Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell
Posts : 576
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell Sun May 03, 2015 12:34 pm|| |
Hell and High Water:
When Heyes fails to arrive and keep their rendezvous, Kid Curry is torn between waiting and searching.
“I don’t know Heyes, I don’t like you going there on your own!”
A blonde haired, blue-eyed young looking man was sitting at a table in a cheap restaurant, having breakfast. Opposite sat a dark haired, dark eyed man. Generally of an amiable disposition, concern was currently etched on the young man’s face and reflected in his voice.
The dark haired man with him grinned, “And pass up $500? Don’t worry, Kid, I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself.”
“I dunno, Heyes. I’ve not seen much sign of that in all the time I’ve known you”, Kid Curry deadpanned, receiving a glare from his partner, Hannibal Heyes, in return. He smiled, having got the desired reaction, and then turned serious again. “You know there’s a lot of trouble going on in that area, you don’t want to get caught up in it. I don’t want you to get caught up in it!”
“I know, but this is a simple delivery job. I’ll ride in, deliver the package and ride out.”
“If it’s so simple, why is Baxter paying so much?”
“I didn’t ask.” Heyes said, trying to sound innocent and well aware, as was the Kid, that it was precisely because of the danger of the trip.
“Look, Kid, we can’t afford to pass up work. I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
“Heyes, your not worrying just makes me worry more!”
Heyes grinned, “C’mon, we should get going.”
Heyes rose and approached the waitress to pay for the meal. Curry waited while he did so and then both men exited. They walked to the livery stable, saddled their horses and paid.
At the outskirts of the town, they pulled up.
Heyes smiled again at the worried expression on the Kid’s face.
“Take care, Kid, you’re the hothead, remember? I’ll be waiting for you in Twin Forks in a week, I sure hope the poker’s good!” With a wave of his hand, Hannibal Heyes wheeled his horse and headed east.
Kid Curry watched him for a moment, concern still etched on his face, then the young man sighed and headed west.
A trail stained and weary Kid Curry rode into Twin Forks. He wanted a bed, a bath, a beer and a meal – not necessarily in that order. He also wanted to shake the nagging feeling at the back of his mind, which he’d had ever since he’s seen Heyes disappear for Lexville. It would be good to see Heyes again. On arrival, he left his horse at the livery and headed for the only hotel in the town.
At the desk, he registered and then asked for the room of Joshua Smith.
“There’s no Joshua Smith registered, Sir.”
“J. Smith? He should have arrived a couple of days ago.”
“No Sir. No one’s registered for several days.”
Kid was disbelieving. “He must have! Dark, straight hair, brown eyes, around 5ft 10, medium build and wearing a blue shirt?”
“I’m sorry Sir, no one of that description has been here in the last few days. You can see in the register that that name is not there.”
Kid spun the register round and examined the names. He went back several pages, but not that many people checked into the hotel and he realised he’d gone weeks back. He slammed the book shut and stared into space. His job would have taken only a few days, so where on earth was Heyes?
Absently muttering his thanks, he left the hotel and stood on the street. It was possible that Heyes had been delayed, somehow. If he had, he would have sent a message. He headed back into the hotel.
“Sorry, I forgot to ask. Maybe he left a message. Do you have a message, a telegram mebbe for Thaddeus Jones?”
The desk clerk checked his desk. “No Sir. No message for anyone of that name.”
“Oh. Well, thanks. Maybe its still at the telegraph office.”
Kid left and walked rapidly over to the telegraph office. Heyes would send a message, if he was delayed. It would be waiting there. He tried to ignore that nagging feeling.
At the office, he asked whether a Joshua Smith had been in or whether a message had been sent to Thaddeus Jones. When the telegrapher answered no, Kid began to feel panic rising. His stomach churned and he began to sweat. Heyes really should have left a message. Suddenly struck by a thought, he asked if there was a message from Sheriff Lom Trevors, but the answer was again negative.
“I’d like to send him a message then.”
“Sure.” The telegrapher handed him a form.
Kid wrote to Lom.
Have arrived at Twin Forks. Have you heard from our mutual friend,
He handed it over. “Will you send it immediately? I’ll wait for a reply.”
He sat and waited. And waited, his patience ebbing. He drummed his fingers. Eventually, the telegraph began to hum and tap. He jumped up to the desk.
The telegrapher looked at him.
“Is that a reply for me?”
Kid snatched it out of his hand. His face fell as he read the reply.
To T. Jones.
Sheriff Trevors unavailable. Not heard from Smith. Will let Trevors know
Deputy Harker Wilkins
Kid Curry went back out onto the sidewalk and stood, uncertain of his next step. It would be dark soon, riding out now would not be a good idea. If Heyes was late, he might miss him in the dark. As they had agreed to meet here, Heyes would be on his way, wouldn’t he? But, even delayed, Heyes should have been here before him. How much delay could occur in delivering a package?
An idea formed, Curry cursed himself for not thinking of it before, he was just so tired. Maybe Heyes was waiting in the saloon?
Curry practically ran to the nearest saloon and burst in through the door. He was convinced he’d see Heyes and they’d laugh at his panic. He scanned the room. There were not many in at this time and it was obvious Heyes was not there. Still, Curry went up to the barman and gave him Heyes’ description, asking him if he’d seen him. The barman shook his head and called over the girls who were working the room. The description was related to them and they shook their heads. One of them purred over the Kid, asking him if he’d like to spend time with them, while he waited for his friend. Kid brushed her off. The panic was growing with every second, he knew Heyes should have been in Twin Forks by now and he felt overwhelmed. He didn’t want to be bothered, even by pretty women. He was agitated and anxious and there was a herd of wild horses galloping through his insides, twisting them into knots.
He headed quickly for the next saloon. At least he was doing something. He asked after Joshua Smith there and again received a negative answer.
On the street, he noticed the general store. He went there next, banging on the door until the proprietor opened it, peering out into the growing night, holding a lamp.
“What do you want?”
“I’m looking for my friend, Joshua Smith…”
“Well, he ain’t here!”
“I just wanted to ask if you’d seen him. Dark, straight hair, dark eyes, about 5ft 10, medium build. He may have been in, in the last coupla days, for provisions. He’d be interested in any books you had!”
“I’ve not seen him. Now, good night!” The door was slammed in Kid’s face. He thought about knocking again, but the small amount of sense left in him told him he’d only get an angry response.
Kid stood on the sidewalk and stared around him. Heyes should be here. It was all he could think. Heyes should be here and he wasn’t. At least, he hadn’t found him yet. Kid rubbed at his tired eyes, stretched to relieve his aching body and refused to think of the obvious, that Heyes had gotten into trouble and not made it to Twin Forks. He could only think that he’d not found him yet.
He walked up and down the street and on the fifth pass, realised that there was a doctor’s. Hope rose up in him, maybe Heyes had fallen ill!
He went over and knocked. The door was answered by a kindly looking, grey haired man. He recognised panic when he saw it and he saw it in the young man standing on the porch.
He smiled gently, “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for my friend. He’s meeting me here, I mean, in Twin Forks. I haven’t been able to find him. I just wondered if maybe……” Curry trailed off.
The doctor sadly shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any patients here at present. Maybe I’ve treated him. What does he look like?”
Kid described Heyes.
“No, I’m sorry, son, I’ve not seen anyone like that. Have you tried...? I see you have. Do you want to come in? I have some soup and I always welcome company.”
“No, thank you. I need to find him.”
“Well, you’re always welcome. I’m sure your friend’s just a little late. Why don’t you wait over at the hotel? Get a little sleep. He’ll probably turn up tomorrow.”
“Yes, yes. I guess so. Thank you for your time.” Curry turned and walked away. The doctor watched him for a moment, concerned, but, there was nothing he could do, so he went back inside to his evening meal.
Kid walked slowly back toward the hotel. As he did so, he passed the Sheriff’s. He realised he had to go in. It was possible Heyes had been arrested. Of course, that would mean that he could be arrested the minute he stepped inside. Curry momentarily hesitated, but he had to find Heyes, so warily, he entered.
A deputy was sat behind the desk. The cells were visible and were disappointingly empty. Kid approached the desk.
“Evening. Help ya?”
“I’m looking for my friend. He’s in his late twenties, dark, straight hair, brown eyes, medium build and height. I wondered if you or the Sheriff had seen him?”
Kid laughed nervously, “You’ve not arrested him then?”
“Bin no one in the cells for over a fortnight. Nope, not arrested him. Not seen him. Sheriff’s on his rounds, can ask him when he gets back.”
“Yes, okay. Thanks.”
Kid left. With heavy steps he walked over to the hotel and trudged up to his room. There was nothing for it, he had to accept it. Hannibal Heyes was not in Twin Forks. Kid had no idea what to do. Should he leave and go looking for him? Should he wait and see if he turned up? If only if could figure out which way to go.
They had agreed to meet here. Heyes would have let him know, somehow, if he was going to be late, if he could. The gnawing feeling Kid had been holding at bay now swept over him. Finally, Kid Curry had to face the fear he’d been pushing away. Heyes should have been here by now. Heyes hadn’t got a message to him and that meant that Heyes was in trouble.
Feeling sick, Kid sat on the side of the bed and waited until daybreak.
Posts : 576
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Re: Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell Sun May 03, 2015 12:39 pm|| |
Heyes groaned, tried to sit up and regretted it immediately. His head ached and he felt very cold. He realised he was lying on the ground. Next followed the realisation that his hands were bound at the wrists behind his back, his feet were bound at the ankles and his knees were also tightly bound. Finally, Heyes prised his eyes open and took a look around him.
At first he could see nothing. It was pitch black and he felt momentary panic, unsure that he was still able to see and fearing where he was. Eventually, his eyes adjusted to the dim light. He was in a dark storeroom. It appeared to have been dug out of the earth, three walls seemed to be earth and the fourth was mud bricks. The door was wooden, it looked heavy, but a few chinks of light were coming through knots and small holes. Other than him, it was empty.
This was disheartening. There appeared to be nothing with which to cut his bonds. But Heyes had no intention of lying there, waiting for Leighton’s men to come back and finish him. Or, more likely, never coming back and leaving him there, without food and water to…..Heyes shuddered slightly, the prospect was far from appealing.
His next thought was of the Kid. In a couple of days, he would be arriving in Twin Forks, expecting to find him in the hotel or saloon. What would he do when he found Heyes absent? For a long moment, Heyes felt Kid’s panic as he searched for him and he felt sick. Heyes was certain that the Kid would come looking for him, but that would place Kid in considerable danger from Leighton and his men. And how quickly would Kid come to his aid? Heyes decided that he had to get himself out, immediately.
He struggled to sit up and again regretted it. His chest hurt, quite probably a rib was broken, at the very least, his ribs were severely bruised. His breath came in gasps. He sat with his back against a wall and reviewed how he’d gotten into this mess, while his breath slowed to a more normal rhythm.
He began to twist his wrists around, trying to get his fingers in position to reach the knots. The rawhide bonds were tight, very tight and cut into his wrists. They began to ache and stab with pain and then he felt a moistness which he was certain was not sweat. His shoulders began to ache and finally, Heyes had to give in and rest. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes.
However long later, he jerked awake. For a moment, he was disorientated and confused. Then it all flooded back, including the pain. Gritting his teeth, Heyes began again to twist and turn his arms.
Slowly, so very slowly, and painfully, the rawhide began to stretch and loosen. Finally, he reached the knots and began to pick at them. They quickly came undone. Heyes groaned as he brought his arms out front, his shoulders protesting. Exhausted, Heyes sank down and fell asleep.
He slept for only a short, uncomfortable period. When he awoke, he rubbed his hands together to get the feeling back and then untied his knees and ankles. He crawled over to the door, pulled himself up and began to examine it.
Close inspection of the door confirmed Heyes’ first impression, that it was a sturdy, heavy wooden one. There was, however, a simple lock. Heyes thanked lady luck that he’d not been well searched. In moments, the lock clicked back. Heyes mentally crossed his fingers, turned the handle and pulled, then pushed. But the door held fast. Heyes cursed, figuring that the door was barred. It would be impossible to get out through it; he had no tools with which to break it down.
Momentarily defeated, Heyes leaned against the door. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. More pressing was the desperate thirst he felt. The ache in his ribs was sufficient for it to remain in his consciousness and his head pounded so that the rawness of his wrists was barely noticeable. More than all the pain he physically felt, was the ache inside him over the Kid. He was desperately worried about him. With no idea how long he’d been imprisoned, he had no idea whether Kid had realised he was missing yet. But he would and soon. Heyes imagined the Kid’s frantic search through the town and his worry as he set off to find him. Worse was thinking about the Kid’s reaction when he learnt of Leighton’s involvement in his disappearance. He HAD to get out and find the Kid, before anything else went wrong.
Heyes pulled himself up and began to examine the room in more detail.
Three walls were solid rock, with nothing hammered in. There was no help from them. Heyes felt over every inch, fretting at the time, but anxious not to miss anything. He worked his way painfully slowly around. Finally, he came to the start of the man made wall. His fingers explored what it was difficult in the dim light for his eyes to see. The wall was rough, but felt a little flaky and there were places where the bricks seemed a little loose. And then lady luck smiled on Heyes, he found a nail.
Heyes began to work at it, wriggling and pulling.
Seconds stretched into minutes; minutes stretched into hours. Heyes sank down onto the floor. Blast that nail! He had to rest; he was exhausted. He sat with his back against the wall and drifted off to sleep.
It was not a restful sleep and he awoke, damp with sweat and shivering. His head felt as though it would explode, but at least the other aches and pains had lessened. Struggling to his feet, Heyes began to work on the nail again.
And finally, the nail broke loose, with a jerk. Moving to a spot he’d felt had been weakened, Heyes now began to scratch at the mortar, ignoring the way the nail cut into his hands. Once again, the minutes stretched into hours. Heyes worked his way around the brick, digging out several inches of the loose mortar. A growing sense of urgency caused him to throw down the nail, sit back on the ground and, with his feet, push at the brick. For several moments, it failed to move and then, suddenly, it gave way and flew out. Light streamed in.
Spirits raised by this success, Heyes blinked in the light and peered out. There was no man or horse in sight.
Picking up the nail, Heyes began to work on a second brick. Somehow, the work on that brick went more quickly and there was soon a second and then a third and a fourth brick on the floor. This gave a hole large enough for Heyes to crawl through.
At last, Heyes was able to stand outside. It was close to midday. Heyes scanned the area. He was on the edge of a prairie, trees close by. Behind him was a mountain; a cave had presumably been enclosed. There was nothing in sight but trees and grass. Sighing, Heyes set off to walk across this desert.
As Heyes began his trek, Kid Curry was also setting out. He’d fallen asleep and dozed some and had awoken shortly after daybreak. He’d waited impatiently till the telegraph office opened. He’d then harassed the poor operator into checking for messages. He sent another telegram to Lom. Lom had returned, but he had no information about Heyes’ whereabouts.
Curry returned to the hotel.
“Has Mr. Smith checked in?”
“No Sir.” sighed the clerk.
“Have you a piece of paper I can use?”
The clerk handed over some paper.
Leaning on the counter, Curry wrote a short note:
Arrived here on 24th. Since I couldn’t find you, I decided to go look for you. Sorry if that was the wrong thing to do. Wait here for me, if you do get here before I get back.
He sealed it in an envelope and addressed it to J. Smith.
“Would you save this, in case Mr. Smith does turn up?”
“We only save messages for a week Sir.”
“That’ll be fine, please?”
The clerk took the note and placed it in a slot.
Curry paid up and left. He stopped by the general store for supplies and then headed for the livery. There, he double checked Heyes hadn’t arrived and then he saddled up and left, heading for the road which he expected Heyes to be on.
Curry rode slowly and frequently detoured to examine hidden spots for Heyes, fearing Heyes had been hurt, hoping that he was just delayed and camping out.
By nightfall, he hadn’t gone far, but he was satisfied he’d not missed Heyes.
He spent an anxious night and set off at first light, following the same pattern. By nightfall, he’d seen no sign of Heyes or anyone else. As he made camp, he was aware that he had unconsciously realised that he was not going to find Heyes until he reached Lexville. He’d been mechanically going through the motions of checking for him.
Heyes trudged through the grass. His limbs were heavy and he moved slowly. Every breath hurt. He was bone dry and ready to drop. Single minded determination, to find the Kid before he found Leighton, kept him moving. So focussed was he on putting one foot in front of the other that he failed to notice the road and crossed it directly in front of a wagon. The whinnying of horses, as the driver pulled them up so suddenly they reared, caught his attention. Heyes turned toward the sound, saw the horses bearing down on him, tried to move rapidly out of their way, tripped, fell and passed out.
As Curry set off on his second full day’s ride, Heyes slowly came to. He became aware of his surroundings. He was lying in a bed, in a nightshirt. There was a tight bandage around his chest and his wrists were wrapped in more bandages. It was a pleasant bedroom he was in, with wallpaper and curtains, drawn, at the window. A dresser, wardrobe, washstand and chair completed the picture.
He caught sight of himself in the mirror. He’d been cleaned up, so that various bruises were visible. There were dark circles under his eyes and he seemed, even to himself, to be very pale. Heyes decided he looked as bad as he felt.
A jug of water and a glass were sat on a stand, next to the bed. Heyes reached over and thankfully drank. He then sank back against the pillows and drifted off to sleep again.
He had no idea how long he’d slept, but when he awoke, he decided he felt much better. After another long drink, he sat up, though every muscle protested the movement. Anxious to be on his way and nervous about whose house he was in, Heyes stood. Dizziness swept over him and for a moment he hung onto the bedside stand. Unwilling to let weakness overcome him, he straightened and managed to walk, stiffly, over to the wardrobe. It was empty. This stunned Heyes. His gunbelt was hanging on the bedpost and his boots were placed neatly at its foot. Where were his clothes? As he stood pondering his next move, he heard footsteps, the door opened and a woman entered.
Heyes scurried back into bed and pulled the covers up.
“I should think so too!” she smiled. “What do you think you’re doing, being out of bed?”
“I was looking for my clothes!”
“They’re hanging out to dry. Now, sit up, I brought you something to eat.”
Dutifully, Heyes sat and accepted the tray. It contained a bowl of stew, biscuits and pie and smelt delicious. He realised how hungry he felt.
The woman sat down in the chair.
“I nearly ran you down, where on earth did you come from?”
“Up near the mountains.”
“That’s a long walk, did you lose your horse?”
“It was spooked.”
“Er, yes ma’am.” Heyes spoke between bites, “I presume you brought me here? Did the doctoring?”
She nodded. “The name’s Vic Haines, Victoria really.”
“Joshua Smith. Pleased to meet you ma’am.” Heyes was impressed that she didn’t ask further about what had happened to him.
She laughed, “Please call me Vic. Ma’am is so proper and I don’t think we need be proper, you in bed an all!”
Heyes found himself smiling back at her.
He looked at her more closely. She was in her late twenties, probably, about 5 foot 8 and slender. She had copper colored hair and green eyes, which danced and sparkled. But they were also shrewd. She was dressed in a shirt and trousers. She looked capable and very pretty.
Heyes noticed that she was appraising him and reddened slightly.
“Is your husband about? I presume I’ve borrowed his nightgown?”
“Yes, it was his. My husband passed away.” Vic stood. “I live here alone. Well, I’ll let you finish that in peace and get back to work. I trust you’ll stay in bed, at least until I return with your clothes!” Grinning at him, she left.
Heyes finished his meal, drank the rest of the water and fell asleep, his last thoughts being of Kid Curry’s whereabouts.
Heyes slept most of the day as Curry rode through the countryside on his search. As Curry settled down to his third night’s camp and cooked himself a basic meal, Heyes was woken by Vic and given a grand repast.
He ate most of it, though the last mouthfuls were difficult to swallow, and then he felt a little guilty, wondering what the Kid was having to eat. Vic had left him alone this time, so when she returned, he thanked her and added, “My partner would approve of that meal. It was delicious!”
Vic curtseyed slightly, “Why thank you Sir.” she said politely, making Heyes laugh.
He winced, “Ouch! Don’t, that hurts!”
“Sorry, I’ll be more restrained. You’re looking better.”
“Doubt I could look much worse. Still, it looks worse than it is. Can I have my clothes back, I really need to get going.” There was a feverish glint in Heyes’ eyes that belied the words.
Vic was concerned. Somehow, it seemed she would have to persuade this stubborn patient of the need to rest. Keeping her voice neutral she said, “It’s past nightfall. You shouldn’t be thinking of going out at this time. The night air could make you ill. I would be irresponsible to let you leave now.”
Heyes’ face hardened slightly, as he said testily, “I didn’t realise I was your prisoner. I didn’t think I needed your permission to leave.”
Vic was conciliatory. “No, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean to offend you. Of course you’re free to go when you like, but it is night and if you wait until tomorrow, I’m headed back into town then and could give you a lift. Do you need to go out now?”
“I need to find my partner.” Heyes said this with a slight edge in his voice.
“Well, it would be difficult to find him in the dark. And how are you going to get about? Are you sure you’re up to walking back to town? I can’t spare my horse right now.”
Heyes struggled to sit up. Waves of pain swept over him. His ribs ached and his head felt like a thousand men were hitting the inside of his skull with hammers. He was sluggish and sleepy, but he wanted to get into town, get a message to the Kid. A wave of nausea finally made him realise that he couldn’t walk and Vic was going nowhere that evening.
Resignedly, he said, “I guess I can wait until tomorrow. I suppose he’ll be settling in for the night anyway.”
Vic was relieved. She didn’t like his colour or the sparkle in his eyes, he seemed to be developing a fever. However, she calmly said “That’s settled then. Would you like some coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Vic returned shortly. “Mind if I join you?”
“Nope, not at all.”
Vic settled into the chair and sipped her coffee. She looked pensive.
“What’s on your mind?”
“I was wondering who did this to you?”
“What makes you think anyone did it?”
“You’ve been beaten up and your horse took.” Vic spoke matter of factly.
“It was spooked and threw me.”
“If you insist.” Vic was thoughtful. “Have you heard of Jeremiah Leighton?”
“Yes. Why?” Heyes responded cautiously.
There was quiet in the room for a while.
“The Sheriff of Lexville is a cautious, some would say weak man. Trouble is, no one wants the job, not with Leighton’s men around.” Vic broke the silence.
“It’s a difficult job.”
“Have you any plans?”
“Find my partner.”
Vic nodded, understanding. “You should get to sleep.” She stood, collected his cup and left.
Heyes lay back on the pillows and pondered. He liked Vic, but it really was none of his affair. Except Leighton had left him to die of thirst – imprisoned and tied. He owed him. However, Heyes’ most pressing concern was the Kid. Leighton could wait.
Heyes drifted into a restless sleep. Vic heard him muttering and went in. She placed a damp cloth on his forehead and stroked his hand until he settled down. She sat, watching over him as she had the night before.
The following day, Heyes woke with a blinding headache. He shivered, feeling stiff and cold. He moaned and turned over. Vic came in with some breakfast and was immediately concerned. She felt his forehead; it was hot to touch. She fetched blankets and wrapped him up and then spent the day with him, putting damp cloths on his forehead, stroking his hair or his hands. At first, Heyes slept fitfully. Eventually, he fell into a deep sleep.
Posts : 576
Join date : 2015-03-21
Age : 57
Location : Derbyshire UK
|Subject: Re: Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell Sun May 03, 2015 12:51 pm|| |
Kid Curry was woken by dawn. Cold and stiff, he built up the fire and heated up last night’s beans and jerky. He made coffee and waited while he warmed up. As soon as he could, he set off again.
As Curry neared the town of Lexville, he gave up searching the sides of the road for Heyes. With the town so close, his anxiety grew and he hurried on into the burg, certain that if Heyes had left the town, he would have met him by this point. He now simply wanted to get into the town and find out if Heyes was there.
He arrived mid morning. At the livery, he casually asked about Heyes.
“Sure, I remember him. He rode out a few days ago. Not been back, no Sir.”
Despite his anxiety, Curry strolled over to the nearest saloon.
The barman came over.
“Hot, isn’t it?” Curry said.
“Usually is, this time of year.”
“Dusty, out on the trail.”
“Sure looked forward to this beer!”
The barman nodded and started to walk away.
“Say,” Curry called him back. “You seen anything of my friend? Figured to meet him here, just wondered if he’d been in?”
“Who’d he be?”
The barman stiffened slightly, but shook his head, “Nope. Not heard of that name.”
“Really? Maybe you’ve seen him, bout 5 foot 10, dark hair, kinda ordinary looking?”
The barman shook his head again.
Kid’s eyes narrowed and his voice hardened. “See, you look like you might have seen him.” Curry brought his gun out and placed it on the bar, facing the barman. “You sure you ain’t seen him?”
The barman began to sweat, he stared at the gun and then up into Curry’s face. He gulped, “Well, now you come to mention it, I mighta seen someone like that. Smith you say? Well, there was some boys in here, talking about a Smith fella, mebbe it was him? Real common name though, Smith.”
“Where could I find these fellas?”
“Well, um, I, I couldn’t say.”
Curry picked up his gun and balanced it in his hand. “Sure?”
“See, they, well, they.”
“They ain’t here. Now,” the gun was levelled directly, “You gonna tell me or…..”
“They was Leighton’s men. He’s a big rancher round these parts. He don’t like anyone messing with his men or spilling the beans.”
“Leighton.” Curry remembered the name. That was the man Heyes was to deliver the package to. “That’s okay, you didn’t tell me anything.”
Curry left the saloon, gun back in its holster and strolled over to the hotel. He registered and as he did so, he scanned the book.
He saw Heyes’ name a few days ago. He’d registered on the 20th, right on time. There was no check out recorded.
The clerk was handing him a key.
Kid smiled at him. “Would you believe it? This guy, J. Smith. I know a J. Smith! Mebbe it’s the same man, bout 5 foot 10, dark hair, late 20’s?”
“Sounds like the same man.”
“Well! I’ve not seen old Josh for months. Say, you think there’d be a problem if I used the same room? I notice he’s not checked out.”
“Don’t see why not, been empty for days.” The clerk wasn’t really interested, he had a meal going cold.
“Empty? Why are you holding it then?”
The clerk was short in his response, he was hungry, “He left, never came back. Left his things so we left the room, no one needed it. You can take it, if you want.”
“Seems kinda strange.” Curry said, puzzled.
The clerk shrugged.
“Did he say where he was going?”
“Asked directions to Leighton’s place. Guess he was going there.” The clerk laughed.
“Oh well, guess he’ll return soon. I’ll take his room, thanks.”
Taking the key the clerk handed him, Curry then made his way up the stairs. He wanted to turn and run back to the stables and head out to Leighton’s, but somehow, he felt that he needed to appear casual.
In the room, he found Heyes’ saddlebags. He sat down and tried to imagine what Heyes had done.
He’d arrived in town. Left his horse at the livery. Checked into the hotel and probably spent the evening at a saloon. In the morning, he’d found out where Leighton lived and left, expecting to be back and, he’d not been seen since? In any event, a visit to Leighton’s was necessary, or rather; with one of Leighton’s men.
Unwilling to wait a moment longer, Curry left the room. At the desk, he left a message, “Just in case Josh Smith should check back in” he casually explained to the clerk.
At the livery, he asked directions to Leighton’s ranch and headed out.
On finding the boundary marker, Curry circled off the road and up into the surrounding hills. He left his horse and lay on his stomach, watching the road. The afternoon wore on and it became hot and uncomfortable. Curry patiently waited. Finally he saw what he’d been waiting for.
A lone cowboy rode by. Curry watched him for a moment and his eyes narrowed. He slid back, regained his horse and rode down to intercept the man.
The cowboy looked at him and threatened, “This is Mr. Leighton’s land! He don’t hold with trespassers!”
“Really? I just wanted to ask – where’d you get that hat?”
“What?” the man asked, surprised and puzzled.
“Where did you get the hat?”
“See, wherever you got it, I’ll likely find my friend.”
The cowboy wheeled his horse to run. A well placed shot pulled him up.
The man dismounted.
“Throw your gun over here and then on your knees.”
Curry went over to the man and crouched down in front of him. He thrust his gun into the man’s chest. There was a deadly expression on his face and his blue eyes were hard and cold. The cowboy found himself unable to control his trembling. With his left hand, Curry lifted the black hat off the cowboy’s head.
“That is my friend’s hat. He would never leave this hat. Where did you get it?” He paused and stared long and hard at the man. “Let me put it another way. Where is my friend?”
Stuttering, the man said “He, he was at the ranch house. Some, some of the others took him away. The, the hat got left behind.”
Curry moved behind the man, replaced his gun and roughly pulled the cowboy’s arms behind him and tightly tied them together. Pulling the man up, he frogmarched him to a tree and tied him to it. The cowboy was too afraid to say anything as he watched Curry ride away.
Curry’s worry grew into rage as he rode. Heyes would not leave his hat behind, not voluntarily. He pushed his fears to the back of his mind and concentrated on how he would deal with Leighton.
A short while later, Curry rode into a palatial spread. There was a large bunkhouse, a huge barn, a corral with a number of ponies, a store and a large, hacienda style ranch house.
Despite the protests of a number of hands, Curry rode straight up to the door of the ranch and dismounted. He tied his horse to the post and then started across the porch. A ranch hand stood in front of him.
“You can’t go in there Mister!”
Curry turned cold eyes on the man and stared at him. The man stepped aside.
Curry opened the door.
Another man appeared. “I’m sorry Sir, I’m afraid that you will have to wait. Mr. Leighton… Hey! You can’t go in there! Mr. Leighton is not expecting you! You! Mister! You have to leave!”
Curry had tried most of the doors and found the rooms empty. He turned to the manservant. “Where’s Leighton?”
The man drew himself up and said pompously, “Mr. Leighton is unavailable. Should you care to….”
“I care to see Mister Leighton NOW!”
A man entered the building.
The manservant turned round and then started to babble nervously, “I’m sorry Sir, this man insisted. He refused to leave…”
Leighton was around 6 feet tall. A previously well built man, with broad shoulders, he was on the verge of becoming portly. His face was round and fleshy and reddening. There was a contemptuous curl to his thin lips and a hard, almost vicious look in his eye. He looked Curry up and down, then turned to the manservant.
“That will be all.” He dismissed the man.
Turning back to Curry, he jerked his head in the direction of one of the doors and headed that way.
Leighton led the way into his office. He was confident that he could deal with this trail stained drifter, he was an important man in these parts and no one crossed him. He had many men to ensure that his every whim was met.
His office was comfortable. It was dark, filled with wood and burgundy. It had two heavy, leather, burgundy, over stuffed chairs at either side of the marble fireplace. A large mahogany desk stood under the windows at the end of the room, with a green leather writing area. There were paintings and animal heads on the walls. The whole room exuded power and maleness.
Leighton headed over to his desk and took his seat behind it. This left Curry to stand in the centre of the room.
Leighton leaned his elbows on his desk and templed his fingers. “How can I help you?”
Curry stood relaxed in the centre of the room, the narrowed eyes the only sign of the tension he felt. He folded his arms and stared hard at the large, heavy set, balding man in front of him. He did not respond immediately to Leighton’s question. Beads of sweat began to form on Leighton’s brow. Very slowly, he walked up to the large desk, unfolded his arms, placed his hands flat on the top and leant forward. Speaking slowly and quietly, his voice hard with suppressed anger, Kid Curry said, “Tell me where Joshua Smith is.”
Leighton leaned back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Joshua Smith. He came here, with a delivery. Where is he?”
“I have no idea.” Leighton’s voice faltered. He was increasingly uncomfortable with this stranger. As dusty and worn as his clothing looked, the menace he exuded was palpable and he was not afraid. Leighton had never met anyone who was not afraid of him, not until this stranger and Smith. Smith had been easy to deal with. He’d talk you to death, you just couldn’t shut the man up. But it had been simple to put him on ice. But this one. This one wouldn’t talk, except with a sixgun. His blue eyes were icy cold and hard and bored into Leighton like a knife through butter.
“He came here. Where is he?” Curry repeated.
“If this man came here, I have no idea where he went. Many men are in and out of here, I don’t deal with all of them. Nor can I be held responsible for them when they have left!”
Curry straightened, folded his arms again and stared down at Leighton, unblinking.
“I’m a powerful man around here! What would I want with a drifter? Look around you, why would I have anything to do with where he is?”
Silent, Curry looked away from Leighton and then began to slowly turn in a tight circle, surveying the room. Leighton was sure that he would be impressed by the power and wealth displayed and, after apologising, would leave. Leighton was disappointed. Curry completed his turn, his arms still folded, but now, on his face was a slight smile, almost a sneer. Instead of being afraid or even impressed, he was contemptuous of the man in front of him. “Men like you always have something to do with it!” he said in a voice loaded with that contempt.
Leighton stood up. “Look, I’ve answered your question, now get out of here, or I’ll call my men and have you thrown out!” he blustered.
Leighton wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the blue eyes turned even harder and colder and the voice was so cold that the temperature in the room fell several degrees. The man began to slowly take off his glove, one finger at a time. With each finger, he spoke one word.
“Where. Is. Smith?”
Leighton sat down heavily, “I don’t know, I really don’t know. I swear!” His voice rose, panicked.
“But your men do.”
“I, I. I suppose so.” Leighton whispered. He appeared to shrink several inches in size.
“They’ll take you!” Leighton said defiantly.
“Then the first five men through the door will regret it.”
Leighton stared at Curry for a long moment and then walked unsteadily over to the door to his office, his face sullen.
“Franks! Johnson!” he barked, “Get in here!” His voice cracked a little and Curry prepared himself for a fight, but Leighton’s men didn’t seem to have noticed and came hurrying in, to answer their boss.
They paid little attention to the trail stained drifter standing there.
“What is it, boss?” asked Franks, a short dark haired man.
“This man wants to know where Smith is. Tell him.”
“Who? What are you talking about boss?”
Curry moved into the sight of the two men. His glove was tucked into his belt and his hand hung by his gun. His eyes blazed with anger.
“Take me to Joshua Smith. Now!”
The two men looked at him and then back at their boss. Leighton was sweating hard and looked frightened. His men didn’t need to ask any more questions. Mutely, they led the way out of the room. Curry indicated to Leighton that he should go ahead.
As they left the building, Curry spoke quietly and menacingly into Leighton’s ear. “Make sure no one tries anything. I’ve a very light trigger finger.” He prodded Leighton in the back with his sixgun. Leighton nodded.
“Franks, saddle a horse for your boss. He’s gonna want to come with us, ain’t ya?”
Leighton nodded again. “Saddle one for me too Franks.”
“Call your men out.”
“Everyone, get out here!”
Men came running from most every corner of the ranch. Each one asked what their boss wanted. Curry waited till they were all gathered together, in front of Leighton. Then he spoke.
“Take your weapons out and throw them on the ground!” he ordered.
“Do it” Leighton added.
The men exchanged puzzled glances, but did as they were told.
“You too, Franks, Johnson.”
The two hands had come out of the barn with three saddled horses. They added their weapons to the pile.
Curry looked around and saw a cool house.
“Everyone, into there.” He waved his hand in the direction of the earthen building. A prod into Leighton’s back had him repeating the order. The men trooped in.
Curry spoke to the two hands left. “Bar the door.”
“You can’t do that!” Johnson protested. “They’ll die!”
Curry turned his ice cold eyes onto the man. “IF you return Smith to me, you’ll be able to return here and free them. In the meantime, they’ll get a little chilled, but they won’t starve and they won’t suffocate. A couple of days’ll do them no harm. IF you don’t take me to Smith, well, they’ll have to dig their way out!”
The three men realised what he meant.
The three men mounted up.
Curry swung onto his horse, his gun still pointing at the men, his eyes never leaving them. They headed out, Curry drawing up the rear. He holstered his gun and then called to the men.
They stopped and turned and looked back at him.
“If you’re thinking of anything…..” Kid drew his gun and fired, the bullet whistling past Leighton’s ears. “Your boss will regret it.”
Three jaws dropped, they never saw the gun drawn or replaced, but they heard the bullet. None of them were inclined to think of anything except getting to the place where Smith had been left, as quickly as possible.
Several hours passed in silence. Kid Curry's fury (coupled with his inner fears for Heyes’ safety) cast a pall over the group. None of them dared speak.
After a few hours, Leighton was exhausted and aching. He had not ridden so far in years. Leighton was a bully and a coward but his pain prompted him to address the glowering blond haired man.
“Can we take a break?”, he whined.
Curry pulled up, Franks and Johnson following his lead. Curry’s stare should have caused Leighton to burst into flame. He turned to the two hands, “How much further?”
“A couple of hours.” Franks answered.
Curry turned back to Leighton and said stonily, “You can last a coupla more hours. If you can’t ride sat up, you can ride tied across your saddle.”
“I’ll ride.” Leighton answered hurriedly.
After several more hours of hard riding, the group climbed up into the foothills. Johnson and Franks pulled up on reaching a small plateau. In front loomed a mountain, to the side was the start of a wooden area and below the edge stretched a prairie. Cut into the mountain was a building, the adobe brick wall facing them, with a gaping hole near the bottom.
The group sat and stared at the hole, stunned.
After an eternity, Curry said, “So, where is he?”
No one answered.
Curry rode around in front of them and snapped at Johnson, “Well?”
“Huh?” Johnson’s glazed eyes focussed on the Kid.
“Where is he?” Curry’s frustration raised his voice.
Johnson stared and pointed at the store.
Curry followed the pointing finger and then swivelled back.
“You left him there?” he shouted, indignant.
Franks started and backed off a little. Johnson paled, but nodded. Leighton was so exhausted he had no idea what was happening. He could barely remain on his horse.
Curry dismounted and walked over to the store. He peered in through the hole, but it was difficult to see inside. Softly, he called Heyes’ name. No one answered.
Walking to the wood, he got a torch going, returned to the building and raised the bar. The door, though heavy, opened easily. Curry entered and cast a long look around. The store was empty. Relief was tinged with worry and then he saw the rawhide straps lying, bloodied, on the ground. Kid picked them up, rage bubbling back up inside him.
Johnson appeared at the hole.
“He got out,” he said and stood there, repeating over and over, “He got out, he got out.”
Kid Curry walked over to him and thrust the straps into his face. Furiously he spat, “You left him in there! Tied up!” He was so angry, he curled and uncurled his fists to stop himself striking the man. If he hit him, he was certain that he would not stop.
Curry marched over to Leighton, grabbed him and pulled him off his horse. “Why?” he yelled into the man’s face, “Why?” He shook Leighton, who simply cowered. Curry let him go and watched with contempt as Leighton fell to the ground. He looked around and then something inside him snapped. Drawing his gun, he shot at Leighton; the bullet grazed past the man’s ear.
“Git! Git out of here! Go on, git!”
Leighton scrambled to his feet and began to run. Curry fired at his departing feet. Franks was already spurring his horse away. Curry quickly reloaded and then fired at Johnson.
“You too, go on! Git!”
Johnson fled, relieved to be given the chance to escape.
Quietness returned to the plateau.
Curry sat on a log, suddenly exhausted. He had been on edge for so long, with worry and anger, that now he felt drained. He had so hoped to find Heyes here. Now, it was nearly dark and he had no idea where to look. Too tired to think, too tired to do anything, Curry sat, slumped.
After dark, Curry slowly unsaddled his horse and undid his bedroll. He crawled inside and lay, hands under his head, staring up at the night sky, until he fell asleep.
Heyes woke to sunlight streaming in through the window. He felt considerably better; stronger and alert. He smiled on noticing his clothes folded neatly on the chair.
Rising, his muscles remaining silent, he made his way to the washstand. He was relieved that there was no further dizziness. After washing, he slowly dressed and strapped on his empty gunbelt. He thought of Kid’s reaction to being without a gun and smiled slightly. Then, he went in search of Vic.
He found her outside. They were on a small ranch. The house was in typical cabin style with a small corral, a wagon stood nearby and a small barn. There was a storehouse and a log pile. Everywhere looked in need of repair.
Vic noticed him, standing on the doorstep. “Morning!” she said breezily. “Want breakfast?”
“Sure, but I can fix it, just show me where.”
“Oh, its no problem, come in.” Vic led the way into the house and to the kitchen.
“Sit down,” she waved at the table and then began to cook up bacon and eggs. She brewed coffee and set the table with biscuits. Again, Heyes found himself thinking of the Kid. He hoped that he was getting a good breakfast too.
“I have some chores to do round the ranch, but then I can drive you back into town, if you’d like.”
Heyes sighed, “Much as I’d love to stay and enjoy your company, I’m afraid I need to find my partner. He’ll be more than a mite anxious by now. Meanwhile, I can give you a hand, pay for my keep.”
“Thank you, but I can manage. You sit and rest. You still don’t look so good you know.” Vic answered, teasingly.
“Thanks!” exclaimed Heyes, but he was smiling.
Vic spent the morning on her chores, Heyes did help whenever he could. They ate lunch and then Vic harnessed up the horses and they left for Lexville.
Exhausted as he was, Curry slept into the morning. He woke with a start and cursed when he realised the time. As he made a quick meal, he ran through his options, wishing Heyes were here to listen. He scanned the horizon. There was no sign of habitation. The prairie seemed to stretch for as far as he could see. Then, as he searched, he noticed a small difference. He examined the ground and the edge of the grass in front of the plateau. Yes, someone had definitely been through. Taking a wild guess, it could only be Heyes!
Hurriedly, he saddled and set off to follow the track.
It took Kid less than half the time it had taken Heyes to cover the prairie to the road. When he reached it, he stopped, frustrated. The tracks ended. Which way had Heyes gone? Would Heyes have known in which direction the town lay? There appeared to be little traffic on the road, the last was a wagon, heading away from town. For a long moment, Kid Curry sat staring at the tracks. Finally, he didn’t know why, he set off in the direction they travelled, away from town.
In the distance, Curry saw a ranch house. Hoping it would be occupied; he spurred his horse along, anxious to ask them if they’d seen Heyes. It was mid afternoon.
The ranch house was a cabin. Nearby was a bunkhouse, an empty corral, a storehouse and a logpile. The whole place was in need of repair. It appeared to be empty. He knocked on the door, nonetheless and waited. When no one appeared, he wandered around, calling hello. There was no answer. Sighing, Curry remounted and headed back, dispiritedly, to Lexville.
Heyes and Vic were arriving at Lexville. Heyes got off at the telegraph office and went in to send a message to T. Jones, Twin Forks.
“Thaddeus”, it read, “At Lexville. Contact. J. Smith”
Telling the operator to leave any message at the hotel, he walked over to a saloon and, at the bar, ordered a beer.
He surveyed the room and saw no one he recognised. Good, he didn’t want a run in with Leighton’s men. A poker game was going on and Heyes couldn’t resist joining in until the time he’d agreed to meet Vic for supper.
Kid felt as though he was drugged. He was tired and despairing. His horse was literally dragging him along, as he desperately clung to the hope that Heyes would be in town.
Shortly after dark, he rode into Lexville and pulled up in front of a saloon. Wearily, he dismounted and trudged inside. He approached the bar and ordered a beer. Leaning an elbow on the bar, he turned to survey the room and then choked on his beer.
A dark haired man at a poker game at the other end of the room stood up. He turned around and started to walk out, when his attention was caught by the sound of coughing. Looking around for the sound, his jaw slackened. Recovering quickly, he walked casually over to the spluttering Kid Curry.
“You want to be careful. It could kill ya, choking like that.”
Kid Curry looked up, from his doubled over position, at Hannibal Heyes, standing grinning at him. He’d spent days searching for him and now, he couldn’t decide whether to hug him or punch him!
Throwing his arms around Heyes, in a bear hug, he yelled happily “Joshua!”
Heyes reddened, “Lemme go, you idiot.” He scolded, smiling and, ever so briefly, returning the hug.
Kid didn’t care that every one in the room was staring at them; he was overjoyed to have finally caught up with his partner and to find him alive. He released Heyes, leaving his hands on Heyes’ shoulders as he appraised his condition. Questions poured out.
“Where’ve you bin? How are you? How’d you get here? Who did this to you? Why didn’t you send a message? Where’ve you bin? How’d you get out of that storeroom? What have you been doing? You look terrible. Where have you been?”
Heyes smiled at his friend, the torrent of words from the normally quiet younger man telling him more than Curry ever would about how anxious he’d been.
“If you let me get a word in, I’ll tell ya! Better yet, I’m meeting someone at the restaurant, why don’t you come with me, get something to eat and I’ll explain.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m so hungry, I could eat a whole herd!”
The two men left the saloon. Outside, on the sidewalk, Kid Curry suddenly stopped. Heyes, slightly ahead, realised that his partner wasn’t following him and turned back.
Kid was standing stockstill, staring down at the ground. Heyes stood quietly on the street, slightly looking up and waiting for his partner. After a few moments, Kid looked up. His blue eyes were glistening. “Heyes” he whispered, trailing off.
Heyes’ expression softened to that which only his partner ever saw. He smiled softly, nodded and said quietly, “I know Kid, I know.” For a moment, he held Kid’s gaze and tried to reassure his friend. A small smile appeared on Kid’s face. A gleam appeared in Heyes’ eyes as he said brightly, “C’mon, I have an appointment. Don’t want to keep my friend waiting.” He set off again across the street.
For a moment, Kid watched him, then he sighed and shook his head resignedly. Heyes would never change. It was obvious he had something up his sleeve, something he thought to surprise the Kid with. Resolving not to react, Curry set off, trotting to catch up.
TO BE CONTINUED…….
|Subject: Re: Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell || |
Hell and High Water - Part One - Hell