Story Of The Year 2015 May- August
|Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote to go through for the finals of Story Of The Year?|
|1. Heyes' clever mind realizes that some people never see the man, they only see the colour, and uses that to his advantage.|| 47% ||[ 7 ]|
|2. Deville's Hole? So that's where the name came from.|| 20% ||[ 3 ]|
|3. Talking to prisoners is a means to an end, but who is it really helping?|| 13% ||[ 2 ]|
|4. A mysterious boy is following the boys around town. Does he recognise Heyes' 'quirky' face?|| 20% ||[ 3 ]|
|Total Votes : 15|
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: May - Renegade - RosieAnnie Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:40 am|| |
May - Renegade - RosieAnnie
The night was quiet. There were no sounds but the steady rhythm of footsteps outside on the wooden sidewalk. The boards creaked softly with each step in a reassuring pattern. Sheriff Berger turned his head slightly to listen. A small smile crept across his face. The regular footsteps meant that Deputy Wilson was guarding the jail and its famous prisoner as he'd been told to do.
Berger turned his attention back to the stack of papers on his desk. When he became sheriff two months ago, he'd imagined himself as the hero of a dime novel, keeping his town safe from bad men who threatened civil order. Instead, he did mountains of paperwork and broke up fights between drunken cowboys. Not exactly the stuff of dime novels. He'd actually prayed for some excitement, maybe for some famous outlaw to show up in this dull one-horse town. No one wasmore surprised than he when his prayers were answered yesterday.
He pushed himself up from his cluttered desk and walked over to the cell block. The prisoner sat on his bunk, playing solitaire.
"Ain't you tired of that game yet?"
The prisoner moved cards without speaking.
"Hey you! I asked you a question and I expect you to answer. Can't you hear me?"
"I hear you," the prisoner said calmly. "It is impossible to not hear you, even though I try. I simply choose not to answer an ignorant question." He looked up at Berger. "If I were tired of the game, I would not be playing it. You have my answer. Are you happy now?"
"Happier than you, I expect. You're the one going on trial for armed robbery. And you're the one who'll be sitting in a jail just like this one for the next 20 years, where all you low-down bank robbers belong."
The prisoner turned his attention back to his cards, shuffling and laying out another game of solitaire.
"You ain't so big now, are you, Big Jim? You think the Devil's Hole Gang's fixin' to rescue you? Well, they ain't a'comin'. Me and my deputy, we been keeping a sharp eye on everyone in this here town, and we ain't seen hide nor hair of them renegades."
"My men are not renegades; they are thieves. There is a difference. And of course you would not see them. I have trained them better than that."
"Too bad nobody trained you better, or you wouldn't be sitting where you are right now."
Dark brown eyes flicked briefly towards Berger.
"Everything in life is temporary, Sheriff. Everything changes." He put the cards down on the bunk and leaned back against the cold brick wall. "For example: the sheriffs in this town change regularly. This is a new job for you, is it not? You are the fifth man to take the job in one year, I believe."
"What of it? It don't make no difference what them others did. I'm here to stay."
"Oh, you are, are you? It is good to have a goal."
"I know what you're thinking. You're wrong."
"You have the ability to read my mind? That is impressive."
"Don't pull that with me, Santana. I'm smarter than you." Santana's composed expression seemed like defiance to Berger.
"I do know what you're thinking. You're thinking sheriffs come and go because of you and your damned Devil's Hole Gang, running roughshod over this whole territory. That's all over now. With you in prison, that gang'll be running around like a chicken with its head cut off."
"You are welcome to think so," Santana said. His calm voice only served to irritate Berger more.
"Change happens to all of us, does it not? This situation where we find ourselves now, you outside the bars and me within, even that is subject to change." He picked up his cards again and started shuffling them. "Let me advise you. Never count on anything to remain the same. Never." Suddenly, he smiled. "Especially if you are a sheriff in this town."
"The hell with you, Santana." Berger strode quickly back to his desk. He was surprised to realize that he was breathing hard. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and consciously took some deep, slow breaths. Quiet surrounded him. Something was wrong about that. Straining, he listened hard for suspicious sounds, but he heard nothing, not even his deputy pacing back and forth on the boards outside. Berger stood up suddenly, angry all over again. If that idiot Wilson's sleeping onthe job instead of patrolling, I'll throw him into the cell with Santana. He walked rapidly to the front door, unlatched the bolts, and yanked the door open.
Deputy Wilson stood motionless on the sidewalk, eyes wide and staring at seemingly nothing.
"What're you doing standing there like a cigar store Indian, Wilson?"
A small blond man holding a shotgun stepped out from behind the deputy, startling Berger.
"What the hell - " but before he could finish his sentence, he heard an ominous click and felt cold metal touch his neck. A quiet voice whispered close to his ear.
"He's stayin' alive, Sheriff. If'n you want to do the same, you'll hush up, too."
"Who are you? What do you want?" Berger asked. "If you're looking to rob us, go right ahead, but we ain't got much money. We work for the city."
"Right now, Sheriff," the deep voice went on, "I want you to shut your mouth." Berger complied. The whispering voice moved against his ear again, so close that Berger felt the man's warm breath.
"Now. One of my men is gonna put on your deputy's hat and jacket, and he's going to take over guarding the jail. Then the rest of us, we're going go inside real quiet-like." Another, taller man came around from behind the whisperer and took the coat and hat from an unresisting Wilson.
The cold gun barrel tapped lightly against Berger's neck. "Open the door. Quietly."
Once inside, Berger heard the door shut behind him and the bolts click into place. The gun moved away from his neck, and a flat hand between his shoulders pushed him forward suddenly. He had to grab the corner of his desk to keep from falling.
"You two lawmen stand at either side of the desk. Then you're both going unhook your gun belts, using only two fingers, and my friend here is going to take them from you." As they awkwardly loosened their gun belts, Santana rose silently from his cot to watch.
"Sit down in them two chairs, and put your hands on the arm rests, where we can see them. Keep your eyes on the floor." Berger's mind was racing. They were two against two, at least inside, but the outlaws had the guns and the advantage. He was torn between wishing someone would come by unexpectedly and rescue them, and the fear that someone would come by unexpectedly and rescue the new sheriff and his deputy.
The outlaw brought his gun under Berger's chin, forcing him to raise his head slowly. Berger saw dusty boots, then a slim figure in denims and black shirt, and finally a young man's bronze face under a black hat adorned with silver lightning bolts. The man smiled, and deep dimples appeared in his dark cheeks.
"Now, Sheriff, you're probably wondering why I've invited you to come inside and talk with me tonight."
"The thought did cross my mind right about the time you held a gun to my head. But then, putting a gun to a white man's head is what you Injuns like to do."
The gunman smiled as if he were amused. He pushed his hat high onto his head, revealing large brown eyes. Berger studied the man's face, trying to commit every detail into memory.
"Speaking of pointing guns, I'm going to ask my friend to take yours over to Mr. Santana while I keep an eye on you and your deputy. That'll improve the odds for me a little bit." The little blond man in the floppy hat took Berger's cherished Colt to Santana, who nodded his thanks and spun the chamber before pointing the gun steadily at the captive lawmen.
"Now, Sheriff. Why we're here. It's not only for the joy I get watching you trying not to wet your pants while I hold this here hogleg on you. The honest truth is, we came here to make a withdrawal, but don't you worry none; we're going to make a deposit, too. We're going to withdraw Big Jim, and once we do that, we're going to deposit you and your deputy."
"You mean, you're not gonna kill us?" Wilson asked. His voice shook.
"Shut up, Wilson! You sound like an idiot."
"I heard what them renegade Comanches do. Please don't kill me. Please. I don't wanna die."
"Stop it, Wilson! You're acting like a little girl!"
"Rest your mind, boys," the Indian said. "The Devil's Hole Gang don't believe in killing folks." He shook his head sadly. "I have to resist temptation all the time, don't I, Jim?"
"It is true that my men do not kill," Santana said from his cell. "I do not allow it."
"Lucky for you. Now. My friend is going to get those handcuffs you kindly left hanging on the wall there by the wanted posters and cuff you and your deputy together." While the blond handcuffed the unhappy lawmen together, the Indian pointed his gun at the trembling Wilson.
"Where are the keys to the cell?"
"Bottom right drawer in the desk."
"Good answer." He looked over at the blond outlaw, who retrieved the keys and unlocked the cell. Santana came out, still holding the stolen gun.
"There's the withdrawal. Now, gentlemen, kindly walk into the cell and sit down on the bunk." When they hesitated, the Indian raised his gun in an unmistakable threat.
"Santana said he wouldn't let you kill us," Wilson protested.
"That is true," Santana said. "Kill, no. Maim, yes. So please, gentlemen. It is in your best interest to follow orders." Slowly, the handcuffed lawmen walked into the cell and sat down, side by side, on the uncomfortable cot.
"One last thing. We're going to have to gag you." The Indian held up one hand to forestall any comments. "We can't have you calling for help. We need a little time to get back to the Hole before any alarm is raised." The little blond outlaw holstered his gun and tightened the captives' own bandannas over their mouths while the other outlaws watched.
Santana closed the heavy iron cell door slowly, then turned the big skeleton key to set the lock. The lawmen could only watch in despair. Santana had already walked away a few steps with his rescuers when he stopped as if remembering something. He turned quickly and went back to stare at the unhappy men imprisoned in their own jail.
"Do you remember what I said to you earlier about how things change rapidly, Sheriff?" Unable to speak, Berger could only seethe. Yeah, he remembered. He was almost glad he was unable to say anything. He wanted to curse and scream at Santana and that renegade Indian and that blond man with the tobacco-stained grin. More than that, he wanted to pound his own head against some hard surface. This could have happened to anyone, but it had happened to him, and the citizens of
this town, and the men who had chosen him for this job, would never let him forget it. He would need to find a new job. Again. He squinted his eyes shut; he couldn't bear watching his prisoner leave with his rescuers. Their footsteps echoed on the floor until he heard the big front door open and shut. He was left with silence and his bitter thoughts.
Outside, Santana followed his men as they led him around the building to a back alley, where four horses were tied up. As the men unhitched their horses, Santana crossed over to the slender Indian, putting one hand on his shoulder, speaking to him in a low voice.
"Thank you, Hannibal. You have done better than I could have hoped. There is only one thing that I question."
"For now. Why did you darken your skin to look like an Indian? Those men still got a good look at you."
"They did, Jim, and what they saw was an Indian. A renegade, like that sheriff said. He didn't notice my eyes or my hair color or my build, nothing like that. He saw an Indian, and that's all he'll remember. I could play poker with him all night without this war paint on my face, and he'd never recognize me.
"Besides," Heyes added, "it probably don't matter if them two recognize me. I'd lay odds there'll be a new sheriff here, real soon. Maybe even tomorrow."
Santana laughed. "I am glad you are on my side, Hannibal Heyes."
The inspiration for this story came from photos posted recently by the Pete Duel page on Facebook. Pete played an Apache doctor on an episode of the old Marcus Welby show, in which the studio clearly used makeup to change his skin tone. That practice, common in the old days, showed a cultural insensitivity which would never be tolerated today. It would be akin to a white actor wearing blackface. But, as an inspiration for the monthly challenge, the photos were useful to me.
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|Subject: June - Ace In The Hole - Silverkelpie Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:42 am|| |
June - Ace In The Hole - Silverkelpie
Ace In The Hole
The lucent blue eyes searched the valley: the river; the scrubby vegetable patch, the corrals, the outhouses, the bunkhouse, and the cabin. The craggy sides rose around the canyon like a fortress, ripping through the landscape to meet an azure sky. It was a remote and not easily accessible place, and it was clear that this injured man would not have made it home without help; help which both Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry were happy to give. A scrubby chicken clucked towards him, twitching its scraggy neck back and forth in the hope that these newcomers might provide some food. The Kid turned and reached out to help his partner carry the injured man from the wagon, noting the mere bag of bones in his arms. “Damn! There’s nothin’ to him. It’s like he ain’t eaten properly for years.”
“Don’t let looks deceive ya, I’m wiry,” wheezed the old man.
“Sure ya are,” murmured Heyes, kicking at the door to open it. “Are you sure there’s nobody else here?”
“I already told ya,” both men suddenly felt the ribs spasm in a paroxysm of coughing which seemed to originate somewhere deep in the man’s scuffed boots, “the wife left years ago and took the little ‘uns with her. She hated this place. The ground don’t grow nuthin’ but taters and cabbage. She swore that she left Ireland for somethin’ better, and ended up livin’ worse.”
The Kid pulled back a quilt and helped the old man onto the bed as it groaned in protest. “Easy now, mind that hip. I think those ropes need tightening too. You’re sinkin’ too low on that bed.”
“It’s broke, I tell ya. There ain’t nuthin’ you can do for me now.”
“How far is it to the nearest doctor, Gabe?” asked Heyes.
“It’d take at least two days for ya to get him here, and even then there’s be nuthin’ he could do,” Gabriel De Ville sighed in resignation. “A broke hip is the end for any man, not least a farmer. I’m a goner and I knows it. At least I’ll die in my own bed, thanks to you boys. I didn’t want to go out there on the rocks. I was fixin’ to put a bullet in my head when you two came along.”
Heyes and Curry exchanged a worried look. “There ain’t no need for that,” the Kid put his hands on his hips. “I’m more than happy to go to the nearest town for a doctor. I can leave now if you want.”
“Nah,” Gabriel shook his head. “You two were already beat when ya found me and it ain’t gonna change a thing. I’m done for.”
Heyes sighed deeply, acceptance setting in. Both he and the Kid had already discussed their surprise at this determined old man lasting this long. “You need some fresh water. There’s a well out there. I’ll be right back.”
“Do you need anything?” asked the Kid, tugging gently at the dusty boots. “These need to come off, let me know if I hurt you.”
“There’s some laudanum in the dresser, over there,” Gabe watched his guest pull open a drawer. “Open the cupboard. Yeah, that’s it. The green bottle. I’ve been dreamin’ of this stuff.” The old man seized the bottle and tossed back a gulp of the reddish-brown liquid before settling back on the pillows.
“Easy,” the Kid exclaimed. “That’s strong stuff. Ain’t you supposed to dissolve a few drops in water or somethin’?”
“Yeah, that’s the job,” the old man settled back on his pillows with a smile spreading over his grizzled face. “I can feel it spreading through me already. There ain’t nothin’ to worry about. What else can happen to me now? I’m as well floatin’ out on a cloud, there ain’t nuthin’ to stay here for.” He winked at the young visitor. “No offense, Jed. You and your friend have been great. It’s like the Almighty himself sent you, but if’n my time is up I want to go with a smile on my face and rememberin’ the best of times.”
“The Almighty?” the Kid gave Gabriel a wry smile. “I ain’t had too much contact with him. I’d be more likely to be sent by that other fella.” Heyes strode in carrying a bucket of water. “He seems to think we’re angels, Heyes.”
“Angels, huh?” Heyes dipped a glass into the bucket. “Here, drink this.”
“Yeah, I told him we’re more familiar with the devil.”
“Sure we’re in league with the devil, but our duties are purely ceremonial, Gabe,” Heyes smiled down at the injured man. “We’re not here for your soul, your money, or anything else.”
“I know,” chucked the old man. “You ain’t robbers, I can tell.” Uneasy brown eyes met widening blue pools of guilt before drifting back to the patient. “In any case I ain’t got nuthin’ worth stealin’.”
Heyes pulled out a chair. “Sure you have. Everyone has. You have your farm, your family, your memories,” he arched his leg and sat on the chair the wrong way around, leaning his chin in the back. “If you don’t want us to fetch a doctor is there anyone you want to contact for you? You said your wife is in San Francisco?”
“Yeah,” the old man shrugged, his eyelids drooping from the drug. “I guess she’ll want to know. I heard she got married again, at least it won’t be bigamy no more.”
The dark eyes softened. “She wasn’t coming back?”
“It were never right between us. She’d be a good enough woman if she found the right man: maybe a lion tamer or a lighthouse keeper who lived away a lot. Livin’ here in this hole with nobody to talk to drove her half-mad. Add no money, scratchin’ a livin’ to all that and she just had enough. She didn’t want to be here anymore.”
“You didn’t want to go with her?” asked the Kid.
Gabriel shook his head. “My pa was a poor farm worker from France. There might not be much here, but it’s mine. This might be a hole, but it’s my hole and it‘s the first time the De Ville family ever owned more’n a crust o’ bread. It won’t make ya rich, but it’ll keep ya alive and that was enough for me. I’m proud of it.”
Heyes nodded gently. “And she ends up with it?”
“Nah, she won’t come back here. She married some blacksmith and is sittin’ real pretty,” Gabriel opened his heavy eyes and looked at each of the boys in turn. “Ya want it? It ain’t much, but it could be a place to call home.”
“Us?” spluttered the Kid. “But it belongs to your children.”
“Nah, they’re girls. The place’ll rot before any o’ mine take an interest. I’d like ta give ya somethin’ for helpin’ me. What d’ya say boys? If you can write I can add my mark to make it legal-like. Take it. I can see you boys ain’t got nuthin’ but each other.”
The partners exchanged a meaningful glance. “We ain’t the settlin’ down types, but we’ll think about it, Gabe.”
“Well, I want you boys ta write it up and I’ll put my mark on it. If ya don’t want the place ya can just burn it and ride outta here. Do it boys, ‘cos I got no intention of bein’ here come mornin’.” He pulled out the bottle of laudanum and pulled out the stopper.
Heyes frowned and rose to his feet, but the Kid threw out an arm to bar his way. “Let him go. There’s nothing anyone can do. It’s his choice and at least he’s not in pain.”
Heyes paused, his downcast eyes masking his emotions before he walked over to the shelf and pulled down the bible. “If that’s what you want, Gabe. This is the only paper I can see in the place. I can write your wishes on the endpaper.”
“Yeah, it’s like swearin’ before God himself. I wouldn’t want you boys to have any trouble...”
A golden dawn lit up the valley as dawn broke over the craggy, jagged rocks encircling the little valley. The stark shadows grew at the rising of the sun, before being chased back into the crevasses and clefts by the fingers of light spreading across the canyon. The glow hit the face of the pensive young man sitting on the porch steps. He was doing what he always did when he had time to kill; cleaning his gun. It was an automatic movement to him; one which allowed his mind to wander and skip. It was something he only did when he knew he was safe, so it was something he did when he was most comfortable in his own skin. He turned at the sound of the door opening and held the gaze of the solemn man facing him. The Kid raised questioning brows in a mute conversation.
Heyes nodded silently. “He’s gone. A mixture of the laudanum and the shock of the broken hip. It was probably for the best. He was in agony and there was nothing we could do.”
The Kid stared back out at the valley. “So I guess we’ve got to bury him?”
“Yeah, I’ll write a letter to his wife too.”
“So, I guess this is all ours. All fair and above board.” The Kid looked around at the outbuildings. “We’re landowners. I’ve gotta tell ya, Heyes, I ain’t mad on the idea of livin’ off cabbages and potatoes.”
“It could be a fresh start, Kid.” Heyes fixed his partner with an intense stare. “Think about it. It’s a base for us, out in the middle of nowhere where we can’t be snuck up on. You get to the head of the valley and you can see for miles.”
“You ain’t serious about staying here are you? I’m no cabbage farmer.”
“Neither am I, Kid, but we can use it as a base, a safe place to come back to.” Heyes shrugged. “Look at that last place where we’ve been settled; out on the plains so we could see people coming for miles. The freezing winds cut right through you in the winter, and the lack of shade roasts anything caught out in the summer sun. Trying not to be snuck up on is no way for a civilised man to live. We’re not jackrabbits.”
“I think folks stopped callin’ us civilised when we committed our first robbery, Heyes.” The Kid shook his head. “Livin’ in one place will only make it easier for us to be found. It’s better to keep movin’.”
“But think about it. We can have a guard, and the rest of us can relax at last. It’d not only be safer, it’d be a lot more comfortable.”
“De Ville’s Hole?” The Kid shrugged. “It could work. We’d best run it past the boys though.”
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|Subject: July - Means To An And - InsideOutlaw Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:45 am|| |
July - Means To An End - InsideOutlaw
Black and white-striped, sweat-stained, manacled prisoners shuffled by outside the tall window of the warden’s office at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. On their way back to their cells after a long day of splitting rock in the sunbaked yard, the inmates’ leg chains rattled creating ghoulish music as they passed. Deep lines of fatigue etched every face and the air of desperation about them was nearly palpable.
The unusual hot spell of ninety-plus degree days had taken its toll. One of the prisoners stumbled to his knees and the response from the nearest guard was immediate. Using his wooden baton, the guard flailed at the downed man while screaming at him to get up. Exhausted, the defeated man could only cower with his arms shielding him as best they could before he fell to the ground and lay on his back, unmoving. The guard’s arm dropped to his side and he turned away ordering the other men to pick him up and continue on. The pained blue eyes of the fallen man opened slowly and stared beseechingly at the figure watching from the window.
“There but for the grace of God, eh, Mr. Heyes?” said Warden Burke to his visitor peering out the window. The blue-eyed man was roughly dragged away by the other prisoners. Burke chuckled at his own witticism and rested his hands across his expansive stomach.
Rather than risk a curt response to the brutish man who had spoken, Heyes glanced at his partner occupying one of two chairs on the other side of the desk where the warden sat.
Jed Curry imperceptibly shook his head then smiled at the warden and rose from his seat drawing the man’s attention away from baiting his partner.
“Well, Sir, thank you for your time, but I guess we should be gettin’ down to the mess hall and startin’ our talk.”
“What’s the hurry, Mr. Curry,” inquired Burke, “unless you’ve missed keeping company with thieves and brigands?”
The man’s snide manner was too much for Heyes. He flushed red with anger and slammed one of his fists down on the oak desk. “We’re emissaries of the Governor, Burke, or have you forgotten? He’ll consider your behavior a personal insult.”
Delighted to have provoked a response, Burke stood and smiled at the infamous man before him. “Do you think I give a damn what that pompous fool thinks? He’s only sent you here to prove to his constituents he had a purpose in granting you amnesty. You and I both know he’s committed political suicide by his actions and his influence will only last as long as the next appointment. He may hold you both up as the stars of his amnesty program but, one of these days, you two will revert to your former ways and you’ll end up out there with the rest of the outlaw scum where you belong,” Burke nodded towards the window and added, “and I’ll be waiting for it. Don’t let me keep you. I am sure our guests are anxious to hear your words of wisdom.”
Curry’s icy blue eyes bore into his but Burke didn’t flinch. He knew, as a lawman for the state of Wyoming, he had the upper hand. Heyes and Curry lived their new lives under the scrutiny of every law officer in the country. They deserved no less.
Storming out of the office, Heyes had difficultly reining in his temper and it took him almost the entire length of the prison hallway to control himself. He and the Kid had been giving these motivational speeches for the past six months; ever since the amnesty had come through. One of the terms the governor had insisted on was they make themselves available as shining examples of the power of redemption. The governor was presenting himself as a reformer.
Heyes hated holding himself up as a role model. Both he and the Kid had only agreed to it because it got them what they wanted. The amnesty. If he was honest--which he wasn’t--he’d admit the only reason they’d given up stealing at all was the modern world was closing in on them. If it weren’t for the advent of the telephone and the shrinking of the West, they’d still be at it.
Sometimes, he wondered if they’d made the right choice. Going for the amnesty had been hard enough, living a respectable life was proving nearly impossible. Neither of them had found regular work. The public had a real long memory and being forced to use their real names didn’t help much. The governor threw odd jobs their way, but most of those were shady or downright dangerous. They mostly scraped by on Heyes’ poker winnings or mountain lion and wolf bounties; that and their charm.
Thank goodness for Lom. He’d stood by them all those years and, once the amnesty was made public, he’d had to endure a lot of criticism for his part in it. Still, he’d gone the extra mile and offered them sanctuary in Porterville. The good citizens hadn’t been happy, but Lom had persuaded them they owed the two famous outlaws a chance since they’d foiled a robbery--well, foiled Wheat’s robbery--at the town’s only bank. It had cost him, too. He’d almost been defeated in the last election; might be in the next. Heyes was pretty damned sure Lom had let them stay so he could keep a close eye on them, but they needed all the help they could get.
At least the ladies still loved them, although Miss Porter had decided she was no longer sweet on Jed now that she knew he was Kid Curry and the bank security job they’d held before the robbery had remained oddly vacant since they’d blown that fancy safe every which way to Hell.
Fortunately for them, Porterville was stocked full of women who weren’t as discerning as the new Bank Manager. He and the Kid might not make much money, but they ate like kings thanks to all those excellent cooks who love a rogue. They were each real careful not to get involved with any one woman for fear of having to settle down and provide for a wife—something likely to result in work that was harder on the back than a handful of speeches. Besides, they’d be cutting off the majority of their food supply. It had worked out so far, but Heyes was pretty sure it wouldn’t last forever. He was already working on a new plan. He knew what they wanted, the trouble was figuring out how to get there.
Arriving at a bolted steel door, Heyes stopped and watched his partner coming down the lengthy corridor. He’d been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn’t realized how far behind the Kid had been. The guard escorting them tried to appear nonchalant while they waited, but Heyes could feel the man’s eyes sizing him up. He let his brown eyes bore into the man’s hazel ones and, without words, dared him to cause trouble. The man looked away and pretended to be occupied with opening the bolt.
“You ready, partner?” asked Curry, arriving by his side.
Heyes nodded at his lifelong best friend. The amnesty might not be perfect, but at least they were together. They could still watch out for each other and live with some semblance of freedom. “Ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get ‘er done.”
“You think we’ll help anyone today?” Curry asked him that before every one of these talks.
Heyes watched the door swing open and saw the sea of faces turn in their direction. He smiled broadly, his dimples pronounced. Speaking so softly only his partner could hear, he said, “Maybe, but…we’re definitely helping ourselves. Ain’t that enough?”
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|Subject: August - A Stranger In Town - Keays Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:48 am|| |
August - A Stranger In Town - Keays
A Stranger in Town
They were strangers riding into town, just like they were strangers riding into all those other towns that found their way to their horses' front feet. It was nothing new. They were both used to the sidelong glances they received from passers-by on the street, from regulars leaning up against the bar in the saloon and from waitresses serving them in the cafe. They didn't mind it anymore, as long as the sidelong glance filled with curiosity didn't belong to a vest with a badge.
Then they saw him, and both of them at the same time, locked eyes with a boy standing on the side of the street just outside the mercantile store. The partners held his gaze for a moment, then shifted their eyes to look at each other, both asking the same question. Did that boy know them? Was he on some train or in some bank that they had robbed? But he was so young, and it had been so long since they had pulled anything so nefarious.
They shrugged at each other, silently answering the unspoken question. It was probably nothing, just a young boy watching two strangers ride into town. Maybe he longed to leave himself, to explore the wide open spaces. Maybe he thought the partners had exciting, adventurous lives, and he wanted so badly to follow in their wake. Anything to get out of the boring life that engulfed him, living in a back water town, where nothing happened until a stranger rode through.
“Well, there's the saloon, and the hotel,” Kid commented as they rode past the boy. “Sheriff's office must be around here somewhere.”
“Yep,” Heyes agreed, as his eyes scanned his side of the street. “And there it is. Hmm. Sheriff Knuckle. Sounds ominous.”
“Yeah, it do. You want to ride on?”
An hour later, the horses were stabled, the hotel room secured, and two thirsty vagabonds were elbowed up at the bar, appreciating the watered down beer. Heavy sighs followed voluptuous mouthfuls as the warm liquid cut through the dust of the trail, and both men smiled dreamily.
They turned as one, bringing their beers with them, and surveyed the inner workings of the drinking establishment. A number of eyes were caught discreetly giving them the once over, but the partners ignored understandable curiosity. Obvious transients always caught the attention of the local inhabitants. Nobody wanted trouble.
Heyes sighed wistfully at the poker game. Well, what was left of it. The game seemed to have broken up, and even with Heyes and the Kid joining it now, it wouldn't make a full house. Heyes could wait. Tonight might be more promising. They needed the money too. They had enough to get them through the next few days, but neither of them wanted to head out of town without adding to their meagre funds. The future was too unreliable and jobs too scarce to head out into the black with only promises in your pockets.
As one, they turned back to face the bar and ordered another round. Quench their thirst first, then head over to the cafe for some real food. Meat that was cooked through, and biscuits that didn't threaten to break a tooth. Yeah, something other than roasted rabbit, or squirrel stew. Something with some substance.
Two coincide sighs as thoughts of dinner invaded both their brains. Their second round of beers arrived, and taking a quick gulp from their respective glasses, they both looked towards the exit.
“Hungry?” Kid asked.
They lifted their small mugs, and with three consecutive gulps, drained their beers to the last drop. Heyes dug into his vest pocket, and pulling out some coinage, tossed the required amount onto the bar. The barkeep nodded his acceptance from further along his route, and the partners headed out to deal with the hunger pangs.
Stepping out onto the boardwalk, they both halted and looked to their left. There was that boy again, looking at them. He had a book with him, and seemed intend upon its contents, but that didn't stop him from sending furtive glances in the direction of the two strangers in town.
Frowns crept across faces as the two wanderers turned as one and strode over to the bench where the boy was seated. The Kid walked by him, and then both sat down on either side. The boy looked from one to the other and discreetly closed the book he'd had his nose partially buried in.
“Howdy,” the Kid greeted him.
“Nice day to be sitting outside, watching strangers ride into town, isn't it?” Heyes asked him.
Heyes smiled and nodded.
“I'm Joshua. My friend here is Thaddeus,” Heyes introduced them. “What's your name?”
The lad looked from one to the other, not sure if he was comfortable with this. Still, it was late afternoon, and there were quite a few people out and about. He decided he was safe enough.
“Name's Jason, sir.”
Heyes nodded again.
“My friend and I were just wondering why it is that you have been paying so much attention to us,” he commented.
“Because you are strangers in town,” the lad answered, matter of factly.
“Now why would you be doin' that?” asked the Kid.
“Because I'm tired of drawing everybody else in town,” Jason explained.
“Drawing?” asked the Kid. “You mean like a fast draw?”
“Well, I guess it's something like that,” the boy answered. “People don't tend to stand still, so I do have to draw kinda fast.”
Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances over top the ruffle of dirty blond hair. Both shrugged.
“Ahh, what kinda book ya' got there?” Kid asked.
“It's a drawing book.”
“A fast drawing book?”
“Can we have a look?” Heyes asked.
Jason looked at him suspiciously.
“I donno,” he said. “Everybody laughs at me. Ma says it ain't right for a boy to be drawing silly pictures. A young man can't make a living drawing pictures, she says. I need to get myself a trade, and get serious about my life.”
“Yeah?” asked the Kid. “How old are you?”
“Twelve huh?” Heyes asked. “I think you have a little while yet before you have to get too serious.”
The boy instantly brightened up.
“Sure,” Heyes confirmed. “Ah, can we see what you have in there?”
“Promise you won't laugh?”
“Promise,” Heyes agreed.
The boy sent an enquiring look back at the Kid.
“Solemn word,” Kid seconded.
Jason tentatively pulled open the front cover and allowed the first page to be revealed. The partners' jaws dropped, and they became more and more entranced as the lad peeled over one page after another. They couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Even Heyes, who could manipulate a signature to flow any way he wanted it to, couldn't get over the craftsmanship of the drawings being presented to them. How could a simple pencil produce such depth of field, such texture, such intricate patterns and detail? They were beautiful drawings, depicting different scenes and buildings in the town surrounding them. Portraits of people going about their daily business. Children playing in the courtyards. Horses and wagons trotting by. The drawings came alive, and seemed ready to jump right off the page and become living, breathing creatures of the town.
“Wait...wait a minute!” Kid said, as he noticed a woman heading into the pharmaceutical. “Isn't that...?” He flipped the pages back, three or four times and stopped at a portrait. Jed stared at the drawing and then pointed at the woman across the street. “That's her! Isn't it? That's her!”
“Yessir,” the boy grinned. “That's my school teacher. She doesn't like me doing drawings of her though, so I don't tell her.”
Once again, the cousins exchanged a look over top the boy's head.
“Umm,” Heyes tried to sound casual. “What did you draw when you saw us ride into town?”
Jason sighed. There was no getting out of it now. He flipped the pages towards the back of his book and stopped when he came to his most recent additions.
Heyes and the Kid stared at the first drawing, small knots of apprehension developing in their guts. The drawing was perfect. Two dusty saddle tramps riding into town, their furtive glances taking in the surrounding establishments as they sought to get their bearings. Everything, from the boots they were wearing, to their guns and the holsters that held them, and on up to the shape of their hats. Everything was perfect. Even Clay and Midnight looked like who they were, they simply could not be any other two horses. Jason had rendered them perfectly.
“You did this drawing in the time it took us to ride into town?” Heyes asked him, incredulously.
“Well, not completely,” Jason admitted. “I got the rough sketch down first, and then finished it from memory. Is it any good?”
Kid snorted. Heyes took in a deep breath.
“Ahh,” Heyes cleared his throat to get the strangle hold to loosen. “Have you done any other drawings of us?”
“Sure,” Jason announced, pleased that his work was being appreciated.
He turned the page and their blood ran cold. Heyes would swear he was looking at a photograph, only better. It wasn't grainy at all, it was smooth and clear and precise, right down to the hole in his hat and the dimple in his cheek.
Kid couldn't believe it. Even his eyes looked blue despite the black and white tones of the drawing. His light curly hair, his rounded chin and floppy hat with the belt buckle band. The boy had caught it all. It was them, in black and white and shades of gray, and they were perfect.
“Do you think they look like you?” came the innocent enquiry.
“Oh yes,” Heyes answered.
“Uh huh,” Kid nodded.
Jason grinned and beamed his pleasure. But then he sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
“Ah, it doesn't matter,” he complained. “Ma says that drawing silly pictures is a pass time for girls. A man has to put stuff like this aside, and get a real job. She doesn't think I could ever make any money doing drawings like this.”
“Oh, I don't know,” Heyes surmised. “I think you might find a couple of options.”
“You really think so?”
“Hmm,” Kid agreed. “At least one comes to mind as we sit here.”
“Yeah,” Jason agreed, as he thought about the situation. “I see those wanted posters in the post office, and at the sheriff's office, and I know I could do a better job than that.”
“Yeah,” Heyes shifted uneasily. “but you'd have to know what the outlaw looked like before you could do a drawing of him, and that's easier said than done.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of illustrating newspapers, or novels,” Heyes continued. “I think you'd be really good at that. And you could draw the great outdoors. This country isn't going to be staying the way it is for much longer. More and more people are coming out here, the land is being developed. Just think if you could do drawings and paintings of the land like it is now, before it changes?”
Jason's eyes lit up with creative enthusiasm.
“Yeah!” he agreed. “That would be worth something!”
“Sure would,” Kid agreed.
“And you could do drawings of famous people too,” Heyes continued. “I mean, good famous. Not a bunch of scruffy outlaws...” The Kid looked over at Heyes with a frown and mouthed the word “scruffy?” Heyes shrugged. “...somebody like the governor of the territory, and some such dignitaries. You know, drawings that people would want to hang on their walls.”
Jason sighed wistfully.
“I'd love to do stuff like that,” he admitted. “but if my ma don't see any good in it, then what's the point?”
“Tell you what,” Heyes said, as he dug into his vest pocket. “How about me and my partner here, buy those three drawings you just did of us?”
Again, Jason's eyes lit up with enthusiasm.
“You'd really buy them?”
“Sure would,” Kid agreed. “How much you want for 'em?”
Jason bit into his lip and pondered the exchange.
“Ten cents apiece,” he finally announced.
“Ten cents!?” Kid argued. “That's highway robbery.”
“Well I don't particularly want to sell them,” Jason lied. “If you want ta' buy them, that's the price.”
Another exchanged look across the child sized head.
“Alright,” Heyes agreed as he started counting out the money. “But on one condition.”
“That you don't do any more drawings of us.”
Jason looked disappointed.
“But you're fun to draw,” he complained. “You have a quirky face.”
Kid snorted. Heyes looked indignant.
“What do you mean, quirky?” he asked. “I'll have you know that there are plenty of young ladies who find my face to be quite appealing.”
“That's 'cause it's quirky.”
Heyes sent a frustrated look to his cousin, who didn't help matters by trying to stifle a laugh.
“Look,” Kid said, as he got his mirth under control. “I'll even throw in an extra ten cents to seal the deal. How's that?”
“Wow! Forty whole cents? For my drawings!?”
“But ya' gotta agree,” Kid specified. “You won't do any more drawings of us.”
“Deal!” agreed the young entrepreneur, and he held out his hand for payment.
Heyes dropped three coins into the open palm, and then the hand swung over to the Kid's side and awaited further payment from that end. The Kid obliged, and Jason, happily clutching his first commission, pulled the three pages out of his book and handed them to Heyes.
That done, the boy gathered up his belongings and jumped to his feet.
“Wow! Just wait until I tell my ma! This is more money than she makes in a week!”
“Careful how ya' spend it,” Kid cautioned him.
“Bye,” Heyes answered.
The two men continued to sit on the bench, watching the young lad run off towards home, pencils and drawing pad and money safely grasped in his hands.
Heyes sighed, and looking down at the drawings, he slowly and carefully began to roll them up.
“Heyes, what are ya' doin'?” Kid asked him. “Ya' know we gotta destroy those.”
“Oh, I donno...”
“What do ya' mean 'ya' don't know'!? You got any idea what would happen if those drawings got into the wrong hands?”
“Nobody knows they're drawings of us, Kid,” Heyes rationalized. “As far as anybody else is concerned, they're just some drawings of Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, two saddle tramps who wondered into town one day. Besides...” he added with a wicked grin. “...we could always send them to Clementine for safe keeping.”
“Ha!” Kid laughed out loud. “Talk about dangling the mouse under the cat's nose. I'm tellin' ya' Heyes, those drawings are dangerous.”
“Yeah,” Heyes had the good grace to agree. “But that boy has real talent. We hang on to these drawings for a few years, there's no telling how much they could be worth.”
“I can tell ya' right now how much they're worth, Heyes! Ten thousand dollars apiece! That's how much they're worth!”
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 May- August Sun Nov 01, 2015 7:11 am|| |
It's month end and we have a winner in the next heat of Story Of The Year.
Congratulations, RosieAnnie, Great story
You now go forward to the finals
Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Location : Over the rainbow
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 May- August Sun Nov 01, 2015 7:14 am|| |
Congratulations. RosieAnnie. I loved this story from the moment I read it.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2015 May- August || |
Story Of The Year 2015 May- August