A Shot In The Dark
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Join date : 2013-08-24
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Join date : 2014-01-04
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Mon Mar 16, 2015 5:51 pm|| |
Part 4 - A Shot In The dark
Wheat strode through the hotel lobby and gussied up to the front desk. His mustache bristled under too wide a smile while frighteningly bright eyes fixed on the desk clerk, but what was intended to be friendly and engaging actually came across as maniacally forward. The thin man gulped against a stiff cardboard collar and backed into the rack of pigeon holes behind him. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yah got rooms?”
“We are a hotel, sir. That’s what we do. You want a room?”
Wheat nodded. “Two doubles.”
The clerk fumbled for the register. “Doubles? You are expecting company, sir? You’re on your own.”
“Yeah, my boss is just getting somethin’ from the pharmacy. He asked me to check in. He’ll be here in a minute.” Wheat leaned over the desk. “Yah got a couple of good ones at the front? Together’d be best. He’s a real bast…,” he glanced over his shoulder at the door, “he’s real strict. Ya ever had a boss who thinks ya can’t do anythin’ right? He’s one a them. Can ya help me out?”
The clerk nodded tentatively. “Still, the owner says I am supposed to see all prospective occupants of a room. We get some undesirables trying to get in here.” he pointed over to the nameplate on the office door bearing the legend ‘manager’. “It’s the rules.”
Wheat dropped his head, still propped on the desk. “The rules, huh?” His hat rose slightly along with his crinkling forehead. “Yeah. We both got one of those bosses. Can ya reserve me the rooms while I go get him?”
“Sure,” the clerk picked up his pen. “What’s the name?”
The smile dropped from Wheat’s face as confusion hit him. What name was he to use? This was the sort of thing Heyes used to roast him for – not enough preparation. He groped around for a name and found the some filed in his short term memory. “Beecher,” he announced. “Kyle Beecher.”
“Beecher? Are you related the Beechers over at Blue Peaks? He had some men in here tonight.”
Wheat shook his head, realizing his mistake. “T’ain’t my name. It’s my boss’s. He ain’t got no family around here. Ain’t got no family nowhere, as far as I know.” He grinned. “He’s one o’ them who might a crawled out from under a rock.”
The clerk nodded. “Yeah. Are you sure he ain’t one of our Beechers? He sure sounds like one.”
“We’re just passin’ through. This ain’t social. One of the boys got kicked by a horse and he needs to rest for a day or so. I’ll go fetch him. So you’ll keep them rooms?”
“Sure. What line of business did ya say you were in?”
Wheat paused, his blank eyes revealing another lapse in preparedness. He thought of home. “Um… we’re in holes.”
“Holes? How can you be in holes?”
“That ain’t the right word; tunnels. That’s what we do. It’s real technical and ya gotta know what you’re doin’. Ya don’t want one fallin’ in on ya.”
“But we ain’t got any tunnels about these parts,” the clerk pressed.
“Not yet you ain’t,” Wheat’s eyes brightened at his own initiative, “that’s why we’re here. I’ll be right back with the boss.”
“Tunnels?” Heyes scowled. “Why did you tell them that?”
“What d’ya want me to tell him?” Wheat pointed down the empty street. “We’re the ones the posse is ridin’ after?”
“Will you keep your voice down?” Heyes glanced around. “I guess we’ve just gotta go with it. The only problem is that you have to travel for miles to find as much as a hill in this part of Wyoming and tunnels aren’t much use without them. You sure don’t make life easy.”
“Well they want to see ya before they give us a room and I told them you were in charge, so get them bossy boots polished and get in there,” Wheat barked.
“Are you sure it ain’t a trap?” the Kid queried.
Wheat shrugged. “How can it be a trap? We watched the posse hightail it outta town and the only man in the hotel is a little muskrat of a fella. They’re followin’ the rest of the gang.”
“If’n we’re gonna stay here we gotta take the risk, Heyes,” Kyle interjected. “Either that or we go right now. Wheat ‘n me’ll back you up.”
One long appraising look at a woozy Kid Curry made up Heyes’ mind. He nodded to Wheat and Kyle. “You two. Support the Kid by the door and make sure the horses are right outside. You can stable them once we get a room…if we don’t need them for a quick getaway. Once the desk clerk has seen how respectable we are we can get ourselves a couple of rooms, but keep a low profile.”
The desk clerk looked up at the tall man approaching the desk whose dimpled smile lit up the room. “I believe you have a couple of rooms for us? Name of Beecher.”
“Yeah, one of your men said you needed them,” the clerk nodded over to Kyle and Wheat trying to make it look like an increasingly weak Kid could stand under his own power. “Is he drunk? We don’t take drunks.”
Heyes shook his head, noting it was time for a diversion. “He was kicked by a horse. The pharmacist gave him something.” He glanced around, his hand hanging near his gun. “There’s nobody around. Is there something wrong with this place?”
“No, no. The men are out hunting some desperate outlaws. Every able-bodied man for miles around is out huntin’ down the Devil’s Hole Gang.” The clerk paused, and tugged his waistcoat over his paunch, “of course, they had to leave some of us around to protect the womenfolk.”
“That seems real good thinking,” grinned Heyes, “now about those rooms.”
“Sign here.” The ledger was slid in front of the outlaw leader. “Cash in advance.”
Heyes nodded. “Two nights, I reckon? That should give us enough time to see if he can travel or if we send him on by train.”
“Your man says you’re diggin’ tunnels?” The clerk watched Heyes scratch the nib across the page. “We’re gonna have some tunnels? You’re a miner?”
Heyes sighed deeply. “No. We work for the railway. We’re on our way west and doing some surveying for wear and tear on the way. It’s as flat as a pancake hereabouts. Why would we be tunneling here?”
“That’s what I thought,” the clerk turned the register so he could read it, “John Beecher?”
“Yes,” Heyes held the man’s gaze determinedly, “John.”
“Okay, Mr. Beecher, and your men are, Jim Hotchkiss, Joe Rembakker and…,” the clerk squinted at the handwriting, “Jack Trevors?”
“Yes. That’s Trevors,” Heyes gestured towards a dazed Kid Curry. “He’s a great engineer, but he knows squat about horses. Looks like he’s about to learn about laudanum though.”
Two sets of keys were slid over the polished top. “Rooms three and four. Up the stairs and turn right. Ya got bags?”
“Hotchkiss and Rembakker will bring them in once they’ve stabled the horses. We don’t want to be disturbed. We’ve got a sick man here.”
“Will do.” The smiling clerk watched the man in the black hat help the injured man up the stairs before he walked over to the manager’s office. He tapped lightly with his knuckles before a muffled voice drifted through the paneled door. “Mr. Keen? There’s somethin’ I think you should know about some guests who just checked in….”
“Stop arguing and lie down. The door’s locked and I’ll keep watch.” Heyes pushed down a protesting Kid Curry onto the bed. The idea was that we find you somewhere safe for you to rest.”
“The idea was that we lay low somewhere you can get even with Beecher,” the blue eyes screwed up in pain as the Kid fought back a cough. “I ain’t a fool, Heyes. This ain’t a good idea. We should git while the goin’s good…”
“You need to rest and you can’t do that lying on the cold, hard ground.”
“It’s better’n bein’ buried in the cold, hard ground. What if anyone recognized us, Heyes?”
“Only the clerk saw us, and the stableman will see Wheat and Kyle. That’s it. We’ll be fine as long as we stay here until you’re fit to ride.”
The Kid fought to prop himself up. “And what about the deputy? You’re forgettin’ about the law. He can identify all of us.”
Heyes pulled the curtains closed before peering through the crack. “He’s not gonna see us. We stay in here until you’re fit to travel. We only go out after dark.”
“After Beecher? You gotta leave it. This is a dumb idea.”
Heyes swung around. “Listen, Kid. I had to sit there and listen to Beecher beat the cr*p outta you because I was watching your back on my own when Beecher arrived mob-handed. I was out-numbered and out-gunned and couldn’t do a thing to help you without turning myself in too. Do you think I’m just going to walk away from that? It was only the fact that I heard him say he needed to turn you in alive that stopped me from blowing his head off.”
“Well, I say we put as many miles between us and Beecher we can.”
“When you’re ready, Kid. You might have cracked a rib. You couldn’t outrun a schoolgirl right now. “
“Then just relax until we can move on,” the Kid winced and fell back. “It’s not worth it. Let it go.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Heyes flicked open the curtain again and peered out into the night, “Once Wheat and Kyle get back from the stables. Ah, yeah. I can see them now.” He paused, his fist clenching and unclenching as he willed his men to come back to safety. “They’ve stopped. Come one…come on. Get back here. You’ve gotta get back to the room before the posse get back.” He watched the pair freeze in the middle of the road, lit by the light from the saloon windows. They were clearly talking to someone in the shadows. Kyle was gesticulating as though reasoning with a figure hidden by the darkness.
“What’s goin’ on?” the Kid demanded.
“Something and nothing. They’re talking to somebody,” Heyes frowned, still peering out of the window. “I told them to get straight back here.”
“So what’s keepin’ them?”
“Looks like they’re talking to someone. It’d better not be a saloon girl. This isn’t the time…” Heyes’ eyes widened. “Wheat’s gone for his gun! Dammit, Wheat. What’re you thinking!?
There was a thundering blast of gunfire, quickly followed by another and Heyes watched helplessly as a man staggered out of the shadows and swayed into into the road clutching at his guts. He teetered and faltered before collapsing face first onto the dirt.
The Kid pushed through the pain to sit up. “What! What happened?”
“Stay here, Kid,” Heyes grabbed his hat and made for the door. “I need to go and find out what those damn fools have done.”
Last edited by Moonpie on Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Fri Mar 20, 2015 2:33 pm|| |
“Git movin’ gal! Useless, that’s what you are; worse than your Ma.”
Mavis pushed her stringy hair back and hunched her thin shoulders defensively, anticipating the blow from her father’s hand. After it had landed and her father had gone back to his breakfast, she thrust her chapped hand into the bucket, squeezed the greasy water from her dingy rag, and, crawling on her knees, resumed swiping the grunge on the filthy barroom floor. Her hands, torn by the splinters in the floor caused by too many cowboys wearing too many spurs, stung in the soapy water; her knees cramped and cringed as she crawled through the spittle, spilled beer, and worse.
She ignored the discomfort – after all she was always this tired, this sore. Instead, as she had so often in her short life, she retreated to her thoughts. Grandma, surely Grandma would take her. That one time she’d met her she said she’d love to have a little girl. But Ma was still alive then. Now, well … it was better not to think about that. Anyway, Pa was railing on about Grandma the other day so she must still be alive and she’d sent that lovely card for Mavis’ birthday. And, and he said she lived in Arcadia. And THEY were going to Arcadia. She’d heard them. Oh surely they’d be here today.
She sprawled into the tobacco spittle as her father’s foot connected with her side.
“Ain’t you done yet? Stop lollygagging. You still got the cookin’ to do and make sure you mend Henry’s best suit – he’s got to look right for church, don’t he? Only one of you two worth anything. Lazy, that’s what you are. Nothin’ but a waste of good food and money. Useless.”
The noise of the crowd was a physical blow to Heyes and Curry as they entered the saloon. Pausing in the doorway to let their eyes and noses adjust to the fetid dimness, they searched the room. Curry nudged Heyes and indicated the man seated in a corner watching the entrance. They slowly worked their way over to him, grimacing as the soles of their boots stuck to the floor, and dodging unwary imbibers.
“Yeah. Are you Smith and Jones?”
“I’m Joshua Smith, he’s Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes responded pulling up a chair.
Curry looked around the room one more time before pulling out a chair and sitting opposite Heyes. Jenkins held up the nearly empty bottle and at their nods poured each of them a shot.
Curry took his, swallowed it in one gulp and plunked the glass back on the grimy table. “Real nice place this,” he commented, pulling out a bandana to wipe his arm where it had rested in something stuck to the table.
Jenkins gave a brief laugh. “Yeah, they weren’t joking when they named this town Sinkhole’s Edge, and this bar’s pretty much fallen over the edge.” He upended the bottle over Curry’s glass but nothing came out. Raising his eyes, he signaled to the bartender for another bottle.
“Briscoe tell you what I need done?”
“He said you had a package to be delivered. Why all the secrecy? This isn’t illegal is it?” Heyes asked.
“That makes a difference?”
“Yeah, it makes a difference. As long as the work’s honest we’ll do it.” Heyes and Curry glanced at each other. “For Briscoe.”
“Okay, okay. Don’t worry; nothing dishonest.” Jenkins glanced around again then lowered his voice. “It’s some evidence we’re trying to move across country, but we don’t want the criminals to get ahold of it and we’re worried our men are being traced. So we wanted someone outside the Agency to move it the next stage. Briscoe said you two could be trusted.”
Curry caught his partner’s glance and rolled his eyes. Heyes suppressed a smile. “So what exactly do you want from us?”
“Three days from now, if all goes well, I’ll signal you here. You two get on your horses and meet me outside town by the falls and I’ll give you the package. It’s your responsibility to get it to Arcadia by next Saturday.” His shoulders tightened and he looked around sharply as a bottle appeared on the table, relaxing only when he saw it was the bartender’s daughter.
Curry smiled at the girl and Heyes handed her some small coins. She shot a furtive look over her shoulder towards her father as she smiled tentatively and her hand secreted the coins.
She stiffened and scurried towards the bar.
Curry’s eyes turned cold as he watched the bartender backhand the child. Halfway out his chair, he stopped as Heyes shook his head. “Not now,” Heyes whispered.
“It’ll be good to be clear of this place,” Curry muttered as the partners entered the bar and ordered two beers.
Heyes nodded his agreement, his eyes lighting as he spotted a poker game. The two watched until the round had been completed. “Room for two more?” he asked.
Upon the players’ consent, they pulled out chairs and settled into the game, with one eye on the door, watching for Jenkins.
Curry was just raking in the small pot when his attention was drawn to the bartender’s shouts.
“Mavis! Girl! Get your scrawny butt in here or I’ll make you sorry you were ever born!” The man swung his back to the bar and stalked into the kitchen, shouting as he went, and pulling his belt into his hands.
All in the game watched. The thin walls of the canvas tent that served as the shell of the bar could not muffle the sound of the belt hitting flesh and the cries and pleas from the girl. The locals studiously examined the coins before them.
Heyes and Curry scowled towards the sounds. “He like that often?” Heyes asked, reaching slowly for the deck.
“Downright criminal the way he treats that child.”
“Why doesn’t anyone do anythin’ about it?”
The men looked at each other and back at Curry who had asked the question, astonishment on their faces.
“Man’s got a right to do what he wants with his own. She’s his daughter.”
Heyes looked away from his partner’s set expression and saw Jenkins signal him from the entryway. He finished shuffling the cards and kicked Curry’s ankle. Curry still looking thunderous glanced around and hesitated.
Heyes placed the shuffled deck on the table. “Yeah, well, guess we need to get going. I think we’ve had enough of the atmosphere in here for a while.” He stood, and Curry quickly followed him out.
The locals watched them exit. “Dang, they didn’t seem like Easterners. Poking their noses in where they don’t belong. Good riddance.” They returned to the game.
Mavis slowly uncurled from the ball she’d formed to protect herself from the worst of her father’s blows. She kept the hair over her face until she was certain that the door to the bar was closed and her father unlikely to return soon. Stifling moans as she stood, she limped to the back of the tent and slipped out the flap.
Her tear-streaked face peered around the corner of the tent to the street. She watched Jenkins ride briskly out of the small town and saw the two men walk slowly to the stables. Her hands crept to the secret pocket she’d sewn into her skirt and she removed the coins. Slowly she counted. Eighty-three cents. She had eighty-three cents. That had to be enough; it was her only chance. Mavis returned to the coins to their hiding place and slunk to the sod-hovel that was the only home she’d known.
She shook out her brother’s best suit and examined the tear she’d yet to mend. She held the trousers up to her waist. A little short, but they’d do. A look of grim determination on her face, she quickly dropped her clothes and donned his, cinching a rope for a belt and tucking her braid up under her brother’s hat to make the hat fit right. Mavis gathered her dress in a bundle, transferred her treasured coins to a pocket, added a kerchief and the remaining heel of bread and snuck over to where Parson Granger’s mule was grazing in the nearby field.
“Calm down, will you. Enjoy the day.” Heyes glanced at his partner as he rode. The day was fine, warm in the late afternoon sun. A slight breeze set the silver leaves of the Aspens quivering and shimmering against the dark greens of the pines. Heyes took a deep breath and relaxed.
The Kid felt some of the tension leave him as he looked around. Nevertheless, he kept a wary eye for followers and bushwhackers. “How’d a town like that settle in such a nice place as this?”
“Don’t know, but that town’s trouble. Let’s just meet up with Jenkins and finish the job.”
“Yeah.” Curry stopped them for a moment and listened. “The falls must be just ahead of us.”
They turned off the track and made their way through the trees towards the sound of falling water.
Jenkins uncocked his pistol when he saw them. “About time,” he grumbled, holstering the weapon.
Curry dismounted slowly and stood with arm’s crossed. “Made sure we weren’t followed. Didn’t want anyone to think we were meetin’ with you.”
“Good point. Maybe Briscoe was right about you two.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a first time for everybody.” Heyes rubbed his hands together briskly. “Where’s this package?”
Jenkins reached inside his jacket and slowly removed an oilcloth package, sealed with wax. He considered them. “You sure you know what to do?”
Heyes barely suppressed a sigh. “Yeah. Take the package to Arcadia. On Saturday night, we’ll meet Wilson at the Golden Hind and hand the package over to him. He’ll pay us fifty-dollars each.” He looked at the nervous man standing before him. “I think we can handle this.”
Jenkins nodded and handed him the package. “Just be sure you are…”
Curry interrupted him. “Be sure we aren’t followed. Got it. Why don’t you get out of here? We wouldn’t want to be seen with you.”
Jenkins started and looked around. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“A sound. I thought I heard someone.”
Heyes and Curry examined the bushes and rocks around them. “I don’t see anyone.” Heyes announced after checking mutely with his partner. “Get going. We’ll wait until you’re gone before we head out.”
Jenkins nodded and quickly mounted, riding to the south, away from Sinkhole’s Edge. The two remained standing and watching him leave.
“So, now we ride out to Arcadia?” Curry stated after Jenkins could no longer be seen.
“No, not right now.” Heyes pursed his lips. “Now, we find a place to stash this package, and tonight when it’s getting dark we retrieve it and ride out to Arcadia. For now we make sure we’re seen in town and not with Jenkins.”
Curry nodded agreement. “But we’re not spendin’ any more time at that bar. Don’t want to give that man anymore of our money.” He looked around then pointed to a pile of rocks.
They quickly stashed the package under the rocks, spread dirt and leaves over the pile and headed back towards town.
Once the men had left, a wren flew onto a branch overlooking the clearing. It watched a chipmunk dig among the rocks then disappear after finding nothing interesting to eat. In a flutter of wings, the wren flew up to a higher branch and watched as a young boy in a suit too small for him, entered the clearing. The boy looked around before lifting the rocks and digging until he extracted the oilcloth package. He thrust the find into his waistband and hurried to replace the rocks, again covering them with dirt and leaves. Satisfied with the result, he found a tree five paces back from the clearing, climbed it and settled comfortably into the junction of the trunk and two branches, leaving him with a view of the clearing, where he could not easily be seen from the ground. He reached into his pocket, extracted a heel of bread and munched while he waited.
Heyes pushed back the empty plate and took a long, satisfied sip of the coffee. “That was fine pie, Sarah. I doubt they’ll have anything near as good in Long Pole.”
“Oh, go on with you. Heading to Long Pole are you?”
“Yeah, we heard the saw mill might be hirin’. Thought we’d give it a try,” Curry explained. He dug into his pocket and extracted some coins. “Sure will miss your cookin’ though.”
“And I’ll be missing you two. Don’t often get such appreciation of my work.” She shook her head. “You come by for breakfast and I’ll pack you something for the road.”
Heyes stood up and dimpled at her. “Wish we could, Sarah, but just heard about these jobs and figured we’d better get there as soon as possible – jobs are kind of hard to come by these days. With the full moon, we should be able to make it quite a ways tonight.”
The two trotted out of town heading north. Once clear of any possible viewers, they cut west and rode cross-country toward the falls.
They had just reached the falls and dismounted when a shot rang out and they were surrounded by several men on horseback. “Hands up!”
Heyes and Curry exchanged resigned looks and did as instructed.
“Something we can do for you, gentlemen?” Heyes asked mildly.
“Where is she?”
“What?” Curry looked around at the speaker and his eyes hardened as he recognized the bartender. “Mister, we don’t know who or what you’re talkin’ about.”
“My daughter disappears the same time you two ride out of town and you say you know nothing about it? I don’t believe you.”
“Then it appears we have a problem. We don’t know anything about your daughter.” Heyes paused and his look hardened as he stared at the bartender until the man reddened and looked down. “Have to say, after what we heard in the bar this afternoon, it can’t be a surprise if she chose to leave, but we had nothing to do with it, if she did.”
“I saw you two. Saturday night, gave her something; must have planned it then.”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud.” Curry lowered his hands as he spoke. “We gave her a tip. She’s just a little kid. Any man worthy of the name wouldn’t make her work in a bar at that age.” He glared at the assembled men, who looked away.
The men muttered to themselves, all but the bartender looking around and edging back towards town.
Heyes also lowered his hands. “When did you last see her?”
“You mean when you beat her senseless?”
“Only gave her a lick or two. Gal’s lazy, needs to be kept in line.”
“Uh, huh.” Heyes remained silent as the other men shuffled and began to nudge each other. They searched half-heartedly around the site, looking behind bushes, anywhere other than at the bartender or the partners.
“Maybe, maybe you’re wrong about these two, Zeb.”
“Yeah, I don’t see her anywhere around, do you?”
The partners stood apparently relaxed, but each of them scanned the surroundings. Curry lifted his eyes and Heyes followed. The two turned back to the gun pointing at them.
“Hey, aren’t you one of the men we played poker with this afternoon?”
The man looked away. “Yeah.”
“So you won’t stop him beating that child, but do you really want to help him do it again?”
The man shuffled his feet but said nothing. “Find anything?” he called to his companions.
“Zeb, she ain’t here. I gotta get back.”
The other men murmured agreement.
“You mean you’re gonna let these two get away with kidnapping her? Cowards.”
“Maybe she just ran away.” The men hung their heads and glanced back and forth at each other. Finally, they returned to their horses. Zeb glared, spat, stomped to his horse, and followed.
Heyes and Curry watched them ride away. Heyes pulled out his watch and held up his hand. He counted down the minutes then nodded at Curry. The two walked over to the tree they had spotted.
“You might as well come down. They’re gone,” Heyes called.
A muffled exclamation erupted and leaves stirred as Mavis slid down from her perch. She dropped to the ground, straightened her jacket, tucked her braid back under her hat, and looked at the two defiantly. “If you knew I was there why didn’t you say anything?”
“None of our business.”
The two turned their backs on her and walked to the rocks where they had hid the package.
“It’s not there.”
In unison they spun around.
“The package. I moved it. I, I followed you on Parson Granger's mule.” She shrugged. "I sent it back so no one would know I'd gone."
Heyes frowned while Curry turned and swiftly removed the rocks. “She’s right. It’s not here.”
The two walked over to Mavis. “Give us the package.”
Two puffs of frustration were heard. Heyes smiled, although it did not reach his eyes. “What do you want? We haven’t got much money.”
“I want to come with you.”
“I can’t go back. My father really will kill me this time.”
“And if they find you with us, they’ll kill us. You’re not coming.”
“Then you’re not getting the package.”
Curry glanced at Heyes, who shook his head. “No.”
Heyes turned back to the girl. “Look, the package is no good to you. Why don’t you save us all some trouble and hand it over. We can give you some money. Enough to take a stage or something. Like I said, that’s between you and your pa. None of our business.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out some bills. “Take this and give us the package.”
“No. Let me come with you, and I’ll give you the package when we get to Arcadia.”
“How do you know we’re going to Arcadia?”
“I heard you talking in the bar.”
Curry studied her. “Why do you want to go to Arcadia? A girl your age could get into a lot of trouble on her own. You have no idea.”
“I’m not a fool; I work in a bar, remember. My grandmother lives there. She’ll take me in, and if I go with you, I’ll be safe.”
Heyes loomed over her. “What makes you think you’d be safe with us?”
“If you two were going to try anything, you wouldn’t be arguing with me.”
The two looked at each other. A smile twitched the corners of the Kid’s mouth. Heyes frowned at him and mouthed “no.” He turned back to the girl. “Give me the package.”
Heyes rolled his eyes and nodded to the Kid. Curry reached out grabbed Mavis and lifted her off her feet. While she kicked and squirmed, Heyes patted her down, before reaching under her jacket and pulling the package from her waistband. Curry let go and leaned down to massage his bruised shins.
“Let’s go, Thaddeus.”
“We can’t just leave her here.”
“Yes we can. She’s trouble.”
“She’s just a little girl.”
“I’m fifteen years old.”
They turned and looked at her in surprise. “I thought you were about ten,” Curry said.
“Well, I’m not. Now can I come with you?”
“I’ll follow you.”
“On foot? You won’t be following us for long,” Heyes said.
“I’ll tell everyone you have that package and where you’re going.”
The men contemplated her.
“We can’t leave her here.”
“Yes we can.” Heyes and Curry glared at each other. Finally, Heyes rolled his eyes and muttered, “You and the needy ones.” He turned his attention to the girl. “What’s your name?”
He studied her. “Someone gonna miss that suit you’re wearing?”
“Not till my brother wants it on Sunday.”
Heyes nodded, reached into his boot, and pulled out a knife. “Come here.”
Eyes wide, she stared at him. “What are you going to do?”
“If you’re coming with us, you’re coming as the boy you’re dressed as. I’m going to cut off your hair. Not our fault if some idiot girl fooled us into thinking she was a lost boy. We’re just doing our good deed.” He turned to his partner with a look of disgust. “Not that any good ever came out of our doing good deeds.”
Mavis studied him before smiling broadly, removing her hat, and walking to Heyes. She held out her braid. “You won’t be sorry. My grandma will be very grateful.”
“I doubt it.”
Curry held her braid out straight while Heyes sawed through it with the knife. Rolling his eyes, Heyes threw the braid down the waterfall. He reached over grabbed Mavis’ bundle of clothes. “Anything in here besides this dress?”
“Good.” He threw the bundle after the braid. Turning to Curry he announced. “She rides with you.” Turning to Mavis, he said. “Your name is Max now and don’t forget it. Don’t say anything to anybody but us until you get to your grandmother.” He paused, “Then forget you ever met us.”
Curry smiled and walked over to his horse, holding out his hand to Mavis/Max. “Come on, we need to be in Arcadia by Saturday.”
Last edited by riders57 on Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:21 am; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 834
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 45
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:36 pm|| |
Squall Redux – Shot in the Dark“Ante up!"As winds howled and rain poured buckets outside, five players in the local watering hole respectively dropped a dollar coin into the pot, the clunk of metal thudding against the wooden table. A quintet of cards to each was quickly dealt and assessed.“Pass.”“Pass.”“Pass.”“Open – for a dollar.”The dark-haired opener threw a bill onto the pile. Two others followed. Another pair tossed their cards in, finished for the round.The dealer had the deck at the ready. “How many?”The opener started as a strong clap of thunder caught seemingly everyone in the saloon off guard, quieting conversation and music for several seconds before resuming – cautiously at first. He mowed dark hair out of brown eyes before seeking the familiar blue of his partner, who leaned against the bar. They connected as yet another rolling blow outside resonated with grimaces inside. Shared imperceptible nods signalled silent thanks for the shelter.The opener sat, poker-faced. “One.”“Three.”“Two.”The gambler who took three threw in his cards. “I’m out.”The remaining pair sat opposite each other – the darker one‘s back to the door. His opponent's gaze subtly darted from his cards, beyond the opener, to the outside. His expression unreadable, he focused on his hand.The opener laid his cards face down in front of him. Counting out several bills, he added them to the pot. “Three dollars.”The opponent repeated the motions. “I’ll see your three, and raise five.”The dark-haired opener hesitated not. “There's the five, and raise ten more.”The opponent, again, “Ten, and raise another fifteen.”The crowd edged closer – the game beckoning them as the proverbial moth to the flame. A hush descended, the weather cooperating for a moment as well.The dealer interjected, “Check. Gentlemen, we’ve reached the three-raise limit.”The opponent demanded, “Call!”Brown eyes met blue again as the partner took a step forward from his perch at the bar, thumbs unlooping from the low slung gun belt as his arms fell to his side.The opener revealed his hand. “Aces and eights.”The opponent stared, stone-faced, waiting several seconds before disclosing his. “Aces and eights.”The dealer spoke, “Two dead man’s hands – very unusual. But Smith’s three beats McCall’s deuce. Congratulations, Mr. Smith.”Flashes of lightning briefly brightened the dark afternoon. Mottled shadows danced on the whitewashed walls, framing the collective gasps and murmurings after a sudden quiet."McCall?”“They hung him!”“Jack McCall?”"Couldn't be …""Nah."The blue-eyed partner moved stealthily closer.Smith regarded his opponent. “Just a coincidence, I’m sure.”McCall met the stare. “Maybe. Hickok also had his back to the door that day …”The saloon doors blew open. At the bar, a stranger tossed back his shot. A Colt appeared, quicker than the lightning bolt outside. The lights flickered. The room went dark. A dark-haired man dropped to the floor.Author's Note: Jack McCall shot James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on August 2, 1876, during a poker game. Hickok held a pair each of aces and eights, which hand has since become known as a "dead man's hand." McCall was tried and acquitted in Deadwood, then re-tried, found guilty, and hanged in Yankton, Dakota Territory – double jeopardy had been declared not to apply because Deadwood was an illegal settlement with no legally constituted law enforcement or court system.
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Location : Over the rainbow
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Thu Mar 26, 2015 5:37 pm|| |
Jed Curry tossed another forkful of hay in to the stable. He grasped the pitchfork with both hands and leaned on it, admiring the pile with the satisfaction of a hard day’s work done. He rarely paused to muse; he had always been more of a doer, and hard work kept memories at bay. The blue eyes turned upwards, gazing at the rafters. The well-ordered barn and the nickering of the contented horses reflected his mood. Life was good.
He was a free man. Free to put his past behind him, free to put down roots, free to build a home. He finally the ranch he’d dreamed of all his life, and a growing family. He smiled in spite of himself at the memory of young Timothy being scolded for pilfering a cooling biscuit. How many times had he been caught doing that when he was a nipper?
Every now and again he found himself marveling at the realization that he was happy. Mostly he was too busy to become a hayseed philosopher, but every now and again he would find an oasis of peace where his mind would reflect on the life he’d had and how far he’d come. Man, a lot had happened; most of it, good, some of it great, and a little bit of it spectacular. Maybe he should write it down sometime? A lot of fellas were doin’ that now and they were makin’ some money. A married man could always do with some money. A face flashed across his mind’s eye, blue eyes contorted with pain as the man hit the dust. No, it hadn’t all been good. Maybe the memoirs weren’t such a good idea after all.
The velvet touch of a slinky, sinuous body wound around his feet, the erect tail flicking over his shins. He looked down at the pale-brown tabby with a smile. “Hey there, Toffee. How ya doin’?”
She replied with a long, slow, blink and throaty ‘murr’ before scampering over to the door. She stopped and looked back at him. When he didn’t move she trotted back and stood staring up at him. “Murr.”
He frowned. Toffee was the least sociable of the barn cats and this wasn’t like her. “Yah hungry? Ain’t there any rats left for you? Maybe we’ll have a few scraps for you up at the house.” He propped his pitchfork up in the corner and patted his thigh. “Come on, girl. Come.”
He strode past her and closed the door behind him. He turned on the path up to the house and raised his lantern. She was now meowing loudly with her feet planted firmly; this cat wasn’t for going anywhere and was making a darned racket. “What d’ya want, Toffee?”
She turned and walked over to the bushes, her upright tail shaking from side to side. The gleaming green eyes fixed on him again. “Mowww!”
His brow creased. “You want me to look in there? What ya got? A mouse? A rat, maybe?” He walked over, the cat now running back and forth between the human and her object of interest. He put down his lamp parted the branches with a gloved hand and his heart sank. “Oh, Ginger. What happened to you? Is this what you were tryin’ to tell me, Toffee? Your sister is hurt? ”
The rays from the lamp cast dappled shadows through the foliage and the light beamed from the chartreuse eyes blinking back at him. Jed reached out a tentative hand and stroked the bloodied fur of the orange cat lying in concealment. It panted and puffed in shock and pain. There was no way of knowing how long she had lain there but the twisted back legs were testament to some terrible accident. “Aw, Ginger. What happened to you? Was it a cart? Did a horse kick you?” His brows furrowed as he gently felt around the injury, provoking growls and yips from the animal. His voice drifted in a low, calm murmur. “I’m sorry, Ginger. It’s real bad,” he dropped to a hoarse whisper as the realization sunk in just how bad.
He carefully withdrew his hand from the wound and softly stroked the matted fur around Ginger’s head. “I’m real sorry, old girl. So very, very sorry. There ain’t much I can do for you.” The verdant eyes caught the light as they peered up at her human. “Why’d you hide like that? Why didn’t you come and get help before you bled out like this, huh?” He stared into the wide, questioning eyes, tickling Ginger under the chin ever so tenderly. “You’re purring? Aw, my little one? You know I’m gonna help you, don’t you.” The amazing eyes shone like emeralds as they caught the light and fixed on the only help available. There was no doubt about the message they were communicating; make it stop. Make all this end.
The tiny beast allowed her lids to droop as the fragmented breath tore at his heart in little ragged pants. “Yup, you and me. We both know it. I’ll help.” He toyed with her chin once more, watching the light dim before him. “I know… I’ll help you.”
Maggie jumped at the shot which ripped through the night air. A gaggle of concerned children thrust their heads over the edge of their sleeping area in the rafters and chattered excitedly. “Wassat?” “Mommy? Where’s daddy?”
“Get back into bed. Don’t make me come up there,” she waved them away with one hand as the other reached for the rifle by the door. “I mean it, bed!”
She opened the door but paused to glower up at tousled head creeping back over the edge. “Timothy! I said bed.”
She watched him dart back into the bedroom and strode out onto the porch with her weapon ready for anything. “Jed? Are you there Jed?”
A bubble of golden light punctured the blackness as her husband rounded the edge of the house. “Jed!? I heard a shot. What happened?”
He climbed wearily into up beside her and hung the lantern on a hook. “Ginger. She was hurt real bad. He whole back end was smashed…” he glanced at her before staring down at the floor. “There was nothin’ else I could do.”
Her blue eyes melted with compassion. “You did the right thing. It was kindest.” She reached out and stroked his arm. “You wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for the best. How bad was she? What happened?”
Jed slumped into a chair and rubbed his face with both hands. “Who knows? You know what cats do when they’re injured. They run off to hide. She’s been like that for a long time; there was nothin’ else to do.”
“It was a mercy, my love. You did the right thing.”
He stood abruptly, shrugging off her gentle touch. “I gotta go bury the body.”
She nodded. “Sure. Let me help, I’ll bring the lamp.”
“No,” he barked, seizing an axe. “I’ll do this alone.”
“What are you going to do with that? You need a shovel.”
“I’ve gotta work. There’s wood to be chopped.”
Maggie’s porcelain brow wrinkled. “It’s bed time. You need to rest. You’ve had a full day.”
Jed swung around, fire and ice in his eyes. “Rest? How can I rest after that?”
“But you’ve put down animals before. What’s different about this? It’s sad, yes, but you seem so…so…angry?”
“Sure I’m angry,” his taught shoulders rose and fell with his breath.
“But why?” She shook her head in confusion and grabbed his hand. “I can see why you’d be sad, heartsick even; but angry? We don’t even know what hurt her.”
His hard fist closed around her wrist. “I’ve killed, Maggie. You don’t know what that does to a man. I’ve watched the light go out of their eyes, but I never had to shot anyone I knew for seven years and who purred with two broken legs.” He dropped his hand and stared into his wife’s eyes. “I reckon a man’s got a right to be angry about a thing like that. Real angry.”
Maggie watched her husband strike out into the darkness the way he’d come. He was a complicated man who worked his feelings into oblivion rather than work through them. Those heartfelt words were as near to a speech as he ever got. She opened the door and peered about. The house was silent; it looked like her tired brood had heeded her orders and gone to sleep.
She quietly closed the door and reached for the lantern. Her husband had to work off his hot blood, but he had a partner and there was no need for him to do that alone. The least she could do was light his way.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
Posts : 538
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 65
Location : Colorado
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Sat Mar 28, 2015 1:00 pm|| |
“Quit your bellyachin’, you ain’t gonna make me change my mind!” snapped Kid Curry as he reined his horse up outside of the cemetery fence. He dismounted his gelding and, without looking up at his dark-haired partner, tied the reins to one of the iron pickets. Leaving Heyes astride, Curry walked around to the rusted gate and opened it as far as it would go, slipping inside. He quickly saw the older graves were nearer to the gate and strode towards the newer headstones he saw at the back of the graveyard. The disrupted mounds of earth hadn’t settled on several plots and he started with those. It wasn’t but a moment before he found what he was looking for: Danny Bilson’s final resting place. He stared at the plain, wooden cross that simply stated the man’s name and the date he’d died. Not that the Kid would ever forget that day.
Heyes walked up and stopped next to his partner. “Okay, we’ve seen it. Can we go now?”
“Give me a minute.”
Heyes wandered up and down the row contemplating the inscriptions, or lack thereof, on the crude headstones and crosses. A light wind blew out of the south and the sun shone brightly through the cloudy, blue sky. Occasionally, he glanced back at where his partner stood until he finally decided this had gone on too long and walked back to Bilson’s grave.
The Kid still wore a grim expression and stared sightlessly at the tangle of weeds and brambles that covered the slightly humped ground. An errant gust of wind blew dead leaves across Curry’s feet. Heyes had objected to the whole idea of this visit. He’d argued until he was blue in the face but the Kid had made up his mind and refused to be swayed. Not even the risk of being spotted and recognized would prevent him from visiting Bilson.
Heyes remembered how long the Kid had worn that awful mustache and carried a chip on his shoulder after the shootout. Apparently, he was still hurting over it all. Feeling contrite for not sympathizing, Heyes dropped a hand on his partner’s shoulder and squeezed tightly. “There wasn’t anything else you could’ve done, Kid. Bilson forced your play.”
Roused from his musings, Curry glanced sideways at Heyes. “You think that’s what this is all about? I regret killin’ Danny?” He smiled. “If he rose up outta that hole he’s in, I’d be glad to kill him all over again. If ever a man had needed killin’, it was Bilson.”
Heyes was taken aback by the statement and was uncertain where this was going. “So why’d you have to come?”
“I was never upset he died, Heyes. What ate at me was that I felt justified in takin’ his life.”
“Yep, and that made me wonder about me. What gave me the right to judge him and execute him?”
“You didn’t execute him, Kid. He drew on you. You told me yourself he was too fast. So fast you couldn’t risk not shooting to kill.”
“That’s true,” nodded Curry, “but I also wanted to kill him and that’s what bothered me. It was Bilson who forced me to see myself as a killer.”
“You’re no killer…”
“I killed him. Simple as that. I am a killer, Heyes, and none of your sweet-talkin’s gonna change that.”
“Well you don’t take pleasure in it. Bilson did.” Heyes looked out across the small valley below them. The sun had dimmed and the clouds dominated the vista. There was a storm coming. His gaze shifted to the small town nestled in the central meadow. It was the same as he remembered, but he and the Kid had changed. “So why’d you come?”
“To see if I felt any different now that some time’s passed.”
“I don’t know. I never saw him laid to rest. We just rode out of town as quick as we could. For a long time, it was as though it never happened. It seemed like a dream. No, more like a nightmare. I thought maybe if I saw him like this, saw his grave, it might change things for me,” said Curry, shrugging. “It was just a shot in the dark.”
“Naw, it was daylight.”
Confused, Curry turned to Heyes. “What?”
“You said a shot in the dark, but it was a shot in the day.” Heyes chuckled. “I don’t feel bad about Bilson either. He wanted to own the whole town and he was willing to do anything to get it, including killing whoever stood in his way. Well, he bought the farm all right, but at least he was lucky enough to die with his boots on.”
The Kid grinned. “You really wanna know what I was thinkin’? I was thinkin’ it was kinda ironic that here Bilson was supposedly pushin’ up daisies and all that was growin’ was weeds. Kinda fittin’, isn’t it?”
Heyes laughed. “My guess is he met his maker and there ain’t no garden in Hell.” A cloud blotted out the sun and the chilly shadow it cast caused Heyes to look up. A small drop of rain fell on his face.
“Well, I ain’t about to dance on his grave, but I’m still not sorry he bit the dust,” said Curry.
“Danny had no idea he was cashing in his chips when he called you out. He wasn’t planning to give up the ghost; he probably figured it’d be you to hop on the last rattler.”
“Yep. And here he lies, dead as a doornail, takin' a dirt nap.” Rain started to pelt down on them. The Kid took one last look at the grave and then turned his back on it. Heyes fell into step next to him and they hurried to their horses as the rain intensified. Untying the animals, they quickly swung into their saddles and galloped towards the forest’s edge. Once under the shelter of the trees, they slowed to a jog.
“Heyes, do you think Bilson knew he was kickin’ the bucket?”
“Naw. He had no idea it was lights out, but one thing I know for sure…”
“He’s feeling under the weather right about now.”
“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Sun Mar 29, 2015 10:10 pm|| |
Well, here we go. Those of you who haven't read 'The Lineage' may be kind of lost, but I hope you can enjoy the ride anyway.
Heyes jerked hard on the reins in reaction to the sudden whinny coming from the rock pile to his right. The startled gelding instantly halted and reared just as the bullet zinged past his air-pawing hooves. Then the horse was on all fours again and Heyes turned the gelding's head away from the shot and booted and hat-slapped the animal into a full gallop away from the assault.
Duncan cursed, knowing that now he was going to have to work twice as hard to bring down his man. He scrambled to his feet and sent an accusing glare over to the smug mare. Karma's head went up in alarm and she pulled back, expecting some type of reprimand but only slightly relaxed when the blow didn't hit.
Instead, Duncan swung aboard the big bay and booted him back out onto the flats, dragging the reluctant mare behind him. Not liking the feel of the spurs against his flanks, the gelding tried to get a good gallop going but the mare attached to the saddle horn wasn't giving it up easily.
Karma fought and plunged against the reins until finally she'd had enough and really put her mind into getting away. She galloped up to run along beside her captor giving Duncan a false sense of compliance and then snatched that sense away as she sat down on her hind quarters. She dug in all four hooves and with a show of excellent timing, she jerked her head back just as the reins snapped taught against the saddle horn. The buckle on the headstall gave to the pressure and pinged off the cheek strap to go bouncing onto the ground and getting lost in the dust. The bridle came loose and with one final shake of her head she dropped the bit out of her mouth and flung the offensive rigging into the air.
Duncan cursed again as Karma swerved away from him, gave an exuberant buck and then took off in a shower of pebbles and dirt at a full triumphant gallop.
The infuriated outlaw very briefly considered changing his focus and shooting down that damned mare and be done with her, but he still couldn't quite give up his desire to possess her. He let her go—for now—and carried on after his human target.
The big gelding, now free of his anchor powered ahead and finally had the chance to show off what he really had to give. The powerful hind quarters dug in and pushed the bulky body forward into an amazing long and ground covering stride. This horse was built for strength. In a one on one race across the flats with Karma, he wouldn't have stood a chance but over uneven ground, galloping down into a gully and coming right back up the other side without losing any speed, this horse could not be beat.
He came on like a freight train and was closing the ground between himself and the smaller gelding with every ground shaking stride he took. Heyes could almost hear them running him down. He yelled at his horse, slapping him over the rump with the reins trying to get every ounce of speed out of him, but to no avail. The little fellow was doing the best he could but he was already beginning to fail. Heyes knew it would only be a matter of moments before he was run down and trampled into the ground at their feet.
With the same sense of timing his mare had shown, Heyes suddenly sat back, deep in his saddle and pulled on the reins. The little gelding put on the brakes, practically sitting down into the dirt himself and executed a perfect two footed skid that carried on for a good ten feet. Just as Heyes had surmised, Duncan had been right behind him and powerful as that bigger gelding was, he had too much bulk to be able to stop that quickly and he shot on past the smaller horse.
Duncan hauled on the reins, trying to bring the gelding down and turn him around to face their adversary, but Heyes had his rifle level by then and let go a shot. But his horse was stressed and dancing on the spot so Heyes' aim was off and the bullet went wide. Duncan growled in rage and finally getting his horse turned around, he came at Heyes with murder in his eyes.
Heyes swung his horse around and booted him to get out of the way, but he didn't quite make it. Duncan's horse ploughed into the other animal's hindquarters and sent him spinning around and almost going down in the effort to keep his balance. Heyes hung on for dear life but lost the grip on his rifle. The weapon flew from his grasp and clattered into the dirt well out of reach of the antagonists.
Heyes picked his horse up and got him organized again, but that big gelding was barrelling towards them once more and this time he hit square on. Heyes felt the impact and the shudder that went through his horse's body as the wind was knocked out of its lungs and its legs crumpled beneath him. Heyes scrambled to get out of the way as his horse went down but then Duncan's horse was onto him again, charging in and landing a solid blow against Heyes' shoulder. Heyes spun around himself and went down, the air knocked out of him.
He wasn't giving up yet though and despite the struggle to breathe he scrambled to his horse that was just getting his own feet under him and pushing himself up. Heyes grabbed the saddle horn and swung his right leg over the cantle just as the animal was coming up onto all fours. Then the rifle cracked directly behind Heyes and his horse reared up, causing Heyes to come out of the saddle again. He was still hanging on to the horn but then the horse fell over and came down directly on top of Heyes. He tried to get out from under, tried to get clear but he couldn't do it.
The game little gelding was dead before he hit the ground. Coming down hard he trapped Heyes underneath him, pinning his left leg under the saddle with the full weight of his body, that didn't seem quite so little anymore. Heyes cursed as he choked on the dust and tried with all his might to pull himself out from under the dead weight. He could feel the girth ring and the stirrup buckles digging into his leg and catching on his boot, making it impossible for him to get clear.
Finally his growing fatigue forced him to stop struggling and he looked up to see his antagonist casually sitting his horse and watching his prize struggling to get free. The smile that played about his lips was pure malice and Heyes glared up at him with eyes filled with hate and he growled at him like a trapped and injured beast.
“What are you waiting for?” Heyes snarled at him through the dust and sweat. “Why don't you finish what you came for?”
Duncan didn't answer but his smile broadened as he casually stepped down off the big gelding. Slowly and deliberately he returned his rifle to the boot and then approached Heyes once again. He stopped when he got up to the barrel of the fallen horse and putting a foot up on the saddle he gazed down at the trapped man. Heyes felt fear take hold of him as he saw the madness flare up like fire in the outlaw's eyes. It was the same look he had seen in Boeman's eyes and he'd never wanted to see that look again. Despite knowing the futility of it, Heyes fought against his situation but he was trapped, he couldn't get away.
Duncan reached down to his boot that was setting up on the barrel of the dead horse and slipping his fingers into the hidden sheath he slowly pulled out a heavy hunting knife. He smiled at it, running his thumb along the fine edge until a small trickle of blood dripped down to soak into Heyes' pant leg. Heyes' throat tightened and the old scar began to tingle. He struggled and wanted to cry out for help but no sound came.
“Finally,” Duncan whispered. “I am going to enjoy taking my time with you Heyes. You're about to pay for your transgressions.”
“Are you mad?” Heyes croaked, the irony of that question instantly dawning on him. “We're not alone out here you know! Others will have heard those shots and they'll be coming.”
Duncan grinned and nodded. “Yeah they will,” he agreed. “But all they're gonna find of you is what I decide to leave 'em.”
Almost on cue, two rifle shots sounded from the hills that rose up behind the two men. Duncan didn't even flinch; he turned and casually looked back towards the sound. He laughed and it sent a chill down Heyes' spine. Then those calm eyes that sparked with growing madness returned to his victim and Heyes thought of his wife and daughter and nearly cried with heartbreak.
“There's your friends now Heyes,” Duncan chided him. “but they're too far away; we're out of range. They think they're gonna scare me off with a few aimless shots in the air? Ha! Well, at least now they'll know what happened to ya'.”
Jed Curry pushed his horse harder than what was safe on this steep rocky trail. He knew he was taking an awful chance of breaking both their necks but a panic was on him. He knew from that instinct—that connection between him and his cousin, that he was in a battle against time. Heyes was down there at the bottom of this hill and he was in trouble.
Gov sensed the urgency in his task and put his full focus on the job at hand. He scrambled over boulders, jumped dead fall and clattered down steep and sliding shale in order to perform his task and get him and his human down safely. Jed did his part with legs and hands to help his horse stay on his feet but there had still been more than one heart stopping incident when he was sure they were both going to end up tumbling the rest of the way down.
A second rifle shot bounced around the rocks and Jed felt a cold sweat trickle down his back. He pushed on, occasionally taking his eyes off the ground in front of them to send a quick searching look over the open range below them. The first couple of looks brought him no reward, but the third time he glanced out, he saw them. Then real fear grabbed his heart and he pushed his horse even harder.
They finally made it to level ground, but with his heart sinking, he knew he would never get to his cousin in time. He could see Heyes trapped underneath the horse, and he watched helplessly as Duncan stood over him, the knife in his hand reflecting the sunlight like a beacon. Jed yelled and fired two shots into the air in the desperate hope that it might run Duncan off. If the outlaw knew his pursuers were close at hand maybe, just maybe he'd leave Heyes and hightail it outa' there.
Jed's heart sank as he found that his ruse didn't work. Even from that distance, he could see that Duncan was giving no indication of being scared off. Jed desperately dismounted and using a large boulder to steady his rifle, he lined it up and set the sites. Even before he fired the shot he knew he was out of range, he knew it wouldn't do anything but he had to try anyways. His mind and heart were screaming silently inside of him because he knew he was about to witness his partner's grisly demise and there wasn't a single thing he could to do stop it.
Duncan stepped around the dead horse and moved in on his fallen enemy. Heyes struggled desperately and grabbed out with his left hand trying to get hold of Duncan's ankle and trip him up. The outlaw simply laughed as he easily dodged the attempt. He dropped down onto his knees and Heyes felt his left arm being crushed under the weight of his adversary. Heyes squirmed and yelled his defiance and he grabbed a handful of dirt and flung it in Duncan's face.
Duncan recoiled slightly with the surprise, but recovered quickly then brought the handle of his knife down hard against Heyes' temple. Heyes went limp as his senses began to buzz and he thought; 'Oh great, another blow to the head. This is all I need.'. Time slowed down and his thoughts focused on his current situation. Why was he having to repeat these same terrible moments in his life? This was just a repeat of Boeman coming at him with the intention of cutting his throat. Why were the fates forcing him to live through these events again? Was it to get it right this time? Was he missing some point?
So what was he suppose to be learning here? Or was he simply destined to re-live his old nightmares until they eventually drove him to madness? He felt a great sorrow wash over him and he knew his heart was breaking with the anguish and he could hear Duncan laughing at him. The great Hannibal Heyes facing the knowledge of his own demise. He felt a stirring of anger at the injustice of going through so much only to die in the dirt at the hands of someone like Tom Duncan. But Heyes wasn't angry for himself. He was angry for his wife and for his daughters. He was angry for Abi. And he was angry for Jed. He was heartbroken for all his extended family and his friends who had sacrificed so much to save him and now he was going to die anyways at the hand of this lunatic.
He felt himself being crushed into the dirt at his back as Duncan pinned him in place. Again Heyes tried to resist him, but his strength was gone from his body and he felt himself giving up. That is until he heard a small voice inside his head, cajoling him. A beloved voice and one that he thought he would never hear again.
'What the fxxk do ya' think you're doin'?' the voice demanded. 'You're not giving up! C'mon Heyes, use your brain—what do ya' think it's sitting between your ears for?'
Heyes smiled, 'Hey Doc, how are ya'?'
'A sight better than you. Think; ya' young idiot!'
'But what can I do?' Heyes protested. 'He's got me pinned.'
'You were on the right track before,' Doc told him. 'Think! If all this is a repeat of what happened with Boeman then what is going to happen next?'
'Duncan's going to cut my throat.'
'NO! I swear Heyes; you're getting stupider as you get older!'
'I believe you mean 'more stupid...'
'Shuddup! Think! What happened after Boeman cut your throat?'
'Yeah, after! Ya' didn't die did ya'! So what happened after?'
'What happened after....' Heyes thought about it and a small glimmer of hope came through his mourning. 'Boeman got shot, so if this is all a repeat of that episode then somebody should be shooting Duncan. C'mon Kid, where are ya'? Somebody needs to shoot Duncan. SHOOT DUNCAN!'
Heyes came back from his trance to see the manic look of blood lust in his attacker's eyes. He still couldn't move; he still couldn't stop this from happening. What the hell had Doc been going on about? How was Heyes suppose to...?
And a rifle shot rang out. It was loud and clear indicating its closeness of proximity. The look in Duncan's eyes didn't change, but a hole erupted in the front of his chest as the bullet crashed into his back and exploded out the other side, sending blood and bone splattering into the air. A small trickle of blood showed in the corner of his mouth and he slumped forward, landing across Heyes' chest, his eyes still staring with a manic light but seeing nothing now in death.
Heyes' senses came rushing back to him. His lungs felt crushed and he was gasping to breathe, not just because of the dead weight across his torso, but because of the anger controlling him. Great sobs of stress and unequivocal relief forced their way up his throat and out of his mouth. He tried to swallow, he tried to move, he tried to see through the dust and the tears to what lay beyond the bulk of the dead horse.
He could hear another horse coming towards him at a gallop, then the animal slid to a halt followed by the unmistakable sounds of a man dismounting and hurrying towards him.
“KID!” Heyes was finally able to call out. “Kid! Is that you?”
“No Heyes,” said another familiar voice. “it's me, Joe.”
And sure enough, Joe's face, looking a little green around the gills, came into view as the young man came over and knelt down beside his friend.
“Oh God, Joe!” Heyes gasped as he fought for emotional control. “You killed Duncan...”
“Yeah I guess I did,” Joe quietly agreed.
“You killed Duncan. Oh God, thank you. You killed Duncan....”
Joe dragged the offending corpse off his friend as a second horse could be heard approaching and coming to a stiff legged halt by the scene of the action. Then Jed was on his knees by his partner's side and grabbed hold of his hand.
“Jeez Heyes!” Jed was almost beside himself. “You alright? Dammit! I was too far away. You alright?”
“Joe killed Duncan,” Heyes gasped almost in disbelief. “Joe killed Duncan.”
“Yeah I can see that,” Jed grinned with relief. “C'mon Partner, let's get this horse offa ya'.”
Monty was next to show up. He'd been too far away to even see what had been going on, but he followed the sounds of the rifle shots until he had the group in view and headed to them at a gallop.
“Hey there son, what ya' doin' underneath that horse?” he asked with a grin. “You're suppose ta' keep yerself on top of the horse, not the other way around.”
Heyes sent him an exhausted smile as his ragged breathing slowly began to settle. He was still shaking heavily and felt like all he wanted to do was go to sleep. Odd that; after everything that had gone on here, all he wanted to do was sleep.
Jed gave him a pat on the shoulder and then returned to his own horse. He took down his lariat and settling the loop over the horn on the dead gelding, he handed the other end of it to Monty.
“Here,” he said. “you pull the horse up just a bit and I'll pull Heyes out from under.”
Monty nodded agreement and waited until Jed got around to his partner's head again.
Jed took hold of Heyes under his armpits and gave Monty the go ahead. It didn't take much really. Monty asked his horse to slowly step back, the rope tightened and the dead weight of the unfortunate chestnut was lifted off Heyes' pinned leg. Jed pulled him out and got him in the clear while Monty eased the animal back down again.
“There ya' go Heyes,” Jed gave him another pat on the shoulder. “Anything broken?”
“No, I don't think so,” Heyes mumbled, feeling totally out of sync. “Just...flattened.”
“Yeah. C'mon. See if you can stand up.”
Heyes nodded and using the Kid as a support, and with Kid's help, Heyes slowly got his feet under him and straightened up. He didn't let go of Jed though, not while his legs were still shaking and his body was still swaying.
“Don't go anywhere, Kid.”
“I won't Heyes.”
Monty had flicked the rope off the saddle horn and was reeling in the lariat while at the same time taking a look around.
“Where's Joe?” he asked.
“Ahhh,” Jed looked a little sheepish. “I think he's behind those boulders over there. Throwing up.”
Monty glanced over towards the mound of rocks and nodded knowingly. “Hmm,” he muttered. “First time, huh?”
“Yep,” Jed confirmed. “It don't matter none that he deserved killin', I think we all know that the first time hits hard.”
“Yeah,” Heyes agreed quietly. “but I'm sure glad he did it.”
“Yeah,” Jed agreed. “you ain't the only one.”
Posts : 2704
Join date : 2013-10-14
Location : The Rusty Bucket Saloon
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:22 am|| |
The shade was welcome as the boys sat on the porch, money in their pocket, a good job done. Abner, the good natured giant of a man, patriarch of a family haulage firm as always made sure the boys were well paid.
Curry's face was hidden by his hat, an easy gentle breathing floated from underneath. His long legs were crossed, relaxed.
Lost in a local newspaper, Heyes was content too. Currently soaking up such gems of information about a local town fair where a Mrs. So-and-so had won a rosette for her orange preserve and that Mr. Such-and-such was the proud owner of a prize winning bull called 'Archibald'.
Taunting shouts and fast feet jolted both boys upright. A group of children were running around a young woman as she tried to make her way along the sidewalk. "Witch, witch, go to hell." "You don't belong with decent folk." "We don't want you here." Circling their victim, bumping into her. She swayed and clutched her walking stick and a wall for support.
The cousins were at her side in the blink of an eye. Heyes' hand grasped a boy's wrist as the brat drew back a full fist. "Drop that stone now!" commanded Heyes, brown eyes thunderous. Startled at the unexpected intervention, the stone dropped harmlessly into the dirt.
Curry had already grabbed two miscreants by the scruff of the neck, hauling them back from the woman. Trying to wriggle free Kid growled, "Don't even think about it," and one glance at the ice cold blue eyes convinced them.
"Now git." Instructed Heyes, hurling the boy away from his unfortunate target.
The children ran, but now free of restraining hands they shouted over their shoulders. "She's a witch." "She ain't natural." "I'm telling my Pa."
"Did they hurt you, miss?" Kids hand reached out, supporting her elbow. As she turned Heyes heard his cousin's small intake of breath.
She should have been pretty. Petite, with a small neat waist, alabaster skin, rich brown hair, with loose curls framing her face. But there was a discordant note in her features that neither boys could quite pin down. An asymmetry to her features jarred the senses and created a vague unease, but the main note of discord were the eyes. Heyes was strongly reminded of two pales of curdled milk as he stared down into the unblinking sightless orbs.
Curry spoke low and clear, "Can we help you, miss? Escort you home or something?"
She tilted her head at the kindly voice, face turning slightly but not facing with men. "Thank you, I'm fine." The voice was small, lilting, but composed. "But yes, that would be very gracious of you. It does not happen often, but..." she took a slow measured breath. "Where are my manners? My name is Verity. Verity Dalrymple," again the small head tilted, birdlike, as she spoke.
Heyes and Curry dipped their hats in habitual greeting, then felt slightly awkward realising she could not see it.
She turned, sniffed the air and with expert use of her stick the boys knew she did not need the proffered offers of steadying hands to help her home. "Thank you so much for the solicitude, most of the time it is not a problem as my brother is around."
"Yes, work commitments, but home tomorrow."
"Does he leave you alone often?" Heyes was striding normally now, almost forgetting the impairment of their slight companion.
"No. Only once or twice a year and only ever for two or three nights. Ernest will be back tomorrow night."
Caught off guard by her sharp swing right, through a gate and up three steps the boys were far more clumsy than Miss Dalrymple at navigating the entrance to the large, but well tended home. However, at the door both the boys found themselves involuntarily hesitating.
"I assure you gentlemen, it is quite safe, I don't bite and I don't ride a broomstick, no matter what the local ruffians might say. However I do have good coffee and a full larder, and as you pointed out, I would be grateful of some protection. Please come in, but I do ask you not to move anything. I am not being rude, simply practical, as I need to know where everything is. My memory has to be one of my strengths." A plaintive sigh was expelled as she turned on her heel and led the way.
"It is not yet dark but please feel free to light the lights early. You will find the tapers and oil over there," she gestured towards a drawer. "Unsurprisingly, I don't need them."
Heyes notice the disconcerting way the little voice hardly varied in tone. Whether afraid, confused, issuing instruction for lighting the lamps or simply discussing her brothers' travel plans the intonation was strangely monotone.
~ ~ ~
Settled in her kitchen Curry marvelled at the way she moved, competent and capable. The coffee she made was excellent and the fruit cake was obviously home-made and perfect. Still, he could not quite shake the eerie feeling in his gut as she moved uncannily around with the with the precision of a hawk.
Heyes, as always, was the one to get to the point. "Why do they call you a witch?"
A noise that from anyone else could have been marked as a laugh sounded. "Oh, I get called lots of things. Witch, wise woman, white witch, sorceress, she-devil and my particular favourite.... seer." That slight sigh again.
"Why? Is it just the..." Heyes' voice trailed off, not quite finding the right word.
"No, apparently I have a 'gift'." The brow furrowed and Curry was taken aback at how much resignation and exhaustion hit him.
"Really? What kind of 'gift?" he asked, blue eyes leaning towards ghastly white.
Her small, lilting voice did not change in tone as she sat opposite the gunslinger. She laid both her tiny hands palm up. "Put your hands in mine."
"Don't I need to ask you something'?"
"No." The melancholy monotone murmured.
Curry tentatively placed his strong hands in hers. Silence filled the room. All that could be heard was their collective breathing.
The tiny voice broke the quiet. "You have lived by the gun, but you will not die by the gun." Blue eyes flitted to brown. "You have a long way to go to undo the damage you have done." Silence, then the level inexorable tone continued. "You will once again use your given name, but you will kill in vengeance." Curry drew back his hands as though they were burnt. Startled, his face flushed as he looked from the sprite to his cousin.
Heyes took Curry's seat as his cousin strode towards the door. Utterly composed and totally serious Heyes asked, "Would you mind reading me?"
"Place your hands in mine." Heyes did as he was asked.
Silence. Curry, eyes narrowed watched with uncomfortable interest as the stillness extended.
With a slight sigh and a small shake of the head Verity released Heyes dexterous hands. "I cannot tell you anything that you do not already know." The finality of that simple statement took both cousins by surprise.
A slight smile crossed the face, and for a fleeting moment both men could see true beauty. A serenity in her stillness.
"I've told you what I could gentlemen. Now perhaps you will see why it is the towns people fear me. Still, that does not prevent them from creeping over here and asking for guidance when they think no one is looking."
Verity Dalrymple arose abruptly and crossed to the kitchen range and soon the room was filled with appetising aromas. All the while Heyes and Curry were quiet, both lost in their own thoughts but exchanging glances which went far beyond mere words.
~ ~ ~
"She is a witch!" Whispered Curry in the half light of the back bedroom.
"No!" Snapped back his cousin. "But she is different, I'll give you that."
Darkness had fallen outside, and despite a good meal neither of the partners were inclined to sleep, slightly regretting their gallant offer to protect the 'vulnerable' young woman overnight.
"When she held my hands, well, I nev..." The sentence was cut short as a brief yell and a gunshot rang out in the darkness.
"What the hell?!" Both men were downstairs, searching, seeking, but Curry found them first. The smell of gunpowder from the single shot still hung in the air.
A figure lay crumpled in the doorway and a petite figure with an unearthly stillness stood silhouetted in moonlight. Curry grabbed the gun, but she put up no resistance.
"What happened?" snarled Heyes.
"He came to kill me, I knew he would." The tiny frame seemed to shimmer in the half light.
"I knew he would come, he is the father of one of the children tormenting me today. A good 'bible-fearing' man who thinks that I should be burnt at the stake. He was waiting for my brother to leave, not expecting me to have company. But now you can tell the Sheriff it was self defence, that I was protecting myself."
"Miss Dalrymple, how exactly did you...?" Heyes looked down at the body.
"I knew he was coming, I heard the latch on the garden gate lift. So I made my way down here and hid behind the door. When he broke in I grabbed his gun. He tried to wrestle it back. It fired. I won."
Heyes was struck with the uncanny detachment in how she related, what would be for anyone else a traumatic event. The hairs on the back of his neck were slowly rising.
"Miss Dalrymple, I will ask you again. How exactly did you manage to get that gun off that big brute of a man?"
"Simple. I had the advantage. I knew the territory, and it was dark. I live in the dark." This statement was so dispassionate that Curry took a step back. But the wraith had not yet finished.
"And now, indeed, so does he."
Tomorrow I will no longer be reckless or feckless. I will do everything with both reck and feck!
Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Mon Mar 30, 2015 8:35 pm; edited 4 times in total
Posts : 577
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:28 pm|| |
So I haven't been here long enough, or had time, to write an original story! So this is an excerpt from the one I've just posted in my thread and which was written and published elsewhere a few years ago. (Hope tis okay!)
Excerpt from A Difficult Delivery
“We can’t go on letting this guy follow us.”
“When the opportunity arises, we’ll ambush him. Til then…” Heyes shrugged.
They rode along the valley floor. Fortunately for them, opportunities for ambush were non existent and it was nearing dusk. Heyes signalled to Curry.
“Thaddeus, we may as well make camp. Abigail isn’t going to be able to continue anyway.”
“Our unwelcome guest?”
“So far he’s left us alone, let’s hope that continues.”
“I guess that means we go short on sleep too.” Curry added, ruefully.
Heyes pulled over and dismounted. He stopped Abigail and helped her down. She sank gratefully onto the ground and stretched her aching muscles. Curry collected her horse and settled their animals for the night, while Heyes prepared a meal.
“Sorry,” he said to Abigail as he handed her a plate, “We’ll be eating cold tonight. If you’ve got another jacket, put it on, it could get cold sleeping as well.”
Abigail nodded. She was so tired, she didn’t think she would care really.
Heyes and Curry shared watches through the night. Their follower also had a cold, dark camp as they saw no sign of a fire. Nor did he appear to come closer and they had no opportunity to try to capture him. By morning, Heyes was very frustrated.
Soon after first light they set off again. Abigail’s muscles protested as she tried to get moving and she was grateful for the silent assistance that Curry gave her to get onto her horse.
A short while after starting, Curry approached Heyes.
“Have you seen the guy yet?”
“Trouble or not?”
“I could hope that he was just another drifter, who happened to be nearby and followed for a while, but plans to go another way. But, I think that he was a scout. And I think those guys are trying to find us. And, I think that it’s connected to Abigail. I don’t know why and I’m not sure that it matters much. I think we have trouble.”
“That’s what I figured.”
Curry’s vigilance increased. He tried to watch everywhere at once. At the back of his mind was a question about how long it would be before they were free of having to watch in front and behind at the same time for trouble or whether they ever would be. After all, here they were, in the same old position and no robbery to account for it! He concentrated on looking out for trouble.
They travelled further down the valley and the landscape began to change, as did the weather. The sky was clouding over and getting dark, the wind had increased and the temperature had dropped. Rain was on its way.
Trouble hit sooner. Suddenly, from behind them, down the valley came the sound of galloping horses. Heyes and Curry spurred into a run, Heyes grabbing Abigail’s reins again. Shots rang out and whined around them. There was little point in trying to fire back, the men concentrated on getting safely out of range.
Heyes was a little ahead of Curry and still upright, pulling on Abigail’s horse. Suddenly, he gave a little hmnpf sound and fell forward. Curry’s gut twisted and he shouted, “Heyes!” Heyes pulled himself up, making Curry feel a little better. He headed up the side of the hill. Yelling at Abigail, he let go her reins, “Just follow me!”
Heyes rode recklessly up the narrow animal track, barely visible. Heavy drops of rain began to fall. Curry pushed the mule in front of him. Nudged by Curry’s horse from behind, the animal followed the two horses in front. A last scramble brought them up on top. Heyes and Curry leapt out of their saddles and knelt at the side of the hill. The rain was now falling steadily. They fired down on the men attempting to come up behind them. As several were knocked off their horses, the rest, once again, retreated. Without waiting to see what they would do, Heyes and Curry jumped back on their horses and continued to push them forward. Within minutes the rain was a downpour and travel was becoming impossible. Visibility was limited and it was the height of folly to be going fast. Nose to tail, the party travelled on, heads bent against the rain.
Curry was drenched and cold. He looked up at the others and figured they must be the same. He couldn’t remember how much farther their destination was, though he knew Heyes did, he just hoped it wasn’t long; it was a long time since he’d been this uncomfortable.
Abigail had lost all feeling. She had never been so cold and so wet and so miserable. The only thing on her mind was to remain in the saddle and follow Smith’s horse, which she could barely see. So it was a great surprise when the horse ahead stopped and her animal ran into it!
“Hey, hold up there!” A voice came from a distance. “C’mon, you’ll be warm and dry soon.” Someone lifted her from her saddle and passed her over to someone else, who carried her.
Heyes entered the small line cabin. He and Curry had found it once, in their exploration of the area and he’d noted it as a possible place to hold up. There was one room, which contained a table, some chairs, a cot and a fireplace. A large pile of wood stood in one corner. Heyes set Abigail down on a chair and started to make a fire. Once that was under way, he set about undressing Abigail, removing her jacket, boots and outer garments. He spread her clothes out on the table to dry. Curry came in. He was carrying saddlebags and sacks.
“How is she?”
“Cold. You got a change of clothing there?”
Heyes rubbed Abigail’s cheeks. “Abigail, Abigail.” He repeated.
Slowly, her eyes focused on Heyes’ face.
“Welcome back to us Abigail. We’ve brought in your clothes. You need to get changed.”
Abigail nodded and took the saddlebags that Curry offered.
Both men stood and turned their backs on her. “Let us know when it’s safe to turn around huh?” Curry asked.
After a while, Abigail spoke, “Okay, I’m done.”
The men turned around. Heyes reached for the blanket on the cot and winced slightly. Curry looked hard at him. He was pale and tired looking.
“Joshua, you okay?”
“I’ll be fine, once I’ve gotten into some dry clothes.” He handed Abigail the blanket and then picked up his saddlebags. Curry watched as he took off his jacket and shirt. He went up to him.
“Joshua, you’re bleeding.”
Heyes sighed, “Not any more.” He replied.
“Fine, you were bleeding. I thought you were hit! Where?”
“Joshua! Let me see.” Curry pulled up Heyes’ henley and examined the wound. Heyes had been hit in the side, the bullet passing through, grazing him just above the waist.
“Okay, it’s just a flesh wound I guess. It’s stopped bleeding.”
“I told you I was fine! Now, will you stop fussing and let me get changed?”
Curry threw his hands up and turned to his own saddlebags.
Half an hour later, the three of them were dry, warm and fed. They were all sitting in front of the fire, sipping coffee. Abigail was drowsy, her eyelids fluttered.
Heyes looked at her. It was still raining hard so travel was impossible. “Why don’t you get some rest Abigail? We’ll be here until the rain lets up.”
She nodded and lay down on the cot and was immediately asleep.
Posts : 461
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 101
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:25 am|| |
"Do you see anything?"
Drucker barely glanced at the tense man standing next to him.
"Can't see a blasted thing in this weather," Drucker complained. He wiped his palm across the steam that had built up on the window and absent-mindedly dried his hand on his pants leg."It's raining cats and dogs. Nobody's coming out in this."
"Don't be so sure," the other man said. "Your ordinary crook, sure, they'd lay low. But we ain't talkin' ordinary. We're talking the Devil's Hole Gang and they --" a loud, long roll of thunder punctuated his words. Both men waited till it faded away, echoing in the distance. The raindrops came down heavier and fatter, slapping against the window like buckshot.
"We're wasting our time here, Sheriff Thatcher. Not even Heyes and Curry would dare to come out in this kind of storm."
"Uh uh," Thatcher disagreed. "My deputies heard that gang knows all about that big mine payroll of yours, Mr. Drucker. If'n you want to keep your money safe in this here bank until it goes out tomorrow on the stage, we all got to stand guard tonight."
"'Course," Thatcher went on, "you don't need to be here your own self. Between me and my two deputies, your money's safe." He stood straighter, pushing his chest out in pride. The battered tin star he wore caught the reflection of the lightning strikes that danced around the building. The stale moist air inside the Bucktown Federal Security Bank tingled with electricity.
Drucker looked over at the two deputies sitting on the railing. The older deputy, Morgenson, was rubbing his low back with both hands. The other, Williams, was coughing loudly and wetly into his handkerchief. Both men straightened up quickly when they saw the mine owner look at them. Drucker restrained himself from sighing out loud.
"Who are you trying to kid, Sheriff, me or you? Them two are so far under the weather, they're drowning. They couldn't protect a field mouse from a kitten."
"So does that mean you're stayin' here with us then?" Sheriff Thatcher said. He was trying his darndest to be polite, but dang nab it! He was plum sick and tired of having to defend his men from this bean pole with a big wallet. Thatcher had heard it was easier to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. He felt pretty sure Drucker would be rubbing his nose against the pearly gates on judgment day, looking inside and a-wishin' he'd treated people like himand his hard-working deputies a little better when he'd had the chance.
Drucker looked up to the heavens for help, but, as usual, found none there. He was left with these three so-called lawmen. This time, a deep, frustrated sigh escaped him. He didn't notice Thatcher's eyes narrow with annoyance.
"I suppose I am. Only a fool would go out on a night like this if he didn't have to, and I'm thinking of the Devil's Hole Gang when I say that. They're too smart to come out in this kind of weather."
"It's a gully-washer for sure," Thatcher agreed. "But I don't agree with you about that gang. They're smart, alright. That's why nobody's caught them, leastways not for long. They do what we don't expect, Mr. Drucker. And if we expect even the crooks to stay in on a night like that, why, they might play us and figure to take your payroll when we think they won't."
"Whatever you say, Sheriff. It is better to be cautious. Even so, I think Heyes and Curry and their gang are hunkered down somewhere nice and warm, far away from here."
"That may be and it may not be. I got me a feelin' they ain't far though." Thatcher turned back to the window, watching the rain as it seemed to come down sideways. "I trust my feelings, and somehow, I feel they's right near by us."
"Do you HAVE to do that in here?"
Kyle Murtree's eyes widened in surprise.
"I gots to spit somewheres, Heyes," Kyle said. "'Sides, you ain't never complained before."
"I've never been cheek to jowl with all of you in a leaky tent before," Heyes replied. "I'm getting wet enough without you spitting tobacco juice in here."
"Well, whose fault is that? Didn't I say all the crickets were chirpin'?" Heyes and Curry exchanged a quick, long-suffering glance. Wheat was consistent, if nothing else. "I told y'all a storm was a-comin' and she'd be a humdinger. Ain't that right, Kyle?" Kyle nodded enthusiastically.
"You sure did, Wheat," Kyle agreed. "That's why you got us this tent from that medicine show feller. You said it'd do the trick and you sure was right. We's snug as bugs in a rug. "Cepting for all the leaks, 'course, and they ain't really that bad, are they boys?"
The members of the Devil's Hole Gang all turned to stare silently at Wheat, who coughed a little harder than he needed to. Heyes scratched his chin to hide his smile. Curry let the tension hold for a minute or two, just long enough for Wheat to squirm, before he took pity on the older man and changed the subject.
"At least we're safe enough here and close to the Bucktown Pike. I don't think anybody's out looking for us tonight in this weather. And any trails we left are done washed away by now."
"That's true enough," Preacher agreed quickly. He was always the peacemaker in the group. The last thing he wanted was conflict in these tight, uncomfortable quarters. "The thunder's so loud, though, I don't think we'd even hear a shot in the dark. But Heyes, I got to tell you, I'm still some worried. That sheriff in Bucktown knows we been around. He's got to figure we heard about the payroll and we're going to make a run on it."
"That's what I'm counting on, Preacher. They're looking for us to hit the bank. I figure they're spending the whole night there, drinking coffee, trying to stay awake, thinking they're going to surprise us when we break in overnight. But this is the Devil's Hole Gang, and we're successful because we don't do what lawmen expect us to do. They don't expect us to hit the stagecoach in the morning. When we ambush them on the Bucktown Pike, they'll be plumb worn out from staying up all
night. It'll be like taking candy from a baby. By this time tomorrow night, we'll have $50,000 to split up between us."
Tension melted away as the outlaws leaned back to consider $50,000. Even Wheat's lips curled up reluctantly in a smile that was barely visible beneath his luxurious mustache.
"Time to hit the hay, fellas," Curry said. "Else we'll be too tired to get up on time, and that stage'll go on without us. We'll take turns staying awake to makesure we don't oversleep. By this time tomorrow, we'll be rich."
|Subject: Re: A Shot In The Dark || |
A Shot In The Dark