Posts : 181
Join date : 2013-08-25
Age : 63
|Subject: Fallen Sat Sep 05, 2015 3:48 pm|| |
This is the last of the back story on Jake Harrison originally posted as a challenge in October 2011
“Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.”
Proverbs 26: 27
The room crouched at the corner of the hotel with windows peering west and south across a street strewn with leaves. A smoking flame flickered in a sooty glass chimney and cast shuddering shadows across the walls. Pens and ink jars littered a table covered with papers. A Schofield revolver pinned down the curling edges of a map while a dark-eyed outlaw perched on a straight-backed chair scribbling on his plans. His breath exploded in a tired sigh, and he threaded fingers through his thick, tousled hair before leaning back.
A soft knock sent his hand groping for the gun. He eased back into the chair as a familiar pattern tapped against the door. A key turned in the lock, and a welcome, blue-eyed figure slipped inside.
“Did ya get it?” he blurted without preamble.
“Good to see you too, Heyes. Everything went fine. Thanks for askin.’ Curry flashed a sarcastic grin and extended folded papers to his eager partner.
Heyes sprang from the chair and snatched the documents. He cleared a place on the cluttered table before unfolding each of the new papers and examining the drawings. A wide smile inched its way from dimple to dimple while mischief and glee twinkled in his deep-brown eyes.
“It’s gonna work, Kid! We’ll hit the bank here in Fort Benton on Friday night, and be in Big Springs in time to clean out the Merchant’s Bank on Saturday. We’ll have all day Sunday to head back to Wyoming, and no one will even know the banks have been robbed until Monday morning. It’s perfect.” He flopped onto the bed with his hands clasped behind his head, stretched out like a smug cat. “Aren’t ya gonna say anything?”
“You’re congratulatin’ yourself enough for both of us.” Curry pulled off his hat and tossed it on the bed.
The brown eyes opened wide with feigned hurt.
Curry glared. “All right,” he relented. “It’s a real good plan, Heyes. We’ll get two big hauls and be out of Montana before anyone knows they’ve been robbed. Ya got a right to feel proud and celebrate.” The Kid pulled two cigars out of his shirt pocket and tossed one to his preening partner. “Put on a shirt and let’s go smoke these on the hotel porch. After that, we can go over to the saloon.”
“Now you’re the one making fine plans, Kid.” He plucked a blue shirt off the bedpost and shrugged into it. As he buttoned, he whistled a jaunty tune. Scooping up his hat and grabbing his gun belt, he headed for the door. Curry retrieved his hat and followed him down the hall.
The rattle of dice, the clinking of coins, and the whir of the roulette wheel competed with a tinny piano and rowdy conversation in the smoke-filled saloon. The smell of old beer and stale sweat mingled with the sweet reek of cheap perfume as the girls sashayed past with drinks and winks for the customers.
Curry sat across from Heyes at a poker table. A pile of cash slumped in front of each outlaw. Heyes studied his cards before pushing some small bills into the center of the table.
“Call,” he stated calmly.
An older gentleman laid down three tens and reached for the pot.
“Sorry, Doc,” responded Heyes as he revealed a jack-high flush. “This one is mine.”
“So it is, young man, so it is,” replied the good-natured doctor. He shook his head and smiled. “You are one lucky poker player, son.”
“I like to think it’s skill,” Heyes replied with a smile.
“He’d like to think that,” joked the Kid, “but he knows you're right, Doc.”
The men at the table laughed, and Heyes caught the attention of a buxom saloon girl who swayed over to take his order as the cards were dealt again. Heyes schooled his face to a pleasant blandness as he fanned out three queens. The first round of betting started, and Heyes considered how to best capitalize on his good fortune. Lady Luck was smiling graciously on him tonight.
The girl sloshed a whiskey in front of him, and Heyes fished out some coins. “For you,” he said as he handed her an extra piece of silver.
With a flourish she placed it inside her ample cleavage and winked, but Heyes didn’t notice. He was staring at a man who was sipping beer and talking to the bartender.
“You okay, Sweetie,” asked the waitress. “Ya look like ya seen a ghost.” Heyes failed to reply. “Mister,” she insisted, “are you all right?”
“What? Oh, yeah, sorry,” Heyes answered distractedly. “I’m fine. Thanks for the drink.”
He handed her yet another coin. Her hazel eyes widened in surprise, but the outlaw’s attention had returned to his poker hand. She shrugged and the second tip followed the first one into her dress.
His gaze strayed back to the man at the bar. He had hair as dark as Heyes’ own and a slim build. A wooden cane leaned next to him, and he kept track of it with long fingers. When the man’s head turned, Heyes caught sight of brown eyes and a wide smile. Shivers chased their way down the outlaw’s spine.
“Ya gonna bet?” The question didn’t penetrate. “Mister, it’s five to you. Are you in or out?”
He heard the question, but the words didn’t register. A sharp kick to his foot startled him, and returned his attention to the table. He caught Curry’s worried expression and glanced at the three queens before offering a forced smile and closing his cards.
“I fold,” he muttered and gulped his whiskey. When he looked back at the bar, the dark-haired man was gone. He scooped up his meager winnings and stood. “Thanks for the game, gents, but I think I’m done for the night.
Curry questioned him silently, but Heyes just shook his head. When the Kid started to get up, his partner waved him back to the game and walked purposefully to the bar.
“Whatta ya have?” asked the barkeep.
Heyes noted the mutton-chop sideburns and large red nose above the protruding belly of the man working the bar. “Whiskey,” he ordered and laid down some coins. “And bring the bottle.”
“Sure thing, Mister,” said the bartender. He returned with a bottle and a glass. He opened and poured. “Anything else?”
Heyes placed a bill on the counter and pushed it forward. “Yeah, I could use a little information.”
The bartender slipped the money into his apron. “Whatta ya want to know?”
“That man who just left—the dark-haired fella you were talking to—who is he?”
“That was Jake Harrison. He and his wife own a dry goods store in town. Nice fella. Why ya ask?”
All the color drained from Heyes’ face. “Harrison?” he croaked.
The barkeep nodded. “You okay, Mister? You don’t look so good.”
“Something I ate,” Heyes lied.
The bartender studied his customer with lowered brows, but didn’t question the explanation. “What’s your interest in Jake? I don’t want to cause him no trouble. He’s a good man.”
“He reminded me of someone I knew a long time ago. But the man I knew wasn’t named Harrison”
“Could still be Jake. Rumor is he enlisted in the Confederate army under a false name because he wasn’t old enough to join up. Ya saw his cane and his limp?”
“Well, he got that at Shiloh. Was the fella you’re lookin’ for in the war?”
“Uh-huh. How’d this Harrison end up in Montana if he fought for the Confederacy?”
“He came to Fort Benton back in 1864. A Galvanized Yankee. He was a prisoner at Camp Douglas in Illinois. When they offered them Johnny Rebs a ticket outta the prison camps if they’d join the Union forces, Jake joined up and got sent out here.”
The bartender grabbed himself a clean glass and set it on the bar. Heyes poured the man a drink from his bottle. They each tossed back a whiskey, and Heyes refilled the glasses.
Go on,” he encouraged the large man.
“Jake went back home to Kansas when they mustered him out, but wasn’t gone more than a few months before he showed up back here. Heard somethin’ had happened to his folks, but Jake don’t say what. He got married, owns a business, and lives here now. Don’t talk much about his past.” The barkeep studied the man in front of him. “You sure do look like him. Is he the man ya thought he was?”
“Nope. The man I knew joined the Union army,” Heyes lied. “Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.” He snagged the bottle and his glass off the bar and made his way to a small table in the corner where he began a serious assault on the amber-colored liquid.
From the poker table, Kid Curry had tracked the movements of his partner. Once Heyes settled at the back table with a bottle for company, the Kid gathered up his money and excused himself from the game. He pulled out a chair and placed his glass down next to Heyes’ bottle.
“Can I have a drink?”
Heyes answered with a curt nod and sloshed some whiskey into the empty glass.
“Ya gonna tell me what’s eatin’ at ya?” he asked quietly.
Heyes’ smoldering brown eyes flicked between Curry and the bottle. “Nothin’s wrong,” he barked and tossed back his drink.
Curry raised his eyebrows but stayed silent.
Heyes glared at him and gulped down another glass.
Blue eyes shifted between the half-empty bottle and his partner’s trembling hand. “Okay,” he drawled, “then tell me what’s put you in a mood. I thought you were happy about our plans.”
“Thinking ain’t your department, Kid,” hissed Heyes with venom. “Maybe you should stick with guns and guardin’ my back and keep your nose outta my personal business.” He downed another glass.
“Ya might want to slow down a bit with the whiskey.”
“I said to stay outta my business.” Heyes glanced around the saloon. “I know where you’ll leave me alone,” he snarled. Abruptly he stood and grabbed the bottle. He swayed and placed one palm on the table to steady himself. Then he stepped precisely across the saloon floor. “Lacey,” he called to a petite brunette serving drinks. “I need ya to come with me,” he slurred.
“Anything ya want, Sugar,” she replied and helped him up the stairs.
An astonished Curry stared after his partner. “What's goin’ on?” he muttered.
“I gotta call it a night,” the last poker player told Curry as he gathered up his money and finished his drink. “Sorry to leave ya alone, but it’s really late.”
“I know. Thanks for the game,” the Kid replied with a tired smile. He picked up his warm beer and walked over to the bar.
“I’m gonna be lockin’ up real soon,” the whiskered bartender told him. “What’s the matter? No money for the hotel?”
“Nope. I got a room waitin’.”
“Then why’re you still standin’ around here?”
“Waitin’ on my partner.”
“That dark-haired fella who was drinkin’ heavy? I don’t think Lacey will let him come down until mornin.’”
A creak from the second floor was followed by the sound of a door closing and quiet steps. A disheveled Hannibal Heyes appeared at the top of the stairs. His shirt was unbuttoned, and he was stuffing the bottom of his Henley into his pants. His gun belt was on but not tied down, and he carried his hat in one hand.
“You still here?” he asked the Kid in a gravelly voice.
“Just makin’ sure that someone’s watchin’ your back.”
“Still sticking your nose in my business,” Heyes quipped, but the anger had bled out of his voice.
“Can we go back to the hotel now?” asked a patient Curry.
Heyes merely nodded.
Neither outlaw spoke until the door to their room was shut and locked. Heyes tossed his hat on the dresser and then buried his face in his hands as he sank down on the bed.
“Ya wanna tell me what’s goin’ on?” prodded the Kid.
“No,” his partner answered, staring at the floor.
Curry just waited.
Heyes slowly raised his head and met the steady blue stare with wounded eyes. “Jake lives here in Fort Benton,” he whispered in a voice carefully stripped of all emotion.
“Jake who?” asked a confused Kid Curry.
“Jacob Harrison Heyes.”
“Your brother? He’s alive. How? What do ya mean, he’s here?”
“Just what I said, Kid. He’s dropped the Heyes and is going by Jake Harrison, but I saw him, and then checked out his story with the bartender. It’s him, Kid. He was wounded in the war and served time in a prison camp, but now he lives here. He owns a dry goods store and has a wife. I didn’t ask if he had any kids. I couldn’t take finding out I was an uncle.”
The blond outlaw studied the pain-filled eyes of his partner. They glittered wetly before Heyes buried his face in his hands.
“I don’t understand, Heyes. This is good news. Shouldn’t we go talk to him? Find out how he ended up in Montana? Let him know that you’re alive?”
Heyes’ laugh was bitter. “Kid, our wanted posters are all over the territory. Do you really think that Jake has any doubt about what you and I have been doin’? Why do you think he’s using an alias? I’ll tell ya why. He’s an honest businessman who doesn’t want to explain why his name is spelled the same as the infamous outlaw Hannibal Heyes.”
“Heyes, you don’t know that.”
“Maybe not for sure, but what do you want me to say to him? Hey, Jake, me and Jed were just in town setting up a bank job when we learned you lived here. Thought we’d stop by and say howdy before we wiped out your life savings.”
Curry didn’t answer.
The sleeping hotel creaked around them.
Heyes sighed, straightened his shoulders, and met his friend’s eyes.
“I can’t stay here, Kid. Do you mind riding out?”
Neither man moved.
They didn’t speak. The silence stretched and swelled around them.
“But, Heyes,” Curry coaxed, “promise me that you’ll think about comin’ back here someday.”
Heyes stared at him.
“I promise to think about it.” With no further words, Heyes grabbed his saddle bags and started packing.
Historical Note: Galvanized Yankees was a term used for prisoners of war who had served in the Confederate army, but agreed to serve in the Union army in exchange for being released from the prison camps. These soldiers were not used in the Civil War, but were sent out west to man forts not facing the Confederacy
When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.
- Leonardo DaVinci