Posts : 834
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 45
|Subject: Resolution Sun Aug 23, 2015 9:54 pm|| |
"Your call, Joshua."
Hannibal Heyes, alias Joshua Smith, contemplated his poker hand. "Fold. This one's too rich for me." Catching sight of his partner entering the saloon, he pushed back from the table. "Deal me out the next coupla hands. I'll be back directly."
"Josh, bring me back a beer if you don't mind."
Heyes smiled. "Sure, Cal. Anyone else?"
A chorus of "no thanks" came from the three other men at the table as Heyes raked in his winnings and headed for the bar. As he approached Jed "Kid" Curry, he gave his partner's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. The cousins had separated for several days to attend to different delivery jobs, and Kid had just arrived in town.
"Two beers," Heyes ordered from the bartender before turning his attention to Curry. "How'd it go?"
"No problems. Things are starting to look up." Heyes grinned. Handing his partner a beer, he hoisted the other to his lips. "Now we can relax for a few days."
Curry took a long swig and set the mug down. "Just direct me to the room and the bathhouse, and I'll be relaxin' before you can finish that beer.” He lowered his voice. “How’re things lookin' here?"
Heyes leaned in closer to Kid, their heads almost touching. "This is as good a place as any to hole up for a few days. And the poker's good, too. Sheriff doesn’t know us, and the town’s really welcoming to strangers. Can’t say anything bad about it."
Curry grinned, his blue eyes dancing. Removing his brown hat, he mowed a hand through the dark blond curls matted to his scalp. "Good to hear. Last thing we need is to head out too soon in this heat."
"My sentiments exactly," agreed Heyes. Nodding in the direction of the poker table as he ordered another beer, he continued, "I want to get back to that game. The hotel's across the street – room 206. Told them I'm expecting ya. Livery's down the street two blocks, and the bath house is next to it. Get yourself settled and come back. I'm buying – a nice steak dinner with all the trimmings."
"You're so good to me, Joshua!" Kid smiled as he slapped Heyes on the back. "Give me a couple hours and you're on."
"Good. Now back to the game." Heyes’ magnanimity dissipated as his focus returned to lady luck. He grabbed the extra beer and returned to the table.
Re-seating himself, Heyes placed the beer in front of Cal and waved off the older man's attempt to pay for it.
"Thanks, Josh. Right nice o' ya."
"Anytime, Cal. So, did I miss anything?"
"Well, probably nothin' important," opined Drew, another middle-aged man. "Somehow, we got to talking about the war, but you're probably too young to remember anything about it."
Heyes studied the man. Until now, he had not noticed that all four gamblers were considerably older than he – certainly old enough to have fought. "I suppose."
Ward, another of the players, asked, "So, Josh, did your daddy fight?"
Heyes, feeling uncomfortable now under the scrutiny of four sets of eyes, shook his head.
"Was he killt?" asked Sam, the fourth man.
"Yeah, he was killed," Heyes said quickly. "Now, where were we?"
Several of the men regarded Heyes before he suddenly glanced away, eyes table-ward. Drew noticed and interjected, "Aw, come on, boys, can't ya tell he doesn't want to talk about it."
Ignoring Drew, Sam asked, "On what side was your daddy and where was he killt?"
Heyes closed his eyes against the lightheadedness that washed over him. Consciously regulating his breathing, he looked up to face the questioner. Pausing for several seconds before speaking, he finally said, "Neither side. He was killed in the raids in Kansas."
Drew spoke again. "Sorry to hear that, Josh. Okay, boys, let's get back to poker."
"In a minute, Drew. Sorry 'bout your daddy, too, Josh," said Sam. "Cal, you were in Kansas, weren't ya?"
Cal put his beer down and turned to the questioner. "Maybe that's not proper conversation for right now, Sam. After all, we're here to play. Besides, we don't want to upset young Joshua any more than he might be already." With that, he encountered the now disturbed dark brown eyes of the ex-outlaw.
Heyes held his gaze. "You were in Kansas?"
Cal did not avert his sightline. "Yes, son, I was."
"Who were you with?"
Cal's voice was steady. "I rode with both Bloody Bill Anderson and Quantrill before headin’ east to join Wade Hampton's outfit and becomin’ a proper soldier. Somethin' to ya?"
Heyes glanced at the table momentarily before looking back at Cal. Given the timing of his war experience, Heyes presumed him to be about forty-five, but he appeared much older – drink perhaps? He had put away quite a few whiskeys over the last couple of days as they played. "Not sure. Those men did some awful things."
Cal's voice turned gruff, before becoming almost mournful. "It was war, boy, and war's hell. And sometimes ... Well, sometimes ... Just be thankful ya didn't see any of it."
Heyes swallowed, hard. "Excuse me."
The dark-haired ex-outlaw barely acknowledged the other men as he rose and strode to the bar, where he ordered a bottle of whiskey. Grabbing it, he left the saloon.
Kid Curry whistled and took the stairs two at a time. Reaching the door, he entered the hotel room just in time to dodge a glass that sailed past him and shattered on the opposite wall in the corridor. Two women in the hallway gasped as the shards rained down to the floor in front of them.
Curry tipped his hat to them in embarrassment. "Ladies."
The women's expressions went from surprise to disapproval as they eyed first Kid, and then Heyes, inside. Hiking their skirts a few inches, they moved carefully around the broken glass before hurrying down the hall.
Wordlessly, Curry dropped the bag of soiled clothing he carried onto the bed, then surveyed the room. Not finding what he sought, he approached the entryway to step back into the hall, and carefully moved the shards of shattered glass to one side with a boot, out of the main pathway. Then, re-entering the room, he closed the door noiselessly behind him.
He regarded his partner. Sotte voce, he demanded, "Okay, what was that about? I leave ya an hour or so ago in the saloon, and now you're almost drunk and throwin’ things."
Heyes stared back. "I'm not nearly drunk, Kid. Just stay outta my way."
Curry approached his cousin and placed a hand on his shoulder. Heyes violently shrugged it off. "Leave me alone, Kid."
"What happened, Heyes? An hour ago, you were gonna buy us a steak dinner. Now ..."
Heyes raised his voice. "I'm not hungry now, Kid. Here, you go eat." With that, Heyes stuffed some bills into Curry's vest pocket.
Taken aback momentarily, the blond man recovered quickly and pushed the bills back into Heyes' hands. "I don't want your money, Heyes. I just wanna know what's goin’ on."
Heyes scowled. "Nothing!"
Kid answered in disbelief, "Nothin'?"
"Heyes, you don't really expect me to believe ..."
Before Curry could finish his words, Heyes socked him in the jaw with a solid right – the punch sending the blond man crashing to the floor with a sickening thump. Heyes exited the room without a backward glance, slamming the door behind him.
In the livery stable, Cal Brundage steadied his horse, and himself, before saddling the animal. Pulling the cinch tight, he half-leaned against the mare before clumsily hefting himself up. Taking the reins, he let the animal set her own pace as he guided her out of the building.
Unnoticed by Cal, Heyes watched his former poker mate leave. Saddling his own bay, he rode it back to the hotel. Single-minded, but somewhat contrite, he entered the room he had left only thirty minutes before.
Curry lay on the double bed, holding his chin, seemingly dazed – perhaps half asleep. However, the blue eyes flew open as his partner entered and approached him. Heyes carefully moved Kid's hand away from the bruised jaw. Wincing, he stepped away and poured water into the washbowl on the night stand, returning with a wet cloth. He dabbed at the swelling.
Kid roused fully at the mention of his name.
Heyes placed the cloth in Curry's hand, motioning for him to hold it on the bruised jaw. He then regarded the blond man for a moment before turning to grab his saddlebags and gathering items to pack.
"Heyes?" Kid's voice quavered.
Finishing his packing, Heyes sat on the bed. "I've gotta leave for a few days. Wait for me here, okay?" Nodding at Curry's jaw, he smiled sheepishly, grimaced. "Sorry about that."
Kid grabbed Heyes' arm. He rasped, "Where ya goin'?"
Heyes glanced at the floor before looking Curry in the eye. "Not sure yet. Gotta take care of something."
Kid's voice grew stronger, but rueful. "Heyes, what is it? And so sudden-like?"
"Jed ... Don't. Just gotta take care of something."
"I've only seen you like this once before in the last few years. We were in Kansas ... Don't do it, Heyes."
The dark-haired man smiled. He tried to speak reassuringly, but missed the mark. "Don't do what? I'm not going to do anything."
"That guy in Kansas. You almost ..."
Kid locked eyes with his partner, his voice now strong. "You almost killed him."
Heyes held the gaze. "But I didn't. Turned out he wasn't there."
"There? You mean our farms, right?"
Heyes dropped his eyes.
"Han ... You always spoke of what you would do if you found one of them. After all these years ... Drop it ... Please??!!"
"I can't, Jed. It never totally goes away. I can't make peace with it the way you did." Heyes sighed and rose. "Just promise me you won't follow me. I'll be back in a few days."
The dark-haired man stopped, his back to Curry. "What?"
"Don't forget about the amnesty."
Heyes trailed Cal Brundage for a day and a night, and another day. The older man moved slowly, seemingly not running from anyone, or anything. Indeed, he drank as he rode. Heyes kept his distance when Cal fell out of the saddle. Though he was a local man, he did not seem to turn toward home, but meandered, riding away from town – west, but without direction.
Heyes camped a second night. He tried, but did not, could not, sleep. And yet, his resoluteness did not wane, nor did it fully engulf him. Instead, it enveloped him alternately as sadness, and anger – but without fury. He tried to sort his feelings, but could not pinpoint them. Perhaps time, and maturity, had tempered things that had raged tempestuously in him in his youth? Perhaps his partner's steady influence? He realized any and all, and other things could explain the confusion he felt – or not. Why were there no clear answers?
Still, he kept on. But to what avail?
While brewing coffee the morning of the third day, a gun clicked. Heyes startled.
"Just hold it right there."
Heyes looked up to see the object of his hunt approach him.
"Why are ya followin' me, Josh?"
The ex-outlaw stared at the man – and the Schofield in his right hand. He remained mute.
Cal stepped closer. "Now take that pistol out of your gun belt nice and easy and toss it over here."
Heyes did as instructed, showing his palms for added measure. He felt strangely calm.
"Now, again, why ya followin' me?"
"I'm not ..."
Cal's voice rose. "Now, don't lie, boy! You've been a-followin' me for days now. Don't think I'm some stupid cuss of a kid who ain't been around some." He paused. "Your mood changed soon as you heard about the war. Said your daddy was killt in the raids? You know I was there."
"Well, like I told ya, some ugly things were done. Whole families wiped out. And why? War's hell, boy! I can't ever forget that … But I suppose you can't, neither."
Heyes stared at the ground.
"Boy, that was twenty years ago! Ya can't keep that with ya and expect to live a happy life. I ain't. My daddy was a preacher, a good man. He named me Calvary. Said it would always remind me – of whatever needed remindin'. And I never forgot. And my daddy never knew what I seen, or done. And I'm not proud of it. Hardly any of us was."
Cal stopped. Bending down, he tossed Heyes' pistol back to him. "Here, boy, if you need to do somethin', do it and get it over with. I'm forcin' your hand."
Heyes looked at the gun, but did not reach for it. His eyes rested on his adversary. He saw – a man.
After several minutes, Brundage walked back to his horse and rode away.
Heyes watched him go, motionless.
Heyes stared at the campfire several hours. Reflections of a life wavered in the flames. His thoughts wandered. His head dropped into his hands. Looking up, he sighed, staring again at the embers – once bright and dancing, now retreated, fading as so long ago ...
Hoofbeats broke his reverie. He watched as his partner acknowledged him and dismounted.
Kid appeared contrite. "Sorry, Heyes, but that was a promise I couldn't keep. Not this long."
Heyes slapped him on the back. "It's okay. Glad ya didn't."
Taken by surprise, Curry blinked. "Yeah?"
"How ya feelin'?" Kid asked, cautiously.
Heyes swallowed hard. "Okay."
"Did anything happen?"
Heyes paused. "No."
"Not really. He talked a bit."
Kid’s brow furrowed. "HE talked?"
"Then he rode out."
Curry let out a breath. His shoulders relaxed. "Good. So, you're okay?"
Heyes gazed skyward before regarding his partner. He sighed. "I'll never forget, Kid."
"Neither will I, Heyes. And your resolution to get them?"
"I'll never forget."
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp