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Join date : 2013-08-24
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|Subject: Alter Ego - Part Three Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:54 am|| |
Alter Ego - Part Three"What's so fascinatin’ about those bank books, Heyes? You've been examinin’ them for almost a week."
He sighed and shut the ledger with a snap.
"Because they don't add up, Kid. They look real good but they aren’t right. Not against the amount of cash we took from the vault. The bank’s holdings are almost double those declared in the books. In any case I always get suspicious when there's another set of books. I took these from the vault after I saw a full set in Metcalf’s office. I think we got to the money before he did. "
The Kid grinned. “He's a thief? As bad as us?"
"Looks like it."
"I guess that's what she's doin' there."
Heyes shook his head. “She says she’s guarding someone."
The Kid snorted with laughter. “And you believed her? Does she look like a bodyguard to you?"
Heyes sat back, his eyes glittering with amusement. "Nope, but she never struck me as looking like a sixty year old woman either."
Kid Curry flicked up a questioning eyebrow. "Do you think she can shoot?"
"I've no idea but I don't think we can dismiss it."
"I don't want you seein' her again, Heyes. It's too risky. I like her but I don't trust her an inch."
Heyes smiled. "I'm with you there, partner, but have you ever been drawn by somebody who isn't good for you?"
The Kid’s eyes reflected the pensive memory of her; the girl from St Louis with the hair like gold, eyes like diamonds, and a heart of solid ice. “I guess, but you told me. I didn't want to hear it."
Heyes eyes danced with mischief. "I'm gonna take her these books. Are you coming?"
“Why? Just leave it can’t you?”
“I didn’t think I’d ever see her again,” Heyes collected his hat. “I guess this is my last chance before she moves to another job.”
"It's gotta be on my terms. I don't trust her. I want to know more about what she’s doin’ here."
Heyes sighed. "If you say so, Kid. There’s no point in arguing with you when you’re like this."
~Kid Curry watched Mrs. MacPhee’s boarding house from the shrubbery for four hours noting everyone who came and went. He’d been a cautious man at the best of times, but when his cousin took stupid risks like this he would go the extra mile. He was able to place the people coming and going against the names he had extracted from the maid who’d been happy to talk to the tall handsome stranger who carried her basket back from the store.
He found her an irritating, shallow girl with a habit of giggling at nothing in particular but he personified charm itself, and by the time he handed over the basket of provisions at the back gate he knew the names of everyone in the boarding house along with a their descriptions and a rough idea of where their rooms were.
He had seen everyone except for the female Pinkerton, who occupied a room the upper floor and the ‘Frankie’ who populated the right hand back bedroom and who had business with Abigail. His vigil paid off at last when a six foot man with cropped, white-blond hair stopped at the gate. He tipped his hat to the woman who passed in the street, pushing her perambulator with her child out for the world to view.
The Kid’s breath stilled in horror. He knew that man; Frank McCully was the bounty hunter who never brought anyone in alive. Carcasses could be transported without escape attempts. He only went after those wanted dead or alive. One shot through the head and it was money in the bank until the next job.
The cause of death also appeared to be strangely contagious for witnesses or anyone who got in the way. A friend’s wife and children had been found killed by a single shot to the head after his body was turned in, while people in towns, farms and homesteads were found murdered in the same arbitrary fashion wherever he made arrests. Never had a more selfish, venal, and ruthless man worked in what passed for law enforcement and if Abigail had gotten involved with him she had serious questions to answer.
The Kid Conroy’s determination to get those answers hardened. His breathing increased and a familiar tingling feeling crept from his numb fingers until it branched out from his arms and into his chest. Cold sweat pricked at his skin as a familiar ball of leaden nausea firmed in his belly. That poisoned prism now distorted the way he saw the neat, feminine figure who approached the boarding house.
"Jed?" Abigail's eyes darted around drinking in the surroundings, looking for danger. Why greet her openly on the street, near her gate.
"Abi, come with me. It's urgent."
Her dark eyes were pools of worry as she gazed into his blue lagoons, unaware of the danger lurking in their depths. "Why? What's happened?"
"It's Heyes. He needs you."
He watched her blanch as a delicate hand reached out to him. "Oh, my goodness! What happened? Is he hurt?"
He steered her towards the tethering post where he had left his mount, trying not to sneer at her concern as they walked. "We need to ride two up. Time’s short."
Abigail's heart thumped in her chest as she followed him. She couldn’t put her finger on why her survival instincts careened to the forefront of her consciousness, but she hung back, trusting them over his words. "Do we need a doctor? Or a lawyer maybe?"
"We ain't got time. We need to go." He checked the girth strap on his saddle and led the animal out.
"What do you mean we haven't got time? What’s wrong?"
He saw the determination in her face and snapped at her. "Are you comin’ or not?"
He threw his long leg over his mount and stretched out an arm to draw her up behind him.
Abigail paused, struck by his almost cavalier attitude to his cousin’s wellbeing. Heyes could only be hurt or in jail; in which case he needed professional help more than a visit from her. If it required sheer gun power why chose a woman who carried a Derringer. Alarm bells rang and every nerve in her body tensed.
"Where is he?" She stepped back and she refused to take his hand, her breathing quickening.
"A cabin near here."
"Why me? Why would you bring me? Why not a doctor or a lawyer? You need real help."
The Kid snorted in impatience and leaned over wrapping a long arm around her waist. He lifted her, dropping her in front of him on the saddle as though she weighed next to nothing.
She bucked in his arms. "What are you doing?"
Abigail felt the hard, unmistakable butt of a gun barrel in her ribs as his rasping voice whispered in her ear. “Lady, I ain't got the patience for this. If you want to do it the hard way it'll be real hard. I'd keep my voice down if I were you unless want innocent bystanders involved in this."
She sat stung into silence as she sensed the jeopardy in his words, her breath coming in rapid, shallow gasps. "You wouldn't, Jed. It’s me. Tell me what’s wrong. I can help."
"You?" he uttered the accusation with a snarl. "What if I tell you who I saw at your boardin’ house? I know the murderin’ scum you brought lookin’ for us? Explain why I shouldn’t play by the same rules."
He felt her take a sharp intake of breath as his words landed. She knew. The certainty hardened his resolved. "Looks like you’re mixin’ with folks who don’t care much for our welfare, so I guess it works both ways."
"Save it. I don't want to hear it. It’ll all be lies and manipulation," he kicked his horse into action. "You got time to think of somethin’ good before we get where we’re goin’. It's a shame for you I'm in no mood for listenin’."
~The maid stopped halfway down the path, disappointed to see the attentive, handsome, blond man walk off with Miss Ansell. She thought he’d come to see her when he had loitered around the gate but she was nothing if not fickle and was mollified to see a stunning man with auburn highlights in his brown hair walk straight to her.
"Is Miss Ansell at home, miss?"
Why were all the men in town suddenly so handsome, and why did they all seem so interested in Miss Ansell?
"No.” She went that way. With the blond man. A Mr. Black."
Heyes smiled, recognising the alias the Kid sometimes used. "I know him. Are you sure?"
"Oh yes. We spoke earlier and he helped me with the shopping. I thought he called for me but it seems everyone loves Miss Ansell." She tossed a pale brown curl over her shoulder, miffed at being overlooked.
"Oh yes! Even Frankie-," she blushed at her indiscrete slip, hinting at a more intimate relationship, "Mr. McCully. He sent me out to see where she had gone."
Heyes’ blood ran cold. "Mr. McCully. Not Frank McCully?"
"Yes. Do you know him? Blond and as handsome as they come, but then everyone seems so good-looking today."
The maid bit back her words as old Clayton, the town drunk, doffed his battered hat to her. He gurned a toothless grin through his mobile grey stubble as he wove his way along the street like a mule performing dressage.
"And is Mr. McCully at home? Has he spoken to anyone? "
"Oh yes. Arrived home about half an hour before Miss Ansell,” her face fell. “Then she left with Mr. Black."
Heyes’s heart turned to lead as he understood the leap the Kid had made. If he had seen Frank McCully with Abi then only one thing could have happened, especially if he had also spoken to this maid.
"Does Miss Ansell know Mr. McCully?"
"Oh yes. I believe they are good friends. If she's not spending time with her fiancé, she's spending it with Mr. McCully. It doesn’t seem quite right, but rich folks seem to have different rules."
He stared off along the street. "What way did they go?"
"I saw her go off with him on his horse,” she pointed out of town as his stomach sank. “That way. All I can say is I wouldn’t stay engaged for long if I went off with as many men as she does."
~ The horse battered out of town for about two miles, the Kid's arm like an iron band around her waist while the thumping echoed in her tight chest. Abigail fought to remain controlled and calm, but betrayal now drove the enraged man. She felt his hot breath pant in angry snorts against her neck as the countryside flashed by. The musky scent of horse drifted up as they pounded across the hard ground, mingling with the metallic taste of fear creeping from the hard lump of fear forming in her gullet.
The Kid’s raw protectiveness towards his cousin gave him a daunting fierceness. The certainty she’d betrayed them to a bullet in the head courtesy of Frank McCully was surely spinning around and around his addled mind. The gunman’s fury didn’t come as the explosive, hot, venting variety. It crept in as the cold, calculating, and circumspect type; as piercing as a stiletto. He didn’t explode; he’d begun to implode and wasn’t listening. The trust he’d given so grudgingly and began to unravel until he was entangled in a web of horrors. What would he do?
He drew his sweating horse to a walk and started towards a copse of trees. Her heart thumped and her breath came in ragged gasps of panic. She was in trouble and she knew it. She steeled herself to control her breathing, to breathe deep and slowly because hysteria would make the matter worse. Everyone in their world knew what McCully did, and anyone who would be prepared to hand them over to a man like him deserved no mercy.
Her mind debated the best course of action, wondering if she should try to talk to him or give in and beg. He’d never been a cruel man. Maybe she begging was a good idea?
He stopped the horse and dismounted before tethering it to a tree and glaring at her with chilling blue eyes. “Get down."
His hard hands still held the reigns and the pommel of the saddle, in complete control of the mount.
"Get down or I’ll drag you off that damned animal."
Her stomach lurched as she looked into the arctic eyes and decided she should remain quiet. Pride was all she had left and she refused to plead just for the sake of it. She slipped a leg over the horse and slid to the ground holding eye contact with him all the while, resigned to whatever she faced. A spark of surprise burned in the back of her mind that a man she considered a friend would deliver the final blow.
"So, what have you got to say?"
She shook her head. "You've already said you're not going to listen. Just do what you're going to do and get it over with." Her voice broke with emotion. "You’re wrong, but you’ve decided. You’ll kill a friend, Jed."
His hands formed into fists, the knuckles showing hard and pale through the taught skin. "No defence? You were going to hand us over to Frank McCully. The man’s a murdering animal."
Her eyes fixed on his, declaiming her denial. "I wouldn't. Not ever. Don’t you know me well enough by now?"
He leaned over and yelled right in her face. "I saw him!”
"Yes, but it's not what you think -”
"I suppose I ain't bright enough to work it out? Maybe I ain't as dim as you think?"
She backed off as he advanced on her, rattling her head from side to side. "I don't think you're dim. Far from it."
"He's a cold blooded killer and you were goin' to hand us over to him."
"No," she stepped back once more as he advanced on her.
"Enough!" He grasped her by the arm and dragged her into the clearing before swinging her into the centre of the copse. "You know who he is. You know what he does. Why else would you be so scared? Why wouldn’t you have warned Heyes McCully is here?"
“Because I wanted him to leave and he’d have stayed for my sake.” Abigail closed her eyes and sank to her knees. "I’d never hand anyone over to him. I -"
He reached out and grasped the scruff of her neck and dragged her to her feet, catching her hair, making shards of pain lance across her scalp.
"Stand up." He walked around her, looking at her from head to toe as her stomach churned in trepidation. Kid Curry would fight like a lion when he or his were threatened and life didn't get any more dangerous for a wanted outlaw than Frank McCully. "Just what am I supposed to do with you now?" he growled.
A worm of hope ate through her cold fear at his words. She expected a quick death as his temper took over but he was more controlled and considered than she expected. But was that a good thing or a bad thing?
"It's really not what you think."
"You expect me to believe that? That’s the best you could come up with?"
She dropped her head in resigned hopelessness. "Because it’s the truth. Please, take some time to think about this. I didn't even want to meet Mr. Heyes and I did my best to send him away. It's all a coincidence. I’m working on something here, and you turn up to rob the bank. That’s not my fault."
"I don’t believe in coincidences," He snarled, a spot of hot spittle hitting her face. His following whisper more intimidating than his yell. "You know McCully. You know what he does. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't do that to you."
She raised her head and looked straight into his eyes. "Because I’m doing everything in my power to stop that happening to you or anyone else."
"You expect me to believe you?" he bellowed
"Yes. It's the truth and deep down you know it. I’ve been here for months and I had nothing to do with you turning up. You know that. You know how you chose which bank to rob and I had no influence in your choice."
"I don't know anythin’ about you anymore."
They both turned at the sound of the beating hooves as Heyes galloped into the clearing on a sweating, dun-coloured horse. He took in the scene and dropped from his horse before he walked over to them. "Kid, I know about McCully.”
Heyes frowned and drank in the furious man before him. He knew she was scared, but he also knew she’d be dead by now if the Kid meant to kill her.
His gaze turned to Abigail's before they returned to the Kid's. He raised his eyebrows in query. "Did she tell you she was handing us over to McCully?"
"She didn’t have to! She’s a damned killer, Heyes. I don't believe a word she utters. What are we gonna do with her?"
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb