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 The Hiatus Chapter twelve

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Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty
PostSubject: The Hiatus Chapter twelve   The Hiatus    Chapter twelve EmptyMon Dec 23, 2013 10:02 pm

The Hiatus

Belle wrapped her arms around Mayzee's shoulders, embracing her warmly. "I can never thank you enough for everything you've done. I do wish there was something I could do to return the favor. On the other hand, I hope I never have to."

"You'll be missed," Mayzee smiled. "You and Beth have been so helpful in keeping everything running smoothly. Please promise me you'll keep in touch."

"Oh, we will. I just don't know how to repay you." Belle's eyes drifted over to Henry Stamford who reached out to get the boy down from the top of a baggage trolley. "J.J., get down from there! Those bags belong to other people; I don't want you damaging them."

A giggling girl thrust her dark head up from between two large trunks. "Fooled ya, J.J.! I'm over here."

"Anya Rebecca Stewart!" Belle shouted. "Can't you stay out of mischief for ten minutes? Come and stand over here, nicely. Well brought-up young ladies do not go climbing over trucks and trolleys like barbarians." She turned back to her son. "J.J., come here, beside me."

"Sorry, Mrs. Jordan," murmured Rebecca as the two prodding and chuckling children fell in beside one another on the railway platform.

"I know I shouldn't laugh in case I encourage her," Beth whispered, "but she's so impossible she's funny. Maybe you should have left her playing with the drinking fountain – at least she couldn't fall off that. I couldn't hold my head up if we sent her back to Abi with a broken leg."

Mayzee sighed. "She had her hand jammed on the nozzle so she could shoot jets of water at people. Honestly! How does she even think of such things?"

"She takes after her father." Belle nodded. "It's not as though Abi is soft with her either, she's just an extraordinarily wilful child," she sighed, "but so engaging with those twinkling eyes."

"And extraordinarily bright. She gets bored easily; then her mind goes off in search of stimulation." Mayzee looked down at the children, prodding at the frame of a newly replaced window, attracted by the smell of the linseed oil in the fresh putty. "She reads at a very advanced level for her age, and her French is superb. She is leaving fourteen year olds behind without even trying."

"She needs a father," grinned Beth. "I do hope he and Abi can sort things out."

"I'm sure they have, they're clearly made for one another, and it's all over. When we got the telegram telling us we could go home I couldn't believe it was over at last. That's why I checked with the Pinkertons." Belle watched the passengers streaming from the train which had pulled into the station. "This is our train, J.J., time to say your goodbyes."

J.J.'s eyes widened in horror as Rebecca advanced on her friend with puckered lips. "Bye, J.J."

"Bye," the boy stepped back. "Ya ain't gonna kiss me, are ya?"

Rebecca nodded determinedly. "Yeah! That's what all the other folks are doing." She threw out an arm to indicate the throngs of people coming and going on the platform.

"But that's soppy."

"You're soppy," Rebecca reached out an arm and put the target of her affections in a headlock. "I want a kiss, and we've got to say goodbye like they do in books."

"In my stories they get shot or walk the plank," J.J. protested.

The poor boy's complaints fell on empty ears. The larger, older girl dragged his reluctant face up and smushed her lips soggily over his.


Rebecca released him and dimpled into her most charming grin. "There, it wasn't so bad, was it?"

J.J. staggered back, backhanding away his friend's devotions as though contaminated. "Don't ya ever do that again!"

"I won't have to. I've said 'goodbye' now," Rebecca explained, reasonably. "Will you write to me?"

"Yes, he will, Becky. I'll make sure of it." Belle stooped to give the girl an enveloping hug. "We all will, and we'll all write our own parts of the letter."

Rebecca's little arms fastened around a crouching Belle's neck. "Thank you for looking after me, Mrs. Jordan. I'm sorry if I've been naughty, I don't mean to be."

Belle pulled back and smiled into the child's face, smoothing the collar of her dress. "You're not naughty, you just get over-excited. Now, you be a good girl until your mama gets here tomorrow, and you tell her we're really sorry to have missed her."

Rebecca nodded gravely. "I will." The brief, sober demeanor dissipated almost instantly. "I'm going to see the sea. Have you ever seen it?"

"I can't say I have, Becky." Belle stood. "You must tell me all about it when you write."

Beth stooped to cuddle the child "Oh, I'm going to miss you! You have a lovely trip, and I want to hear it all. I'll be thinking of you."

Rebecca nodded gravely. "Thank you for reading to me. You're getting better. I expect you needed to practice the voices for when you get married and have your own children? I do hope I could help."

The adults exchanged an amused glance, used to the child's insightful, but tactless, observations. Her mind operated like quicksilver, but she lacked the maturity to operate any kind of filter.

"Thank you, Becky," Beth replied, choking back her laughter. "You've certainly taught me a lot."

The group clattered over to the train, stowed their baggage and claimed seats before taking up waving positions by the windows. Whistles trilled and shrieked through the shouts of the station staff and great, billowing puffs of steam.

"Bye, Mayzee," yelled Beth. "Bye, Henry!"

"Bye!" J.J. yelled, his indignity quickly forgotten.

The train chugged out into the countryside, and Belle arranged her family in their seats, complete with reading material to make the journey more interesting, but .J.J. had decided to add an extra layer of challenge by using his magnifying glass. "Do ya think we'll get held up by outlaws?" he asked, hopefully.

His mother's brow wrinkled. "Goodness me, no. I sincerely hope not."

"Shame," the boy muttered. "I never get to meet anyone interesting."

Sheriff Jacobs and the Kid exchanged a smile at the sight of Heyes' doleful eyes staring aimlessly out of the train window.

"She'll be back soon, Heyes. A few weeks at the most." The Kid tossed a newspaper over to his cousin. "Here have a read; that usually cheers you up."

Heyes shook his head.

The blue eyes flickered with concern. "I bought a 'National Geographic' too. D'ya fancy that instead? There's an article about how horses run. It's more interestin' than you'd think."

Heyes flicked a disinterested glance at the magazine. "I know how they run. They put one hoof in front of the other – the faster they do that, the quicker they go."

"Yeah, but look," the Kid held up the page. "They've broken it down in a series of photographs. In this one all the feet are off the ground. Ya'd think it'd fall over, but it doesn't." The Kid frowned. "You usually eat this kind of stuff up. What's up?"

"Abi won't be back unless we can sort my parole." Heyes heaved a huge sigh. "She can't bring Anya here to risk one of Joan Baines' accidents."

The Kid's jaw dropped open. "No! We'll sort something, it can't be that bad."

Heyes shook his head. "It is. Abi listened in on a device, and she heard them saying they'd find another way, but she didn't hear was how exactly they planned to do it. Right now they think Anya's been taken out of the country, but if she appears in Brookswood they'll know that's not true."

"Surely we need to keep thing in perspective here, Heyes. If there's anything like a pot shot or stray bullet we'll be back on Joan Baines like grease on bacon." Sheriff Jacobs folded his arms. "Accidents are hard to arrange, and you can't predict the outcome. I'd just be careful of strangers, although I understand your caution where a little girl's concerned."

Heyes turned intense, dark eyes on the lawman. "Anya is our youngest daughter. Our eldest was murdered in her pram while we walked with her in the park. I'll never forget that day; her smashed body and Abi splattered in her own baby's blood." Heyes watched his words land with Jacobs. "And that was the second baby she lost. She's a widow, and lost the son she carried from her late husband. She couldn't handle losing Anya, and I won't allow even the slightest risk. My blood ran cold when Mitchell threatened her. I now truly understand why Abi sent me away before. It's more than I could bear."

"So she's being extra cautious." Jacobs spoke carefully, understanding the angst behind Heyes' words. "Once she's had time to think about it she'll see things in a brighter light, I'm sure of it. Women are very emotional creatures - they sometimes need a steady hand to show them the way."

The Kid cleared his throat. "Not Abi, sheriff. She's a deep thinker and real clever. She'll have measured the risk."

"She's an ex-Pinkerton and can put things in perspective," Heyes added. "She's done things that'd make most men's hair curl. She's assessed the danger, and if she says it's a real threat I believe her." Heyes turned to the Kid. "She wanted me to make sure you understood that too. She thinks you and Beth should move away."

The Kid bit into his lip. "I couldn't take anything happening to Beth, not after last time."

Heyes nodded. "I know. That's how I feel about Anya. Abi's real sure nothing will happen before the men's trial, so I'd relax and enjoy the wedding, but bringing a child into it's another thing entirely."

"So the engagement's off?" Jacob's asked.

"No, I want to marry her." Heyes returned to gazing out of the window. "It all depends on the Governor. It's a damned mess. Adults can decide to take the risk, but children? You can't watch them all the time; and I can't put Abi through that again. If we can't hide from Joan Baines, we have to call it quits. We agreed."

The Kid frowned. "Ain't you gonna fight for her, Heyes? You've waited ten years for this."

"Fight?" Heyes replied, wearily. "Ask her to take even the smallest risk with her third child? What kind of man would fight for that? No, it's in the hands of the Governor. I can only hope to God he does the right thing."

J.J ran at the wagon as it drew to a halt outside the Double J, hurtling into the Kid like a barrel. "You're back! Momma, they're here!"

"Yup," the Kid laughed, holding the boy aloft. "Look at you - I swear you've grown since we saw you at Christmas."

"I sure have, Momma had to let my trousers down."

"Come here," Heyes gave J.J. a manly hug looking over to the house where a smiling Belle stood on the porch wiping her hands on her apron. "Let's get in, huh?"

"Momma's making a big dinner. We're havin' a ham."

"Well, that sounds mighty fine." Beth and the Kid stared into one another's eyes, smiles spreading over their faces.

"Welcome back, Jed," Beth whispered, draping her arms around his neck. "It's all over. We can plan our wedding."

Whether her lover was listening or not wasn't clear – he had already moved in for a long, deep kiss.

"Joshua," Belle's face sparkled with delight. "Welcome home."

Heyes' bear hug lifted her off her feet. He dropped her back down, planting a kiss on her cheek. "Look at you! It already seems like home again, the place feels like you've never been away. Maybe it's because there's no smell of stew."

Jesse slipped an arm around his wife's waist. "It does, doesn't it? It's great to have everyone home again. The heart went out of the Double J for a bit there. We need to make sure that never happens again." He drew Belle to him. "A house only becomes a home when there's love in it."

Heyes cheeks dimpled. "Yeah, Jesse and I get on well enough, but it just wasn't the same without you."

"Oh, Joshua," Beth disentangled herself from her fiancé's grip and bustled over to Heyes. "Congratulations! You and Abi make a lovely couple." She embraced him excitedly. "I'm so happy for you. When's the big day?"

Heyes' eyes darkened. "We haven't set a date yet, Beth. We've got a lot to arrange before we can do that."

Beth linked an arm through Heyes', extending the other to the Kid to take. "Yes, she's having a break by the sea. Becky told us about it," she led the men to the door. "Is she coming here afterwards?"

Heyes stepped to the side to allow her to enter. "She's going back to Topeka to pack. She needs to sell her house."

"Oh, of course!" Beth smiled happily. "It's so exciting, isn't it? You're getting married and you're going to be a real family. Isn't it marvelous? What a shame you couldn't go with them to the seaside, but that'll give Abi time to tell Anya who you really are, won't it?"

A pair of concerned blue eyes flicked over to his partner. It was time to change the subject. "Did J.J. say there was a ham cookin'?"

Jesse chuckled lightly. "There sure is, and there's peach cobbler to follow."

They strolled into the kitchen, the Kid sniffing the air appreciatively. "I can't wait. I'm starvin'."

"Then get yourselves washed and sit down at the table," smiled Belle. "I knew you'd be ready to eat after that journey, so I made sure it was ready. I couldn't bear the thought of trying to get the dinner out with Jed prowling around me like a hungry lion, and it doesn't seem like a good welcome home to chase him away with a wooden spoon like I usually do."

"Belle, that's what you've done for years, and I can't think of anything better than normal – bein' surrounded by all the good folks I love. If that comes with rapped knuckles, who cares?" He hugged Belle and Beth to him, "that's a small price to pay for bein' home again."

"Very good supper, Belle," Heyes gave his thanks as he sat back with a contented sigh. "It's nice to know that some things don't change."

"Well Joshua, thank you," Belle smiled quietly with pleasure. "It's also nice to see you eating more. For a while there we were afraid you were simply going to blow away with the first spring storm of the season." Her smile deepened as she gazed at him. "You're looking so much better than you did when you first came home to us."

Heyes grinned a little self-consciously. "Your cooking has a lot to do with that. I swear even in prison, it was your cookies that kept me going sometimes. They were very good and I appreciated getting them."

"Good!" she said with emphasis. "Well, shall I put some coffee on?"

"That would be nice," Jesse agreed while the other two gentlemen nodded their affirmation.

"Fine." And she sent a knowing smile over to Heyes as she pushed herself away from the table. "I even have some cookies for dessert!"

"I don't want coffee or cookies!" Jay announced. "Can I be excused please?"

Belle looked back at her son with some surprise. "You don't want cookies!?" she exclaimed. "Who are you and what have you done to the little boy who lives here?"

Jay giggled into his hand. "It's me Momma!" he insisted. "I'm just full—I don't want any cookies! Can I go finish my drawing?"

"Ohh!" Jesse nodded in sudden understanding. "You have a project you're working on, is that it?"


Jesse and Belle exchanged smiles. "Alright," Belle gave her permission. "You may be excused. I'll come and help you with your bath after we have our coffee."

Jay made a face but then jumped down from his chair and headed upstairs to his room to carry on with his project.

"Never known the little man to turn down cookies!" Jed commented. "What's he up to?"

"I believe he's working on a drawing for Becky," Belle explained. "He wants to get it done before they get back from their holiday."

Heyes smiled and nodded. "Oh. Well I'm sure Becky will be very pleased with that."

"Yes," Belle agreed as she and Beth made their way into the kitchen to prepare coffee.

Jesse glanced over at Heyes, having picked up on something in his tone that sent warning bells off in his mind.

"What was that all about?" he enquired quietly. "Are they not coming back?"

"I'm not sure Jesse," Heyes admitted. "Let's just wait and see."

Jesse sighed. "You two sure do things the hard way," he observed and Jed snorted. Both Heyes and Jesse looked over at him.

"Oh, sorry," Jed apologized. "That just struck me as an understatement!"

Coffee and cookies soon put in an appearance, and just as quickly disappeared again.

" I'm really stuffed," Heyes complained. "Those cookies are even better when they're fresh baked!"

"Jeez Heyes!" Kid teased him. "Never thought I'd see the day when you'd be eatin' too much! Ya makin' up for lost time?"

"Sure, why not."

Beth giggled and pushed herself away from the table, taking dishes as she went. "I'll get started on these while you get Jay ready for bed Momma," she offered. "Then perhaps we can all sit and relax a little bit!"

"Good idea!" Belle agreed. "Let's get to it!"

"Ah, Beth! I'll give ya' a hand with those," Jed quickly offered as he stood up and began to put action to his words. "There's something I want to talk to ya' about."

Beth smiled. "Okay. Thank you."

Jesse and Heyes shared a look and Jesse poured them both a re-fill.

Inside the kitchen Beth quickly took control of the operation and got everything organized. She threw Jed a towel and he accepted his role as dish-dryer with a smile.

"What did you want to talk about?" Beth asked with just a touch of apprehension as she pumped water into the sink.

"Well," Jed turned serious. "I just wanted to be sure, after all that has gone on and everything that you've seen, I wanted to be sure that you still want to get married."

Beth stopped what she was doing and sent a worried look up at him. "What do you mean?" she asked quietly. "Are you having doubts?"

"I was," Jed admitted, and Beth felt a shiver of fear got through her. "Then Heyes informed me of something that I think you need to be aware of before we make that commitment. Once you know what Abi found out you may not want to take the risk with me."

Beth absently placed dishes in the sink, not even aware of what she was doing. She felt like she wanted to cry. Was Jed backing out on her?

"What could Abi possibly have found out that could change my mind?" she asked quiet as a mouse.

"Well," Jed began. "apparently, even though Mrs. Baines agreed officially to stop her vendetta against us, Abi had reason to doubt her sincerity. She confronted Mrs. Baines and accused her of such. Mrs. Baines finally admitted that it wasn't over, that accidents happen and that me and Heyes and anyone connected to us will never really be safe."

Beth stopped what she was doing and turned to her lover. She came to him and in an instant, Jed had wrapped his arms around her and he held her in a loving embrace. He kissed her on the top of her head and took in the fresh scent of her hair and knew for sure then how much he cared for her and how much he wanted her in his life. And he felt fear for her and fear for the safety of their children.

"You need to know Beth," he whispered to her. "if you marry me, we might have to leave here. We might have to disappear."

He felt her tremble and she looked up at him with brown eyes that were misting over with threatening tears.

"I love you," she declared softly. "It would break my heart to have to leave Momma and Papa—to leave Jay and the ranch. But I love you more and if we have to leave, I will follow you anywhere."

Jed cupped her face in both his hands. "Beth, darlin'; are you sure? This could go on for years. Our children could be at risk. Even Heyes and Abi aren't sure what they are going to do now because of this. It could be dangerous."

"I can't let what might happen destroy us," she told him. "If there is anything I've learned, it's that anything is possible. You could get influenza and die from fever, or a fall from a horse. I could die in child-birth..." Jed cringed at that thought. "...but we can't let what 'might' happen stop us from moving forward because those awful things might 'not' happen and think of all the wonderful things we could be missing out on!" She smiled a little sadly then and her right hand came up and caressed his forehead. "Don't think I didn't notice this injury here," she reprimanded him softly and Jed smiled a little abashedly. "I realize I need to prepare myself for such happenings and I can only hope that when you're ready to, you will tell me what happened. Just know that I love you and I will support you in any decision that you make."

Jed smiled and kissed her on the lips. She threw her arms around his neck and returned the kiss whole-heartedly.

"Oh darlin'," he said as he hugged her to him. "I knew there was a reason I fell in love with you."

"Are we good now?" she asked hopefully. "Do you still want to do this?"

"Yes Beth. With all my heart," he assured her. "More than ever, with all my heart."

"Well that's J.J put down for the night," Belle took a seat with a profound sigh of relief. "Back in our own beds again."

"Amen to that," Jesse grinned, handing his wife a glass of sherry.

"Really?" Belle's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Alcohol?"

"Sure. This is a celebration," Jesse nodded. "We're all together again." His eyes drifted to Beth as she entered the room. "All the dishes done?"

"Yes, and the kitchen's cleaned up," Beth giggled, "despite Jed's 'help.'"

"Hey," the Kid sat contentedly, stretching out his long legs in front of him. "It's not my area of expertise. His eyes caught the glass of brandy proffered by Jesse with a gleam of surprise. "Thanks, we're celebratin'?"

"We sure are." Jesse took his favourite chair. "We've got to make arrangements for this wedding. It's gone on far too long now. I want to play with my grandchildren before I'm too old to bend down. How about we all head into town and book the date tomorrow?"

Beth and Jed shared a look, unable to contain the smiles twitching at their lips. "Tomorrow? That sounds great to me."

Jesse rubbed his hands with glee. "Then tomorrow it is. I guess we also need a shopping trip to get stocked up for a family home again."

Beth's eyes glowed. "Oh, mama, there's a new hat shop in town. I saw it yesterday. Can we go? I need a new hat for my going away outfit."

The Kid's brow furrowed. "Going away?"

"Yes, my outfit for us to go on honeymoon. I simply must have a new one for when everyone sees us off."

"Yeah, I guess." The Kid looked confused. "Why? Do I need to do that too?"

"I must look my best, that's why! It'll be my first whole day as a married woman."

Belle smiled at her daughter. "Don't worry, Jed, all you need to do is look smart – and yes, Beth, we can go there. I want a new hat too and it looked so interesting."

"Nobody's gonna be looking at you anyway, Kid," chuckled Heyes. "Not with Beth around."

"Some of them will be looking at him," Beth beamed proudly and slipped a hand into her fiancé's. "There are a lot of women in this town who'd give their eye teeth to be in my shoes." She flicked a look over to Heyes. "And Abi will find the same thing when she gets back."

The smile fell from Heyes' face. "Ah, yes." He cleared his throat. "Abi – I need to talk to you all about that."

Belle sat upright. "What? What's wrong? Have you disagreed with her over something? I'm sure it can be sorted."

Heyes shook his head sadly. "No Belle, I haven't disagreed with her, it's quite the opposite."

"You agree? What's the problem?" asked Jesse.

"I agree that I can't bring Anya here while there's any question of danger to her." Heyes looked around the room. "I need to tell you it's not over. Abi listened in using some kind of spying device and heard Joan Baines say she was going to make sure the campaign continues. She's going to make it look like accidents now." Heyes sighed in the silence. "I'm sorry to put a damper on things, but you need to know."

Jesse frowned. "Accidents? How dangerous can that be?"

"Very dangerous," Heyes replied. "Think about it. Nobody can be on guard all the time. They only have to be lucky once, we have to be lucky all the time."

"So Abi's not coming?" Beth shook her head in confusion. "You're not getting married?"

"It's not as clear as that. Steven's preparing an appeal to get the parole lifted or varied so that Joan Baines won't be able to keep track of me or anyone I'm with." Heyes' despondent voice was heavy with regret. "If not..."

"Oh!" Beth's simple exclamation punctuated the silence. "How dangerous is it?"

"She told me to tell you to move, especially if you want children."

Beth's doe-like eyes darted between Jed and her father. "What should we do?"

"Abi also said Joan Baines wouldn't be stupid to try anything while her husband was awaiting trial." Heyes did his best to sound reassuring. "Just be careful, don't go off on your own, make sure J.J. stays where you can see him. There's no need to panic."

"He's right," Jesse nodded, gravely. "Let's take some time to take stock. If we have to move, we will. My family comes first. Doing anything right now would be really stupid for her."

Heyes slumped hopelessly. "I'm sorry to bring this to your door, both the Kid and I are. I'll move. I can't have people who've been so kind to me suffering in this way."

Jesse and Belle exchanged a conversation in a glance. Belle smiled firmly but kindly. "Joshua, you are family, and Jed is going to be the father of our grandchildren. We'll work on this together, but in the meantime we are celebrating our homecoming, and discussing the wedding. I always found it was best to deal with things one at a time. I don't know Abi intimately, but I do know she wouldn't have allowed us to come home if she thought it wasn't safe to be here. We need to be aware and cautious, but I think we can get on with things." Belle stood and walked over to Heyes. "We are going to do everything we can to help you and Abi be a proper family." She patted his arm before sitting beside him on the sofa. "You are not alone, Joshua, you have love and support - hold onto that." She held out her glass. "Jesse, I think we all need refills, this is a special occasion."

The evening had settled down into a quiet and relaxing mood. Belle and Beth retired to the sitting room where Belle had picked up some darning that needed to be done while Beth busied herself with writing a letter to Sister Julia. The two of them had remained in contact since Beth's little under-cover excursion to the prison and Beth liked to keep her up to date on all the happenings since they'd returned home. Jesse had settled in to reading one of the many books that Heyes had brought back with him and Jed was sitting at the dining table and was just beginning the daily ritual of cleaning his gun.

Heyes had poured himself a final cup of coffee and came to sit down at the table beside the Kid and to keep him company before they all headed off to bed for the night.

"You and Beth looked pretty happy this evening," Heyes commented quietly. "Have you put your doubts to rest?"

"Yeah," Kid nodded. "I donno, Heyes; I suppose it was like you said; I was just feeling rattled because of gettin' shot and all that. I'd had some really strange dreams during that time and it got me thinkin' that my ma wouldn't know."

"Yeah," Heyes nodded. "So you don't think that anymore?"

"Naw." Jed smiled and looked with fondness over towards his betrothed. "I think my ma would really like Beth. Actually I think she'd like this whole family. For the first time since I can remember I feel like I'm doing somethin' that would make my folks proud. That really means a lot."

Heyes smiled. "Yeah, it does."

"And then all this stuff that's still goin' on," Kid continued as he started to clean the various disassembled pieces of his hand gun. "Here I was so worried about whether or not I was making the right decision and then all of a sudden I was scared to death that Beth might decide to end things." Jed shook his head. "Man! That was when I really realized just how much I want her in my life and how terrible it would be if she wasn't!"

"I know what you mean," Heyes mumbled.

"Yeah, I know ya' do Heyes," Kid assured him. "I hope things will work out for you and Abi. I'm kinda fond of her and Anya too, ya' know. They are two very special ladies."

Heyes smiled and nodded agreement. "I take it you talked to Beth about the dangers of 'accidents' happening?"

"Yup," Kid told him. "She's willin'. Even if we have to leave here, she still wants to get married."

"Good!" Heyes grinned. "Cause I've really been looking forward to being 'best man' at your wedding."

Jed's expression dropped and he looked embarrassed. "Oh...ah...I kinda asked David to be my best man, Heyes."

Heyes' grin disappeared in a twinkling and he was surprised at how disappointed he felt. He swallowed down the sudden tightness in his throat and then tried to back-step out of his assumption. "Oh...I...oh..."

"Well, you were gone for so long Heyes," Jed started to explain. "and David and I got to be real good friends and know how it is..."

"Well, yeah. I suppose..."

Jed tried real hard to keep a straight face, but the look of astonished hurt that was coming back at him almost broke his heart and he couldn't keep the pretense up any longer. He snorted and laughed out loud and Heyes looked even more confused.

"Aw Heyes! Of course you're going to be my best man!" Kid assured him. "We put our wedding off all those years just to make sure you'd be here to be best man! C'mon! What are you thinkin!?"

"Ohh, you bastard!" the curse came out as a breath of relief. "I am going to get you for that!"

"Ha ha!" Kid laughed whole-heartedly. "Aw Heyes! The look on your face was priceless..."

"You bastard."

Steven paced up and down the plushly carpeted hallway. He had a knot in his gut which really was unusual for him over a simple meeting with government officials. He could understand it if he was heading into a trial situation, but this? Present you case and leave. What's so stressful about that?

'Well', he thought. 'it might be just a matter of presenting the facts and leaving for him, but the out come of this meeting was going to effect the rest of his client's life!' Yes, that could certainly be adding to his stress here; this was an important meeting, and one that he wasn't really too optimistic about in the first place.

To make things worse; a new governor had been appointed for Wyoming State and Steven didn't know what to expect from Mr. Amos Barber. He was a Republican, just like his predecessor, but as for how he stood on the matter of outlaws and amnesties and parole conditions was anyone's guess. Steven felt like he was going into this meeting blind even though he had done just as much preparation for it as he had for any criminal trial case he was working.

Steven took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He wished the other people attending this meeting would hurry up and get there so they could get on with this. It was the waiting that could get to him at times, not the doing. Once things got under way he knew he would find his footing and present his case in a professional manner as always—it was just the waiting!

"Mr. Granger!"

Steven heard his name being called from down the hall. He stopped in his pacing and turned to face the voice.

"Oh, Sheriff Jacobs," Steven greeted the lawman and they shook hands. "glad you made it. I don't think they're quite ready to receive us yet though."

"What do you expect from the government?" Jacobs commented. "Don't mind letting the 'little' people wait."

Steven smiled and nodded. "What do you think of our chances here?"

Jacobs took a deep breath and raised his eyebrows. "Pretty dicey on both counts," he predicted. "Still, we'll give it our best shot."

Steven nodded again, not sure if he was relieved or disappointed that the sheriff seconded his opinion. Further conversation was interrupted when a side door to one of the smaller conference rooms was opened and the secretary poked his head out.

"Mr. Granger? Mr. Jacobs?"


"If you gentlemen would please come in and prepare your case. Mr. Barber and Mr. Ludlow will be with you presently."

"Of course."

The two men entered into the small room and found themselves facing a large mahogany desk with four comfortable chairs situated around it. There was a serving table set to the side with china cups and saucers along with a carafe which was presumably filled with coffee. This presumption was validated after the two gentlemen settled into the chairs and the secretary offered them each a cup.

These were accepted with the appropriate condiments and the secretary made a discreet exit. Steven and Jacobs sat quietly, sipping their coffee's and staring at each other. This was awkward. Both men were nervous and sitting and waiting was worse than actually pacing and waiting. Let's just get this over with!

Finally the two government officials put in an appearance. Actually their imminent arrival was preceded by their voices and some laughter at a joke before the gentlemen themselves entered the office and greeted the two men who were already there.

Steven and Jacobs were on their feet instantly, preparing for introductions. The secretary did not disappoint.

"Mr. Granger, Sheriff Jacobs. Mr. Barber, our state governor and Mr. Ludlow, head of the penal commission and the parole board. Gentlemen, may I pour you some coffee?"

"Yes! Certainly Higgins!" Barber instructed him. "Coffee all around."


Higgins did his duty and after preparing the two new coffee's and replenishing the first two, he again discreetly made his exit.

"So, Mr. Granger," Barber began as he and Ludlow settled in themselves. "I understand that you and Mr. Jacobs have a couple of proposals to present here today."

"Yes sir, Mr. Barber," Steven agreed. "We would like to begin with the case of Hannibal Heyes."

"Yes," Barber mumbled with a bit of a frown. "Mr. Warren made some comment concerning that particular gentleman. Seemed to think it was a bit of a joke that I would be stepping in to take over just after Mr. Heyes had been granted a parole."

Silence followed this comment. Barber opened up the folder that he had brought in with him and quickly scanned over the information presented to him.

"Going over Mr. Heyes' files I can understand why Mr. Warren was quite happy to be getting out from under this particular powder keg," the governor continued. "He's very fortunate to have been granted a parole—not quite sure if I would have done that."

Steven felt his heart sink. Still; chin up—carry on!

"I believe that Mr. Warren was in agreement that Mr. Heyes was given an unfair sentence and that his treatment while in the custody of the territorial prison more than justified a conditional parole."

"Yes, yes. I'm sure," Barber waved it aside as he continued to scrutinize the documents in front of him. He eventually sighed and looked up at the young lawyer. "Just refreshing my memory here Mr. Granger. I have studied this case quite thoroughly and the conditions appear to be straight forward. What is it that you wish to alter?"

"I'm sure you are aware of the cases against Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Baines," Steven began his case. "People who are close to Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry have been assaulted and there have been murders committed."

"Yes," Mr. Barber nodded solemnly. "It is an unfortunate situation indeed. But do keep in mind Mr. Granger, that neither Mr. Mitchell nor Mr. Baines have gone to trial as of yet and therefore cannot be assumed guilty of anything. I would say there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye."

"Exactly my point," Steven agreed. "Even though Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Baines are now in custody and awaiting trial we have become aware of the possibility of a further threat to the victims of these crimes."

"Indeed?" Barber was dubious. "In what way did you become aware of this?"

"It was purely by accident, Mr. Barber," Steven blocked him. "One of the Pinkerton agents working the case happened to over-hear a conversation indicating that the threat was not over yet."

"Hmm. What does all this have to do with Mr. Heyes and his parole? I would think that he would be safer with the law knowing who he is and where he is. If anyone where to try anything it would be rather obvious."

"Mr. Heyes has recently become engaged."

Two sets of eyebrows went up. "Really?" was Ludlow's first and only comment.

"Yes," Steven reiterated. "He and Mrs. Abigail Stewart, who helped out a great deal on these cases, have known each other for some years. Indeed they have a child together, a ten year old daughter. They had a previous daughter as well but unfortunately she was murdered by an assailant eleven years ago. That incident of course has left its scars and now with this present threat hanging over them they were hoping to be able to take their daughter out of this situation for her own safety."

"How far out of the situation?" Mr. Ludlow enquired.

Steven took a breath and looked the official straight in the eye. "Canada. Possibly even over-seas. Mrs. Stewart is a native of Scotland and I'm sure would feel far more secure in raising her daughter in her homeland."

"Mr. Heyes is on a very strict parole, Mr. Granger," Mr. Ludlow stated the obvious. "He is not permitted to leave his county without permission and supervision, let alone the continent! Are they proposing a long-distance marriage? Hardly seems appropriate!"

"No, Mr. Ludlow," Steven jumped in with both feet. "Considering the assistance that Mr. Heyes gave to the authorities while tracking down these suspects, we were hoping that the parole board would consider lifting the restrictions of his parole. He would therefore be free to marry Mrs. Stewart and leave the country with his family. The life and safety of his daughter could depend upon it."

Both Mr. Ludlow and Mr. Barber sat and stared at the lawyer with mouths gaping. The silence lasted for only a beat of a second but it seemed an eternity to Steven until finally Mr. Barber coughed and shifted a little uncomfortably. He and Mr. Ludlow exchanged dubious looks.

"It's been barely a year since Mr. Heyes was released from prison," Ludlow finally pointed out. "and now he wishes to be released from his parole as well?"

"Mr. Heyes wishes to lead a normal life." Steven tried to make it sound reasonable. "He wishes to marry the mother of his child and live in the peace and safety that is taken for granted my most of our citizens. Is that really too much for him to ask?"

Again the two officials exchanged looks and then Mr. Barber retreated into neutral territory.

"We will take your request into consideration," the governor responded. "I highly doubt that Mr. Heyes will be given permission to simply disappear however. The whole point of the parole was to keep him under surveillance until we could feel confident that he was indeed reformed. The report we received concerning his behavior in Joplin hardly fills us with confidence in this matter. Though it might be to our best interests that Mr. Heyes leave the country, it would hardly be the responsible thing to do. What would stop him from simply returning to his previous life-style and become someone else's headache?"

"His fiancée used to be a Pinkerton herself and is very adamant about helping Mr. Heyes to remain law-abiding," Steven informed them. "I doubt she would tolerate any nonsense from him."

"Yes, I know that Pinkerton used to employ women," Barber conceded. "but how do we know that Mr. Heyes is being honorable towards her? Perhaps he is simply leading her along to believe that he wishes to marry her and settle down to a family life. Then once he is clear of his obligations to the parole board he may very well simply disappear."

"I really don't think..."

"No," Barber cut Steven off. "This is hardly a dilemma, Mr. Granger. To even suggest that after only a year we are to lift the parole and allow Mr. Heyes to simply walk away? The man is lucky he's not still serving out his sentence inside the prison! The answer is 'no.'"

Steven felt his heart sink but quickly rallied and presented option number two. When you ask for the sky first, then fall back and ask for a few clouds instead, well clouds don't seem quite so outlandish a request.

"Would it be possible then to simply loosen some of the parole restrictions instead?" Steven ventured. "Failing to receive permission to 'disappear' Mr. Heyes was hopeful of being able to open a small detective agency along with his partner. In order to do this however, he would need a certain amount of freedom to travel and associate with the criminal element simply because of the nature of his work."

Barber and Ludlow again exchanged looks.

"We may as well lift the parole conditions all together," Barber complained. "and I have already stated that this is not going to happen."

"He would not be unsupervised," Sheriff Jacobs finally saw his role in this conversation opening up. "I have agreed to continue being responsible for his actions if this is a career he chooses to pursue. He would still be required to inform me and Sheriff Trevors of his whereabouts and the nature of the case he would be working on. It makes things a little more complicated, but do-able."

Mr Barber snorted. "You are willing to trust Mr. Heyes to that extent Sheriff Jacobs? Are you sure you know what you are getting into?"

Jacobs smiled. "I've come to know Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry rather well over this past year and 'yes' I would have to say that I do trust him to that extent. He is serious about turning his life around, Mr. Barber and with the right support I believe he will do it."

"And I would certainly be willing to give him any legal advice he might need," Steven pointed out. "Personally I believe this is a good idea, otherwise I would not be presenting it to you. Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry would be naturals at it since they are already very familiar with the criminal mind set. Who better to know how to prevent a bank robbery than a reformed bank robber?"

"Yes," Barber grumbled under his breath. "I don't know gentlemen; this all sounds very dubious to me. What's to keep Mr. Heyes from simply disappearing into the hills again?"

"The same thing that keeps him from doing that now," Jacobs pointed out. "The man wants to put his old life behind him. But at the same time he needs a career that can challenge his intellect. We all know what Hannibal Heyes is capable of. Just think what he could accomplish by putting his talents to work for the law instead of against it?"

Mr. Barber sat back in his comfortable chair and contemplated his options. He glanced over at Mr. Ludlow and that worthy gentlemen shrugged his shoulders most unhelpfully. Finally the governor sat forward again, having made a decision of sorts.

"I will consider this suggestion gentlemen," he compromised. "Give me a few days to discuss the validity of it with Mr. Ludlow and I will get back to you. But..." and he pointed a finger at the sheriff. "...Mr. Jacobs you will be responsible for this man's behaviour and conduct—do you understand? If he disappears it'll be your hide! Are you sure you are willing to take this on?"

Jacobs had a moment of hesitation, but then he resolved himself to stay true to the cause and nodded his acquiescence. "Yes, Governor Barber. I'm willing to accept Mr. Heyes' word that he is committed to this."

Barber shook his head as though in disbelief. "I truly do not understand it," he admitted. "Mr. Heyes proved himself to be anything but trustworthy and reliable at his trial and the yet the very people who's trust he had betrayed continued to stand by him. What is it about this man that makes both of you willing to risk your careers on his fidelity?"

Now it was Steven and Jacob's turn to exchange a look.

"Perhaps if you were to meet the gentleman in question," Steven suggested. "you might come to a better understanding of his resolve. He went through a very difficult time in prison but feeling that he had lost everything seemed to help clarify his mind as to what was important to him. He can be very tenacious when it comes to getting what he wants."

"Yes. Or taking what he wants," Barber countered. "Let us not forget that the crime that was most influential in sending him to prison in the first place was pulling a confidence game—a flim-flam. The man is a con artist gentlemen! How do you know he is not simply pulling the wool over your eyes?"

Steven smiled patiently as though he were trying to explain the basics of arithmetic to a dim-witted child. "As I said, Mr. Barber," the lawyer reiterated. "if you were to meet the man you would realize how important this is to him. All he needs is the opportunity to prove it."

"Hmm," Barber growled. "Well, we'll see. As I said I will discuss this with Mr. Ludlow and the other members of the penal board and I will get back to you on it."

"Yes, of course," Steven accepted that. "Thank you."

"Now, was there anything else I can do for you gentlemen, while we're at it?"

Steven and Jacobs exchanged looks again and quite suddenly Governor Barber realized he'd made a mistake in keeping the floor open for more discussion.

"We have a request concerning William Earl Carlson," Steven ventured.

"Who?" Barber asked. He glanced over at Ludlow for assistance but was met with only a shrug.

"Also know as 'Wheat' Carlson," Steven explained. "He ran the Devil's Hole gang after Heyes moved on to other things."

"Ahh!" Both Barber and Ludlow were now informed.

"What request could you possibly have concerning a dead man?" Mr. Ludlow asked not unreasonably.

Again, Steven and Jacobs exchanged a look. Jacobs shrugged his shoulders and nodded. This was going to open up a whole new can of worms, but they'd started now so they might as well finish it.

"Mr. Carlson is not dead," Steven announced.

Again, mouths dropped open and the two officials were speechless for an eternity.

"Well...ahmm...isn't that interesting," Barber finally commented. "You certainly are full of surprises today Mr. Granger. If Mr. Carlson is still alive then he is very much a wanted man." Then he froze and sent Steven a hard look. "I hope you are not about to inform me that Mr. Heyes has had contact with Mr. Carlson!"

"No, no!" Steven assured the governor. "Well...not direct contact in any case."

"And what is that suppose to mean!?" Barber was becoming angry and fed-up. "What is it with you lawyers! You're always talking in circles! Why can't you just come out and say what you mean!?"

Steven gave a little bit of a smile. "I mean just that Governor. Hannibal Heyes himself did not have direct contact with Wheat Carlson. He was however aware of the man's continued existence and Mr. Curry and myself hired Mr. Carlson and Mr. Murtry to assist in tracking down Carl Harris.
"Although admittedly we did not know he was Carl Harris until we actually had the man in custody. We thought we were looking for someone named 'Mitch' and we had two separate parties searching for what turned out to be the one man.
"At this point I would like to emphasize how diligent Mr. Carlson and Mr. Murtry were in their efforts to find Harris. They remained on his trail for months and even when the trail had turned cold they proved themselves to be quite tenacious in their pursuit. Indeed I am certain that we would not have found Mr. Harris as quickly as we did if it hadn't been for their diligence."

"You just said it took them months," Ludlow reminded him.

"I realize that," Steven commented. "It could easily have taken longer. Indeed, we might never have tracked him down at all if it were not for the unique abilities shown by Carlson and Murtry."

Barber sighed heavily. He knew this was going somewhere and just wished the lawyer would hurry up and get to the point!

"What unique abilities are those, Mr. Granger?"

"Well, their experience as outlaws," Steven pointed out, as though it should be obvious. "Carlson and Murtry were able to infiltrate outlaw hide-outs and gather information about Harris that an official lawman would never have been able to get close to. The very fact that these two gentlemen were once outlaws themselves allowed then access to people and places and information that we would otherwise never have come into our hands.
"As I said; it was mainly due to their diligence that Mr. Harris was eventually tracked down and re-captured and I think it would be foolish of us not to utilize their special talents."

"Utilize their special talents!?" Barber repeated. "THEY'RE OUTLAWS!"

"Well, Mr. Carlson is still an outlaw, yes. But Mr. Murtry has served his time. He is a free man."

"If Mr. Murtry has rejoined his partner in crime I think it is an easy bet that he has also returned to that life-stye," Ludlow mumbled distainly. "It was my understanding that Mr. Murtry was offered a job out at the Double J ranch and had agreed to take it in order to secure his own release, then disappeared. What does that tell you?"

"That is when Mr. Curry and myself hired Mr. Murtry to go find his partner and get on the trail of Carl Harris," Steven pointed out. "He did not return to his life of crime, Mr. Ludlow. He was employed as an undercover agent."

Both Mr. Ludlow and Mr. Barber snorted their laughter.

"This meeting is becoming more and more ridiculous as it goes along," Barber observed. "An undercover agent? Carlson and Murtry? Next you're going to be asking for Carlson to receive an amnesty so that he and his partner can work as 'undercover agents' for Heyes and Curry's new detective agency!"

Both Steven and Jacobs responded with dead pan expressions. Barber stopped his incredulous snickering and looked at the two men with yet another dropped jaw countenance.

"Oh gentlemen, please! You must be joking!" the governor was practically pleading with them. "Give Wheat Carlson an amnesty—after what he did!?"

"I realize the situation is extreme," Steven began and both officials snorted. "but it makes sense if you take a moment to think about it. These two gentlemen showed their worth in tracking down Mr. Harris. Official lawmen would not have been able to do it.
"You give Wheat Carlson an amnesty but don't let it be known to the general public and he would have access to any number of outlaw hideouts. He and Mr. Murtry would work for Heyes and Curry and Sheriff Jacobs has agreed to over-see the whole lot. They would all still be accountable to him—well, not Murtry or Curry of course, but Heyes and Carlson. Lom Trevors has also indicated a willingness to participate, as well as Jesse Jordan and Warden Reece. All we need, governor, is your approval."

"Do you really think that Carlson will turn on his own kind at this point?" Ludlow asked incredulously. "As a matter of fact they all have connections to the criminal element. The whole idea behind Heyes' parole is to keep him away from those influences!"

"I agree," Steven conceded. "They would not be willing to track down and betray their own kind. But there are many other forms of criminal activity that they could have dealings with. Heyes understands gambling and the confidence game so who better to be safe-guarding against those who would take advantage? Mr. Curry and Mr. Heyes both understand the way banks are laid out and Heyes would certainly know if a safe was safe or not. Curry understand security and he is very good at reading people. Carlson and Murtry have already shown their worth as infiltrators and they would be above suspicion.
"These men are not fools gentlemen. If they are willing to bring their talents onto our side of the table then we would be the fools if we did not consider the possibilities. If you are not willing to lift the conditions of Mr. Heyes' parole completely, then at least lift them enough that he may get on with some kind of life. He is far too valuable an asset to kept pinned down and suffocating under the weight of restrictions that are truly unwarranted."

The two officials sat back and scrutinized the lawyer. They still couldn't quite believe what they were hearing—and even more; that they continued to sit and listen to it.

Finally Mr. Ludlow shifted and gave a small cough as though needing to loosen up his throat so he could speak.

"I would have to discuss this with the other members of the board before making any kind of decision on this matter," he prolonged. "It was risky enough simply allowing Hannibal Heyes out of prison which is why the conditions of his parole were so strict in the first place. Now, after only a year you wish us to lift those restrictions? I hardly think that wise."

"Not lift them altogether Mr. Ludlow," Steven pointed out. "Simply loosen them up a little bit. Give the man room to breathe."


"We will consider your suggestions Mr. Granger," Barber stepped in quickly. "In the mean time Mr. Heyes will continue to respect the conditions of his parole as they were initially laid out to him. As for Mr. Carlson receiving an amnesty, if we agree to allow Mr. Heyes the freedom to open up a detective agency then Mr Carlson will be granted a conditional amnesty to be a part of that—if he is willing to be a part of that. If he strays from the path at all gentlemen, then he will be tracked down and tried for his crimes."

"Of course," Steven agreed. "He is willing to come in under these conditions."

"And you're willing to vouch for him?" Ludlow asked Jacobs with a touch of incredulity.

"Yes," Jacobs agreed, though again he was wondering what in the world he was getting himself into.

"Alright gentlemen," Barber brought the meeting to a close. "We will be in touch. Good day to you."

Steven and Jacobs left the office to the accompaniment of Mr. Ludlow's stage whisper to his superior; "Now all we have to do is convince Marshall Morrison that this is a good idea!"
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The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty
PostSubject: The Hiatus   The Hiatus    Chapter twelve EmptyMon Dec 23, 2013 10:02 pm

Belle's eyes glowed with pride. The brand-new color, 'electric blue,' was the height of fashion, and it favored her daughter's coloring perfectly. She would not only be a beautiful bride, but she would have a wonderful outfit to start her new life as a married woman.

"Now, let me show you this." Mrs. Oliphant's bright-blue eyes sparkled as she warmed to her subject. "I only opened last week, so I haven't fully stocked yet, but this catalogue will give you a good idea of what I can offer. I can definitely match your dress." She spread the magazine in front of the customers. "As you can see the 'chapeau de jour' is more ornate than last year's counterpart. Feathers, ribbons, birds- even rosettes and diamante are all clustered together to make for an extravaganza of color and ornamentation; some are even placed under the brim. They are a flamboyant declaration of womanhood – perfect for the confident young woman. I haven't done one in electric-blue yet, but I've been itching to. Yours would be the first. Look, I dyed these feathers in anticipation. Oh, this will be such a beautiful hat!"

Beth's eyes followed the feathers as though mesmerized. "Oh, mama, look at them! We've never had anything like it in Brookswood before."

Belle smiled at the milliner. "She's right; these are the kind of things we expect to find in the big city. It's not what we're used to here."

Mrs. Oliphant smiled knowingly. "Exactly! I have no competition. Ladies are very deft with a needle, but millinery is a skill beyond the most. All ladies love a new hat, and I also offer a service which the big cities don't. I can update a treasured hat for you, at a fraction of the cost of new – a curl of the brim here, new trimming there – I think I can offer something nobody else is doing in the area, with prices to fit any pocket."

"It certainly sounds like it," smiled Belle. "I expect you will have quite a lot of business coming your way too, my daughter is getting married and we just set the date today. We anticipate a lot of guests, and many will want to look their best."

Mrs. Oliphant clasped her hands in delight. "A bride? How wonderful, and just the thing to get my business off to a good start. I'm a widow, you see, and I started up after my poor Harold's demise. This really matters to me. Many women have to work after bereavement, but I'm very lucky to have something I love to fall back on."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Belle nodded sympathetically at the pretty, young woman. "A widow at your age? Tragic."

"Harold was taken by the grippe. It went to his lungs and he simply never recovered. I could have stayed in Chicago, but it has so many sad memories – not to mention far too many hat shops." Mrs. Oliphant swallowed down her swirling emotions. "Neither of us had family to keep us there either, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and head West. There are so many opportunities for someone prepared to work hard."

Beth looked at her mother sadly. "You are sure to be made very welcome, Mrs. Oliphant. I think you've done your research, and you are right, this is a growing town. I think you will do well here."

"Well, if you are about to bring lots of business to my door, I'll tell you what I can do. I will make a bespoke hat for you and your mother at half price, if you tell all your friends and guests to come to me for their hats. How does that sound?"

Belle and Beth exchanged a look of glee. "That sounds marvelous. You've got a deal."

"Then take a look at the catalogue and select a shape and we'll go through the trimmings together." Mrs. Oliphant headed for the door to the back of the shop. "I'll put the kettle on. If there's one thing you'll learn about me; I love my tea. I believe it helps you get over all kinds of things, and I use different blends for varying uses, and it certainly sustained me through bad times. Now, we want a stimulating blend for creativity." She pursed her lips pensively. "Earl Grey, I think. Ladies? You will join me in a cup, won't you?"

The bell above the door jangled, announcing the arrival of the dimpled smile of Hannibal Heyes. He arched his brows in question, gesturing to his partner who could be clearly seen standing with his back towards the display window. "He wants to know if he can come in; or is it a 'you can't see the dress before the wedding' deal?"

"It's a hat shop. There are no dresses," giggled Beth. "Besides, it's only the wedding dress he can't see. Everything else is fine. Tell him to come in, I want his opinion."

Heyes nodded and swung his head back outside. "It's fine, and she wants to know what you think about a hat."
The Kid turned and followed Heyes inside. "Did you find anything?" The Kid pulled out a bow-backed chair and sat down beside his wife-to-be. "My suit's bein' made. I've chosen a grey Worsted."

"Grey?" Beth beamed at her mother. "I've chosen an electric-blue fabric for my new dress; you could match that with your tie."

The Kid looked doubtfully at his partner. "Electric-blue? I ain't sure about that, darlin'. That's a bit loud for a tie."

"It's a bit bright for a man, Beth." Belle nodded in agreement to the partners, watching the Kid puff at a vase of feathers which seemed annoyingly drawn to his face.

"I think he'd suit it, it'd bring out his eyes," Beth pouted.

"Blue is a great idea with grey." All eyes turned to Mrs. Oliphant who suddenly appeared near the door of the back-shop, "but how about a darker; but complimentary hue - very sophisticated, to have a color from the same palette, but to have them harmonize."

Heyes and Curry stood gallantly. "Sorry, I didn't see anyone come in."

Mrs. Oliphant gestured for the men to seat with a delicate hand. "Please, take a seat, gentlemen." She walked over to a drawer and pulled out swatches of ribbon. "I was thinking something along these lines." She held up a steel blue alongside Beth's swatch. "You see? They go so well together, yours in the feminine end of the sphere, while this is manly and elegant. What do you think?"

All eyes turned to Beth, the Kid's relief being almost palpable when her face spilt into a smile. "What do I think? It's lovely. You're right. Complimentary colors are so much better."

Mrs. Oliphant snipped off a piece of ribbon. "Give this to your tailor so he can match the colour."

The Kid nodded. "I sure will. Ma'am." What do I owe you for the ribbon?"

"Owe?" Mrs. Oliphant patted the Kid's arm. "Absolutely nothing. It's my pleasure."

"Oh, let me introduce you," Beth gestured towards the milliner. "This is Mrs. Oliphant, she's just moved here from..."

"Chicago," the woman volunteered, helpfully.

"This is my fiancé, Jed Curry, and his cousin, Hannibal Heyes. This is Mrs. Oliphant."

Mrs. Oliphant's eyes widened to circles echoed by the little round mouth. "Oh!"

The partners exchanged a glance. "Ma'am, we've been straight for a very long time," the Kid murmured reassuringly.

Her deep-blue eyes darted from one to the other before she smiled tentatively. "I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to be rude. I've never met any outlaws before."

"Ex-outlaws, ma'am," corrected Heyes. "We're not here to rob you."

Her alabaster skin flushed. "Of course, I doubt even the most desperate criminals would seek out a barely-stocked hat shop to raid, unless they were in need of ostrich feathers. If only there was some kind of etiquette for a situation like this. It's not just that - you're so famous. I just wasn't prepared."

Heyes grin widened. "I think the word is infamous, Mrs. Oliphant."

"I do believe you are right, Mr. Heyes," chuckled the milliner. "Can we start again? My name is Amelia, but my friends call me Amy." Her eyes warmed. "Welcome to my little shop and it's really nice to meet you. It will be my pleasure to help with all your hat related needs." She paused. "Well, not the men's hats - just the ladies; unless you want a feather in your cap – not that you wear caps." She started to laugh nervously and slumped down into a chair. "You see? This is why I couldn't open a shop in the big city! I'm technically as good as the best and better than just about anyone, but put me around famous people and I turn into some kind of clown. You should have seen me the day Ellen Terry walked into the shop I trained in. I babbled like an idiot and bumped into things like a puppet with the strings cut."

The shop rang with laughter.

 "Mrs. Oliphant, I don't think you need to worry about that in Brookswood," Belle chuckled. "They're the only famous people I've ever met in my life, and trust me – all men start to look ordinary when you wash their underwear – even a pair as handsome as these."

"Mama!" Beth exclaimed.

"Mrs. Oliphant is clearly a down-to-earth woman, and as a widow she is perfectly used to the practicalities of domestic life," Belle replied.

"Indeed I am, and thank you for trying to help."

"A widow, ma'am?" Heyes smiled sympathetically. "It's a brave move to come all the way out here on your own. Do you have family in the area?"

"No," Amy shook her head. "I have little in the way of family other than a couple of great aunts, and I can't say I really know them. I simply moved to a growing town without a milliner. It's a chance, but it would appear I've hit lucky as there's a wedding coming up."

"There sure is, ma'am," the Kid grinned proudly. "The first of May."

Amy smiled engagingly. "Well, it would be my pleasure to help the wedding party look as smart as possible. I believe your fiancé was going to show you what she is going to have made? How about some nice calming tea while you look?" She shrugged. "I could do with some, even if nobody else could."

"That would be real hospitable, ma'am," Heyes replied.

The young woman blushed. "Please, call me Amy. All my friends do. I hope you will introduce me to your wife as such."

Heyes folded his arms. "I'm not married, Amy. Not yet, anyway. Maybe soon - if things work out."

Amy arched a brow. "Well, I'm sure things will – a handsome man like you? She'd be mad to let you go. I do hope I can get involved in your wedding too - whoever she may be."

The Kid glimmered meaningfully at Heyes. Was she flirting or not?

Amy lowered her head coyly looking through her long lashes. "I'll go get that tea."

Jed Curry was strolling down the boardwalk having just returned from running some errands for Jesse when he spied Sheriff Jacobs coming towards him with a woe-begone expression on his face. Jed stopped and watched him coming, knowing that somehow this had something to do with him.

"Hey Jed, how're ya' doing?"

Jed turned suspicious. "Fine," he commented with creased brows. "What's up Sheriff?"

"Ah, I think you need to see to your partner," Jacobs told him. "He's over in the saloon causing a bit of a problem."

Jed's brow creased even further. "Heyes is causing a problem? What's that all about?"

"Well," Jacobs looked a little sheepish. "he didn't get quite the answer he was hoping for from the governor. He's taking it kinda hard."

Jed's shoulders slumped. "Oh," he mumbled. "Dammit!" came out as a breath of disappointment. He sighed heavily and then nodded. "Yeah, okay Sheriff. I'll look after it. Thanks."

Jacobs nodded. "Good." Then he tried to brighten things up a bit. "It's not all bad, just—not all that he wanted."

Jed nodded his understanding and headed over to the saloon. He could hear Heyes' high-pitched meanderings even before he pushed through the bat-wing doors and then he just stood there with slumped shoulders as he surveyed the scene. Heyes was standing, or more appropriately; slouched over by the bar. There was a whiskey bottle in front of him and he had a shot glass and a gal keeping each hand occupied. He was arguing with Bill.

"C'mon Heyes!" Bill was obviously repeating. "Why don't ya' go on home and sleep it off? Or even better; just leave my saloon—I don't give a damn where you sleep it off!"

"Fxxk you!" Heyes snapped back and Kid raised his brows in surprise; it wasn't like Heyes to use obscenities like that.

But then Kid remembered the last time Heyes and Abi had split up and Heyes' over-riding emotion that time had been anger—escalated to rage by the alcohol he had consumed. Heyes had been looking for a fight with anybody, even the walls and the furniture hadn't escaped his wrath! All the fellas in the gang had stayed away from him, knowing how vicious he could be when he mixed anger with drink!

"Hey!" Bill bristled, never having experienced Hannibal Heyes at his meanest. "I know you've had some bad news, but I don't need to put up with that in my own place!"  he motioned over to Robbie who was a bit slow-witted but quite capable of throwing most fellas out on their butts.

Heyes' level of inebriation was apparent in the fact that he didn't notice the summons. "Yeah...well yu' can take this place an' shove it right..."


"Ehhh! Kid..."

"Aww Heyes, you're drunk."

"You betcha'!"

"Thank goodness..." Bill mumbled as he motioned Robbie to stand down. Robbie looked disappointed; he would have loved to throw Hannibal Heyes out of the establishment. "He's your problem now Curry. Get him outta here, will ya'?"

"Yeah, yeah," Jed assured the barkeeper. "I'll take care of him."

"I wouldn't mind getting out from under as well Jed," Suzie mumbled as Heyes' full weight threatened to buckle her knees. "Generally I wouldn't mind at all to have Hannibal come callin', but there's only so much a gal can take."

Jed nodded and took hold of the arm that wasn't swapped around Suzie.

"C'mon Heyes," he said as he relieved his partner of his shot glass. "Let's get you out into the fresh air, alright."

"Hey...whatcha doin'!?"

"Walkin' ya' outa here before ya' get throwd out."

"NO! C'mon! Me and Suzie was just gettin' started!" Heyes protested, his aggrieved tone rising in pitch.

Suzie met Jed's eyes and she gave a sigh of relief as he took over as support. She gave Heyes a friendly smile and a pat on the arm.

"That's alright sweetie. I'll be seein' ya' another time. Come see me when you're sober, okay?"


"C'mon Heyes," Jed started moving him towards the door. "You're in no fit state anyways. Let Suzie get on with her day."

"Ahh, women!" Heyes grumbled. "Ya' can't love 'em and ya' can't love 'em."

"Ah huh."

Kid nodded to Bill and then half dragged and half carried and reluctant Heyes out to the boardwalk. Heyes cringed as the bright sunshine hit him full in the face and he tried to turn around.

"I wanna go ba' inside."

"No, you ain't."

"C'mon Kid, be a pal..."

"I am Heyes. Believe me, I am." Jed dragged his partner over to one of the many grassy knolls that were strategically placed around town and sat him down on the park bench. "Here. Just sit for a minute will ya'?"

"Hmmm," was about the only response he got from his partner. Well, it was better than an argument.

Jed sat quietly and watched his cousin. Heyes slumped there looking dejected, his elbows resting on his knees with his hands clasped in front of him. He hung his head in misery. Jed sighed and gave him a gentle pat on the back.
"Jacobs said ya' got bad news."

Heyes didn't say a word but Jed heard him sniffle and knew he was crying. Kid sighed in disappointment and with his hand still on his partner's shoulder he sat back and waited it out. Heyes always got emotional when he drank; whatever he was feeling at the time, whether he was happy and festive or angry and volatile, or simply down and out like now, alcohol always heightened it and threw everything all out of proportion.

Although this time, Jed had to admit that maybe Heyes had good reason to be upset.

"I'm sorry Heyes," Jed finally said. "I take it the governor wasn't willing to lift the parole."

"At's right!" Heyes announced a little louder than needs be. "Jus' gotta keep me un'er his thumb...! Ne'er gonna 'av a 'ife! Ne'er gonna be free...!" Heyes took a deep breath and ran a sleeve across his eyes. He turned a teary smile to the Kid. "Maybe Abi'll be 'appy. She pro'ly jus' got to'ether wi' me to 'ave another kid!"

"Aw Heyes, you can't think that," Jed admonished him. "You know Abi loves ya'."

Heyes shook his head dramatically. "I donno Kid!" He wagged a finger in the air to emphasize his point. "Ya' jus' can't trust' w'men! Ya' know? 'Eh seduce an innocent fella inta' bed jus' so's they can git wi' 'ild—then 'eh sna'ch..." snatching motion with his arms almost causing him to fall off the bench. Jed grabbed him. "...'tanks. Ah...w'ere wasss I...? Oh ya'! Soooon as 'eh know they're wit 'ild 'eh disss-appear—don't even let a fella know 'e's a papa!
"Can't trust 'em Kid—nope! W'men are only a'ter un thing...! 'Eh 'ust use a man fer sex, 'en when they got w'at they want, 'eh 'ust leave 'em, like 'ee's no'thn."

"You make it sound like all of this is Abi's fault," Kid pointed out. "She's not the one who did this Heyes. You know she wanted you to be with them. It's not like the last time—she's not pushing ya' away."

"No! 'Ut she's not willin' ta' stay w'th me either!"

"You're only talkin' like this cause you're drunk," Kid told him. "You both agreed it was the only way to keep Anya safe."

"So I can 'ever get married? 'Ever 'ave youn'uns?" Heyes bemoaned feeling dreadfully sorry for himself.

Jed sighed. "I donno Heyes. Beth still wants to marry me, but then she's never lost a child—she doesn't know what Abi feels. I donno, maybe I'm being selfish myself, wanting to get married and have a family; maybe I'm putting Beth and our future children at risk. But not doin' somethin' 'cause of what 'might' happen just don't sit well with me. I can't live my life that way."

Heyes nodded, staring at the ground. "Ya'."

Jed sighed again, feeling for his partner. "Maybe Abi'll wait for ya'."

Heyes shook his head. "No. 'Is was the final straw. 'It'sss over."

"I'm sorry Heyes."

Kid squeezed his partner's shoulder and gave him a gentle shake, Heyes just drooped and gave a heart-felt sigh and continued to stare at the ground. Jed casually glanced around him then and couldn't help but notice some disapproving looks from various townsfolk, including a couple of older ladies whom Jed remembered as being friends of Belle's. Seems there was going to be lots of gossip going around after church on Sunday! Kid groaned as he took note of another familiar face only this one was coming right towards them with a haughty arch to her eyebrow.

"Good afternoon Jed."

"Hello Isabelle."

"What's the matter with your partner?"

"He just got some bad news today, that's all."

"Aww, poor Hannibal," Isabelle pouted and sat down beside the dark-haired drunk and patted his knee. "That little lady friend of yours dump you again?"

"Isabelle!" Jed growled at her. "You ain't helpin'!"

"What?" Isabelle looked up all innocent. "If she's going to keep on dumping him then he's better off without her!"

"YA!" Heyes perked up and sent a soggy smile over to the 'lady'. "Be'er off wi'out her!"

Isabelle patted his knee again. "That's right Hannibal," she encouraged him. "You can come call on me anytime you like. I won't dump on you like that."

"No, I know you won't," Heyes slurred. "You'd be 'ice ta me."

"Yes, I would," she confirmed with a smile. "Anytime you like, you just come see me. I'll help you to feel better. You'll forget all about...what's her name."

"Abi," Heyes informed her as he returned to scrutinizing the ground. "Abi."

"Well obviously 'Abi' just doesn't know a good thing when she's got it," Isabelle continued. "You deserve better."


At this point Kid was about fed up with Isabelle and her little flirtations and felt his resentment growing at her attempts to seduce Heyes when he was obviously at a low ebb.

"Me and Heyes got things to talk about Isabelle, so would ya' mind...?"

"What?" she asked puffing up with theatrical indignation. "I'm just trying to help him feel better!"

"Yeah, I know what you're tryin' to do. Leave him alone!"

"Well fine!" she huffed, and gathering her skirts she shot to her feet. "That's the thanks I get for just trying to help."

"Aw, don't go..." Heyes reached out a hand to her, but fell short of his objective. "You were a'waysss real 'ice ta me, Isssa'el."

"It seems your partner doesn't think so!" Isabelle pointed out, all in a huffy snit. "I won't stay where I'm not welcome. Good day gentlemen!"

"Aww..." Heyes mumbled as she stomped off on her own business. "Wha' ya' chase 'er off for?"

"If ya' weren't so drunk Heyes, you'd know what she was up to."


"C'mon. Do ya' think you can make it over to David's place?"

"Aw no—not there..."

"Why not?" Jed asked him. "Ya' gotta sleep it off somewhere Heyes and you're too drunk to ride out to the ranch."

"Veranda..." Heyes mumbled.

Jed frowned. "You want to sleep it off on their veranda...?"

Heyes shook his head and his hand, indicating a definite negative. "No! Not veranda. Veran...Mmm 'anda."

"Oh!" Realization dawned. "Miranda!"


"What about her?"

"Don' wan' her ta' see me 'ike 'isss."

"Oh. Well she may not be there, Heyes." Heyes sat back and sent his friend a sceptical look. "Yeah, yeah, okay," Jed conceded. "She usually is taking tea with Tricia right about now so..."


Jed sighed. "Well, why don't we head over to the cafe then. We get some coffee into ya' and maybe you can ride out to the ranch in a couple of hours."


Heyes tossed the sack into the back of the wagon. Every action seemed to carry an underlying violence today, from his thumping headache to his raging temper – all except for mouse; when he stroked her, his touch had become delicate and tender, but even she had sensed the undercurrents in his mood and run off after a few minutes. The ride to town had been a thunderous silence punctuated by fire-bolts of retort at any effort the Kid might make to communicate.

 Jesse had pronounced that Heyes should go back to town to apologize to Bill and anyone else he had offended. He should face his critics if his escapades were to be quickly forgotten. Jesse might have been right, but it didn't feel any better.

He swung another bag of feed into the vehicle, snarling under his breath as his jacket snagged on the dangling metal peg on the tailgate. Dammit, would nothing go right today?

A female voice came from behind. "Can I help you with that?"

His head snapped around, drinking in the face of Isabelle Baird. "Oh, cr*ap!"

Her eyes widened. "I beg your pardon!?"

Heyes' mind operated like quicksilver. "Trap! I said, 'a trap,'" he released his pocket from its hook. My jacket was trapped." He stepped back hurriedly, away from her outstretched hand. "It's fine."

"Feeling better, Hannibal?" Isabelle purred.

"Yeah, I've been busy," he muttered, stepping aside to get passed her. "I still am."

Isabelle sidestepped until she was right in his path. "You're on your own today?"

Heyes' eyes narrowed, burning into her, but refusing to answer.

 She blithely continued, as though unaware of the minefield she had just entered. "I'm sure she's not worth the headache. You really do deserve better. It's such a shame a bubble-headed piece like that should cause you so much pain."

"What do you want?" Heyes growled.

She smiled coquettishly at the object of her attentions. "I want to look after you. Who knew you were so flighty? First you're with Randa, then it's off – then you're with some visitor – then you're engaged to some woman up in Wyoming; was that this 'Abi?'" She shrugged before turning her head to look out through her lashes. "Now it's all over? You're finally free? You need the steady hand of a level-headed woman, one who knows how to value you."

"Isabelle," Heyes' shoulders rose in irritation as he fought to control the spiraling anger whirling in his breast. "This isn't a good time."

"I can see you're busy," Isabelle simpered. "Maybe you could pause for a spot of dinner before you head back to the Double J?"

Heyes paused, the prospect of taking her up on her offer, and then using her, flashed through his mind. It would be interesting to be with this woman on the promise of what might be delivered, rather than in exchange for cold cash in the brothel. She would be simple enough to manipulate; her brainpower equaled her social skills – hence the stench of desperation.

 The images played through in his head like sand running through an hourglass; she was pleasing enough to be a diversion. Isabelle was pretty in a 'rose in full bloom' kind of way – the last flush of beauty which dissipates when the petals drop at the slightest touch - none of her beauty went through to the bone. It was transient and plastic – but the taste and feel of her could crowd the forefront of his mind and allow him an oasis away from pain.

Somehow, an image of Jesse's disapproving face flickered through his mind's eye coupled with the reality of having to live with in a town with an outraged virago on his tail and it no longer seemed such a good idea. He snapped up the tailgate of the wagon.

 "Just leave me alone, Isabelle. I'm not in the mood," he murmured.

"You're never in the mood! She must have been more available than Randa, that's all I can say! I can do anything she can do." Isabelle gave a huff of irritation. "What does a girl have to do to get your attention around here?"

Heyes' hackles started to rise. "Today she'd have to be up for hefting a few hundredweight of feed." He placed his hands on his hips in challenge, eyeing her with open hostility. "You don't look up to the job, Isabelle. You're not what I need, and you certainly can't do what she can."

"Big girl, was she?" Isabelle's mouth knotted into a bud. "I have a softer touch. Try me?"

Where was the Kid? What was keeping him in that store? Why did he have to choose today of all days to get chatty?
Heyes stepped to walk towards the general store only to be cut off again. Whatever else she might be, she was quick. "Isabelle, take a warning, you couldn't have picked a worse day for this."

"You were keen enough yesterday," Isabelle simpered.

Heyes jaw tightened, his jaw firming in anger. This stupid, prattling woman wouldn't get out of his way and his tolerance was already hanging in shreds. "I was drunk. I'm sober now."

"And alone!"

"Yeah, and I want to keep it that way," Heyes growled.

"There you are! Your partner said you'd be here."

Heyes and Isabelle turned, staring in surprise at the pretty blonde on the sidewalk. "Mrs. Oliphant?"

"The very same, Mr. Heyes," Amy stepped down to the road and slipped an arm through Heyes'. "You have to come and collect the samples for the wedding. Did you forget?"

Heyes frowned but allowed himself to be led towards the hat shop. He was headed away from Isabelle, so how bad could it be? "Yeah," he murmured. "I guess I did forget."

Amy pushed at the door and guided the man inside, stopping Isabelle at the threshold. "I'm shut," she pointed to the sign. "It's lunchtime."

"But he can come in?" Isabelle demanded.

Amy smiled patiently. "It would appear so, but he's just collecting an order and will be gone in minutes. You'll be most welcome in an hour." She closed the door firmly and made sure the sign was turned to 'closed' before fastening the latch. She leaned with her back against it with a huge sigh. "I'm sorry for the deception, but you looked as though you were about to explode out there, so I thought you could do with rescuing."

"There's no order?"

Amy shook her head. "I could see from the shop window. You were getting more and more tense, but she just wouldn't leave you alone. I have met Isabelle Baird, and I guessed what was going on," Amy dropped her eyes, "I thought I could help."

"Do you have a back door?"

Amy nodded. "Yes, but couldn't you do with something to kill that headache before you scamper off?"

Heyes' brow furrowed. "How did you...?"

Amy cut him off with a smile. "I saw you yesterday. I was also a married woman, Mr. Heyes. I know men."

The words 'Mr. Heyes' stabbed through him like a knife. "Please, call me Hannibal – or Han, either will do – but not Mr. Heyes."

Amy nodded. "Now, before you head off, can I offer you some willow bark tea? It will kill that headache," she paused pursing her lips, "as well as getting some more fluids into you."

He sighed. He did have a thumping headache and the invitation sounded tempting, but he was in no mood for a social call.

As though picking up on his thoughts Amy continued. "I'm sorry I can't join you, I have too much to do making Beth's hat. It'll be just you and a cup of restoring tea in my darkened back shop until you feel strong enough to slip out the back way. I can keep an eye out for your partner from the window, and I'll tell him you're here if he appears."

Heyes' mouth twitched into a smile for the first time that day. He could have hugged her, but it felt like too much effort. He settled on a grateful nod which made his brain feel like the clanger in some kind of dissonant bell. "Amy, that sounds just about perfect."

Amy handed him the cup. "Here, it's a mixture of willow bark and chamomile – pain relieving and calming. There's a bit of honey in there to make it taste a bit less medicinal, and it'll help you to feel a bit more normal. Get some food as soon as you can. I bet you couldn't face breakfast this morning, could you?"

Heyes shook his head. "Just coffee."

He watched her head back to the main shop, leaving him alone – as good as her word. "Amy? How'd you know?"

Her eyes flickered with a transient darkness. "My late husband was a drinker, Hannibal. I know how that can take a man."

There was so much pain in her simple statement, an unspoken lifetime of injury and strain, but she merely smiled and turned to go.


She stopped once again.

"I'm not a drinker. I just had a bad day. I had heartbreaking news, is all."

Amy nodded, her brows almost twitching into a frown. "I heard. I know how that feels too and I wanted to help. It will get better, not immediately, and certainly not quickly – but it will. You just need space to get there, a little step at a time. Drink your tea and slip out the back door when you feel ready. I have some hats to make."

"Heyes?" The Kid shut the barn door behind him, eyeing the pitchfork in his angry partner's hand uneasily. "We need to talk."

Heyes flicked up an eyebrow and returned to the litter and mess in the stall. "I'm not in the mood."


A pair of hostile dark eyes hooked the ice-blue. "I'm busy."

"You're behavin' like an ass. I know you're hurtin'; but snappin' at everyone who tries to help ya is only goin' to get you a sock on the jaw."

"Well, it's good to know the kind of support I've got, isn't it?"

"Heyes, how long will it take before you learn that bottlin' things up doesn't work? You and Abi love one another and this is eatin' you up. Talk to me."

Heyes tossed the pitchfork away and lifted a yard brush. "There's nothing to talk about. She's gone. We agreed that if the parole wasn't adjusted in a way that'd let us hide from Joan Baines, we'd call it a day for Anya's sake."


"So! Am I supposed to be happy about it!?"

"No, Heyes, you're not – but this is me. You've hardly said a sober word to me since you heard the news."

"Leave me alone, Kid."

"You know where you stand now. Can't you come to some kind of arrangement? We both know this isn't gonna last forever. You can appeal again when the governor's forgotten about Joplin, or there's always the next one if Barber won't see reason."

"Barber's just been voted in, he could be there for another four years, and they don't get into office because of memory problems." Heyes threw the broom against the wall. "In fact, the only thing that seems to slip any of their minds is the deal we had for amnesty."

"So it could be four years, Heyes, but you've waited ten already. Can't you come to some kind of arrangement?"

"Arrangement!" Heyes' fists knotted into balls of anger. "Arrange what? For my remaining daughter to put her head in a noose? He wants me to stay out of trouble but denies me my family!? For ten cents I'd walk right of here without looking back, I've had enough of all of this."

The Kid's eyes widened. "You wouldn't! Heyes don't throw it all away, have a little patience."

"Why does patience have to be such a virtue? Why can't anyone see the merits of telling these idiots to hurry up?"

The Kid nodded. "Yup, you've got a point."

Heyes advanced on his cousin, his eyes swirling with fury. "So! What good does that do me? I've now lost two families, Kid. I've done everything they asked of me for years, and they still grind me under their heels. Why shouldn't I head out of here and take Abi and Anya to another country?"

"They'd find ya, Heyes."

The dark eyes shadowed with determination. "No they wouldn't, Kid. Not if I put my mind to it."

The Kid felt fear grip his heart. "Heyes, I want you at my weddin'. I waited all these years, don't bail out on me now."

Heyes paused, sensing real dread from his partner. "I won't... I wouldn't."

"Promise me, Heyes. I need you there."

Heyes gulped down a knot of bile. "Yeah, I won't do anything until after your wedding."

The Kid nodded and walked over, embracing the man briefly before stepping back. "We've been through a lot together, and I want us to have that happy endin' together too. If that means you need to go somewhere to be with Abi, then I'll support you in that too. All I ask is that you wait until I'm married. If you don't react to this immediately, they'll be off guard and you'll have a better chance."

Heyes dropped hopelessly down on a bale. "I'm shooting in the dark, Kid. We agreed it was over if the parole didn't go through. All these years have driven both of us mad and we've both walked away from chances of building a life because we held out for a dream." Heyes stared intensely ahead, but felt his partner sit beside him.


"I guess; and although she wouldn't talk about it, I know Abi had chances too." Heyes dropped his head into his hands. "I know we agreed to walk away, but I don't want to. Those days with Abi and Anya are the best memories of my life."

Heyes felt a hand on his shoulder. "Heyes, I'll help you do whatever you need to do. All I ask is that you give it time to think it through reasonably and work with me." He felt the tension in Heyes' muscles relax. "I want you at my wedding, Heyes. It matters to me."

"I'll be there, Kid," murmured Heyes.

"Good." The Kid stood. "And when you take the time to work things out – calmly; I'll be there to help you. Abi was right about things drivin' you both mad. It's make or break, and she's on holiday, so you've got time. Think about what you've got to do for me as best man, then I'll be there for you, come hell or high water. We'll plan things right, and do it together – just like we used to."

"We'll be closed in a minute." Amy turned to face the customer who had just tinkled their way into her shop. "Oh, Mr. Heyes."

Heyes gave a deep sigh. "Please, call me anything, but don't call me that."

"I'm sorry, Hannibal." She smiled softly.

"I came to thank you for your help the other day."

"You're most welcome. Feeling better?" Amy walked over and dropped a box on the counter.

"Thanks to you, yes." Heyes face dimpled into a rueful smile. "The tea took the edge off it and made me feel well enough to have some lunch. A pot of coffee later I started to feel human again."

Amy's smile widened. "I'm glad. Happier?"

"Nope." Heyes shrugged, "but I managed to apologize to folks so I guess it was an improvement."

"That's a step forward."

"Yeah." Heyes thrust his hands awkwardly into his jacket pockets. "I really do owe you a debt. I was about to explode at Isabelle, and even though she's not the most popular woman in town, it wouldn't have been the right thing to do."

Amy tilted her head arching a brow. "You don't owe me anything. I'd have done it for anyone. It was just a cup of tea and some quiet time."

"Yeah, but you took the time to do it, and I'm grateful for that."

Amy's blue eyes twinkled. "Good, you must tell every girl in town that you find them irresistible in one of my hats as a thank you. That'll have them queuing around the block."

Heyes shook his head. "Sorry, Amy. I'm not really in the state of mind to go around town flirting."

Her gaze intensified. "You've just lost someone you loved and I was being trite? I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for."

"I do Hannibal. I've been there, and I know the pain of heartbreak. It's no laughing matter."

"You lost your husband recently?"

"A couple of years ago, but I'm only recently in a state of mind where I can think of living instead of existing."

Heyes nodded. "That's tough, but I'm glad you've turned the corner. I'm sure you can build a life here. Men outnumber women here, I'm sure they'll be queuing up for you."

Amy shook her head. "No, I'm not interested."

"Nobody can replace him? I sure know how that feels."

She dropped her head. "No, my husband could be," she paused, groping for the right word, "difficult. I'm in no hurry to put myself in that situation again. I'm finally independent and I like it that way."

Heyes frowned. "Maybe it'd be better next time?"

Her voice rasped with emotion. "It's complicated. He drank, and when he was drunk, he..." Her voice drifted off. "I never stopped loving him though; that's what makes it hard. I can't trust my own judgment," she pulled herself together, and gave a watery smile. "This isn't about me. I'm glad you feel better."

Heyes turned and headed for the door, pausing before he opened it. "Thanks again, maybe we can talk properly sometime? I get the feeling we both need a friendly ear."

"I'd like that, Hannibal, but it could only ever be as friends. I'm happy as I am."

"I sure envy you that, Amy. Maybe you can tell me how to get there too." Heyes nodded. "See you around. Maybe you can make me some more tea next time?"

"Hannibal, all you need is for someone to listen while you sort out your own mind. I found out that goodbye can be a painful way to recognize real love, but having that in your life can only ever add to your soul if you learn not to treat other people's failures as your own." Amy smiled. "It took me a long time to learn that lesson, and look at me now. I went from being under a domineering mother's thumb, straight to my husband's – but I now I have the confidence to come all the way out here and start my own business. It's progress. You will have that too, but it'll be one step at a time."

Heyes' eyes narrowed pensively. "You're a very interesting woman, Amy. You intrigue me." He tipped his hat. "Until next time."

He strode out of the shop and clattered his way down the street. He was glad Amy had given him something else to think about – she was a deep thinker, but there was a lightness about her character which he found engaging. Life had clearly given her plenty of knocks, but she just kept getting right back up again and carried on. His mouth twitched at the corners at the thought of her greeting the famous actress as guilessly as she had welcomed the ex-outlaws. Yup, she and Belle were likely to become good friends, and he certainly felt no objection to having her visit – in fact, her need to remain alone and independent made her company unthreatening, tranquil, and fun.

He was still distracted, but slightly happier as he made his way back to the wagon; too absorbed in his thought to be on his guard, and certainly too engrossed in his pain to notice the saddle tramp loitering on the sidewalk across the road.

The grey, hawk-like eyes peered over the sharp nose, watching Heyes' progress down Main Street.

"Interesting..." he murmured. "Very interesting."

To Be Continued
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The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Hiatus Chapter twelve   The Hiatus    Chapter twelve EmptySat Aug 02, 2014 5:42 am

You sure do know how to keep things at a nice simmer.
On the one hand things look good - everybody is back at the Double J, we get glimpses that a new network of friendships has been built, Steven and Sheriff Jacobs (more than ever a friend now) take on yet another Governor; on the other hand there is the constant threat of "accidents" (currently more worrying for Jed, Heyes and your readers than everybody else), the unhelpful attitude of the Governor which looks to spell doom for Abi and Heyes and of course Heyes reaction to it.
For me the highlight of this chapter was the scene between Jed and Beth in the kitchen. He has worked through his fears, she does a lot of growing up in my opinion by finally realising just what it could mean to marry an ex-outlaw: they could be forced to go into hiding, no life on/near Double J, their children not growing up with their grandparents,... And she stays true to him.
And how evil of the Kid to play this joke on Heyes! Heyes not being best man at the Kid's wedding indeed! Well, you had me there for about a second or two (yelling loudly) before I caught on. What an evil sense of humour you must have - I love it.
The hardest thing for me was to witness Heyes fall apart again because he is so sure he has now lost Anya and Abi forever.
Interesting development is the arrival of Amy Oliphant. An intriguing lady. She seems to be yet another strong, independent woman. Nice how she saves Heyes from Isabelle. But I just can't help but wonder a little why you have thrown her into the mix. Am I getting too suspicious? Is she too good to be true? She is a newly arrived stranger in town after all...
And just who is the other stranger you just give us a glimpse of in your last lines?

"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Hiatus Chapter twelve   The Hiatus    Chapter twelve EmptySat Aug 02, 2014 9:02 am

Hee hee hee! The plot thickens.

I still get a chuckle over the trick Jed plays on Heyes. At least he didn't keep his partner in misery for long.
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The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty
PostSubject: Re: The Hiatus Chapter twelve   The Hiatus    Chapter twelve Empty

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The Hiatus Chapter twelve
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