Posts : 334
Join date : 2016-10-21
|Subject: The New Teacher Part Four (4,650 words) unfinished thread. Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:52 am|| |
---oooOOOooo---Kid looked out onto the street, towards the Land Registry Office. He kept to the shade under the eaves of the hotel. He lifted a hand to stop Maxwell and Janx in their tracks, as they followed him into the shadows. Nobody was entering that office, till he knew for certain that Spencer and his henchmen were fully occupied with the mine pay roll, over at the train station and the bank.Heyes, of course, had pointed out that this was the best time, in fact the only time, when they could safely attempt to file the claim and officially register the new mine workings on Maxwell’s land. Spencer had taken to using the Land Office as his own place of business when he was in town, and that was pretty much all the time now, since things had turned ugly for him up at the mine itself. Work was short there, and pay was shorter. It was a powder keg ready to blow.Kid had given Heyes his account of Mr Fielding’s attempts to do business, at the Land Office on Monday, whilst Steadman Spencer and his cronies were in residence. Maxwell and Janx had concurred. Fielding wasn’t the first of the townsfolk to come across difficulties, whilst attempting to manage their own land holdings.As Heyes pointed out, Steadman Spencer was a creature of habit, which meant his movements were predictable. Kid couldn’t help but hear a certain eight-year-olds words in his partner’s description of ‘Uncle Steadman’s’ habits.“On the last Wednesday of every third month … Spencer …and his two guards … meet the pay roll train … early in the afternoon … and he accompanies the strong box from the train to the Bank, taking great pains to see it stowed away safely. He stays in town overnight …playing poker into the small hours … and the following morning … at precisely eleven thirty… he oversees the transfer of the money to a reinforced mule wagon … which then gets driven… under guard… up into the mountains to the Spencer mine… In fact … several extra of the mine’s hired guns, usually accompany the wagon on its journey … And Spencer himself … rides in the wagon with the money." Heyes had sounded eager to Kid. Almost too eager. He’d have laid good money that Heyes had worked out a plan of how to rob that pay roll… Just for the exercise …of course.“Now… the agent your waiting on… is due to arrive on the same train as the money… and he intends leaving… on a stage heading East, at ten the following morning… Thursday. That doesn’t give us much time to convince him …you’re good for the loan… and agree to advance the capital…”Oh yes, they’d all got a glimpse of the most successful outlaw leader the West had ever known. Heyes in full flow was a force to be reckoned with.“So… you need to be …here… by one forty-five.”Heyes had pointed to a town plan, that looked like it had been drawn by an eight-year-old! Kid had rolled his eyes at some of the markers he read; ‘the best climbing tree’ and ‘Weird Harry lives here’. Undaunted by the naivety of the map, his partner had continued the briefing.
The new Teacher
(scene 24 - 3,400 words)
“The train is due in at one fifty-five. You’ll be here at one forty-five… and you’ll hear the whistle from the train as it leaves the tunnel… here… That gives you ten minutes to ensure Spencer and his guards have left the Land Office …and are heading over to the platform… here… It’ll take fifteen minutes for them to get the money off the train …and the strong box onto a hand cart… Then, ten minutes to take the box over to the bank … here… and another ten minutes to get the money into the safe. That means… to maximise your time at the Land office… here… you need to be ready to move… as soon as you see Spencer leave….”Suffice it to say, Heyes’d left no stone unturned. The only part missing, was the part where the Devils Hole Gang sweep in and take the money. It was almost like the good old, bad days. With one big difference. Heyes’ frustration, at not being able to lead the escapade into town himself, was palpable. He’d stood, hands on hips, watching them leave the stumpery, Wednesday noon, unable to resist giving last minute advise, until eventually, Kid had taken charge and led out the claim party.“Kid?” Heyes had called after several minutes travel into the trees.Kid had sighed, and moaned silently at the delay, but he’d gone back.
“Give this … in at the mercantile for me… will yer? “Heyes had handed him an envelope, almost diffidently, as though he’d thought long and hard before making this request. “You don’t need to wait on a reply … or fer goods… or anything like that… Just …give it in… I’ve written what I want …inside… they’ll see it’s done fer me.”Something about the way Heyes had refused to meet his gaze, made Kid realise there wasn’t going to be any more conversation about this, let alone an explanation. He’d just pocketed the envelope, eyes narrowing, lips chewing up anything he might have said. ‘Oh yes… Just like old times.’Kid studied his watch. They’d heard the train whistle, just as they’d entered the alley at the side of the Hotel. Right on time.Kid, seeing movement across the street, pushed the others back into the shadows. As he watched, Steadman Spencer casually walked down the few wooden steps at the front of the Land office flanked by his two henchmen. They were very dangerous looking men, each dressed in what passed for rumpled Western finery, with large, well-used pistols slung low on their hips; tied down of course. Their walk exuded confidence. Their gun hands, seemingly resting on their rigs, twitched and flexed in readiness and anticipation. Kid studied them closely as they passed. He’d seen many such men. Maxwell had dropped their names into Heyes’ briefing this morning. Spencer’s henchmen, were William Lyle and Frank Polson. Frank Polson, he’d never heard of. But, he knew a William Lyle. At least he knew a Billy Lyle from way back. He hadn’t been sure, until now, it was the same one. Looking out at the man on Spencer’s right, striding towards the Train Station, Kid was in no doubt at all that this was the same Billy Lyle.He looked older. Well, it had been ten years. But the thick, dark, close-set brows and the sneer of his thin lips with the pencil thin moustache were the same. Even the man’s walk seemed familiar.Kid grimaced.What he knew, or had heard, of Billy Lyle wasn’t pleasant…
Kid, or Jed as he preferred at that time, was roaming Texas, keeping one step ahead of the unsolicited reputation, his prowess with a gun relentlessly bestowed upon him. He’d split with Heyes, and well frankly, Kid would admit himself that at that time, he was a might impulsive and not always in control of his temper.
He was seeking something, but he had no idea what it was.
Billy Lyle was a bandit, running with a feared renegade gang, that had cut a swathe of terror across Texas. Walls were plastered with wanted dodgers, offering generous rewards for the whole gang, dead or alive.
Young Jed would come across the remnants of the gang’s raids now and again. People’s lives left in tatters, or evidence of the carnage visited on a remote community, witnessed by the number of freshly dug graves.
He’d hear the stories, and wonder at the lawlessness.
Then, he’d hear new stories of cowardly, corrupt men, passing themselves off as ‘law officers,’ or even ‘judges’, who’d looked the other way, or were conveniently elsewhere, when trouble hit.
Seemed to Jed, that the ordinary decent folks, especially women and children, were left defenceless and in dire need. A yawning vacuum was left, that all too often, was taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.
Didn’t sit well with a young Jedediah Curry that felt man enough to step up. Often, much too often, he’d wade in with his fists or his gun, and inevitably, that reputation he despised so much, kept on building, and he’d find himself having to …’ get outta town’.
Of course, there were some honest lawmen in Texas, working hard to keep some small oasis of decency alive in the desert. Mostly, these would be small towns, springing up around old army posts, or ranger stations, but truth be told, Jed did his best to avoid these.
He’d sometimes fallen back on old ways… just to make a poker stake.
And that reputation was starting to go before him.
New wanted dodgers, describing a baby faced outlaw with a fast draw, were starting to cover the old tatty gang posters.
Then one day, Jed found himself in White Fort, despite his best efforts. Happily, the army had long deserted this remote posting, and the locals were welcoming to the quietly spoken, ever-hungry young drifter, looking for work.
He was befriended by an older couple, who needed help with their ramshackle spread, and soon, he was introduced to the locals, including one young peace officer and his family.
Even then, as he shook the man’s hand, the cynical young Jed Curry believed, it was just a matter of time, until this zealot for upholding the law too, would fall to a bullet or a bribe.
He didn’t have long to wait to see this prediction fulfilled.
Billy Lyle came to White Fort, leading a string of horses, each carrying a body with a bullet lodged between their shoulder blades. He rode right up the main street to the Jailhouse, in full daylight, and shouted at the stunned townsfolk that he was there to claim the rewards on the rest of the gang.
It didn’t make any sense to young Jed, in town fetching supplies. Billy Lyle, from the wanted dodgers, couldn’t claim the rewards. People knew who he was. What he’d done. He’d be hanged for sure.
But that wasn’t how it went.
Lyle disappeared inside the jailhouse and not ten minutes later he was paraded around town by the peace officer like some sort of hero. Not long after, he appeared on the streets again, walking next to the young peace officer, sporting a badge of a deputy sheriff, and boasting how he’d brought the renegades to justice single handed.
Jed couldn’t understand. He’d met people on his travels. People that knew for certain just what Lyle was, and that he was one of the worst perpetrators of the gang’s many atrocities.
Yet no one was speaking up.
His opinion of White Fort’s new deputy, plummeted even further after witnessing the ways Lyle wielded his new-found power. He favoured spectacle. It was brutal and ugly.
Jed, barely able to hold in his temper, vociferously questioned the young peace officer about his choice of deputy. It was quite late in the evening, and unusually, Lyle wasn’t accompanying him.
At first there was silence.
Then, Jed was told coldly, to get out of town for his trouble.
As it turned out, Kid found himself with little choice in the matter. Later that same night, he provided the town with a spectacle of his own making. A showdown in the saloon after being called out by a bad loser, and accused of cheating at cards.
As he heard the gasps all around him, he knew he wouldn’t be sleeping in a bed that night, and it was no one’s fault but his own. He knew how good a player he was. You couldn’t grow up with Heyes and be otherwise.
He didn’t wait around to be questioned by the White Fort’s new Deputy Sheriff. He’d already seen Lyle’s own fast draw, and the Deputies willingness to shoot first and ask questions later. He left the saloon at the run and headed straight for the livery.
He pointed his horse’s head at the North star, and left White Fort at full gallop, dragging his newly inflated reputation behind him.
About a week later, whilst trying to lose himself anonymously in yet another jaded saloon, Jed heard that the peace officer in White Fort had turned up dead, his whole family found massacred with him, and that one William Lyle had declared himself the new Sheriff of White Fort.
Jed was in no doubt that the very young and rather drunk saloon lovely, that was whispering in his ear, had the truth of it.
Word was, Lyle had kidnapped the peace officer’s family and blackmailed the man into posting papers to claim the rewards on the rest of the gang. As soon as the money came through, the peace officer and his family served no further purpose.
Lyle now had money, and he’d got a liking for the power of office, so he’d removed the competition. Young Jed’s contempt for serving law officers plummeted to new depths after that. The just ones were weak, and got corrupted or trampled underfoot; a danger to both themselves and their families. The ones already corrupt, would do anything, or do deals with anyone, just to cling on to power.
It was a dog eat dog World: Every man for himself.
Kid’s future was set.
William Lyle spent the next ten years sanitising his reputation, but there was no hiding his true nature. Like many law officers of his ilk, he was eventually drummed out of Texas as civilisation spread. He headed West, taking work wherever his gun could hire out.
Then, he read in the papers that Clearwater was seeking a new sheriff, one that could protect its Bank and the local mine from outlaws. Preferably, one that knew the likes of Hannibal Heyes or Kid Curry, on sight.
Lyle had been the second applicant.
One Abe Brent, who claimed that he’d once held Hannibal Heyes in a jail cell, had already been sworn in as Sheriff. But Lyle had been able to persuade Steadman Spencer that he had many other useful talents. Particularly useful when it came to dissuading others from filing mineral rights claims on land adjoining the Spencer mine.
He may have stretched the truth a little, when he told Spencer that he could identify Kid Curry on sight. After all, he was in Texas at the same time as Kid Curry was coming to notoriety. And, he’d read that punks wanted poster enough times, to know the description by heart. He didn’t think there was a risk he’d have to face Curry.
Very few notorious gunslingers get to live very long, and Curry was well overdue a bullet to the brain in Lyle’s book. He wasn’t worried about being found out in the lie. Heyes and Curry had gone very quiet of late and the chances of Kid Curry surfacing in a backwater like Clearwater were minuscule.
---O---Kid Curry nodded the all clear, and the claim party made their way over the street to the Land office. There was a hastily abandoned chequer board set out on a table, with three pushed back chairs, in the window of the office overlooking the street. Kid checked the view back to the alley. Scanning the room, he noticed two higher stools behind the high counter. On one, sat an unwelcoming clerk with a wease-ly face, looking very furtive as he sat quietly putting in quite an effort to affect unconcern as the office filled. The other stool was empty. Before it on the counter top, a ledger spoke volumes of a very recent occupant.Mr Maxwell quickly cornered the weasel-ly clerk and laid out the terms of the claim, pulling all the corroborating documents out of his pockets and laying them too on the counter top. Kid lifted the flap in the counter top, ignoring the weasl-ly clerk’s protest and quickly checked the small office at the back for the missing clerk.He wasn’t there.Kid checked the exits, a locked rear door and a tiny window, and returned to the front to declare the small building free of any other of Spencer’s guards.Hearing Kid’s words, the Clerk seemed to pale. He eyed the Colt in Kid’s hand and became flustered and stalling, shuffling papers and insisting on copying the text of several of the proffered documents. Maxwell complained bitterly at the delay and said that in his opinion none of the copying was necessary. “That Maxwell, is why you are an accountant, and I am an Officer of the State!” said the clerk, getting his dander up.Kid was becoming impatient. He stood at the door, looking over at the Train platform and the Bank. Up at the top of the street, the strong box was already making a slow promenade to the bank, pushed by two train porters, flanked by Lyle and Polson, and led by Steadman Spencer. As Kid watched, a small man in a white shirt with sleeves held up by garters, made a mincing run from one of the side alleys further up the street.“Hmmm…. The clerk had a runner” bristled The Kid.“Trouble?” questioned Janx.Kid turned and fixed the clerk with a cold stare.“That rather depends on how long we have to wait … How about it … Friend… your runner just delivered his message … I guess we can expect company real soon.”Papers were shuffled faster. Not fast enough.Kid slowly lowered his gun to point at the sweating clerk’s face.“I’ve filed me plenty of claims… Now …I appreciate this is a might more involved than a stretch of stream and a wooden hut… but… You got all the papers you need… I’d thank you to get this moving along… quickly… before your boss returns …and things get nasty… Do I make myself clear?”“Boss?”“Steadman Spencer or one of his henchmen.”Kid held the little man’s gaze and saw the resignation slip in behind the fear. The pen moved faster, the ink was blotted, signatures made. Kid lifted the barrel to point back to the ceiling with a cold smile.So far so good. They all jumped a little hearing the bell being rung to mark the end of school. Noisy children ran onto the street, several making their way over to the train tracks, to see if they were early enough to watch the spectacle of the mine’s money being transferred to the bank. Kid watched from the window, as Polson was dispatched to the Land Office with the clerk’s runner, whilst Spencer himself, and Lyle, shouted at the children to clear out of the way. A whole gang of kids, seemingly led by a raggedy ‘Pied Piper’ of a town drunk, swarmed around the pay roll cart.“Times up… we got company” stated Kid, noting with satisfaction that back at the counter, Maxwell and Janx were stashing completed, matching documents into their inside pockets.“Time to go…. Back door.”He waved with his gun, that they should lift the counter flap.“Err… You can’t go that way…” stuttered the clerk. “My colleague will have locked it … He has the only key… It’s a very secure lock… security is of paramount importance… we have valuable documents here…”Ignoring the protests, Kid pushed the others through the counter and into the back office. He’d rattled the door earlier. He knew it was locked. Glancing back through the front window, he could see Polson was nearly at the wooden steps. He dove after the others. He could get that door open with a bullet.Amazingly, Maxwell was holding the door wide open, pushing Janx out into the alley at the back of the office. Kid didn’t waste time wondering how. He just growled, and flew after Maxwell.‘If Heyes …was planning to come to town himself …anyway… he could ’ve just delivered his own damn note to the Mercantile’ he thought frustratedly, as he hurried the others away from the Land Office. ‘I should ‘ve known …he wouldn’t ‘ve been able to wait back at the Stumpery like he was supposed to!”Minutes later, a very frustrated Polson stood in the small back office, rattling a now miraculously locked door, and screaming at the clerk’s runner to give him the damned key.
Scene 25 ( 1,250 words)Hannibal Heyes stood slumped against the alley wall, waving the whiskey bottle in his hand at the three men leaving the back of the Land Registry Office. He’d put their mounts, Kid and Maxwell’s horses and Janx’s mule, at the end of the alley, ready. He used the drunken whiskey wave, to point out the getaway route to the Kid.Kid looked suitably mad at him.Well, he’d guessed they might need his help, and he’d been proved right. He had nothing to apologise for. He quickly got the door locked again and turned, to stumble drunkenly off towards the other end of the alley, with some satisfaction, as he heard the horses safely leave the alley without pursuit.It was a surprise then, when Kid grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, eyes blazing and grabbing at the front of Sparrer’s old long-tail frock coat. “What in the Blue Blazes are you doing in town! Again!” spat Kid.Heyes grabbed at Kid wrists.“Shut up!” he barked. “And get down!”Heyes could see the door he’d just locked, bouncing outwards under an assault from within and the muffled cry for the key to be brought quickly. He threw Kid into the dirt at the base of the wall, and covered him with some old sacking and a wagon cloth, sprawling himself out on top and spilling just a little more whiskey down his front.The door burst open and Polson came running out gun first. Heyes pulled Sparrer’s top hat down to his ears and muttered incoherently to himself. “You! Did you see three men? Which way did they go?” barked Polson, kicking at one of Heyes’ lolling feet.“Wha’?? Wha’ yer wan’?” drooled Heyes to his chest.“Three men… Which way did they go?” shouted Polson waving the gun to cover both ends of the alley.“Oh… Tha’ way…” mumbled Heyes.“But… there were six o’ them…” Heyes helpfully held up three fingers.Polson ran off after Maxwell, Janx and their hired gun, in the wrong direction. Beneath Heyes, Kid protested at being sat on. Heyes waited till Polson cleared the alley then took great delight in pulling his ornery cousin back to his feet and dusting him down.“Look at you… you got all dirty” he smirked.Kid took a good look at Heyes. He was dressed in Sparrer’s long black tailed coat and top hat, with a distinctive yellow silk scarf tied at his throat. Heyes was nearly as skinny as Sparrer, if not quite so tall, but no one could ever mistake Heyes’ youthful face for Sparrer’s old grizzled one. Heyes had also pulled his pants out of his boots, to wear them like Sparrer did. This looked very strange on Heyes, and took all the sting out of Kid’s temper in an instant. Kid was about the only person in the World that would know what that small action would cost Heyes. Heyes always wore his pants on the inside of his boots, just the way his parents insisted he should way back when they were boys. Heyes’ mother said it was more genteel and pointed to Alex Heyes who always wore the boot leather on the outside. It was the last vestige of their early life Heyes had managed to hold on to, except for Kid himself, of course. “You shouldn’t have risked coming into town” he stated simply.“Abe Brent …is patrolling all ‘round town… on the lookout fer outlaws …with that pay roll over at the bank… Makes no sense at all …you being here for him to find.”Heyes ignored his words and pulled him quickly up the alley, past the open door of the Land Office where the two clerks could still be heard inside arguing bitterly, and on out into the small street that led up to Widget’s mansion, in front of the church. The folks of Clearwater weren’t praying today. The church porch was empty.“In here” ordered Heyes.He straightened his back and grinned triumphantly at his partner. He’d been running with a stoop to hide his not grizzled visage. The claim was filed. Things seemed to be going well.“Now what?” asked Kid, resigned to following Heyes whatever madness he came up with next.“I want to see if Maxwell hooks up with the banker’s agent …off the train” smiled Heyes.“Now the mines legal… I want to make sure they get the investment they need …to start making us some money.”Heyes’ grin was almost larcenous, he still couldn’t quite believe that you could make money from others labour, just by being in at the beginning of an enterprise, and having a legal share in it. But Maxwell had assured him it was legal even if it did sound like robbery.“You still think they’re going to cut us in for ten percent of the profits… Now Widget’s back …and was gonna give Maxwell them papers we got from the safe …anyways…?”Heyes looked just a little uncomfortable. Maybe it wasn’t all going quite to plan.“Ah… well that’s another thing… I gotta find Frankie …and make sure she don’t go blabbing to Maxwell about her Pa coming back and catching us in his office like that… I told Maxwell …the house break in went …according to plan… sort of…”Heyes rocked a palm in front of the Kid’s face. Kid didn’t look convinced.“… Except we bumped into Widget on the way back to the Stumpery …and he just assumed …when I said I was Smith… that I was the new School Teacher… and …that he asked us to deliver that message about not being able to make the promised investment.”Heyes looked determined.“You just earned that ten percent Kid… for sure… They’d have never got up the gumption to go file that claim… or they’d ‘ve got themselves killed doing it without you …and I don’t want Frankie spoiling our chances of getting it…”Kid took this in, not sure that he’d done much. Heyes had got them away unharmed. Well, the claim was in hand but they were still light ten thousand dollars’ surety. Kids eyes narrowed.“Heyes? …You don’t think… Frankie would try for the pay roll …do you? … Now she knows her Pa’s chumped his pals on the ten thousand.”Heyes smiled an ‘I know better than you’ smile at Kid.“I specifically forbade her from trying for that payroll …when I went back into Widget’s office for our guns last night… She won’t disobey me” he said with an assured fatherly smile spreading across his face.It didn’t quite fill his face however, doubt seemed to creep in around the edges of his certainty, until the smile was replaced by a frown. Kid watched the change intently.Heyes shook away the doubt.“Anyway… She can’t open the safe in that bank… It’s a P&H ’78… I can’t even open that safe … not just by listening to the tumblers …leastways… I’d need a whole lot of equipment… and nitro… Can’t learn that … reading a book… No… no… NO… Most she can do…is…”“Rob the money from her Pa’s safe!” finished Kid for him, with a roll of his eyes.Heyes groaned.“Widget will blame me… Or he’ll blame the new school teacher… and then...”Heyes had his head in his hands. “Come on… school’s out fer the day… We got to find that kid ‘fore she starts a life of crime!”