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 Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen

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Posts : 1458
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen Empty
PostSubject: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyMon May 12, 2014 2:31 pm

Adult version can be viewed in the 'Adults Only' link

It was a pleasant warm summer evening as three men and five horses milled around the train station waiting for the boxcar to be opened for their use.  Heyes was pacing back and forth, apparently totally unaware that he had three horses in tow and none of them were particularly pleased about having to pace with him.
“C'mon Heyes,”  said Joe as he stroked Betty's sleek black neck.  “I'm sure Sheriff Trevors is right and it's not going to be a big deal.  Maybe the governor wants to give you a full pardon.”
“HA!”  was Heyes' cryptic response.  Karma threw up her head and took a couple of steps back, causing the other two horses to scramble out of her way.  Even Clay had learned that her hooves could be lightning fast.
Jed just stood quietly, rubbing his gelding's face and keeping a watchful eye on his partner.
Finally the conductor showed up and with barely a nod of acknowledgement to the waiting men, he slid open the boxcar door and pulled out the ramp to allow the horses access.
“Better hurry up,”  he told them.  “Train's due to pull out in ten minutes.”
“Well maybe if'n you'd got here a little sooner....!”  Heyes snarked at him but only received a dirty look for his troubles.
“C'mon Heyes,”  said Joe, once again trying to placate the moody man.  “Let's just get 'em loaded and settled and we'll be on our way.”
Jed already was leading Gov up the ramp and into the boxcar.  The young gelding didn't hesitate at all and followed his human into the cave like he was going into his stall for supper.  Betty had also improved on her loading techniques, and taking one precautionary sniff at the wooden plank, she stepped onto it and walked up without a fuss.
Once those two horses were settled, both Joe and Jed came back outside to help with the remaining three horses still to get on board.  Once everyone had hold of a halter Heyes stepped onto the ramp but Karma, sensing her human's foul mood balked as she stepped up and throwing her head back again, she reared and pulled away.
“Whoa!”  Heyes practically yelled at her.  “What's the matter with you?  C'mon!”
Karma snorted and rolled her eyes at him.  Her human was angry and she was worried that he was angry with her.  She loudly blew out a breath and backed up another step.
“Karma, come on!”
“You want me to take her, Heyes?”  Joe asked helpfully.  “I think she knows that you're upset...”
“No!”  Heyes snarked.  “I can handle my own horse.”
“Fine,”  Joe grumbled.  “Just trying ta' help.”
Joe walked past Heyes, leading Fannie and that seasoned mare stepped onto the plank and walked up into the boxcar without so much as a tail swish.  Karma's ears pricked forward and not to be outdone, she stepped forward also and trotted up the ramp to join the rest of her herd.  Heyes had to deftly step out of her way to avoid being run over and began to curse her for a damned ornery, moody mare!
Jed kept to the background, leading Clay around in a circle until things calmed down at the boxcar.  His partner was in a foul mood and for once, Jed completely understood where it was coming from. Jed's mood was rock bottom right then too, but at least he was doing a better job of hiding it than Heyes was.  But then, it was Heyes' life and freedom on the line here, so his partner's anxiety was well justified.  Unfortunately Karma was not able to rationalize her human's mood to that degree.  All she knew was that he was angry and she couldn't help but respond to it.
Finally all the thumping and crashing around inside the boxcar quieted down and Jed led the slightly anxious clayback gelding up to the ramp.  He stepped onto it easily and followed his handler into the car without any problems and soon all five horses were settled in and getting comfortable.
Heyes had calmed down a little bit, realizing as he usually eventually did, that Karma was only responding to his own dark mood and so he forced himself to settle down.  Going up to her head he stroked her forelock and gave her eye ridges a scratching.  She leaned into him; feeling more relaxed now too and rubbed her head against him to encourage more good vibes.  Within a few moments, Heyes was smiling and whispering sweet nothing's in her ear.  She was in heaven.
“Best get to your seats, gents!”  came a voice from outside the car.  “Train's pullin' out in a couple 'a  minutes.”
“Okay!”  Jed called out to him. “We're coming.”  He poked his head back into the car.  “You fellas' comin'?”
“Yep,”  said Joe and he gave Betty one more patting and left the car.
Heyes smiled at his mare and gave her ears one more scratch.  “There you go, my girl,”  he said softly. “You sure are quick to let me know when I'm behaving like an idiot, aren't you?”
Karma snorted and continued to rub her head against his chest.  “Yeah, yeah.  We'll see ya' in a while.”  He next stepped over to Fannie and despite Karma's instantly pinned ears, gave her a quick pat on the face as well and then exited the box car. 
Everything was closed up for the trip and the passengers all got on board.
Once settled in their seats the three men were quiet as the train got under way.  Both Jed and Joe could feel the stress coming off their companion and Joe was learning to keep his distance when Heyes was in this kind of a mood.  Best thing was not to push and Heyes would come to the surface when he was ready to.  It actually didn't take Heyes long this time, as Karma had done her job yet again in letting her human know that he was being unreasonable.
“Sorry Joe,”  Heyes said with a smile over to the younger man.
Joe was surprised.  “What?”  he asked.  “Sorry for what?”
Heyes shrugged sheepishly.  “You were just offering to help get the horses loaded and I shouldn't have taken your head off for it.”  He grinned widely.  “Told ya' Betty would be a seasoned traveller by the time we were heading home.”
“Actually I think it was Jed who said that,”  Joe pointed out.  “But she is turning out to be a great little horse.”
“Oh,”  Heyes deadpanned.  “Well I was thinking it.”
Jed sat back with a quiet smile on his face, watching the two other men converse.  Betty wasn't the only one developing a better attitude.
“There's not many I would trust the welfare of my horses to, ya' know,”  Heyes pointed out.  “Now, as you know, the Kid and I are getting off in Cheyenne and we're both trusting you to get our horses settled in at home.  And don't you let old Eric give you a chewing out over their condition either.  All four of those horses are in pretty good shape considering.”
Joe smiled, relieved that Heyes was back to being amiable.  “Yeah, don't worry,”  he assured both men.  “I'm used to Eric and his ways.  And I'll make sure all your horses get well tended to.  You can rest easy on that count.”
“Yeah,”  Jed joined in.  “I'm thinkin' it’s the other count that's causin' us some unease.”
Heyes nodded agreement.  “But I'm still hopin' that Lom has a point.  Governor Barber wouldn't be suggesting that Steven be there as well if he was planning something unsavoury.  He has no grounds for it and would be going against the conditions of the the very parole that he had a hand in writing up in the first place.  I just wish he had given us some idea.”
“Yeah well,”  Jed grumbled.  “You know what government officials are like.  Even what they do say ain't always the truth of it.  So, I'll be keepin' a watch on proceedings, just in case.”
Heyes smiled over at his cousin.  He could always count on Kid to watch his back.
 The following morning found Heyes and Curry entering the lobby of what was by now becoming a very familiar hotel.  The popular lodging was more crowded than was the norm and the boys had to manoeuvre their way towards the front desk just to get in line for a room.
Once it got to be their turn all they got was disappointment.  The young clerk looked up at their enquiry and shook his head.
“I'm sorry gentlemen, the hotel is booked up.”
“Booked up?”  Heyes repeated.  “But it's the middle of the week.”
The clerk shrugged.  “Historical convention,”  he stated by way of explanation.  “Whole bunch a' fancy university students from back East coming here to visit the 'authentic old west'.”  The young man snorted derisively.  “Even gonna be meetin' some 'real-life outlaws', or so I hear.  Ha.  It's keepin' the hotel busy so I can't complain.”
Heyes and Jed exchanged looks.  As one they turned to scrutinize the busy throng of young men milling around the lobby and looking all the world like a bunch of excited school boys. 
“Don't tell me....”  Jed mumbled.
“This could be worse than I thought,”  Heyes commented.  “Meet some 'real-life outlaws'?  Is this what the gov....?”
“Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry,”  came a greeting from behind the front desk.  “How nice to see you back in our fine hotel again.”
The partners turned back to the clerk and now found him accompanied by the older, more familiar clerk who had been of service to them in the past.
“Are you here for the convention?”
“Ahhh...”  Jed wasn't sure what to say.
“I don't think so,”  Heyes smiled winningly.  “We're here to meet up with Mr. Granger and we have an appointment with the governor.”
“Yes, of course,”  the older clerk agreed.  “Mr. Granger checked in a couple of hours ago.  Do you need assistance up to your room?”
“We don't have a room,”  Heyes informed him.  “Apparently we needed reservations.”
“Well you have reservations,”  the clerk assured them.  “Governor Barber made sure of that himself.”
“Oh,”  Kid groaned.
“Ah, did he?”  Heyes kept his smile in place but inside he wasn't liking this one little bit.
“Get them signed in Mr. Collins and then show them to their room.  I will inform Mr. Granger that you have arrived.”
“I donno Heyes,”  Kid grumbled from his chair at the table where he was cleaning his gun.  “this is getting weirder and weirder.  A historical convention?”
“I know,”  Heyes agreed.  “Sure would like to know what the governor has in mind.”
A knocking came to their room door and Heyes quickly drew his gun as he walked towards it.
“Who is it?”  he asked.
“Mr. Collins,”  came the response through the door.  “I have a message for you from Mr. Granger.”
Heyes nodded and replacing his gun he opened the door.  Mr. Collins stood in the threshold and handed over two very familiar looking suits that had obviously just been laundered.
“Mr. Granger sends his compliments,”  Collins delivered his message,  “and requests that you meet him in the hotel restaurant for lunch as soon as you're dressed.”
“Oh, ah, okay,”  Heyes responded as he gathered in the suits.  “Thank you.”
Collins turned and walked away, not waiting for a tip so Heyes shut the door with his foot and looked at his cousin.
“Seems we've been summoned,”  he observed.
“Uh huh,”  Kid snapped the last piece of his gun back together.  “and it appears he wants us all spiffied up for the sacrificial meal too.”
Heyes smiled as he lay the suits out on one of the beds.  “ I donno Kid, right now I'm thinking that our biggest problem is going to be getting through the lobby full of 'outlaw enthusiasts' just to get to the restaurant.”
Kid groaned.
Heyes brushed some lint off his dark charcoal suit that he hadn't worn since his wedding day.  “I'm thinking getting all respectable in our best suits just might be the best disguise we could have.”
The two gentlemen walked through the lobby without attracting any undue attention.  There were still a number of young men hanging about the lobby, but they were busy looking at schedules and reading newspapers.  Some even spoke excitedly with their fellows about what adventures the next few days were going to offer them.  Indeed, they were all so busy with their own speculations that none of them noticed the two 'authentic outlaws' casually strolling through their midst.
Stopping at the entrance to the restaurant, they couldn't see Steven within the busy establishment, but a young man was instantly there to serve them and to make them feel comfortable spending their money here.
“Table for two?”  he asked them politely.
“Actually we're here to meet someone,”  Heyes informed him.  “Mr. Granger?”
“Oh yes, of course.  Right this way.”
Their host walked away, leading them through the busy restaurant and past tables occupied with laughing guests being served by busy waiters.  They arrived at their table quickly enough and Steven stood up with a smile and a handshake for his two friends.
“Jed, Hannibal.  Good to see you,”  he greeted them.  “Sit down, have some wine.  I hear the roast lamb is excellent.”
“Hi Steven,”  Jed greeted his brother-in-law.  “What's up?”
Heyes sat down silently and watched the waiter fill their wine glasses.
Steven sighed and shrugged.  “I don't know.  Honestly,” he admitted.  “I received the telegram from Mr. Trevors and got in touch with Governor Barber right away.  All he said was that he wanted to see you, Hannibal and that my presence would be required.”
“Hmm,”  Heyes didn't like the sound of it.  “Doesn't give us much to go on, does it.”
“I wouldn't worry about it too much Hannibal,”  Steven assured him.  “I don't think the governor would try anything underhanded, especially after insisting that I be present as well.”  He smiled at Jed.  “Remember Governor Moonlight being hostile towards you?  But he knew his hands were tired.  Even as governor of the territory, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.”
“Yeah,”  Jed conceded with a nod.  “that's true Heyes.  Moonlight wanted to slap me in irons right in his office and send me to prison along with you, but my amnesty had already been granted and there wasn't a thing he could do about it.”
“So there you go,”  Steven continued.  “You haven't broken any terms of your parole have you?”
“No,”  Heyes was positive about that.
“Well then, stop worrying about it,”  the lawyer advised him.  “Have some wine, enjoy your lunch and relax.  Our appointment isn't until 4:00 so we have some time.”
“I understand congratulations are in order,”  Heyes changed the subject.  “You and Bridget had another daughter?”
Steven's face instantly broke out into a huge smile.  “Yes!  She's beautiful—healthy as a peach.  We named her Rachel after my mother and then Jessica for, well for Jesse.”
“Aw, that's great Steven,”  Jed smiled.  “And Bridget was okay this time?”
Some of the joy slipped from Steven's face and Jed instantly regretted asking.
“No, she had a hard time again,”  Steven informed them.  “She's fine now, but the doctor doesn't think it wise that she have any more children.  So, it looks like we're going to be stopping with two girls.”
“Oh, that's a shame,”  Heyes commented.  “I know Bridget wanted a larger family.”
Steven smiled again.  “It doesn't matter,”  he assured them.  “All three of my ladies are fine and healthy and I think Bridget is going to find out that even with Sylvie to help out, two very active little girls will be enough to keep her busy.”
Heyes laughed.  “I do believe you're right!”
Finally Jed ventured a more personal question.  “How's Beth holding up?”  he asked.  “I got a telegram from her but those don't tell ya' much.”
“She's fine, Jed,”  Steven told him.  “The doctor wouldn't let her stay with Bridget, what with the difficult birth again, and she was mad about that.  But she's fine.  Sure missing you though.”
“Yeah, likewise,”  Jed commented.  “Hopefully this stuff with the governor won't take long and we can all get heading back home again.”
“Here here,”  Heyes agreed and raised his wine glass.
The other two joined in and drank to the toast.
 3:45 that afternoon found the three gentlemen entering the foyer of the government offices in Cheyenne.  Both Heyes and Jed had spent too much time in this building for better or for worse, but it never seemed to get easier; though Jed was no longer intimidated by the posh surroundings, having discovered that the men who occupied them were often nothing more than glorified thieves themselves. But the fact that they continued to hold a certain amount of control over his cousin's fate still caused resentful butterflies.
Jed could only imagine what Heyes was feeling walking into this building.  Heyes; the one who was the chameleon, the one who could adapt his demeanour to any surrounding and fit in like he'd been born to it, wasn't fitting in now.  He was nervous and uncomfortable and Jed knew that this was torturous for him.
He gave Heyes a soft touch on the arm and whispered in his ear.  “Pretend it's a con, Heyes.”
Heyes just looked at him, took a deep breath and nodded.  His stress level instantly came down a notch or two.  That didn't last long though.  Heyes lead the way around the corner towards the reception room when he stopped in his tracks and then retreated so quickly that he trod on Jed's toes.
“Hannibal, what's the matter?”
“Kenny's here!”  Heyes exclaimed in a stage whisper.  “What's he doing here?”
“He's here?”  Jed asked.
“Yes!  What if he's here to.....”
“Good afternoon gentlemen.”
Heyes spun around and instantly found himself at a loss for words.  He should have known better than to try and evade Kenny; those gray eagle eyes that were staring at him now never missed a thing.  But then Heyes, seeing the sparkle of humour dancing around in them, all of a sudden felt relieved.
“Oh, Kenny.  Hi.”  Heyes smiled.
Jed and Steven offered hands for shaking and Kenny obliged.  Then he turned back to the ex-con and offered a hand to him.  Heyes' smile grew and he returned an honest grip.
“What was that all about?”  Kenny asked.  “You looked like you'd seen a ghost.”
“Yeah.  I'm sorry Kenny,”  Heyes apologized a bit sheepishly.  “I'm kinda nervous.  I just didn't expect to see you here.  Why are you?  Here, I mean.”
Kenny shrugged.  “Not really sure,”  he admitted.  “It seems that Governor Barber and Mr. Ludlow have come to some kind of a decision concerning your parole and they wanted me here for backup.”
“Mr. Ludlow is here?”  Heyes' complexion turned pale.
“Backup?”  asked Jed.
Steven rolled his eyes and put a placating hand on a shoulder belonging to each of his friends.  They both jumped and turned worried eyes back at him.
“Why don't we just go have a seat?”  the lawyer suggested.
Much to Steven's relief, it was at this point that Mr. Higgins appeared from around the corner and smiled ingratiatingly at them.
“Ah gentlemen,”  he fawned.  “good, you're all here.  Would you care to follow me to the parlour?  The governor will be able to see you shortly.  He's just finishing up a few details at the moment.”
Mr. Higgins turned and walked away, quite confident that the guests would follow him and of course they did.  They found themselves back in the same posh waiting area that had provided this service to each of them on previous occasions.  Jed especially had been in here many times awaiting an audience with every governor who'd been sworn into office since the late 1880's.  He hadn't felt comfortable here then and he didn't now.
They all found large plush armchairs to sink into while Mr. Higgins made his way around to each guest and offered them coffee and cake.  While Steven and Kenny declined on the coffee, Heyes and Jed were quick to accept, both of them feeling the need for something to calm their nerves.  Heyes took a sip and instantly felt his stress level come down.  Kid found it too strong.
Higgins made a discreet departure and Steven turned to his client.
“Remember Han,”  he began.  “just try to relax in there.  Let Mr. Barber do the talking and unless he asks you a direct question, let me answer his enquiries, alright?”
Heyes nodded as he sipped his coffee.
“Do you have any more questions for me that we haven't already covered?”  Steven asked him.
Heyes shook his head.
“Alright.”  Steven stood up, giving Heyes' knee a couple of pats as he did so.  “Just relax, Han.”  The lawyer and the warden exchanged a quick look and Steven retreated to go chat with his brother-in-law.
Kenny sat quietly for a moment, assessing the man sitting across from him.
“Your friends, Sheriffs Trevors and Jacobs have kept me quite informed as to your conduct during this last venture,”  Kenny finally broke in upon the other man's revelry. “On the most part it all sounds very positive, but Sheriff Trevors added some information that I'm a bit concerned about.”
Heyes looked over at him.  “Oh?”  Remembering how angry Lom was with him for not volunteering the information about the hidden canyon instantly jumped to the forefront.  “What was that?”
“Apparently young Mr. Ames had fallen back into his criminal lifestyle and had joined up with the now defunct Devil's Hole gang,”  the prison warden informed the ex-con.  “Should I be expecting him back under my care sometime in the next few months?”
“Oh.”  Heyes instantly perked up.  A part of him was relieved that this wasn't about his misconduct but now he was concerned for the other ex-con.  “No, Kenny.  Wheat assured me that Ames hadn't really done anything illegal, other than join up with the gang.  And then he has redeemed himself.  He helped Wheat and Kyle out quite a lot.”
“Hmm,”  Kenny nodded.  “Didn't set any more fires?”
Heyes slumped.  “Alright Kenny; obviously you heard about that.”  Damn the man, he was going to wind up being president if he didn't watch out.  “And I admit I was pretty mad at him for that too....”
“I can imagine,”  Kenny agreed cryptically.
“But he's real sorry about it,”  Heyes quickly continued.  “and like I said; he redeemed himself out there.  He not only helped out Wheat and Kyle, but he was of some valuable assistance to a lady friend of mine as well.”
“Yes,”  Kenny nodded.  “Mrs Medgar.  I heard about that.”
Heyes flinched in irritation.  “Dammit!  Why do I bother telling you anything?  You already know it all!”  he sighed and stared into his coffee then continued on in a mumble.  “On the other hand, why bother trying to hide anything from you?  You already know it all.”
Kenny chuckled.  “Not everything Heyes.  For example; what is Mr. Ames proposing to do now?”
“Oh.  Well, I thought that since he always seemed to like Kyle,”  Kenny nodded his remembrance of that.  “and Wheat's actually agreeable—I thought he could just carry on working for....”
“For you?”
“Well, more for Wheat, I suppose.”  Heyes shrugged.  “But I guess that means that he would sort of be working for me.  I suppose.”
“So, you set up your own private detective business and you already have two ex-cons and a reformed outlaw working for you. And that's not counting Jed,”  Kenny observed.  “Are you planning on making that a habit?”
Heyes looked over at Kenny, his expression blank for a moment as this revelation sank in.  “Ah, that's interesting,”  he finally admitted.  “I'd never really thought about it that way before.  But I don't see why that should be a problem.  I mean, if they truly want to stay legal and have proved their worth; it's more like an asset really, isn't it?  I mean, it's not going to be a problem is it?”
Kenny grinned.  “Naw Heyes, I think it's a great idea.  Gives these fellas a place to land once they get released.  You and Jed are still regarded with a great deal of respect within the criminal element and now you're beginning to develop a certain regard on the legal side if the fence as well.  Many a young man coming out of the prison would consider it a privilege to come and work for you and Jed.  It might just be what they need to stay on the outside.”
Heyes considered this, his expression extremely thoughtful.  “I never even contemplated that Kenny,”  he admitted.  “I was just looking for a way for me and Kid to make an honest living without going mad from boredom.”
“Sometimes the best things that come our way are simple happenstance,”  Kenny observed.  “You were just looking for a way to make a living, but you might have found a way to give something back.  If you're willing, I can keep my eyes open for those young men coming up on their release dates who might be suitable and send them your way.  Doesn't mean you have to take them on permanently, just give them a leg up.  A direction to go in.  Sometimes that's all they need.”
Heyes smiled as this idea began to take root.  He jumped as Mr. Higgins entered the room again, having totally forgotten where he was and why he was there.
“Gentlemen, the governor is ready to see you now.”
The four men got themselves organized and followed Higgins into the large office.
Steven put a hand on Kenny's shoulder and whispered a quiet “Thank you,” in his ear.
Kenny smiled.  “You're welcome.”
The first thing Heyes noticed as he walked into the office was Mr. Ludlow sitting to the side of the large desk, a sour and stormy expression on his face.  Heyes' previous anxiety settled back onto him again.
“Ah, gentlemen!”  Barber greeted them.  “Please have a seat.”
Four comfortable chairs had been arranged in front of the Governor's desk and the four men settled into them.  Jed frowned and mumbled over to Heyes,  “How come everybody assumed I'd be here too?”  he asked.  “It's not like I got an invite.”
Three different versions of 'the look' got sent his way from his three companions.  Jed shrugged as he glanced around at them.  “What?”
Barber ignored the enquiry and began to ruffle through numerous pieces of paper that were scattered on his desk.
“So, Mr. Heyes,”  he began.  “I continue to receive numerous telegrams and letters from various people across the country stating their opinion of your conduct during these past couple of years.  Ah, let's see here.....Sheriff Sheehan from Joplin, Missouri, Sheriff Willey from Sheridan.  Micajah Attwater from Kansas.  Then of course we have the regulars who don't seem to know when to leave well enough alone.  Mr. McCreedy from Texas.  Sheriff Trevors, of course.  Sheriff Jacobs, Sheriff Turner...good heavens, so many lawmen.  Oh, here's one from Marshal Morrison—I certainly hadn't expected that.  And Sheriff Schomacher.   Barber held it up and scrutinized it.  “He had the least to say;  'Heyes did okay'.  Not a man of many words is he?”
Barber sat back in his chair, steepling his fingers and contemplating the ex-con.  Heyes did his best not to squirm.  Ludlow sat quietly, boring his eyes into Heyes' forehead.
Steven sighed wearily.  “Governor Barber,”  he began politely.  “It's obvious to me that you and Mr. Ludlow are attempting to intimidate my client.  Might I suggest that we get down to the matter at hand?  Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry have been away from home for some time and both are anxious to conclude their business here and get back to their families.”
Barber smiled over at the lawyer.  “Of course, Mr. Granger.  No insult intended.”  He turned his attention back to the ex-con.  “Your friends just don't seem to know when to leave well enough alone, Mr. Heyes.  Mr. Ludlow and I have discussed this matter,”  Ludlow rolled his eyes and grumbled.  “and it has been decided to rescind your parole.”
Heyes felt a paralysing fear take hold of him.  His most dreaded nightmare was coming true right in front of his eyes. 
Kenny sat up a bit straighter, but Jed came to his feet.  “You what!?”
Steven was also quick to stand and put a placating hand on Jed's shoulder.  “Mr. Barber,”  the lawyer began.  “you may be governor of this state, but you have no legal grounds to rescind Mr. Heyes' parole.  He has not broken any of the conditions and by your own admittance he has proven himself to be worthy of respect in this matter.  By what right do you....”
Mr. Barber raised a  hand to quiet the lawyer.  “No, no Mr. Granger.  You misunderstand me.  I must rescind the parole if I am to grant Mr. Heyes a pardon.”
The room fell silent.
“A pardon?”  Steven finally found his tongue.
“Against my better judgement!”  Ludlow announced, breaking his silence.  “This is ridiculous!  The man has only served four and half years of his sentence behind bars and even less that on parole.  Just because he has kept his nose clean so far doesn't mean....”
“Yes, yes,”  Barber shut Ludlow down.  “we've been over and over this.  You're not the one having to deal with all these damned letters and telegrams.  I'm beginning to have a new respect for what Mr. Warren had to put up with.”
“That still doesn't....”
“Ah, excuse me Governor...”  Heyes broke in on this obviously old argument.  “You're granting me a pardon?”
“Yes!”  Barber stated bluntly.  “Isn't that what I just said?”
“A full pardon?”  Steven asked.
“Well no, not totally,”  Barber admitted.  “There will be a minor condition placed on it, at least for a while.”
Jed groaned.  He knew this had been too good to be true.
“What condition?”  Steven asked, keeping the meeting on track.
“Mr. Heyes,”  Ludlow looked to the man sitting across from him.  “I am rescinding your parole along with all the conditions pertaining to it. Your debt to this state has been paid in full.  You have served your sentence for those crimes committed and therefore you can no longer be held accountable for them.  If by some unhappy circumstance you disappoint us all and return to a life of crime you will retain your right to legal counsel and a trial by a jury of your peers.  Although I think it is fair to say that if that were to happen and you find yourself sentenced to a prison term, it is unlikely that you would ever see the light of day again.
“But, that aside you can now enjoy the same rights and freedoms of choice as any other citizen of this country.  The only condition I am putting on this pardon is that you maintain communication with your benefactors.  This does not mean seeking permission.  You are free to go wherever you wish and whenever you wish—even outside the country if you so choose.  As long as you respect and obey the laws of this country and keep your benefactors informed of your whereabouts you are now and for hence forward, a free man.”
Heyes sat in stunned silence.  He didn't know whether he should jump for joy or shake his fist in anger at the harshness of the now defunct conditional parole that had cost him so dearly.
Steven cleared his throat and once again took control of the room.
“I assume that there are papers that need to be signed?”  he asked logically.
“Of course,”  Barber stated bluntly.  “Why do you think I requested yours and Mr. Reece's presence here today?  There was no need to ask you Mr. Curry as we all knew you would be here anyways.  Only two witnesses are required to sign after you and your client do so, Mr. Granger.  Here is the paperwork if you wish to read it over.  There are two copies here, one for our office to retain and of course, one for your records.  Mr. Ludlow and I have already signed both of them so once you are satisfied with it, please add your signatures to the bottom of each copy, there, on the second page.”
Steven nodded as he took the documents and carefully read them over.  He glanced over at Heyes and nodded.  “Everything is laid out just as Mr. Barber has stated.  You're welcome to read it over though, if you'd like.”
Heyes took the documents simply because he didn't know what else to do.  Reading over the pages gave him time to settle his mind and come to terms with the reality of this actually happening.  He went through the motions but hardly took in a word of his pardon, and eventually giving up the effort to focus he simply accepted Steven's word on it.
“Okay,”  he finally agreed and he stood up to place the documents onto the table.  He took the pen from the inkwell and rather shakily signed his name to both copies.
He smiled at Steven and handed him the pen.  Once Steven had signed, he handed the pen to Kenny and then Kenny to Jed.  Once everything was signed Heyes returned one copy to Mr. Barber and handed the second one to Steven.
“Good!”  Barber announced with feeling.  He stood up and offered his hand to each of his guests for shaking.  “Gentlemen, I hope this concludes our business.  Mr. Heyes, I hope to hear nothing but good things about you in the future.  Please don't disappoint.”
“No sir,”  Heyes agreed.  “I'll certainly try not to.”
“Fine.  Good afternoon.”
“Oh, ah...Governor Barber?”  Heyes began tentatively.  “What's this about a Historical Convention in town?”
“A what?”
Steven stepped up to take over.  “Apparently there are some History students from back east expecting to meet some real life, authentic outlaws.  This doesn't have anything to do with us does it?”
“Oh those idiots!”  Barber recalled.  “No, no.  The town is putting on a bit of a show for them tomorrow morning.  You know, some fella's dressed up like outlaws come riding into town, shooting off their guns and all that.  Just a bit of fun.  Nothing to do with you.”
Everyone sighed with relief.
“Oh thank goodness,”  Heyes mumbled.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,”  Barber repeated and they were summarily dismissed.
The four men walking down the hallway on their way to the refreshing outdoors still appeared to be in silent shock.  Nobody said anything until they had walked down the steps and stood out on the boardwalk, each trying to decide which way to go.
“Well I for one need a drink,”  Heyes finally announced.
That lifted the veil and everyone started to laugh.  Heyes got thumped with numerous back slaps and everyone shook hands all around.
“That definitely calls for a drink!”  Steven agreed,  “and then a nice supper over at the hotel!”
“Jeez Heyes,”  Kid shook his head.  “I thought for sure I was gonna havta shoot our way outa there!  That bastard—he probably did that on purpose.”
“Probably,”  Heyes agreed.  “Wanted to give me the scare of my life before sending me on my way.”
“So much for me knowing everything,”  Kenny announced.  “I sure didn't see that coming.  I thought at the most he was going to lighten up on some of the conditions.  But rescind the parole altogether and grant you a pardon?  That was a surprise.”
“I'm surprised he didn't consult you on this,”  Heyes admitted.  “Are you alright with this?”
Kenny smiled and nodded.  “Yes, Heyes. I'm alright with this.  You've done very well. You deserve it.”
Heyes grinned widely.  That coming from Kenny meant a lot to him.
“Well c'mon everyone,”  Steven said as the street-side celebration died down.  “drinks and supper are on me tonight. Let's go have some fun.”
“Sounds like an excellent idea!”
The four men headed back towards the hotel for another fine meal and a little bit of fun later at the saloon.
“Hey Heyes?”  Jed quietly asked his partner en route.
“How do ya' dress up like an outlaw?”
“Beats me Kid.”
Later that evening, once supper had wound down, everyone parted company to retire to their own rooms.  Kenny would be leaving early the next morning to catch the train north back to Laramie but Steven, Heyes and Jed would likely meet for breakfast and then take the train together going south.  Knowing this, Jed was well aware of the fact that the time spent in the hotel room now with his cousin was going to be the last time for quite a while that they would have the chance to talk alone.
The evening toiletry finished, both men were comfortably laid out upon their respective beds when yet again, Jed decided it was time for them to have a conversation.
“Well Heyes,”  the blond man began.  “everything has worked out pretty well here for ya', but there's obviously something still gnawin' at ya'.  Ya' wanna tell me what it is?”
Heyes lay quietly for a minute, his pillows propping him up slightly against the headboard.  Both men were clad only in their long johns and lay stretched out on top of the covers of their beds, the warmth of the evening denying the need to snuggle in to blankets or even sheets.  Both men were mirror images of the other, with an arm raised folded back behind their heads, and two sets of bare feet stretched out and crossed at the ankles.
“Well yeah,”  Heyes began.  “I'm a little worried.”
Jed sighed.  “I ain't worried,”  he assured his cousin.  “And if I ain't worried then why should you be?”
“That is a valid point,”  Heyes agreed.  “but what I'm worried about is on a more—personal level.”
“Oh yeah?”  Jed sounded interested again.  “What about?”
“Well, I'm not that angry,”  Heyes stated.  “and a part of me feels like I should be.”
Jed had a feeling that he knew where this was going, but he played along.  “Angry about what?”
“Ahhh.”  Jed nodded.  He'd thought so.
“That damned conditional parole,”  Heyes emphasized.  “It destroyed every chance I might have had to make a life and a future with Abi and Anya.  And now it's too late; I don't even know where they are.  And Governor Barber decides that now—out of the blue—those conditions don't need to apply anymore.  I should be angry about that, don't ya' think?”
Jed glanced over at his cousin.  They locked eyes for an instant then both broke the contact to resume staring at the ceiling.
“But you're not, are ya'?”
Jed sighed as he thought about this.  “Do you want my honest opinion Heyes?”
Heyes creased his brow.  “Since when have you given me anything else?  Even when I don't want it?”
Jed smiled.  “True.  Okay.  You and Abi love each other, I mean that much was obvious.”
“And yet, after Anya was born and Abi sent you away—you went.”
“What choice did I have?”
“Nope,”  Jed didn't accept that.  “Oh you fought against it alright.  You were angry I know and you weren't fakin' that.  But I kinda' wondered at the time if you were angry because it wasn't what you wanted or because it was Abi layin' down the rules and forcing you ta' accept 'em and not the other way around.  Here you were, the very notorious Hannibal Heyes, leader of the most successful outlaw band Wyoming had ever known and here was this little slip of a woman tellin' you ta 'get' and you went.
“You coulda' tracked them down Heyes.  If you'd really wanted to you could have found Abi and won her over just like ya' had in the first place.  The three of ya' coulda' disappeared  and been a family together.  But you didn't do that.  You went away and you didn't even try to find her.”
Heyes lay there quietly, not so sure that he was liking Jed's honest opinion.  For one thing it was very close to what his own inner musings had been telling him.
“Then ya' hooked up again—kinda tumultuous at first,”  Heyes snorted and nodded agreement.  “...but ya' got that worked out and started goin' through all the motions of bein' a family.”  This time Jed grinned and his blue eyes lit up.  “That sure was somthin' wasn't it?  That Christmas with everybody there?”
“Yeah,”  Heyes nodded and grinned too, remembering back to the one Christmas he'd had with his eldest daughter.  He and Abi had been getting along so well then with bright hopes for a future together and happy talk of more children and no more running.  Then the whole thing had gone sour and the bright hopes had shattered like the tinkling of icicles falling onto rocks.
“Then Abi left again,”  Jed continued, becoming serious once more.  “disappearing back East and taking Anya with her and telling you not to follow.  And again, you didn't.  You were thinkin' about it, I know that, but you never quite got around to making any serious plans.  So again, was your anger  because you really, truly wanted to be with Abi or was it simply because the powers that be were tellin' ya' you couldn't go?  We all know you don't like bein' told what to do Heyes.”
“You make it sound like I never loved Abi,”  Heyes mumbled sulkily. 
“Do I?”  Jed asked.  “I don't mean that, Heyes.  I know you loved her and I know you love Anya.  All I'm sayin' is; that on two different occasions, you coulda' gone after her and ya' didn't.  Why not?”
“We were in danger,”  Heyes pointed out.  “Abi left to keep Anya safe and I agreed with that; it was too dangerous for Anya.”
“But not for Sally?”  Jed hit home.  “The dangers we were facing didn't stop ya' from marrying Miranda and adopting Sally.  And it didn't stop Miranda from marrying you, despite her own close call there with Amy. Abi chose to leave and you let her.  Knowing how stubborn both of ya' can be, I don't think either one of ya' would 'a done that if deep down inside ya' hadn't already realized it wasn't gonna work.  I know you miss them, damn—so do I!  But I think both of ya' knew that being married to each other would have been hard.  Dammit Heyes, you were too much alike.  Two peas in a pod.  You would have constantly been at each other's throats.”
Heyes gave a lopsided grin and nodded.  “Yeah, you're right about that, Partner.  I love Abi and Anya—they're both very precious to me.  But you're right.  I suppose even I was beginning to realize that I could have gone after them and yet decided not to.  Like you say; I must have known, even back then when Anya was a baby that it wouldn't have worked out between us—I just wanted it to.  But it would have been disastrous for everyone involved.”
“Yeah,”  Jed agreed.  “And now you're married to a great lady who loves you to pieces, which personally I find kinda hard ta' understand, and you've got a pretty good young'un there too.  And you're not constantly raggin' on each other so married life is gonna be a whole lot more peaceable.”
Heyes had a foolish grin on his face as his thoughts turned homewards to his wife and daughter.  “Yeah,”  he agreed.  “they are pretty special, aren't' they?”
“Yep,”  Jed smiled.  “So why are you thinkin' you should be angry?  Seems ta' me that things kinda' worked out the way they were suppose ta'.”
Heyes thought about all that for a moment then sent a contemplative look over to his cousin.  “When did you get to be so smart?”
“Like I told ya' before Heyes; I always have....”
“Yeah, ya' always have been!”  Heyes chuckled.  “It's just that now I'm finally beginning to listen to ya'!”
Heyes nodded and reached over to turn out the light.
“Goodnight Partner.”
“Goodnight Heyes.

The three friends disembarked from the train with both men trying to make the transition from passenger car step to platform as easy as possible.  Beth was giggling with the absurdity of it all, but Jed could tell she was feeling frustrated as well so he tried to be as light-hearted and supportive as he could.  Heyes just smiled and enjoyed his role as the supportive uncle to be.
“Oh my goodness,”  Beth exclaimed as she got steady on her feet.  “I'll be glad to get over to the hotel and get freshened up.”
“You know you're both welcome to spend the night at our place,”  Heyes offered.  “seems kind of silly to spend money for the hotel when we have room for you...”
“Heyes, we've been over this,”  Jed reminded him.  “You ain't seen your wife in weeks.  We're fine at the hotel.”
“Yes,”  Beth agreed with a hand on her friend's arm.  “I'm sure Miranda wants to spend some time with you and neither of you need us hanging around.”
Heyes smiled sheepishly.  “Yes, alright.  You two get settled at the hotel and I'll go check up on the horses.  We'll see you tomorrow for breakfast.”
“Okay Heyes,”  Jed agreed.  “see ya' tomorrow.”
Heyes leaned over and gave Beth a kiss on the cheek and everyone went their separate ways.

Heyes smiled as he approached the livery stable and saw their four horses out in the grass paddock enjoying the afternoon sunshine.  He walked up to the gate and unlatching it, went in to greet the equines.  Karma raised her head from grazing the short grass and giving a nicker in greeting ambled over for a head scratch.

“What the hell do ya' think yer doin' usin' spurs on one 'a my horses!?”
Heyes jumped slightly as the livery man entered the paddock and joined the group gathering around the new-comer.

 “Well, good afternoon to you too Eric.”  Heyes turned on a fake smile as he greeted the old geezer.  “Why yes, we had a very successful trip—thank you for asking.  How have you been?”

“Don't give me that!”  Eric growled.  “I oughta take a horse whip to ya'—and I don't care who ya' used ta' be neither.  Of all people I sure didn't think you'd be abusin' my horse.  Dammit!  Just goes to show ya' can't trust nobody...”

“For one thing,”  Heyes returned, feeling a bit irritated himself.  “Karma is still my horse; not yours.  And for another; 'no' Eric, I did not abuse her and nor would I ever.”

“You think I'm daft!?  I know spur gouges when I see 'em.”

“Whatever I think of your mental state is irrelevant.”  Heyes told him.  “Those are spur gouges, but I didn't put them there.  A fella name of Tom Duncan stole Karma from me and he's the one who used the spurs.”  He couldn't help but smile.  “Though I think Karma gave him worse back.”

Eric softened his stance a little bit and gave Karma an affectionate pat on the neck.  “Good for you,”  he praised the mare.  “I ever get my hands on the bastard who'd do this ta' you...”

“He's dead,”  Heyes cut in,  “so no need.”

“Ahh!”  Eric displayed one of his few smiles.  “Kilt him did ya'?  Good fer you...”

“Nope.  Wasn't me,”  Heyes informed him.  “I was ready to but Joe got that honour.”

“Our Joe?”  Eric asked with a surprised raise of a brow.

“Well what other Joe do ya' know who came with us?”  Heyes asked him.  “Yeah; our Joe.  Deputy Morin.”

Eric snorted.  “It's about time he broke his cherry.  I was beginnin' ta' think that young'un had no backbone.”

“He's got backbone alright,”  Heyes assured him.  “And as far as I'm concerned, he didn't need to shoot someone to prove it.  Joe's a good man so don't you be running him down.”

“Yeah well...”  Eric changed the subject by turning his attention to the two other horses in Heyes' string.  “So who are these two?  Didn't steal 'em did ya'?”

Heyes slumped, not sure if he was irritated or simply exhausted at the livery man's constant put downs.

“No, I didn't steal them,”  he declared in a long suffering tone.  “After Duncan took Karma, I needed a horse so I bought this clayback gelding.  He turned out to be such a good horse I decided not to sell him once I got my own back again.  I thought maybe I'd give him to David.  Rudy is getting a bit long in the tooth and never was all that fast so...”

“Hmm, Rudy ain't gonna like that,”  came back the sardonic reply as the gnarled hands ran along the tall gelding's flanks.  “I might be willin' ta' take 'em off yer hands—if the price is right.”

“No.”  Heyes was adamant.  Eric was building up a head of steam at the perceived insult but Heyes cut him off at the pass.  “Now I not saying that you don't look after your horses.  Damn, it's all a man's life is worth to even suggest that.  I'd just prefer that he didn't go back to being a livery horse, that's all.  If David doesn't want them than maybe Trich would like to have her own horse.”

“Fine!”  Eric snarked then ran an approving eye over Fannie.  “What about this little mare?  I could sure use...”

“Oh no.”  Heyes smiled fondly as he rubbed the smaller mare's forehead.  “I'm holding on to this one.”

“Aw fer christ's sakes!”  Eric spit to the side.  “Ya' show up back here with two extra horses and ya' ain't willin' ta' sell either one of 'em.  Seems kinda selfish ta' me.”

“What difference does that make?”  Heyes asked him.  “They're both probably going to be staying here, and everyone knows that every horse in your barn belongs to you, even if you don't own them!”

Eric chuckled, again a rarity.  “Ya' got a point there.  Alright, they been out here for awhile so ya' may as well bring 'em on in.  I'll get 'em settled for the night.”

“Actually I have an errand to run but I'll be back in about half an hour for Fannie,”  Heyes informed him.

“Fannie?”  Eric snorted.  “Yeah, that's a good name fer her.  Ya' want the saddle on her?”

“No no,”  Heyes assured him.  “I won't be taking her far so I'll just lead her over.  I'll have her back before sundown.”

Last edited by Keays on Mon May 12, 2014 2:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen Empty
PostSubject: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyMon May 12, 2014 2:34 pm

Heyes walked back down the street and even though this would probably be the last time he'd have to perform this particular duty he still felt resentment at the necessity.  All he really wanted to do was go home but he knew he'd better get this done first or he could be in trouble again.  He stopped outside the sheriff's office and released a heavy sigh.  He stood there, looking in through the open door that had been left ajar in the hopes of getting some air into the interior on this rather warm summer afternoon.  He could hear somebody moving around inside and assumed it was Jacobs, but he still didn't want to go in.

Finally he sighed again, straightened up his shoulders and took the plunge.  Jacobs looked up from his paper work and smiled when he saw who it was.

“Heyes!  Welcome back,”  Jacobs greeted him and standing up, came forward with an outstretched hand.  Heyes was startled at first but then smiled and accepted the handshake.  “You did a real good job Heyes.  I gotta admit, I'm kinda proud of ya'.  From what Joe tells me ya' went above and beyond.  I hear ya' even got some reward money coming.”

“Oh well,”  Heyes' smile broadened,  “we're giving that to Wheat and Kyle as part of their payment.  They did a good job too.”

“Well good.   Glad to hear it.”  Jacobs nodded.  “Ya' want some coffee?”

“Oh no thank you, Sheriff,”  Heyes declined.  “To be quite honest, I just want to get home.  Feels like an eternity since I've seen my wife.”

“Ah yes.  I can understand that.”  Jacobs turned back to his desk and pulled out the ledger.  “you know the routine.”

“Ah, Sheriff....”  Heyes began a little tentatively.  “there's been kind of a change to that routine.”
Jacobs raised a brow.  “Really?  What kind of change?”
Heyes slipped his hand into his breast pocket and pulled out the envelope. Without a word, he withdrew the papers and laid them out flat on top of the ledger.  Jacobs creased his brow and taking the papers in hand be began to read them.  Slowly his mouth opened in surprise as he sat down in his chair and flipped through the pages of the document.
Finally a smile took over his face and looking up he saw that Heyes couldn't help the pleased grin that sparkled up his eyes.
“Oh Heyes, this is great,”  Jacobs told him, then suddenly stood up and shook his hand again.  “A mite sooner than we expected but I think you deserve it.  You've done well.”
Heyes actually started to giggle before he quickly coughed to stifle it.
“Thank you,”  he said with feeling.  “And I mean that.  You've done a lot for both me and Jed and we won't be forgetting it.  We couldn't have landed in a better town or with better folk.”

“I'm pleased you feel that way.  And I wanna thank you too Heyes,”  Jacobs told him.  “Joe's still kinda upset over what happened out there but that's natural.  He'd never killed anyone before and that does kinda sit heavy on a young man.”

“Yeah,”  Heyes nodded.  “Personally though, I'm glad he did it. It was either me or Duncan, so no reason for him to feel guilty.”

“He realizes that,”  Jacobs assured him.  “And he has no regrets at the choice he made.  He'll be fine, but that aside, I noticed a huge difference in Joe as soon as he walked in the door.  He's turned into the lawman I knew he could be.  He's grown up over this summer and I know you had a lot to do with that.”

Heyes smiled, thinking about how he had resented the young deputy coming along with them.  So much so that he had repeatedly set him up to be the brunt of his practical jokes and was constantly trying to slip away from his scrutiny.  That had changed though as time went on and Heyes came to like and then respect Deputy Morin, and now the ex-con even owed the deputy his life.

“Oh, I wouldn't be giving me too much credit for that,”  Heyes said.  “Joe was pretty capable right from the start.  He sure never backed down and sure never let me get away with anything.  It was kind of irritating at first, but he proved himself worthy of respect—and friendship.  He's a good man.”

“And I know it,”  Jacobs agreed.  “But still; I thank you. Joe's a good man, and he's going to make a fine law officer.  I have to admit, I'm kinda of two minds about that.  He really should go back east and study law enforcement and yet I sure would hate to lose a good deputy.  It's his folks that are holding him here more than anything, I know that.  But eventually even they aren't going to be able to stop him—and they shouldn't either.  He'd make a fine detective.”  Heyes was about to lay in a protest but Jacobs stopped him mid-track.  “There is such a thing as an honourable lawman, Heyes.  I know you've had your share of the wrong type.  Those who just fall into the profession and stay with it because it gives them a legal excuse to be a bully but they're not all like that and you know it.”
Heyes sighed.  “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Oh come on!”  Jacobs teased him.  “You know more than you're letting on.  You know plenty of men—and women, who got into investigation and law enforcement because they're serious about making a  difference.  They're good people and you do know it.”
Heyes smiled and nodded in agreement.  Thoughts of Abi and even Cage came to his mind.  Kevin Finney too.  Not to mention Lom and Jacobs himself.  Then there's Mike and Sheriff Turner.  Finally Heyes had to stop calculating as the names were beginning to pile up on him.
“I suppose you're right Sheriff,”  he conceded.  “It's just that the bad ones tend to stand out.  So what are you going to do if Joe does decide to head back east?  You'll be out a good deputy.”
“Oh, I've been keeping my eye on the up and comers here in town.  A few of the lads are showing promise.”  he told Heyes. “I like to bring them in young and teach 'em the way I do it.  Teach 'em the right way.  I knew Joe would be good right from the start; he just needed some experience under his belt.”
“Aren't ya' kind of shooting yourself in the foot there Sheriff?”  Heyes asked him.  “You spend all that time teaching a young man to be the kind of deputy you want and then they up and desert you to go back east.”
Jacobs snorted.  “That's kind of the whole idea.  I suppose that's my contribution to this county.  I get them in young, teach 'em right and send 'em on their way.  If I'm lucky a few of 'em will come and settle back here again.  What goes around comes around.  I've seen that happen more often than not.”
Heyes nodded in appreciation of that wisdom.  “You're a real smart man, Sheriff.  No wonder you keep on getting re-elected.”
Jacobs smiled and gave Heyes a slap on the shoulder.  “Ya' finally figured it out.  Now get on home and let your wife know how much you missed her.”

Heyes grinned.  “Yessir Sheriff.  I'm on my way.  Good night.”

“Good night.  And congratulations Heyes.  You deserved it.”

Heyes collected up Fannie from the stable and finally headed for home.  By this time he was so eager to get there that he began to jog the last few blocks with the little mare trotting along beside him.  His smile broadened and his dimples took over his face as he approached the white picket fence that surrounded their home.

Miranda was sitting on the front porch, drinking a cup of tea as she passed the time waiting for her husband by trying to read one of his many books.  Sally was sitting on the front step of the porch, playing with four rather large and boisterous kittens.  Mouse was nowhere to be seen, but truth be known, she was sleeping on one of the other chairs, thankful for a reprieve from her demanding children.  The time was fast approaching for them to be weaned.

Sally was the first to spot him as he stopped just outside the gate.  Her whole face exploded with joy as she leapt to her feet and jumped down the steps.

“Papa!  You're finally home!”

He started laughing as she ran to him and holding out his arms, he scooped her up into a big bear hug and began to kiss her all over her face and neck.  She squirmed and giggled excitedly, then wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss back.

“I thought you'd never get here!”  she complained.

“What do you mean?”  Heyes asked her.  “I sent you a telegram this morning to say I was on my way.”

“I know!  But it took you so long!”

Heyes continued to smile, and he looked over his daughter's shoulder to lock gazes with his wife.  Randa stood on the porch, allowing their daughter to have first dibs.  But her dark eyes sparkled and she even felt tears starting to form as she anticipated her turn at greeting her husband.  Heyes felt his own heart rate start to quicken as the breath left his lungs.  She was so beautiful.

He brought his attention back to his daughter and with one more kiss on her cheek, he set her down on her own two feet again.

“Were you a good girl while I was gone?”  he asked her, faux serious.

“Yes,”  she insisted.

“Did you mind Mouse when she told you to leave her kittens alone?”

Slight hesitation, then; “Yes.”

Heyes smiled and he was about to squat down to be on level with her when he realized that she had grown so much over the summer that there really was no point.

“Remember when I left, I told you I would bring something special back with me for you?”

Sally smiled and the look in her eye suggested that of course she had remembered, she was just too polite to broach the matter.

“Close your eyes and hold out your hand,”  Heyes instructed her.

Sally giggled with excitement, wondering what her new treasure was going to be.  She did what he told her.

Heyes sent a quick smile up to Miranda who had left the porch now and was standing just inside the picket gate.  He took the lead shank attached to Fannie and placed it gently across his daughter's open palm.

Her little brow creased in puzzlement but when she opened her eyes and saw where the lead shank went, her jaw dropped and her dark eyes bugged out in surprise and excitement.

“A horse!?”  she squealed.  “You brought me a horse!?”


“Just for me?”  Sally needed confirmation.  “She's all mine?  No sharing?”

“She's all yours,”  Heyes assured her.  “Definitely no sharing.”

The child actually started jumping up and down in her excitement.  Fannie stood quietly, sitting on a back hoof and appeared to not have a care in the world.

“Oh thank you thank you thank you!  Can I ride her Papa?  Can I take her for a ride, please please!  I won't go far I promise, just around town.  Please!”

“I suppose that's alright,”  he told her, not letting on that that had been his intention all along.  “But make sure you give yourself enough time to get her back to Eric's so you can be home before dark.  Agreed?”

“Yes Papa!  Yes!  Yes!”

Sally had actually grabbed on to the mare's mane and was attempting to pull herself up onto the horse's back when Heyes offered to give her a hand.  He took hold of her left ankle and knee and easily gave her a leg up onto the mare's broad and comfy back.  Sally sat there all grins, and leaning forward wrapped her arms around the solid neck of her new friend.

Heyes looped the lead shank around Fannie's neck and tied the loose end to the halter ring.

“There you go,”  he said,  “now you can steer her.  Nothing too crazy, alright.  She's not a young lady anymore and you both need time to get to know one another, so just keep her to a walk or a trot for now.  No galloping up and down the streets, alright.”

“Yes Papa, I promise.”

She picked up the 'reins' and turning Fannie out to the street, the mare easily picked up a slow jog and they were away.  Heyes stood and watched her for a few minutes and smiled at the sight at his daughter's auburn hair and the mare's dark red tail both bouncing in time with the gait.  Miranda came up to him and slipped her arm around her husband's waist.

“Are you sure she'll be alright with no saddle and just a halter?”

“She'll be fine,”  Heyes assured her.  “Fannie will look after her.”

He turned to his wife then, and ignoring the fact that they were standing in the middle of the street, he pulled her into an embrace and planted a kiss on her mouth that went past her lips.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and returned the kiss with growing passion, feeling her desire for him start with a tickle and then begin to grow.

Heyes felt his own desire firming up and neighbours be damned, he slid his hand down her back until it settle right above her hips and then he pushed her body even tighter up against his own.  Suddenly his own breath caught in his throat.  Still holding her tight, he pulled back from the kiss and stared down at her with a mixture of excitement and fear.

“What was that?”  he whispered through a tightened throat.

Miranda smiled up at him.  “Come inside and I'll show you.”

Heyes followed her into the kitchen and as soon as the front door was pushed closed, his hands were all over her.  She giggled like a school girl as he pushed her up against the counter and began to kiss her all over.

“Hannibal, wait,”  Miranda struggled out between her giggles.

“What for?”  came the muffled enquiry.

“We should at least go into the bedroom,”  Randa whispered.  “Sally might come home.”

“I guarantee you that Sally won't be home before dark,”  Heyes predicted.  “We've got a couple of hours at least.”

They continued to kiss and caress one another, their breathing picking up along with their arousal.  But then Heyes stopped and pulled back to stare intently into her eyes.  Neither said anything, then with trembling fingers Heyes attacked the buttons that ran down the front of Miranda's dress.  He was scared though he didn't really understand why and Miranda encouraged him to continue by running her hands through his hair and kissing his forehead.

He unbuttoned the dress until he was able to slip the material off her shoulders and the light summer garment floated down to the floor.  She was wearing light undergarments partly because of the heat of the day, but also because she wanted to give her husband easy access for the celebratory homecoming.  But he hesitated again, caressing her breasts and her tummy through the light material but not sure if he should carry on.

She sent him a questioning look as she pushed her body into him and seductively rubbed herself up and down against him.  He closed his eyes and groaned; he wanted her so badly he hurt.  He wrapped his arms around her and held her close and the feel of her breasts against him made him want her even more.

“What's the matter?”  she whispered in his ear.

He gave a rasping sigh through clinched teeth.  “I'm scared,”  he admitted.

“Of what?”  she asked as she pushed him slightly away from her and looked down at his bulging crotch.  She smiled at him wickedly.  “You don't look scared.”

Heyes gave a rattled chuckle. “It's my mind that's scared,”  he told her,  “not my body.  You know when it comes to love-making those two entities don't communicate.”

“But what are you scared of?”  she asked again through her soft laughter.

“Is it alright?”  he asked.  “Would having sex damage...?”

“No!” Randa assured him adamantly.  

“Are you sure?”

“David told me there was no problem,”  she told him.  “We can continue to make love for as long as I'm comfortable.  Don't you and Jed talk?”

Heyes looked aghast.  “Not about this!”

They both laughed again, then the laughter subsided as they gazed into each other's eyes and they kissed again; gently, passionately until Heyes once more drew back.  Gently he pulled her undergarment off over her head and cupped her bare breasts in his hands.  He smiled at her and slowly dropping to his knees he ran his hands down her torso and caressed her belly.

To the casual observer there was nothing different about her body but Heyes was not a casual observer.  He knew every curve and line of his wife's figure and though his eyes couldn't see, his sensitive fingers felt the slightly larger contours.  He breathed a smile feeling his wife's hands running through his thick dark hair and he leaned in and kissed her tummy.

“Hello in there,”  he whispered to her belly button.  “I already know you're beautiful.”

He slowly stood back up, kissing his wife's arm and shoulder and neck until he reached her mouth and pressed his point home. Then his extremely talented fingers really went to work.

Within an hour the couple had migrated from various different locations from the kitchen into the bedroom, but did eventually find themselves on the bed for the grand finale.

“Ohh that was amazing,”  he breathed into her ear.  “You're amazing.  Thank you for being my wife.”

Ignoring the drenching of the bed cover, she rolled onto her side and cuddled into him.  “You're welcome.”

They continued to lay there in each other's arms, basking in the after-glow of love making.

They didn't know how long they lay there; they might have even fallen asleep, but suddenly Miranda jumped and was instantly awake.  The light in the bedroom was fading as dusk was settling in and they had yet to get the kitchen cleaned up.

“What's the matter?”  Heyes mumbled from the pillow.

“It's starting to get dark,”  Miranda told him as she scrambled out of bed and headed for the dresser for a clean dress and under clothing.  “Sally could be home any minute.”

Heyes eyes widened.  “Oh!  Crap.”

He was out of bed instantly and began pulling on his own clothing.  Miranda smiled at him as they both got dressed and then she headed back out to the kitchen to gather up her previous garments and to give the kitchen and themselves a quick cleaning up.

That done, Heyes went out to the pantry to get left-overs for supper while Randa lit the stove and started to slice bread.  Within ten minutes, chicken and gravy with mashed potatoes were setting on the stove and slowly re-heating.  Heyes brought in some fresh carrots from the garden out back and these were quickly cleaned and prepared as a cold crunchy addition to the hasty meal.  Within fifteen minutes, the wayward daughter came through the front door, looking tired but pleased with her afternoon's activities.

Heyes smiled over at her, noting the layer of dust on her face.  “So, did you have a good afternoon?”

She smiled through her exhaustion.  “Yes, Papa.”

“Is Fannie back at the livery, getting her supper?”

Sally giggled again at the funny name.  “Yes, Papa.  Mr. Eric really likes her.”

“Oh I know that,”  Heyes rolled his eyes.  “You just remember that she's your horse and don't let that old horse thief tell you different.”

Sally smiled as she pulled out a chair to have a seat at the table.

“Ah!  No you don't young lady,”  Randa caught her in mid-slide.  “You go get a wash before you sit at the table.  Your papa already drew some water, so off you go.”

Sally sighed theatrically but went off to do as instructed.  Heyes and Randa smiled at each other, knowing that they had just barely had time to get cleaned up themselves.

As the family sat down to supper, the conversation naturally focused around the pending new arrival.

“How long have you known?”  Heyes asked as he chewed on a chicken leg.  “I mean; how far along are you?”

Randa smiled.  “It would have to have been right before you left.  I had just finished up my...”a quick look to their daughter,  “....monthly visit so I knew it couldn't have happened before then.”

“Why didn't you tell me?”  he asked, feeling a little left out of the loop.

“I didn't want to distract you,”  she admitted.  “I knew what you were involved with could be dangerous and I didn't want your mind to be on other things.  Besides, that's not news you give in a telegram.  And I wanted to surprise you.”

“You certainly did that!”  Heyes agreed.  He sighed deeply and a contemplative look passed over his features.  “Things sure are changing around here.  Kid and Beth are going to be parents any day now.  Steven and Bridget have a new baby and has Tricia and David had their second one yet?”

“Oh yes!”  Randa beamed.  “They had a little girl.  They named her Eleanor after David's mother and Jean after Tricia's.  Everything went fine too and such a cute little thing.  Nathan wasn't pleased though; he wanted a brother.”

Heyes smiled as he tucked into potatoes and gravy.  “Seems to be mostly girls this time around,”  he observed.  “Bridget had another girl as well.  I think I'd kind of like to have a boy this time.”  He quickly added,  “not that I have anything against daughters!”  Reaching over, he gave Sally a ruffling of her hair.  She was so tired she hardly noticed.  “I have two beautiful daughters and I wouldn't dream of sending either of them back.”

Sally did smile at those words but Heyes got lost in his own thoughts for an instant, thinking about the daughter that did get 'sent back' even though it had not been of his choosing.

Randa gave an exasperated sigh.  “I think I'd prefer another daughter,”  she admitted adamantly.  “J.J. seems to be of a quieter nature, but seeing how Nathan has run Tricia into the ground I just don't know if I could handle a boy.  And then if Jed and Beth have a boy as well!  Oh no!  The two of them would be just close enough in age to be getting up to all sorts of mischief!”

Heyes grinned, a wicked glint coming into his eyes.  “It certainly would be an adventure.”  He looked over to Sally who was practically asleep in her plate. “What about you sweetheart?  Would you rather have a baby sister, or a baby brother, come to live with us?”

Sally shrugged her shoulders.  “It doesn't matter,”  she stated bluntly.  “I don't have to choose.”

Heyes and Randa grinned at each other.

“From the mouths of babes,”  Randa commented.

“Yes,”  Heyes agreed.  “And you're quite right Sally; we don't have to choose.  Either way, the child will be a welcomed addition to the family.”

Sally nodded distractedly and then turned to her mother.  “May I be excused Mama?”  she asked very politely.  “I'm tired, I want to go to bed.”

Eye brows on both parents raised in surprise.

“You want to go to bed?”  Miranda asked her just to be sure she heard right.

“Yes please.”

“Well...alright,”  her mother gave permission.  “I'll come in and help you get ready.”

“Oh,”  Heyes was disappointed that both his ladies were leaving.  “Your supper will get cold.”

“That's alright,”  his wife assured him.  “I can always re-heat it.  Come along Sally.”

Sally put her fork down and removed herself from the table.  She did still have the where with all though to come over to her papa and give him a big hug.

“It's so good to have you home Papa,”  she told him with closed eyes.  “I missed you.  And thank you very much for Fannie.”

“You're welcome Sweetheart,”  Heyes hugged her to him and gave her a kiss on the forehead.  “Sleep well.  We're all going out for breakfast tomorrow.  Would you like that?”

“Yes please.”

“Okay, off you go.”

Heyes watched his two girls walk down the hall towards Sally's bedroom and smiled in his love for them.  Then the smile disappeared and he sighed.  Wow.  He didn't know why he'd had himself convinced that this would never happen and now it was like a whole new world opening up in front of him.  Again, doubts over his own ability to be a good father sent a knotted ball into his gut.  What if he screwed up?  What if his own children came to realize what a fraud he was?  He groaned; he couldn't imagine anything more painful than that; to be a disappointment to his own children.

And now there was that extra worry; the knowledge that there were still people out there who hated him and the Kid so much that they were willing to put up their own money to get the two ex-outlaws into their clutches.  Would their pasts never allow them to relax, to enjoy a life free from worry of a sudden capture?  And this time it wouldn't be prison waiting for them, but vengeful retaliation.

Abi had been right in her own way.  She had been right to disappear and take Anya with her.  Heyes was a dangerous man to love.  Now here he was with a beautiful wife and daughter, and a new child on the way.  He worried if he wasn't setting them all up for heartbreak—either by his own inabilities as a father, or by his sudden disappearance, never to be seen or heard from again.

Miranda helped Sally with a quick sponge bath and then tucked her into bed.  There was still just barely light enough coming through the window that she hadn't needed to use the lamp, but it would soon be dark and Sally shouldn't have any trouble falling asleep.  The poor child was so exhausted from the excitement of having her papa home again and then indulging in the gift that he had brought her that she couldn't even get through her dinner.

Randa leaned over and gave her a kiss and lovingly stroked her hair.

“Goodnight sweetheart,”  she whispered.  “Sleep well.”

“Goodnight Mama.”

Sally rolled over and settled in to sleep.  Miranda sat quietly on the edge of the bed and felt a slight apprehension settle down upon her and not for the first time.  Odd how life can go sometimes.  She had been with William for years and had never even once suspected a pregnancy.  Now she and Hannibal hadn't even been married a year yet and here they were; a baby on the way.

Randa had happily skipped through life convinced that she didn't want children, that she didn't have the time or the patience for them.  Then Sally had come into their lives and Miranda found herself in love again.  She and Sally had so much fun together and Miranda came to value every precious moment they shared.  But now; a baby?  Oh my.  Watching Belle with J.J. and the even more intense family life of Tricia with Nathan. How did her cousin do it?  Nathan was such a hand full—always had been.  J.J. might be older, but Nathan could run circles around him.

What if she had a boy?  She groaned quietly and shook her head.  A boy with Hannibal's intellect and energy?   Would she be able to keep up with him?  It would be so much better if they had another girl, probably more fun for Sally too, to have a baby sister.  Randa had been surprised that the child hadn't been too concerned one way or the other.  Randa sighed and recalling the stories she'd heard about Anya it sounded like a daughter with Hannibal would be just as hard to keep track of as a boy.

She smiled then and placed a gentle hand on her own tummy.  Sally was right; it didn't matter if it was a boy or a girl.  They didn't need to choose.  They couldn't choose anyways as that was totally out of their hands.  It was a child, made from love between her and her husband and this child would be received with open arms into a loving family.  That's all that mattered.

She sighed and nodded to herself, then giving her sleeping daughter a final gentle caress, she stood up and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Out in the kitchen Hannibal had opened a bottle of wine and was pouring two glasses for them to enjoy.

Miranda's brow went up.  “Wine?”  she asked.  “In celebration of your homecoming?”

Heyes shrugged.  “Among other things.”  Suddenly he stopped pouring and gazed at his wife.  “It's alright isn't it?  Damn, I didn't even think.  Well when I bought this in town, I didn't even know.  Will it harm the baby?”

Miranda smiled as she came to him and put her arms around his waist.  “No,”  she assured him.  I little bit of alcohol won't hurt.  You need to relax.  I'm not going to break you know.  Although, this does certainly explain my little temper tantrums in Denver don't you think.”

“Little?”  Heyes asked as he continued to pour the wine.

Miranda laughed and punched him on the arm.  “That's not very nice!” she teased him.  “I felt terrible about that.  But it's what tipped David off.  I was visiting with Tricia and baring my soul over how badly I had behaved and David was instantly suspicious.  Had me come down to his office for a check-up right then and there.”

“So you've known about this ever since that trip to Denver?”

“No,”  she admitted.  “David suspected, especially after I told him about being sick in the mornings.  But he couldn't really know for sure so early on but as soon as he suggested it I knew he was right.  I hope you're not angry with me.  Like I said; I didn't want to tell you this in a telegram and I didn't want to cause you distraction either.  You had enough to deal with.”

Heyes smiled and handed his wife a glass of wine.  “No I'm not angry.  Surprised!  But I'm pleased.”

“Good.”  She took her glass and then picked up the bottle to read the label.  “Ohhh, top shelf.  Come on—what else are we celebrating?”

Heyes' smile deepened and removing the towel on the table he picked up two tickets that had been neatly hidden under it.

“What are those?”  she asked, her eyes lighting up with curiosity.

“Two tickets for the symphony in Denver next month,”  he told her.  “I actually bought tickets for everyone, again; forgetting about the babies.  I hope they can all go.”

“The symphony?”  Randa smiled with pleasure and took the tickets from him.  “I haven't been to the symphony in years.  What a wonderful surprise!  And I don't care if the others decide they can't go—it'll be a wonderful evening.”

“I'd like them to come,”  Heyes admitted.  “Having this music in prison was one of the few things that helped to keep me going.  I dreamed about being able to one day go and listen to it being played by an orchestra in a theatre designed specifically for it.  And I imagined all by friends surrounding me, including my wife even though she didn't have a face at that point.  I hadn't even met you yet and Abi...she was just a voice from the past.  But it's important to me that our friends can all come.  I hope they will.  And that Jed won't be too bored!”

Miranda smiled and gave him a gentle caress along his cheeks.  “Here's to making dreams come true.”

They tapped glasses and drank.

“This is a lovely gift Hannibal; thank you.”

“I'm not done yet,”  he told her and a mischievous little glint came into his eye.

“What?”  she asked suspiciously.  “What else have you done?”

“Well,”  he took another drink from his wine glass.  “Jesse paid me very well for this assignment—far more than he needed to.  But I think he's keeping a careful eye to see what I do with it.  He hasn't said anything, but I know he's watching.  And the thing is; he didn't need to worry because I'd already decided on doing it anyways.”

“Now you really do have me curious,”  Miranda admitted.  “What are you planning to do with it?  Enter into a high stakes poker game?”

Heyes nearly choked on his wine.  “No!”  he laughed.  “That's exactly what Jesse hopes I won't do with it!”

She grabbed the front of his shirt and gave him a gentle shake.  “Well what then?”

“Well,”  he began with a sigh.  “I have not forgotten that I never did take you on a honeymoon.  Of course I didn't know that we had a little one on the way, but perhaps it'll work out better that we go before things get too awkward.”

Miranda's eyes lit up even more in her excitement.  “Tell me; what have you done?”

“Well,”  he began again, driving his wife crazy with his refusal to simply spit it out.  “The symphony for us will just be the beginning.  I reserved the Honeymoon Suite for that night at the Brown Palace and then,” he reached behind a plate that was still on the table, pulling out two more tickets.  “I reserved us the best cabin available on the train to California.  Stop in for a short visit with Silky otherwise he'll be insulted and I'll never hear the end of it.  Then we'll take the train as far south as it goes but then after that I'm afraid we'll have to finish our journey by coach.  Not the best way to travel, but I'm sure that once we get there you'll agree that it'll be worth it.”

“Arrgg!  Where Hannibal?  Where are we going?”  she pushed.  “And don't you dare say it's a surprise!  Stress isn't good for the baby!”

Heyes grinned, knowing a hood-winkle when he heard one.  “Well, there's this very nice resort town down in Mexico called Santa Marta.  Kid and I have been there a couple of times and even though the circumstances weren't terribly agreeable, the town was.  It's beautiful; right on the water and you can hire a boat to take you out into the bay—it's absolutely amazing. The water is so clear you can see twenty feet down—and there's so many fish just exploding with colour.   And then on top of that we know a few people who live there, including the Chief of Police and he knows who I am so there'll be no surprises.”

Randa was looking at him with eyes wide and mouth gaping.  “Ohhh, Santa Marta, Mexico.  I've heard of that town and it does come with a very favourable reputation.  A beautiful location for a honeymoon.
Oh Hannibal, thank you.”  She leaned in for a hug, then froze and a frown of concern crossed her features.  “But, can you go?”  she asked him.  “You had a hard enough time getting permission to leave the state, do you really think they'll let you leave the country?”
“That's the last part of my homecoming gift to you,”  Heyes informed her. 
Miranda couldn't help the smile that responded to her husband’s delighted grin.  “What Hannibal?  What else has happened?”
“Well,”  Heyes turned away and refilling the wine glasses, handed the one back to his wife.  “it seems we did such a good job for the governor this time that he has granted me a pardon.”
Miranda caught her breath as her eyes widen in surprise.  “A pardon?”  she repeated.  “A full pardon?”
“Well not completely,”  Heyes conceded.  “I still have to keep in touch and let people know where I am, but there's no curfew, I can go wherever I want—even out of the country.  And I don't need to sign in everywhere I go.  I'm a free man Miranda.  My debt to Wyoming has been paid.  I have the same rights now as any other citizen.  If I were to be arrested for any crimes I now have the right to a trial and legal counsel just like anyone else.  Not that I intend to be committing any crimes, mind you.  But it's good to know I can't just be grabbed and sent back to prison without any recourse.  I think that term of my parole scared me more than anything else....”
Miranda gently put her fingers to his lips.  “I know,”  she whispered.  “That was an enormous strain.  But you're free now.  You're free.  Oh babe, I'm so happy for you.”

The couple hugged, both grinning with pleasure.  “This whole trip hinges on David's approval you understand.”  Heyes pointed out.  “We won't go if he has any concerns.”

“He won't.”  Randa seemed quite sure of this.  “Me and Tricia won't let him.”

“Ha!”  Heyes laughed knowing how stubborn David could be.  “And we'll have to find someone to look after Sally.  It seems all of our friends are busy with their own new babies.”

“I'm sure Belle will take her,”  Randa predicted.  “And if Sally can take Fannie with her out to the ranch she's going to be so busy she won't even know we're gone.”

Heyes chuckled.  “I do believe you're right.”

They polished off their glasses of wine and Heyes re corked the wine bottle, then went around the room, turning out the lamps.

“Hannibal, I need to get the kitchen cleaned up,”  Miranda protested, though not too adamantly.

“It's late.”  He had her by the waist again and whispered in her ear.  “I'll help you clean up in the morning.  Then we'll all go out for breakfast.”

“Oh, that's been decided has it?”  she teased as she allowed herself to be directed to the bedroom.

“Yes.  Sally and I discussed it and we agree.”

“Oh, well then....”

Heyes led her into the bedroom and closed the door.  Sometimes feeling your path in the dark can be a whole lot more fun than having light to show the way.
The following morning Miranda was up early and had the supper dishes cleared away before Hannibal was even aware that she had left the bed.  Indeed, he was sleeping so soundly that it took his daughter bouncing on the bed and complaining about being hungry that finally rousted him and got him moving.
Everyone washed and dressed quickly and headed out the door towards the cafe.  They wanted to meet up with Jed and Beth for breakfast before the couple headed back home to the Double J.  The Heyes family walked the short distance to the cafe, the two adults on either side with Sally in between them, happily clasping a hand of each.
 The morning could not have been more beautiful and Heyes soaked in the early sunshine now that he was relaxed enough to appreciate it.  When out on the trail, on a job, mornings were so busy; getting a fire going, making breakfast, breaking camp.  There just wasn't time to appreciate the light dew and the morning air with just a touch of the night's chill still tingling the nostrils.  The sun was up and already giving a hint of the warmth to come but for right now, the walk into downtown was exhilarating and refreshing and got everyone ready for breakfast.
Heyes opened the door to the cafe to allow his two ladies to enter ahead of him and they both made a bee line to one of the side tables where their friends were already sitting.
“Uncle Jed, Aunt Beth!”  Sally yelled as she approached their table.  “Papa brought me a horse!  Just for me—my very own.  I don't have to share her with anyone!”
Heyes caught his partner’s familiar chuckle.
“Really?”  the Kid put on a good act.  “Well your pa must think you're a big girl now, for him to give ya' your own horse.”
A few adult heads in the cafe turned disapproving looks towards the newcomers with their very inappropriate child.  It was bad enough that Beth Jordan—or actually Beth Curry (her parents must be so embarrassed) was out in public, shamelessly strutting around at a time when any proper young lady would be in her confinement.  But now it seemed the decent folks also had to tolerate the Heyes child behaving in a most unacceptable manner.  Well!  But what can you expect from a pair of ex-outlaws!  No appreciation for the subtleties of culture.
 Miranda simply smiled and nodded a greeting to them and the ladies turned back to their own company with an indignant huff.  The adage that children should be seen but not heard did not enter into the Heyes family philosophy.
Miranda had always been spontaneous and outgoing so she was hardly going to curtail her daughter's enthusiasm.  As for Heyes himself, the memories of life at the orphanage still held tight.  Those feelings of frustration and resentment when any form of individualism was instantly met with corporal punishment would be with him for the rest of his life.  He was hardly going to place the same dictate onto his own children.
Sally's excitement and high energy were welcomed with smiles and loving acceptance from her family group and as long as she remained respectful, she was given free rein to express herself.  And express herself she did.
“None of my friends in town have their very own horse!”  Sally continued as she climbed into her own chair beside her Uncle Jed.  “Wait until I tell Carol and Todd, and Nathan and Sue and Liz'beth and Courtney and....”
“My but you have a lot of friends,”  Jed laughed, his blue eyes sparkling.  “Don't rub it in too hard though darlin', or you'll make them into enemies rather than friends.”
“No I won't,”  Sally agreed.  “But I can't wait to go riding today!  Can we go riding today?  Papa let me ride her as soon as he got home yesterday.  He let me stay out until it was getting dusky—right past our usual supper time!  Mama and Papa even waited supper on me, so I could ride her.  I have a wonderful Mama and Papa!”
This was met by laughter all around the table and Jed sent a sly glance over to his partner.  That had been a smart move on Heyes' part and obviously a later supper hadn't just been for the benefit of the enthusiastic child.  Heyes met his partner's look and smiled as he assisted his wife to her chair and then walked around to give Beth a kiss on the cheek.
“How are ya' darlin'?”  he asked her with a flash of his dimples.
“I'm fine, Hannibal,”  she assured him.  “Bit of a rough night....”  Heyes suppressed a smile as he caught his partner's silent but emphatic agreement coming from behind his wife.  “..but I'm doing better now.  Some tea and a light breakfast will make the world of difference.”
“Glad to hear it,”  Heyes agreed.  “You look lovely.”
Beth laughed.  “I look like a buffalo in a floral frock.  I'll be glad when this little one comes out to say 'hello'.”
Heyes sat down just as the young waitress showed up with the coffee pot in one hand and the tea pot in the other.  Nobody really paid her too much notice until she took out her pad and pencil and asked what everyone would be having.  Heyes and Jed looked at each other across the table and then as one scrutinized the young waitress.
“Aren't you Floyd Robertson's little girl?”  Jed asked her with a hint of incredulity.
“You can't be!”  Heyes insisted as he gazed at her with his mouth open.  “Why, Mary Robertson is just a little slip of a girl—no older than Sally here.”
Mary blushed and giggled into her hand.  “I'm fifteen Mr. Heyes.”
“Fifteen!?”  Heyes exclaimed then looked over to the Kid.  “How long were we gone for Kid?”
Jed shrugged.  “I woulda sworn it was no longer than a couple 'a months.”
“Yeah,”  Heyes agreed, then looked to Mary again.  “How could you have possibly grown up this much in two months?”
Mary giggled again and nervously sashayed with her skirt swirling about her hips.  Miranda and Beth smiled at each other across the table, both of them aware that their husbands were at it again.  You can take a man to the alter, but you can't stop him from flirting.
Sally grew impatient.  “I'm hungry!”
“Oh, yeah,”  Heyes agreed as his daughter brought him back to the matter at hand.  “time to order breakfast.”
Mary took their orders and then skipped away to carry on with her morning chores.  The friends settled back to enjoy their coffee and tea while awaiting for the food to arrive.
“Something else you don't know,”  Miranda told the group as she and Sally exchanged knowing smiles.  “Floyd married Miss Doolittle, the nanny he hired from the advert he placed a while back.  They tied the knot last month.”
Heyes and the Kid exchanged looks.
“Oh,”  Heyes commented.  “Well, it's not like we didn't see that coming.”
“Yeah,”  Jed agreed.  “I'm sure they made a lovely couple.”
Heyes snorted into his coffee.
Miranda gave him a slap on the arm.  “Don't be mean!”  she told him.  “It was actually a very sweet ceremony.”
“Shall we tell them the other news?”  Beth asked Randa with a sneaky smile.
Miranda shrugged.  “Well....”
“What?”  Jed asked, looking back and forth between his wife and Miranda.  “What else could possibly have happened in two months?”
“Well, it seems that Harry Briscoe and Isabelle have set the date,”  Beth informed the group.
Heyes groaned.
“What date?”  Jed asked.
“Their wedding date, silly!”  Beth told him.
“Oh no,”  Jed groaned as well.  “He's actually gonna....”
“And he wants you and Hannibal to be his best men.”
Both partners groaned together.
“He can't do that,”  Heyes commented.  “You can only have one 'best man'.”
Beth just shrugged.  “He said he couldn't decide so he's going to go with both.”
“When is this auspicious occasion to take place?”  Jed asked.
“End of next month,”  Beth informed him.
“Well that leaves me out,”  Heyes announced with relief.  “I won't be in town the end of next month.”
Beth looked concerned, not noticing that Miranda was beaming with pleasure.  “Why not?”  she asked.
“Because I have already bought tickets to take my lovely wife on our much belated honeymoon,”  Heyes announced.  “And I have no intentions of postponing that because of Harry's wedding plans.  Besides,”  he smiled at his wife and squeezed her hand.  “from what I understand, if we're going to do it then it better be soon.”
Beth smiled, already knowing what the news was, but Jed looked confused.
“Why?”  he asked.  “What's the rush?  You're heading south, it's not like you're going to be getting snowed in any time soon.”  Heyes' eyes sparkled with excitement and when Jed saw the look that was past between him and Miranda, it didn't take a genius to figure it out.  “Ho ho!  Heyes!  Ya' did it again!  Only this time ya' did it in the right order.”
Now it was Beth's turn to give her husband a slap on the arm.  “Jed!”  she admonished him.  “That's rude!”
“What?”  Jed shrugged.  “It was a compliment.”
“Yeah,”  Heyes agreed.  He lifted his wife's hand to his lips and kissed it.  “Everything in the right order this time.  So, the honeymoon was postponed a little while, but that is about to be rectified and I'm afraid that Harry just isn't going to be getting in the way of that.  The honour of being 'best man' will be falling to you Jed.  Congratulations.”
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Posts : 1458
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington

Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen Empty
PostSubject: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyMon May 12, 2014 2:36 pm

“Oh great.  Thanks Heyes.”
“So where are you going?”  Beth asked, her eyes bright with excitement. “The cabin Jed and I went to was absolutely beautiful!”
“Oh well, I can't be doing everything the same way as my partner,”  Heyes pointed out.  “We will stop and visit with Silky, or I'll never hear the end of it.  After that we may drop in on Big Mac for a visit too, but not for long.  I want Miranda to see Santa Marta.”
Jed smiled and nodded his approval.
Sally brightened up with excitement.  “Can I come too?”  she asked, all full of enthusiasm.
“Ah...”  Heyes was stuck.
“Not this time sweetheart,”  Randa told her.  “This is a special trip just for me and your papa.”
“But I want to come too!”  Sally persisted.
“But what about Fannie?”  Heyes asked her.  “You can take Fannie out to the Double J and ride all over the place to your hearts content.  I bet you Carol would love to join you on that too.”
Sally's eyes lit up again.  “Oh yes!  That will be so much fun.  I can ride Fannie all day if I want to.  And I can stay with grandma and grandpa?  Grandma is such a good cook!  How long can I stay there?”
“Well, a couple of weeks at least,”  Randa promised her daughter.
Sally was so excited she was practically jumping up and down in her chair.  A few dirty looks were again being sent their way.  How disgusting that some people just can't or won't control their children!  Randa ignored them.
“A couple of weeks!”  Sally repeated.  “That'll be so much fun!  When can I go?  Can I go today?”
“No, not yet!”  Randa laughed.  “It'll be a while yet.  You'll have plenty of time to spend with your Papa before we go.”
Sally beamed love over towards her papa and Heyes smiled back at her.  In the meantime Beth was frowning; her quick mind already calculating a problem with the honeymoon plans.
“Santa Marta?”  she asked.  “Isn't that in Mexico?”
“Yeah,”  Jed confirmed.  “It's a beautiful little resort town just south of the border.  Right on the coast.  You and I will have to go there too sometime Beth.”
“Yes but,”  Beth turned worried eyes over to Hannibal.  “what about your parole?  It was hard enough for you to get permission just to leave the state.  Leaving the country....”  Beth stopped short as she noticed all three of her companions grinning at her.  “What?”
“It's not going to be a problem Beth,”  Hannibal informed her.
“It's not?”
“No.”  Heyes' grin grew.  “Governor Barber rescinded the parole and replaced it with a pardon.  None of those previous conditions still apply.  I'm a free man.”
Beth's brown eyes widened in happy surprise.  “You got a pardon!?  Oh Hannibal....!” and surprising everyone, Beth began to rock her body back and forth in an effort to get to her feet.  Her hands clutched at the back of the chair as she heaved with all her might to get her unyielding bulk to respond to her wishes.
Jed and Heyes were instantly on their feet and trying to come to her assistance.
“No!  Beth darlin','  Jed grabbed an arm.  “what are you doin'?”
“I want to get up!”  Beth insisted as she continued to struggle.  “I want to give Hannibal a hug!”
Heyes was trying hard not to laugh. “No Beth, don't,”  he told her.  “Let me come to you.”
True to his word, he leaned over his young friend and they embraced one another as best they could under the circumstances.  This time Beth gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Oh Hannibal, I'm so happy for you.”  She looked over at Miranda who was also trying hard to stifle a laugh while Sally just stared with open mouth at this strange behaviour from the adults.  “You too Miranda,”  Beth continued.  “How wonderful; a new baby on the way, a honeymoon in a very romantic setting, and now a new beginning.  You're free Hannibal.  I'm so pleased.”
Heyes and Jed both took their seats again just as the breakfasts began to arrive.  More tea and coffee was poured and the table settled in to a more sedate, but jovial visit.
Late morning had moved in and the cafe was actually attempting to get prepared for the lunch crowd by the time the group of friends pushed themselves away from the table and prepared to go their own ways.  Jed disappeared to get his horse and a surrey organized down at the livery while Heyes and Miranda assisted Beth in her efforts to walk outside to await her conveyance.
She laughed at the silliness of her situation but was none the less pleased to have Hannibal's steady arm to hold on to.
“See, Miranda,”  Beth laughed.  “this is what you've got coming.”
“Yes, I know!”  Randa rolled her eyes.  “And from what I've seen, things only get crazier once they're out and running around.”
“Oh, it'll be such fun,”  Beth assured her friend.  “All our children can play together.  What are you hoping for Sally?  A brother or a sister?”
Sally sighed theatrically as though she was tired of answering this particular question.  “It doesn't matter,”  she insisted.  “I don't have to choose.”
Beth laughed again, her overall mood very jovial.  “I suppose you're right about that.  It really doesn't matter does it?”
Jed pulled up in front of the group, Gov having been hitched up to the surrey and looking forward to finally getting home again.  He could already taste the sweet grass in the front field and he shook his head, snorting in his impatience to be off.
Heyes went to stand by the gelding's head to steady him, while Jed and Miranda assisted Beth into the conveyance and got her settled into the plush comfortable seat.
“Okay Partner,”  Heyes said as Jed got himself settled in and picked up the lines.  “Take it easy.  I'll come out in a couple of days if I don't hear from you sooner.”
Beth rolled her eyes.  “Oh I hope it's not going to be too much longer.  I want to start riding Daisy again!”
“Uh huh.”  Heyes sounded sceptical.
Jed nodded to his cousin and Heyes stepped back to allow Gov to pick up the slack and get his humans safely back home again.  And he was more than ready.
“Well!”  Miranda stated as they watched their friends drive away,  “that was certainly entertaining.  I can hardly wait for it to be my turn.”
Heyes chuckled and put an arm around his wife's shoulders.  “You'll do fine,”  he assured her.  “You'll see; a piece of cake.”
Randa laughed and gave her husband a playful slap on the chest.  “Easy for you to say.  I'm going to make sure you're with me every step of the way.”
Heyes leaned in and kissed her, despite hearing an audible sigh from Sally.  “I wouldn't miss it for the world,”  he told her.
The family turned and started to make its way back towards home, with Sally once again in the middle and taking possession of both her parents.
“Papa,”  she asked.  “can I do riding this afternoon?”
“I don't see why not,”  Heyes answered.  “Perhaps we can all go for a ride.  Oh.  Is that alright?  Can you ride?”
“Of course I can ride,”  Randa told him.  “It's the falling off I can't do.”
“Oh.  Well maybe....”
Heyes stopped in his tracks and turned in response to the familiar voice calling his name.  David could clearly be seen on the other side of the street, waving his arm to get his friend's attention.
“Hannibal,” he repeated.  “In my office.  Right now!”
Heyes groaned.
“Yeah, but David, it's not my fault.”
“Hannibal, please.  Stop fidgeting and open your eyes.”
“It would be a lot easier to open them if you'd stop shinning that light into them!”
“But that's the whole idea!  The light causes your pupils to react and the way they respond to the light gives me a better idea of what's going on behind them.”
Heyes tensed and tried to back deeper into the chair.  “You mean you can see what I'm thinking?”
“Oh heaven help me!”  David sighed.  “Thank goodness; no!”
“Hey!”  Hannibal was insulted.
“Shhh,”  David told him as he leaned in closer.  “Just relax Hannibal.”
Heyes slumped in defeat.  He hated it when David told him to relax.  That suggestion was usually followed by pain or bad news.  David completed his examination and, blowing out the candle, he sat back against his desk and scrutinized his patient.
“Are you going to tell me or are you going to leave me to come to my own conclusions?”  the doctor finally asked him.
“It wasn't my fault!”
“So you've said,”  David reminded him.  “I know from the doctor in Carr that you suffered another head injury in the train wreck.  Did anything else happen?”
“Well yeah...actually....”  Heyes shifted uncomfortably in the chair.  “This job turned out to be a lot more complicated than we had anticipated.”
“Yes I know,”  David concurred.  “Carl was keeping me up to date on events, at least as far as he knew.”
“Oh.”  Heyes smile sheepishly.  “So you already knew about....”
“Well why didn't you just say so?”  Heyes sniped irritatedly.  “Why play games with me?”
“I wasn't playing games,”  David told him.  “I was hoping that you would simply tell me that you'd had a seizure.  You are the one who keeps insisting on playing these games.  You treat me like I'm your enemy.  Is that how you view our relationship?”
“No, of course not,”  Heyes insisted.  “It's just that....”
“I donno.”  Heyes was feeling uncomfortable.  “You make me feel like I don't have any control over my life.  Like I don't have any say in what happens to me.”
“Oh.”  David nodded.  “That problem with authority again.”
“No!  Well,!  I don't have problems with authority!  It's just that....”
“You make me feel weak!”  Heyes finally yelled at him.  “You've seen me at my worst, David!  You've seen me when I was at the lowest I've ever been.  You know things about me that my wife doesn't even know—or my partner!  You make me feel....vulnerable.
“And now this damn epilepsy.  Jeez David I didn't even feel it coming on—didn't even know I'd had one until the fella I was with described it to me.  Scared the bejeezus outa him, I can tell you.  But how am I supposed to control them, to use the medication when I can't even tell when one is coming on?”
David nodded.  “I agree, it'll be difficult for you to feel any indications of a seizure coming which is why I strongly suggested that you let people close to you know about it.  They are the ones who will come to recognize the signals and let you know when you need to take the medication.”
“Yeah,”  Heyes snarked.  “Dependant, weak.  Vulnerable.”
“Empowered.”  David countered.   “In control.”
“Hua?”  Heyes wasn't convinced.
“By allowing your friends to support you in this Hannibal, you will be taking control of it,”  David explained.  “I'm not the one who makes you feel vulnerable.  It's the condition itself that's doing that.
Heyes sighed deeply as he considered David's words but an irritated scowl still marred his face.  He wasn't quite ready yet to allow David to be right once again.
“Well why was I so tired afterwards?”  he snarked.  “You never told me about that; everybody thought I was drunk.”
David sighed himself then and walked around his desk to sit down.  “I saw no reason to give you more information than you needed at that time.  Chances were good you were never going to have a seizure so why complicate matters?  You had enough to deal with as it was.”  David's expression lightened up and he raised a finger as he remembered a minor detail.  “I ordered a booklet on the condition in case you wanted to read up on where did I put that....?”  He stood up to browse through his bookcase when the sound of an infant beginning to wail broke in on their conversation.  David turned a worried expression towards his office door.  “Oh dear.”
“I take it that's the new one,”  Heyes stated the obvious.  “Not happy about something?”
“Yes,”  the tired father admitted.  “She's been colicky all night and Trish is about done in.  It's nothing to really worry about, she'll settle.  But in the meantime, it does wear one down.”
“Hmm,”  Heyes nodded.
“But you're going to be finding out about that yourself soon enough,”  David prophesied.  “And Jed, well life as he knows it is about to get a whole lot more interesting.  Oh, here it is.”
He pulled the thin booklet out of the shelf and handed it to his patient before returning to his own chair.  “I know you've had children before but this will be the first time you've been involved all the way through.  How do you feel about all that?”
Heyes smiled.  “Vulnerable—scared to death.  Just being a father to Sally is frightening enough, but a new born?  I don't know how good a father I'll be.  What if I mess up?  What if they grow up to despise me?”
David laughed.  “Join the club.”
“Believe me Hannibal, most new parents are scared to death at the prospect.   It can be very daunting.”
“Jed's not scared by it,”  Heyes pointed out.  “He can't wait.”
“He's excited, of course,”  David agreed.  “but he's scared too.  He'll adjust and so will you.  I was terrified the first time, with Nathan.  It was a little easier with Eleanor, but...”
“But you're a doctor!”  Heyes was incredulous.  “You of all people....!”
“Ha!  Don't kid yourself,”  David told him.  “Being a doctor only means I am more aware than most of what can go wrong.”
Another loud infant wail drifted through the door from the kitchen and David pushed himself away from his desk.
“I better get out there and see what's going on,”  he said with a tone of reluctance.  “And you may need to rescue your wife before she decides to call the whole thing off.  Take her and your daughter out for a nice afternoon ride.  That will calm the nerves.”
“Oh!”  Heyes stood up and then stopped in his tracks.  “Geez, with all the other stuff going on I totally forgot.”
“Umm,”  Now that Heyes was down to it, he wasn't sure how to broach this topic.  He didn't want to cause insult.  “How's Rudy doing?”
“Rudy?”  David couldn't have been more surprised.
“Yeah,”  Heyes shrugged.  “I know he's getting a little long in the tooth and those midnight gallops in the snow and the rain couldn't have doing his joints any favours....”
“Yes, you're right there,”  David admitted, still wondering where this was going.  “It might be time soon to see about getting another horse, but...”
“Well I've got one that would be just perfect for you!” Heyes spit out in a rush.  “He's a big clayback gelding over at Eric's barn.  Why don't you go on over when you have a minute and take a look at him?  I had to buy him when Karma got stolen from me, but when I got her back I didn't want to just sell him again.  He's a really good horse and I think he would suit you and your profession quite nicely.  He's strong and tall and certainly a lot faster than Rudy, so I thought I would give him to you for everything you've done for me over the years.  I mean, I know Jesse was paying for your services at first, and well, now I'm not exactly destitute anymore.  But I just thought that, since I didn't want to sell him and you would probably be looking for another horse soon....”
“Hannibal, stop!”
Heyes stopped talking and stood tight lipped, awaiting his friend's response.
“You're giving me a horse?”
'Well,”  Heyes shrugged.  “Yeah.  If you want him.  If you don't want him, then maybe Trish would like to have him, but I figure she's kind'a busy these days and won't have time to ride much, so then maybe Rudy would be more to her speed now if he's going to be semi-retired and so he's not going to be needing as much exercise, so that could be just the ticket for Trish.  I mean if she wants him.  I know Randa likes getting out for rides and I was able to bring a horse home for Sally so it might be fun for Trish to get away from the children once in a while and go for a ride with them.  It's okay that Randa rides for a while yet, isn't it?  I mean just quiet rides, no galloping or anything crazy.  I'd hate to have anything happen though, maybe it would be better if she didn't ride...”
“Hannibal, stop!”  David laughed.  “Yes.  I'll accept your generous offer if only to stop you from talking me to death.”
David's countenance softened and smiling, he shook his friend's hand.  “No, sincerely, Hannibal, thank you.  That is a very generous gift.  And knowing your eye for a good horse, I'm sure he's wonderful.  I will go over this afternoon and take a look at him.  Just out of curiosity now.  You have me all excited.”
Heyes grinned.  “Good.  His name's Clay.”
“Okay.  Now we better get out there and rescue our wives.”
As David had predicted, Randa was looking slightly terrified while an exhausted Trish was doing her best to calm the fussy infant.  Heyes smiled as his wife's beseeching eyes pleaded with him for a dignified way out of this and being a dutiful husband, he complied.  Perhaps the three of them taking a quiet ride out to their favourite meadow for a picnic lunch might be a good idea after all.
Returning just as the gloaming was settling in, Heyes dropped his two ladies off at their front porch and then carried on to deliver the three horses back to the livery.  That done, he was just heading for home himself when young Robbie who worked occasionally for Clayt over at the telegraph office came trotting up behind him, calling his name.
Heyes stopped and turned to greet the young man.
“Evening Robbie,”  he smiled congenially.  “Telegram for me?”
“More than just a telegram Mr. Heyes,”  Robbie informed him and offered up a rather thick envelope.  “It's a letter, all the way from back east.”
Heyes felt his heart skip a beat.  “Oh.”  Instantly his fingers had gone numb and he hoped they weren't shaking as he dug into his pocket for some coins for a tip and then took the letter.  “Thanks  Robbie, have a good evening.”
“Yessir, Mr. Heyes. Same to ya'.”
Heyes stood there on the side of the street and stared at the letter.  He swallowed nervously as he read the writing on the envelope and recognized it instantly as belonging to Abi.  The envelope was well padded so obviously held more than just a letter, yet Heyes hesitated in opening it.  The guilty rush of a married man receiving a letter from his ex-lover settled over him.  He desperately wanted to open it and find out what news Abi had for him of their daughter, but he was also afraid of how his wife would react to this note from his 'sordid past'. 
Even though Miranda's pregnancy now explained much of her reaction and hostility towards Allie, it was still causing Heyes some disquiet.  That nastiness wasn't a part of Randa's personality normally but she was still pregnant.  Heyes didn't want to have to deal with another episode like the one in Denver and he stood there, not moving, debating back and forth what he should do.  He glanced up to see if anybody was watching him and went into 'wanted outlaw' mode.  He walked quickly but casually down the street until he came to a convenient side alley.  He took another quick look around and then disappeared.
He stood there in the quiet as dusk was coming down.  He was leaning against the side wall of the hat shop that had just recently opened up with a new milliner (whom he had no intentions of getting to know) and looked down upon the envelope.  His hands were shaking now.  Why did he feel so guilty?  Didn't he have the right to read a letter from an old friend, and to have some privacy while he did it?  Of course he did!
He slid his finger under the sealed lip in preparation of tearing it open and then stopped.  What was he doing?  Why was he hiding this from his wife?  No, this wasn't right; he shouldn't be doing this.  Miranda was his life's partner.  Was he going to start keeping secrets from her now too?  The answer came back to him as a very solid 'no'.  Even if Randa got angry over Abi writing to him, she still had the right to know about it.  There was no reason to keep it a secret.  Why should he need to?  Why would he want to?
He frowned at his own ingrained response to anything unexpected.  Instantly defensive, instantly expecting the worse.  Instantly secretive.  Time to make a change, he told himself and feeling slightly irritated at his first reaction, he tucked the letter into his pocket and headed for home.  He took note that the guilt and anxiety he had been experiencing instantly lifted from his shoulders and he smiled.  A letter from Abi!  And it felt like there was a picture inside!
He trotted up the steps of his home and smiled at his daughter playing with the kittens on the porch.   “Hello Sweetheart,”  he greeted her.  “You know we're going to have give those kittens to their new homes soon, don't you?”
“Yes, I know,”  she admitted but didn't look up to meet his eyes.  “Mouse is going to miss them.”
Heyes smiled over at his cat who was curled up and sound asleep on the cushioned porch chair.  He went over and gently scratched her behind the ears and she woke up with a smile and a gentle 'murr' as she stretched out her paws and yawned.
“Is that true Mouse?”  he asked her.  “are you going to miss your kittens?”
Mouse began to purr as she rubbed her head against his hand.  Despite being busy with her own family, she had missed him while he'd been gone.  As though in understanding of what he'd said, she sent a contemplative look over to her kittens and gave a non-committal 'ack' in reply.  Heyes gave her a final pat and carried on into the house.  It seemed to him that Sally was going to be missing the kittens more than Mouse would be.
Miranda was stirring a left over stew on the stove but she turned when she heard her husband come indoors.  She smiled when she saw the happy gleam in his eye.
“What's up?”  she asked.
“I got a letter from Abi,”  he informed her.
“Oh!  How are they?  What did she say?  How is Anya?”
“I haven't opened it yet,”  Heyes admitted.  “I thought maybe you might like to read it with me.”
Miranda smiled.  “That's very thoughtful Hannibal,”  she said.  “but no.  The letter is to you and it may be very private.”
“How about you read it yourself first,”  his wife suggested.  “then if you're still comfortable with me reading it afterwards, I will.  How is that?”
“Oh,”  Heyes repeated, then nodded.  “Okay.”
He carried on down the hallway and into the sitting room where one of Sally's half-finished jigsaw puzzles was still a work in progress.  He knew better than to disturb that!  He went over to his favourite chair and settled in.  Now that he was down to it, he could hardly wait and he ripped the envelope open though still being careful not to tear the return address.
He smiled broadly.  Sure enough there was a photo enclosed and he grabbed it first, excited at being able to see his daughter again.  At first glance he could not believe it was her.  Surely this must be a younger depiction of Abi!  But when he looked closer at the tall, slender—child?—he realized that he was indeed viewing an image of Anya.  My what a beauty she was and he almost giggled in his pleasure at seeing the lovely young woman she was promising to become.
They grow up so fast.  He remembered his shock at seeing Nathan and then J.J. when he had first arrived home from prison.  To him they should have still been infants, but both had grown way past that stage and now look at them!  Energetic, rambunctious children who just kept on growing out of their clothing!  And Heyes smiled again when he recalled his own surprise at how much Sally had changed just in the couple of months he'd been away this summer.  He was going to have to start staying home more, that was for sure.
He continued to sit and smile at the photo for some time, just drinking in the likeness of the child who had saved his life.  She was so special to him and he missed her with all his heart.
Finally he put the picture aside and unfolding the letter, he settled back and commenced to read it.
'My dearest Mr. Heyes,
I do hope that you are well and that your little family is prospering.  I am very glad to think that you took in little Sally and gave her a home.  Randa has a big and loving heart and I’m sure she’ll make you very happy.  You certainly deserve that after all your trials and tribulations.   
How long has it been?  When I look at Anya I see so many changes in her, and our last adventure seems like a lifetime away.  Our baby is growing and will be on the brink of womanhood before we know it.  Please find enclosed an up to date photograph of our beautiful daughter.  She is growing up so fast it is making my head spin.  As you can see, she has just had a growing spurt and she’s now nearly as tall as me.
She has a glorious head of hair, which is much admired for its glossy richness and delicate waves at the end.  She has one auburn curl sitting in the darkness.  I think that shows that my red-headed mother’s blood also courses through her veins, but I suppose that also accounts for her temper.   
I thought you should know that I have kept my promise.  Anya is extremely mature for her age and is a very clever girl, so a few weeks ago I sat her down and told her that she was now old enough to know the big secret surrounding her birth.
I was forced to do so as I found her in the study, holding Alec’s death certificate in her hand.  She knew that she was born too late to be his daughter.  Hester has been teaching Anya the basics of anatomy and reproduction, so she was not to be misled.
I’m sorry to report that it didn’t go very well.  She sat and listened to me in silence, fixing me all the time with those dark eyes which are so like yours.  I could see her mind operating all the time I was talking; calculating and assessing.  She is certainly her father’s daughter.  Sorry, I digress.  Anya looked at me long and hard before she replied, “Really, Mother?  Hannibal Heyes?  Don’t be ridiculous - an outlaw?  Can’t you come up with something better than that?”
I tried so hard to get her to listen to me but she just threw up her hands and laughed.  She is convinced that I have told her a wild tale to deflect her from the truth.  She thinks her true father is a family friend or a married man who can’t acknowledge her without ruining himself and his family. 
The truth seems too absurd to her because the world I described to her no longer exists.  There are no longer female Pinkertons because Robert Pinkerton disbanded the woman’s department when his father died.  She knows I worked for Allan Pinkerton but is convinced that I was a typewriter or did some kind of clerical work.   
I have done my best, Mr. Heyes, truly I have, but she just laughs and tells me that I’m not to discuss the matter until I’m ready to tell the truth.
I can promise you that I am going to persist until she is prepared to listen to me.  You are her father and she needs to understand that.  I suppose she is too young to fully understand, but the discovery of the death certificate forced my hand.
I have another piece of news for you.  Cage and I have married and we are very happy together.  We are looking for a house somewhere convenient to a good school for Anya and close to Cage’s publisher.  He is a full-time writer now, publishing books about crime and law enforcement.  My life has been so unsettled for so long and it finally feels like I have things back on track.  I suppose you know how special normal becomes when one has been deprived of it for so long.
Anya finally has a home, a family and safety.  My life is complete.  It has been a long, hard and very rocky road but my life has been enriched by every bump I met on the way.  Hannibal; (Not you.  Yes, Mr. Heyes.  I can see you smiling already,) said, “We will either find a way or make one.”
We did that didn’t we?  We found a way at last.  When I met you I was a dead woman walking.  I had lost so many loved ones my life meant nothing to me.  You taught me to love again and for that I will be eternally grateful.  Not only that, but you gave me something to live for in our daughters.  I am sorry that my fear for Anya blocked you out, but I will do all I can to make her understand that you are her father and that she has always been loved and wanted by her you.
Take care, mo bheatha.  Hold onto those you cherish and never let them go, just as I will always hold you in my heart.  I doubt we will ever meet again, but you will always be with me.
Goodbye, mo ghaol.  Perhaps we will meet again in another life as it was not meant to happen in this one.
Le gaol gu brath.
Heyes sat as though in shock, the letter hanging limply in his numb fingers.  His joy at seeing the picture of his daughter had been turned around so quickly into hurt.  Those very fears that had settled onto him when learning of Randa's pregnancy had so unexpectedly and so quickly come to pass.  His own daughter had rejected him.  She denied him and thought it ludicrous that he could actually be her father.  And his heart broke.
Even the news that Abi and Cage had ultimately married did not bring the stab of jealous pain he had anticipated it would.  He knew then for certain that Jed was right.  And he had no choice now but to accept the truth of it.  He and Abi had both realized that they had grown in other directions and they were no longer what the other needed in their lives.
Once the pain and shock of his daughter's denial wore off he would actually feel happy for Abi and even for Cage.  Happy and relieved that she had found someone to spend her life with; that she wouldn't be alone any longer.  She deserved that after all the losses she had suffered.  She deserved love and Cage was a good choice.  Not only would he look after her, but he was smart enough to know when to back off and let her look after herself.  They were a good match.
But at the moment, he could feel none of this.  No rejection from any woman had ever come close to hurting this much.  His mind went back in time to her birth.  Abi hadn't told him she was pregnant again and she had hidden it well.  He'd had no clue what was going on behind that closed door until the sound of a newborn's wail met his ears.  And then he was in shock.
He'll never forget it; those few moments he'd had with his new daughter, holding her in his arms, gazing down at her.  Jed thought she looked funny; pinched.  But Heyes had thought she looked beautiful and he was doomed from that moment on.  Just in that brief time he'd had with her, she entered into his heart, into his very soul and had held on there, refusing to let him go. Try as he had through the ensuing years to forget about her, he hadn't been able to do so.
Then she saved his life and he no longer tried to forget her.  The Christmas they had spent together had been glorious, exhilarating and exciting with promise for the future.  It was the happiest he'd been in a very long time.  Even after that future hadn't worked out, he'd still had such hopes that Anya would want to come and visit him, come and stay for a while and get to know him as her father.  He'd wanted that so much.  And now she had rejected him.
He became aware of Miranda standing in the doorway of the sitting room.  She had picked up on the silence coming from in here and had quietly come down to investigate.  She hadn't wanted to intrude on her husband's privacy but her own instincts were telling her something was wrong.  When Heyes looked up to acknowledge her, the pain in his eyes clutched at her heart and she stepped deeper into the room.
“What is it?”  she asked in a strained breath.  “Has something happened?”
Heyes found that he couldn't answer so he simply handed her the letter.  She stepped forward to take it, then sat down on the sofa and began to read.  Understanding flooded through her and she reached forward to take her husband's hand in hers.
“I'm so sorry,”  she said quietly, and gave his hand a squeeze.  “I know how much you wanted....but please keep in mind how young she is.  As she matures, she'll see.  Especially if Abi does what she says, and persists with it.  Anya won't have any choice but to acknowledge it—the resemblance is so obvious to everyone else....”  she had smiled slightly, hoping to lighten the mood but her husband's pain was too raw and her effort fell flat.  “Oh my darling, I'm so very sorry.”
She stood and came to him then and snuggling in beside him in the armchair she pulled him close.  He wrapped his arms around her and with a shuttering sigh buried his face in her beautiful warmth
Later that night their love-making had been gentle and sweet.  There had been no rough housing or erotic overtures; there had been no giggling or playful swats.  He settled into his wife and loved her with a caressing passion and she had soothed him and comforted him and gave him a warm safe place to lay his head.
Afterwards they lay together, wrapped in each other's arms and allowed the softness of the warm summer night to envelop them.
 Finally Heyes reached over and gave her a kiss on the side of her forehead.  “I need to apologize to you.”
“Really?”  Miranda asked him.  “What for?”
“When I first received that letter I was going to hide it from you,”  Heyes admitted.
Miranda frowned,  “Why?”
Heyes shrugged in the darkness.  “I don't know.  Falling back onto old habits I suppose.  Thank goodness I realized what a mistake that would be.  I needed you tonight and for you to know why.  Thank you.”
“Your welcome,”  she smiled.  “You don't need to hide things from me.”
“I know,”  he agreed.  “and I won't.  I promise.”
“And on that note, there are some other things I wasn't sure I should tell you about, but if we're going to be honest with one another....”
“Oh no,”  Randa quietly teased him, “another revelation.  What am I going to do with you?”
Heyes actually chuckled; a sure sign that he was feeling a little better.  “Nothing quite so drastic,”  he assured her.  “It has more to do with this past job.  It's nothing you won't be hearing about sooner or later anyway and actually I'm surprised you haven't yet.  Joe must be keeping it quiet.”
“What quiet?”  asked Randa; her curiosity totally aroused.
“Joe saved my life out there,”  Heyes confessed.  “Duncan had me good to rights, he had me pinned.  He was going to kill me Randa of that I have no doubt.  And all I could think about was how I had let you down.  That I had failed you and Sally as a husband and a father and that I should have been more careful.”  He felt his wife gently tightened her hold on him and snuggle in closer.  “Then I miraculously make it home and discover that we have another little one on the way and it makes me even more aware of how irresponsible I've been.
“So I make you a promise now that I will always be honest and upfront with you.  No secrets.  And I will do my best to stop being an arrogant ass.”  Miranda let out a gentle snort.  “I know!”  Her husband conceded.  “It's not going to be easy and I'm sure I'll backslide.  But I promise that I will try.  There's more at stake here now than just me and Jed.  We both have deeper responsibilities and I will try my best to remember that.
“So on that note, there is something else you should know.”  Miranda groaned and Heyes nodded in agreement.  “Four of the fellas Lom hired to join our posse ended up turning on us.”
“What?”  Miranda was incredulous.  “You mean they helped the bad guys?”
“No,”  Heyes denied that.  “They had their own agenda.  It seems that our past is still following us, sweetheart.  Apparently there is a disgruntled ex-railroad man out there who is so pissed that me and Kid didn't pay for our transgressions, well as far as he's concerned anyway, he's let it be known that he'll pay the same amount of money that was posted on us before.  Only he wants us alive.”
“Oh no,”  Randa groaned for real, then tried to look on the bright side.  “Well that's better than 'dead' isn't it?”
“Not really,”  Heyes answered with a sigh.  “He wants us alive so he can torture us to death and take his time about it.  No law, no jury system—no nothing.  If this man, whoever he is, gets his hands on either one of us, you'll likely never see us....”
“No, Hannibal,”  Randa stopped him from completing that thought, “that's illegal.  There must be something the law can do....?”
Heyes nodded.  “Yeah.  Gus, the fella who tried to collect that reward, well he's in custody now.  As far as I know he's still in Murreyville with Marshal Morrison beating the information out of him.  Knowing Morrison, he'll get it too.”
“Yes.”  Miranda's tone had hardened.  “One of those rare occasions when I might actually be rooting for the marshal.”
“Yes, me too,”  Heyes agreed ironically.  “Unfortunately even if they do get the name out of Gus, there's nothing to prove it.  Just Gus' word against a wealthy railroader.  The best the law can do is give him fair warning.  If me or Kid disappears, the search will be starting with him.
“So, there you have it,”  Heyes concluded.  “I'm sorry Miranda.  I thought we were past all this.  That once Amy had been found out that we could all settle down to a normal life.  I guess I was being naive.  You and Beth; both of you, you married into a dangerous life...”
“Shhhh,”  Randa told him and pressed a finger up against his lips.  “That was my choice, and Beth's.  We both had a good idea what we were getting into, especially after Amy.  I know Beth and Jed were already married then but it didn't stop them from picking up and carrying on.  I was still free to make a choice and leave if I wanted to.  I didn't want to Hannibal.  I wasn't going to destroy our chance at happiness because of what might happen down the road.  If I had done that, or if Beth had, then the bad guys would have already won.”
“You say that now, but....”
“I love you,”  Randa responded softly and Heyes smiled in the darkness, her simple comment making him feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  “I promise too; no secrets between us.  I mean, we both have our own lives as well; we are both individuals and I certainly don't expect you to tell me everything that goes on in your day.  But the important things.  The things that affect us and our family I will never keep from you.
“I appreciated your offer this evening; to read Abi's letter with you.  It told me that you trust me and that I can trust you.  Abi is your friend and you share something precious with her.  I would never expect you to sever that bond and more than that, I hope you will continue to include me in it.  I hope to meet Anya one day.  “  She felt her husband shift slightly with discomfort and she kissed his shoulder.  “I know.  I know her letter today was very hurtful.  But be patient.  She'll come around.  Abi's not going to give her a choice.”
Heyes smiled at that and allowed a deep chuckle to escape.  “You're probably right about that.”  Deep sigh.  “There's something else I need to tell you.  I'm surprised that you don't.....oh but then, David is very discreet; he wouldn't have said anything.  Now Trisha might have—but no—again, she might have a hard time keeping a secret but not when it comes to her husband's profession.  She does know how to be quiet when it comes to that.”
“What are you talking about?”  Randa asked, getting slightly nervous at the direction of this new  conversation.
Another deep sigh from the husband.  “I had one of those seizures out there,”  he finally admitted.
Randa felt a chill go through her.  “Oh.”
“I had been under a lot of stress for a few days—very dangerous situations and I think, and David agrees, that that's what probably brought it on,”  he explained.  “But I had no warning that it was coming.  I didn't even know I'd had one until the man I was with described it to me.  I realize now how important it is to let people close to me know about this condition.  David said it's most likely I won't feel them coming.  It'll be you or Sally or Jed who will come to recognize the signs and you'll be the ones letting me know.  So again, I've allowed arrogant pride to get in the way of common sense.  I won't hide this condition anymore Randa.  The whole town can know about it as far as I'm concerned.”  He chuckled.  “Even Isabelle—and Harry.” He groaned as that thought struck home.  “Ohh, Harry.”
Randa laughed, partly from the joke and partly from relief.  “Good.  I was worried about you.  I wanted people here to know about this, but I also knew you didn't want them to know so I stayed quiet.  But I'm so pleased that you have changed your mind about it.  You're a good man Hannibal, please don't doubt that.  I'm nervous about this new baby too.  I have no idea what kind of mother I'm going to be.  Sally came to us as an older child and she's more my best friend than anything else.  But a baby!  Oh my!”
“I know,”  Heyes agreed.  “It scares me too.  A baby!  I may have had beaten Jed to the punch when it comes to making babies, but he is certainly going to be showing me the way when it comes to raising one!  Ohhh, life as we know it....”
Randa laughed.  “Yes.  Isn't it wonderful?”
Heyes rolled over onto his side and hugged her glorious body into his.  “It certainly is.  I love you Miranda Heyes.”
“And I love you too, Hannibal.”

To Be Continued. One more time.

Thanks to Silverkelpie for delivering the letter from Abi to Heyes.
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PostSubject: Re: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyWed May 14, 2014 2:33 pm

Well done, ladies, for taking us on this emotional rollercoaster of a chapter.  It is wonderful that Heyes' freedom finally came through even though there are still some restrictions.  Great to see Kenny again too.  That was a very pleasant surprise.  I did love the homecoming and the unexpurgated version, (you monkey. Keays).  I am sorry that this series is coming to an end but I think you are heading towards the life the boys should have had.   applause

Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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PostSubject: Re: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyWed May 14, 2014 3:02 pm

Hee hee hee. The things we put the boys through!
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PostSubject: Re: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyWed Aug 13, 2014 8:37 am

What a great chapter. As SK says, it's an emotional rollercoaster.
From anxiety and fear about what the governor has decided to joy about the long overdue pardon, the happy homecoming with surprises from both sides, to heartbreak, to making steps forward for a better, stronger marriage.
It was great to have Kenny there for the pardon and it was even better that he gave Heyes his full approval. Heyes' quest to gain Kenny's respect and be worthy in his eyes is now finished, a thread coming all the way from TOF is nicely tied up. Hopefully Heyes will feel more on an even footing with Kenny now in addition to being friends.
I loved the slight comic relief around the visit to the governor. Historical convention. Hmmm. The best parts were Kid's question how you dress up like an outlaw, and the John-Boy-esque Goodnight wishes. I would have loved to stay and see what the convention gets up to. Is there a chance of reading more about it? In a one off story maybe? If I ask really, really nicely? I am willing to beg... (I'd just love to see a grumpy Wheat be a tourguide for big-eyed young Easterners through Wyoming, or getting hired to perform a train robbery for them...)
The homecoming was beautiful and sweet. I knew that Fanny would be a gift for Sally. It is just perfect. And well planned, Heyes! What a sneaky way to have the house for himself and Randa for a few hours. Loved his reaction to Randa's surprise. Finally he will be able to be a father all the way. Of course I wanted to find out how they "celebrated" in the adult version and was a little surprised that it seems to be exactly the same as the version here. Not that it was not very enjoyable and had enough suggestions...
Am I wrong in suspecting that Randa will have twins? That's the only way I can interpret Sally's cryptic remark about not having to chose: a boy and a girl. And we already know that Sally is a little prophet.
I was delighted with Heyes other surprises. The tickets for the concert tie up another thread from TOF. Heyes is finally able to fulfill his dreams from prison. And choosing Santa Marta as location for their honeymoon - that's an inspired way to tie the new life of the new Heyes back to ASJ. I loved it. (I watched every repeat of this episode last week - 6 times in all...)
Of course there had to be a dampener, I guess it would all have been too sweet without, in the form of Abi's letter. Thank you SK for another beautiful and haunting piece of writing. Again, I was crying over the last few lines. I was surprised to see how hard I found it to accept that Abi has moved on with her life and married Cage. Even though I know it is good and healthy for her. Poor Heyes (here I go again), to read that his daughter rejects him. I only hope that Abi will win the battle of the strong-willed women. (I guess I have already peeked and know it will take some time before Heyes and Anya meet)
But it is good to see that Heyes has made another step forward and decides to be open to Miranda, about Abi, about what happened to him, possible continued dangers, about the seizure. He is on his way to be an extremely good husband and their marriage will be stronger for it.

"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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PostSubject: Re: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen EmptyThu Aug 14, 2014 9:51 pm

Stepha3nie;  Your comment about the adult version not being much different from the regular chapter got me wondering about it so I went over and checked.  Sure enough, for some reason the Adult version didn't post correctly, so I re-posted it.  The REAL adult version is now posted for your enjoyment!

I tried to pm you but for some reason it wouldn't go through.  Send me a pm and I'll reply to it, okay.
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PostSubject: Re: Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen   Life As You Know It.  Chapter Fifteen Empty

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Life As You Know It. Chapter Fifteen
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