Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Reflections Fri Oct 09, 2015 5:41 pm|| |
The four friends met for breakfast early on that last day in Yuma. They all had conveyances to meet, and nobody wanted to rush their morning meal. Coffees were brought all around, and Heyes took a sip and sat back with closed eyes and a soft smile upon his lips.
“Ahhh, coffee,” he moaned. “This is the best cup I've had in ages.”
Steven smiled, remembering how coffee had given him one of his first real introductions to both Heyes and Jed. The brown liquid still seemed to hold a special magic over both of them. Steven wondered fleetingly what memories that unique aroma brought to his two friends, since it obviously held a special place in their hearts.
“What do you mean?” David asked him. “This is where Deputy Charlie got your coffee with your meals. It's the same brew.”
Heyes opened his eyes and sat forward again.
“Yes, but the location makes all the difference,” he emphasized. “I don't care how good coffee is when you're behind bars, it always tastes better when you're not.”
Miranda smiled and gave her husband a gentle rub on his shoulder.
David nodded agreement.
“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”
“Oh, there's Sheriff Nugent,” Steven observed. “How do you feel, Hannibal? Shall I invite him over?”
“Sure, why not?” Heyes agreed. “In fact, I'll even buy him breakfast. I owe him that much at least.”
Steven caught the sheriff's eye and waved him over.
“Gentlemen, and ma'am,” Nugent nodded his greeting. “Enjoying your morning?”
“Just getting started,” Steven told him. “Would you care to join us for breakfast?”
“Please do,” Heyes insisted. “As a small token of my appreciation.”
“Well, if you put it that way,” Nugent pulled out an extra chair and sat down.
The waitress was quick to arrive with another coffee.'
“Good morning, Sheriff,” she greeted him. “The usual?”
“Yes Helen, thank you.” he agreed, then frowned. “I thought Louise was usually on this morning. Is she sick?”
“Something came up suddenly,” the young woman answered. “She asked me to fill in for her.”
“Is she alright?” Miranda asked, feeling concern for the waitress she had become casually acquainted with.
“Oh, I don't think it's anything serious,” Helen assured everyone. “I'm sure she'll be back to work tomorrow.”
“Oh dear,” Miranda complained. “I was wanting to say 'goodbye' to her. She was always very friendly towards me. Oh well.”
“I'll pass that on to her, ma'am,” the waitress offered. “Who should I say it's from?”
“Just tell her Miranda,” Randa informed her. “She'll know.”
“Yes ma'am. My name is Helen,” she informed the table. “Just call if you need anything. But as for right now, have you decided what you would like for breakfast?”
“I think we've all agreed on the special,” David informed her.
She smiled. “That certainly makes it easy on me,” she joked. “Five specials coming up.”
“Do you think Dr. Shandal is going to cause any trouble for you, Sheriff?” Heyes asked over a mouthful of fried ham. “He seemed pretty upset over the outcome.”
“He might try,” Nugent admitted. “Some of his friends might rally around him, and elections are due again in December, but I was already thinking of surrendering the office. So frankly, I don't care what he does.”
“That would be a shame,” Steven commented. “If you can get Hannibal Heyes to like you, you're either crooked as the Snake River, or you're an honest, fair man who does his job well.”
Heyes was all set to be insulted by that comment, until he realized that it was the truth. Then he simply smiled.
“I certainly hope it's the latter,” he responded. “Wouldn't do for the lawman to be crooked in this town.”
“It is,” Heyes assured him. “Aside from detaining me in the first place, I appreciate everything else you did. It would be a shame if Shandal drove you out of office over this, though.”
“He's not going to get a chance to,” Nugent reiterated. “I doubt I'll even run. I've held this office on and off for quite a few years now. Maybe I'll run for mayor.”
Everyone at the table laughed at that, and the conversation moved on to more casual topics.
“You're looking rested, Sheriff,” Miranda commented. “Did you sleep well last night?”
Nugent sent her a pleasant smile.
“Yes ma'am,” he affirmed. “Best sleep I've had in a week.”
“Hmm, we better get going,” Heyes announced after one more swig of coffee. “The coach to Santa Marta leaves in an hour, and we're not packed yet.”
“Oh dear!” Miranda took one more bite of toast and daintily patted her mouth with the napkin. “Yes, we better get ourselves organized. Don't want to miss it again.”
“Now, how in the world do you do that?” Nugent asked. “You did that in the jail the other night, too. How can you know what time it is without even looking at a time piece?”
Heyes shrugged as he and Miranda stood up to leave.
“I donno,” he admitted again. “A sense I've developed, I suppose.” He smiled wickedly. “Probably comes from having to know exactly what time a train was due to pass a particular spot on the route. Ya' gotta know when ta' blow that dynamite. I'd always keep a pocket watch handy in order to make sure the train itself was running on time. Never can trust those schedules.”
“Yes,” Nugent frowned. “I don't think I need to know any more.”
Heyes softened his grin—and held his hand out to the sheriff. Nugent stood up to accept it.
“Goodbye, Mr. Heyes,” he said. “I hope the rest of your journey is an enjoyable one.”
“Thank you. I'm sure it will be.”
“Ma'am,” Nugent took Miranda's hand and kissed it in a most gentlemanly fashion. “It certainly was a pleasure to meet you.”
“Thank you, Sheriff. You have been very kind.”
Steven and David stood up to accommodate the lady, and to also give their farewells.
“Hannibal,” Steven said. “Safe journey. Bridget and I will probably be gone by the time you get back home, but I believe there are plans for Christmas.”
“That would not surprise me,” Heyes agreed. “Here, let me give you some money to cover our tab.”
“Don't worry about it,” Steven said, just as Heyes was about to pull out his wallet. “I'll include it in the bill for my services.”
“Ahh!” Heyes grinned. “Well worth it. And I do have my paperwork with me now.”
“Good!” Steven responded. “Make sure it stays with you.”
“We will,” Miranda adamantly assured him. “Won't we, dear?”
“Yes, we will.”
“That goes for your medicine too,” David put in, as he shook Heyes' hand. “Always have it on you, Hannibal. It's important.”
David came around the table and gave Miranda a hug.
“Take care of him,” he whispered in her ear. “And take care of yourself as well.”
Miranda nodded and gave her cousin a kiss on the cheek.
“I will. We'll see you when we get home.”
Hannibal and Miranda departed the cafe just as Deputy Charlie entered and made a beeline for his boss.
“Sheriff,” he announced. “Seems there's a bit of trouble out at the Foresters' place. They's askin' after ya'.”
“Damn,” he grumbled. “Can't those two brothers ever leave each other alone? I'm surprised one hasn't killed the other one by now.”
Charlie shrugged, not knowing quite how to answer that.
“Never mind,” Nugent assured him. “You good to stay in the office for a couple of more hours?”
“Good. Gentlemen, it seems I must rush off,” the sheriff informed them. “It was interesting to say the least. And Doctor, thank you for those manuscripts. I think I'll enjoy spending a bit more time reading them. I'll be sure to send them back to you when I'm done.”
“You're welcome,” David answered as they all shook hands once more. “I'm glad you took an interest.”
“Goodbye, Sheriff,” Steven put in. “If you're ever up in Denver...”
“Uh huh,” Nugent acknowledged the invitation. “Have a safe trip.
He quickly gathered up his hat from the table and, with a nod to the other two, he took his leave to get back to work. Charlie was a close second, on his heels.
Steven spotted Helen coming their way and pulled out his wallet to pay the bill. She gave him the slip of paper, but also handed him a sealed envelope along with it. Steven frowned at the unexpected offering and raised a brow at the young waitress.
“Louise asked me to give you this,” she explained in a whisper. “It's for Mr. Heyes.”
“Well—Mr. Heyes was just here,” Steven pointed out. “Why didn't you simply give it to him?”
“No, no!” Helen was adamant. “Louise insisted that I give it only to you, and not while you were in the company of Mr. Heyes. She wants you to give it to him after he arrives back home.”
“Indeed?” Steven asked, flipping the envelope over in his hand, as though that would give him a clue as to its contents. He sent a glance to David and the doctor shrugged.
“Here,” Helen continued as she dug into her apron pocket. “She didn't know how much you would charge, so I'll pay you your fee out of this and...”
“No, no, no,” Steven stopped her from taking money out of her tips. “Don't worry about it. I'll see he gets it upon his return.”
Helen smiled with relief.
“Oh, thank you,” she responded. “I was so afraid I would miss you, or get you confused with someone else. Thank you.”
Helen was about to rush off, relieved that she had accomplished her task, when Steven stopped her again.
“Don't forget our tab,” he reminded her as he handed her the money. “Wouldn't do for you to get docked on that.”
“Oh! Oh my goodness!” She blushed slightly in her embarrassment as she took the payment. “Thank you. Safe journey.”
David and Steven exchanged looks again as the waitress scurried off.
“What in the world was that all about?” David asked.
“Who knows?” Steven answered. “Want to place a small wager that it's another one of Hannibal's jilted lovers?”
“Not on your life!” David stepped back, almost tripping over the chair. “This little excursion has cost me enough already!”
SANTA MARTA, MEXICO
“What a beautiful town!” Miranda exclaimed as she watched the landscape slide by outside the coach window.
“You haven't even seen it yet,” Hannibal pointed out. “We're barely into the outskirts.”
“Oh, I don't care,” Randa laughed. “It's so nice to smell the ocean again, feel the fresh air. Yuma was hot and dry, day after day. This is wonderful. Look at all those boats, and so many different types!”
Heyes smiled at his wife, his heart soaring along with her excitement and joy over the new sights around her. She had lived such an sophisticated life compared to his, or so he imagined, that being able to show her something she had never seen before, gave him a thrill that set his pulse racing with pleasure.
“Wait an hour and the fishing boats will be coming in for night,” he told her. “Then you'll see a lot of boats. Often they're three or four wide, all tied to the next. That wharf is quite a sight when the fleet is heading out or coming back in.”
But Miranda had already moved on as the coach quickly made its way towards the hotel.
“Look at those dresses!” Miranda pointed, her eyes wide with a child's delight. “They're so colourfull, and their blouses are sparkling white. Why can't we do that? Our clothing looks so drab compared to what these ladies are wearing. And look at that hat! It looks as though she has the whole flower garden on her head!”
Breathless, with eyes sparkling, Miranda pulled away from the view and turned to face her husband, who was sitting across from her in the otherwise empty coach.
“What?” she asked indignantly. “What are you laughing at?”
“I'm not laughing,” Hannibal insisted, as he fought to control the twitching of his lips. “I'm trying not to sneeze.”
“Oh you! You're teasing me!” she accused him. “But isn't it a lovely town?”
“Yes it is,” Hannibal agreed. “I'm glad you're enjoying it.”
“The first thing I'm going to do after we get settled, is go out and buy one of those beautiful skirts!” she announced. “They look comfortable and cool. So much more appropriate for this hot weather than the tent I'm wearing now.”
Heyes smiled, already picturing his wife wearing the loose fitting native attire and thinking how nicely the colourful patterns would highlight her dark eyes and hair. His smile broadened.
Having reached their destination, Heyes stepped out of the coach and turned to offer a hand to his lady. Miranda was just stepping onto the platform, still enchanted with the sights surrounding her, when her eyes were drawn to a very attractive Mexican gentleman striding towards them.
“Senor Heyes,” came a voice so romantically rich with soft tones and the gentlemanly accent of the local dialect that Miranda's knees practically wobbled out beneath her.
“Senor Cordoba,” Heyes greeted the mayor with a warm smile and an offered hand. “I didn't expect you to meet us at the stage.”
“But of course,” Cordoba countered. “Besides, I was looking forward to meeting your lovely wife.
“Yes,” Heyes placed a hand on his wife's back and smiled proudly. “Senor Cordoba, this is my wife, Miranda Heyes. Miranda, this is Senor Ramon Cordoba, the alcalde here in Santa Marta. Or I assume you are still the alcalde?”
“Yes,” Cordoba affirmed, but his eyes were smiling appreciatively at the lady in front of him.
“Senora Heyes,” he took her hand and bowed slightly in greeting. “What a pleasure it is to meet you. And I wish to thank you for sending me notice of your delay.”
“But of course,” Miranda answered, with the twinkle still lighting up her eyes.
Senor Cordoba smiled, realizing that he was being teased.
“You sent him a telegram?” Heyes asked.
“Yes,” Miranda admitted. “I felt it only polite to let the alcalde know that we were detained. He was kind enough to inform the hotel as well.”
“I take it your business dealings have been settled now?” the alcalde enquired as he pulled his eyes away from the senora and focused on the husband.
“Yes!” Heyes assured him. “All settled.”
“Good. I am glad to hear it. It is very frustrating to have business get in the way of a vacation. Especially one of such a romantic nature.”
Heyes grinned and nodded. “Yes. Bad timing. But it's all been cleared up now, so I can relax and we will enjoy our stay here in your town. Just as planned.”
“Good. And you need not be concerned,” Cordoba continued. “As soon as you sent me the second telegram, I informed the hotel manager. Your room is awaiting you. I am sure you will find it satisfactory.”
“I'm sure we will,” Miranda readily agreed. “This is such a lovely town. I can't wait to explore it. Although, the first thing I want to do is freshen up. The coach ride here was enjoyable, but dusty!”
“Of course,” Cordoba acknowledged politely. “I will make sure your luggage is taken in. In the meantime, may I invite you to my villa for dinner tomorrow evening? I am having a few guests over, and I am sure they would be honoured to meet you.”
“Oh, that would be lovely!” Miranda accepted with glee.
Cordoba smiled at the senora but sent the enquiring gaze to her husband.
Heyes grinned as Miranda's brows went up at the unintended snub. Instantly her attraction to this handsome man dropped down a notch or two.
“Thank you,” Heyes accepted the invitation. “We'd be happy to join you.”
“Good! Dinner is at eight,” Cordoba informed them. “It will give us a chance to get caught up on old times—and old acquaintances.”
“Yes!” Heyes grinned. “Won't that be fun!”
“Yes. Until then. Senor Heyes, Senora.” The alcalde gave a slight bow again and made his departure.
“Well,” Miranda commented as the dashing figure strode away. “I'm not sure whether I should swoon or be insulted. Was he being condescending, or was that just his way?”
“It's just his way. We are in another country now, and customs are a little different,” Heyes assured her. “Clementine found him to be quite attractive.”
“That's hardly to his credit!” Miranda laughed. “Clementine finds every man attractive.”
“Hmm, you have a point there,” Hannibal agreed. “Come on, let's get settled.”
Miranda lay on her back, her striped body glistening from a sheen of sweat that covered her from brow to toes. She lay with her eyes closed and a smile upon her face as she basked in the after-glow of love making. Hannibal lay on his side, his eyes open and taking in every tantalizing curve of her supple form. His left hand was gently caressing her tummy as he became re-acquainted with its ever expanding contours.
The loose fitting Mexican skirts that Miranda had insisted on buying and wearing to dinner that evening, was perfect for her these days, as they hid every hint of her pregnancy. Even in Mexico, the older generation still held to the dictate that no self-respecting Americano woman would permit herself to be seen out in public while in the 'family way'. Heyes smiled to himself at the thought of trying to keep any of their modern young ladies cooped up in their 'confinement' for nine months. No, that wasn't going to happen. But still, when away from familiar territory, one should be discreet.
Heyes smiled again. Discreet. Right. Not with the intelligent and liberal minded woman he'd married. Heyes was sure that every male head in the restaurant had been turned towards them. Fortunately Miranda's family state could still be hidden quite effectively with the loose clothing, and if anyone actually had been looking closely, she simply would have appeared a little plump. Not an unexpected condition for a woman of Miranda's age, especially if she'd already had children.
Always having been tall and slender, like her cousin, Miranda was feeling uncomfortable with her expanding waist line. She was convinced that every aspect of her was going to bloat out beyond reason, and that soon she would be fat and extremely unattractive. Hannibal thought she looked beautiful.
He caressed the rounding tummy, gazing at it with a soppy love look in his eyes. He imagined his seed inside the warm cocoon, growing and blossoming with every passing day. His child was in there, comfortable and safe from this crazy world, at least for now. Heyes found his excitement growing right along with his wife's abdomen, and there were times when he could hardly wait for this new little person to come out and be introduced.
He sighed contentedly, and shifting position he leaned over and kissed that beautiful, expanding, soon to be fat belly. Miranda giggled and ran her hand through her husband's hair.
“What shall we do tomorrow?” she asked quietly. “Certainly we're not going to laze around the hotel all day.”
“Nooo,” Heyes assured her. “I thought we could go out on one of those boat tours. You know the ones that take you right out to deep water and they have the glass bottoms so you can see all the fish and the coral...”
“And the sharks.”
“Well, yes,” Heyes chuckled. “Maybe. I didn't think a few little sharks would deter you from seeing something so beautiful.”
Miranda opened her eyes and smiled over at him. “You're right,” she admitted. “On the contrary; it makes it all the more exciting.”
“Good.” Heyes pulled himself up his wife's torso and kissed her lips. “We'd better...” Kiss, “...get some sleep...” Kiss “...a busy day tomorrow...”
Hannibal felt uneasy, stepping out onto the wharf that would take them to the tourist craft awaiting their arrival. He had been on boats before, but they had all been larger ferries or the floating hotels of the paddle wheel variety. As a child, he and Jed had sometimes gone out with Yannack and his father, but those days were long gone, and he'd lost his youthful sea legs ages ago. The wharfs he was accustomed to now were solid structures that didn't float and flutter with every lapping wave that splashed against it.
This undulating walkway took some getting used to. Being balanced and nimble on solid ground as well as on horseback was one thing, but this constantly shifting deck took all of his focus to navigate with any form of grace or dignity. Miranda watched him while trying to hide her smile. She was just as unaccustomed to moving pathways as he was, but for some reason she seemed better able to navigate the the pitfalls.
By the time they had walked the distance to where the boat awaited them, Hannibal was beginning to feel his balance adjusting to the shifting circumstances. Their craft, the Caballito de Mar, was a 12 foot long steamboat that was open from bow to stern, and though tricky for a landlubber to navigate boarding her, once that feat was accomplished, she was a comfortable and reliable craft. There were benches positioned all around the inner deck, surrounding a six by two foot glass bottom, that would give all the passengers a stunning view of the underwater life that thrived in the warm waters off the Santa Marta coast.
Hannibal and Miranda both sat down with sighs of relief at having achieved their goal without incident. They smiled at one another and held hands.
“This is exciting,” Miranda commented. “I've never done anything like this before. And such a beautiful day. I hope the water is clear further out. It seems rather murky here. I do so want to see what's out there.”
“Si, Senora,” one of the two crew members answered her. “El aqua, ah, the water. She is always oscuro here. You see, we get out there,” and he waved his arm to indicate the large bay, “and the water, she be claro como el cristal.”
“Thank you,” she told him. “This is going to be fun.”
Miranda's smile intensified, and her eyes were so full of excitement and anticipation that Hannibal couldn't help but laugh out loud. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and he was finding his own heart beating a little faster as the two Mexicans hurried back and forth along the length of the vessel in preparation of departure.
“Come along Elspeth,” a large man dressed in a suit and tie was encouraging his wife in her efforts to stumble over to the waiting craft. “We don't want to miss the dang thing, now that we're this close to it.”
Elspeth, who was just as thin and tight as her husband was rotund, did share with him the one aspect of being overdressed for the occasion. Her narrow skirted dress and high heeled, latched up boots were hardly appropriate attire for an outing on the ocean.
“I am coming, Freddie!” she exclaimed. “My heels keep getting hung up in the spaces between the boards. You would think that these people could at least build a decent wharf! Oh! Oh my!”
This exclamation came as the result of one of those heels slipping in between the boards and becoming thoroughly stuck. Elspeth's arms flailed out in front of her as she dropped her parasol and clattered ungracefully to her backside.
“Oh oh,” Hannibal commented with a smile, but was still quick to jump up and come to the lady's assistance.
Having quickly regained his natural grace and agility, Heyes stepped through the open half door in the hull of the boat and was on the wharf in an instant. Freddie had returned to his wife, and having taken hold of one of her arms, was trying to haul the poor woman to her feet.
“Wait, wait,” Heyes told him, as he knelt down beside Elspeth. “She's stuck.”
“That much is apparent, young man!” Elspeth snapped at him as she rolled herself over from her knees and onto her butt. “Kindly get me unstuck!”
“Yes ma'am.” Heyes sent her a reassuring smile, then frowned as he surveyed the trapped boot heel. He would have to take hold of her ankle in order to get the boot freed. “Umm...?” he enquired, and indicated the entrapped foot. “Do you mind?”
“No, no,” she waved him onwards. “Just do it.”
“Perhaps I should...” Freddie harrumphed, his sense of decency being threatened by this young man laying hands upon his wife's person.
But before his indignation could truly take hold, Heyes had given the ankle a slight twist and then a sharp tug. The heel came free, and despite a few miniscule scrapes from the wood, was none the worse for wear.
“Thank goodness!” Elspeth exclaimed. “I feared I would be stuck there all afternoon!”
“I hardly think your husband would have permitted that, ma'am,” Heyes assured her as he and Freddie helped her back to her feet. “It was a simple matter to free it up.”
“Yes, my dear,” Freddie took over, using his bulk to pressure Heyes away. “It was easy enough to deal with. Now let's get you on board.”
Heyes allowed himself to be backed off, but stepping back onto the boat, he turned to offer assistance again, just in case the obstacle proved too much for Freddie to deal with.
“Oh my,” Elspeth complained as she eyed the step across open water. “I'm not sure this is a wise idea. What if I fall through?”
“You won't fall through, my dear,” Freddie assured her, with a touch of impatience. It's a simple step across and then down into the boat. Come, come. Just do it.”
Heyes smiled and offered his hand to the lady. Elspeth grasped it, and hung on so tightly, the ex-outlaw was almost brought to tears. He was brave though, and wouldn't allow the pain to show.
“There you go,” Heyes assured her. “Just step across. We've got you.”
Elspeth took a deep breath and made the leap of twelve inches. As is so often the case when one overcompensates, the lady put too much oomph into her approach and ended up in Heyes' arms, with him having to take a quick step backwards to avoid being bowled over.
“Oh my,” she flustered. “I'm so sorry.”
“That's quite alright,” Heyes assured her and flashed his dimples.
Her eyes drifted up to meet his, and her knees went weak with the contact. 'How unfair it was for a man to have such beautiful eyes.' she thought as the soft sea breeze played seductively with her hair, and the birds on wing cried out their playful song as they dove and circled, looking for tidbits. The smell of the ocean was strong in her nostrils, and her senses disappeared into remembered romantic stories of dashing pirates stealing away the damsel in distress. Time slowed down, and the blinking of those lovely dark lashes took an eternity as the lady felt herself swooning. She was lost in those eyes. They were like warm chocolate, with just the right hint of mischief to lure a lady to sink into their depth, no matter what her age.
“Elspeth!” Freddie pulled his wife away. “Leave the man alone. He has better things to do than doddle over some silly old hen.”
“Oh yes,” she smiled at her rescuer, suddenly aware of how tight the collar of her dress had become “I do apologize.”
“That's quite alright,” Heyes assured her.
The three people settled onto the benches and introductions began.
“I must say, ah...Senor,” Elspeth began. “that you speak wonderful English for a Mexican.”
“Oh, we're not Mexican,” Heyes corrected her. “We're Americans, like yourself. My name is Han and this is my wife, Miranda.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Miranda greeted them. “We're here on...”
“You're not a Mexican?” Freddie asked.
“Ah, no.” Heyes was slightly taken aback by the rudeness shown to his wife. He was beginning to regret assisting these people at all.
“Oh dear,” Elspeth sputtered and began to fan herself with her overly large sun hat. “I assumed by your clothing...”
“Didn't take you long to go native, did it?” Freddie harrumphed.
“Aren't the colors beautiful?” Miranda stepped in, choosing to take the high road. “And the material is so light and comfortable. Just perfect for an outing such as this.”
The older couple sat, and with arched brows, scrutinized the pair sitting across from them. At first glance, they might have appeared, from a distance, to be light-skinned Mexicans. Both had the dark hair and eyes, and both had exchanged their heavier 'western' clothing for that of the more breathable cotton worn by the locals. They had even set aside their restricting boots and shoes, for the more comfortable sandals to complete their casual attire.
Still, upon closer acquaintanceship, it should have been obvious that neither Hannibal, nor his wife were indigenous to Mexico. They smiled back at the laced up and restricted couple, with their inappropriate footwear, and waited for an acknowledgement of Miranda's comment.
The strained silence might have lasted throughout the whole venture if not for the timely arrival of one more couple, hurrying to make it to the boat on time. Indeed, they had cut it close. One of the crew was busy coaxing the small steam engine into action, while the other was getting ready to cast off the ropes just as the newcomers put in a boisterous appearance.
“We made it!” the young woman exclaimed as she and her man jumped on board.
“I told you we would, if we made a run for it,” her escort teased. “Just in the nick of time too.”
The newest arrivals sat down and worked at catching their breath after the mad dash along the wharf. Heyes and Miranda both grinned at their enthusiasm and Heyes leaned forward to offer his hand.
“Hello,” he said. “I'm Han and this is my wife, Miranda.”
The young man grasped his hand and grinned even more.
“Hello,” he greeted back. “I'm Paul. This is my wife, Connie.”
“Hello,” Miranda greeted them, instantly liking their youthful excitement for the adventure ahead.
Heyes nodded quickly to Paul and then his wife, from whom he quickly averted his eyes. She was very pretty, with the light blonde hair and blue eyes that often accompanies the peaches and cream complexion that so many men find attractive. But it was not her physical beauty that had caused Heyes discomfort, but her coloring. Looking into those blue eyes, he had instantly been reminded of Amy.
It was like a knife going through his heart. Not because of any love lost, but because of the pain that that woman had brought into their lives. He had been taken by surprise by these emotions and he'd had to look away from her to be able to compose himself. Other than her coloring, this young woman was nothing like Amy, and Heyes resolved himself to refrain from the comparison.
Fortunately, his indiscretion was covered up by the continuation of introductions as Paul and Connie turned their attentions to the other couple on board.
“Hello sir,” Paul greeted Freddie with respect and extended his hand. “I'm Paul and this is my wife, Connie.”
“Humph,” Freddie clasped the hand and gave it a hearty shake. “Hello young man. I'm Mr. Carmichael, and this is my wife, Mrs. Carmichael.”
The young couple's enthusiasm waned a touch at the formal introduction, but they accepted it, and nodded their hellos.
The boat gave a slight jerk, accompanied by a little squeak from Elspeth, and with the little engine chugging away, the excursion headed away from the dock and out towards deeper water.
An hour later, all pretenses had been forgotten about as the six passengers sat huddled around the glass window on the world beneath them. Once away from the docks and other boats, the engine had been shut down and the vessel allowed to drift with the outgoing tide, so as not to intrude on this watery wonderland slowly floating by below them.
“It's so beautiful,” Connie said for the umpteenth time. “It is way beyond what I imagined.”
Indeed, the boatman, Nico, had been correct in his assurance that the waters beyond the port would be Crystal clear, and they all would have sworn they could reach down and pull up a handful of sand. That is, when they could see the sand. Coral of brilliant pinks and orange, blues and greens littered the bottom of the bay, while long tendrils of kelp swayed back and forth with the undercurrent of the tide.
It was mesmerizing, and all of them stared as though in a trance.
“It's like my garden back home,” Elspeth whispered. “What glorious colors. Who would have thought such beauty was just beneath the waves?”
“What's this coming?” Heyes asked as he pointed towards a number of bulky shapes slowly paddling their way towards the boat.
“Good heavens!” Miranda exclaimed. “They look like turtles. But they're huge!”
“Si, Senora,” Nico agreed. “They are tortugas de mar, ahh...sea turtles. Very big, yes?”
“Yes,” Paul voiced the agreement. “Very big.”
Nico turned to his companion and grinned.
“¿Muy bueno comer demasiado, eh Desmondo?” he suggested quietly. “Tal vez nos salen nuevamente esta noche y coger uno.” *Very good eating too, eh Desmondo? Maybe we come back out tonight and catch one.”
Desmondo also grinned, revealing a number of missing teeth.
“Si,” was all he had to say.
“Look!” Connie exclaimed. “One of them is coming over!”
“Oh dear!” Elspeth squealed as she pulled back from the glass. “Is it attacking us? Will it capsize the boat?”
“No, no,” Nico was quick to give assurance. “Not mean creatures. Docile, yes?”
“Are you quite sure?”
“Si, senora. No worry.”
Elspeth allowed herself to move closer again as everyone else was peering down into the water.
“Oh my,” Miranda gasped, and brought her hands up to her mouth.
One of the gigantic sea turtles had lumbered its way up to the glass floor of the boat, and bumped its nose against it two or three times. It floated there, drifting with the current, one curious eye focused on the tourists who gazed down at him. For that one brief moment in time, six humans connected with the marvellous sea creature, until, with a wave of one of its paddle-like appendages, the animal pushed off from the boat and glided down into the depths to join his pod.
Everyone sat silent for a moment, mouths agape and eyes staring. None of them could quite believe what they had just seen and witnessed, and none of them would ever forget it either.
The next hour was spent with the group joined in their mutual entrancement with the strange new world that drifted by beneath them. Once they became accustomed to the colourful plant life, their eyes adjusted to the different patterns and variety of shapes and movements. Before long, they were all noticing the less obvious sea life that lived within the waving plants and coral reefs.
Schools of small fish darted in and out amongst the garden, flashing here and there like quick silver, and grabbing miniscule tidbits of food as they went. Suddenly they all dashed away, disappearing into the kelp. The people on the boat were disappointed, and searched for the reason for the sudden departure.
“There,” Heyes announced, and pointed down and to the left.
“Where?” Freddie asked. “I don't see anything.”
“No, it's right there,” Heyes insisted.
The other passengers followed his pointing finger and tried to distinguish a different movement within the flowing kelp. Then there was a sudden intake of breath from everyone who was staring into the depths. Elspeth shrieked and pushed herself away from the glass.
“Oh sweet Jesus!” she exclaimed. “What is that? It's a monster from the underworld!”
Nico rolled his eyes at his partner, but dutifully stepped forward to take a look at the mysterious sea creature that had everyone all worked up.
“Ah,” he said as he peered into the depths. “That no monster, that anguila de moray. Ahh, eel. Predator, yes. But we fine here.”
The group watched in silence as the long, snake-like creature casually glided through its domain. All other inhabitants of the reef had disappeared into hiding holes.
“My fingers are tingling!” Connie admitted with girlish giggle. “How silly to be afraid of something that can't even reach us.”
“I don't think we'll go swimming tomorrow, after all,” Paul announced. “We'll stay safe and sound on solid ground.”
“Yes!” Connie agreed.
“Si,” Nico also agreed. “Some people do swim here, but locals. We know how. You should not. También hay tiburones. Ah, sharks also.”
Miranda's eyes lit up with excitement at the mention of the fierce predators.
“That would be so thrilling!” she exclaimed as the other two ladies present sent her incredulous looks. “Do you think we might see one?”
“Maybe,” he said. “There are lots here.”
Heyes grinned as Elspeth and Connie both shivered at the prospect, while Miranda grinned with delight. The opportunity to see a shark would make her day.
The following hour was spent being mesmerized by the amazing underworld life that went about their daily routines underneath the innocent waves. So many different shapes and sizes of fishes, with colours ranging from blueish silver to the hottest of pinks. Yellow and blue angelfish made their rounds while bright orange seahorses floated and danced with the current.
The boat even drifted through a large school of jellyfish of various colors and sizes. They surrounded the boat, some so close to the surface that the hull bumped into them while passing through. Others so deep down that their tendrils dragged along the bottom.
“Those are innocent enough looking creatures,” Elspeth commented. “Much more pleasant than sharks.”
Nico chuckled, and shook his head.
“No, no Senora,” he told her. “Very dangerous. Do not touch. They sting. The big ones there, they could kill a man. Very dangerous.”
“Oh my goodness!” Elspeth sat down on the bench and fanned herself. “Does everything in the ocean here, kill you?”
“Si, Senora. Just about. No go swimming.”
“They appear so helpless,” Heyes commented. “They don't even have control over where the tide takes them. What do they eat? How do they survive?”
“Schools of fish swim into their midst,” Nico explained. “The jalea de pescado catch the fish with their tendrils and sting it. And they have no predators. Nothing eats them. Very successful, si?”
Heyes nodded. “Si.”
Heyes found himself in reflection once again. How odd that he would feel any kind of simpatico with these rudderless creatures, and yet he did. Wasn't this how he and Jed had lived so many years of their lives? Drifting aimlessly, they had been pushed along by the ebb and flow of circumstances so often beyond their control. They often never knew where their next meal was coming from, or who might suddenly show up in their midst and challenge their very existence. And yet, the Wyoming Territory had deemed them so dangerous, that they had spent eight years on the top of their Most Wanted list.
Heyes glanced up from his musings, and found his wife smiling at him. She'd caught him again, and had quietly watched him as he withdrew inside himself and reflected upon a life that was now so much a part of both their pasts.
He smiled back at her, feeling a little embarrassed that he had been found out, but their guide's next words caught their attention and broke the spell.
“We should head back soon,” Nico continued. “It is almost time for the fishing fleet to return. We need to get in before they do.”
“Thank goodness,” Elspeth approved. “It's all very beautiful, but I'm ready for supper.”
“Oh no!” Miranda was disappointed. “I haven't seen a shark!”
“I must admit, now that I've had time to adjust to the idea, that would be thrilling,” Connie agreed. “I mean, since we're already out here...”
“It would be interesting, wouldn't it?” Paul agreed.
“If they don't put in an appearance, then we can hardly see them, can we?” he pointed out. “I'm just as happy to head back in.”
“Are you sure we have to head back right away?” Heyes asked. “I doubt we'll get the chance to come out again.”
Nico and Desmondo exchanged looks, and the latter shrugged. Nico smiled.
“Si, we still have time,” he said. “We can start up the engine and take you to the area where we often see the sharks. We must be quick, though.”
Elspeth and Freddie slumped in disappointment, while everyone else cheered their approval. Nico grinned. Four of them, at least, were turning out to be fun people.
Half an hour later, the small tour group found themselves out in deeper water. It had changed color as well, from a crystal clear azure to a denser aquamarine, and the bottom was too far down to be seen. Elspeth stayed away from the glass bottom, finding the unfathomable depths difficult to stomach, but the others still gathered around it to peer down into the unknown.
Nico scanned the oceanscape along the surface, keeping his eyes peeled for any signs of shark activity. He knew that at this time of day, they often swam through these waters on their way to the hunt, and he usually had success at spotting them when tourists put in the request. This time proved to be no exception.
“Allí!” Nico suddenly shouted, and pointed off to starboard. “There!”
Four of the party straightened up and gazed off in the indicated direction.
“I don't see anything,” Paul announced, feeling disappointed.
“Fins!” Nico specified. “There!”
The group continued to search, but the telltale fins remained hidden from them. Heyes silently cursed his failing vision. Five years ago, he would have had no problem spotting a detail in the distance, but now, picking out a gray fin in a blue ocean was beyond his abilities. He was still surprised that he had spotted the eel. He shook his head and felt like giving up.
“Oh!” Miranda announced, and pointed in the same direction as Nico. “There it is! And there's another! Oh my, they appear to be heading this way.”
“Si,” Nico agreed. “They are curious. No worry. Just no swimming, ha ha.”
“You needn't worry about that,” Connie emphasized. “I won't be going near the sides of the boat.”
Miranda nodded agreement as everyone now could see the fins coming towards them. All eyes were on the two creatures, and excitement rose in their hearts with the knowledge that they would soon be seeing these dangerous predators up close and personal.
Everyone jumped, and Elspeth again let out a little shriek as something bumped into the bottom of the boat, and actually caused the craft to rock a little bit. Those who were standing close to the glass bottom, quickly back stepped and sat down on the bench, as a third shark banged its snout against the glass and peered up at them, just as the turtle had done.
They all gasped with the dangerous excitement of the contact, but nobody got any closer. Even through the glass, the shark emanated power and danger; a truly formidable predator. The staring eye sent chills down their spines, and when the fish gnashed its numerous rows of teeth, everyone felt the primal fear.
Heyes was briefly taken back in time, when he was even more up close and personal with a dangerous predator. The look in that cougar's eyes had been murderous and personal, and it would have been successful too, if it hadn't been for the Kid's quick intervention with the rifle. This shark's eye had looked flatter, and there was no personal malice in it. But the knowledge that your life could end between its jaws held the same intensity, and Heyes found himself wishing he'd brought his scholfield with him after all.
Finally, with a lightening quick swish of its tail, the shark moved off, and glided down into the depths. Everyone gave a sigh of relief, and Heyes sat back, feeling slightly shaken.
“Oh my,” Miranda was the first to speak. “He must have been at least four feet long. I knew they were big, but seeing one up close like that...”
“That's a little one,” Nico informed them. “Not full grown yet.”
“Really?” Miranda asked, incredulously. “How big do they get?”
“Depends on type of shark.” he told them. “ Gran tiburón blanco and ah, Hammerhead? They are very big. You see, this one approach, we see his tail fin, si? See how far from top fin to tail fin?”
Everyone looked and nodded, feeling nervous yet fascinated at the same time.
“That shark is full grown,” Nico continued. “See?”
As the group watched the two sharks approaching the boat, the fins slowly began to descend until they disappeared under the waves. Anxiety inside the boat escalated.
“Where did they go?” Freddie asked, nervously. “Those monsters were almost as long as this craft. They could capsize us.”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” Elspeth whimpered, as her fan went into overtime. “I told you we should have just headed back.”
Nico quickly returned to the stern just in case they had to move out of these waters, and his actions were not lost on Elspeth. She looked as though she was about to have an attack of the vipers. The other tourists were transfixed, peering down through the glass bottom as the two sharks approached.
As it turned out, neither Elspeth nor Nico needed to have been concerned, as the sharks had no real interest in the floating object. They knew where they were going to hunt, and that they would find food there, so a quick look was all they took the time to do.
It was still a thrill for the passengers though. The biggest shark, that must have been at least eight feet from nose to tail, swam by beneath them in a casual fashion. He was the alpha hunter in these waters, and he knew it. There was no need for him to be in a hurry to go anywhere. And yet, seemingly drifting by in slow motion, his tail barely moving from side to side, his large, heavy body was pushed steadily forward through the water. In less than a minute the predator was disappearing from view as it slid into the distance and went about its business.
Four sets of eyes stared, transfixed upon the departing creature. Only when it and its fellows had all vanished, did the people allow themselves to breathe again. They straightened up from the glass bottom, and everyone started laughing at once.
“Wow!” Miranda exclaimed. “Have you ever seen anything so marvelous?”
“Nope,” Heyes agreed, his smile taking over his whole face.
“That was amazing,” Connie breathed, her eyes wide with excitement. “No one back home is going to believe us! Oh! I'm so glad we didn't miss the boat!”
Paul remained silent, but his expression said it all. This was a boat ride none of them were going to forget.
Freddie sighed. “Can we head back in now?”
The gate leading onto the mayor's premises had been standing open to allow guests to enter and drive down the roadway leading to the front of the stylish residence. The taxi stopped outside the entrance to the large adobe style home, and Hannibal stepped out first so he could turn and offer his hand to his lady.
Miranda accepted it, and stepping delicately down to the ground, she waited as her husband turned to pay the driver.
“Oh no, Senor,” the young man holding the reins told him adamantly. “The alcalde, he pick up the fares for his guests. You do not owe me anything, Senor.”
“Oh.” Heyes hesitated, uncertain as to how to proceed. “Well, will you accept a gratuity?”
“A gratuity, Senor?” The man shrugged, indicating that he was not familiar with that word.
“A tip,” Heyes clarified. “In appreciation of a fine ride.”
“Oh!” The man's eyes lit up with realization. “Ahh! Propina. Si, Senor. Gracias.”
Heyes smiled and pulling out his wallet, he handed their driver an appropriate tip. The hand that reached out for it was quick to accept, and the driver nodded his appreciation.
“Have a pleasant evening, Senor and Senora.”
“I'm sure we will,” Heyes commented.
“And I will be quite happy to drive you and your esposa back to the hotel when you are ready,” the driver quickly offered as he pocketed his coinage. “I shall return around 11:00 if that is suitable.”
The driver nodded, clucked to his horse, and the conveyance quickly moved away to continue with their night's work.
“11:00?” Miranda asked as she took her husband's arm. “I'm not sure I'll still be awake by then.”
“You will be,” Heyes assured her. “Senor Cordoba puts on some fine dinners, and I'm sure the other guests will be entertaining.”
“Oh, must we do this?” Miranda asked wistfully. “I'm suddenly very tired.”
“What?” Heyes teased her. “But you were the one who wanted to come. We had the porter at the hotel freshen up our fine attire. You did your hair and put color on your cheeks and liner on your eyes. And we're already here.”
Miranda giggled. “Oh, I know. But it is such a lovely evening. Why don't we go to the waterfront instead and watch the sun go down? I can smell the ocean on the breeze, and it would be so much nicer than a stuffy old dinner party.”
Heyes chuckled pleasantly. She loved his chuckle.
“We've been on the ocean all day!” he protested.
“And now I think I'm addicted to it,” she pouted playfully. “Come on, let's go.”
“No you don't!” he said as he gave her a slight push up the steps. “You wanted to come to a posh dinner party at the alcalde's home, and now we're here. There's even a mariachi player in there for our entertainment. You wouldn't want to disappoint him, would you? We can watch the sun go down tomorrow evening.”
“Oh, you tyrant!”
Coming up the steps, they found the front door already open and the doorman standing in attendance and giving them a curious look. Gringos were such strange creatures. He could not understand why his boss insisted on entertaining them as often as he did. Perhaps it was simply politics. Keeping the Americanos happy and returning to their resort town was a great source of income, and it kept most of the local people employed throughout the year.
With that thought in his mind, the doorman smiled and bowed a greeting to his jefe's guests. He offered to take the lady's shawl and the gentleman's hat, and then he escorted them into the parlour.
Miranda was looking around her, taking in the lovely tapestries that hung from the walls, and noticing the soft carpeting under her feet. The richness in the textures and colors on the exquisite designs almost caused her hesitation in walking upon them, but there was no way to avoid it, so she stepped delicately. Coming in to the parlour, her eyes were captured by large marble carvings and statues that lined the parameter, and the magnificent paintings that filled in the gaps between them.
“I did not realize that the mayor of a small Mexican town would offer such a lucrative living,” she whispered. “This home is exquisite.”
“I think Senor Cordoba was a wealthy man before he took office,” Heyes murmured. “He probably could have funded the building of the town school all on his own.”
“Yes,” Randa agreed. “It makes you wonder why he would accept a bribe—”
“—Donation, to let you and Jed go.”
Heyes leaned towards his wife's ear. “He wanted to get into Clementine's petticoats.”
“Hannibal!” She laughed and slapped him playfully on the arm.
“Ah! Senor and Senora Heyes,” Cordoba greeted them. “I am pleased you could make it. Did the driver have any trouble finding your suite?”
The couple instantly straightened up and tried to stifle their giggling. Cordoba looked at them with polite curiosity.
“Is there something amiss?” he asked.
“No, no!” Heyes insisted as he got himself under control. “It was a pleasant ride over. In fact my wife was just commenting on what a lovely home you have.”
“Ah,” Cordoba smiled and inclined his head to the Senora. “Yes. This residence has been in my family for many generations. It has served us well.”
“It's magnificent,” Miranda confirmed, but the twinkle in her eyes belied the seriousness of her tone.
“Indeed,” Cordoba agreed, then quickly turned his attention to Heyes. “Come. There is someone here who is looking forward to greeting you.”
“Oh?” Heyes asked, his tone both curious and guarded.
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Re: Reflections Fri Oct 09, 2015 5:53 pm|| |
Both Miranda and Hannibal turned at the lively feminine voice that had called to him from across the room. Heyes smiled widely at the attractive woman coming to greet them, but trepidation was not far beneath the surface. How in the world was his wife going to react to meeting yet another of Hannibal's ladies coming out from his past?
“Meg,” Heyes greeted her, smiling warmly. “I thought you were back in Ohio.”
“I was,” she said, and laughed at some inner joke. “But after a couple of years, I decided that Ohio simply didn't have the charm of Santa Marta. And since the villa here was already bought and paid for, with my name on the papers, well, I decided it would be a shame to simply rent it out—and that I should come and live here myself. So I did!”
“Yes!” Heyes chuckled. “So you did. Oh, I suppose I should be calling you Margaret now.”
“Oh, Joshua. You silly!” she responded. “I went by Meg Parker because that's what everyone has always called me. Easier to remember an alias when you already use it.”
“You have a valid point.”
“Oh come, Joshua,” Meg continued, taking Heyes' arm and attempting to lead him away. “Let's go sit, and talk over old times. We had such fun together, until that nasty business with Elizabeth Carter. I'm so thankful that you talked me into coming forward, and that your friend was cleared.”
“Ah, Meg,” Heyes interrupted this monologue, and politely extracted his arm from her grasp. “I'd like you to meet my wife, Miranda. Miranda, this is Margaret Carruthers. Remember, I told you about the little problem Jed ran into down here...”
“Oh!” Meg backed off slightly, her excited sparkle dimming just a bit. “I didn't know you were married! Really, Ramon. You should have told me. Here I thought this lady was with you.”
“Apologies,” Cordoba answered. “I felt it best that Senor Heyes fill in the details himself.”
“Of course,” she agreed, and she placed her hand on Heyes' arm once again. “Imagine my surprise when Ramon told me. Even in Ohio, we've heard of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, but of course it never occurred to me that I would wind up meeting them way out here!”
“Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?” came Freddie's voice from behind Heyes. “What have those two thieves got to do with this gathering?”
Heyes and Miranda both turned to find themselves looking at their previous companions from the afternoon. The alcalde was quick to step in to acknowledge the new arrivals.
“Ah, Senor and Senora Carmichael,” he greeted them. “I am very pleased you could make it. May I introduce Senor and Senora...”
“Yes, yes,” Freddie dismissed the alcalde as he focused on his afternoon companions. “I didn't realize that you were invited to this event as well.”
“Likewise,” Heyes answered dryly. “It seems to have become a gathering of familiar faces.”
“Good,” Cordoba stated, doing an excellent job of diplomacy. “I do try to invite all the Americanos to join me for a dinner while they are visiting in town. It gives you a chance to meet others of similar interests. However, it seems that you have already met.”
“Yes,” Miranda assured him. “We went out on the boat tour this afternoon. It was quite the experience.”
“Isn't it wonderful?” Meg quipped in. “I've been out a couple of times since I moved back here. It never seems to get old.”
“Well, I found it a little bit too exhilarating,” Elspeth contradicted. “I could have done without the sharks.”
“I'm sure you were quite safe, Senora,” Cordoba assured her. “We have not lost a tourist yet.”
“Unless you want to count Mr. Hanley,” Meg pointed out, and then sighed and rolled her eyes at the memory of those events.
“Senor Hanley was murdered,” Cordoba reminded her, with an expression of pained patience. “Hardly the same situation.”
“Murdered?” Elspeth squeaked. “There's been a murder?”
“It was a number of years ago, Senora,” Cordoba assured her. “It was all cleared up at the time. We have had no problems like that since. I assure you, you are quite safe here.”
“Yes, but it was quite an experience, none the less,” Meg continued. “And of course, that was when I first met Joshua.”
“Joshua?” Freddie asked with a raised brow. “Who is that?”
“Ahh...” Heyes tried to divert the conversation.
“Oh, how silly of me!” Meg proclaimed. “I swear, Joshua, I'm simply not going to get used to you being Hannibal Heyes. You just don't look like an outlaw.”
“Ex-outlaw,” Heyes felt obliged to point out.
Freddie bristled, and Elspeth squeaked—again. Miranda sighed and Hannibal groaned. Senor Cordoba smiled quietly.
“What in the world?” Freddie attacked. “How dare a scoundrel like you show up at an affair like this, and pass yourself off as a gentleman! Mr. Cordoba, obviously you were not aware of this man's true identity before inviting him here. I shall be happy to assist in having him and his 'wife' thrown out of your home!”
It was Heyes' turn to bristle, and he was almost on the attack when the alcalde intervened.
“I assure you, Senor Carmichael, I am well aware of his identity,” Cordoba told him. “And I owe hm and his partner a debt of gratitude. It was through Senor Heyes' dedication and skill that we were able to track down the true killer of Mr. Hanley. They also made a large contribution to our town that enabled us to build the fine school house that now stands to the west of us. Senor Heyes and his esposa are most welcome here.”
Freddie still blustered and harrumphed a few times.
“A contribution eh?” he repeated, suspiciously. “Attained through nefarious means, no doubt.”
“I assure you,” Heyes interjected on his own behalf. “My partner and I had changed our ways by that time. The money we donated to this town was earned honestly.”
“Indeed?” Freddie seemed sceptical. “Then why were you sent to prison?”
“You went to prison, Joshua?” Meg exclaimed. “I never heard about that!”
Heyes stiffened at the mention of his previous residence, and his eyes darkened with anger. He felt Miranda's hand on his arm, cautioning him to stay civil.
“Hypocrisy, Mr. Carmichael,” he managed to calmly inform him, but decided that it was time to switch to the more formal address. “The governor denied the arrangement we had with him, in order to protect his own political ass.”
“Deservedly so,” Freddie retorted, then looked down his nose at the alcalde. “I must admit, I find it hard to understand why a man in your position would allow a wanted criminal to be...”
“I'm not wanted anymore, Mr. Carmichael, and nor am I a criminal,” Heyes interjected. “As you yourself just pointed out, I have paid my debt to Wyoming—and am a free man.”
“And what are you doing with your freedom?” Freddie asked from behind his raised nose. “Conning your way into the homes of wealthy people and pretending that you're a gentleman?”
“My husband is a gentleman,” Miranda informed him. “More so than you are, it would appear. Nor does he need to con his way into anyone's home, as those people who take the time to get to know him, welcome him openly.”
“Come, Freddie,” Elspeth cut in. “There's the other young couple who were on the boat with us. Let's go and acknowledge them, shall we?”
“Oh yes, of course, my dear.” Freddie appeared relieved at the easy out. “They, at least, were respectable.”
With a quick nod to the alcalde and Mrs. Carruthers, the Carmichaels departed that company and moved off to a comfortable distance.
“My goodness, how rude,” Meg exclaimed. “How do you put up with that?”
“My apologies,” Cordoba offered. “I would not have included them here this evening, if I'd realized their response.”
“Don't worry about it, Senor,” Heyes assured him. “Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to matter where I go, I will be running into people such as him. Comes with the territory, I suppose.”
Meg laughed, and moving in between Hannibal and Miranda, slipped her arm through his and attempted to lead him towards the dining area.
“Well you're welcome to come and sit beside me, Joshua,” she stated, and then remembered her manners and turned her smile to Miranda. “And of course, your lovely wife! You must tell me how you snared this handsome devil, so I can use it the next time I find myself in such company.”
“Perhaps it was the fact that it was not my intention to snare him,” Miranda quipped, her anger at Carmichael intensifying her irritation at this insufferable woman. The fact that her husband, apparently, did not also find her insufferable only added to her mood. “We were friends first.”
“Oh. Well that is certainly one way to reel them in.”
“Ah!” Cordoba interrupted. “It seems that dinner is about to be served. Shall we?”
He held his arm out for Miranda, and she, with a wicked smile towards her husband, happily accepted it.
“Yes!” she agreed. “We can continue with this lovely discussion over a fine meal.”
Heyes sighed. This dinner was going to take some diplomacy to get through unscathed.
Fortunately the rest of the evening went by without any further altercations, despite Heyes being locked into a continuous conversation with Margaret Carruthers. It would not have been a problem, but he still found this lovely and energetic woman pleasing to his senses, so the fact that she continued to show interest in him, despite his wife sitting across from them, caused him some distress.
He could not help but be aware that Miranda spent the evening playfully flirting with the alcalde—and was hardly paying her husband any mind. That in itself had Hannibal concerned. Was she really attracted to the alcalde? He was after all, a handsome and debonair man, whom many women, including Clementine, had found irresistible.
But was Miranda really flirting with him? Seriously? Or was she simply getting back at her husband for allowing another woman to monopolize his time? And if that was the case, was she doing it out of spite and anger, or was she simply laughing at him, and playing with his emotions?
Knowing his wife as well as he did, he was 90% certain that she was laughing at him. But there was still that niggling little doubt that maybe she was angry, and he'd be getting an earful once the party was over. Not to mention a little less attention in bed than what he had anticipated.
Miranda felt her husband's eyes upon her, and she flashed him a wicked smile. Heyes relaxed. She was teasing him, and shamelessly, it would seem. But Senor Cordoba did not seem to mind the feminine attention, and though certainly not taking her overtures seriously, he did spend much of his evening in conversation with the lovely Senora Heyes.
It was early morning, but the sun was up and the warm breeze coming in off the water promised another hot day. Hannibal had awakened even earlier than the sun and once the light of dawn and the high raucous calls of the sea birds wafted in through the open veranda doors, he simply could not stay in bed any longer.
He quietly slipped out from beside Miranda and donning the light cotton clothing he'd taken to wearing during their stay he walked barefoot out onto the white stone deck. Resting his hands on the wrought iron fence that separated their patio from the coral sands of the beach, he stretched out his back and sucked in a huge lungful of ocean air.
It smelled so fresh and clean here. Those early years of living in San Francisco with Silky had been quite different from the free and easy atmosphere of the beaches here in Santa Marta. Nothing compared to the sights, sounds and smells that were stimulating his senses on this warm summer morning. Even though they'd been in town for a few days—and even spent the previous afternoon out on the water, the smell of the ocean here still caused his nose to tingle. The white gulls on high were circling and complaining loudly, as though he were the one responsible for their breakfasts, while the nullifying sounds of the gentle surf washed up upon the shore not more than twenty feet from where he stood.
He closed his eyes and smiled, taking in three more deep breaths of the salty ocean air and felt his body both relax and become invigorated. He became aware of so many sensations; the cool stone beneath his feet, the wrought iron already becoming warm to the touch with the morning sun. The soft breeze gently playing with his hair. The gulls screaming overhead; loud and yet somehow soothing as well.
Heyes opened his eyes and smiled at the man standing on the sand in front of him. Heyes recognized him as one of the employees of the hotel.
“Good morning,” Heyes greeted him.
“Good morning, Senor. You arise early. Would you like me to bring breakfast to your room?”
“My wife is still asleep,” Heyes informed him quietly. “but some coffee here on the patio would be fine.”
“Si Senor. I will bring a carafe and two cups for when your senora awakens.”
The man turned and actually began to run back along the beach towards the servant's entrance of the hotel. Heyes watched him and marvelled at his agility. He'd obviously spent his lifetime running barefoot through these sands as he handled the slippery footing with ease and made excellent time. Heyes hoped he didn't attempt to run back while carrying a tray with coffee and cups upon it.
He sat down in one of the two comfortable wicker chairs and brought his feet up to rest upon the small foot stool while he waited for his coffee. It did not take long for the waiter to return and coming through the small gate and onto the deck, he discreetly averted his eyes and turned his back upon the open door so as not to intrude upon the privacy of the room. He set the tray down on the small side table and picking up an earthenware jug, he looked enquiringly at their guest.
“Do you take cream, Senor?”
“Yes,” Heyes nodded. “a little.”
Cream was poured, then another enquiringly look. “Sugar?”
Sugar bowl was set down, carafe picked up and coffee poured.
“Breakfast is being served until 10:00, Senor. You are welcome to join us down in el restaurante, or have it brought to your room.”
“Thank you,” Heyes responded. “I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know.”
The waiter nodded and taking the empty tray with him, he stepped back down onto the sands and quietly disappeared.
Heyes sighed again in appreciation of his returned solitude and picking up the cup, he allowed himself to savour his first sip of morning coffee.
Relaxing into a serene state of being, he took another sip of coffee, and allowed his mind to wander.
He remembered back all those years ago when he had been terrified of this. So afraid that the Kid would settle somewhere, take himself a wife and start a family, and Heyes would be alone. He didn't want a family. He wasn't capable of settling down. The wanderlust had him in its grip, and he couldn't imagine living life any other way. If Kid married and started a family, Heyes would have to move on—alone. He could see no other future for himself. And that scared him.
They'd come a long way, both him and Jed. They'd taken two different roads, but both had faced their own challenges and had needed the support of friends to help them through it. Heyes had to admit to himself that the road he had ended up on was not one he would have taken if he'd known the tribulations he would be facing. He would have run when he'd had the chance. Run out on their amnesty, run out on Lom. Maybe even run out on the Kid, in order to give him his own chance at amnesty, rather than face the road he had been forced down.
But if he had run, look at all these miracles he'd have missed out on.
If he hadn't gone to prison, then Sally would never have come into his life.
He would never have known Kenny, who, though more from a distance these days, had given him focus and something to latch onto as a way to give back.
David had saved both their lives and had also become a valued friend. Carol and Todd would probably still be living at the orphanage rather than having found a family to call their own. And Bridget would never have met Steven. Oh, and then there were Harry and Isabelle! Who would have thought? All of these things had happened, everything had rippled out from the core of that one violent unforeseen attack that had changed their lives forever. Now Heyes realized that it wasn't only his and Jed's lives that had been changed, but the lives of so many others as well. Old acquaintances and virtual strangers, all connecting and affecting one another.
Then there was the reconnection with Sister Julia, which had even taken him by surprise. And Dr. Slossom; what an amazing woman she was. All the things those two ladies had done to keep him going. True, if he hadn't been in prison he wouldn't have needed their support, but in needing them, he had come to value them, and allow his life to become richer for knowing them.
And Doc Morin. Oh Doc. A pinch of pain hit his heart when he thought of the Doc. All those nights of lying on his cot, staring up at a ceiling he couldn't see and wondering why this terrible fate had befallen him, pushing him to the very edge of destruction. Thinking back in retrospect, he wondered what he would have changed of those four and a half years, if he could have. Most things he would not have changed because of the good that had come from it; the people who had gathered around him, and kept him going; he valued those moments more now than he begrudged the hard times that had warranted them.
But the Doc? Of all the bad things which had happened during this time, that was the only one he still wished he could change. If only Doc could still be at the prison, drinking his whiskey and driving Kenny crazy with his cursing and foul temper. Nothing good, as far as Heyes could see, had come out of Doc's death. Except, well maybe... Carson had been brought to task, and Mitchell too. Not to mention Harris. If Doc hadn't died would they even have been looking in that direction?
Doc' death, and the terrible nightmares that had followed it, were what had pushed Heyes to look beyond the obvious—to dig deeper for the answers. If Doc hadn't died, would Harris still be on the loose? Would Mitchell still be running the prison? Heyes groaned and mentally shook his head. This was getting too stressful, and he was here to relax and think good thoughts.
What other good things happened because of his prison time? Well, Abi for sure. And Anya. He and Abi would never have reconnected. He would never have known where she was, or how she truly felt about him, because he would never have made the effort to try and find her. He would have continued to push her back into the recesses of his memory because the pain of her rejection and apparent disdain was just too much for him to bear looking at. There was still no promise that he would ever have a relationship with Anya, but at least now he know that Abi still loved him, and that she would do her best for their daughter.
In his mind he had done the honourable thing and eventually forgiven her for pushing him away, his response to her unexpected arrival at the Double J had instantly proved otherwise. Far from forgiving her, he had simply stopped acknowledging her, and rather than letting go of the hurt, and the anger she had brought to him, he had buried it. Denied his love for her, and denied the daughters they had together in order to hold on to his own pride.
He realized in hindsight how foolish he had been, and how selfish. Prison had turned out to be a penance he had to pay for more than just his life of crime, for more than just his insufferable claim of entitlement to take anything he wanted because life somehow owed him. It had been a deal he'd made, wittingly or not; with the fates, with God, with the living spirit that connected all things together. With whatever it is you wished to call it; he'd made a deal.
Pay the price for his foolishness, his cruelty, his irresponsible behaviour, and he'd be given the opportunity to set things right. Whether or not he did, was left entirely up to him. He still could have turned his back on Abi and Anya, using his anger and his pain like a shield protecting his ego and his wounded heart. Or he could choose to let it all go, and embrace that which had hurt him the most; to take her in his arms and help her to also heal, simply by letting go of pride, and allowing her to help him make it back to the light.
His reward for that was Abi's love, and the knowledge that her love for him had always been there. That pushing him away, and knowing that he would despise her because of it, had been one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do. That was her penance for daring to love him, but daring to love their daughter more. She accepted that fate, and would have carried the pain of it with her to the end of her days if he hadn't accepted his punishment.
And amazing Anya. Exhilarating and precocious. He smiled softly at the thought of her; of her dimpled smile and her dark brown eyes full of sparkle and mischief. His smile turned into a grin and then a quiet chuckle. If his four and a half years in prison were what bought him those few days with Anya, then the time had been well worth it. The paternal pride that had assaulted him upon the first viewing of that photograph had never left him. He would always feel pride in her; pride that he was her father and she his daughter, even if she wasn't ready to acknowledge that yet. She would in time.
Sweet, gentle Rebecca. The smile dropped from his face and a sadness pinched at his heart. Sitting there with his eyes closed and the aromatic ocean breeze gently caressing his hair, he could feel her in his arms. He could hear her cooing and laughing in that infectious, innocent way that only babies have, and his heart broke from the pain of love all over again.
And yet even the pain from that loss he saw now as another reward for his penance. To deny Abi meant denying Anya and Becky as well. The pain of Becky's death got shoved away along with the pain and anger of Abi's rejection, and that wasn't fair on any of them. To embrace one had finally allowed him to embrace all, and in doing so, finally being able to acknowledge and then let it go.
He'd never completely get over the pain of Becky's death, he knew that. He would always feel that ache of missing her, the regret that, as her father, he should have been able to save her. Just as Jed had felt the regret and impotent anger of not being able to save his first child. That was the role of the father, wasn't it? To provide and protect. It was instinct, it was primal. It could not be denied and therefore simply had to be accepted. Easier said than done, but still he had done it. With Anya's help, both he and Abi had been able to heal and move on to a more positive life.
Heyes was back to smiling again. He opened his eyes to the developing morning and took in another deep breath of air. He replenished his coffee cup and thought again about the pleasure that life was now giving to him. Or perhaps more appropriately, the pleasures that he had earned. How could he have been so afraid of this? Yes, he still had an itchy foot. He was never going to be a rancher or a banker or be able to work in an office—at least, not all the time. But that didn't mean he couldn't have roots in a community, that he couldn't marry and have a family.
His smile turned into a dimpled grin, made all the more noticeable now by the gradual addition of aging lines around his mouth. He didn't care. He was happier now than he'd ever been in his whole life. Looking back over the bumpy road that had brought him to this place, he again acknowledged that there was very little along the route that he would change. Everything was connected and it was what had brought him here.
A new baby on the way. Wow. Even though he'd fathered two children and was 'papa' to a third he knew that this forth time out was going to be a totally different experience. He was so looking forward to it, despite the occasional panic attacks that assailed him if he took the time to think about it all too deeply. After all, if Jed could do it, hey...everything was going to be fine.
He glanced over into the room when he heard the sounds of movement coming from the bed. Miranda rolled over and felt the empty space where her husband should have been. He heard her sigh deeply as though in resignation, that yet again, Hannibal was up with the birds and gone on an adventure. He waited patiently for her to become fully awake; and took that opportunity to appreciate the sensuous curves of her form underneath the thin cotton sheet.
He finally pulled his mind away from imagining her naked only to discover that he'd been found out. Her dark blue eyes were half open and giving him that dreamy bedroom look, while the corners of her lips were turned up in a knowing smile, as she silently laughed at him. He grinned like a little boy and raised his cup to her.
“Morning sleepy-head,” he said quietly. “Coffee's ready.”
Miranda closed her eyes and stretched, causing her husband to get distracted again.
“Hmm, coffee,” she moaned. “Sounds like a plan.”
She rose from the bed, and with Hannibal watching appreciatively she donned the white short sleeved blouse and colourful Mexican skirt she'd been wearing the day before. Heyes noted that she hadn't bothered with any undergarments as of yet, and he felt an instant arousal just knowing that there was nothing on underneath.
She stepped out onto the patio in her bare feet, and with a deep sigh, she sat down in the second wicker chair beside the little table.
“Oh, what a beautiful morning,” she commented contentedly as Han poured her a cup. “It's already so warm. What shall we do with the day?”
Heyes shrugged. “Let's just wait and see where the tide takes us. First on the agenda is breakfast.”
“But the beach is so lovely,” Miranda pointed out. “Let's go for a walk first, before it gets too hot. Then breakfast.”
“Alright.” Heyes was easy to please. “Have your coffee and we'll go for a walk.”
Half an hour later found the couple walking barefoot through the surf along the warm sands of the private beach. This section was reserved for the hotel guests only—and was still quite empty, so the couple felt at liberty to relax and enjoy themselves. Heyes rolled up the cuffs of his white cotton trousers and Miranda, copying the wisdom of the native ladies had pulled the back hem of her skirt through her legs and tucked it into the loose fitting waistband at her belly button. Heyes liked the new look.
They walked hand in hand, the gentle surf coming in and lapping around their ankles and the sea birds screeching overhead.
“This is such a beautiful place, Hannibal,” Miranda sighed as she gazed up at the gulls floating on the air. “It makes me want to stay here forever. No wonder you and Jed thought to retire here.”
“Hmm,” Heyes nodded. “I like this arrangement much better.” He brought his hand against the small of her back and slid it down to caress her free spirited rump. He turned in front of her, stopping her in her tracks, and took her into a passionate hug. He pulled her body to him, feeling her unhindered curves squishing up against him, and they kissed while the ocean breeze played gently with their clothing. “Hmm,” Heyes came up for air. “We should go back to the room.”
Miranda smiled up at him, feeling his interest peaking, knowing her playful antics were driving him to distraction—as was the intention.
“Yes,” she agreed. “But only to get our sandals.” She laughed at her husband's disappointed look. “I'm eating for two now, remember. I'm hungry!” Just to prove the point, her stomach grumbled loudly and she laughed even harder. “See?”
Heyes grimaced. “How romantic.”
“C'mon,” she said as she pulled away from his embrace and took his hand once again. “Let's go back. I need to eat!”
Heyes smiled as he allowed himself to be tugged back toward their room. “And here I thought I'd left the Kid back in Colorado.”
Out on their patio the couple laughed and played together as they brushed wet sand off of their calf's and ankles, and in between their toes. That done they moved into their suite and while Hannibal poured water into the wash basin for shaving, Miranda slipped into their own private lavatory to complete her own toiletry.
“Hannibal?” Miranda called to him from the other room. “Shall we order breakfast to be brought here, or do you want to go down to the restaurant?”
“Let's go down to the restaurant,” Heyes suggested as he scraped away under his chin, and then added in a mumble more to himself than his wife. “If we have it here it'll never get eaten.”
“What was that?”
“We'll go to the restaurant!”
“Okay. How do I look?”
Miranda twirled herself into the room and sent her husband a playfully seductive look. She had tied her long dark hair up into a bouncing pony tail and had stuck one of those floral hair pins onto the side of her locks to add even more colour to her attire. She had also released the hem of her colourful skirt so that it floated gracefully down around her ankles with every step she took.
Heyes smiled and wiped his face clean from excess shaving cream.
“You look like a bowl full of fruit,” he commented, then quickly added to avoid the rising assault; “but fruit that I could spend the rest of the morning eating my fill of.”
He moved in to reach for her waist, but she playfully jumped away from him.
“Oh no you don't!” she laughed at him. “You might be able to get by on 'fruit' for breakfast, but I need food! C'mon, let's go.”
She opened the inside door to the hallway just as Hannibal held out a hand to stop her.
“No wait!” he told her. “Haven't you forgotten something?”
Miranda looked confused for a moment. “What?” Then enlightenment dawned and her eyes lit up as she ran back into the suite. “You're right! My sandals!” She stooped over by the bed, grabbed her sandals and quickly slipped them on. “Can't go to breakfast in bare feet!”
“No not that!” Heyes protested as he quickly slipped on his own sandals.
Miranda turned back to face him. “What then?”
Heyes lowered his voice. “The way you're dressed,” he reminded her. “You're not....decent.”
Miranda looked insulted. “Not decent!?”
“Miranda you're not wearing any.....any undergarments.”
She smiled at him deliciously, a Hannibal Heyes twinkle in her eye. “I know. Isn't it naughty?” and with a laugh, she turned and ran down the hallway.
Heyes stood at their door, his mouth gaping and a groan coming to his lips. “Oh, you wicked woman.”
The hotel restaurant was open and airy for the breakfast crowd, not that it was very crowded now, most of the other guests having already broken their fast. The morning was heating up with every passing moment, but with the verandas all open to the sea breeze, it was still quite comfortable to sit and enjoy the morning break.
That is until the host approached the couple, and Heyes moved in to stand a little ahead of his wife, in an attempt to hide her 'nakedness' from prying eyes. He was feeling protective and territorial, so wouldn't hesitate to throw the first punch if any of the other men in the vicinity gave him reason.
The host simply smiled and escorted the couple to their table. He had stopped trying to understand Gringos years ago. Many of them behaved in this strange manner, especially where their women were concerned. He ignored it.
Heyes followed behind the host, his arm wrapped around his wife's waist to let it be known that she was his female, and the other males better not even think about moving in on him.
“Hannibal, don't be so silly,” Miranda reprimanded him. “Nobody's looking at us—unless it's to wonder at your odd behaviour. Nobody can tell.”
“Of course they can tell,” Heyes whispered in her ear. “How can they not tell? I can tell! Everything is loose and...bouncy.”
“You can tell only because you know I'm...naked underneath.”
“Shhh!” Heyes was at his wits end and he wondered how he was going to get through breakfast when he himself was anything but loose and bouncy. And he'd thought that coming to the restaurant for breakfast would be safer! “Sit down and stay sitting down.”
“Yes sir,” she teased him shamelessly.
“Here are your menus, Senor and Senora,” their host stated casually. “Shall I bring you coffee to start?”
“Yes please,” Heyes agreed. “Lots of coffee.”
“Oh my,” Miranda sat back and fanned herself with the menu. “No wonder the women here don't wear corsets. They'd suffocate. Aren't you getting warm Hannibal?”
“Yes,” Heyes stated pointedly. “You're doing this on purpose, because of last night.”
“Of course I am,” she admitted, sumptuously. “You were enjoying that woman's company far too much.” And unbuttoning the top two buttons of her light blouse, she leaned forward to give her husband an unobstructed view.
Heyes' eyes instantly went there. He sighed deeply, the breath suddenly gone from his lungs.
“Yes, well...” he whispered as he drank in the view. “She is an attractive woman.”
“Funny,” Miranda commented as she straightened up again. “I found her to be decidedly annoying.”
Heyes blinked as though coming out of a trance and forced his gaze to come up and look into his wife's eyes instead. She smiled at him, and he couldn't help but chuckle, and the chuckle grew into an outright laugh. He reached over, and taking her hand he lifted it to his lips and kissed it.
“I love you,” he whispered to her. “But you are an evil woman.”
Coffee arrived, and the couple sat back to receive the brown elixir of life. The waiter smiled discreetly, took their breakfast orders and retreated. Silence ensued as they each prepared their drinks to their tastes and took a first sip.
Miranda licked her moistened lips and smiled softly at her husband. Heyes' brow went up. She wasn't done yet. She was going to make him pay.
“I'm evil, am I?” she asked him, taking another sip of coffee. “With all the dalliances you've had in your lifetime? Maybe we need to compare notes.”
“Oh,” Heyes smirked playfully as he rose to the bait. “I'd only make you jealous.”
“Really? I'm intrigued,” Randi leaned forward, her breasts threatening to fall out of her partially opened blouse. “Why don't we begin with Mrs. Carruthers? Obviously you two have history.”
Heyes bit into his lip, his eyes once again drawn to below his wife's neck line. He did a quick scan of their immediate area and was relieved to note that no one was watching them. Indeed, their table was situation in the back, beside a large pillar so they had as much privacy as could be expected in a public restaurant. Heyes wondered briefly if his wife had somehow arranged this.
“No,” he answered her. “Nothing like that.”
“Oh come, Hannibal! The way you two were flirting?”
“We weren't flirting,” he insisted. “And besides, you seemed to be having a good evening yourself.”
“Yes. Senor Cordoba is an extremely handsome man. And since you were preoccupied...”
“Nothing happened between us,” Heyes repeated. “We were on the same coach from Yuma, and she was a pleasant distraction for the trip. I had other things on my mind, if you recall. I continued to court her attention in Santa Marta because I had begun to suspect her motives. Turns out, I was right.”
“Well, that was boring,” Randa pouted. “Come on, tell me of some of your exploits. What about when you and Jed were still outlaws? You must have had some interesting encounters then...”
“Randa, this is hardly the time and place...”
“Interesting conversation over breakfast,” she stated. “What's wrong with that?”
Breakfast arrived. The waiter placed the laden plates in front of them and again, discreetly removed himself from the conversation.
“Eat,” Heyes ordered, as he cut into his own meat and took a mouthful.
“Well, I already know you're good at that,” Randa commented.
Her husband stopped chewing and sent her a nasty look. “Randa!” Heyes just about choked on his mouthful. “What's gotten into you?”
“You,” she stated bluntly, then smiled sweetly. “We're in Mexico, it's our honeymoon. A wife has a right to know.”
Heyes swallowed. He sat back in his chair, took a sip of coffee and smiled at his love over the lip of his cup.
“Alright,” he agreed as he sat forward again and dug into his breakfast. “If you really want to know.”
Miranda nodded playfully. “Yes.”
“Okay. The first woman I...enjoyed...a meal with...was a prostitute named Lindy. I was sixteen. She was my first.”
“How sweet,” Randa commented. “A prostitute.”
Heyes sent her a look.
“Kind of hard to have a real relationship when you're drifting,” he reminded her. “I had a steady girlfriend or two while at Silky's place.”
“Or two?” she teased. “He allowed that?”
“No,” Heyes admitted and then smiled. “I'd sneak out at night and meet her down at the docks. “Often Jed came with me. He was a natural. He usually had more than one girl lining up for their turn.” he chuckled with reminiscence. “Actually, often they didn't bother to line up and we both had more than one to deal with at a time. That was interesting. Those girls from the wrong side of the tracks sure didn't have any inhibitions.”
“Really?” Miranda's brows went up. “You mean, you and Jed would have a group? All in one room?”
“Well,” Heyes shrugged. “It's not like we were all in the same hay pile. Believe me, we both had our own hands so full, we didn't have time to pay attention to what the other one was doing.”
“And your regular girlfriend didn't mind this?”
Heyes snorted. “Mind? They were her friends! She's the one who brought them.”
“My, my.” Miranda squirmed slightly as she tried to eat her breakfast.
Heyes grinned at her discomfort.
“It seems her friends didn't believe her when she told them of my attributes,” he bragged. “She had to bring them along so they could experience it for themselves.”
Miranda laughed, and almost snorted her coffee. “And Jed had his own little harem, as well?”
Heyes nodded. “Uh huh.” He became thoughtful. “After that, let's see...things kind of dried up for a while. I was on the move, just barely scraping out a living. When I had enough money for a prostitute, I'd indulge, but it wasn't very often. No, it wasn't until after I got in with a gang and had a bit more stability, that I was getting anything regular. Yeah. After we'd make a big haul, Plummer would set us loose in the whore house, and we'd really go to town. I tell you, those lovely ladies gave a whole new meaning to swinging from the chandeliers. “
Miranda's eyes bulged, and this time, she did snort her coffee. Heyes grinned wickedly.
“Oh my goodness!” Randa whispered. “I think I've wet myself.”
“Serves you right,” her husband commented. “Now, where was I? Oh yes, swinging from the chandeliers. Those were fun days.”
“Did you ever bring ladies up to your hideout?” Miranda asked, once she'd gotten herself composed.
“Yup,” Heyes nodded. “Sometimes Frank Plummer would bring up the whole lot of them. Of course, we each had our favourites. Yeah. I remember this one little girl, her name was Gilda. Wow. She couldn't have been more than fifteen, but she had everything where it counted, and man! Was she flexible. And she must have liked me too, because she let me have anything I wanted.”
“Really?” Miranda asked, her eyes alight with her own imagination. “What did you do?”
Heyes picked up one of his sausages, and stabbing it into the yoke of an egg, he stirred it around before lifting the dripping end and slowly licking the yellow off the piece of meat. He smiled as his wife wiggled in anticipation, and then stuffed the whole thing into his mouth and began to chew.
“Everything,” he mumbled with a lustful sigh.
Miranda forked one of her own sausages and began to nibble on it, as her eyes pleaded with her husband to continue.
“We even did it on horseback once...or was that twice?”
“Oh come on!” Miranda challenged him. “How in the world could you do it on horseback?”
“We found a way,” he said. “It was getting a little too crowded in the bunkhouse. We checked all the other out buildings, even the outhouse, but other fellas had beat me to them. Even the barn was busy. I saddled up my horse, thinking we could ride out to a quiet spot and have some time in private. Couldn't have been more than twenty minutes from the hideout, and Gilda decided she didn't want to wait any longer. She was sitting behind me on that horse, but that didn't stop her.”
Heyes stopped, and took in a deep breath. Miranda held a forkful of egg halfway to her mouth as she got caught up in the details. Her own breathing was beginning to quicken. Heyes smiled to himself and got ready to go for the kill.
“Next thing I know, Gilda, monkey that she was, grabbed onto the saddle horn and swung herself around so she ended up sitting backward, on that horse's neck. How she stayed on there, I have no idea. But she sure did. I think I dropped the reins, but that mare just kept trotting along.”
Miranda sat mesmerized, her eggs going cold as the rest of her heated up. Heyes leaned forward, his eyes glistening with excitement.
“I didn't care if I hurt her, you see. Well, cause, I wasn't the gentleman then, that I am now. Nope. That ole' mare got into the swing of things and picked up the pace, giving us a good hard trot. I was probably pushing her against the saddle horn, but she didn't seem to care.”
Miranda was grasping the sides of the table by this time, her breath coming in shallow gasps. Her eyes were wide with embarrassment as she began to squirm.
“Oh my...!” she breathed, hardly believing what was happening. “Oh my goodness! OH!...Oh!!”
Heyes sat back and smiled.
“Something wrong, Darlin'?”
Randa guiltily looked around the room to assure herself that no one had witnessed her episode. Only then did she allow herself to relax, and sit back in her chair.
“Oh dear,” she mumbled as her breathing slowly returned to normal. “It's going to be awkward getting back to our room now.”
“Hmm,” Heyes commented as he took a sip of coffee. “Anyway, that's pretty much the highlight. We still partook of prostitutes at Devil's Hole, but Jim never allowed women up to the hideout. So...” he shrugged. “Then it was Abi, and you already know that story.”
Miranda took a deep breath, as everything settled again.
“Oh my goodness,” she said. “Where is that waiter? I think I need more coffee.”
Heyes looked around, and catching the waiter's eye, held up his coffee cup.
“Si Senor,” the waiter smiled, ready to be of service. “More coffee for you?”
“Please,” said Heyes. “For both of us.”
“Of course.” The waiter collected up the empty plates and departed, but was soon back with the coffee pot. “I hope you enjoyed your breakfast, Senor.”
“Best I've had in a long time,” Heyes agreed.
“Amazingly good,” Miranda informed him, and began to laugh.
The waiter smiled as he poured their coffees, not sure what was meant by that. When in doubt, especially with these Gringos, simply nod and retreat. And he did.
Miranda took a deep, satisfying drink from her coffee, and her nerves began to settle down.
“You made that up,” she accused him, her previous playful mood returning. “I don't believe a single word. You'd hurt yourself, doing that!”
“What can I tell you? We were young.”
Miranda still looked skeptical.
“Fine, if you insist,” she relented. “So, then there was Abi.”
“No. I told you. Nothing ever happened between me and Allie,” Heyes insisted. “She was too young.”
“Oh, and your little trollop in San Francisco wasn't?”
“That was different.”
Heyes sighed. “Semantics,” he clarified. “Allie was too young, emotionally. Deanna was...very mature.”
“So, you mean to tell me, that after you became this infamous, handsome and romantic outlaw, the only women you could get to lay with you were prostitutes?”
“No!” Heyes was insulted.
Miranda looked the enquiry as she nibbled on her toast.
Heyes' expression turned inwards, and he smiled with fond recollection.
“Well, there was Julia,” he said. “She was sweet. We started out under the boughs of a big old tree, but we ended up inside a cave, with the sound of water dripping all around us. It was chilly in there, and damp. Bunch of dead Indians all over the place. But, ohh that proper English lady knew how to heat things up.
“Now Grace, she was kind of a cold fish, and it was more part of a job, than anything more. Still, I'll never look at a blackjack table the same way again.” He grinned, and his dimples dug in deep. “Ahh Leslie! What a firecracker. That water tower creaked and groaned, but it stayed up. Yeah. The hardest part was climbing down afterwards. Then of course, there was Amy. Ah, not the Amy you know. No. This one was a brunette. She was a school teacher. Now her I could have settled down with for awhile, but as it was...” he shrugged. “I wonder if she ever got those stains out of that bookcase...”
“Oh come on!” Miranda was doubly sceptical now. “You're making all this up.”
“Nope,” Heyes insisted. “Why, all those lovely ladies couldn't wait to show me their virtues. See how blessed you are?”
“Oh, I almost forgot about Blanche,” Heyes continued, enjoying the roll he was on. “She was interesting, and a little bit dangerous.”
“Really.” Miranda cocked a cynical brow. “And what made Blanche so dangerous?”
“She'd murdered her husband,” Heyes explained. “Cleaned out the estate and disappeared down here, into Mexico. The authorities knew she had done it, and when they eventually found out where she was, they hired us to entice her back across the border.” He shrugged. “I had to get her to trust me, or at least to think that I trusted her.”
“So this woman, who had murdered her husband, and was safe and sound in Mexico, risked everything by coming back into the States—for you?”
“No, not exactly,” Heyes admitted. “It was dangling $20,000 under her nose that did it.”
Miranda's jaw dropped in surprise.
“You told her who you and Jed were?”
“Hmm, we hinted,” Heyes clarified. “We set the bait, and she grabbed at it.”
“So she actually followed you back up, across the border?”
“Hmm,” Miranda sat back and frowned. “That wasn't very gentlemanly; bedding a woman in order to trap her.”
“She bedded me, in a sense, knowing her true intentions were to turn me in for the reward money,” Heyes pointed out. “I have no qualms about that. Besides, it gave us some real fond memories of that saloon she briefly owned. Surprising what uses you can find for a spigot, once you put your mind to it.”
“What a ham!” she accused him. “Is there anything out there you haven't tried?”
“Well, yes,” Heyes admitted. “A couple of the fellas in prison had some suggestions, but I let them know I wasn't interested.”
Miranda frowned, her playfulness disappearing.
“Eww, really?” she asked. “I hadn't thought of that. But, I suppose, under the circumstances...”
She sighed deeply and partook of another calming drink of coffee.
“Yeah well,” Heyes continued, watching his wife, and timing his remark perfectly. “Under the circumstances, I'd rather make love to myself. At least I knew I could trust the person holding onto my merchandise.”
Miranda was caught by surprise. She snorted, laughed, choked and then snorted again, as coffee squirted from her nose. She grabbed her napkin and quickly tried to stem the flow.
“You rat!” she exclaimed once she had her breath back. “You did that on purpose!”
“You were asking for it,” Heyes accused her, and then his dimples took over. “Besides, you always catch me flatfooted. It was time I got you back.”
The smile he got back from her was mischievous. Heyes sat back and bit into his lower lip in contemplation. He had a feeling this wasn't over yet.
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: Re: Reflections Fri Oct 09, 2015 5:59 pm|| |
It seemed to take forever to get back to their room. Hannibal had his hand placed in the small of Miranda's back, and was pushing her along until her walk quickened, and her loose breasts bounced deliciously underneath the light summer material. She was laughing as they turned the corner, and seeing a clear access to their room door down at the end of the hall, she broke into a run.
Hannibal came after her, trying to dig out the key to their room so they could get to their privacy that much quicker. When Heyes arrived there, Miranda's eyes and cheeks were alight with her arousal, and he fumbled with the key.
“Damn!” he cursed in a whisper, but was finally inserted the object into the keyhole and pushed open their door. They tumbled into the room, laughing and kissing one another as Heyes gave the door a kick and slammed it shut. He noticed that their veranda doors were uncovered, and people were walking along the beach outside the window. He extricated himself from his wife and quickly moved over to the double doors, and pulled the curtains over to hide their upcoming activities.
When he turned back around, Miranda had gone through his baggage and had retrieved one of his belts that had still been looped through his heavier trousers. She smiled at him with a wild glint in her eye, and bit seductively into her lower lip. Heyes felt his temperature rise. She had such lovely lips.
“Do you trust me?” she asked innocently.
He smiled suspiciously.
“You are being outrageous today. What do you have in mind?”
She grinned and motioned over to one of the chairs that was set next to the small lunch table.
“Have a seat,” she cooed. “and I'll show you.”
Two naked bodies lay desecrated and spent upon the battlefield that was the bed. Hannibal sat with his back resting against the headboard, while Miranda was lying flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling but without really seeing it. They seemed to be in a state of shock.
That was the wildest romp they'd ever had. Better than their wedding night, knowing that Sally was probably awake in her new room, just down the hall. Better than when Hannibal had returned from tracking Karma's lineage, and he was still anxious of causing harm to the new pregnancy. Granted, he had eventually relaxed, so that had turned into a lusty romp too, but this one had put it to shame. Wow.
“We should probably get up,” Heyes mumbled as he didn't move.
“Hmm,” came the unenthusiastic response.
“I think it's getting close to dinner time.”
Situated at the northernmost tip of the Sea of Cortez, the resort town of Santa Marta was protected from the unpredictable winds and harsher tropical storms that the open ocean would have sent their way. This made the location ideal as a resort town, and it hadn't taken long before wealthy Americanos had found their way South to enjoy what the town had to offer.
Keeping that in mind, it should not have come as a surprise to Heyes, that someone not of Mexican decent, scooted around the mariachi player, in order to approach Heyes with the inevitable question.
“Excuse me,” the extremely young man politely intruded on their supper. “I don't wish to be rude, but I just had to take this opportunity as it presented itself.”
Heyes instantly felt ornery at another male entering into the zone of his scantily clad wife, while Miranda smiled cheekily at her husband's discomfort. Fortunately, Randa had purchased more than one outfit suitable for the warm coastal evenings, but this one was even more revealing than the previous one had been. Heyes, still feeling brutish after their highly sexual afternoon, glanced up at the intruder, ready to do battle, until he encountered a look of total innocence and awe. He stared into the eyes of this young man who was not yet into his twentieth year and obviously embarrassed at intruding upon them, yet determined, as he had said, to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.
“You're Mr. Heyes aren't you?” the boy asked nervously. “Hannibal Heyes?”
Heyes gave a resigned sigh and locked gazes with his wife. Miranda smiled and shrugged. Obviously, even here in Mexico, they couldn't get away from her husband's infamous past.
“What can I do for you, son?” Heyes asked, trying to sound polite.
“Oh no, nothing,” the 'son' assured the ex-outlaw and sent a nervous smile and nod to Miranda. “Ma'am.”
Randa smiled back at him, accepting the greeting, and the young man's eyes returned to his true focus.
“I just wanted to come over and meet you officially,” he continued, almost wringing his hands. “You see, I've seen you before, ah on a train. Though I didn't know who you were at the time, and I'm sure you don't remember me.”
Inwardly, Heyes sighed with boredom. Another passenger on a train they'd robbed. Though this young man would have been just a boy at the time.
“Yes, I'm sorry,” Heyes came out with the usual disclaimer. “We stopped so many trains, I really don't remember....”
“Oh, no no,” the young man corrected him. “This wasn't a train you stopped, Mr. Heyes. You see, I was just a young lad at the time, and I was travelling to Wyoming with my parents, when you were brought on board in chains...”
The young man's voice trailed off while the blood drained from Heyes' face He stared up at the intruder, his mouth slightly agape in his astonishment.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Heyes,” the man instantly backed off. “I shouldn't have....I just didn't think....I'm sorry. I shouldn't have intruded. Ma'am.” He tipped his head to Miranda and prepared to retreat.
“No no,” Heyes stood up, catching him by the arm and stopping him from leaving. “No, that's fine. You took me by surprise, that's all.” Heyes shook his hand before the man could take in what was happening. “You already know my name. What's yours?”
“Umm, Nathaniel, Mr. Heyes,” he responded. “Nathaniel Brenner.”
“Oh, well. Nice to meet you. This is my wife, Miranda.” Heyes introduced her. “Are you here on your own? Have you had breakfast yet?”
“Um yes, I have eaten,” Nathaniel admitted. “I'm actually here with my parents. My father has business in town, so we came with him to enjoy the sights. That's them over there.”
He sent a vague gesture over towards another table where a middle-aged couple were sitting and intently watching the proceedings.
“Ah.” Heyes nodded a greeting to them. “Would they mind if you sat and joined us for a few moments?”
“Oh!” Nathan smiled, feeling very honoured. “No sir, they won't mind.”
“Good. Have a seat. Would you like some coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Heyes beckoned the waiter and another cup and carafe soon put in an appearance.
“So,” Heyes coughed slightly. “Ahh, I actually do remember you,” he admitted. “In fact, you left quite an impression on me.”
Nathan gave a sardonic laugh. “I'm sure,” he said. “I'm sorry about that. It was very rude. But I was just a boy, and it was my first train ride. Still, it was bad manners, pointing my toy gun at you like that. As if you didn't have enough worries. You looked like you were carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. You didn't need some child playing games at a time like that. My mother was always telling me it was bad manners, but you know what children can be like.”
Heyes grinned. “Yeah. But I didn't mind.”
“It was so amazing,” Nathan continued. “You were like a larger than life character stepping out of a dime novel. I didn't know who you were at that time, but I was certain you had to be someone dangerous to be shackled the way you were, with all those lawmen and guns surrounding you. For a boy of ten it was simply the thrill of a lifetime. I never forgot it.
“I remember; none of my friends believed me. They were sure I was making it all up. I was too young to know anything about the trials or what happened to you after that. My parents knew about it, but if they connected that incident on the train with the trials of two notorious outlaws, they never mentioned anything to me about it. Probably thought I was too young.
“But I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Heyes, that incident changed my life. It inspired me. After that my interest in 'the Wild West' grew beyond that of even the most imaginative child. I started reading everything I could about western lore; about the lawmen and the outlaw bands of old Wyoming and Montana.
“Even at that, it was a few years before I connected the exploits of the Devil's Hole Gang with the man I saw being brought on board that train in chains. But then I started putting it all together. The date and location of your arrest. The manner of your transportation to Wyoming. The time of your trial. It all worked. It all fell into place, and suddenly I knew beyond a doubt, that the man I'd seen that night had been none other than Hannibal Heyes himself.
“As soon as I realized that, I knew I would meet up with you again some day. I had to. I had to let you know how seeing you that night changed my life. The history of the West has become my passion and I've already been accepted into college back East to study Western History. Actually that's another reason why we're here; to have one more family vacation before I head back East in the fall.”
“Really?” Heyes commented dryly. “Suddenly, I'm feeling old. I'd never thought of myself as being a part of western history.”
“Oh,” Nathan looked worried, thinking that perhaps he had insulted his hero.
“No, that's alright,” Heyes quickly assured him. “I'm pleased to hear that some good things came from that journey. Actually, in the long run, more than I would ever have thought possible.” And he smiled over at his wife.
“Yessir,” Nathan agreed, though not fully understanding Heyes' meaning. “I was very happy to hear about your parole, Mr. Heyes. When I was old enough to understand the sentence that had been given to you, I could hardly believe it.”
“Tell me about it,” Heyes grumbled, but then smiled to soften the comment. “But thanks to good friends, things have all worked out. I'm married now, as you know. And have a family. I also have a number of business opportunities on the go, so life is pretty good.”
“I'm glad to hear that,” Nathan said, then bit his lower lip and stared into his coffee cup. Heyes and Miranda exchanged a smile, knowing the signs of something more to come. “That kind of brings up my next question,” the young man continued, hesitantly. “You see, I was hoping that...if you wouldn't mind...since meeting you in the first place is what sent me on my life's path...if I could use your story as my thesis...”
“What...?” Once again Heyes was stopped in his tracks.
Miranda covered a smile with her hand, but her dancing eyes laughed at her husband as he scrambled to find his footing.
“Yessir...I mean if you wouldn't mind,” Nathan was on a roll now. “To be able to come full circle like that. To start my thesis from the time of your arrest, and my actually being there on that train, all the way through your years in prison, and then to how your life moves on after that. It would be an amazing thesis—probably the best one from my year. And if I knew I could count on your support, why, I could start on it right away. I'd already have my topic picked out and be ahead of the game before I even start classes. I have a number of years to write it, of course, but it can't hurt to get started on the research early on. I doubt there would be any problem with this topic being acceptable as my thesis, and nobody else would even be able to come close to having something...”
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Heyes put up his hands in surrender. “You mean you want to write your thesis—your Master's Degree in Western History, with me as your topic?”
“Yes.” Nathan looked at Heyes as though that should be obvious.
Heyes sighed and sat back in his chair, feeling slightly stunned.
“You always claimed to be the best,” Miranda pointed out as she continued to laugh at him.
“Well I know, but...”
“You were the best,” Nathan supported the claim. “You still are the best. Anyone who studies the Wyoming outlaws knows that.”
Heyes grinned triumphantly at his wife. “See. I am the best.”
Miranda gave a most un-lady-like snort and placed a hand on Nathan's arm. “You realize he already has a swelled head,” she told the young man. “Now he's going to be completely insufferable.”
Heyes was grinning from ear to ear. “Just wait until I tell the Kid.”
“Does that mean, you agree?” Nathan was hardly allowing himself to believe. “You're willing to do it?”
“I'm all for furthering a young man's education,” Heyes told him, then sent his wife a quick look when she no longer even tried to hide her amusement.
“That's great!” Nathan was suddenly all animated. “You have no idea how much this means to me. I hardly dared to hope...”
“Would you and your folks care to join us for breakfast in the morning?” Heyes asked him. “We can discuss the details and get better acquainted.”
“Yessir,” Nathan agreed. “I'm sure we can do that.”
“Okay,” Heyes stood up with the young man and shook his hand again. “See you back here around 8:00.”
Heyes sat back down and sent an innocent look over to his wife.
“What?” he asked of the look that was sent his way.
“You're loving this!” she accused him. “'All for furthering a young man's education'! My naked backside—you're lapping this up!”
Heyes grinned. “Speaking of your naked backside...”
That evening, Hannibal and Miranda sat outside on their veranda, enjoying an after dinner drink while watching the sun go down.
“Why did the waiter ask if you wanted a worm in your bottle of tequila?” Miranda asked, as they sat together, holding hands.
“It's tradition,” he informed her. “In the tavernas in town, they wouldn't even ask. To serve tequila, without a live worm in the bottle, would be an insult.”
“Argh!” Miranda grimaced. “I suppose it's a matter of male pride as to who gets to swallow the thing?”
Miranda rolled her eyes. Men were such strange creatures.
“Well,” Miranda settled into her chair with a contented smile and took a sip of her white wine. “Junior and I are quite happy to do without the worm.”
Heyes squeezed her hand.
They sat that way for some time, looking out over the ocean, and watching the changing colors gradually take it over. Miranda had never felt so contented. The sun sank, its bright reflection leaking out over the waves as the sky went from bright blues, to oranges and reds and then to purples. They didn't even notice the higher sky darkening as evening overtook the seascape, and before long, stars started to twinkle and the ocean air took on a slight chill.
“It's so beautiful,” Miranda murmured. “So peaceful on the surface. Who would think there was so much drama going on under the waves? What an incredible experience that was. William never wanted to do things like that.” She squeezed Hannibal's hand, and gave it a gentle shake until he glanced over at her. “Thank you.”
“You're welcome,” he returned. “And I thank you as well.”
“For what?” she asked.
“Oh...well, let's see...for taking the hand of a man who was a broken wretch, who was lost and beyond hope. And for smiling at him. For loving me, and yet still being willing to be my friend. For backing off and giving me room to find myself. For accepting me. For marrying me. For tolerating my previous lovers. For accepting my children, Sally and Anya. For accepting my seed, and nurturing our child. Thank you for being my wife.”
Miranda's throat tightened on her, and for a few moments, she couldn't answer. She turned away and watched the bright stars twinkle and become brighter as the night sky darkened. Tears formed in her eye, which she tried to hide, because she never did go for that mushy, sentimental nonsense. She sniffed, and Hannibal smiled over at her through the darkness, and it was his turn to squeeze her hand.
“I love you,” he said.
Miranda nodded and took a deep breath to get control of her emotions.
“I love you too,” she told him. “You're the best thing that ever happened to me. And look; as a monument to our happiness, here comes the moon.”
They both looked out to the hidden horizon, and sure enough, a bright full moon was on the rise, taking its turn to spread its luminous reflection upon the gentle waves. The sound of those waves, gently washing up upon the soft sand, combined with the ambiance of the ocean air, added to this surreal evening of Hannibal and Miranda Heyes, sitting on a beach in Santa Marta, Mexico, having a drink.
The next morning, Heyes and Miranda entered the open-air restaurant, in anticipation of breakfast.
“Table for two, Senor?”
“Ah, no,” Heyes told him, as he scanned the occupied tables. “We're actually meeting...oh, there he is.”
The host turned—and noticed a young man in the far corner, stand up and wave to the new arrivals.
He smiled as he picked up two menus and led the couple over to the table in question.
Nathan, who was still standing, reached out his hand to shake Heyes'.
“Good morning,” he said, hardly containing his excitement at seeing his hero again. “Please, sit down.”
“Don't rush the man, Nathan,” the father told his son, and he stood up to shake hands as well. “Good morning. I'm Carl Brennan, this is my wife Chloe.”
“How do you do,” Heyes smiled and shook hands. “Han Heyes, and my wife, Miranda.”
“Please, do sit down,” Carl invited them. “Coffee?”
“Oh yes!” Heyes accepted enthusiastically.
“Yes, thank you,” Miranda agreed, and smiled at her own husband's level of excitement.
Nathan sat down himself—and with eyes sparkling, darted looks back and forth between Heyes and his father. He was oh so hopeful that they would get along. They were, after all, of similar ages, so surely they would connect on some level. Heyes smiled, recognizing the discomfort of the couple sitting across from him. He turned on his charm and took control of the conversation.
“I understand that your son is leaving for school soon,” Heyes began. “and that he wants to write about me in his thesis.”
“Ah, yes,” Carl agreed. “That is you, isn't it?” he continued, not really sure if he wanted to be in the company of the infamous outlaw. But his son had been so excited at the chance meeting the day before, that he couldn't refuse the invitation. “You are Hannibal Heyes?”
Heyes grinned. “Yes, Mr. Brenner. I'm Hannibal Heyes.”
Both Carl and Chloe took deep breaths and sat back in their chairs.
“Oh my goodness,” Chloe breathed. “Oh, our apologizes, Mr. Heyes. When Nathan here said that he recognized you, we thought for sure that he was mistaken. You simply don't look like an outlaw.”
“Yes,” Heyes commented. “I have been told that before. Unfortunately the State of Wyoming knew better.”
“Yes,” Carl agreed, and the mood sobered. “I'm sorry we didn't recognize you. We didn't see you come on board the train that night. I suppose my wife and I were asleep.”
Heyes nodded. “Most of the passengers were. I think that was part of the plan. The fewer people awake to recognize me, the less confusion and likelihood of a confrontation. Morrison had everything planned down to smallest detail.”
“Morrison?” Chloe asked.
“The sheriff who arrested him, Ma,” Nathan put in. “You remember, the big, mean-looking man.”
“Oh yes,” Chloe recalled. “I'm sorry, Mr. Heyes. As my husband said, we didn't realize you were sitting behind us, and it wasn't until you were taken off the train that we paid any attention to you at all. One couldn't help but notice though, as they were leading you past us. All those guns, and chains. Heavens! One would have thought that you were some kind of notorious criminal.”
Heyes and Miranda both stopped half way through a coffee sip, and stared at the woman sitting across from them. Nathan rolled his eyes.
“He was a notorious criminal, Ma!” the young man reminded her. “That's why I want to write my thesis on his life and career.”
“Oh! Yes, of course. Oh look, here's the waiter to take our orders!”
Despite awkward first impressions, the meeting ended up settling into a pleasant conversation. Chloe Brenner's initial anxiety, over meeting this 'outlaw', quickly melted away, once she had a taste of his charm and casual wit. The lovely Miranda was also easy to talk to, and her presence helped to dispel any qualms that the Brenners' might have had over their son's choice of topic.
“I must admit,” Carl stated, once breakfast was done and they were sitting back with another round of coffee. “my wife and I were rather concerned with our son's infatuation with the criminal element in the West, and with you in particular, even though he didn't understand who you were at the time. That encounter on the train was enough to set his imagination on fire, and he wouldn't let up on it. We tried to keep all information about you, away from him. But I'm afraid he's too bright a lad for that. I hope you understand. We were afraid that once he connected the outlaw, Hannibal Heyes, with the man on the train, that he would put you up on a pedestal, and that he might perhaps try to follow in your footsteps.”
Heyes glanced over at Nathan—and found that young man avoiding his eyes, and looking painfully embarrassed by his father's admittance.
“I understand,” Heyes assured the father. “But as you say, Nathan here is an extremely intelligent young man, and I'm sure he realizes that no outlaw deserves to be put on a pedestal. And he certainly doesn't deserve to be emulated. Isn't that right, Nathan?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Heyes. My interest is purely academic.”
“But,” Chloe quietly put in. “from what our son has told us about you, you are also a very intelligent man, and yet, you chose that life for yourself.”
Miranda smiled, and gently placed her hand on her husband's knee. She knew these types of comments were difficult for him. It was one thing to have made mistakes, but quite another to be constantly reminded of them.
Heyes took a deep breath.
“Yes,” he agreed. “And I paid dearly for it. More dearly than you'll know.” Then he smiled and looked over at Nathan then returned his gaze to the parents. “Although, perhaps you will come to know. If your son and I are going to collaborate on this venture, I suppose I will have to divulge all.”
“I hope so,” Nathan responded emphatically. “If not, then what would be the point?”
“Exactly,” Heyes agreed. “And on that note, how do you intend to proceed?”
“Well,” Nathan bit reflectively into his lower lip. “Once I get to school, I will start gathering information about you right away. Although, I probably already have most of it. But I will get it in order, and try to fill in gaps. Then, when school breaks for the spring, I would like to meet up with you and confirm the information I have. But I would really like you to fill in the gaps. You know, the personal things, the things that don't go into the newspaper articles, or on prison records. You know what I mean?”
“Yes, I know,” Heyes agreed. “And if your parents are agreed, you're welcome to come stay with us next summer. It's going to be a busy household, but I can't think of a better way for you to get to know us.”
“Oh,” Nathan perked up, then cast a glance over to Miranda. “Is that alright with you, ma'am?” he asked her.
Miranda sighed—and sent her husband an arched look. A little heads-up would have been appreciated.
“I'm sure we'll manage,” she commented. “The Jordans have plenty of room, if our place get's too busy for you.”
“Too busy?” Nathan asked.
Hannibal and Miranda smiled at each other, the love between them shining for all to see.
“We have a nine year old daughter,” Miranda explained. “She's very unusual.”
“But sweet,” Hannibal added. “I'm sure you'll get along with her fine.”
“Nine years old?” Chloe asked, confused. The numbers weren't adding up.
“She's adopted,” Heyes clarified, feeling that he might as well get used to divulging their personal history. He had a feeling that once Nathan started to dig, he wasn't going to get away with hiding anything. “I did some talks at the orphanage near the prison while I was incarcerated. Sally was one of the children in the care of the Sisters there. Once I gained my release, and Miranda and I decided to wed, we adopted her.”
“Oh how sweet!” Chloe gushed. “What a blessing to you both.”
“We are also expecting another child to be joining us in February,” Miranda disclosed. “And since we have yet to meet this one, we have no idea what to expect.”
Carl arched a brow.
“Another child?” he asked. “From the same orphanage?”
Again, a pleased glance passed between the expectant couple. Chloe gasped as the full meaning hit her between the eyes.
“What?” asked Carl.
“Oh Carl! Don't be so obtuse,” his wife reprimanded him. “They're...well, she's...she's...in the family way.”
“In the family...? Oh! Harrumph. Oh I see. Well, congratulations, Mr. Heyes. Yes. Err, well done.”
“Thank you,” Heyes accepted the awkward compliment in the spirit it was given. “It's going to be an experience.”
“Yes!” Chloe agreed emphatically. “And quite an eye-opener for you, young man.”
“Me!?” Nathan looked surprised at having been singled out.
“Yes,” his mother continued. “This will give you first-hand experience of what it's like to have a family, before you go making that decision for yourself.”
“Oh, Ma,” Nathan cringed. “I'm too busy for that.”
The mother smiled and nodded her head knowingly. Young men are never too busy for that.
Heyes gave his throaty chuckled, and Miranda smiled, pleased that everyone was getting along. It bode well for next summer.
“So!” Carl suddenly announced. “It seems we have everything worked out then.”
“Yes,” Heyes agreed, then reached into his shirt pocket and extracted a folded piece of paper. “Here, Nathan. This is my address in Colorado, just in case you need to get in touch for anything. Either a telegram or a letter, it'll reach me here.”
Nathan accepted it, though showed some concern.
“Is there no telephone in your town?” he asked, hopefully.
“Telephone,” Heyes repeated. “Ahh, no.” And sent an enquiring glace to his wife.
“I don't think so,” she confirmed. “Unless one was installed while we've been away.”
“I highly doubt that,” Heyes gave his opinion. “Especially with everything else that's been going on up there this month. No time to be putting in telephones. Although, perhaps by next summer, we might just have one in town.”
“Yes,” Carl commented dryly. “They are quite the thing. I predict that soon all towns will have at least one telephone available. It's changing the whole world of communications.”
“Hmm,” Heyes grumbled. “Makes it pretty hard to get away with anything, anymore.”
Miranda laughed and gave him a slap on the arm.
“Senor Cordoba,” Heyes extended his hand for shaking. “Thank you for for making our stay in your town a pleasant one. I'm sure we'll be back again, sometime. Perhaps when our children are older, and can join us.”
“Of course,” Cordoba agreed pleasantly. “It would be an honor to meet them. Senora,” and again, he took her hand and gave a slight bow in farewell. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey.”
“I'm sure we will, Senor Cordoba,” she responded. “But Santa Marta is such a lovely town, it's hard to leave.”
“You are always welcome to come back,” Cordoba assured her. “I'm sure we will still be here.”
Cordoba turned and walked away to carry on with his day, and Miranda smiled appreciatively at the fine figure of the retreating male.
Heyes cocked a brow at her.
“I think it's time we boarded the stage.”
“Yes!” Miranda agreed. “The driver was just finishing loading up the luggage when I came in to get you. We should be off.”
“Oh, good heavens! Yes. We don't want to miss this stage again.”
Miranda took her husband's arm as they hastily retreated from the stage depot and approached the waiting stage itself.
“The only thing I don't understand,” Miranda continued. “Is why are we taking the coach back to Yuma? Isn't that asking for trouble?”
“Not as much trouble as travelling by coach through the Mexican border towns,” Heyes pointed out. “All border towns can be rough, but the ones south of the border are downright dangerous. Don't worry, we'll only be in Yuma overnight, then we'll catch the train going East to Red Rock.”
“If you say so,” Miranda commented dubiously. “Personally, I think I'd rather face the Mexican banditos than come head to head with Shandal again.”
Heyes smiled as he opened the coach door for his wife to step in.
“Don't worry,” he assured her. “The chances of running into anyone we don't want to, in the short time we'll be there, are next to...none...”
Heyes had just sat down beside his wife, and the words that had been streaming out of his mouth came to a grinding halt. The young lady sitting across from them—caught her breath with delight, and her eyes sparkled with laughter.
“Miranda!” Lois exclaimed, excitedly. “How wonderful to see you! I almost didn't recognize you in your local costume. My, but the colors do suit you! Don't they suit her, Cedric? I thought we'd missed you during our stay in Santa Marta! I would have thought that in such a small town, we would have met up eventually—but no! We must have always just been missing one another. But no matter. Now we get to spend the whole day in the coach, riding back to Yuma together! We can tell one another all about our adventures.”
“Oh.” Miranda finally got her voice back. “Lois. How lovely. Cedric.”
Cedric didn't say anything. He and Hannibal had locked eyes, and neither one was anticipating an enjoyable journey back up to Yuma.
To Be Continued
|Subject: Re: Reflections || |