Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Ouch! Sat Jan 23, 2016 8:11 am|| |
This is the follow up to Easiest $500 job
Ouch!“Y’know we’re being followed, right?” the Kid said, suddenly as he and Heyes rode along.
“Yep. Picked him up about ten miles back.”
“Coincidence? That he jus’ so happens to be going our way?”
Heyes pursed his lips. “Possibly. He’s making no effort to catch up an’ he don’t look like he would cause us any trouble if he did.”
“He don’t look that comfortable on that horse neither.”
“He looks like an Easterner.”
“No cause to be prejudiced Heyes. Not everybody can be born in the saddle like we was.”
“What say we stop for a spell and let him catch up?”
Heyes shrugged. “Sure. This saddle is getting a little hard anyways.”
The Kid pointed to a few shady trees a little way off.
They rode off the trail in that direction. They leisurely dismounted and saw to their horses. Heyes stretched his back, twisting his torso left and right, back and forth, hands on hips. At the same time, he was keeping an eye on the rider coming up the trail behind them.
The man was young and wore spectacles. He was wearing a brown suit and derby.He wasn’t wearing a gun but he carried a rifle below the saddle. The horse he rode was frisky and wanted to run. It wasn’t happy at a slow walk and the man had constantly to keep it in check.
He rode on by, glancing in their direction and nodded.
Heyes smiled and raised his hand. “Howdy.”
As soon as he was out of sight around a bend in the trail, Heyes moved to where the Kid was checking his horse’s hooves.
“Coincidence?” the Kid asked, looking up as he bent over. Heyes had his hands on his hips and looked thoughtful.
“Possibly.” Heyes growled. “Awh! Perhaps I’m just a little jumpy.” He paused. “Hairs on the back of my neck won’t lie still though,” he frowned, glancing at the trail ahead.
“Well he’s in front now. Guess we’ll be following him,” the Kid said, cheerfully.
“Y’know Kid, sometimes you astound me with your brilliant insights!” Heyes pursed his lips thoughtfully, ignoring the glare the Kid gave him.
Fifteen miles later, they had reached their destination, Bottle Town. Curious name due to the shape of it. Just a single main street. Buildings on each side, two rows deep, with just a single row each side for a distance at one end. If they could see it from the air, it would look like a bottle. That wasn’t it’s real name of course. That was Butler Ville but the locals preferred to call it Bottle Town.
They checked into the hotel, had a bath and ate dinner. Followed by two hours in the saloon, playing poker. An ideal end to a leisurely day. Being careful not to win too much and attract attention, they settled for an early night.
“Jus’ gotta take care of business. You go ahead,” the Kid said, at the bottom of the stairs.
Heyes nodded and climbed the stairs alone.
As soon as he stepped into the room, he felt the presence. Before he could turn, something cracked his skull and everything went black.
The Kid walked into the room a few minutes later. Heyes was sitting up in bed, already asleep, head over one shoulder. The Kid smiled. Heyes would have a stiff neck in the morning. Then he lost his smile when he heard a small sound behind him. His hand flashed to his gun and he started to spin round. Then something hit him and he knew no more.
The Kid blinked his eyes open and frowned. He was lying on his bed, fully clothed. His head hurt. Strange. He didn’t think he had had that much to drink last night. Then he put a hand to the back of his head and winced. No. Definitely not that much!
“I’ve got news for you,” Heyes said. “It gets worse.”
The Kid sought him out. Heyes was sitting on a chair by the side of the washstand. He was holding a wet towel to the back of his head. He looked pale and shaky.
“What happened?” the Kid asked.
“Dunno. Someone was here in the room last night when I came back. Knocked me out cold. You too I reckon.”
“Why?” The Kid started. “What’s missing?” He looked around frantically and sighed in relief when he saw his gun and belt hanging over the back of the bed.
“Nothing as far as I can tell. Someone’s been through our stuff though.”
The Kid blinked and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He winced and felt the back of his head again.
“Sure hit me hard, whoever it was.”
“Yeah me too. Someone who knew what they were doing too I reckon.”
“But why? We ain’t got nothing of value,” the Kid groaned and looked at Heyes.“Have we?”
“Nope. Still got my pocket watch. Guns are still in their holsters. Rifles are over there. Even got last night’s winnings!” Heyes grinned briefly and shrugged. Then wished he hadn’t.
The Kid found another towel and dipped it in the cold water in the washbowl. He pressed the towel to his head and then looked to see if it came away with blood. He was surprised to see there wasn’t any. He grunted.
“That’s what I mean. Whoever did this knew just where to hit us to put us out but not make us bleed.”
The Kid looked at him. “So someone was looking for something?”
“Yeah something they thought we had.”
Heyes rolled his eyes. “No idea.”
“I don’t like being hit on the head for no reason, Heyes,” the Kid grumbled.
“I don’t like being hit on the head, period!”
The Kid looked at the towel again. He wasn’t convinced there was no blood.
“So what do we do?”
“I dunno as there is anything we can do. They took nothing. There’s no crime to report.”
“How about being knocked unconscious?”
Heyes pursed his lips. “Lots of folks saw us in the saloon last night.” He started to shrug but thought better of it. “Got drunk and fell down. That’s what they’ll say.”
“Both of us!”
Heyes smacked his lips. “D’you wanna go the sheriff with a story like this?” He shook his head gently. “Naw!”
“So we just forget it? Supposin’ … whoever done this ain’t satisfied? Supposin’ they think we’ve still got whatever they were looking for? Supposin’ they try again?”
“Kid, that’s an awful lot of supposin’,” Heyes frowned. “But you’re right. We might still have what we don’t know we got.” He took a deep breath and widened his eyes.“Guess we’ll just have to be alert to the possibility of another attack.” He considered.“Think we should stay here for a few days. See what happens.”
“Stay?” the Kid was wide eyed.
“Be safer Kid than out there on our own. I reckon we oughta stay in plain sight as much as possible.”
“Doing what Heyes? We usually try and avoid attracting attention.”
“I know and I ain’t talking about attracting attention. I’m just saying we should avoid being in private.” He paused. “How y’feeling?”
The Kid grunted and looked at the towel again. Still no blood. “Bit dizzy and a headache the size of Wyoming.”
“That small huh?” Heyes grinned. “Mine’s the size of Texas.” He got up and had to steady himself. “If you’re feeling up to it, think we oughta go down to breakfast.”
“Not sure I wanna eat just yet.”
Heyes stood hands and hips and looked at him sharply. “You must have been hit harder than I thought, Kid. To put you off breakfast.”
The Kid glared at him. “I’ll manage!”
The Kid surprised himself and ate a double helping of eggs and ham. It was Heyes, who just picked at his.
“Y’know Kid, I’ve been thinking.”
The Kid looked at him. Heyes noticed and frowned. “You don’t have to look at me like that! That’s what I do. I think.”
“I hate it when you start a conversation with that line. It usually means trouble. As in, us in it!” the Kid said, mopping his plate clean of the last of his egg.
Heyes tutted and looked away. “Anyway I …” He false smiled at the Kid. “Had a thought.” “Y’know the fella who was following us yesterday?”
“Remember I said I thought there was summat odd ‘bout it?”
“I still think there’s summat odd ‘bout it. I think there’s summat even odder ‘bout it this morning.” Heyes bit his bottom lip. “I mean, have you seen him since we’ve been in town?”
“Nope. Then again I ain’t exactly been lookin’.”
“Ah! Well now, that’s where you and me differ, Kid. ‘Cos I have. An’ I haven’t. Seen him that is.”
“Maybe he continued on. There’s another town up the trail ain’t there?”
“Yes. Canterville. ‘Bout forty miles further on.”
“So? Maybe that’s where he went.”
Heyes sucked air in through his teeth. “Nope. I don’t think that’s it. Can’t explain it but I think he’s still here. In this town.”
The Kid looked at Heyes. “Now why do you think that?”
“Hairs on the back of my neck, Kid,” he insisted. He sniffed. “Somebody’s watching us, I know it.”
The Kid looked doubtful but then suddenly grinned. He nodded his head behind Heyes. Heyes looked round. Sitting on a chair a few feet away was a cat, licking its paw and looking at them.
“Ha! Ha!” Heyes scowled. “I’m telling you Kid, somebody is watching us. And he ain’t got four legs!” He stabbed his finger on the table in emphasis.
“Have you boys finished?”
The grey-headed lady who was their waitress came to stand by their table.
“Well now that’s what I like to see. A healthy appetite,” she said, picking up the Kid’s wiped clean plate.
“That was a real nice breakfast ma’am,” the Kid smiled.
She gave him a pleasant smile.
Heyes smiled amused. The Kid was at it again – charming the ladies and over breakfast too!
She turned to look at Heyes and his barely touched plate. “What’s wrong with my breakfast?” she snapped at him.
Heyes looked up at her in amazement that she could turn so suddenly.
“Oh nothing ma’am,” he spluttered. “Jus’ not feeling too good this morning.” He tried the dimpled smile to no avail.
She sniffed. “You mean you’re hungover!” She picked up his plate with a sigh. “That’s the way of it I suppose. Either need to eat like a horse or a bird!” She stomped off with their plates in the direction of the kitchen leaving the partners to swop grins.
“Okay Heyes. We’ll rest a spell here today. See what happens.”
“Not right here,” Heyes said, frowning and shaking a finger in the direction the waitress had gone. Rolling his eyes, he got up.
The Kid nodded and wisely agreed.
Heyes was jumpy all day, driving the Kid to distraction.
“Heyes will you quit it! You being worried is making me worried and I dunno what I’m worrying about. And that’s making me worry!”
“I can’t help it,” Heyes frowned. “I just know there’s summit wrong here.”
They had stocked up on supplies for the trail and pottered about the stores. Heyeswas side tracked by the bookstore and had struck up a conversation with the owner before the Kid could drag him away. They saw to their horses, checking their manes, hooves, tails and gear. They lunched in the café and afterwards wandered into the saloon and found a poker game. When that broke up, they sat quietly sipping their beers.
“I’ve been looking everywhere Kid and I ain’t seen him.” Heyes shook his head.
Heyes growled. “We oughta go to the room together tonight and check our stuff afore we go to sleep.”
The Kid nodded. “How’s your head?”
“Still gotta headache but it’s going. How’s yours?”
“Same I reckon. Y’know Heyes this is a nice enough town. We could do worse than stay here for a while. What d’you reckon we look for jobs tomorrow?”
Heyes shrugged. “Yeah, sheriff doesn’t know us. Ain’t seen anybody familiar.” He smiled broadly. “Why wait?” He got up. “I’ll go and grab us a newspaper now.”
The Kid nodded. “Stay away from that bookstore!” he called after him.
As Heyes walked out of the saloon, a young boy tearing along the sidewalk almost collided with him.
“Sorry mister!” he called not stopping. He had the latest dime novel in his hand.Obviously, he was in a hurry to find a quiet spot and read the latest adventures of his favourite hero.
Heyes stood hands on hips smiling as he watched him running off, almost tripping over the boxes on display outside the hardware store. Shaking his head, Heyes continued on his way to the newspaper office.
He didn’t see that the boy had stopped and was peeking around the corner of the hardware store, watching him. He nodded across the street.
Heyes continued along. Those hairs on the back of his neck were almost flying off now. He shook his head. Perhaps he was just being paranoid. The Kid was right.This was a real nice town.
His ever-alert eyes took in the town’s bustle. Across the street was a man sitting on the porch outside of the hotel. He had one leg up on the rail. Heyes frowned. That didn’t look quite right somehow.
Coming towards him was the waitress from the hotel. He smiled and tipped his hat.“Ma’am,” he smiled, politely.
She sniffed and walked passed him, nose in the air. He chuckled gently. Still put out that he hadn’t eaten her breakfast this morning obviously.
He was still amused when out of the corner of his eye he saw something. It looked … like the man from the trail! Heyes turned to get a better look but … he’d gone. Or had he just imagined ... Heyes shook his head.
As he continued, a man was walking towards him, book in hand and muttering to himself. He appeared to be trying to learn lines. The Scarlett Letter, a play by Nathaniel Hawthorne if Heyes wasn’t mistaken. He had caught it last time he was in Denver. Heyes sidestepped him quickly as he was coming straight for him. The man stopped dead and looked up at the sky, still muttering, before continuing on his way.
Heyes made it to the newspaper office and bought that day’s paper. He folded it up and put it under his arm. On the way back to the saloon, he felt the pull of the bookshop and he paused. Continuing the conversation from earlier with the owner sounded good. A couple of minutes wouldn’t hurt. The Kid would be none the wiser. He ducked in quickly. There was nobody at the desk so he made his way between the shelves to where he had left off earlier.
He tucked the newspaper into a space at the end of a shelf and took down a book that interested him. He was flicking through it when he became aware of a man standing by the side of him. He looked up. It was the man from the trail.
He smiled pleasantly at Heyes and tipped his derby politely.
“Good afternoon, Mr Smith.”
Heyes stared. “How d’you know my name?” he asked suspiciously.
“Would you come along with me please, Mr Smith?”
“Now why should I do that?”
For the second time in two days, everything went black.
Back in the saloon, the Kid waited and waited. After twenty minutes, he was getting concerned. He sighed.
“He’s gone in that blasted bookstore,” he muttered and got up to go in search.
Heyes wasn’t in the bookstore. The owner said he hadn’t been in again since earlier. The Kid went to the newspaper office and yes, Heyes had bought a newspaper about fifteen minutes ago. The Kid retraced his steps. Between the newspaper office and the saloon there was just three stores. Heyes hadn’t been seen in either the hardware or general stores. So that just left the bookstore. Again.
“Are you sure you ain’t seen my partner?” he asked.
“Nope. Told you that five minutes ago,” said Burt of Burt’s Books.
“An’ you’ve been here all the time?”
Burt rubbed his chin. “Well now come to think of it, I did slip out back for a few minutes ‘bout twenty minutes ago.”
“Mind if I take a look around?” The Kid didn’t wait for agreement.
“No of course not. You might find something …” Burt called after him.
The Kid walked up and down the stacks. Halfway down one he did indeed find something. Sticking out at the end of a shelf was a newspaper. With a sinking feeling, he pulled it out slowly. It was that day’s newspaper.
The Kid returned to the desk with it.
“He was here!” he said, slapping the newspaper down on the desk.
Burt frowned and swallowed hard.
“I don’t understand …”
“I found this newspaper on the shelf!”
Burt shrugged. “So? Anyone could have left it behind. I’ve had a lot of folks in today. I’ve got the new Sherlock Holmes …” He tailed off seeing the Kid’s expression and he swallowed.
“My friend left this.” The Kid looked menacing stabbing his finger on the paper.
“How do you know it was him?”
“Mister, this is a broadsheet. If you were putting it under your arm to carry how would you fold it?”
“Excuse me?” The question surprised Burt.
“How would you fold it? To make it easier to carry?”
“Well I guess I would fold it in half first off …”
“Across the horizontal and then down the vertical.”
“That’s right. That’s how I would do it too. In fact, that’s how most folks would do it I reckon. But you see now my friend is a little bit different. He folds a broadsheet down the vertical first and then across the horizontal. Says it’s easier to read in a confined space like a stagecoach or on a train. Pretty distinctive wouldn’t you say?”
Burt nodded. “I guess.”
The Kid pushed the paper nearer to him. “Take a look at that.”
Slowly Burt unfolded the paper and laid it flat on the desk. He swallowed hard and licked his lips. It had been folded just like the Kid had said.
“Okay, if you say your friend left this then I believe you,” Burt said, slowly. “Guessyou can give it back to him now, huh?” He flashed a smile.
“I gotta find him first,” the Kid said, through gritted teeth. “And this is beginning to look like the last place he was.”
Burt swallowed. Was he being accused of something?
“Since we was in earlier who else has been in?”
“Oh well there’s been lots of folks. I told you the new Sherlock Holmes …”
“Er well …” Burt cleared his throat. “There was little … little Jimmy Perkins. He … bought a dime novel. Um Ms Hooper, she bought a collection of short stories by American woman writers. Jason Starling, he bought …”
“I don’t need to know what they bought! I just need to know who!”
Burt nodded. “Okay. Okay. Just helps me remember that’s all. Um Miles Hamilton.” He paused. “Geology,” he added, quietly. “Ashley Cavendish.” Then quietly again. “Play.” He glanced at the Kid. “And just before you came in Peter Brockman, but he didn’t buy anything.” He shook his head furiously.
The Kid nodded. “Little Jimmy is how old?”
Burt pursed his lips considering. “’Bout twelve?”
“Well now I wouldn’t like to say! She’s a lady. Wouldn’t be very gentlemanly …”
“Try!” The Kid was losing patience with this man.
“Sixty … ish?”
“Mid Fifties. Got a wooden leg.”
The Kid rolled his eyes.
“Late twenties, early thirties I suppose.”
“He’s my father in law!”
The Kid raised an eyebrow, waiting. He was going to have to resort to his gun in a moment.
“Thank you. Now where can I find Hamilton and Cavendish?”
The Kid had dismissed the others. He would start with the most obvious to him.
“Wake him up.”
The man with the wooden leg picked up a bucket of cold water and threw it over the man tied to a chair.
The sudden shock started Heyes back to consciousness. He gasped at the cold and the wetness. He coughed and shook the water from his hair off his face.
“What!” He stared at the faces in front of him. He recognised all of them in one way or another. He was in an old barn. Tied to a chair, with his feet tied together.
“Good afternoon Mr Smith,” the woman said, casually, filing her nails. She was perched on the edge of a table.
Heyes stared open-mouthed. It was the gray-haired waitress from the hotel. No!Surely not! This just couldn’t be about breakfast!
“What’s this about?” He struggled but he was tied tight. “Why? What do you want?”
“I think you know what we want,” she said getting up and pacing in front of him.
“No. No I don’t,” he assured her. “And if I did, believe me, if I’ve got it you can have it” He rolled his eyes.
She smiled and seized his chin, forcing him to look at her. She ran an index finger down the side of his cheek, pressing hard so that the nail raked a line down it. He winced.
“You have something in your possession that I think belongs to me,” the man Heyes recognised from the trail said stepping into his line of sight.
The woman let go of Heyes’ chin with a wrench that made him wince again.
“If you say so. Mind telling me what?”
“You did a little job a few months back for Colonel Parker. You and your partner.”
“Yeah?” Heyes frowned, unsure. They had done several jobs for Colonel Parker a few months back.
“You had to collect some things.” He shrugged. “Just rocks that’s all, basket of rocks.”
Heyes remembered. “Fossils!”
“Ah! So you do know what they were?” He settled himself on the edge of the table the woman was sitting on before.
“Yeah. Collected them for a scientist who had busted his leg. Needed ‘em for some paper he was writing.”
“That’s right. Walter Stringer. I am his colleague, Miles Hamilton. And er, some of these … fossils … were quite rare. Valuable to his work. Should be in a museum.”
Heyes nodded his agreement.
“And there was one particular … fossil … that was missing when you and your partner came back.”
Heyes shrugged. “We just brought back what we were told to. The basket of rocks underneath the bench with the fossils in and what was on top.”
“Hmm. And you did a very good job, Mr Smith. When Walter and I got out there again after his leg had healed there wasn’t a single fossil to be seen.”
“Miles, we haven’t got all day,” the woman said. “I’ve gotta get back to start the dinners.”
“Want me to rough him up a bit?” the man with the wooden leg asked eagerly, limping into view.
“I’m fine!” Heyes assured him. He looked back at Miles. “What are you saying? Are you accusing me of summat?”
“Mmmm, yes Mr Smith I am. The one fossil that you didn’t bring back. The one I know was there is … the rarest of them all.”
Heyes swallowed hard. Some of the holes were beginning to fill in now.
“Well what can I say?” he laughed, humourlessly. “Guess we must of dropped it someplace.”
Miles got up and came to stand in front of Heyes. “No Mr Smith that’s not what I think. Not what I think at all.” He nodded to the older man.
Before Heyes could protest, his jaw was smashed hard. It took his breath away and he gasped.
“Now then Mr Smith now that you know we are serious and not playing at this – tell us where it is.”
“I don’t know!” Heyes gasped.
“Now Mr Smith, you’re a good looking young man,” said the woman, coming forward with her arms folded. “If you like …I can arrange for my friend here to see that you become un-good looking.” She chuckled and seized his chin again. “If you understand me …”
“Oh yes ma’am I understand!” He nodded furiously. “It’s just that I really don’t know where what you’re looking for is.”
Miles and the woman looked at each other. The other man edged forwarded again, expectantly.
“Perhaps you need a little reminder,” Miles said.
Heyes eyed the other man who had clenched his fist.
“No, Jason let’s give Mr Smith one last chance.”
Heyes nodded. “Yeah!” He agreed furiously.
“What I’m looking for Mr Smith, is a slab of rock about yea big.” He indicated about four inches. “And in it is the impression of a small fish.”
Heyes knew. He groaned inwardly. The fossil the Kid had called Percy! Today of all days his poker face let him down.
Miles smiled. “By the expression on your face, I see you know what I’m referring to.”
“Yeah.” There was no point in denying it. He knew Miles had read it on his face. “But really I dunno where it is …” He grunted as a blow hit his jaw again.
Miles glared at Jason, who had acted on his own this time. Jason looked sheepish and shrugged.
“So you have had it?” Miles clarified.
“Yes.” Heyes gasped. “It fell out when we were packing up. My partner put it in his pocket and forgot about it until later.” He had to be careful now. He didn’t want them going after the Kid. “But I ain’t seen it for some time. My partner and me we travel light and it ain’t exactly portable.”
“It’s not that big,” Miles shrugged. He sighed. “When was the last time you saw it?”
“Oh, um …” Heyes frowned. It had been a while since he had seen it. For all he knew the Kid didn’t still have it. He shook his head, thinking hard. Which was difficult with the pain in both the back of his head and his jaw distracting him. He swallowed.“Er few weeks back I guess.” Then he had it. “Yes.” He tried smiling but that hurt.“We er stopped in a town aways back. Got into a poker game and er guess the other players didn’t much like us taking most of their money ‘cos they …” He cleared his throat and licked his lips. “Chased us outta town. Had to er leave most of our stuff in the hotel room.” He smacked his lips and looked innocent. “That’s when we musta lost it.” He looked anxiously at them. “Sorry,” he added. Inwardly he shrugged; it might help.
Miles and the woman looked at each other. The woman shrugged. Jason stepped forward again. Miles sighed and looked at Heyes hard.
“What was the name of the town?”
“Oh, um.” Heyes frowned, thinking fast. “Burton Wells.” He cleared his throat. “Up Laramie way.” He and the Kid hadn’t been there in several years. Too close to Devil’s Hole but there was a lot of country between Bottle Town and there. Lots of places to get lost in.
To his relief Miles nodded. “Okay, Mr Smith I believe you.”
“But I wouldn’t stay too long in this town if I were you, Mr Smith,” the grey haired lady said, menacing. “At least not at my hotel.” She nodded to Jason to untie him.
Heyes got up slowly eyeing Jason warily. The man was far too handy with his fists. Heyes straightened up and stretched his shoulders and arms.
“That it? You’re just gonna let me go?”
Miles and the woman looked at one another.
“Could rough you up a bit more if y’like?” Jason sniffed behind him.
Heyes looked at him and nodded. “No thanks. Kind of you to offer.” He false smiledat him.
Jason looked disappointed as Heyes looked back at Miles and the woman.
“Yes Mr Smith we are just gonna let you go,” Miles said.
“Could tell the sheriff?”
The woman stepped forward. “No Mr Smith you’re not gonna do that.”
“I am the sheriff,” Jason said.
Heyes looked round. Only now did he notice the star pinned to his shirt. His waistcoat had half hid it. Heyes nodded in understanding. He started for the door that Miles had opened for him.
“Oh there’s just one thing …” He stopped suddenly and did an about turn. Before any of them could react, Heyes had swung his fist. It connected with Jason’s jaw and taken by surprise he went down easily. “Sheriff or no sheriff I owe you one!” he said menacingly. He glared at Miles and the woman as he stalked to the door.
Outside as the barn door shut behind him, Heyes winced. Not only did his head hurt like hell, his jaw felt like it was bust. It wasn’t but it sure felt like it did. As he put his hand to it, a new hurt announced itself. The knuckles of his right hand. That had been stupid! He had lost all sense in that brief second and he sure was regretting it now! Feeling nauseas and dizzy he staggered back to the hotel. He just needed to lie down for a while. The Kid would find him eventually and they could pack up and leave. He hated Bottle Town.
The Kid hadn’t been able to find Hamilton. Cavendish had no idea what he was talking about. He was about to call the sheriff so the Kid wisely decided to back off. He sighed in frustration. There was just more place to look – back in the hotel room. Heyes’ headache may have got bad suddenly and he might have gone back to lie down. He thought it unlikely that he would do that without telling him but there was no place else to look right now.
So he was surprised when he walked into the room to find Heyes sitting on his bed, holding a towel to his face.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all over!”
Heyes just glared at him. Now the Kid saw the bruising that was starting to appear on Heyes’ face.
“What happened to you?”
Heyes grunted. In short clipped sentences and a lot of wincing he told him. The Kid sat on his own bed as Heyes related his tale of pain.
“And they just let you go?” the Kid was incredulous.
“Not before I clobbered the sheriff!”
The Kid rolled his eyes. “Heyes that’s jus’ great.”
“You weren’t there! He took over a moment. Nothing I could do.”
“’Cept hit the sheriff.”
“I KNOW! I KNOW!” Heyes winced and felt his jaw again. Shouting hurt. Talking hurt. But at least he had stopped feeling sick now. “Told me to get outta town though. Best do as she says. I don’t wanna mess with her again. Or any of ‘em for that matter.” With a groan he got up. “Lets get packed up and outta here.”
The Kid nodded. “And all this ‘cos …”
“Now Kid, don’t you say it!” Heyes shook a finger at him angrily. Then put his hands on his hips.
“What you’re thinking!”
“I wasn’t thinking anything.” He was indignant.
“Yes you was. I can hear it whirring!”
The Kid glared at him. “I can’t believe …” He risked a glance at Heyes but he had walked away now and had his back to him. “That they were after Percy,” he said, quietly.
Heyes threw his hands in the air in disgust. He had said it! Heyes spun round. Then he winced and felt his bruised jaw. He sighed.
“Well I guess it’s lucky then that you lost it someplace. ‘Least I wasn’t lying’” He dug his fingers into his pants pockets and stared at a spot on the floor.
On the bed, the Kid was pursing his lips thoughtfully. He pulled back the comforter and pushed his hand under the pillow. He brought something out and looked at it.
“I wonder how much it’s worth?” he mused.
“Dunno.” Heyes was still staring at the floor.
“Must be worth summat Heyes. To go to all this trouble.” The Kid peered more closely at what he had in his hand. “Funny little thing.”
Heyes glanced up and then away. He snapped his head back around so fast he almost screwed his neck into his shoulders.
“What on earth …?” He made various grunts and squeaks as he joined the Kid on his bed.
The Kid grinned at him and held Percy up. Heyes took the small slab of rock with both hands and grunted some more.
“Kid …!” He looked up open mouthed. “How …? They searched the room!”
“Nope. They searched our stuff. They didn’t search the room ‘cos if they had …” He took Percy back. “He was under my pillow all the time. I always sleep with him under my pillow.” He nudged Heyes and grinned again. “See I told you he’d be lucky,” he nodded.
“LUCKY! I’ve been hit over the head twice and nearly had my jaw busted! My hand hurts – think I might of broke a finger. I won’t be able to shave for a week! I can barely speak and you say it’s LUCKY!” He put a hand to his jaw and screwing his face in pain. “Ouch!”
“That last one sure gonna be lucky for me. Oh!”
The Kid got up quickly grinning, away from the murderous expression on Heyes’ face.
Four years later …
“Any post for me Johnson?” the Kid asked his butler. He had reached the bottom of the stairs now.
“Yes sir, I’ve put it on your desk. There’s a package too.”
The Kid went off into his study. On the desk was a stack of letters and a small package. He sat down and it was that he turned to first. He read the return label and grinned. Finally! Discarding the wrapping, he held the object at arm’s length and looked at it with a satisfied smile.
“Looking good, Percy.”
He was trying the best place for it on the mantelpiece when his wife came in.
“What’s that Jed?”
He looked round and grinned. “You’re up early. This darling is Percy. Percy meet Caroline.” He stepped back. “He says hi,” he chuckled at her. “Percy is my lucky charm.” He slipped an arm round her shoulders and together they looked at it.
“Your lucky charm?” She looked doubtful. “I haven’t seen it before.”
“No he’s been kicking around and I thought I’d get him framed and mounted ‘afore he got damaged. He is lucky though. Not long after I got him, the amnesty came through. Not long after that Heyes met Mary and not long after that I met you.” He kissed her and gave her a squeeze. “He’s lucky.”
Caroline looked doubtful. “Didn’t stop you getting shot last year and me nearly losing you.”
The Kid lost his smile. “No … but … I did get Heyes back in my life ‘cos of that.” He shrugged. “That’s kinda lucky.”
Caroline wasn’t convinced and moved forward to take a closer look.
“Do you know what this is a fossil of?”
“Nope. Some sort of extinct little fish.”
“I have a friend whose husband is an expert on fossils. He goes all over the country. He’s away for months at a time. She hardly sees him. The next time he is back in Boston, I’ll invite them for dinner. He may be able to tell us more about it.”
Another year later …
“Oh my!” Miles Hamilton peered closely at Percy. “Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!” He looked round at the Kid. “Do you know what this is?” He looked wide-eyed.
The Kid shrugged. “I call him Percy.”
Hamilton looked at him in disbelief for a moment. “No its Amphiplaga Brachyptera. And this is a juvenile. It’s very rare and this is a particularly fine example. Where did you get it? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“I found it. Just picked it up one day. Is it valuable then?”
“I’d say! On the open market, it could be worth about four thousand dollars but private collectors have been known to pay three or four times that amount.”
Hamilton sighed. “I found one once.” He sighed again. “But then I lost it.” He turned away with another sigh. “You’re a very lucky man Jed Curry.”
“Yeah,” the Kid agreed, thoughtfully. The Kid beamed. “Shall we re-join the ladies?”
Yet another year later.
“Heyes I’ve got summat to show you,” the Kid said, getting up and motioning Heyes to as well.
Heyes widened his eyes at Mary and got up. The Kid took him into his study.Beaming he pointed at the mantelpiece.
“What am I looking at?” Heyes stepped forward and frowned. “Oh! Is that …?”
The Kid nodded. “Percy. ‘Course that’s not his real name. That’s just an alias.”
Heyes’ tongue explored the inside of his mouth and he nodded. “Oh, of course,” he agreed, folding his arms.
The Kid took down the plaque and turned it over. He read the writing on the back.“It’s Amphiplaga Brachyptera. He’s a member of the trout or perch family. The experts aren’t sure which, perhaps both. Friend of Caroline’s husband knows about this stuff. Can you believe this? Miles said Percy was valuable.”
“Miles?” Heyes thrust out his chin. His hands were on his hips now.
The Kid looked up and frowned when he saw the look on Heyes’ face. “Yeah? MilesHamilton why?”
“Miles Hamilton!” Heyes was almost shouting. The way he was sucking air through his teeth told the Kid Heyes was incensed.
“He … Him … That sheriff … Bottle Town!” Heyes spluttered. The words wouldn’t form coherent sentences.
The Kid’s mouth formed an O and he put Percy back on the mantelpiece. “Shall we re-join the girls?” he winced and walking quickly passed the speechless Heyes.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname