Heyes opened his eyes as the wretched rooster once again kicked the bucket. He lay there a moment thinking about he felt. "Well, at least I don't have a hangover." He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. While wiping the sleepiness from his eyes, it occurred to him that he had never noticed what time it was when he was woke up each morning. He grabbed his pocketwatch off the bedside table. "7:03. I've sat here for a couple of minutes, so the day must reset at 7 am. Wonder if that has any significance to it..."
As he finished talking to himself, Kid Curry opened and walked through the door. "Mornin' Heyes."
Heyes put his pocketwatch back on the small table and stared off into space, his brows knotted together.
"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."
Heyes didn't answer. He was now biting his lower lip and deep in thought.
After a second, Kid shrugged his shoulders and deposited the items he was carrying on the table by the window. "Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."
Still no answer or reaction from the ex-outlaw leader.
Heyes released the tension in his eyebrows and looked at his cousin. "Why are you yelling at me? What is it?"
"I've been talkin' to you for five minutes and you've just ignored me! I said I brought you some breakfast back and I found a couple of jobs in the paper."
"Oh...uh...thanks." Heyes got up to retrieve the coffee from the table. As he stood there taking a sip, he stared out the window.
"Well, don't you want to know any more about the jobs?"
Once again, Heyes had retreated into his thoughts and didn't hear his cousin.
Curry sighed and rolled his eyes. He walked over to Heyes, grabbed his shoulders, and spun him around, nearly causing him to spill his coffee. "Hello?!...Heyes?!...Anybody home today? WHAT are you so deep in thought over?"
"Kid, are there any towns close by here?"
Curry put his hands on his hips. "Now how am I supposed to know? You're the one who led us here out of the middle of nowhere yesterday."
Heyes hesitated. "Oh...yeah...yesterday. Okay. Just forget it." He sat the coffee back down on the table and started getting dressed.
Kid watched with a thoroughly confused look on his face. "What's WRONG with you?! I know you're weird sometimes, but this is borderin' on crazy town."
The ex-outlaw leader started tucking his white shirt into his tan pants, then put on his brown corduroy vest. "Nothing, Kid. I'm fine. Listen. I'm feeling generous today so you take the delivery job and I'll go fix the barn roof."
"Alright. Now I KNOW you've lost your mind."
Heyes shot his partner a glare. "Can't I be nice to you without being accused of something?"
Kid gave his own look back. "No. Not when it comes to workin'."
Heyes rolled his eyes skyward then started putting on his gun belt. "Well, I ain't up to nothing. I just didn't feel like spending the day in a saddle. That's ALL." The tone of voice commanded that the conversation be over.
Curry narrowed his eyes. He sighed as he contemplated whether he felt like starting an outright argument. Quickly deciding against it, he threw his hands in the air. "Alright, Heyes. I ain't arguin' about gettin' the easy job. You just remember this tonight when you come back here and try to start complainin' about how hard a day you had."
"I won't be complaining about how hard the barn was, alright?" He put his hat on his head as Kid turned to leave.
Curry stopped mid turn at the comment. "I'm gonna hold you to that." With that, Kid exited the room.
Heyes returned to the window and waited to see his cousin walking toward the livery before he left the room and went downstairs. He stopped at the front desk and cleared his throat to get the clerk's attention.
"Can I help you with something?" he asked unenthused when he turned around.
Heyes smiled at him anyway. "I was wondering where and how far the closest town is." He had thought about a library a couple of days...a few days...once in the recent past, but had no luck and had forgotten about it in his quest to stop the loop. Destiny Loop may not have a library, but some place close by might.
The clerk stared at him and sighed through his nose. "That would be Leather Junction. It's about an hour's ride west of here."
"Do you know if they have a library?"
The clerk smirked at him. "It's a bigger town than Destiny Loop, so maybe. I don't really know."
"Who's the sheriff down there?" Heyes asked out of habit.
The clerk glared at him. "What is this? An interrogation? I don't know."
"Well, thanks. You've been a big help," Heyes snarked. He turned to go and as he reached the door, he turned back to the clerk and smiled sarcastically. "By the way, you better be careful. If you get any happier, people might mistake this place for a funeral parlor."
The clerk snorted as he watched Heyes disappear through the front door.
Heyes stepped out onto the boardwalk and after a couple of seconds, headed toward the livery. But after only a few steps, he stopped and headed off in another direction.
The telegraph office had just opened when Heyes walked through the door. "Mornin'."
The telegrapher stood up from where he had been bent over behind the desk. "Good mornin'. Can I help you with something?"
Heyes rested his arms on the desk. "I hope you can. Do you happen to know if Leather Junction has a library?"
The telegrapher thought for a moment. "No, I couldn't tell you. I don't know."
"In that case, would you mind sending a telegraph there and asking someone?"
"I don't mind to send it if you don't mind to pay for it."
Heyes smiled at him. "Deal."
The telegraph was sent and after about a five minute wait, a reply came back. The telegrapher finished writing the message down. "Yep, looks like they do. The telegrapher there says there's a small one right behind the bank on Main Street."
"Alright, thanks." Heyes turned to leave. The telegrapher loudly cleared his throat. Heyes stopped and turned around with a 'what' look on his face.
"You forgot to pay for this," the telegrapher tapped on the message he had laid down on the desk.
Heyes smiled just a little sheepishly. "Oh, yeah." He walked back over, counted out the money, then left to retrieve his horse.
Heyes arrived in Leather Junction an hour later. As he passed the sheriff's office, he instinctively lowered his head and looked out beneath the rim of his hat. Then he remembered that getting arrested didn't stop the day from repeating, so he raised his head, pushed his hat back, and rode down the street like he owned the place. It felt good to be able to ride around without worrying about getting recognized. If he did, he'd just wake up back in bed in the morning. He tipped his hat as he passed a deputy walking down the boardwalk. The deputy nodded his head back at him, clearly wondering if it was somebody he knew.
The bank was just ahead on the left, so he turned down an alley to get to the next street over. He rode up in front of the small library and dismounted. Walking inside, he immediately went to a little desk where a lady sat reading the paper. "Excuse me ma'am."
The woman put down her paper and liked what she saw. "Why hello. I didn't hear you come in. You need help with something?"
"Yes ma'am. I was..."
"Please, call me Judy."
"Okay, Judy. I was wondering if you had any history books for the area here."
"Yes, we do Mr...."
"Smith. Joshua Smith."
"Well Mr. Smith, the history books are on the back shelf. I'm afraid we only have a couple at the moment."
"Thanks." He started to turn to go, when a feminine hand lightly grabbed his shoulder.
"And if you need any help, please don't hesitate to ask," she purred.
Heyes patted her hand and she removed it. "I will. Thanks." It passed through Heyes' mind that Judy would have no problem working in a saloon, but there was no way he'd say it to her. He smiled and made his way to the back shelf. He took the two history books there and went over to a small table to look at them.
Judy had yet to take her wide, green eyes off him. Heyes noticed and made sure to sit with his back to her. He didn't want to watch somebody watching him while he read. When he sat down, Judy raised her paper back up to read, but would still look over the top of it now and then to look at him. Apparently, she didn't care what side she was looking at.
Heyes plopped his hat down on the table and opened the first book without looking at the title. It was fairly new and had nothing but the history of the Civil War in it. That was something he didn't care to read about so he pushed the book aside and pulled the other over to him. "History of Leather Junction and Surrounding Areas," he quietly read to himself. He looked at the published date and place. Sure enough, it was published in Leather Junction in 1870. He opened the book and flipped through the pages looking for any mention of Destiny Loop. Suddenly, he jumped as once again, a hand was placed on his shoulder.
"Finding what you're looking for?"
He turned his head and looked up at Judy. He had to tilt his head back further than he had thought. Judy was a big woman, not overweight, just tall and stocky. Heyes thought for certain, she was at least over six feet. Maybe she was related to those seven foot tall Indians he was paid, no, supposed to have been paid, to find once. He hadn't heard her coming. That unnerved him, but he decided it was because he was so deep in thought over the books. She smiled down at him.
"...Yes, ma'am...Judy. I'm doing fine." He returned her smile.
"You sure are..." Judy mumbled to herself as she admired his dimples and floppy hair which framed, in her opinion, a perfectly handsome face.
Heyes heard what she said, but didn't in any way react to it.
"Okay. I'll be up front." She turned and sashayed back to sit behind the desk.
Heyes let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and turned his attention back to the history book.
After a few minutes, he finally found a reference to Destiny Loop in the middle of the book. But unfortunately, all that was written was just the same things Cat had told him about his people and the so-called 'curse' they had put on the land the town was located on. There was nothing about strange happenings. He hurriedly looked through the rest of the book. When he found nothing more, he slammed the book shut in frustration. Heyes immediately realized what he done and turned to Judy. "Sorry."
"No need to be sorry," Judy smiled at him over her paper.
Heyes turned back to the table and collected the books. As he returned them to their place on the shelf, he remembered the last thing Cat had told him, 'Clarity is the path to inner peace'. Not wanting to get any more of Judy's attention than he already had, he started searching the few shelves for a dictionary. He finally found one and started flipping pages. "Clarity,...clarity," he muttered to himself. "There it is. Clarity: Clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity. What the heck does that have to do with inner peace or repeating days?" He stood staring at the word for a few minutes, then put the dictionary back up.
Grabbing his hat from the table, he made his way toward the door. Judy hurriedly got up from her chair and blocked the door. "You're not leaving so soon, are you?"
Heyes looked up at her. Yep. Definitely over six feet. He smiled politely. "Well, I found what I needed and I need to be going." He studied the woman towering over him. She wasn't all that ugly, but she was no real beauty either. And she was extremely forthright. He'd never met a woman outside a saloon that was this straightforward, flirtatious, and unembarrassed with her...wants.
"Well, maybe I found what I want too, Mr. Smith...Joshua."
Heyes actually found himself blushing. "Well ma'am, uh, Judy, my partner's waiting for me to show up in Destiny Loop, so if you could just step aside..."
"Is your partner a woman?" Judy asked, putting her hand on his upper arm stopping him.
Heyes glanced at the hold she had on him and cleared his throat. "No. But I'm supposed to meet him at a certain time and if I'm late, he'll get worried and have the sheriff out looking for me. And I'd hate the thought of having the law looking for me."
"Send a telegram to him. Tell him you're going to be late." Her other hand came to rest on his shoulder.
Heyes was about to start sweating. He'd never had a woman come on this strong to him. "I can't do that. Someone told me the telegraph wire to Destiny Loop had been damaged this morning." He tried to maneuver out of her hands, but she had a grip like a federal marshal. "I really need to get going now, so if you'll just let go..."
Judy stared at him for a moment like she didn't know how to reply. Then suddenly, she jerked him forward and kissed him.
Heyes struggled shortly to get away from her and finally he succeeded in pushing himself back. He looked up at her incredulously. "You know, I don't think that's appropriate behavior for a respectable...lady."
"Well, maybe it should be. There'd be more marriage in the world." Her hands moved to hold the lapels of his jacket.
Heyes had had enough. Being polite didn't work and apparently, this woman was a few cards short of a full deck. He decided to change tactics. "Now look lady. I've got to go meet my partner, Kid Curry, and he's somebody you don't want to keep waiting, so will you now MOVE?" He hoped that maybe she would leave him to go get the sheriff if she knew who he really was. Then he could get out of there. He really didn't care if a posse came after him or not. He'd just wake up in the hotel in the morning.
"Does that mean your name is really...Hannibal Heyes?" Her smile had diminished just a little bit. "You're a real outlaw?"
"Yes, it does. Now, MOVE before I MAKE you move." He developed a menacing look, grabbed her wrists and tried to jerk her hands from his lapels. They didn't budge. Heyes couldn't help it. His eyes got a little wide as he looked down at her hands, then back up to meet her eyes. This was insanity. He could stare down hardened criminals, but this woman obviously wasn't affected.
Judy stared him in the eyes, then her smile started to grow until it almost filled her entire face. "I'd heard how handsome you and Kid Curry were and since then, I've ALWAYS wanted to get my hands on you!" She lunged forward and they both fell to the floor.
Leather Junction's sheriff was busy making his rounds. He turned the corner and headed down the backside of Main Street. As he neared the library, he heard what sounded like a scuffle, so he started to approach cautiously, his hand on his revolver. He had almost made it to the door when it flew open and a slightly disheveled young man with lipstick all over the side of his face ran out. He literally jumped onto the back of his horse after quickly untying the reins.
"Come back Hannibal! I love you." Judy was close on his heels.
Heyes saw the sheriff and as he galloped past him yelled out, "You need to arrest her for assault! She's nuts!"
The sheriff was dumbfounded.
Judy ran out in the street holding up her dress from dragging the ground. "I'll find you again someday, Hannibal Heyes!"
"Hannibal Heyes...?!" The sheriff watched the dark haired man as he quickly rode out of town, his hat bouncing on his back, held on only by the stampede strings.
Kid Curry returned to the hotel room that evening to find his cousin lying facedown on the bed, boots still on, his hat thrown on the table, and his jacket thrown across the chair. "Heyes? You okay?"
Heyes raised his head and slightly glared at Kid. "You'd never believe what a day I..."
Curry interrupted him smiling. "Nuh uh Heyes. You said you wouldn't complain about the barn job tonight, remember?"
Heyes raised up on his elbows. "This isn't about a barn!" But on second thought, he was glad his partner had interrupted him. He really didn't want to talk about his encounter with giant Judy.
Kid raised his eyebrows as he noticed a red smudge on Heyes' cheek. "Did you get in a fight today? What's with the red spot on your face?"
Heyes got up and went to the mirror. "I thought I got all that off." He set to scrubbing the side of his face with a towel once again.
"What IS it?"
Heyes didn't really want to say. "It's...lipstick," he finally got out.
Kid smiled at him. "Got done early and went to the saloon for some fun did you?"
Heyes rolled his eyes. "No, and let's leave it at that."
Curry was now thoroughly intrigued. "Come on Heyes, spill it. What happened today?"
Before Heyes could answer, there was a knock on the door. Kid walked over to it. "Yeah? Who is it?"
"I've got a message for Mr. Smith."
Kid opened the door just as Heyes recognized the voice. "NO KID! DON'T OPEN THE DOOR!" But it was too late.
"Ooh! Kid Curry!" Judy said just before she tackled the gunslinger.
Heyes just shook his head as he looked down. "THAT'S what happened today."
Come to the dark side...we have cookies