Posts : 1467 Join date : 2013-08-24 Age : 63 Location : Camano Island Washington
Subject: Truth Hurts Chapter eleven Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:53 pm
One Month Later – Murreyville, Wyoming
Steven Granger shuffled his papers until they were straight and placed them back inside the manila folder.
“So, we’re going to accept the prosecution’s proposal that Joan Baines commit to ending the vendetta by swearing an affidavit to cease and desist?”
Steven scanned the faces around the table; Jesse pensive – there to represent his unmarried daughter’s legal interests , Abigail frowning beside an attentive Heyes, a steely-eyed Kid Curry leaning back with his arms folded; Cage, Harry, Sheriff Jacobs and Sheriff Sheehan noting their own copies of the legal documents.
“As I’ve explained, even though the payments to Mitchell were made through her personal account, a court is unlikely to find her guilty of anything. They’ll see her as a put-upon, little woman, whose mother died of a heart attack after being involved in a robbery. We know he had his own grudge against the Devil’s Hole Gang because they robbed his line so many times, and the jury is likely to feel sorry for Joan.”
“They might feel differently if you allowed the evidence I uncovered on her background to be used. She has a history of manipulative behaviour, and probably pushed him into bankrolling the whole thing.” Abigail’s dark eyes burned across the table. “She’s a very forceful woman. If anybody knows their own mind, it’s her – although she’s quite the accomplished actress. She pulls off meek very well when it suits her purposes.”
Steven nodded. “I know, Abi, but juries are male, and they see men as the power in a relationship – especially when the woman is young and pretty, and the husband is a Railroad Man.”
“Was,” Cage drawled from the end of the desk. “He’s been voted off the board since he’s been connected to a conspiracy to murder women and children and been charged with attempted murder.”
“He still owns his shares, though,” Heyes muttered.
“And it’s easier for a woman to pull a man’s strings than many would like to admit.” Abigail added, “Especially when he’s a much older man who’s desperate to recapture his virility.”
“Still, our society has a view of the fairer sex which finds it hard to believe she was anything other than an innocent dupe - pushed into making the financial transactions to protect her husband. If I were defending her, that’s what I’d go for,” Steven smiled ruefully. “Even if she were found guilty, she’d be unlikely to be sent to jail. Getting her to swear to desist from any future vendettas not only makes you appear to be taking the higher ground, it’d be more than she’d be asked to do if she gets found ‘not guilty’ out of sympathy.” Steven arched his eyebrows. “Furthermore, you almost guarantee a conviction for the men, because she’s swearing this affidavit before their trial. I can’t believe their defence team missed that one - I suggest we strike while the iron is hot, and press ahead.”
“I suppose it’s the best we can hope for,” sighed Abigail.
“It’s also the right thing to do.” Heyes’ chin set in determination. “Somebody has to draw a line in the sand and stop this cycle of revenge. It all started when the Mitchells came after our folks when we were kids, and continues to this day. I don’t even want to think about how many lives this has cost. It ends now.”
“I agree,” the Kid’s eyes burned into Steven. “It won’t serve any purpose to put her inside, and I doubt Fletcher or Baines will get too much time because the court will sympathise with them as victims of crime. I just want to put this behind us.”
“That’s what we all want,” Jesse echoed. “All this vengeance has started to feed on itself. It stops now.”
“So we’re agreed? Abigail? You are the only one who has expressed reservations, and as you were shot in the chest I don’t believe this can proceed without your consent. Jesse is speaking for Beth, and has agreed on her behalf.”
Abigail nodded reluctantly. “I know you’re right, Steven. I just get so fed up with the way women get treated. Men can’t accept half of what we’re capable of doing - for good or ill. She was a driver in this conspiracy – every instinct tells me so – but she’ll get off with it because of male pig-headedness. You have my agreement, provided she accepts responsibility and swears it’s over - but she has to admit everything. I’d rather press charges if she keeps denying it all, at least the newspapers will print her true nature and she’ll have to face some consequences that way.”
A smile twitched at Steve’s lips. “Good, I’ll let the prosecution know. She’s coming here this morning with her lawyer to find out how her case will be disposed of. I think she’ll be hoping for the charges to be dismissed like the Roberts, but Mitchell’s the only one who has more concrete evidence against them than her. So – to clarify - our agreement is that we allow the charges to be dropped against the Roberts for lack of evidence, charges to be pressed against Winford Fletcher and Jackson Baines, and Joan Baines is to swear an affidavit as long as she does not deny her part in this?”
Steven took in the assembled group, nodding in assent. “Then let’s try and get it done today, shall we? Do it while their heads are still spinning and damage the defence of the men. The Baines are using their family lawyer, and he may be good at contract law, but he’s out of his depth in criminal law. We have a good chance of getting what we want.”
“Sounds good to me.” The Kid stood. “I need some air.”
“Me too.” Abigail rose and followed him stiffly from the room.
“Well, I guess I’d better get me some of that air too,” Heyes smiled wistfully looking after his departing cousin and lover. “I didn’t realise we’d started to run out.”
The carriage drew up in front of the courthouse bearing two middle-aged men and two much younger women. The horses’ breaths formed puffs of mist in the cold, bright air as the men climbed down, but Abigail’s gaze was drawn to the women, or more particularly –one of the women. Her head was held up in brittle defiance, clearly outraged at being summoned here. Abigail drank in the blonde hair, the china-blue eyes, and the immaculately polished nails. Yes; this was Joan Baines. Not only was she dressed to the nines like a wealthy, railroad owner’s wife – she oozed barely suppressed anger in every nuance and gesture. Abigail stared ahead, observing the party through her peripheral vision.
“Now, Joannie,” the man in the extravagant cravat urged as he helped the woman down, “just remember what Ted said; stay as calm and meek as possible, just as you were at Heyes’ trial. He’s sure we can get the charges against you dropped.”
Joan stepped onto the sidewalk, snapping her arm crisply down from her husband’s assistance. “But what about you, Jackson? These men robbed you blind for years, they killed my mother – and WE are called to account? All we wanted was some justice. Curry got off scot free, and Heyes served a fraction of his sentence.”
Abigail looked casually away, knowing nobody would associate a woman standing alone outside the courthouse with Heyes or Curry. She wanted to hear more, and bit back the urge to explain that murdering innocent people had nothing to do with balancing a score with the ex-outlaws.
“We need to concentrate on you first, Joannie. You know that. Once you’re sorted, Ted will work on building the best possible defence for me – and nobody died as a result of our little meetings. They all survived, and I’ll get sympathy because Heyes and Curry are outlaws – they can’t hold me responsible for the actions of that stupid Warden! He was using our money to settle his own grudges. I’ll be fine.”
“If only we could be sure of that, Jackson. You know I’ll be lost without you.”
Jackson proffered an arm to his wife. “Oh, Joannie. I was so lucky to find a woman like you. You could have had your pick of any man in Murreyville, but you chose me. I have been honoured to support you in your time of need.”
Abigail followed the party into the courthouse. Yes – Joan had chosen Jackson Baines – and had been most single minded in her pursuit of her quarry, according to Abigail’s investigations. She couldn’t help but wonder if the wealthy man knew he’d been chosen even before Joan Baines had moved her mother, lock, stock, and barrel to Murreyville on the news that his previous wife had been diagnosed with a fatal illness.
“Mr. and Mrs. Baines?” a court official looked at the couple before glancing back at his clipboard.
“And Mr. Philpot,” announced the square man following behind with a woman Abigail supposed was Joan’s sister.
The court usher nodded. “Yes, you are down as her legal representative. Come with me.”
Jackson stopped. “Wait, there’s no need for the ladies to be involved in this any more than is required. This whole business has been distressing enough for my wife. Do you have somewhere they can wait?” He eyed the corridors suspiciously, “out of the reach of the criminals and rogues who may be around, of course.”
The man nodded and led the ladies to a nearby door. “Sure. They can use waiting room three. The trials are finished for the day, so the ladies will remain undisturbed.”
Jackson nodded. “Take a seat, Joannie, you can rest assured that Ted and I will do our utmost for you. Leave it with us to negotiate the dismissal of your charges.”
Joan nodded, and stopped at the door. “Of course, Jackson, I can always rely on you.”
Abigail watched Joan’s face tighten with anger at the sight of Heyes and Curry entering the building, and stepped back into a doorway to avoid being seen by the partners. From her vantage point she was able to see the woman’s pale-blue eyes narrow to slits of hatred before Joan turned and closed the door of the waiting room behind her. Abigail waited until the corridor was clear before she slipped from her hiding place and walked over to the waiting room four. Nobody there? Good. She snapped open her bag and pulled out a tube; expanding it like a narrow telescope as the door to room four clicked shut.
“Where’s Abigail,” asked Heyes. The men stood watching Joan Baines and her entourage enter the room. “She should be here.”
The Kid nodded. “Yeah, she should, but we can’t delay this, can we? Steven was real set on gettin’ Joan Baines’ signature on that document before they have a chance to think about it. I guess we’d best push on. I’m sure she ain’t gone far.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Heyes frowned. “But Abi’s done so much, she should see this.”
Steven sat along with the rest of the company. A hirsute, bear of a man on Steven’s right cleared his throat. “My name is Judge William Matthews.” He looked at the Baines through a set of remarkable eyebrows which bristled over intense grey eyes like holes in a horsehair mattress. “Mrs. Joan Baines?”
Joan raised her chin. “Yes, your honour.”
The judge nodded. “I take it you admit the allegations and agree to swear to cease and desist from any attempts to harm, or to cause or permit any harm to come to Hannibal Ellstrom Heyes, Jedediah Curry, or anyone connected to them through sanguinity, social, or business association; now or at any time in the future, whether directly or through any third party?”
“I do not admit the charges, but I suppose I must sign to get these dreadful charges dismissed.” Joan declared, imperiously.
Heyes and Curry exchanged a look. Abigail had understood Joan Baines character and called it right. Where was she?
“Mrs. Baines, I must stress the affidavit is only an option if you admit to the charges.” Steven looked over at Reginald Philpot. “I understood your legal representative had explained that to you. We have telegrams from you sending funds and extorting Mitchell to make sure to, ‘get it done’ eight days before a young woman was shot in the throat. We have another confirming ‘funds sent’ two days after a meeting; and a third, very demanding telegram saying, ‘no more mistakes, get child. I am paying for this. Get Topeka finished.' "The third one was sent five days before a woman was shot in the chest in Topeka. Both the shooters had a paper trail leading to Mitchell, and you were clearly the one financing the operation due to transactions completed contemporaneously with the telegrams. Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry are keen to show mercy, and stop the cycle of vengeance, but one of the victims is a woman of standing – she is most determined to press charges if you do not freely admit your part in this. She has even mentioned bringing witnesses from your hometown to speak to your character and past.”
Joan Baines’ pale-blue eyes turned to ice. “This is blackmail.”
“No, ma’am, it’s a deal. They happen all the time in legal circles, but you can’t swear to desist from what you won’t concede. We’ll leave the criminal activities to you and your co-conspirators.” Steven stood, sorting his papers before placing his briefcase on the desk. “Well, Judge Matthews, it’s been good meeting you. The offer to allow Mrs. Baines to swear an affidavit is withdrawn. We would like to proceed with formal charges against her.”
“Wait!” Philpot leaped to his feet. “May I have a moment to consult with my client?”
“You’ve had a month, Mr. Philpot,” Steven thrust the briefs into his bag. “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that the kindness shown to the female by juries is more than balanced out by the censure shown by society at large. A court case will ruin Mrs. Baines, one way or another.”
“Her mother died of a heart attack because of these criminals,” cried Jackson Baines. “This is unjust.”
“Her mother died of a heart attack after Mrs. Baines pushed her to undertake a journey, contrary to medical advice.” Steven shook his head. “My clients certainly had a part in that poor woman’s demise, and they truly regret it – but it could not have been foreseen and we intend to lead evidence showing that your wife had to leave her home town quickly after cheating on her fiancé with a wealthy man, whom she unsuccessfully tried to push into marriage. She then moved quickly when her sister advised her that the late Mrs. Baines was terminally ill, intent on worming her way into your affections.” Steven paused and gave the ever reddening Joan Baines a hard stare. “Many would say she succeeded in ensuring she was well placed for a quick marriage once you were free – in fact, most of the servants who served under your late wife were unceremoniously dismissed, and have been saying little else ever since.”
“Servants,” sniffed Joan. “Who listens to them? They are nothing.”
“Nothing?” Steven frowned. “Well, you would know – you learned your airs and graces from the people you served as a housemaid – and who listens to them? In the ordinary turn of events, very few, but on the stand – everyone does, including the press – especially when they have tales of a sexual affair beginning while the late Mrs. Baines was still very much alive and dependent upon her husband. In sickness and in health means a lot to people, and you’re likely to get very little sympathy. I also intend to show that you were every bit as responsible for your mother’s death as Heyes and Curry. This vendetta is your way of dealing with your own guilt - if you point and shout in another direction people may forget how hard you pushed your unwilling, ailing mother to move house for your own financial gain.”
“Mr. Granger, please save your theatrics for the trial,” murmured Judge Baines.
Steven nodded. “Happy to, judge. The Baines haven’t heard the half of it yet. The accused will seek to defend their actions by showing how virtuous and wronged they are. I will not only lay out their frailties, I will also show the effect many of their co-conspirators had in the creation of those very outlaws in the first place.”
The judge arched one of his caterpillar brows. “As long as it is salient to the case, Mr. Granger, my court is not a circus.”
“Of course.” Steven dropped his hat in his head. “Good day to you, Judge Matthews, Mr. Philpot, Mr. and Mrs. Baines. See you in court.”
Joan Baines clutched the arms of the chair, her knuckles whitening to pearl. “Wait, Mr. Granger!” She cast a calculating glare at the lawyer. “Let’s not be so hasty. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement.”
Abigail saw her coming; picking her way through the shrubs and trees on the winding path down to the water garden. In familiarizing herself with this woman and her habits, Abigail knew how much Joan Baines liked to walk around the Baines’ private grounds to alleviate stress, and had an especial fondness for the large pond and summerhouse in the south aspect of its walled garden. Abigail had expected her to come here, and yet another prediction had come to pass.
“Mrs. Baines?” Abigail stepped out of concealment.
“What are you doing here? This is private property.” The woman’s eyes hardened. “I saw you at the judge’s office. In the corridor”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, you did. You made an oath today stating that you would not continue with any kind of campaign against Heyes, Curry, or anyone involved with them.”
“So!? What’s it to you? Get out of this garden. You are trespassing.” The woman made to step passed Abigail, but found her way quickly blocked.
“You will talk to me, one way or another.”
“Threats! I’ll have the law on you.”
“No, Mrs. Baines, you won’t,” Abigail responded, calmly.
She looked down her nose at Abigail. “Are you a friend of Heyes and Curry? Are you another of the criminal classes?”
“Like you and your friends?” Abigail sighed. “No, Mrs. Baines, I saw your smile when you left that court. You may have made a solemn oath, but I for one did not believe a word of it, but then I have a great deal of experience with dishonest people.”
Joan Baines snorted. “Dishonest! I’ll say you do if you’ve been hanging out with the likes of Heyes and Curry.”
“Don’t try to distract me, Mrs. Baines. You lied on oath. You have no intention of abandoning your campaign, have you?”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “On the contrary, that campaign is over.”
“An interesting choice of phrase, ‘that campaign.’ It would imply another campaign has begun,” Abigail replied, suspiciously.
“You might see it that way - I couldn’t give a rat’s behind.” She strode towards the house and pushed Abigail roughly aside.
“Not so fast,” Abigail grabbed her hand. “You are going to talk to me here, or I’ll take you somewhere you will.” Joan swung around, her face distorted in anger before it was crowded out by surprise at the Derringer pointing between her eyes. “Don’t take me for a fool, Mrs. Baines. I will shoot you if I have to – without hesitation.”
Joan raised her chin in defiance, but Abigail was quick to note the fear swirling in her eyes.
“We both are capable of killing, Mrs. Baines, but there is one basic difference between us - you take the coward’s way and manipulate others into performing your dirty work – I do it myself.”
“People will hear…”
Abigail shrugged, holding her gaze. “I’ll take the risk. I’ve gotten out of worse without breaking a sweat. Now, what do you mean, ‘that campaign?’”
“Precisely what I say.” A superior smirk sprouted from her thin lips. “That campaign is over.”
Abigail’s blood ran cold at the gunmetal glint in the blue eyes. “So, the start of a new one?”
“Am I supposed to say ‘yes’ and get shot between the eyes?”
Abigail lowered her arm, but still kept her weapon leveled on the woman. “It’s a gamble, isn’t it?”
“Those men killed my mother! That poor woman’s father was murdered in cold-blood, right before her eyes. They are scum, dirt, animals – they are the sort of things that scuttle out from under a stone. You’re no better than them, if you’re protecting them.”
“Don’t give me all that ‘eye for an eye’ rubbish – you arranged for a helpless man to be tortured in prison. You also organized for a mother and child to be murdered in their home, and celebrated when an innocent, young woman almost drowned in her own blood. You paid somebody to shoot her in the throat.” Abigail glared at her. “Cal Wissen was Julia’s Stanton’s father, but he raped and murdered Jed Curry’s mother before his very eyes, he was instrumental in at least two whole families being wiped out. It was pure blind luck that Curry and Heyes survived. You cannot compare the actions of Jed Curry to Mrs. Stanton’s father; one was driven by insane rage to kill the man who raped and murdered for no good reason – the other?” Abigail shrugged. “Who knows? For fun? Revenge? Mrs. Curry was reputed to be a beauty, and so were her adolescent daughters – they suffered the same fate, Mrs. Bain. The Mitchells wanted to wipe out activists in the Underground Railroad, but they killed children too. What could they possibly have done to them? To anyone?”
“You would come here with a sob story. You won’t change my views,” barked the woman, spittle forming at the corner of her mouth. “Curry is a murderer!”
“Yes, but with great provocation. If he had been the same as Mrs. Stanton’s father, she would have suffered a dreadful fate at his hands – but he would never do that to anyone.”
Mrs. Baines cackled dismissively. “Oh, yes! That makes him some kind of hero? Because he didn’t rape and murder a thirteen year old girl.”
Abigail’s eyes hardened. “It makes him a great deal better than the man Julia Stanton worshiped, and they did not kill your mother. She died of natural causes.”
“Brought on by their dreadful theft, they as good as held a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.”
“It may interest you to know I accessed your mother’s medical records. She was warned by her doctor not to undertake the journey due to the seriousness of her heart condition. She had been suffering from angina, and had been treated with digitalis and Trinitrin, but you insisted on the journey. Heyes and Curry certainly did not help matters, but it is entirely possible that you caused your mother’s death, and you know it.”
“My mother had been ill for years, but she was such a big character it was the thing you noticed least about her. We were always warned things would be a danger, but nothing ever happened. She seemed indestructible and I never dreamed she’d actually die.” The blue eyes flashed. “And we had to move! My sister needed us.”
Abigail shook her head. “No, she had no children and could have come to you, but it was public knowledge that you had set your cap for Jackson Baines, the wealthiest man in the county. You had no time to lose because rivals were circling. You had to be in Murreyville to stand a chance. In fact, your sob stories helped you snare your husband didn’t they?”
“You also had another reason to move urgently, didn’t you? Your fiancé ended your engagement, because you’d been caught with another man, a richer one. Your fiancé was more discreet than you deserved, but word was spreading – and you desperately needed a new start.” Abigail scowled at the woman. “Selfish, and cruel; yet you set yourself up as judge and jury on somebody else?”
“On thieves and killers,” glowered Mrs. Baines. “A few social faux pas don’t compare…”
“A few social faux pas!? A disregard for your mother’s life!? You knew she was ill and the doctor told you not to move her.” Abigail stepped towards her opponent, who took an involuntary step backwards. “And revenge is part of your make up isn’t it? You hit out at your blameless fiancé for getting engaged again so quickly by spreading rumors about his new girlfriend, whom, by all accounts, is a perfectly lovely girl.”
Joan Baines gave a cynical laugh. “You can’t prove any of that.”
“I don’t have to, a jury can make up their own mind,” Abigail replied calmly. “But I have made it very clear to the biggest gossips in town that I know you intimately. I deliberately behaved lewdly to make it credible, of course – they now know the gossip pertains to his earlier fiancé – you. I may have added a few tasty tit bits for good measure.” She gave Joan Baines her lopsided smile, “and you’re very welcome, but I wanted you to know your revenge didn’t work.”
Joan Baines’ eyes widened. “Well! It’s a good job I don’t have to depend on my reputation in that backwater, but it would appear your work has been in vain. I swore the oath. There will be no charges.”
“No, but I have character witnesses for your next trial,” Abigail’s voice hardened, “should you reach one.”
“I’ve told you! I won’t be going to trial.”
Abigail arched her brows. “I’m going to make sure no deals are done when you carry on with your campaign. You will face the consequences.”
The woman’s eyebrows arched. “I very much doubt it,” harsh, eyes simmered conspiratorially. “accidents happen to anyone, especially to the likes of you!” She glanced down at the gun. “If you were going to shoot me you’d have done it by now. I suggest you tell Heyes and Curry that nobody will ever try to murder them or theirs, ever again; furthermore how would you catch me if an accident simply befell them or theirs? I will not be further embarrassed by the matter, besides; it’s enough fun for me that the prey is running scared.”
Abigail’s heart skipped a beat. She knew that sort of murderous, pride; she had seen it before, but this time it affected her own daughter. “Accidents? Embarrassed?” She shook her head. “From what I’ve found out about you, you are a relentless social climber who does not accept anyone getting in her way – and this warning has been a setback to your revenge, hasn’t it? You’ve already had invitations withdrawn - you and your husband are quickly becoming social pariahs – and that in turn will affect your income, a matter very close to your heart. I can’t see all that doing much to sweeten an already sour temperament.”
“Nonsense, I simply cannot attend the mayor’s ball.”
“Tell me more about these ‘accidents?’” Abigail murmured.
The thin nose rose haughtily. “Accidents? How could I possibly predict an accident they have not yet had,” the harsh, eyes glittered with meaning, “and who knows when they will? Why don’t you ask them how they can rest comfortably in their beds?” She gave a laugh like a frosty snap. “How can any of us? How can you? More to the point - how would you or anybody else catch me?”
Abigail sucked in a breath, grasping the unspoken subtext. She stepped forward raising her weapon again. “Accidents? I know that’s your plan. That’s why I came here.”
Mrs. Baines stepped back, her eyes widening. “Plan? Why would I have a plan?”
Abigail’s temper rose. “I have very little time for people like you Mrs. Baines, manipulative, shallow and selfish. I will not tolerate anything less than complete compliance with the oath you took today. You are only still alive because your mother died after a robbery; I’m giving you a chance because of her and my sympathy for a legitimate grievance. You need to get over it and find a way to live with it without hurting others.”
Mrs. Baines arched a superior eyebrow. “And who do you think you are to preach tolerance to me?”
“I am the last thing you will ever see, if you continue with this campaign.” Abigail placed the weapon between the woman’s eyes. “I want you to listen to me very carefully. If I find you’re even thinking of planning for anything to happen to anybody, I will kill you. I won’t care if it’s a trip, a fall, a misfired bullet, or a falling object – no matter what it is, or to whom it is to happen, I will come and find you, and I’ll kill you – no questions asked; no excuses, why’s or wherefores. I will watch the light go out in those hard, cold-fish eyes of yours.”
Abigail watched the woman flinch before recouping her poise and laughing derisively. Joan pursed her lips. “As I have already said, if you were going to use that gun, you would have done so already. You are simply another example of the type of bullies who defend these brigands. Do you expect me to crumble in face of your lame threats? I have a great deal more character than that. I am also a lot brighter than you think. Do you really think you’d be clever enough to catch me? Take your threats elsewhere. You don’t frighten me.”
Abigail cocked the mechanism. “This is not a threat - it’s not even a warning. It is a promise. I killed the man who murdered my daughter. I watched his brains explode while her blood was still warm on my face. He is one of three people I have killed – and I am perfectly capable of making you the fourth.” She watched Mrs. Baines gulp heavily before pushing home her message. “You get one warning - one chance, and this is it. I will make it my business to keep you under scrutiny, and if I get the slightest inkling of you reneging on that oath, I will find you and I will kill you. Do you understand me?”
Mrs. Baines blinked in disbelief. “What? But how…?”
“Do you understand me!?” Abigail reiterated.
“Yes, I understand!”
“Good.” Abigail lowered her gun. “Make sure you mark my words well, if it wasn’t for your mother, you’d already be dead.”
Mrs. Baines watched Abigail walk over to the shrubbery. “Wait, who are you?”
“Your own mortality staring you in the face. You have a chance for a fresh start, please be smart enough to take it. I don’t kill lightly, but I do kill.”
Abigail opened the door, a knot of anxiety stuck in her throat. She did not want to have this conversation; she did not want any of this. Things had been going so well, and she didn’t even know how to start.
He turned to her with a smile, which quickly dropped as he took in the red-rimmed eyes and the quivering lips. “Abi, we’ve been looking for you. In God’s name, what’s wrong?”
His forehead wrinkled in concern. He rose, placing an arm round her shoulder and guided her towards a seat. “She’s been formally warned. I don’t want to press charges, she lost her mother.” His voice softened. “Somebody’s got to call a halt to this cycle of revenge,” Heyes held her close. “It’s over, Abi. We can live a normal life at last.”
Abigail pulled back and shook her head hopelessly. “We can’t. I didn’t believe her, Mr. Heyes, so I went back. I’ve seen her on her own. All we’ve done is ensure that she makes any more attempts look like accidents.”
Heyes blinked in surprise. “What do you mean - you’ve been to see her?”
“I listened to the conversation she had with her sister when they were sequestered in a waiting room. The campaign is not over.”
Heyes frowned. “You listened?”
“With a device called an artificial eardrum. We use it to spy on people. I heard her – she’s going to make sure ‘accidents’ happen. She’s quite determined.” Abigail sank into a chair. “I watched her walk out of the courthouse and sit with her sister in that carriage – she was smiling.”
Heyes shook his head in confusion. “She still knows she’ll be charged if anything else happens.”
“I challenged her and she laughed in my face. She gloated about how nobody would catch her next time - she said nobody would even know she was behind it.” She turned glittering eyes on him. “She even wanted me to tell you that so you’d suffer more.”
Heyes bit thoughtfully into his lip. “She’s bluffing, Abi. It’s just her way to keep us on edge. What can she do?”
Abigail’s eyes simmered with worry. “A woman obsessed with hatred can do just about anything. Look what she’s done already. She may be awful, but she did love her mother, and she’d rather blame you than face the possibility that she may have pushed her too far herself. There’s also a chance you did contribute to the woman’s death.”
Heyes brow crinkled. “So what do you want me to do, surely this is the best way? I can’t see the point of pressing charges? The sheriff has already told us she wouldn’t face above three years, and that’s if she went to prison at all. Nobody actually died in direct relation to her feud; Beth and you survived; Doc Morin and everyone else were killed through Mitchell. She didn’t commission those murders.”
“I know,” Abigail’s voice rang with hopelessness, “and if anything did happen, we’d have to prove it was a crime and not an accident, and even if we could, the court would probably be on her side. They’d say her mother died because of the strain put on her family by two of the biggest outlaws in the West. They’d paint Beth as a stupid girl infatuated with a gunman, and me…”
Heyes picked up her unspoken thoughts. “You’d be the scarlet woman, who had two illegitimate children with a criminal, and who even got off with a murder charge?” His hand curled around hers. “I don’t want anyone to look at you that way, Abi. You don’t deserve it.”
Abigail gulped heavily. “Mr. Heyes, this hasn’t stopped her. I looked into her eyes; all we’ve done is drive her to be more careful. Even if we pursue her through the law all we can hope for is a delay in her plans. She’s like a spider in a web; watching, waiting, planning. Sending her to prison wouldn’t make the smallest difference, as she gets others to do all her dirty work, she could continue her campaign there; in fact, she’d probably get a whole new set of contacts.”
Heyes felt a chill clutch at his heart. “What are you saying, Abi?”
“The only thing that will stop this is that woman’s death. It’s not over.” She sucked in a rasping breath. “She laughed in my face, even when I told her that if anyone else dies I would kill her.” Abigail shook her head. “She told me that accidents happen, even to the likes of me.”
Heyes ran a hand distractedly through his hair. “She was bluffing, Abi. She wouldn’t realize your past; she wouldn’t have taken your threat to kill her seriously.”
Abigail raised huge, helpless eyes. “She stood with the venom running out of her and told me the hunt was more fun when the prey were running scared! She’s poison, pure hatred.”
“Oh, God, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I can’t bring Anya into this, Mr. Heyes, I simply can’t.”
Heyes felt his heart judder before the beat seemed to start again, heavily and painfully. “There must be a way.”
“How? Kill Joan Baines? You couldn’t do that anymore than I could.” Tears started to stream down Abigail’s face. “I can kill to save a life, not on a nebulous threat like this. I’ve told her I will be watching her and that I will end her life if she tries to hurt anybody else, but to kill so we can be together…?” She dropped her head. “No… I can’t do it, and neither could you. What are we going to do? As long as she’s alive Anya and I have to hide, and the law says you can’t.”
Heyes felt his breath come in great rasping gasps. A few minutes ago he had a life, a family and a future – now, in the blink of an eye, it was all slipping away again. He grasped her hand. “There’s a way, there has to be.”
“If we can get the parole lifted, yes,” she sniffed back caustic tears and wiped her eyes with the back of her free hand. “It’s the only way. If not, I can’t bring Anya into this – not if the law says Joan Baines is able to know where you are at all times. I’d advise Jed and Beth to move away too. She’s a serious threat, you have to believe me.”
Heyes nodded. “I do believe you, Abi. I’d be stupid not to take you seriously. We’ll do that, we’ll apply through the court, surely we can get the conditions lifted after all this!?”
Her voice trembled. “And if we can’t?”
Heyes blinked back angry tears, memories of Anya swirling into his mind; of her sitting in his lap, reading to her and laughing as she joined in with all the voices; of watching her dance with joy amongst swirling clouds of bobbing balloons; earnestly solving the puzzles in her books with a little pink tongue, pointed with concentration, at the corner of her mouth. He cherished every minute with her, especially the sight of her covered in flour, tied into an apron far too big for her because she was determined to make jam tarts for her Uncle Han.
Then he remembered the chilling fear he had felt while goading Mitchell in the Joplin jail. Remembered the fist clutch his heart as Mitchell calmly and quietly threatened Anya’s life and Heyes knew Abi was right. They couldn’t take the chance of bringing their daughter into the middle of this. His lips tightened along with his resolve.
“We will.” Heyes stood determinedly. “I’m going to see Steven. There must be something we can do about this.”
Abigail remained seated, looking tired and defeated. “I can’t take losing you again, I just can’t.”
“It’s not over yet, Abi,” He reached out and drew her to her feet. “Come on, we’re going to see Steven Granger.”
Abigail shook her head. “I’m going back to Anya. She needs me and I’ve been away too long. A hearing could take months.” She reached up and gently stroked his face. “I’m sorry, but I have to go to her.”
Shock flashed over Heyes’ face. “This is goodbye?”
“For now. You always knew I was only here until the investigation was finished. Anya needs her mother, and I can’t change anything here.” She shrugged, blinking soft, brown eyes at him. “I also need to move house. I don’t know if Mitchell and Carson gave Joan Baines my address. I can’t stay in Topeka.”
Heyes rubbed his chin distractedly. “Don’t go yet, Abi. I need you to tell Steven all of this.”
Abigail sighed. “Yes, but I’ll have leave soon. I’ve been away for far too long.”
Steven eyed Abigail suspiciously. “Did you threaten her?”
“Of course,” Abigail confirmed, matter-of-factly.
Steven frowned. “You do realize that could damage the case against the rest of her co-conspirators, don’t you?”
“I don’t see why.” Abigail shrugged. “She has no idea who I am, and I’d simply deny it in any case.”
“You’d lie under oath?” spluttered Steven.
“In a heartbeat. There’s a world of difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. She has no corroboration.”
“She’ll recognize you at the men’s trial.”
“I’ll disguise myself and change my accent. I always thought I’d suit red hair.”
Steven gave a gasp of exasperation. “I’m not sure you’re a good influence on him. He can’t afford to mix with dishonest people.”
Abigail arched her brows. “Come now, Steven, I never took you for a naïve man. You know as well as I do that you sometimes have to fight fire with fire. I know how many lawyers use private investigators, and you are perfectly well aware how most of them get their information. I used the artificial eardrum and heard every word of her plans to continue this vendetta, but make it look like an accident.”
Steven sat back in his seat, pensive eyes cast to the ceiling. “We should pull her back in front of the judge and confront her with this information.”
Abigail shook her head. “The judge would want to know how I got the information and that will only let her know who she’s dealing with; which reduces the chance of getting evidence if anything happens in the future. No, the negatives outweigh the positives. She’s been warned that she’s being watched, that should be enough.”
“So what do you suggest?” Steven asked.
“What I heard with the listening device could be reported to the Governor as evidence collected by the detectives working on this case. Put together with the campaign she orchestrated, it could be grounds to ask for the parole to be lifted,” Abigail suggested, hopefully.
“We could try.” Steven drummed his fingers on the table. “I’m not optimistic though; not after the events in Joplin.”
Heyes fixed his attorney with intense dark eyes. “There has to be something you can do, Steven. Abigail’s not happy about bringing our daughter into this, and I agree with her. We’ve already had one daughter murdered. Anya’s just too precious to us to take any chances.”
“Any child is, Heyes.” Steven sighed. “I guess I need to make a case to the governor based upon the safety of the child, but in order to do so you two would need to be married. He wouldn’t condone living in sin.”
Abigail and Heyes stared at one another. “I’ve already told her I want to marry her,” said Heyes.
Abigail frowned. “But if he refuses to lift the parole I’ll have to disappear for Anya’s sake, and that would leave Mr. Heyes unable to marry someone else. He would never be able to rebuild his life.”
Two pairs of stunned eyes turned on Abigail. “You don’t want to get married, Abi?” Heyes demanded.
“Yes, I do - very much, but if this doesn’t work out I also want him to be able to move on with his life. He won’t be able to do that if he can’t marry.”
Dark eyes burned into her. “That’s my problem. I’ll take the risk. Are you keeping your options open, Abi?”
Abigail’s eyes widened. “No! What options? I’m Anya’s mother - she’s the only person in my life apart from you.”
Heyes chin firmed. “Then marry me. Make me part of her life too.”
“And if I have to hide? Decent women don’t get involved with a married man, Mr. Heyes. You could be alone until your parole runs out in fifteen years time.” She paused. “A woman like Randa would be off limits to you.”
“This has nothing to do with Randa!” Heyes folded his arms. “This is to do with you, me, and our daughter.”
“And your parole, Mr. Heyes.”
Heyes eyes hardened. “So you want to be free to move on?”
“No, Mr. Heyes.” Abigail hooked him with a stare. “Do I need to remind you that I am unconventional enough to have had two illegitimate children by a criminal? I am perfectly capable of living outside wedlock if the mood takes me. Women like Randa are not, and I don’t want you to cut your options if we cannot be together. I’m thinking of what’s best for you!”
“Well, stop thinking of what’s best, and marry me!”
Abigail’s eyes sparkled with suppressed laughter. “Do you ever listen to yourself? Why did anyone ever say you had a silver tongue?”
“I’ve gotta say, she’s got a point,” chuckled Steven. “Like it or not, she is right about it impacting upon your ability to rebuild your life if she has to hide the child. How about a compromise? You two agree to get engaged. I tell the governor the delay is to give the child time to get to know her father and come to terms with her new life. We can give him a date not long after the hearing.”
Abigail eyed Heyes cautiously. “I’m up for that if you are.” She stretched out her hand and clasped his. “I’m truly trying to look after you. There’s nobody else, and there hasn’t been.” She turned back to Steven. “ How long would it take to get the governor to hear this?”
Steven tilted his head, his eyes raised in estimation. “Two, maybe three months at the most?”
“Then give him a date for early summer. May, perhaps?” Abigail smiled. “Does that help, Mr. Heyes?”
“Maybe,” he gave her a hard stare, “but we’ve got to talk once we’re outta here.”
Abigail turned back to the lawyer. “What do you think the chances are, Steven?”
“I have to be honest. The chances of getting it completely lifted are about nil, but we have a good chance of getting it shortened, and maybe get some of the restrictions removed to make him harder for Joan Baines to track. Heyes’ cooperation with the authorities should help.”
“Thanks, Steven.” Heyes stood, pulling Abigail to her feet by the hand he still held. “C’mon, I’ve got a few questions for you.”
Abigail rolled her eyes and smiled at Steven. “Bye!”
“Don’t just ignore me,” muttered Heyes. “I’m serious.”
“I’m practicing for when we’re married,” Abigail protested.
“That’s the man’s job!” Heyes snorted as she was dragged from the room. He pulled her into the hotel corridor. “I thought you wanted to marry me.”
“I do, but I’ve hurt you enough. If we can’t be together there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be free to build a life with someone else. You need to be able to enjoy life’s gifts.”
“Gifts?” Heyes pushed her against the wall and placed a hand on either side of her head. “How many men have you slept with, Abigail? Tell me the truth.”
She held his burning gaze, her mouth twitching into a smile. “Shouldn’t you be asking me how many men I’ve stayed awake with? Don’t be an ass.” Her eyes became grave. “Mr. Heyes, I’m trying to look after you. Seriously, what if I have to hide Anya? I don’t want to saddle you with another life sentence unless I can be around to enjoy it with you.”
“What about Cage?”
Heyes watched genuine surprise swirl in her dark eyes. “Cage? What about him?”
“He cares about you.”
“Yes, I was close to his wife and supported him through tough times. That’s all.” Abigail frowned. “You’re serious? Mr. Heyes, he’s a friend – a good friend, and that’s all there is to it. I don’t see him that way. He’s like a brother.”
“Yeah, well men don’t have female friends. Not unless they want something.”
“Clementine is your friend. Beth is your friend. So is her sister – and speaking of sisters, there’s that nun too.”
Heyes scowled. “That’s different.”
“No it’s not.” She stretched out a hand and stroked his face. “What’s gotten into you? I have to leave tomorrow, why are you making this so unpleasant?”
Heyes’ voice softened, his heart skipping a beat. “Don’t go tomorrow. Not yet. Give me a day, let’s tell people we’re booking a wedding date and celebrate. Let’s just do something normal – for once in our lives.”
Abigail nodded. “A day?”
“It’s my birthday tomorrow and almost everyone is here, so we could celebrate our engagement as well as my birthday. We could have a fine dinner?” Heyes dropped his head down to hers. “I get worried you’ll disappear and never come back again, Abi.”
She laced her fingers through his hair and pulled him down to meet her lips. “I’m not reluctant, Mr. Heyes. I’m looking after you, and I’m looking after Anya. When do I do anything else? Just trust me, please!? What else do I have to do to convince you?”
Heyes drew her into a deep kiss, drawing back to nibble on the shell of her ear. “Come with me, Mrs. Stewart. I’ll show you.”
“What’re we waitin’ for, Heyes? I’m hungry.”
Heyes looked around the hotel lobby. “Jesse and Harry. They’re not here yet.”
“They can meet us at the restaurant.” The Kid frowned, following Heyes’ eyes to the staircase. “What’s gotten into you tonight? You’re like a mongrel watchin’ a butcher’s trashcan. They’ll be here in a minute.” He followed Heyes’ eyes up the staircase before glancing down at Abigail, seated in the hotel lobby, not-so-casually flicking through the pages of ‘Collier’s Weekly’ with enough force to rip the paper. The Kid narrowed his eyes. “Right, what’s goin’ on?”
“I want us to have a nice dinner. We won’t all be together again until the men’s trial; and the law’s still fighting over where that’s going to be held. We’re leaving Murreyville to head back to the Double J, Harry’s going home, Cage and Sheehan are heading off…” Heyes cleared his throat nervously. “Abi’s going back to Anya.”
“Aww, Heyes, that’s tough,” the Kid laid a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “She’ll be back soon, though, huh? She’s going to get Anya and sort somethin’?”
Heyes nodded, his serious gaze belying his smile. “She’s taking her on a promised vacation to the seaside, but yeah, we’re sorting something.”
“You’re upset, I can tell.”
“Yeah, Kid, I am, but I want to enjoy tonight.”
“Heyes, this is me you’re talkin’ to – you’re up to somethin’. Should I start worryin’?”
Heyes looked about shiftily. “We’re going to announce our engagement, Kid.”
“Heyes!” the Kid pulled his cousin into a back-slapping bear hug, grinning at Abigail over Heyes’ shoulder. “That’s great news.”
“Ssh!” Heyes darted a look at Cage and Sheehan over at the front desk. “It’s not as straightforward as that.”
The Kid pulled back, his eyes narrowing. “Nothin’ ever is with you. What’s wrong now?”
“Abi listened in to Jean Baines using some kind of listening device. She’s not finished; in fact, she’s planning on a series of accidents now. Steven wants to try to get the parole lifted so we’ve got a better chance of hiding Anya from her, but he thinks we need to be ‘respectable’ to get a sympathetic hearing.”
“Yeah. We need to tell Belle and Jesse, and you need to discuss this with Beth. She could be at risk again too if she marries you. You two might have to leave the Double J as well so she has a right to know what’s going on.”
Kid nodded reluctantly, his own doubts about marriage suddenly over-shadowed by the possibility that Beth may decide to back out. “Yeah.”
Posts : 1467 Join date : 2013-08-24 Age : 63 Location : Camano Island Washington
Subject: Truth Hurts Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:12 pm
Heyes noted the distress this bit of news caused so he quickly carried on with his next thought. “But let’s wait until we’re all back at the Double J, huh? Mrs. Baines is not going to pull anything while her husband’s facing trial, so we’ve got a bit of time.”
The Kid drew a hand through his hair. “Damn!” He paused. “The engagement’s a good thing though, ain’t it? I mean between you and Abi.”
“Yeah, Kid, it’s great, but we’d both have liked it to happen naturally, and not be pushed into it.”
Heyes looked into the questioning blue eyes of his partner. The Kid took a long, breath and folded his arms to give himself time to consider the unspoken subtext. “Yah don’t have to get married if you don’t want to, Heyes. You’ll still be Anya’s pa.”
Intense dark eyes hooked onto the Kid’s gaze. “I’m keen enough. It was Abi, she needed to be persuaded.”
“Why? She loves you. I know she does.”
“She’s worried about us getting hitched for the hearing but having to hide with Anya for years if the parole isn’t lifted. She thinks I won’t be able to move on with my life – I won’t find a decent woman and settle down. She wants to make sure everything’s behind us before she commits.” Heyes gave a snort of irritation. “Dammit! Why does everything have to be so hard?”
A smile tugged at the Kid’s lips. “Heyes – she just bein’ cautious -for your sake. I know she loves you so stop over thinkin’ things and either get engaged, or walk away and give it time. In any case, you can tell the governor you’re engaged. Abi’d back ya up.”
“I guess.” Heyes gazed off to where Abi sat, her arms folded now and the magazine lay rejected on the table in front of her.
The Kid laid a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “Heyes, when you were at your darkest – what did you dream of?” A pair of intense, dark eyes flicked back to look into the examining blue eyes. “Look at how close you are to that, and enjoy yourself. Don’t you want to have some kind of call on her if she has to go to ground for a bit?”
“I haven’t got a ring, Kid. I haven’t got anything to give her.”
“Heyes, you’ve given her two daughters. Don’t ya think you’d better make an honest woman of her before ya give her anything else?” Heyes started to chuckle, a deep resonating chortle, quickly picked up by his cousin who cast a glance at the legs scurrying down the stairs. “Here’s Jesse and Harry. C’mon, I’m starving.”
“Wine?” Harry looked up at the waiter. “I ordered a beer.”
“I know, sir, and its coming,” the waiter nodded towards Heyes, “but the gentleman ordered wine for the table.”
Harry brightened. “Oh, it’s free? Yeah, I’ll have a glass.”
Heyes waited, watching until a glass was placed in front of everyone at the table before he tapped his glass with the handle of his knife. “Gentlemen!” He turned to Abigail with a smile. “I didn’t include you because I hope I’ve already got your attention.”
“As you may have noticed, I have ordered some wine to celebrate our last evening together and to thank each and every one of you for your support and help over the last few difficult months. I genuinely don’t know how we would have found a way forward without you.” Heyes lifted his glass. “Grandpa Curry used to say good friends know the song that’s written on your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words. I never truly understood that until now. I lost my way - and then my mind, in that hell hole. I wouldn’t have made it back without the people sitting around this table – and a few who aren’t here. I’d like to propose a toast - to good friends, near and far.”
The toast rippled around the table accompanied by the chinking of glasses and the repetition of the salute. Heyes smiled softly at Steven and the Kid. “A couple of you already know, but I want to announce that today Abi agreed to marry me. I thought this’d be a good time to make the news public. I don’t know why she’s stuck by me, but I’m glad she has. Gentlemen, please toast my clever and beautiful fiancée, Abigail Stewart.”
Abigail blushed puce, the chairs scraping back as the men stood to toast her. The Kid’s voice cutting through the cheers and laughter which followed. “Nah, you don’t get off that easy, Heyes. I’ve known these two for years, and I can truly say it’s a marriage of two very unique minds. I’m glad she finally decided to make an honest man of him, and there’s more truth to that than there usually is to the old joke. Happy Birthday, Heyes!” He raised his glass in salute. “To the happy couple!”
The last roar of the tribute faded away, glasses tinkled as they hit one another, and men came forward to slap Heyes on the back and snatch a kiss from the definitely blushing bride-to-be.
“I knew ages ago,” Harry chortled.
“Ya never, ya just guessed,” muttered Sheehan, looking deeply at Cage’s quiet introspection.
Heyes’ eyes drifted down the table, catching Jesse’s proud nod. He suddenly caught himself, surprised at the honor growing in his breast at knowing this man not only approved – he thoroughly endorsed Heyes’ choice. Would he have turned out differently if he’d had somebody in his life to make proud? Heyes quickly decided it no longer mattered. He did now.
“C’mere,” the Kid pushed back Harry who was persistently slobbering his congratulations on a cringing Abigail’s hot cheek. “Give me some of that!” He pulled her up into a deep embrace before kissing her softly on the lips, holding her gaze captive with glittering, blue eyes. “And about time too, lady. You’re made for one another. You do know that, don’t ya?” He laughed down at her discomposure. “In all these years I never thought I’d see this. You’re blushin’!”
“I don’t like a fuss, Jed.”
“Tough!” the Kid dragged her up into another hug. “Welcome to the family, Abi.”
Jesse stood by patiently. “Yes, Abi,” he dropped his head to kiss her, his hand tightening on her shoulder. “And thank you. I know how much you’ve done to look after my family. It couldn’t be more fitting for you to join it.”
She turned her eyes up to Cage who waited behind the rest of the company. “Congratulations, darlin’. I hope you’ll be very happy.”
Abigail caught his hand. “Are you really happy for me?” she whispered.
He smiled gently. “You deserve happiness, Abi, and I really want that for you and Anya.” He darted a look at Heyes. “But if you hurt her, I’ll hunt ya down Heyes.”
Heyes thrust out a hand. “Then I’d deserve it, Cage, but it’ll never happen. I give you my word.”
Cage took the proffered hand and gave it a firm shake. “I feel like a protective pa. This just ain’t right for a man of my age!”
“So, where are you two going to live?” asked Harry, digging into his steak.
Abigail sliced into her chicken pot pie. “We haven’t discussed the details, but I’m going to put my house up for sale when I leave here.”
“Going to fetch the ankle-biter, huh?” Harry quipped.
Abigail’s dark eyes hardened. “If you are referring to my daughter you’re about to find out that I bite too!”
Harry’s mobile eyebrows wavered, finally deciding to meet in the middle. “Well, sure ya do. I wouldn’t expect anything else.” He sat back smiling at Heyes. “You gonna get a horse trough for this new place?”
Heyes glanced at Cage before he glinted a warning. “Don’t push me, Harry.”
“Why? You gonna dunk me now, with all these lawmen around?”
“Huh?” Cage’s head lifted. “Who got dunked?”
Abigail’s eyes flickered with alarm, knowing the enormous lawman wouldn’t see the funny side of the story. “Mr. Heyes, I dunked him.”
“Yeah, she was never one to let him get away with much. I’ve seen her turn the tables on him more than once.” The Kid picked up on Abigail’s anxiety and was quick to deflect it. He dropped his voice to a harsh whisper. “Ya want to try the horse trough, Harry? Are you tryin’ to cause trouble? Cage’d have Heyes’ head if he knew the whole story.”
“Why’d ya dunk him?” Cage demanded.
“Because I’d travelled all that way and he’d brought in Harry without even thinking of me. I was annoyed.”
“Yeah, I could see that,” Cage nodded sagely. “I’d be angry if they’d picked Harry over me too.”
“Hey!” Harry protested. “I’m a good detective. I helped.”
“Sure ya did, Harry. Cage and Abi are just gettin’ competitive; them bein’ in the same line and all,” laughed the Kid.
“Not any more,” Heyes eyes slid towards Abigail. “She’s going to live a safe, domestic life from now on. She’s not going to work.”
Abigail’s eyebrows arched. “You’ve decided that, have you?”
“Yes,” Heyes nodded. “No wife of mine will have to work.”
Abigail’s chin set in challenge. “What if she wants to?”
Heyes cheeks dimpled. “Abi, you can do anything you want to; as long as it’s not dangerous, and doesn’t scare horses in the street.”
“A pretty good guide for how to survive your parole, if you ask me, Heyes,” muttered Cage. “You should take your own advice.”
“What did you want to do?” asked Heyes, blanking Cage.
“I thought you wanted to start a detective agency, Mr. Heyes. Surely you’ll need my help sometimes?”
Heyes nodded. “Sure, but Anya will need you at home.”
“Of course, but I wanted to ask you about Hester…” The Kid stared at Heyes with eyes twinkling with humor as Abigail continued. He had guessed what was coming. “She’s been so good to me. She took me in when there was nobody else. I couldn’t leave her behind.”
Heyes chuckled. “A bit like the Kid and me? Sure, we’ll sort something. It’s always good to have a doctor about. How do you think David will like a lady doctor moving to town, Jesse?”
“I reckon he’ll be fine, but Tricia won’t be happy if she’s as pretty as Abi,” Jesse grinned. “David might end up working pretty closely with her.”
Abigail laughed. “I adore Hester, but I think Tricia will be just fine, Jesse. Hester is in her fifties and has little interest in men.”
“The motherly type?” asked Jesse.
Heyes, the Kid and Abigail exchanged a glance. “It depends on what your mother was like.” Abigail replied, measuredly. “She’s a sweetheart, but she can be…”
Jesse looked from one to the other. “What?”
“A sharpshooter who’ll take no prisoners,” Cage finished Abigail’s sentence. “She was a Pinkerton during the war who was arrested for spying by the confederates. A real clever lady; but woe betide any man who tries to tell her what to do. I found that out early on, to my cost. I was lucky to get out with my hide intact. She can break a man’s leg with one blow of her tongue.”
“And you’re gonna live with her as well as Abi?” chortled Harry. “I’d rather go back to jail if I were you.”
Heyes sighed. “Well, I like Hester, and I love Abi, so I’ll take my chances, Harry.”
“She might not want to live with us, but I’d like to give her the option. I don’t know what would have become of Anya and me without her. I can’t leave her all alone.” Abigail reached out and took Heyes’ hand. “Thanks.”
“You’re not going to keep calling him Mr. Heyes, are you, Abi? Not if you’re married. It’ll sound like you’re arguing all the time.” Jesse smiled. “It sounds a bit like how children know they’re in real trouble when you use their middle name.”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, but I hate the name ‘Hannibal.’
“His middle name?” Harry dropped his head at the glare from Heyes. “What about Joshua?”
“I never knew him when he was going straight. I never knew him as that.”
“Can’t you call me ‘Heyes’ or ‘Han?’”
“It doesn’t feel right.” Abigail shrugged. “I’ll think about it.”
“I never thought I’d see the day when she’d be at a loss for names to call ya, Heyes.” The Kid sat back with a grin. “I think marriage is gonna be good for you two.”
Heyes fell back on the blanket panting and laughing. It had been a wild, hard ride out to the countryside to find a spot for some lunch and seclusion. “Enough, woman! I’m hungry.”
Abigail sat up, buttoning her blouse. “You’re hungry? You!?”
“Yeah,” he frowned. “It’s been a long time, but I’m finally looking forward to food.”
“Well, you have worked off a lot of energy,” smiled Abigail. “What did the hotel give us for our picnic?” She rooted around in the bag and brought out a package of sandwiches, a small pie, a stone bottle of lemonade, and a couple of apples. She peered into the sandwiches. “Not bad, potted meat, or cheese and onion.” She gave a light chuckle. “The food of love, huh, cheese and onion?”
“We can take the onion off, I suppose.”
“Or both eat it.”
Heyes reached for a potted meat sandwich. “I can’t believe you tried to outrun me on that horse. She’s much smaller than mine, you never stood a chance. You were gonna lose the minute you set out.”
Abigail handed him the lemonade with a twinkle in her eye. “You caught me, who said I lost?”
“Is this what it’s going to be like, Abi? Relaxing, fun…” Heyes looked around at the insects buzzing around in the sunshine. Words suddenly flooded into his brain, lines from a letter she had written to him in prison. He had read it over and over again, until the words were seared into his memory: ‘There will be a future where you will be able to walk in the sunshine and feel the warmth of a soft hand slipped into yours. I promise you that the small joys will be yours again.’ The quote came unbidden, surprising him with its stealth, but a smile twitched at his lips. She had promised him this, and delivered.
Abigail tilted her head observing the switch of mood in the pensive eyes. “Are you alright?”
His gaze locked onto hers. “I’m better than alright. It could only be better if Anya was here.”
“When you consider what we’ve just done, I’m pretty glad she’s not.” She reached over and adjusted the blanket so it lay smoothly over the flat rock, the February grass still being too wet to sit on.
“Yeah, I guess,” Heyes nodded. “One day to be like anybody else; to love, play, and act like any other couple. I want normal. We’ve got one day to do all that before you leave. No crimes, no mysteries, no charges hanging over my head; just a man and woman having a picnic on a bright, sunny day, even if it’s none too warm. This is what I should have been working for, a life, a family and a good woman.”
Abigail’s eyes twinkled. “A good woman is only a bad one who didn’t get caught, Mr. Heyes. I’ve don’t even come close to the model of respectability.”
“A good woman with a little bad in her?” Heyes reached for another sandwich. “They say there’s a lid for every pot, it sounds like a good fit for a bad man with some good in him.”
“You’re not a bad man. You’re a stupid one. You behaved badly; it’s not the same thing. You’ve now chosen to behave differently, and that’ll bring a different life.”
“Stupid?” Heyes’ eyes widened along with his grin. “Only you would dare say that to me.”
“It’s good for you.” Abigail laughed, cheekily. “Eat your onion.”
“When I think back on everything we’ve done. Do you think life will ever be so exciting again, Abi?”
“If you’re around? Yes; definitely.” Abigail reached out and took his hand. “No matter what happens with the parole you have a wonderful life ahead. You’re free, and you have a great plan.” She paused, handing him a dish. “Apple pie? It’s great to see your appetite back. Let’s get you built up.”
“Built up? You worked so hard, all alone.” He kissed her fingers lightly and dropped them again to take the proffered dish. “You’ve been building me up for the last five years, and what did I do? I pitched you into a horse trough.”
Abigail picked the onion from a sandwich. “Yes, it was a lovely evening - apart from everything that happened. We’re going to have to get more sensible if we’re going to be around children. What kind of example would we be setting? Anya’s wild enough as it is.”
“The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree with her, has it? Do you ever wonder about Becky? What she’d have turned into?”
“She wasn’t the same baby as Anya; she was calmer and less rambunctious. I think she’d have been quite different to her sister, probably quite studious. She could be easily hurt and withdrawn to some people if they’d said something which bothered her, but she was a mummy’s girl through and through - even quite clingy at times.” Abigail’s eyes misted over. “She also had your eyes, Mr. Heyes. She was still very much your daughter. Anya has your wild side; Becky was more like the other side of you; the thinker and planner.”
Heyes gave a rasping sigh, his preoccupied eyes drifting off to the horizon. “It’s been a long time since I made serious plans, Abi.”
“Well, you’d better get started, because your life is about to change.”
“Yeah, do you think anyone would employ an ex-outlaw as a detective?”
Abigail prodded at her pie with a fork. “Mr. Heyes, I think they’ll pay just to meet you. You’ll do just fine.”
“Well I guess we’d better get back, the clouds are gathering. It’s still early in the year for a picnic.”
“Yes, but we have dinner tonight, Mr. Heyes, just the two of us. I can’t remember the last time that happened. A whole day - just the two of us.”
“I can,” a secretive smile played over Heyes’ lips. “It was right after that flim flam in Crawford.”
Abigail’s dark eyes latched onto his. “Hmm, when Becky was conceived - we will have to be careful.”
He leaned forward, fixing her with intense eyes. “Do we? We’re getting married, Abi. Maybe we should think about expanding the family?”
“When I’m ready, Mr. Heyes, let’s just enjoy the day.” She glanced up to the sky. “We’d better get back to town. We don’t want to get soaked, especially not today.”
Heyes frowned in curiosity. “Why especially today?”
“It’s your birthday today, the 24th February. I have a surprise arranged.”
“A surprise? I thought today was supposed to be just the two of us. That’s why we came out here.”
“Well, we’ll need a third person for something I have in mind,” Abigail arched her brow mysteriously.
“What for? What are you up to?”
“I want you to do something with me you’ve only done with one other woman. In fact, you’ve never, ever done it just one on one with a woman. I want to be the first.”
“Eat up, Mr. Heyes, then we have to get back to town to prepare for you birthday surprise.”
“How do you dress, sir?”
Heyes looked uncomfortably down at the tailor before shuffling back into the shadows. “I usually dress away from the window. You’ve had this made for me, Abi?”
She smiled over at him in the dark, charcoal suit. “Certainly. I gave him your measurements, so he only has a few adjustments to make. I hate that old, brown thing you’ve been dragging out. It never fitted correctly and it’s so old-fashioned. It’s part of your birthday.” She walked over and flicked away a few specks of lint from his chest. “Yes, that’s SO much better. You’ll need to look professional if you’re going to start your own business. Now, choose a hat to go with it.”
“This is expensive, Abi.”
“Nonsense, not if you consider all the birthdays I’ve missed. Divide the cost by ten and it comes out as quite a reasonable gift.”
“I love it, Abi, but really?”
“Absolutely.” Abigail nodded crisply. “You need it, for what I have planned next.”
“Next!? What’s going on?”
“Nothing for you to worry about. I need you to look your best for your birthday surprise, is all. Now, I’m going to get ready too. Pick a shirt and tie.” She looked down at his feet and grimaced. “Can you help him with some shoes too, Mr. Slater? Those boots won’t do, they just won’t do at all.”
It was a suave, debonair Heyes who held the door open for Abigail dressed in dark burgundy, her hair swept up fashionably high. “You look beautiful, Abi, but where are we going? We’re all dressed up with no place to go.”
“We do have somewhere to go.” Abigail slipped her arm through his. “We’re having dinner in the best restaurant in town, after cocktails in the hotel salon.”
“It’s only four o’clock. It’s too early for dinner, and we’ll be wall-eyed by eight if we start drinking now- at least, you will.”
They strolled down the sidewalk arm in arm. “I agree. That’s why I thought we needed to mark our engagement in some permanent way.”
Heyes narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Mark it? How? I hate all this mystery, Abi.”
She patted his arm and chuckled. “Nonsense. You love a good mystery, but this one is now solved.” She drew to a halt outside a shop and pointed to the words painted on the window.
He sucked in a breath. “A photographer? We’re getting a photograph taken?”
She nodded. “Yes. I wanted us to part with something to remember one another, and this wonderful day.” Abigail arched an eyebrow, “something different to what you’ve left me with in the past.” She toyed with his lapel. “You look so handsome. I want to capture this moment forever.”
Heyes started to laugh. “Something I’ve only ever done with one other woman? You had my mind working overtime there, and this isn’t what I came up with!” He reached out and embraced her. “What a wonderful idea.” He pushed the door open, the bell tinkling to announce their arrival to the photographer.
Abigail’s forehead crinkled in thought. “So what did you come up with?”
Heyes’ dark eyes glittered with devilment as he held the door for her. “I’ll show you later. I don’t want to mess up your hair for the photograph, do I?
The next day dawned bright and sunny, but the caustic, low sun lent an unrealistic air as it cast long-legged, stick-like shadows on the morning streets. Breakfast had been strained, with only the Kid eating a decent amount; Sheriff Jacobs having been up and about since dawn.
It was a subdued little group who wandered over to the railway station and put Abigail’s bags on the train before they waited; restless and tense, for the imminent departure which started to feel more and more like a bereavement.
“I’m gonna say goodbye here, Abi.” The Kid dropped a kiss on Abigail’s cheek and hugged her tightly. “Thanks, darlin’, for everythin’ – but mostly for not givin’ up.”
Abigail shrugged uncertainly. “Not giving up? I wouldn’t even have come back if it wasn’t for you.” She glanced around the railway platform, where Heyes stood a few feet away, waiting for her to say her farewells to the Kid and Sheriff Jacobs.
The Kid pulled off his hat and ran his hand through his hair and eyed the sheriff uneasily. “Yeah, I wish I could say I was sorry about how I persuaded ya, Abi, but look at how it all turned out, huh?” He sighed. “I never did buy you that hat, did I?”
“Save your money for your wife, Jed. I’ve got a feeling your family will be growing very soon. You’ll need it.” She turned to the lawman. “Sheriff Jacobs, thanks for giving us the day together. It meant everything to us.”
“You’re very welcome, ma’am. It wasn’t exactly an unreasonable request, and from everything I’ve seen and heard, you’re real good for him.”
“Thank you, but I must ask. Did Mr. Heyes tell you about Joan Baines’ plans?”
The Kid nodded. “Yeah, he did, Abi. We’ll sort somethin’. I’m sure Jesse will have thoughts on the matter. Don’t worry about it.” He patted her upper arms. “Have a great holiday with Anya. We’ll all be thinkin’ about you, and we can’t wait until you come to see us.”
“Aw, Jed. You always know how to get to me.” Abigail turned, proffering a handshake to Sheriff Jacobs. “It’s been lovely meeting you. Thanks again for your help.”
“Not at all, Mrs. Stewart.” The sheriff smiled, glancing over at the ex-outlaw standing a few feet away. “I want both Curry and Heyes to stay on the straight and narrow; getting married and living a normal life will be a big part of that. I look forward to seeing you and your daughter in Brookswood very soon. I’m sure folks will make you most welcome.”
“They did on my last visit, sheriff. Do you understand about the specific threat of ‘accidents?’ Everyone must be vigilant. It’s a serious threat.”
“Yes, ma’am. Mr. Granger discussed that before he left yesterday. I’ll keep an eye on any strangers in town, as much as I can, that is.”
“It’s all we can do, isn’t it?” She laid a soft hand on the sheriff’s forearm. “Thank you.”
“Ma’am, why are you standing here talking to me? You got a fiancé chompin’ at the bit over there. Go and make the most of your last few minutes.”
Heyes looked down at her, his heart thumping with trepidation. “Abi, I’m scared if I let you get on that train and ride out of here, I’ll never see you again.”
She reached up and touched his face. “Me too, but I have to go, a'ghaol. Anya needs her mother; she’s been really patient and she deserves a treat for being so brave in Topeka.”
“I know,” Heyes pulled her close. “Is it terrible for a man to envy his daughter? I want to come with you.”
Abigail dropped her head onto his shoulder. “And I want you to come too, but the parole doesn’t allow it.” She let out a rasping breath. “I’ll miss you.”
Heyes drew her to him, dropping his head and great sucking in great lungs full of her essence, his stomach full of fluttering emptiness. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Abi. I know we talked about this, but now we’re facing it, it’s not such a great idea.”
“Don’t do anything stupid. I need you to be strong, Mr. Heyes. I can’t hold it up all the time,” she turned her face up to give him weak smile.
“Yes, we’re parents and that means we have responsibilities.” Heyes sighed. “One day I’ll take her to the seaside. Who knows, it might be sooner than we think, huh?” He groaned. “Oh, Abi, what wouldn’t I give to come with you?”
He felt the weak chuckle against his chest. “Give? You won’t give up your freedom, Mr. Heyes. I won’t let you.” She pulled back with a smile.
“How will I find you?”
“Mayzee will know. You can always contact me through her, until I send you an address. I promise to send our whereabouts to you when I settle somewhere.” She grasped both of his hands. “I’m so glad this isn’t like last time. You understand the danger to your daughter and we can work together until it’s safe or the parole is lifted.”
Their eyes met, reality hitting hard.
“I love you, Abi.”
She nodded. “l love you too.” She gulped back her emotions. “Why is it you can never love someone as much as you can miss them?” Tears spilled over until they streamed down her cheeks. “I’m afraid, Mr. Heyes.”
Heyes gathered her up in his arms, hugging her tightly. “Me too, Abi. I need to get the parole lifted.” Heyes gulped heavily. “I wouldn’t be where I am without you, in fact; I’m not even sure I’d still be alive.”
“We must have done something very bad in a previous life, to have been put through all this.”
Heyes shook his head. “No, it’s something I did in this life, and it’s affecting you and Anya. The worst case scenario is that I could be on parole for fifteen more years, hopefully it will be a whole lot less than that, but we need to be realistic. My arrest in Joplin won’t have helped matters.”
She smiled up at him with pained eyes, caressing his cheek. “Let’s see what the governor comes back with and plan from there, a'ghaol.”
“I know; we can’t bring Anya into this if it’s not safe.” Heyes nodded. “We agreed.”
He gripped her by the top of her arms, his fingers tightening. “Abi, if I stay on my parole and keep my nose clean, I at least have a future – sometime. But I gotta tell you, the wait will be hard. I’ve realized that I’ve spent too much of my life just waiting to have one, from Valparaiso to now.”
Abigail gulped heavily. “Even if he won’t make adjustments right away, he might in the future; not to mention what the next one might do. There’s hope, you can’t throw it all away.”
“Yes, Abi, I can’t think of a promise you’ve made you didn’t keep. I know you’ll tell her, I know we agreed but it’s gonna be real hard if the parole isn’t lifted.”
She nodded firmly. “If you don’t get anywhere with the governor within the foreseeable future, we walk away. You rebuild your life.”
“And you, Abi?” He sighed, dropping a finger on her lips. “Hear me out. It may work, but if it doesn’t I don’t want you to mortgage your future. We agreed, and I want you to be happy too.” Heyes watched her stiffen and cut her off. “We’ll give it our very best shot, but if we know there’s no hope we have to be sensible and let it go, for my sanity and for yours.”
Her dark eyes bored into his. “You want to end it?”
“No.” Heyes cast a look around the platform, quickly identifying a dark corner at the side of the ticket office. Victorian sensibilities didn’t approve of overt displays of affection and he didn’t want Abigail to have a tough journey facing disapproving matrons and lascivious men. He pushed her into the nook, embracing her hungrily. “No,” he repeated. He caught her mouth up in a fierce kiss, probing and exploring, tasting her one more time. He pulled back, staring deeply into her. “This won’t end as long as one of us draws breath. We might not be together, but it won’t be over. It’ll echo down the ages with our children, and their children.” His voice softened. “But I want you to be happy. Hopefully it’ll be with me, but that’s up to the governor. I have no say in it.”
Abigail smiled. “Get married, have children, build a future. Your natural state is to have a partner.” She drew him into a hug and whispered hoarsely in his ear. “Promise me you’ll do that. You’ll have such beautiful children.”
Heyes gulped. “No, not yet. It’s not time. I’ll make that promise if and when I’m ready.” He looked up, the clouds of steam and screaming whistle of the guard indicating that the last of the stragglers should get on board. He walked over to the train and helped her onto the viewing platform. “Goodbye, Abi.” His long fingers trailed over her cheek before he kissed her gently on the lips. “For now. Don’t forget you promised to see me again.”
“I did, and I always keep my promises.” Abigail blinked back tears. “I didn’t promise when, though.”
The train started to move, chugging inexorably away. Abigail stood watching his tall, slim figure through the mist of steam and smoke, getting further and further away. Neither of them waved. Neither of them moved for the longest time.
The phrase ankle-biter was first recorded as being used in recorded in the mid-19th century. Harper's Magazine, September 1850.
Joseph Toynbee invented the artificial eardrum in 1852 as an aid to hearing, but it was quickly adapted as a covert listening device, similar to a cross between an ear trumpet and a telescope. The eardrum was made of vulcanized rubber and the tube was used in the same way as placing a glass against a wall, but gave an enhanced listening experience. Victorian ingenuity meant that versions were made to be easily concealed in hats, sleeves and even tiaras.
Posts : 5114 Join date : 2014-07-12 Age : 52 Location : Scotland
Subject: Re: Truth Hurts Chapter eleven Fri Aug 01, 2014 5:42 pm
Jump forward in time and the string-pullers behind Mitchell get prosecuted. I can't help thinking it's ironic that former train-robbers now use the legal system to prosecute their former victim. But of course things cannot be simple for our heroes: enter the wicked witch of the Wild West. What chance do they have against a woman willing to do everything to continue with her revenge. I fear Abi is correct: only death will stop Joan. So despite heroic efforts and unmasking of the conniving plotters the boys and their loved ones seem to be worse off. Their most committed enemy is now warned, knows how she was tracked down and will probably be more careful in the future. How do you prepare against "accidents"? I am scared that Abi will disappear forever to keep Anya safe. And just when it looked like they would actually have a chance to make their relationship work. It makes it all the more tragic. I don't like Abi bringing up Randa again, and her words in front of the photo shop sound too much like a permanent good bye. Please don't break Heyes' heart all over again. Hasn't the man suffered enough? At least they are now betrothed and get the chance to have one beautiful day (Heyes' birthday, no less) together just for themselves. Their goodbye sounds like they have promised each other to move on if their situation does not radically change in the near future - did I get that right? I have little hope for Heyes' parole being lifted. Governors are not exactly his biggest fans... I guess I am a little mad at Abi now: she feels she has to disappear for Anya, but that would mean that the Jordans and all the other friends of Heyes and the Kid would have to do the same really. They are in just as much danger. A few chapters back Abi said that she could not stand the thought that another family would have to go through what she did - and now she does not seem to have any problem to just disappear, thereby putting the others in even greater danger... And it's tissue time again. See what you are doing to me? Now you have me crying when I only suspect something bad/sad will happen. Talk about conditioning...
_________________ "I can resist everything - except temptation" Oscar Wilde For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
Posts : 1467 Join date : 2013-08-24 Age : 63 Location : Camano Island Washington
Subject: Re: Truth Hurts Chapter eleven Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:16 pm
Here I was thinking that 'Ghosts' wasn't quite the roller coaster ride that TOF was, but reading through it again with you, I think I was wrong.
Kattayl likes this post
Posts : 1447 Join date : 2013-08-24 Location : Over the rainbow
Subject: Re: Truth Hurts Chapter eleven Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:38 am
Abi knows she can't control the world, Stepha3nie, but it's not over 'til it's over....
_________________ Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb