criminal, but stealing to get rich is. He crossed the line,” Cage retorted.
“He’s trying to get back on the right side of it, though,” Abigail added quickly.
“Let’s get down to his room,” Cage glanced at Abigail. “We’ll probably find he’s got the line folded up and stuck in his back pocket.”
“How did you get out?” Cage demanded.
Heyes turned a dimpled face up from his book. “Out? I haven’t been out.”
Cage grabbed up the handcuffs from nightstand. “These!”
“Oh, those. Yeah, I took them off. It was hard to turn the pages and hold the book at the same time. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
Cage glared at Heyes. “Mind!? The door was unlocked too.”
“Yes. I thought it was unsafe,” the dimples pitted even deeper. “What if there’s been a fire?”
“A fire?” snarled Cage.
“Yes. The orange, burny stuff. Very dangerous to leave somebody chained up like that.”
“Where’ve you been, Heyes? What’ve you been up to?”
“I’ve been here reading my book, apart from when I had a bit of lunch.” Heyes' eyes drifted over to Abigail and Sheehan standing by the door, enjoying having an audience. “Is that alright with you Cage? They say knowledge is power, and power corrupts – so it’s possible that all this reading was making me evil... so I took a break for lunch.”
“How do you put up with him?” demanded Sheehan.
“Usually through gritted teeth.”
Heyes stood and delivered a twinkling grin at the assembled company. “I promised you I’d behave, and I have, Cage. I swear on my life. I just didn’t see why I needed to be chained up. How did you get on?”
“We’ve got a group of people who got together at your trial, and who’ve been in touch ever since.” Abigail sat on the bed, shaking her head ruefully at Cage who was putting the handcuffs away. “Did you really behave, Mr. Heyes?”
“It’s as true as I’m sitting here.” Heyes nodded. “I thought it was a way I could convince you that I mean to keep my word. After all, I could have just clipped the cuffs back on when I heard you coming.”
“If I find out you’ve been up to anything...” Abigail began.
“Don’t worry. You won’t,” grinned Heyes.
Abigail’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What do you mean? I won’t find out - or I’ll find out you’ve not been up to anything?”
“Honestly!” Heyes threw up his hands in exasperation. “I sat here and read. Can you blame me for not wanting to do it cuffed to a bed? Who are these people who’ve been meeting?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Baines, Mr. and Mrs Roberts, and a man called Winford Fletcher,” Sheehan leaned against the dresser. “Do you remember them from the trial?”
“Fletcher?” The smile dropped from Heyes’ face. “Yeah, I remember him. He’s a crooked banker who set up Clem’s pa when he embezzled fifty thousand dollars from his bank. We helped her recover the money.”
Abigail’s eyes widened. “A crooked banker? Yes, I remember. He stated in court that he was cleared of those charges, but Mr. Heyes’ lawyer suggested he’d bought the charges off. Fifty thousand dollars, plus the costs in getting the charges dismissed? That’s a potentially huge grudge.”
Cage folded his arms and nodded sagely. “Yup. I’ll telegraph the agency to see what we can find out about him and his background. I think we’re getting somewhere at last.”
Kenny beamed warmly and proffered a handshake. “Jed, Harry! Sit down - it’s great to see you again. I’m glad you could make it in this weather.” Kenny cast a glance at the snowy landscape outside the window and rubbed his hands. “Let me get you something to warm you up. Coffee - or would you like something harder?”
“That depends,” blue eyes glittered in question at the warden. “Do you have anything for us, or is this gonna end up bein’ a social call?”
Kenny’s smile widened. “Oh, I’ve got things for you. Quite a lot, in fact.”
Harry and the Kid shared a glance. “Coffee, I think - we’d better keep a clear head until we’ve finished.” The Kid raised an eyebrow at Harry’s disappointed scowl. “It’s a lot warmer in here than I remember.”
“Yeah, I use the allowance the way it’s intended. ” Kenny’s eyes narrowed. “That’s quite a scar. What’ve you been up to?”
The Kid put a hand to his head. “Yeah, we caught Mitchell, but he put up a fight.”
“So I heard. How are you doing? Should you be up and about?”
“Yeah, the doc cleared me, and Cage gave this to Harry and me for an easy ride.”
“They need a professional detective too,” added Harry, defensively. “Someone has to read through the evidence and pick up on the important points.”
Kenny and the Kid exchanged a glance. “Sure, Harry. We need this to be done right.”
Kenny gestured to the man standing by the door. “Coffee for three, please.” Harry and the Kid took the proffered seats while Kenny pulled open a drawer. “How’s Heyes?” he asked.
“Better, now he’s out of jail,” Harry murmured.
“Yes.” Kenny’s mouth hardened slightly in irritation. “Mr. Attwater informed me that he had been arrested. Didn’t really go into details though. I swear, I was ready to take a train over to Joplin myself and personally wring his neck!”
“Uh huh,” the Kid nodded.
Harry pulled out a cigar. “He went rampaging through the town after Mitchell – even after Cage and Morrison told him to stop. The sheriff grabbed him and stuck him in jail.”
Kenny’s jaw dropped. “No. The idiot! I’m surprised he got released after pulling something like that. Is his parole in jeopardy because of it?”
The Kid relaxed back in his chair. “Nah, but I hear it was a close call. Abi used the telephone thing and got hold of the governor. She got him to understand her point of view – but it took her nearly all night.”
“Abi?” Kenny frowned heavily. “That’s the woman who wrote to him while he was here, isn’t it? The mother of his two children?”
“Yup, that’s her,” Jed confirmed. “The one and only.”
Kenny smiled and shook his head. “I’m surprised the governor would even speak to a woman about Heyes’ parole, especially in the middle of the night.”
“Abigail Stewart can be very persuasive. I don’t know what she said exactly, but she can talk as smooth as honey when she needs to.” The blue eyes glittered meaningfully. “She and Heyes have an understandin’.”
Kenny gestured to a clear spot on the desk for the man bringing in the coffee tray. “Ah, is she the woman you two talked about when you visited?”
The Kid shook his head. “No, that was Beth, usually. Abi’s an ex-Pinkerton, workin’ with Cage. She’s real smart – she sure doesn’t miss much.”
“No, she doesn’t,” growled Harry. “She’s got a real good aim - and nobody warned me about that when they sent me to take her back to the double J. They all knew she wouldn’t want to come.”
Kenny started pouring out the coffee. “She must have good contacts if she can get the governor to speak to her in the middle of the night. I couldn’t do that.”
“Probably less to do with contacts, and more to do with knowing his weak spots,” grinned the Kid. “Her job with the Pinkertons involved diggin’ up secrets, and she’s still real good at it.”
Kenny walked around the desk and handed out the coffee cups. “Sounds like a real interesting lady. Trust him to find someone like that.” He shrugged. “A Pinkerton!” He smiled ruefully. “He does like to live dangerously , doesn’t he? But I guess he’d get bored with a dumb one.”
The Kid chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it. It was like throwing water on burning fat every time those two crossed swords– but they seem to have calmed down – a bit.”
“She’s not natural, if you ask me,” Harry sighed. “Women have no business thinking - if they can’t get what they want by acting dumb, they can get it by being smart? That just ain’t fair.”
“Which part is unfair competition?” snickered the Kid. “Can’t you raise your game, Harry?”
Harry folded his arms. “I shouldn’t have to. Women belong in the kitchen.”
“There speaks an unmarried man,” laughed Kenny.
“Yeah,” the Kid nodded, “and he’s gonna stay one if that’s all he thinks they’re for.” He hooked Harry with a mischievous blue glint. “Promise me I can watch when you share your philosophy with Abi.” He smirked at Kenny before he continued. “On second thoughts - best not. There’s been enough bloodshed.”
Kenny sat back at his desk and opened an enormous ledger, supporting the huge book while flicking through the book to find the pages marked with paper bookmarks. “Well, to business – the good thing about Mitchell’s previous secretary is that he was fastidious in keeping the diary up to date. We also have all visitors sign in at the gate house as they enter and leave – our records are excellent.”
Abigail turned to face the hotel clerk.
“You’re a friend of Mr. Attwater, aren’t you?”
She nodded. “Yes, I’m just going to meet him at the restaurant with Sheriff Sheehan.”
The sunlight twinkled of the man’s little, round spectacles. “Can you tell him a telegram has come in from the Pinkerton offices in Chicago?” He shifted excitedly from foot to foot at the very idea of handling such vital information. “I came in twenty minutes ago, but he wasn’t in his room.” The clerk gave an enthusiastic smile. “I did try. I went up right away.”
Abigail and Heyes walked up to the desk. “I can take it to him if you want?”
The man slunk back from the front desk, clutching the missive to his chest. “Oh, no, ma’am. I couldn’t do that. It’s from the Pinkerton office. I couldn’t give it to a civilian – and a female one at that. It must remain in official hands until it can be delivered to the intended recipient.”
“A civilian? Official hands?” Abigail gave a tinkling laugh. “What are you?”
“I’m charged with the safe keeping of this important document. The Pinkertons sent it.” The little man puffed out his chest. “I take my responsibility very seriously, you know.”
“So I see,” grinned Heyes.
“Well,” the little man unlocked a drawer and thrust the telegram into it. “It’s from the Pinkertons.”
“Really?” Heyes chuckled. “You should have said. We’ll let him know for you.”
Three heads poured over the diary, Harry noting down the dates and attendees to the meeting as the details were read out as Kenny’s long finger slid down the page. “You see here? One week after Heyes trial Mr. and Mrs Baines, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, Julia Stanton, and Winford Fletcher attended a meeting here with Mitchell.” Kenny crossed over to another book. “This is the gatehouse register. On the same date these people signed in at ten minutes past one, and they signed out at fourteen minutes past five.” Kenny raised his head, looking at Harry and the Kid in turn. “Considering the time of day, I’d suggest they probably left with Mitchell.”
The Kid frowned. “Have you ever seen witnesses to trials coming to a prison before?”
Kenny shook his head. “Never to meet the warden in this way. Very occasionally we’ll get lone witnesses trying to see a prisoner to gloat or to tell them they are forgiven. In fact I think I’ve only see that twice, but heard of a few more cases. I’ve never seen anything like this – Heyes wasn’t contacted or informed. I’d have heard.”
The Kid scratched his head. “It’s strange but it’s not proof.”
Kenny arched his eyebrows. “Not yet it’s not. Look here. These same people met here once more before your trial, Jed. Three days before.” Kenny sat back and shook his head. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The Kid and Harry exchanged a look before glancing down at the various pieces of paper protruding from the top of both books. “Are there more meetings?” asked Harry.
“Yup. There was another right after your trial Jed. All the same people were there, except for Julia Stanton.” He flicked through to another marked page. “And here – in October. Another meeting with Winford Fletcher and Mr. and Mrs. Baines.”
Jed turned the pages of the gatehouse book, his brows knotting in curiosity. “After that there are eight more meetings only with the Baines, and two more with the Baines and Julia Stanton here too.”
“I guess we can eliminate Winford Fletcher then?” ventured Harry.
“No,” adamant blue eyes fixed on Harry. “Julia Stanton didn’t go to all the meetings and we know she was up to her ears in it. That means nothing. He could have been dealing with them through private letters.”
“So could the Roberts,” Kenny murmured. He slid a folder over to Harry. “I’ve itemised all the meetings which took place between various groups of witnesses within these walls over a five year period. Twelve in total – very, very suspicious – especially in light of what happened afterwards.” Kenny slipped open another folder. “With the cooperation of the local authorities I have also managed to obtain copies of the following telegrams. I have them because they were addressed to the Prison Warden, and not to Mitchell personally. To get those sent to Mitchell personally you’ll need the Pinkertons to get it officially sanctioned. I understand there are quite a number of them.”
Harry and the Kid sucked in a breath of anticipation. “What do the ones you have say?” Harry queried.
Kenny pulled out the first one. “Funds transferred as requested. J.B.” He looked from the Kid to Harry. This was sent two days after one of the meetings, and one week before the ‘prison break.’”
A silence fell over the room before the Kid spoke. “J.B.?”
Kenny nodded. “It may interest you to know that I made some enquiries of my own. Jackson Baines married the young woman from Heyes’ trial, she was a witness – he owns a railroad; one which was robbed by ‘The Devil’s Hole Gang’ time and time again.”
“Jackson Baines?” murmured the Kid.
Kenny’s earnest voice carried across the silent room. He slid over another document using a single forefinger. “That’s not all. This was sent to Mitchell eight days before Beth was shot.”
Harry reached out and grabbed it up. “Money sent. No more mistakes. Get it done. J.B.”
The Kid dropped his head into his hands. “Beth!? What did I do to her? “
Kenny sat back. “Whatever you’ve done, Jed, you didn’t do this. That’s down to whoever pulled the trigger and paid to make that happen.”
The Kid sat rocking backwards and forward, rubbing his temples and staring aimlessly off into the corner. “No, we started it when we robbed and didn’t think about how it affected folks. We didn’t care – we took. When you do that, it can all fall down for other folks - like a house of cards. We did it. I did it! Oh, Beth!”
Harry darted a look of helpless confusion at Kenny, but the warden was quick to identify the realization in the man before him; the insight which often hit prisoners soon after the stark reality of incarceration dawned in the wee small hours. Kenny quickly slipped into a mask of professional authority. “Harry, go and get the whiskey. It’s over there in the credenza.” He stood and walked over to the man slumped over in the chair and dropped a hand on his back. “Jed, I’ve seen a lot of men with regrets; but one who cares about other folks has got a good future. Criminals usually only care about themselves.”
Kenny smiled forcing the Kid to look at him by repeating his name strongly and assertively. As soon as he caught sight of the deep-blue pools of regret he smiled, holding the ex-outlaw’s gaze. “Jed!” Kenny held out a glass of whiskey with a firm smile. “Drink this.” The Kid started to drop his gaze, but he was pulled up short by a determined order. “Drink this!”
The Kid sat up reluctantly and stretched out a shaking hand. “Thanks.”
Kenny crouched before the gunman. “Jed. I’ve seen this a thousand times, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that we make our own hell. You’ve done things – sure you have, we all have, and it hurt folks – there’s no doubt about that. Does that give them the right to shoot Beth in the throat? No! It doesn’t! They did this. They could steal from you to get back what they lost, they could stop you getting jobs by spreading rumors, they could even bad-mouth you - but nothing else measures up as evening the score.” He laid a firm hand on the Kid’s knee. “Don’t lose sight of that, Jed. These folks have gone way beyond anything I can understand. It’s not normal.” Kenny saw the blue eyes sink once again. “Jed! Drink this.”
The Kid raised a trembling hand, still grasping the glass. “I could have gotten them killed, Kenny. The two people who mean more to me than my own life – and look what I did to them.”
“You stole. You didn’t put a bullet in Beth’s throat.” Kenny darted a look of irritation at Harry who floated around the periphery of the room, clearly out of his depth with another man displaying naked emotion. “And you didn’t torture Heyes either. Mitchell did that.”
“Yeah, because we stole!”
“I thought Heyes was tortured because Mitchell hated Heyes’ pa.” Harry ventured, reluctantly.
Kenny’s forehead creased in surprise. He hadn’t expected Harry to contribute anything useful. “Heyes’ pa?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, Mitchell told Cage he had it in for Heyes because of his family‘s politics. Mitchell’s folks hated both their families so much they were the ones who hit their places, and killed their kin.”
Kenny gave a gasp. “They were? You see, Jed, there’s more to it than you. That’s where it all started - if your families had brought you up you’d never have become criminals.”
“Ya think?” The blue eyes simmered doubtfully.
“I know so. Life’s a tapestry.” Kenny pulled up a chair and heaved a great sigh. “I’ve seen a lot of men pass through here – thieves, murderers, confidence tricksters; you name it. You develop an ability to see the recidivists – the ones you know will be back; and you can spot the unusual. You and Heyes both stand out as being different to the criminal herd – I wouldn’t be a friend if either of you were.”
The Kid raised his glass and drank deeply of the amber liquid. “I still have a lot to regret.”
“No argument there, Jed.” Kenny’s mouth twitched into a rueful smile. “But at least you do regret it – most folks in here only regret getting caught.” Kenny stood giving a manly pat on the back, “and that’s what makes the difference. Come on- drink up. You’re coming home with me; you’re having a home cooked meal. It’s Friday – so no work tomorrow. I’m gonna get you just drunk enough to start feeling, but not too drunk to think straight – between that, and some good company, this time tomorrow life’ll seem a whole lot brighter.”
Cage clattered through the door of the restaurant, turning gleaming blue eyes on the company assembled around the table. He placed a telegram on the table with a grin of satisfaction. “Winford Fletcher is no longer a banker. He’s a plumbing supplies merchant. It seems confidence in his honesty led to a decline in his bank, and it was bought over at much reduced price.”
Abigail’s gaze became more intense. “So he lost his bank? On top of all that money he lost, it stacks up as a rather big motive, doesn’t it?”
Heyes nodded. “It sure does. He was always devious too. That’s how he managed to fit up Clem’s pa with his crime.”
Cage read from the piece of paper in his hand. “According to the agency he still lives a fairly comfortable life. The household has a live in cook and maid of all works, but it’s a big step down from the house he had on the hill with a full staff.”
“I feel like we’re getting close to this.” Sheriff Sheehan chewed thoughtfully on his steak. Can I rely on you to make sure all the evidence of a criminal conspiracy is forwarded to me in Joplin? I need to get back there now we’ve spoken to Ed Stanton.”
Cage nodded. “I sure will. It’s the least I can do to thank you for your cooperation. We just need to hear from the agency on the checks into Mitchell’s bank accounts to see if anyone’s been transferring money into them. The meetings don’t stack up to much by themselves; but with Ed Stanton’s evidence, and one of the conspirators actually handing over hard earned cash to a man we can prove paid men the shooters, we’ve got them banged to rights.”
“What if they paid some other way?” asked a concerned-looking Heyes.
“Conventional people tend to commit crime within their own habits, Mr. Heyes, and people like this use banks or safes, rather than stashing cash in a hole somewhere – even if it’s a safety deposit box.” Abigail patted his hand reassuringly. “If they drew out cash which doesn’t fit their normal spending pattern and that was right before a meeting – an inference can be drawn; especially if they can’t account for where they spent it. If they’ve hidden it in a safe – there’s the question of how they sent it. If they sent it by wire, it can be traced that way, just as it could be by bank draft. People like Winford Fletcher are basically dishonest; so they’re unlikely to trust a third party or the postal system to deliver the cash on their behalf. They tend to think everyone thinks like they do- it’ll get stolen. That helps us find it.”
Sheehan sat back in his chair. “I never thought of all that either. I could sure learn a few things on solving crimes from you Pinkerton folks. A sheriff’s generally voted in on his ability to shoot straight, and stare a man down, around these parts.”
“That’s why there’s a saying in detective circles – ‘follow the money.’” Cage grinned. “There’s usually money involved, except in crimes of passion, and folks have to get their hands on it somehow. That’s how we catch them.”
Abigail tapped impatiently on the table. “I can’t wait for Jed and Harry to get here and show us what Warden Reece has uncovered from the prison records, and the telegrams Mitchell sent and received when he was in charge of the prison.”
“Yup,” Cage smiled, looking around each person at the table in turn, “and when we get the banking records from the Pinkerton Agency, the comparison will tell us exactly who’s behind all of this.”
“It’ll be over,” Heyes reached out and took Abigail’s hand. “I can get on with the rest of my life at last. I’ve learned a lot through this whole episode. My friends have taught me what’s possible – and my foes have shown me what matters most. I’m not gonna let any of you down again folks. My old life is dead – I’m done with it.”
Kenny smiled up at his wife as she cleared the dishes. “That was a wonderful dinner, Sarah.”
She returned the compliment with the kind of wifely affection borne of having to suddenly feed two unplanned guests, as well as review the sleeping arrangements of the entire household. Why did they have to sleep here when there was a perfectly good hotel not too far away? “I’m glad I could stretch it on so little warning.” She beamed at the guests. “Have you had enough to eat?”
“Yes, ma’am. That was a wonderful meal. Chicken and ham go so well together.”
“Yes, I was lucky to have ingredients in which I could match with so little warning.” Sarah looked at her husband with a sniff. “Well, I’ll leave you gentlemen to enjoy your brandy.”
The men watched her leave the room before taking their seats again. “I get the feelin’ she a bit annoyed at the short notice, Kenny.' Jed observed. “Are you sure we’re not imposin’? We can stay at the hotel.”
Kenny chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. She’ll sleep with Evelyn and I’ll bunk with the boys. That’ll leave our room for you two. You don’t mind a double bed, do you?”
“You don’t snore, do ya, Harry.”
“No I don’t,” Harry retorted. “And you better not either, Kid.”
“I’ve never had any complaints.”
Harry gave a snort. “You’re Kid Curry – who’d have the nerve?”
“Not everyone I’ve slept with knew I was Kid Curry,” the Kid grinned.
Harry lit up a cigar. “True - and I bet Heyes would have let ya know, huh?”
“He’d probably have mentioned it,” the Kid muttered, “knowin’ Heyes.”
“I thought it’d be best to be comfortable and unwind.” Kenny sat back and patted his stomach contentedly. “The best way to get over an upset is over a home-cooked meal, good company, and the freedom to be as relaxed as you want to be.”
“I’m sorry, Kenny.” Contrite blue eyes caught the gleam of the candlelight. “It’s really comin’ home to me how my past affects my life. I get so worried about startin’ a family and how I can protect them.”
“That’s being a father, Jed. It’s a good sign that you’re thinking that way already.” Kenny swirled his brandy in his glass, the light catching the fluid with a golden glow. “We will get this behind you; we just need to get you to accept you can’t change the past.”
The Kid groaned lightly. “And how do I go about doin’ that, Kenny?”
“I come from down to earth, sensible folks, Jed. My ma would have told you there’s no point crying over spilt milk.”
Kenny swung back on his chair. “She’d have told you to grab yourself a mop and get cleaning.”
“Your ma would have got on like a house on fire with Grandpa Curry,” snickered the Kid. “He was a great one for the homilies too.”
Kenny swigged back the last of his drink and reached for the bottle to refill. “They’ve got a point though. No point in moaning about it, you’ve got to do something about it if you want a better future.”
“Like what?” demanded the Kid.
“Exactly what you’re doing, Jed. You’re working, mixing with decent folks, supporting your friend through a tough time – and marrying a lovely girl. That’s real life. You’re turning into a decent, hard-working man. You might have got there a bit late and taken a detour through some thoroughly dirty territory, but you’ve ended up at the right place.”
The Kid shook his head. “Yeah, very dirty territory. That’s what I regret the most.”
“Why? Look how you can use that? You can’t change it, but you can make sure your children understand what you had to face – there’ll be no attraction to a life of crime when you tell them of your rough times.” Kenny proffered a top up to his guests. “Kids often think they know a lot more than their parents. All they see is us working and doing things around the house –they can assume we know nothing of the world beyond. There’s no way your children will ever think that. You’ll have real credibility.”
The Kid shrugged in disbelief. “Ya think?”
“Yeah, I do.” Kenny’s smile widened to a grin. “And when that fails, you’ll have that arctic stare to fall back on – as long as they aren’t girls. You’ll never pull that off on a little girl.”
The Kid’s eyes twinkled. “Especially if she’s got Beth’s eyes.”
“My Eve can wind me around her little finger,” Kenny sighed. “The men at the prison would never imagine how much of a soft touch I can be.”
The Kid stood and walked over to the fireplace, warming the backs of his legs as he faced the room again. “Why’d you insist on invitin’ me here, Kenny?”
“The shock of all this hit you and you needed support, that’s all.” Kenny looked up at the ex-outlaw. “You needed some space to realize you can’t go back and make a fresh start. What matters is that you make a new ending. Besides, with this snow you’re likely to be stuck for a bit, and I think a proper home will be better than a hotel.”
Jed Curry breathed deeply, the smoke from the wood fire mingling comfortably with the rich, oaky tones of the brandy. He looked around the comfortable room, mentally measuring the friends who cared enough to put their lives on hold to wrap themselves around him like a blanket. “Yeah, a new ending, Grandpa Curry would have got on with your ma, Kenny. He had a sayin’ I liked.” He raised his glass in toast. “May the bridges you burn light your way.”
Harry and Kenny chuckled gently. “I like that. I’m gonna use that one,” murmured Kenny.
The Kid drained his glass looking around playfully. “Well, we’ve done the thinkin’ and the feelin’ you promised – how about a game of poker?”
“Is that it, Cage? Is it what we’ve been waiting for?”
Cage nodded, looking down at the crumpled telegram in his hand. “It sure is. We finally know who was paying Mitchell to carry on the vendetta.” He tilted his head in Abigail’s direction. “Your guess was wrong. So was mine, but the evidence doesn’t lie. The money was transferred straight into his account. They clearly never thought they’d get caught.”
Heyes’ fingers curled around Abigail’s hand, his stomach fluttering with nerves. Abigail’s brows arched in surprise. “Really? Who is it? Tell me,” she demanded.
To Be Continued.
Posts : 5114
Join date : 2014-07-12
Age : 52
Location : Scotland
|Subject: Re: Dark Corners Chapter ten Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:30 am|| |
So, after the violence and angst of the last chapter, we now get some healing, soul-searching and detecting.
What a relief that Abi has forgiven Heyes. Dreams/nightmares make a re-appearance not only for Heyes, but also for Jed. You had me a little worried he would actually try to back out of the wedding in some misunderstood notion of being chivalrous. Hopefully Heyes and Kenny have managed to steer him away from this for good.
I have to admit, that I think you are being a bit too hard on the Kid (and Heyes) when you call his outlaw years "a detour through some thoroughly dirty territory". Granted, they stole money and caused some damage, but they never hurt or killed people during their robberies. And they never stooped to robbing ordinary people. Taking this into account, I would call it a detour through some dusty territory with a few dirt patches (the revenge killings and maybe the occasional temper tantrum). "Thoroughly dirty" I would reserve for guys like Harris or Boeman!
Looks like we have a new member to our multiple talent posse. Sheehan could be a good ally to have.
I loved the snarking scenes. My favourite was between Cage and Heyes after Heyes got out of the handcuffs. I can see Pete acting this in my mind's eye, it rings so true.
And Mayor Schmidt clearly doesn't stand a chance against Abi. Very enjoyable too.
And the Oscar for best line goes to ....... Heyes
for “Why be difficult, when you can be impossible with so little effort?”
Sounds like it could have come from Oscar Wilde. (Who knows, maybe it did - O.W. did a lecture tour through the US including the West and I am sure Heyes might have found an encounter stimulating)
And finally our friends are getting some more answers and can start to properly unravel the conspiracy.
It is cruel of you to end the chapter with this last line! Who will it be? You force me to continue reading (not that much force is needed). But beware! It might just be possible that with all this reading you are making me evil! Muhahahaha
"I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Location : Over the rainbow
|Subject: Re: Dark Corners Chapter ten Fri Aug 01, 2014 4:38 pm|| |
Ooh, Stepha3nie. You are such a flatterer. No, that's not an Oscar Wilde quote. It's mine.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
Posts : 5114
Join date : 2014-07-12
Age : 52
Location : Scotland
|Subject: Re: Dark Corners Chapter ten Fri Aug 01, 2014 6:26 pm|| |
It's not flattery, it's deserved. Would you allow me to borrow it occasionally for RL?
"I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
Posts : 8718
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Re: Dark Corners Chapter ten Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:33 am|| |
|Subject: Re: Dark Corners Chapter ten || |
Dark Corners Chapter ten