Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat - Part Six (Further Complications) Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:45 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Six – Further Complications“Mary!”
The Kid hurried over to her, put down his briefcase and kissed her politely on the cheek. As he did so, she smelt expensive cologne.
“Hallo. I thought for a moment you had missed the train.”
“No, no. I’ve learnt to let all the pushing and shoving get outta the way first. Then I can get off all calm and unhurried,” he nodded, with a smile. He took a step back and looked at her. “Mary, you’re looking well.”
“So are you.” She gestured to his clothes.
He laughed. “Travelled first class most of the way so had to look the part. Can’t wait to get into something a little less … conspicuous.” He paused. “Well, how is he?”
“Ah! Expected nothing less,” the Kid laughed. “Does he know I’m coming?”
“Yes I thought I'd better. I don’t think now is the time to upset him. You know how he hates surprises. He’s badly hurt but he won’t admit it of course. He keeps trying to get up but he doesn’t get very far.”
“Well we’ll just have to see about that won’t we?” He looked round as he felt somebody standing behind him. “Oh, d’you remember Cowdry?” he asked, introducing the man she had seen earlier collecting the luggage. Now Mary could see his face he did resemble Heyes slightly.
“Good afternoon, Mrs … Smith.” Cowdry glanced at the Kid, who nodded. Cowdry smiled glad to get it right. The Kid had told him that Mr Heyes was Mr Smith in this part of the country.
Mary nodded and smiled.
“And as you can see, I have luggage,” the Kid rolled his eyes, indicating the pile of cases on a trolley. The porter stood leaning on it, hand on hip, legs crossed, waiting to push it somewhere.
Mary raised an eyebrow.
“Caroline insisted. By the sounds of it, I could be here a while. She couldn’t bear the thought that I might have to do without something.” The Kid shuddered. “How she thought I managed all those years with everything I owned in just a saddlebag I don’t know.”
Mary smiled. Heyes had said something similar just recently.
The Kid offered his arm, which Mary took and they began to walk down the platform. The Kid nodded at Cowdry to follow them. He in turned nodded his head at the porter. “Y’say Wheat’s here?”
“Yes. Quite a gathering of the old Gang isn’t it?”
“Kyle here too?”
Mary stiffened. With all that had happened, somehow telling the Kid that piece of news was overlooked. She wasn’t sure that it was down to her to tell him either.
“No. Not this time.”
“Oh,” the Kid frowned at her. Something was wrong but he wasn’t sure what. He decided that perhaps it would wait.
The Kid shook hands with Wheat. “How ya doing … Walter?”
“Huh?” Wheat blinked in surprise but the Kid was turning away.
“Cowdry, this is an old friend of mine, Walter Brown.”
Cowdry wasn’t sure about Mr Brown. He looked … but then of course he knew exactly who Mr Curry was so why should he be surprised? Cowdry smiled and nodded.
“Mr Brown” was frowning hard. Yeah, Heyes had told him to think of a name to call himself and he was giving it some thought. Wheat had been leaning towards something exotic and distinctive – not Walter Brown! He scowled hard at the Kid, who smiled pleasantly before grunting when the children leapt on him.
“Hey! One at a time.” He swept Susan into his arms and gave her a kiss. “How’s my favourite niece then?”
“I’m very well thank you, Uncle Thaddeus. How are you?”
“Much better for seeing you, darlin’,” he laughed and set her on her feet. He turned his attention to Harry who was hitting him to get his attention. “Howdy partner. Still causing trouble?”
Harry grinned. “Yep. Just like you told me.”
Mary rolled her eyes and gave the Kid a hard look. “Oh, so it’s you I have to blame is it?”
The Kid and Harry, now in the Kid’s arms, grinned at her. Mary shook her head in despair. The Kid gave Harry a quick kiss and put him down, before turning to Billy.Unlike the other two Heyes children, Billy was the most like his father in colouring. He was also the quietest. That wasn’t just his age. The Kid could recognise the thoughtfulness and intelligence behind the boy’s eyes. He had seen it in his father too many times. While Harry and Susan were going to make Heyes pull his hair out in frustration at their impetuousness, Billy would bring a different set of problems. The Kid smiled down at the solemn dark haired little boy, looking up at him unsure.
Billy grinned and ran away. The Kid was surprised as Mary that it was Wheat, Billy went to stand behind and not her.
The Kid widened his eyes at Wheat, who sniffed.
“Me an’ Bill are partners,” he said in explanation.
There was an awkwardness for a moment, before Mary laughed. “Come on in, Jed. You must be thirsty. You too, Mr Cowdry. John will put the luggage in the hall and the two of you can take it all up later.”
“Oh no!” Mary rounded on him. “I’m not a Madam, Mr Cowdry! It’s Mrs Heyes or when we’re in town, Mrs Smith but I am NOT a madam.”
Cowdry gulped and shook his head.
“And I can’t call you MISTER Cowdry. What’s your first name?”
“Er …” Cowdry looked at the Kid, who nodded. “It’s Paul.”
“Very well,” Mary nodded. “Come on in. I’ll make some coffee. Or would you prefer tea, Paul?”
“Tea would be very nice, ma … Mrs Heyes. Thank you.”
“Tea it is. I think I’ll join you. And then you …” She prodded the Kid in the shoulder. “Can go and see Grumpy Bear.”
The Kid swopped glances with Wheat. “Grumpy Bear?” he mouthed.
“Heyes. The Little Missy called him that. On account he’s a mite grumpy and bearlike,” Wheat shrugged innocently. “Fair description if you asks me,” he added with a sniff.
The Kid laughed, slapped Wheat on the shoulder and followed the others inside. “Oh, Heyes is definitely gonna live up to that name when he finds out.”
“So Heyes, I come all this way and I find you lazing about in bed.” The Kid stood arms akimbo looking down at his old friend.
Mary had given Heyes a bed bath that morning despite his assertion that he could do it himself. She had swiped his hand away easily and continued, knowing he was as weak as a kitten. Afterwards, he had to admit – only to himself – that he felt better for being cleaner. Probably looked better too. He had suffered her shaving him as well and was relieved to find that he had survived unbloodied.
“Ha! With that sorta attitude you can go back where you came from,” Heyes replied, grumpily.
“How are ya?” the Kid asked, ignoring him.
Heyes growled. “Okay, I suppose. Be glad to get out of bed.” He coughed.
“How long ya gotta stay there?”
Heyes growled. “Aw, the doc … and Mary … wanna keep me here for good they way they’re both carrying on. Ain’t gonna happen,” he said, determinedly. Then he sighed and winced. “Tried to get up this morning. Didn’t get too far,” he admitted. “Try again tomorrow.”
“You had a pretty bad accident, Heyes. Ya can’t rush it. You ain’t getting any younger!”
Heyes gave him the look. “Yeah, thanks for that.”
The Kid smiled. Although they didn’t meet too often these days when they did they quickly managed to fall back into their previous easy relationship.
“You didn’t have to come all this way, Kid.” The Kid started to protest. “But I’m glad you did,” Heyes went on.
“You’re gonna need some help for a while. Sounds like you’ve got a lot on and especially now there’s Wheat to look out for. How about that?”
“Yeah. Still haven’t decided if I’m doing the right thing.”
“Where’s Kyle? I expected to see him here as well.”
Heyes’ face fell and his mouth formed an O. “I guess no one’s told you.”
Heyes told him what had happened to Kyle. The Kid sighed sadly.
“That’s too bad. I liked Kyle,” he said, sadly.
“Yeah me too.” Heyes sighed. “Hit Wheat pretty hard. I er … think … coming to see me … was his last roll of the dice, Kid. Dunno what he would of done if I … well I jus’ couldn’t. That night he came to me … he was a broken man.” He looked down and shook his head. “I couldn’t turn him away.” He looked up and rolled his eyes. “‘Sides I owe him big time now.” Heyes coughed.
The Kid nodded. “So what’s he been doing while you’re laid up?”
An amused smile appeared on Heyes’ face and he smacked his lips. “He’s been babysitting.”
The Kid stretched his neck as if he hadn’t heard right. Then he decided he had and his eyebrows raised.
Heyes laughed and then put his hand to his chest with a wince. “Apparently he’s good with ‘em. Who’d a thought it huh?” He coughed.
“Middle aged man, little bit taller than us, big moustache.”
“Yeah, yeah, that one.”
“Nah!” The Kid shook his head.
“Yeah, you’ll see. They like him. Susan wants to marry him. Apparently. And Harry says his stories are better’n mine. Even Billy likes him.” Heyes rolled his eyes and smacked his lips. “Mary says they climb all over him and he loves it. I think I’ve been thrown over in their affections.” He coughed. “Pass me that water will you?”
The Kid poured a glass and handed it to over. He grinned. “This I have to see.”
Heyes scowled and drank, clearing his throat as he did so. “I’m not entirely convinced it’s a good idea but what can I do?” He looked away shaking his head. Then he looked back at the Kid critically. “You’re looking well, Kid.”
“Yes,” the Kid agreed, nodded. “Married life suits me.”
“And so does life in Boston. Getting enough to eat I see.”
The Kid looked down at his waistline. “I’m a few pounds heavier than I was. Nothing I can’t stand. Running after the boys helps.”
“How are Caroline and the boys?”
The Kid grinned broadly. He always did at the mention of his wife and their family. Heyes still shook his head at the life the Kid now led. It couldn’t be more different from the one he had only a few years previously. “Be another by the end of the year.”
Heyes grinned and awkwardly shook hands with his left.
“Then I really do appreciate you taking the time to come out here, Kid.” He patted his cousin on the arm.
“Yeah, well you ain’t the only reason I’m here.” Heyes raised his chin in interest. “Gonna look for some land, mebbe build a house.”
“Gonna come and live?” Heyes looked eager. He had to cough again and frowned in irritation.
“No, not permanently. Caroline will want the boys educated in Boston. I’m not gonna win that argument so I’m not even gonna try. And if number three is a girl … . But there’s the holidays. Be nice if they could appreciate a different way of life. My way of life. And where better to do it than near family.”
Heyes nodded. “That sounds like a good compromise.”
“Yeah.” The Kid wrinkled his nose. “’Course it’s a compromise on Caroline’s terms. The house will have to be suitably large for all the luggage and folks we’ll bring with us. I’m not talking a log cabin here.”
“Ah!” Heyes smacked his lips. They were talking mansions. “Well I can give you the name of the architect who drew up the plans for this place. His rates were reasonable and he did a good job. We got what we wanted.”
The Kid nodded, thoughtfully. “I’ve got letters of introduction to a couple of fellas in Cheyenne. I’m particularly keen to see a parcel of land called Pine Lake. There’s no rush. I’ve got plenty of time. My priority is to make sure you’re looked after.”
Heyes leant his head back with a groan. “I don’t need fussing, Kid! Mary’s doing enough of that as it is.” Another cough he tried to disguise.
The Kid frowned. “Women do, y’know that. It’ll go easier on ya Heyes if ya just let her get on with it.” He got up. “And I’m under strict instructions not to tire ya out and to let you sleep.”
Heyes growled. “I’m not tired … oh.” His body betrayed him and he stifled a yawn.
Smiling the Kid helped him shuffle down the bed.
“Ya want any of this?” he asked pointing to the small bottle by the water jug.
“Not even a few drops? Take the edge of? Might help with that cough you’re developing.”
Heyes looked up at him hard. He hoped nobody had noticed. Mary he could con, although that was getting harder by the day. The Kid, he knew he couldn’t. He reluctantly nodded. “A little.”
“Good morning,” Mary breezed in with a breakfast tray. She put it down and pulled back the drapes.
Heyes winced as the light flooded in.
She looked back at the sharpness of his tone. One look at his face told her there was something wrong. She tugged them closed a little.
“Didn’t you sleep?”
He grunted again, this time ambiguously.
Mary looked at him in concern. He didn’t look as though he’d slept at all. His eyes were sunken and he looked in pain.
“Are you pain?”
“’Course I’m in pain, Mary. I came off my horse and dragged along the ground for hundreds of yards!” he snapped. That was an exaggeration and he knew it. He groaned and put his hand over his eyes. He coughed and frowned.
Mary sat back, hurt.
“There’s some laudanum left ….”
“I don’t want any damm laudanum!”
Mary took a deep breath. “I have some willow bark.”
“Well perhaps you’ll feel better if you sit up and …” She got up, preparing to help.
“I DON’T WANT TO SIT UP!” He turned his head away.
“Then what do you want?”
“To be left alone.” He coughed and licked his lips.
Mary hesitated and retreated a few steps. “I’ve brought you some breakfast.”
“NO! I don’t want any breakfast. I just want to be LEFT ALONE!”
“Okay, I’m going.”
She picked up the tray, looked at him and left.
Downstairs, she dropped the tray on the kitchen counter with a thud.
“Something wrong?” the Kid asked, casually, buttering toast. Across the table, Wheat rolled his eyes. They had both heard the shouting.
“He doesn’t want any breakfast.”
The Kid and Wheat swopped glances.
“He wants to be left alone.”
The Kid and Wheat widened their eyes at each other.
“Did he sleep?”
“It didn’t look like it.” Mary sniffed. “I think … he’s in a lot of pain, Jed. I think he’s getting a cough. Ben warned me pneumonia could be a complication.”
The Kid got up and went to her. Wheat got up too. “I’ll er jus’ go check on ma horse,” he said, sidling out of the door and fled.
The Kid scowled after him. Trust Wheat to disappear. The Kid turned back to Mary who was looking quite distressed. This was tough for her too. He held her upper arms.
“Mary this is the slump.”
“The slump?” she frowned.
“Yeah, Heyes is always like this when he’s hurt. He’s good for a couple of days after the … incident and then he kinda … falls off a cliff. He slumps. He usually comes round in a day or two. And if he’s not feeling well then it’s kinda worse. But we’ll just have to keep an eye on him and ride it out.”
“Yesterday I caught him on the side of the bed. He wanted to get up. Today he doesn’t even want to sit up.” Mary frowned in non-understanding.
“That’s Heyes for ya.”
“So this is normal for him. I shouldn’t be worried?”
“Not yet. Let’s leave him be for now. I’ll look in on him later. If that cough gets worse then we’ll send for the Doc, whether Heyes wants to see him or not.”
Mary didn’t look convinced.
“I promise ya Mary. This is just the way he is.”
Mary wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and folded her arms protectively. “He’s a complex man isn’t he? I thought I knew him. Obviously not.”
The Kid smiled. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’ve known Heyes all my life and he’s still a mystery to me.” He rolled his eyes, making her smile. “When’s the doc next visiting?”
“Well let’s leave him to brood away today. Tomorrow we’ll tell the doc how he is and we’ll let him decide what to do ‘bout it. Okay?”
“Cowdry and me are gonna ride out and look at some land. I’ll check on Grumpy Bear when I getback. Alright?” the Kid grinned. “Talking of Cowdry ….” He walked to the kitchen door, threw it opened and yelled, “COWDRY!”
Cowdry appeared from around the corner, making the Kid jump. “I swear you appear outta thin air!” he said, irritably.
“No sir.” Cowdry paused for a nanosecond. “Not all the time,” he added, almost to himself.
The Kid frowned hard but decided to let it go. “Cowdry we’re going riding. Got anything suitable to wear?” He nodded his head at the suit Cowdry was wearing.
“Er … um … we are sir?” Cowdry looked a little green and swallowed hard.
The Kid resisted the impulse to grin at his man’s discomfort. “Yeah, it’ll be nice. Get out and see the country. Think of the stories you can tell your girl when we get home.”
“Yes sir.” Cowdry took a deep breath. “It’s just that I don’t ride, sir!” he burst out. Please don’t make me, he could have added.
“Oh, well, it’s not difficult. You’ll soon pick it up.”
Cowdry smiled weakly. “Yes sir.”
“Now we should get you something better to wear.” The Kid pushed open the kitchen door and stuck his head round. “Mary, has Heyes got anything that Cowdry can borrow to go riding in?”
A moment later, she appeared and looked Cowdry up and down.
“Well they’re about the same size. I’ll go and look. Come with me Paul.”
“Yes, madam,” he sighed, carelessly and then took a sharp intake of breath when she glared at him. “Sorry, Mrs … Heyes.”
The Kid smirked as he watched them go upstairs. The Kid had found a useful, intelligent and amusing ally in Paul Cowdry. When he was first settling in, the valet had been his main source for understanding how a grand house worked, how Boston society operated and his wife’s place in it and generally all things Eastern and foreign to him. Although they were careful to operate as a man and his man in public, Paul was his best friend in Boston. Each man valued the other’s friendship.
Ten minutes later, the Kid was rubbing his chin in amusement, as Paul Cowdry came down the stairs behind a smug looking Mary.
“Well, will he do?”
The Kid nodded. Cowdry was looking decidedly uncomfortable in navy blue shirt, buttermilk coloured pants and light tan boots.
“Yep I think he’ll do just fine,” he said, dashing Cowdry’s vain hopes that he could still get out of this. “Will he mind?” he asked Mary quietly – he meaning Heyes.
“I’ve been trying to get rid of that shirt and those pants for years. Every time I think I’ve thrown them out, I find them in the bottom of his closet. He won’t even know,” Mary smiled conspiratorially. “Oh, and Paul will need a hat. I’ve just the thing.” She disappeared into the study and was back a moment later with a black hat.
The Kid took it from her, looking doubtful. “Mary I’m not sure ‘bout this. Clothes are one thing but Heyes is very precious ‘bout this hat although it beats me why.” He turned the battered old black hat over in his hands.
“Yes I know and I’ve no idea why either. He never wears it and it’s … well look at it!” Plainly, the Hannibal Heyes hat as it was known in the family was a source of friction between Heyes and Mary.
The Kid looked at her and then at Cowdry. Finally, he sighed. “Well it would complete the ensemble,” he said, rolling his eyes and handed the hat to Cowdry. As he did so, he caught Mary’s look. “I know words!” he spluttered. “There’s a whole library full of books with words in ‘em at home. I go in there sometimes. Look stuff up … .” He tailed off as Mary smiled and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek.
“Go for your ride. Will you be back for lunch?”
The Kid glanced at the hall clock. “No. It’s a nice day. Kinda like to stay out as long as possible.”The whimper from Cowdry made him look hard at his man. “We should take something with us though. Don’t think Cowdry’s up to hard tack and jerky this first trip out.”
“You’re not a natural horseman are ya, Paul?”
The Kid tried to stop himself from smiling as he looked at his valet, bouncing along behind him.
“No sir. Not much call for it in my profession sir,” Cowdry said, through gritted teeth. He was sure his posterior would agree but he wasn’t looking forward to having that conversation when he got off this wild beast.
The Kid turned away and grinned. He had purposefully picked Mary’s docile mare for Cowdry to ride. Even so, Cowdry was clutching the reins as if he was sitting on a bucking bronco, his eyes fixed firmly on the horse’s neck and nowhere else.
It was with some trepidation that the Kid had borrowed Heyes’ mount. John the liveryman assured him that there was no sign of whatever had been the matter a few days before. The Kid was relieved that John was right.
Sometime later, The Kid and Cowdry pulled up on the shores of a large lake.
“This must be Pine Lake. It sure is pretty,” the Kid smiled, crossing his forearms over the horn of his saddle. “Don’t ya think Paul?”
Cowdry risked a quick glance up. “Yes sir, very nice. Whoa!”
Seeing the water so close, Cowdry’s horse decided it needed a drink and moved forward to do so. Cowdry, not expecting the movement, lost his balance, tipped back and side wards, landing with a squelch and a splash. He had landed half in the lake itself and half in the thick mud around the edges. The Kid winced and rubbed his chin to hide the grin that appeared at the sight of his wildly floundering man. Then he cleared his throat and got down to help. He couldn’t stop the smile as he hauled Cowdry to firmer land.
“Thank you sir but I’m quite alright,” Cowdry gulped with as much dignity as he could muster for a man whose bottom half was wet and muddy.
Now the Kid did chuckle and held Cowdry steady by the shoulder as he swayed.
“Little rocky there partner. Tell ya what you sit here for a spell and dry off. I’m gonna ride round the lake and see how far it goes. How’s that?”
“That’s fine by me sir. If you’re sure you’ll be alright on your own?” Cowdry was just being polite.The Kid laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, nearly pitching the unsteady man back into the lake.
“Yes Paul, I’ll be fine.” He picked out his pocket watch. “I’ll be ‘bout an hour I reckon.” He glanced up at the sun. “Maybe two but no more. When I get back we’ll have lunch.”
“Yes sir. That’s fine sir. I’ll be sitting right here, waiting for you.” Cowdry indicated a patch of grass nearby. “What about … that sir?” He waved his hand nervously at his horse.
The Kid smiled. “I’ll tie her outta the way so she won’t bother you.”
“Thank you sir.” Cowdry seemed very relieved.
A few minutes later, the Kid rode away shaking his head. Behind him, Cowdry made himself comfortable on the patch of grass and pulled off his boots. Wrinkling up his nose in disgust, he emptied water out of first one and then the other.
“Why ever did I leave Surrey?” he muttered before flopping back to doze.
Sometime later, Cowdry half asleep rolled over onto his side and repositioned the black hat over his face. It was perfect for keeping the sun off. A moment later, he was fully awake, his arms roughly pulled behind his back. He heard a click.
“What?” His eyes flew open to focus on the business end of a revolver. “Oh!”
“Hoo eee, it jus’ can’t be that easy!” cackled the owner of the revolver. “Hannibal Heyes hisself.”
“Ya sure he’s Hannibal Heyes, Clyde?” another voice behind Cowdry asked. Presumably the man holding his hands behind his back. Far too firmly for comfort!
“Now just a minute sir!”
“’Course I’m sure. That’s Kid Curry for certain who’s rode way ain’t it?”
“Yeah but he don’t look like Hannibal Heyes.”
“Have ya ever seen Hannibal Heyes, Rickon?”
Rickon frowned hard. “Nope I don’t rightly think I have.”
“Then how d’you know this ain’t Hannibal Heyes?” Clyde had got to his feet and was facing theother man. “If that’s Kid Curry …” He waved his gun in the direction the Kid had rode away. “Then this … .” He waved the gun in Cowdry’s direction again. Cowdry had struggled into a sitting position. He was looking wide-eyed from one scruffy man to the other. “Must be Hannibal Heyes. He called him partner. Who else would Kid Curry call partner?”
“Er excuse me.”
“Well I don’t rightly know Clyde. It could jus’ be a … figure of speech.”
“What’s one of them?”
“Excuse me, gentlemen.”
“Well it’s jus’ the way ya say something. That’s all.”
“What’s it mean?”
“Gentlemen, if I may …”
“Shut up!” Clyde shouted at Cowdry and then turned back to his accomplice. “I’m tellin’ ya. THAT is Hannibal Heyes.” He swung his gun in Cowdry’s direction and Cowdry had to duck to avoid his head connecting with it.
“I am not!” Cowdry said, firmly.
“What d’ya say?” Clyde leaned over at him menacingly and his gun cocked in Cowdry’s face.
“I’m not Hannibal Heyes. I mean … can’t you hear an English accent in my voice? I ask you does Hannibal Heyes have an English accent? No sir. I’ve never heard that. I mean if I was Hannibal Heyes do you think he would have allowed himself to be caught sleeping … out here … in the middle of nowhere? No sir I really don’t think he would.”
“Still think he’s not Hannibal Heyes?” Clyde looked at Rickon, who looked doubtful.
“He’s Hannibal Heyes! He’s talkin’ up a storm jus’ like Hannibal Heyes would.”
“Oh no! No, no, no. I couldn’t do that. No sir not me. Quiet as a mouse. That’s me.”
Both men looked at him hard. Cowdry smiled innocently. You never know it might help. Both men looked at each other.
“He’s Hannibal Heyes,” they both said together. Cowdry groaned. This couldn’t be happening. He must be dreaming. That was it, he was fast asleep by the side of the lake and he was dreaming.
“Get him up,” Clyde ordered.
Rickon hauled Cowdry roughly to his feet. Cowdry revised his theory. Perhaps he wasn’t asleep.
“We’ll take him back and let Bloodstone loose on him.”
“Oooh! Now just a minute sir. You can’t just … owh … do you mind!” Cowdry frowned furiously at Rickon and Clyde.
“Nope! Come along Heyes.”
“I’m telling you I’m not Heyes!”
“Jus’ … jus’ get on ya horse an’ quit belly-aching!”
“Horse?” Cowdry suddenly understood that they wanted him to get up on … that … that … beast!“No, no, no. I can’t. I can’t. I really can’t. Yee … ow!” Cowdry found himself belly flopped over the saddle. One of the men – Cowdry didn’t know or care – was swinging his leg round and over. “Eh! Well really!”
“No, no. I daren’t … no. Oh!” He felt the back of his shirt yanked up and now he was properly astride. The horse moved under him and he squealed. “I’ll fall off! I’ll fall off! Sirs would you please just listen!”
“Tie his hands round the horn,” Clyde ordered and shaking his head, stomped off in the direction of his horse. “Jeez! What a … .” The rest of the expletives were lost to the wind.
The Kid had a pleasant ride round the lake. The more he looked around the more he liked what he saw. By the time, he had completed the circuit he had made up his mind. Yes, he wanted this spot. House on the top of the hill there, a terrace built out to take advantage of the views, garden landscaped down to the lake. Yes, he could see it all clearly in his mind. He smiled in satisfaction. Now he knew how Heyes felt when he had made a plan.
The Kid was back at the spot where he’d left Cowdry. He frowned and looked around. This was the spot wasn’t it? He rode a little way further but no. He rode back. Yes, this definitely was the spot. So where was he then?
The Kid dismounted and walked over to the tree where he knew he had tied the mare. He looked around. Definite signs of nibbling. This was the right place, alright.
“Where the blazes …?” He knew Cowdry wouldn’t have ridden back to Amnesty on his own. The Kid continued to look around and then he found it. He snatched up the scruffy black hat and a dark pang took up residence in the pit of his stomach. “Cowdry,” he breathed. This time when he looked round he was looking for something else. He didn’t need to be the champeen tracker of southern Utah to read the sign. Two individuals had skulked in the bushes here. Two horses had been tied there. Yet three horses had travelled away from the lake. “Paul, where the hell are you?”
The Kid was torn. Follow the trail, who knows where with no gun. Well, not a proper gun. He had an itsy bitsy derringer in his pocket but this may require something more substantial. For all his reputation had been he was a cautious man. He had always weighed up the risks before he embarked on something. He and Heyes would talk long into the night about what could go wrong when planning a job. He was not going to start rushing into the unknown without a proper gun and some help. And both of these were back at Amnesty.
Mounting up, the Kid noted the direction the tracks led and set off in the opposite direction at a fast pace back to Amnesty.
Cowdry was lying on his side on a bed, hands tied behind his back. Ropes tied his ankles together and secured him to the bedpost. He had been here for hours. Or so it seemed. He was cramped and frightened. They had told him one of them was going to get Bloodstone and Bloodstone would give him a seeing to. Cowdry already didn’t like Bloodstone. He had nothing to tell them. They had hinted at a little job they expected him to do for them. What could that be? Nothing Cowdry could do but something Hannibal Heyes could do. What could Hannibal Heyes do that he couldn’t? Puzzling on that at least passed the time while he waited for Bloodstone to come and give him a seeing to.
Cowdry thought about Mr Heyes’ career as an outlaw. It must be something from that time. He and his employer Mr Curry had been the two most successful outlaws in the West during the 70’s and early 80’s before their amnesty. So was it a train to rob? A bank to rob? No, Cowdry had it. They wanted Mr Heyes to crack a safe! Oh!
At that moment the door opened and Rickon stepped in, gun drawn. To Cowdry’s surprise, he started to untie his feet.
“Clyde’s back. Bloodstone can’t get here until tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” Cowdry said, relieved.
“Yeah, Clyde reckons you’d better cook supper.”
“Me! Owh!” Rickon was roughly untying his hands. As Cowdry moved them round the blood started to flow properly and painfully.
“Yeah, he reckons you can make yourself useful.”
“But … but … .” Hauling Cowdry his feet, Rickon pushed him into the main room. Clyde was sitting at the table eating an apple with a knife.
“You can make a start on supper. All the fixings are over there.” Clyde waved a hand at the sink.
Cowdry just stared. This had suddenly become very surreal and he blinked in disbelief.
“Cook?” he queried, stupidly.
“Yeah. Beef stew. Ya can do that can’t ya?”
“Er no. Not really.” He looked round at Rickon as if he would help him.
Clyde got up from the table. Cowdry took a step back. He had forgotten the knife Clyde held. Not to mention the gun at his right hip. Or the gun that Rickon still held in his hand.
“Um look listen … I’m really not a good cook. Why I’ve … .” He grinned. “Been known to burn water.” Clyde nodded to Rickon who gave Cowdry a push towards the sink. “I’ll ruin your pots! Leave them on the fire for too long, burn a hole in the bottom. It’ll cost you a fortune! And … and the food will be inedible I can guarantee.”
Clyde pressed the apple knife to Cowdry’s throat. “Jus’ get on with it and no more noise.”
“Yes sir. As you’ve put it like that.”
Cowdry unpacked the box and looked at the ingredients. He had a fair idea where to start. He’d seen enough cooking at close quarters working in a big house. Well of course, he was just the one who served it upstairs but he had a fair idea what it should look like. Rolling his eyes, he’d give it a go he thought.
Washing the meat under the pump, he glanced through the window. Something caught his eye and he frowned. He squinted. An idea was forming but he needed a closer look.
“You know,” he said, starting to spin round. Both men were at the table not paying him any attention. In fact, they were playing cards.
“What now?” Clyde growled, not looking up from his hand.
“Well there’s no seasoning.”
“So? Make it without.”
“Awh! It will be bland and uninteresting if I did that,” Cowdry grinned, disarmingly. He lacked the double dimples of the man they thought he was but the effect was the same. “There’s the remains of an herb garden outside. I think I saw some rosemary. That’ll flavour it a treat. Let me go and get some.” He was already sidling to the door.
The cocking of Clyde’s gun brought him to a halt. The pointing of that gun at him made him raise his hands.
“And have you run off. Naw!”
“No, no of course not.” Cowdry shrugged. “Now where would I run to? Look the herbs are only a few feet outside the door. One of you can come with me and watch me all the time.”
Clyde gave him a hard look, and then sighed. “Rickon watch our guest doesn’t try anything. And if he does, shoot ‘im.”
Cowdry gulped. “You’ll thank me, Mr Clyde. It’ll make all the difference you’ll see.”
With Rickon hard on his heels, Cowdry found the overgrown herb garden. He bent to examine a plant. Yes, it was rosemary all right. Except, it wasn’t quite. It was bog rosemary. A plant not related at all. Yet looking remarkably like the real thing. Only this plant would make anyone who ate it vomit and suffer from …. urgent dashes to the outhouse. Cowdry knew that for appearances he would have to eat some of the stew himself. So long as he only ate a little, he should be okay. If he made the stew good enough then Clyde and Rickon would eat most of it. Then all he had to do was wait until they were … er distracted and he could make his escape. Where to exactly he would work out later. For now, he was frantically trying to remember how to make his grandmother’s beef stew.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname