Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec
|Which one of our wonderful writers wins your vote to go through for the finals of Story Of The Year?|
|1.A twisty, turny conversation shows a cunning plot of revenge, betrayal, and theft; but they never leave a a man (or a woman) behind.|| 10% ||[ 2 ]|
|2. Has Harry found a clue in the mooncakes? Is 'Mooncake' even two words?|| 33% ||[ 7 ]|
|3. The Kid's snoring becomes part of the sermon when he's ill. Who was that priest's first confession again?|| 24% ||[ 5 ]|
|4. A 'past' member of the gang helps the boys out of a sticky situation. Will Mllt make it out alive? I very much doubt it...|| 33% ||[ 7 ]|
|Total Votes : 21|
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: September - A Girl's Revenge - Silverkelpie Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:39 am|| |
September - A Girl's Revenge - Silverkelpie
Mattie Gold’s unremarkable features fell between the summer of attraction, and the winter of frailty. It felt like a lifetime since she had played with her tresses in a mirror to find the most flattering coiffure, or sought out fabric in the most alluring colors. She was a teacher; boring to all obvious appearances. Never a beauty, but never a grotesque either; she was humdrum, mousey, staid, and practical; but today her mind was a bubble of activity today, especially since yesterday’s momentous events. Mattie thrust the telegraph in her reticule with a sigh of relief. It was time to go home and pack, she was clearly about to be thrown out of her accommodation.
The hotel clerk looked up from his register in surprise. “Miss Gold? How can I help you?”
“I wish to reserve three rooms.”
The clerk smiled. “You have guests visiting maybe? Friends? Relatives?” His voice dropped to a shocked hush. “A man?”
The school mistress’ eyes sharpened. “Thomas Brownstone! That is none of your business. I wish to reserve three rooms. That is all you need to know.”
“I need to know who they’re for, Miss,” Thomas fell back into his old reverence for his teacher and pointed at the notice on the wall. “It’s the rules.”
“Very well. One of the rooms is for me. I shall move in immediately. The other two are for four men who will advise you of their names when they arrive. They should arrive here tomorrow and they will be sharing. Does that help?”
“I have no idea at the moment. Can you reserve the rooms or not?”
“I suppose so.” Thomas pushed the register over the desk. “But you live at the schoolhouse. Why do you want a room?”
“That is none of your business, young man.” Mattie stabbed the pen back into its holder. My bags are on Mr. Clarke’s wagon outside. Have them brought up to my room.”
“There‘s the question of payment, Miss?”
“Tommy. Where I am concerned there is never a question over meeting my obligations. Now, do I pay in advance or when I check out?”
A large Adam’s apple slid up and down beneath the stiff paper collar slightly too large for the thin neck. “The boss prefers before.”
“Then I shall pay now.” She opened her bag and snapped open a little purse. “How much?”
Mattie sat bolt upright on the chair with her hands folded in her lap, her chin raised defiantly against the onslaught of the angry man pacing up and down the hotel lounge. “Where’s the money? It ain’t in your room or your bags. You hid it. We’ve searched the lot.”
“I’m waiting for my lawyer to arrive to clear things up,” she reached out and grabbed at the bible they had discarded in their search before stuffing it into her bag along with her stockings and an embarrassingly expanding corset. “I haven’t stolen a thing.”
The man with the shaggy grey hair swiveled on his heel to face her. “You cleared out the Education Committee account. Where is it?”
Mattie’s nose rose a little higher. “Mr. Sampson, you may run the church around here but you’re an uneducated buffoon.” A smile played over her lips. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to tell you that at last.”
She pursed her lips. “You’re not the boss of me... anymore.”
“Where’s the money?” snarled the minister. Do we have to search your person?”
“If you lay one finger on me I’ll lay charges against you for assault. I’m not hiding the money on me. Get your wife to search me.”
There was a knock on the door. She stood and walked over to the door, palpable relief washing over her colorless features at the men standing on the threshold. “Mr. Smith? You came, just as you promised.”
The dark man smiled, his brown eyes glittering with recognition. “Of course, Miss Gold. How are you doing? You look a little flushed.”
“I’ve been better,” she threw a glance at the sheriff. “Meet Mayor Toomey, Sheriff Peters, and Mr. Sampson. They want to either throw me in jail or run me out of town. They can’t quite decide.”
The fair man who followed behind made the sheriff turn and grab for his gun. “It’s him! That’s Kid Curry. Hands up. Ya gotta be dumb as a box of rocks to come back here. He just escaped from my jail.”
“Put that down,” an older man commanded as he brought up the rear. A star glittered on his waistcoat, backing up the steely glare. “I’m Sheriff Lom Trevors and I have papers from the Governor of Wyoming to prove that this man isn’t wanted. He was granted amnesty. You had no right to lock him up.”
A serious young man closed the door to the hotel lounge behind them and stood protectively beside the schoolteacher. “Chester Brubaker, Attorney at law. My client called me here to assist with some charges you have laid against her.”
“Forget about a pilfering schoolteacher,” barked the sheriff. “That’s Kid Curry.”
“Yes, he is,” Brubaker nodded. “But as these papers show, he’s not wanted anywhere. The statute of limitations has run out on all charges and the only state which offers no such limitation has declared an amnesty for both Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes. See for yourself. They are no longer wanted men.”
The mayor peered at the papers glancing up at the lawyer from time to time, before shuffling the pages and handing them back. “They seem to be in order,” he muttered reluctantly.
Hannibal Heyes and Brubaker shared an amused look at the obvious confusion in the man’s eyes. “You’re sure, Mayor Toomey? I don’t want you to make any rash decisions. I want us to agree before I move onto her case.”
“How does a man like Kid Curry get amnesty?” barked the sheriff, holstering his gun. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
“Not as dumb as a corrupt lawman dumping the woman who’s got the goods on him,” purred Heyes. “That’s about as smart as catfish bait.”
“Yup,” the Kid agreed, “Any dumber and he’d have to be watered twice a week.”
“Huh?” blinked the lawman.
“You had a long standing understanding with Miss Gold, didn’t ya?” The Kid narrowed his eyes. “You made her all kinds of promises, but then you dropped her like a hot coal when it looked like you were in the money. That ain’t very gentlemanly.”
“So? You used to stick a gun in folks faces and hold ‘em up. I ain’t takin’ no eti...ket lessons from a gunman.”
“You never had any etiquette lessons from anyone, Harold. That’s the problem,” murmured Mattie, “along with too many other things to list.”
“You stole the town’s money. You got no room to talk down to anyone, Mattie.”
“I have been lied to and used.”
Heyes laid a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t get involved, Miss Gold. Some people just want to justify treating you badly.”
Brubaker cut in. “You are accusing my client of theft. Can you be clear about the charges?”
“She stole the school committee money,” barked Sampson. “I want it back or she’ll do hard labor.”
“Stole?” Brubaker turned Mattie. “You told me that you simply closed out your account.”
“I did,” she nodded. “Although I didn’t know there was an account in my name until Mr. Smith here informed me of the fact. I met him in the street after I left the jail house on Thursday. He was very kind and he offered me some comfort.”
“Comfort?” Sheriff Peters scowled. “You and me argue and you run straight into the arms of another man? I was right ta dump ya.”
The clergyman’s eyes narrowed. “As a female teacher you are not allowed gentlemen callers. If I’d known about this...”
“Well, you didn’t,” sniped Mattie. “Harold, I mean, Sheriff Peters, and I have had an understanding for the last eight years. He’d been visiting me, and...,”she gulped hard, “he made me promises, otherwise I would never have allowed him to take the liberties he did. I was desperately upset when I ran out of the jailhouse that night. I felt used and abused. Mr. Smith was a knight in shining armor.”
“Well, that’s real kind of you,” Heyes piped up. “I was in town on business.” The hard stare Lom Trevors was giving the dark-haired man was lost on most of the men in the room as Heyes continued. He gave his lawyer a smile of appeasement. “Miss Gold just ran straight into my arms. She was real upset and told me all about the promises the sheriff had made to her over the years.” The dark eyes glittered with disapproval. “You told her you were going to marry her didn’t you?”
“I never...” the sheriff spluttered.
“You did,” exclaimed Mattie. “You swore we were going to get married once we’d saved enough money to buy a little place somewhere. I’ve been living hand to mouth for years; saving every penny I could to make it a reality.”
“Well, I guess you got the money to give back what you stole,” The reverend countered.
“One thing at a time,” Heyes raised a hand. “When I met this lady she was in tears. She’d just been unceremoniously thrown over for a younger woman after being used for years by the sheriff.”
“What’s this got to do with her stealin’ from the Education Committee?” The minister demanded.
“That’s what I was wondering,” Lom replied. The low calm tone betrayed more than a hint of suspicion. “And what has this to do with Kid Curry being arrested?”
“Well, I was just in town,” Heyes slipped into his poker face. “But I’m sure the sheriff thinking that he was about to get ten thousand dollars reward for arresting a wanted felon had a lot to do with the way he treated poor Miss Gold.”
“It certainly did,” asserted the school mistress. “The town was abuzz with the talk of Harold bringing in the notorious gunman, and about the reward money. I couldn’t wait to see him. It was then that he told me the truth,” she pointed an accusing finger at her ex-lover. “He told me that he’d been just stringing me along for years. He had no intention of marrying me. There was I thinking that we finally had our nest egg and more, and he was just a viper in my bosom. I was heartbroken!” Mattie Gold’s anguish was not of the melt-in-front-of-you, wilting-daisy kind. It was the simmering-lava-and-brimstone variety. “You told me that you were marrying Emily Sampson and that I was to forget you.” Her little fists tightened in fury. “Did you really think I was going to let that little harlot sweep in and take everything from me? The preacher’s twenty year old daughter? She’s been around more men in town than the barber’s cape.”
“Hey!” Sampson stepped forward with his fists raised but Kid Curry quickly stepped in the way and faced the minister down with a chilling blue glare.
“But that’s my daughter,” he protested.
“Then you should have been watching her,” Mattie snorted. “Your Emily suddenly found a middle-aged man attractive the moment there was ten thousand dollars in cash on the way. Oh Harold! Do you really think that a pretty young girl is going to be interested in a bristled old coot with a moustache like a prairie dog?”
“You were interested,” snapped the sheriff.
“In you. As a person! What kind of life do you think a girl like that was going to give you? You have nothing to talk about and nothing in common. Once she’d spent your money she’d be out looking for the next one.”
“May I remind you that’s her father is here?” barked the minister.
“She’s got her father’s scruples,” retorted Mattie. “I know how often you go to Miss Penny’s flesh emporium.”
“I’m spreading the word ...” the clergyman spluttered.
“Really?” Mattie pursed her lips. “You’ve been going there three times a week for years, and they only ones who’ve left went on to open their own places. Is your message ‘go forth and multiply?’?”
Sampson turned puce.
“Yes, and you paid cash,” Heyes arched a suggestive brow. “I checked. Miss Penny might be as fond of corporal punishment the church, but she’s not as confidential.”
“What does all this have to do with her takin’ the education board’s money?” Sheriff Peters pointed at his ex-fiancé. “She cleared out the bank account and won’t tell us where the money is.”
“Miss Gold, I think we need to speak in private about this matter,” Brubaker urged.
“There’s no need. I only found out yesterday that there was an account in my name in the bank. It had only my name on it nobody else’s.” Mattie’s face lit up. “It had a lot of money in it. Eight thousand, six hundred and forty three dollars and thirteen cents, to be exact. That is the account I closed, along with my savings account. I only took money which was in my name and I have the paperwork to prove it.”
Brubaker frowned. “Is this true, Mayor? The account she closed was in her name?”
Mayor Toomey bit in to his lip. “It’s not that simple.”
“Yes is it,” Brubaker asserted. “If her’s was the only name on that account, she is able to withdraw it from the bank quite legally.”
“But the money wasn’t her’s to take. It was the property of the Education board.”
“Eight and a half thousand dollars?” Heyes smiled, mischievously. “That’s one well supplied school.”
“I beg to differ,” sniffed Mattie. “I supplied many things myself because the committee told me there was no money. I’ve been living with a leaking roof for the last two years, and the few books I had were falling apart.”
“Really...” Heyes’ pensive moué wasn’t fooling a glowering Lom, but he continued on. “Did you open that account?”
“No. I didn’t,” Mattie shook her head vehemently. “The first I heard of it was when you told me about it, Mr. Smith. I was quite shocked as you can imagine.”
Brubaker stared hard at the teacher. “So you knew nothing about this account? Would you swear to that, Miss Gold?”
She patted her bag. “I’ll swear to it on my bible right now, Mr. Brubaker, and I didn’t sign anything to open it. Nothing.”
“So who did open it?” Brubaker demanded.
“The committee thought that it might be best to have it in the teacher’s name,” murmured the mayor. “That way she could use it as she needed equipment...”
“Or she was there to take the fall for your embezzlement,” sniped Heyes.
“Why didn’t you tell her about this account,” asked Brubaker.
“We did. She knew it wasn’t her money,” retorted the sheriff.
Heyes folded his arms. “I can testify that she was pretty astounded when I told her about it and I’m pretty good at reading people.”
“Mr. Smith comforted me after I left the jailhouse where the Mr. Kid was being held. It was him who told me everything,” her eyes narrowed as realization started to dawn. “It was the strangest of coincidences.”
“You can say that again,” muttered Lom.
Brubaker rubbed his face. He didn’t want to know the answer to this question, but he had to ask. “So, there was an account in my client’s name with a whole lot of money in it, which she claims to know nothing about. After being thrown over by him, she bumps into a complete stranger who tells her all about it.”
“Yes,” agreed Mattie agreed.
“And that stranger also happens to be the partner of the incarcerated man,” the lawyer paused. “And he is really Hannibal Heyes.”
Mattie gasped. “You! You are Hannibal Heyes?”
“They’re all in it together,” yelled the Mayor.
“A criminal,” scoffed Mattie. “I most certainly am not!” She glared at Heyes. “And you can wipe that smile off your face young man. You lied to me.”
“I suppose I did, Miss Gold,” Heyes replied. “My partner was in jail and I didn’t know the amnesty had come through yet.” A warning glare from Lom made Heyes smile lightly as he continued. “I made it my business to find out about the men holding the Kid.” He shrugged at Lom. “It’s not a crime. It didn’t take me long to find out that the father of the girl who jumped straight in to make the most of the reward money was a preacher who went the local brothel more than he went to his own church. So I got to wondering how he paid for it.”
“That’s none of your business, you hypocrite,” barked the mayor.
“Hypocrite?” Heyes face shone with innocence. “At least when the Kid and I robbed, we did it to your face. You and your friends have been skimming money from the church, the town, the education board, and the law enforcement budget for years. How do I know?” Heyes’ grin broadened and his cheeks dimpled. “Because I’ve got the real books. You put that money in that account and used it as a slush fund with the help of a crooked bank manager, and put it all in the schoolteacher’s name in case you were caught to make her take the fall.”
“How could you have the books?” demanded Sampson. “They were locked up... “
“In a safe,” beamed Heyes. “Yes. They were. Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily put Lom or my lawyer in a situation like this, but you are all crooks, and I’ve got the goods on you. If the amnesty hadn’t come through you’d have had real biblical wrath rain down on you, but you got lucky. So did the Kid on a point of law pointed out to me by Mr. Brubaker. The amnesty came through before he escaped. That means the jail break isn’t a crime because he wasn’t legally detained.”
Kid Curry strode over to the door and opened it. “There ain’t any charges you can bring here, but we thought we’d come to make sure Miss Gold was free to go to. And as you were prepared to make her the patsy in your crime, we thought it only right that she walked away with enough money for her to be set for life.”
“You won’t get away with this, barked Mayor Toomey. “That’s the town’s money and she isn’t leaving here until we get it back.”
“You can’t detain her,” Brubaker shook his head. “If you try I’ll be straight on the Governor.”
“You know about this. Ain’t there some law about a lawyer telling the truth?” Demanded the sheriff.
“We’ll, my client is owed confidentiality by me and she’s committed no crime. If you have a civil case to pursue, that’s up to you. As far as any other crime is concerned I’ll simply answer any questions asked of me.”
“Not if we lock you up too, it won’t,” growled the sheriff.
“Now hold on,” Lom cut in. “The Governor of Wyoming knows we came here to clear up charges against the Kid. He’ll send folks lookin’ for us. My deputy in Porterville ain’t gonna just let it lie either.”
“There’s an easy way to decide.” A determined Kid Curry stood with his feet planted firmly apart in a familiar stance which gave Lom pause. “Any of you fellas care to try to draw against me? I’ve got amnesty, but there’s nothing stopping me usin’ my gun to prevent a bunch of criminals takin’ the law into their own hands.” The arctic eyes scanned the room, drinking in the fear flickering in the men’s eyes. “I didn’t think so. Now, if you hand over your weapons we’ll be peaceably on our way.”
“Are you really a lawman?” Mattie demanded as they walked to the railway station.
“Sure am, Ma’am.” Lom smiled, reassuringly. “I’m the Sheriff of Porterville. I helped these fellas get their amnesty. You’ll be welcome to come back there with me to decide where to head next. I’ll make sure none of these rats come after you.”
“Thank you. I hadn’t thought beyond jail. And you,” Mattie prodded the brown corduroy jacket with her umbrella. “You are Hannibal Heyes. You used me!”
Heyes turned to face her with a smile full of bluff and contrition. “I’m sorry. I really am. I just needed to get my partner out of jail. You’ve gotta admit that sneaking the cell keys out to me, so I could pass them to the Kid was the best revenge you could get on your two-timing fiancé. The minute he lost the reward, he lost the woman he threw you over for.”
“You, you...” she paused, groping for the mot juste. “Devil! That’s what you are. It never occurred to me to break the law until I met you. You dripped poison in my ear. You could persuade the disciples to charge for loaves and fishes.”
“I just pointed out a few things is all,” Heyes murmured. “You did the rest. And you didn’t break the law. He wasn’t wanted. He had amnesty. ”
“If I understand the conversation in there correctly you didn’t know the amnesty had been awarded at the time, so you thought it was a proper break-out. You played me like a puppet!”
“A puppet who’s now eight and a half thousand dollars richer,” the dimple deepened. “And I came back to make sure you were alright. I never leave a gang member behind. Do I, Lom?”
“Keep me out of this,” Lom chuckled. “He can be real convincing, Ma’am. Don’t feel too bad. The devil has a broken mould somewhere he’s trying to fix to make more of him. Even folks used to dealing with criminals can get taken in. He persuaded me to ask the Governor for amnesty.”
“They had you set up to take the fall if anyone discovered they were embezzling, Ma’am. I wouldn’t feel too bad at beating them at their own game.” Heyes continued down the sidewalk.
Mattie blinked at the outlaws. “You really think that they would have done that?”
Heyes nodded. “They put it all in your name, while drawing on it whenever they wanted with the help of a crooked bank manager. You dodged a bullet there.”
“I still can’t figure out whether meeting you was a good or bad thing, Mr. Heyes.”
“I’ve known him all my life and I’m still tryin’ to figure out that one,” grinned the Kid. “All I know is that how folks treat you is their problem, how you react is yours. If I was in your shoes I’d start figurin’ out how to spend the money they gave you. It’s legally yours. Free and easy.”
“Yes,” Mattie murmured uneasily. “The money...”
“You have got it haven’t you?” Heyes frowned at the uneasiness in her face. “Where is it?”
“I hid it.”
The ex-outlaws shared an amused glance before the Kid grinned. “You can tell us, Miss Gold. We ain’t gonna take it from you. We’re goin’ straight, remember?”
“I put it in the last place the sheriff would think of looking for it,” Mattie replied, taking a smile from Lom as a reassurance.
“Yeah?” the men shared a glance.
Mattie was still uneasy. “I put the money in the lining of my bible.”
A chuckle started somewhere at the back of the group, growing and spreading until Mattie joined in herself, drawn by the sparkling blue eyes of the man she found hard to believe was a gunman. “Well, ma’am. I guess that’s kinda apt. Some of us get led into temptation, the rest of us find our own way, but God must love crooks. Why else would he make so many of us?”
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: October - Javabee - Moon Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:43 am|| |
October - Javabee - MoonThe Mooncake Caper“Dammit all to hell, how do those devils do it!” Mr. Hodges, the president of the Clear Mountain Mining Company, was at his wits end. He slammed his fist on his large desk, sloshing his cup of coffee, and muddying a stack of neatly arranged paperwork.“Li Ming!” The large man’s jowls undulated like receding waters, as his young Chinese assistant glided effortlessly into the room. He sat back in his oversized leather chair, impatiently watching her fuss over his mess, until the rich mahogany desk was once again immaculate.“More coffee, Mr. Hodges, sir?” Preoccupied, the man shook his head at the lovely young lady. Although dressed impeccably in western clothing, Li Ming still held to many of the traditional customs of her homeland. Careful to avoid eye contact in fear of showing disrespect, she bowed deeply, and discreetly retired to the reception area just outside his office.“I assure you, sir, every precaution was taken. We have no idea how Heyes and Curry knew the payroll was on last Friday’s train.” Hodge’s office manager, Mr. Trottier, was equally frustrated. Over half of their miners were Chinese, the rest were white. Between the language barrier and the whites demanding more pay than their Chinese counterparts, it had taken some time to diffuse the ensuing unrest. As if that wasn’t enough, now they couldn’t get their hands on their payroll, at least not consistently. The Devil’s Hole Gang had seen to that.“The situation is intolerable, Trottier. Our shareholders are impatient, powerful men with great expectations. We need to get to the bottom of this immediately.”“Agreed, sir. Knowing the urgency of the situation, I enlisted the services of a detective some time ago. You will be pleased to learn he’s concluded his investigation and, with your permission, has agreed to share the results with us today. He’s waiting outside.”“Good man, Trottier. Li Ming, send him in!”The lissome assistant opened the door, and ushered in their guest. A slight man confidently strutted into the office, sporting a dark mustache and a citified suit. A five o'clock shadow graced his narrow face, even though it was only midday. In his hands was a box, which he unobtrusively set aside on a nearby table.“Mr. Hodges, I would like to introduce Mr. Harry Briscoe of the Bannerman Detective Agency. He comes highly recommended, sir.”Hodges stood and extended his hand to the detective, who shook it eagerly. “Welcome Detective Briscoe, I hope you will be able to shed some light on our predicament.”“Harry Briscoe, at your service.” He tipped his hat to the men. “ I’m a Bannerman man, sir. Rest assured, we always get our man.”“I see, please take a seat. Maybe now we will get somewhere. Li Ming, take Mr. Briscoe’s hat and serve the brandy. Mr. Briscoe, one finger, or two?”The exotic assistant bowed and politely took the detective’s hat, placing it gently on a rack. Li Ming prepared the two businessmen their drinks at the nearby bar, extravagantly laden with beautiful crystal and expensive brandy. Still careful to avoid eye contact, she raised a finely sculpted brow of inquiry at the newcomer.“None for me, my dear. I never imbibe while on a case.” He turned to Mr. Hodges, tapping his temple in explanation. “To keep my mental faculties sharp, I strictly abstain from liquor until I’ve apprehended the perpetrators. It’s the Bannerman way.”“Impressive, Mr. Briscoe. Cheers.” The other men downed their drinks. “Now let’s get down to business. What have you got for us?”The detective glanced at the woman. “No offense to the lady, but I would prefer to confer in private, gentlemen.”Hodges looked at his assistant. “Her? She’s a pretty little thing. Her father is Mr. Ming, the head foreman of the Chinese miners. The Ming family is unquestioningly loyal, and you may speak freely.”Seemingly unaware she was the topic of conversation, Li Ming gracefully carried on with her duties. She drew back the velvet draperies, allowing lambent light to pour into the room. The light glimmered through the prisms of the opulent chandeliers, creating flickers of gold that danced fluidly across the surface of the richly papered walls.“Just the same, I must insist we speak alone. What I am about to divulge is of a highly sensitive nature. We are about to discuss the activities of hardened criminals, sir, and I don’t want to alarm the young lady.”“As you wish.” Hodges shrugged and turned towards the girl. “Li Ming, you may retire to your station.” The young lady with almond eyes and jet black hair, respectfully bowed once again and left the room.The detective cleared his throat. “I am pleased to announce I’ve completed my investigation, gentlemen. I would like to verify a few facts, and then I will be delighted to share my findings.”“Carry on, Mr. Briscoe, you have the floor.” The detective stood, puffed out his chest, and strode across the room, like a rooster in a barnyard.“According to my sources, gentlemen, the Union Pacific makes a run between Laramie and your mine on a daily basis, correct?”Hodges frowned and looked at his office manager quizzically. “Yes, that’s common knowledge. We transfer our coal and receive necessary supplies each day.”“Just as I thought!” The detective paced the other direction. “And even though you vary the day of the payroll delivery each month, the bandits still ascertain the date like clockwork. Is that an accurate assessment?”“Of course, but...”“I thought so.” Pleased with himself, Briscoe paced the opposite direction. ”In addition, your mine is the largest in the region, resulting in an extremely lucrative payroll, am I right?”“Yes, yes, but…”Satisfied, Briscoe turned to face them. “There’s no buts about it, gentlemen. This kind of illegal activity could only be carried out by the criminal mastermind, Hannibal Heyes and the notorious gunman, Kid Curry. Find these men, and you will find your payroll.”The two businessmen looked at each other in confusion.“Uh, Mr. Briscoe, we already know it’s Heyes and Curry. They told us themselves at the time of the robberies.” Mr.Trottier was clearly perplexed with Briscoe’s line of questioning.“They did?” Mr. Briscoe coughed, returning to his chair. “Of course they did, that’s their trademark, gentlemen, to declare themselves at the time of the robbery. I’m glad we all agree.”Mr. Trottier rose and glanced at his boss with embarrassment. “Mr. Briscoe, surely you have something else for us? We didn’t hire you to identify the thieves, but to find out how to stop them.”“I’m just getting started, gentlemen. Rest assured my keen powers of deduction have already determined the answer to that very question.”“Well, spit it out, man!” Never known for his patience, Mr. Hodges also rose, exasperated. This time he frowned so severely, his bushy brows connected in the center, creating the illusion of a furry centipede.Briscoe seemed oblivious to Hodge’s growing irascibility. ”May I?” The detective brashly nodded toward a richly carved wooden box on the man’s desk.Receiving a furtive nod of permission from his boss, Trottier opened the lid to the ornate cigar case. Briscoe selected a cigar, inhaled it’s tantalizing aroma, and ghosted two more into his pocket before Trottier had a chance to snap the lid shut.“Only the best, I see. Good man.” Time seemed to tick by slowly as the men restively watched him bite off the tip of the premium cigar, strike a match, and light it with excruciating care.The bulging veins in Hodge's neck didn’t go unnoticed by his office manager. Trottier quickly interjected, “Mr Hodges is a very busy man, could you please continue your...”“Yes, of course, but first may I suggest you sit down, gentlemen. I'm afraid my findings might shock you.”Eyes locked on Briscoe, the two men simultaneously sit down.Briscoe took a long draw on his cigar. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Hodges, but there’s an informant in your company.”“Preposterous!” Hodges was aghast. “Only our most trusted people know about the details concerning incoming payroll. We have already thoroughly investigated this possibility. It's someone on the outside, like that shady telegraph operator. Tell him, Trottier.”Mr.Trottier cleared his throat. “Mr. Briscoe, the first few times the Devil’s Hole Gang robbed the payroll, it was due to a leak at the telegraph office. A tall, thin man in the habit of quoting Bible passages worked there long enough to intercept our messages, foiling two of the payroll deliveries. He inconveniently disappeared just as we were about to apprehend him.”Briscoe shook his head, chuckling. “Only a trained detective such as myself would know the telegraph operator had nothing to do with the Devil’s Hole Gang, Trottier. Hannibal Heyes would never use a plan as simple minded as planting an informant in a telegraph office. No, siree, he’s much too devious for that.” “But the Marshall assured us…”“Sir, I don’t think you appreciate who you’re up against. You are in a battle of wits, gentlemen, with a criminal genius. Why, Hannibal Heyes could convince your very own sweet mother into giving him the information he wants, and gladly. No, the informant is from within your own company.”Briscoe abruptly stood, strode to the door and threw it wide open. Startled, Li Ming gasped in alarm. He glanced, left and then right, as if expecting to see an eavesdropper listening in on their conversation.He looked at the woman reassuringly. “Never fear, little lady. Harry Briscoe is here.” She nodded and smiled demurely. He stepped back into the room and shut the door.“All clear,” said Briscoe, ”for now. But the culprit could be anywhere, just waiting to put Heye’s clever plan into action.”“Alright, Mr. Briscoe. Please enlighten us as to what kind of plan would be clever enough for the likes of Hannibal Heyes.” Trottier was still hoping the detective would produce something worthwhile.“Very well. You see, just yesterday I spotted two unsavory looking characters lurking about town. I quickly deduced they were outlaws from the Devil’s Hole Gang, and were likely acting outside the law."“Outside the law?” Hodges glanced at Trottier incredulously. “Isn’t that why we call them 'outlaws'?”“That’s quite astute of you, Hodges.” Briscoe gestured with his cigar at the man in salute. “Quite astute.” Hodge's temper was now on simmer; beads of perspiration began to appear on his forehead.“How can you be sure they were from the Devil’s Hole Gang?” Trottier inquired, trying to move Briscoe’s narrative along a more productive path.Briscoe tapped his head. “My highly trained mental powers, gentlemen. I have committed to memory all the current wanted posters of the infamous gang. Only the likenesses of Heyes and Curry seem to be missing. I’d recognize Murtry and Carlson anywhere.””Why didn’t you pick them up, man? We could have questioned them!” Hodges was stunned at the man’s incompetence.Briscoe puffed on the expensive cigar, chuckling. “I can see you don’t understand the first tenents of detective work, gentlemen. If the suspects were in jail, I couldn’t tail them to discover what they were up to.”“Well, did you?”“Did I what?”“Discover what they were up to!” By this time, Hodges was besides himself.“Indeed I did.” Briscoe reached into his pocket and retrieved a notepad covered with meticulous scribbling. “According to my observations, the suspects, Murtry and Carlson, visited the Ming Chinese Laundry, dropping off a bundle of clothing. They then visited the Ming Chinese Bakery, directly across the street, and left only minutes later with a suspicious box. Still incognito, I followed them to the saloon. There I managed to cleverly retrieve said box, while they were distracted by some young, buxom saloon girls.”“Yes, yes, and then you arrested them, I presume?” Hodges was hopeful.“Er, no sir. That was never the plan. I completed my mission when I absconded with the evidence.”“We could have had the box AND the outlaws, Briscoe. What were you thinking?”“Uh, well, you see, I wanted to leave them on their own so they could be tailed again in the future if need be.”Hodge’s could no longer contain himself; his temper rose to a rolling boil. ”We may never see them again, you bumbling fool!”Trottier stepped in, putting a hand on his boss’s shoulder to calm him. “Hold on, sir. Let’s at least find out what he’s brought us.” He looked at the detective pleadingly. “Please, Mr. Briscoe, show us what’s in the box.”
“With pleasure, gentlemen.” Briscoe picked up the box and set it on Hodge’s desk with pride. “Two words, Hodges: Moon Cake. Allow me.” Briscoe lifted the lid of the box with a flair. All three men leaned in to closely view the contents.Hodges angrily locked eyes with the detective. “If this is your idea of a joke, Briscoe…”“No joke, sir. This delicacy is a very serious clue to the crime. Take a closer look, and tell me what you see.”The two businessmen leaned in again, this time hoping to view something meaningful in the box.“I see four small cakes, Briscoe, and there had better be more to this or I’ll have your hide.” Hodges glared at him menacingly.“There most certainly is, sir. You have failed to notice the most important feature of the mooncakes, the Chinese lettering.”“They look like illegible hieroglyphics to me, what of it?”Still puffing on his cigar, Briscoe continued his explanation. “These hieroglyphics, as you call them, will likely tell us the exact date of the next payroll delivery. I have reason to believe someone from your company has ordered the information baked into the top of these cakes. Heyes gets his hands on the cakes, and voila, he knows the date. All we need is a translator to confirm my expert opinion.”The men leaned in one last time. Each of the four cakes, about four inches in diameter, were cut into four precise slices, ready for consumption. Chinese figures were indeed baked into the top of each cake, and delicately browned to perfection.“Li Ming!” Hodges bellowed. The pretty Chinese assistant came floating in, with a bow.“Take a look at these cakes and tell me what they say.”The young woman peeked into the box, studied it seriously for a few seconds, and began her interpretation. “Best wishes for happy family, and long life, sir.” She smiled serenely, as her dark eyes sparkled knowingly.“Are you completely sure that is all, Li Ming?”“Yes, sir. Mooncakes very special, give to friends and family. Ancient Chinese tradition, sir. Will that be all?”“Yes, you may get back to work, Li Ming.” Seeing the mood of her boss, the young woman made a quick exit.Hodges slowly turned to Briscoe, exercising as much self control as he could muster. His face was beet red, indicating that steam would soon escape through his ears.With an ashen face, Trottier looked with regret at his boss, appalled that he had been responsible for the fiasco. “My sincere apologies for wasting your time, sir. He came highly recommended.”“Get this man out of here, he’s a buffoon, a blundering idiot!” For the second time that day, Hodge’s fist pounded his desk, scattering the paperwork Li Ming had carefully arranged.“Now hold on, Hodges, I’m a Bannerman man!” The citified detective grabbed his hat off the hook and backed away from the incensed man.“Get out, you fool!”, Hodges bellowed. Trottier restrained his outraged boss, fearful for the safety of the retreating detective.“But we always get our man!”“I said OUT!”Li Ming struggled to keep amusement from showing on her face. Stifling a giggle, she began sweeping the remains of the mooncake that had crumbled across her otherwise tidy reception area. The funny little man called Briscoe had been mercilessly pelted with them, as he made his hasty and undignified escape.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Mooncake is a Chinese pastry, traditionally exchanged during the Mid-Autumn Festival, now commonly known as the Mooncake Festival. The festival is held during the 8th lunar month of the Chinese year on the night of the full moon, between early September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. Mooncake is covered with Chinese writing, bestowing blessings of long life and unity. It is made of a tender crust filled with lotus-seed paste and an egg yolk in the center, representing the moon. It is thought to be the precursor of the modern fortune cookie, and contrary to what poor Harry Briscoe claims, is only one word, not two.
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Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: November - Silverkelpie - Back Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:46 am|| |
November - Silverkelpie - Back
They looked up at the heavy, frowning sky; the light adding a tint of purple behind the low cloud. Huge flakes swirled and whirled out of the nebula, settling on eyelashes, shoulders, and freezing dirt roads into hard ruts. The wooden spire of the church rose to meet the flurry, as though inviting coverage by a glacial blanket of crystals. The two newcomers clustered together in the porch, nodding politely to the faithful on their way to worship. The fair-haired man blew his reddened nose into a large handkerchief and shivered inside his sheepskin jacket.
“I don’t know why we had to come back here,” grumbled the Kid, kicking aimlessly at the gathering snow. “It ain’t like we usually go to church.”
“We’ve got to catch the priest right after he finishes his sermon, or we’ll miss the train back to Denver. If we don’t get back on time, we won’t get paid. It’s snowing, so I’m sure not going to stand outside.” Heyes sighed deeply. “I blame that rat Schlossen. He looked us straight in the eye and told us there was no reply. If we’ve got time before the train leaves I’m going to find out exactly why he lied to us. It’s his fault we’ve done a complete round journey in the last two days. You heard what the Governor said; if we don’t get a reply from the priest before tomorrow night, we won’t get paid.”
“But I’ve been up since yesterday mornin’. I’m ready to drop. You know I’ve got a bad cold.”
“We need the money.” Heyes stared into the bleary blue eyes and nodded in agreement. “We’ll sit at the back. You can rest your eyes until the sermon’s over and I’ll catch him as soon as it’s over. You can sleep on the train.”
“You said that on the way here. That little brat ran up and down the aisle with that wooden horse between his legs, whoopin’ at the top of his voice. It was cute for about ten minutes. I felt like brainin’ him with the thing.” A long forefinger poked into Heyes’ shoulder. “If he’s on that train on the way back I’m gonna go back to outlawin’. A law-abidin’ man has no control over the little ‘uns. They didn’t tell me that when I went for amnesty.”
“Isn’t the powder the pharmacist gave you helping?”
He shrugged inside the sheepskin jacket. “Not much. It doesn’t do a thing. It was a waste of money if you ask me. We’re cuttin’ it fine. The train goes at noon sharp. If we don’t get that one, we’ll be too late.”
The elderly priest’s voice barely reached the back pew. The heavily embroidered vestments appeared to be holding up the gaunt frame leaning against the lectern with stick thin arms. “I am of a mind, on this; my last day before retiring, to think of my first day in this parish. On that day I took my first confession in this very church. The man was a thief, a vagabond, and a drunk. I could have judged him and walked by on the other side, but I chose to help him. Was that a good decision? I sometimes wonder, given the money he has cheated people out of, and the episodes of inebriated brutality he has brought to this town, but what would have happened if I hadn’t? Yes, he brought a gang of thugs to the town, but wouldn’t he have done that anyway? When I muse on the matter I find that I have at least managed to protect the town from the worst excesses by maintaining a dialogue and setting boundaries. I employed that man and taught him how to read and write. He didn’t turn away from his dishonest ways, but at least he became less violent. I helped.”
The tousled head dropped in the sheepskin collar as the powder began to take full effect. It was almost as quickly jerked back up again.
The priest continued. “I think that the message I want to leave you with is one of faith and courage. Believe in your ability to at least make things better, even if you cannot solve the problems of the world. It is better to try than to do nothing. Be one of life’s helpers. Don’t wait for everyone else to do it for you. Please continue to fight the good fight when I am gone.”
The sermon seemed interminable, not helped by the monotone delivery and the thin, insipid voice drifting from the pulpit. The quietude was almost palpable in the calm, peaceful throng, where listening was as active as the pursing of lips and the tranquil nodding of heads. The fat, pot-bellied stove in the back corner pumped out a delicious, embracing heat, and the general sense of peace was too much for a sleep-deprived, feverish, and medicated man; the fair head started to drop, nodding at first, then swinging down into a deep slumber as he slumped against Heyes. Drugs stared to filter into his bloodstream, and pulled the ex-outlaw deeper and deeper down into a lethargic torpor. The awkward position and the depth of the lethargy soon made themselves known; he started to snore.
The brown eyes rolled in embarrassment at the tutting and muttering aimed at them from the congregation. Heyes jiggled his shoulder, trying to shrug the Kid into consciousness, but the only result was a loud, throaty snort of irritation followed by the smacking of lips before the resting head nestled back into its nest and settled back into a deep, deep nap. At least this time it seemed to be silent.
“...And let us remember the words of Matthew chapter seven, verse six.”Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine...”
A huge grunt cut through the sermon and rang in the rafters. Heyes winced in discomfort at the head dropping from his shoulder. The jolt of the falling head brought the sleeper up short and he gave a groan before grabbing at his partner’s jacket and sitting bolt upright, his head swinging from side to side. All heads snapped around in their direction and fixed on Heyes in the absence of any ability perceivable guilt on the face of the dreaming cowboy, who smiled and mumbled to fellow travellers on his trip to the land of nod. He buried himself into the side of his partner, his subconscious secure in the knowledge that an awake Heyes was on guard.
Heyes smiled, his eyes glittering guiltily as he elbowed his comatose cousin in the ribs. “Thaddeus!”
“Uh...” The uncomprehending blue eyes blinked open and stared blankly ahead as though nothing had happened. “Wotsup...?”
The sermon continued with a bleary Kid Curry fighting heavy lids and leaden limbs while the soporific homily swept over the assembly. Sleep won once more and the gunman’s head fell back, leaving the noise coming out of his throat to echo off the walls like the sawing of dry logs.
“Disgraceful,” snapped an elderly woman from the pew in front. “This is Father Whyte’s last sermon before he retires. He shouldn’t have to tolerate this.”
“I’m real sorry, ma’am.” Heyes leaned forward and beamed his most charming smile. “We’ve been working all night, but he just had to come to church before turning in. He’s real pious.” He thrust a thumb in the Kid’s direction. “He wouldn’t have missed this for the world, even though he’s done in and got some kind of grippe. The pharmacist gave him a powder, I think that the problem.”
Thin lips pursed and an only slightly mollified matron turned back to face the front. Heyes felt a slight tap on his arm.
“Here, take this.” He turned to see an ornate hatpin being handed to him over the back of the wooden bench by a sympathetically smiling woman. “Just give him a slight jab when he’s getting too loud. It’s wonderful to see a young man so determined to worship. I wish it happened more often.”
The dimpled smile filled with the kind of devilment and light definitely not encouraged in a house of worship. “Why thank you, ma’am. If I was wearing a hat I’d tip it to you.”
Heyes faced back to the front and stared at the priest once more. He tried to attend to the actual message, but the boring delivery stymied any comprehension in the ex-outlaw leader. The ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s’ mingled with archaic language and the names of ancient tribes and nations until none of it made any sense anymore.
“Blah, blah blah... and Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse ...blah...”
There seemed to be a whole lot of begetting going on, but who knew it could sound so boring? Owls? Why can’t you eat owls? Heyes found his mind wandering as he tried to remember if he’d even eaten one and came up blank, but given his past he supposed that his diet was the least of his problems. His cousin’s head dropped back onto his shoulder, and as if to remind him of more immediate concerns, he had started to whistle softly every time he exhaled. The head snuggled up, getting more comfortable, but that also meant that the muscles around the throat relaxed too. The whistle turned into a wheeze, which gradually developed into a full throaty rasp. The snore continued, a rasp on the way in, and a shrill blast through mucous on the way out. Judgemental eyes were turning back at the irritating strangers. Heyes raised the hatpin.
The sermon continued,“...and who do we have to thank for all this...?”
All heads turned to stare at the exuberant worshipper in the back pew.
“Yes. Jesus. We certainly do have to thank Our Lord for his sacrifice ,” the white-haired, aged priest smiled. “And may I say how wonderful it is to have moved someone by the Holy Spirit with my last sermon?”
The Kid rubbed the top of his arm and glowered at his smiling partner. Heyes frowned, guiding the blue eyes to the aging priest who continued to speak. A scowl from the drugged man warned against another jab, but the Kid settled down and watched the wizened little priest continue with his speech.
The stream of words continued, and flowed over everyone; not only the two ex-outlaws, but the matrons, shopkeepers, and schoolchildren. The listlessness was contagious and more and more eyelids started to droop; along with the lashes of the drugged cowboy once again. It wasn’t long before the Kid was floating back into a hard day’s sleep again.
“And I am reminded, when I look at the providers of liquor and purveyors of the flesh on this Sabbath day of Ephesians chapter five verse four. ‘Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.’
“Zzzzz...zzzzzz. Uchh! Zzzzz.”
“And in who’s name should we give thanks?”
“In the name of...!”
Heyes bit into his lip and looked innocently away.
“God.” The priest smiled. “That is correct young man.”
The sheepskin covered arms folded indignantly as a pair of blue eyes levelled on his partner menacingly. “Will you quit that?” he hissed.
“Sure, as soon as you stop snoring.”
“I ain’t snorin’. I ain’t even asleep.”
“Not now you’re not. Quit it or we’ll get thrown out. Have you forgotten it’s snowing out there?”
Both heads dropped to avoid the glare from the woman with the steel-grey hair and the even more steely eyes.
Father Whyte droned on and on, the heat from the stove built up, continuing to burn into the backs of the people on the back row, and the drugs continued to drag at the consciousness of the tiredest gun in West until he was unable to keep his eyes open any longer. In his head he was in a bower of long grass with a beautiful woman who reached out and stroked his face. The sleeping man’s lips twiched into a smile and he surrendered once more to the sandman.
“Now all this begetting I spoke of has a reason. We are here to populate this land, good people. The Good book itself says, ‘And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’” The priest paused to raise his arm, pointing towards the heavens.
The Kid filled the silence once more. “Zzzzzzzz”
“And what did Eve say to Adam on the birth of their ninety ninth child?”
"You stick that darned thing in me one more time and I'll break it in half and shove it right u....!"
The elderly woman’s head swivelled around. “If you two can’t behave like adults, you should leave. This isn’t a zoo.”
Heyes glanced out of the window at the snow gathering on the greying trees, stiff in their winter armour. “If he drops off again, I’ll take him out, I promise...”
“Make sure you do,” she turned back to the priest who was continuing with his speech.
Heyes gave a sigh of resignation and nodded acceptance to the elderly woman. “Yeah, Yeah. We’re going.” He grabbed a handful of sheepskin and shook the Kid awake. “Come on, let’s get you outside. Maybe some fresh air will help?”
A bleary-eyed Kid followed his partner to the door, stumbling over the end of the pew and apologising to the elderly man nearby for nothing and everything on the way. A blast of refreshing cold air hit like a polar vortex, opening eyes and burning into sinuses as they opened the door and walked out into the icy steps. Heyes’ eyes hardened at the sight of the familiar wiry figure huddled into a thick coat and stripped scarf. “Schlossen, I want a word with you. We handed over that letter to you and you told us there was no reply. We’ve had to come all the way back here because the Governor insists on one. Why did you send us away?”
Schlossen’s moustache bristled as a grin spread over his face. “Then you can have one. The answer is that I am standing for mayor and that I do it with the full blessings of Father Whyte. You can tell the Governor that he has nothing to worry about in Wellford Springs. I have things under control.”
“The letter was about you? I’d rather hear that from him, if you don’t mind.” Heyes stood on the steps and stared down at Schlossen. “If the Governor wants a character recommendation, it needs to come from the person he asked, not from the person it’s about.”
Schlossen shook his head. “I’ve worked with him. He gave me my first job. I come to his church. The man’s retiring because of ill health,” he pointed a stubby forefinger at his temple. “He’s losin’ it. He’s not well enough to be dealing with things like this.”
“But we need...”
Schlossen cut him off. “Father Whyte is a poor, ill old man. He doesn’t need to be bothered by any of this. If you or any of your friends try to bother him before he leaves for the rest home, I’ll have the law on you. Have you got that?”
“Bother him?” Heyes scowled. “We just want to ask him a simple question. If there’s something you’re trying to hide, there are ways of finding it out.”
“Hide? Me? Don’t be ridiculous. You can ask Father Hannigan, he’s been doing most of the work around here for years. The sheriff, the local businessmen. I’m just trying to save a sick old man from being bothered.” He strode up the steps, brushing against Heyes’ shoulder aggressively as he went, and pulled open the door. “I’ll have men watching out for you. Get out of town and stop bothering Father Whyte.”
The door slammed behind him as Schlossen disappeared into the church. Heavy blue eyes blinked into the brown. “If the Governor asked Father Whyte, he had a reason. He won’t be happy with anyone else’s message.”
Heyes nodded. “I know, but if we don’t get back to him on the next train we won’t get paid.” He glanced over at his shivering partner. “You’re in no fit state to take on Schlossen’s men either.”
“I’ll manage, Heyes. You know I will.”
“No, we’re not going to risk it. You’re ill. We’ll go back to the Governor and tell him what happened. I guess he suspects some kind of bribery in the election and wonders if it’s worth looking into further. This’ll have to be enough for him. I’m not going to waste my time speaking to anyone Schlossen suggests. He’ll be paying them.” He turned and walked back up to the door, pulling it open to take one last look at his mark.
Schlossen had obviously come to make a speech about the departing clergyman. He stood in the pulpit and took papers out of his breast pocket and began. “Ladies and Gentlemen. I remember meeting Father Whyte many years ago when I was just a lad. In fact, this church had just been built and he had just been sent to this parish. I was his first confession here....”
Heyes’ face split into a grin. “First confession, huh?” He let the door fall shut behind him and walked down the steps with a laugh ringing in the air. “I think we’ve got what we need, Kid. Let’s get that train.”
“Huh? What just happened?”
The dancing brown eyes crinkled at the corners. “That’s the problem with being late you have no idea what you missed. They say the early bird gets the worm, but that worm just crawled onto the hook all by himself. We can give the Governor Father Whyte’s view of Schlossen from his own lips. First confession, huh? Real dumb. Never admit anything. He’ll never go anywhere in politics until he learns that.”
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|Subject: December - InsideOutlaw - Ice Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:49 am|| |
December - InsideOutlaw - Ice
“Tell me again why we’re stumblin’ around Wyoming at ten below and not down south somewhere warm snuggled up to a coupla senoritas?” grumbled Kid Curry as his horse picked its way across an iced-over stream, crunching through in places, its hooves and legs coated in pearls of ice. The trees nearby were also sporting a fine rime and glistened in the early morning light. A slight breeze caused the needles to crack and pop and the four mounted outlaws to shiver in their heavy winter coats.
“’Cause Soapy asked us to stay and pull this job; we owe him,” answered Hannibal Heyes firmly.
“I’m with the Kid. It’s too damned cold. I don’t remember it being this cold other times we’ve overwintered.” Wheat Carlson’s breaths were visible as he spoke. His hands, encased in thick buffalo hide gloves, were stiff and achy. He couldn’t feel the tip of his nose anymore.
Kyle leaned over and spit out a stream of chaw splashing his mare’s shoulder. The spent juice froze immediately in the long fur. “It wouldn’t be so dang cold if it were snowin’. My pappy always said snow was Mother Nature’s blanket.”
“Your pappy was right, but if we had snow on the ground, we’d have to worry about covering our tracks. The ground’s so hard even the horses aren’t leaving prints,” observed Heyes.
“Maybe so, but it’s still too damn cold,” said Wheat.
The Kid’s horse clambered up the bank and stopped suddenly as his rider tugged on his reins. The other horses were forced to stand in the middle of the frozen watercourse and curses erupted in the crystalline air. “Hold up a minute. I see something.” Curry rode upstream as his friends finished their crossing and stood waiting for him. They saw him dismount and lean over the edge of the bank. “Over here!” he yelled.
Standing, he waited for the others to reach him and then pointed solemnly to a frozen corpse half-submerged in the thin ice at the edge of the water. “Poor devil didn’t have a chance. Looks like he got thrown in the wrong place.”
Heyes got off his horse and walked to the bank. He knelt next the body. Using his leather-gloved fist, he punched a series of holes around the dead man. He struggled with the gruesome form until he could turn it over. “Kid, it’s Milt Forbisher.”
“Milt? What’s he doin’ here?” asked a stunned Curry. His eyes shifted to the corpse of their former gang member. The man had died with a terrified grimace on his face. His arms raised and frozen in mid-crawl with his hands curved into claws, almost as though he’d been trying to fight off his inevitable demise.
Heyes smiled grimly, “Nothing. He’s doing nothing ever again. Wheat, Kyle, help us pull him out.”
“Why?” asked Wheat.
Heyes glared up at him and snarled, “That could’ve easily been any one of us. Would you want to be left out here for the animals to devil come spring?”
“I reckon he deserves better,” said Kyle, jumping off his mare and coming over to help.
“For Pete’s sake, what are we gonna do with him?” challenged Wheat.
“We’ll take him with us,” said Heyes simply.
“To the robbery? That don’t make sense.”
“We’ll leave him somewhere in town where he’ll be found. At least, that way, someone’ll give him a proper burial,” explained the dark-haired leader.
The Kid wasn’t feeling patient, “Get off your damned horse and lend us a hand!” Wheat grudgingly dismounted from his warm saddle. Twenty minutes later, the stiff corpse was balanced across the back of Heyes’ saddle and clumsily tied down with latigo and lariats.
“All right, you know what to do?” queried Curry. The four men were across the street from their target, hiding in the shadows of the alley, having waited for the sun to go down to cover their activities. It was a week shy of a full moon and there would be just enough light to allow them to escape after the job. “Soapy had said that the shipment would be delivered this morning so it should be an easy in and out.”
“What do we do with Milt?” asked Kyle. All eyes turned to the board-like figure leaning up against a door jamb.
“Leave ‘im here. Someone’ll find him and figure he froze here,” said the Kid.
“Don’t seem right. Milt was a friend,” protested Kyle.
“What? You want him to help?” smirked Wheat.
“There’s nothing more we can do. Now, get in your positions. We should be out in less than forty-five minutes if it all goes well.” Heyes hefted the sack at his feet. Through the heavy burlap, he could feel the cold steel of the bar spreader it contained. “Wheat, once you see us leave by the side door fetch the horses. We’ll meet up with you behind the mercantile. Kyle, don’t do anything unless you see trouble; then kick up a fuss.” Having delivered his orders, he stepped out into the cold, clear moonlight of the deserted street. The temperatures had steadily dropped all afternoon and it was too cold for man or beast to be roaming about. But not four determined outlaws. Kyle and Wheat watched as the Kid and Heyes made their way towards the jewelry exchange. After a few minutes of tinkering with the front door lock and risking exposure, their bosses disappeared inside.
Wheat held his gloves hands tucked under his armpits to keep them warm. He’d lived in Wyoming a long time, but he’d never seen a winter like this one. Maybe it was time to move south and take up with another gang; a gang that stuck to the south. He could feel his legs stiffening up from the cold and started to pace back and forth behind Kyle who’d tucked himself behind a couple of barrels. “Damn Heyes. We could freeze to death out here waitin’ on him and the Kid.” Realizing he might've insulted their present company, he glanced at Milt and mumbled a hasty apology. Milt had obviously not taken offense.
“Here they come,” whispered Kyle. “Whoo-we, they weren’t gone more’n a minute or two!” He stood from his crouch as Wheat hurried down the alley and disappeared. Heyes locked the door to the jewelry exchange as the Kid stepped off the sidewalk, a rough burlap sack clutched in his left hand.
“Hey! Stop! Thieves! They’s robbin’ the exchange.” Loud yelling cut through the cold air and echoed up and down the main street. The Kid’s head swiveled towards the alarmist and he saw men spilling out of the saloon, guns drawn. In a split second, he knew it was over. They were caught. He might shoot his way out, but not without casualties and prison was preferable to a rope. He raised his hands in surrender and glanced over his shoulder at Heyes who’d already sized up the situation and lifted his hands, dismay etched on his face. It was just their luck some drunken cowpoke had decided to pee off the sidewalk rather than walk the frigid thirty yards to the nearest outhouse.
The crowd came running down the street towards them, but suddenly slowed, staring beyond the two outlaws. Turning his head, the Kid saw Kyle emerge from the alley, clutching Milt, a gun held to the corpse’s head. “Hold it right thar or he gits it,” hollered the little outlaw with all the threat he could muster.
The small crowd skidded to a stop. “He’s got a hostage. Hold your fire!” yelled someone. “Don’t shoot!” called another.
Kyle dragged Milt with him; his stiffened feet bouncing across the hardened wagon ruts that carved the street. “Back off or I’ll shoot!” The crowd was still some distance away, but they could easily make out the grim visage of fear that froze Milt’s features. The poor man was stiff with terror. The men’s gun hands dropped, their hands dangled by their sides. It wasn’t worth a life to stop a robbery.
Heyes and the Kid sprang into action having heard Wheat pounding up the street towards them, the horses’ hooves clattering over the frozen ground. Running to meet their mounts, they jumped into their saddles crossing to Kyle and his hostage. Milt was dragged up into Wheat’s arms—Wheat being the strongest of the four--and he kicked one foot from his stirrups, slipping Milt’s rigid limb in its place and keeping his left arm encircling the dead man, he spurred his horse. Kyle gripped his saddle horn and screamed at his mare to run, swinging aboard as she reached a full gallop surrounded by her comrades.
The stunned witnesses stood mutely in the cold night watching as the outlaws rode off into the darkness, their hostage still frozen with shock. “Get the sheriff!” cried one. “No point,” said another, “an Apache couldn’t track across this ground.” “He’s a goner,” was heard before the crowd fell silent.
Into the stillness of the night, one voice spoke. “Was it just me or was there somethin’ odd about that guy?”
On a warm, sunny spring day, the gang gathered in the grassy meadow of the Hole. Milt’s coffin was fetched from the ice house where it had resided during the remainder of the winter. As it arrived, Heyes stepped forward and nodded to Lobo and Hank who lowered the pine box into the ground with Kyle and Wheat’s help. Standing around a deep trench, the rough men clutched their hats solemnly, their heads bowed in prayer as Preacher read verses from the tattered Bible he always carried next to his heart. “…ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Amen.”
The men picked up shovels and began filling in the grave. Once the mound was packed down, the other outlaws dispersed leaving Heyes and the Kid contemplating the freshly disturbed earth. Heyes slipped his black hat back onto his head. “You know, Kid. Milt was a nasty drunk and a cruel-hearted man, but when I cut him loose, I never wanted him to end up like this.”
Curry thought for a moment and then smiled mischievously, “Nothin’ you coulda done, Heyes. You know as well as I do, we didn’t cut no ice with him.”
Heyes grinned back at his partner, “Yeah, he was always skating on thin ice. You remember when I kicked him out? He said it’d be a cold day in hell before he ever forgave us. Not till hell froze over.”
Chuckling, Curry threw his arm over his partner as the two men left the grave to bake in the noonday sun. “Guess he thawed out some, huh?”
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:18 pm|| |
Just a reminder that you have until the last day of the month to vote on this heat of story of the year. Don't forget to vote.
Posts : 8723
Join date : 2013-08-24
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:34 am|| |
The results are in and we have two very worthy winners for this heat.
InsideOutlaw and Javabee
Great stories! Your entries now go forward to the finals.
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Location : Over the rainbow
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sat Oct 01, 2016 6:29 am|| |
Congratulations, InsideOutlaw and Javabee Great stories and worthy winners.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb
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Join date : 2013-10-14
Location : Wherever the 'mooo'd takes me
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:27 am|| |
Congratulations, InsideOutlaw and Javabee.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but some of it was. Like a bit of a wall or a chunk of a bridge.
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Age : 45
Location : The Hideout
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:28 am|| |
Congratulations InsideOutlaw and Javabee!
Come to the dark side...we have cookies
Posts : 537
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Location : London
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:34 am|| |
Thanks to all the writers and congratulations to InsideOutlaw and Javabee. They were all so good it was a tough choice.
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|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sun Oct 02, 2016 4:55 am|| |
Congratulations, InsideOutlaw and Javabee.
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|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sun Oct 02, 2016 4:58 am|| |
Great stories, Javabee and InsideOutlaw
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Age : 63
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:06 pm|| |
Congratulations, InsideOutlaw and Javabee!!
|Subject: Re: Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec || |
Story Of The Year 2016 Sept -Dec