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Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat – Part Eighteen – (Dandy and Didcot) Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:54 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Eighteen – (Dandy and Didcot)“YOU DID WHAT?!”
Jeremiah Curry shifted in his seat. “I um engaged someone to get Sam’s signature on the deal. And look … .” He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out the papers. “He’s done it. Go on take a look.”
Bloodstone reached forward and suspiciously looked at the papers. Yep, the signature said Sam Flixton all right. Yet Bloodstone wasn’t convinced.
“Tell me more about this man you engaged,” he growled, keeping his patience only because they were in a public place. He threw the papers back contemptuously.
Jeremiah quickly gathered them up and put them away.
“Well he musta overheard us the other night when we were talking and he er offered me his services. At first, I was suspicious but he convinced me he was the man to get the job done. And he has. Then he introduced me to Hannibal Heyes … .”
“Hannibal Heyes! What’s he got to do with it?”
“Well see Brown knows Heyes and he can get into Sam’s safe for us. So I met with them both and agreed terms. They were gonna get the formula from Sam’s safe last night.”
“What’s this fella Heyes look like?”
“Well he’s personable and professional and he knows his business, Nathan.” Jeremiah dropped his voice. “He’s Hannibal Heyes, Nathan. If anyone can do it, he can.”
Bloodstone’s mouth dropped open and he shook his head in incredulity.
“Jerry, I dunno what to say,” he sighed. “If you’d only waited. I have it all in hand. Two men I worked with up in Helena are coming today. I’m on the way to meet them from the train now.”
“Now you don’t need ‘em. It’s sorted.” Jeremiah smiled, pleased with himself.
“Ye-ah,” Bloodstone growled, doubtfully. “Let me be the judge of that huh? Where ya meeting Brown and Heyes?”
“Tonight. At my house. Seven o’clock. Sarah will be out then. I thought it best she didn’t meet them.”
Bloodstone pushed himself up. “Okay, we’ll be there. I want to meet these two men you were gullible enough to hire. Sheesh Jerry! I figgered you for smarter than this.”
As Bloodstone walked away, Jeremiah Curry felt like a reprimanded schoolboy.
ASJASJASJASJAfter a quick bite to eat, Anne and Rose had to get back to Cheyenne. While they waited for John Beecher to tack up Nellie, Rose and Cowdry strolled hand in hand around the garden.
“I can’t pretend that I understand any of this, Paul, but I think I made the right choice by coming with Anne today,” she said, softly.
“Yes Rose you did. It was important information and Mr Curry needed to know.”
Rose nodded. “And what about you? Did you need to know?”
Cowdry stopped and turned to her. “Yes Rose I did. You’re a very brave lady.”
“By throwing my job away when I really need it. Taking off on the spur of the moment with a woman I didn’t know.” Cowdry touched her cheek. “To help a man I barely know.”
Cowdry kissed her gently. “Yes that’s why you’re brave. Rose … .Something will come up. You’ll get a secretarial job soon now I know it.” Cowdry stroked her cheek. “And more importantly, I know we haven’t known each other very long but I … think there’s something here.”
Rose smiled and nodded. “I think so too.”
Cowdry kissed her again. This time his arms went round her and he pulled her tight. It was a while before he let her go and then he kept her close. They looked at each other.
“You will be careful won’t you?” she asked, anxiously. “I would hate to think that my coming here was all in vain.”
He shook his head. “It wasn’t. It really wasn’t.” He kissed her again.
“Rose. Paul. John has the buggy ready now,” Mary called. She smiled ruefully at the sight of the kissing pair.
The young couple broke apart, embarrassed.
“I will see you as soon as I can, Rose. Perhaps in a day or two.”
She nodded in understanding. Then she fumbled in her purse. “I have something for you. This might bring you luck.” She held up a small bottle with an oversized label. “I found these for you. After you mentioned them the other night, I asked the man who delivers the catering supplies at the café.”
Cowdry grinned and took the bottle from her, deliberately touching her fingers as he did so.“Rose, I definitely think this will bring me luck.” He dipped his head again and brushed his lips lightly against hers. “Because YOU have given them to me. Thank you.”
Rose beamed as Cowdry took her arm, steering her back to the house.
ASJASJASJASJThe big red-faced man stepped out of the relative shelter of the overhang as the train approached. The rain had persisted all day and he was cursing that his heavy oilskin slicker had lost some of its waterproofing. This was an isolated halt and the train didn’t look as though it had any intention of stopping. Another reason for cursing if it didn’t. He had ridden all the way out here to meet two men he was hoping would be on this train. Their telegram had said as much but with these sort of men who knows. Things came up and plans change. He had no control over them, except for the promise of a considerable financial inducement.
Just as he thought he’d be riding back to town, dragging two redundant horses behind him, the train screeched and grumbled, starting to slow down. So suddenly did it slow that, the carriages almost overshot the halt entirely, only the rear platform would allow for easy passenger use. The train sat, engine ticking and blowing out steam after its rapid stop, like an athlete getting their breath back.
It was a few moments before two men appeared on the rear-viewing platform. As the annoyed looking guard signalled the driver to pull away, the two men scrambled off. One carried an expensive and ornately tooled saddle over his shoulder and a small, equally expensive valise. He was a slender man, dressed as an easterner, elegant suit and bowler. A dandy if ever there was. He looked completely out of place here in the depths of Wyoming. Except for one thing. On his hip was a Colt, with a fancy carved ivory stock.
His heavier set companion, he with the repeatedly broken nose and cauliflower ears, furiously chewed a tobacco wad. He was dressed in non-descript and workaday clothing with a pair of saddlebags slung over his shoulder. Even at a distance, it was obvious, the gun at his hip resided in a well-worn holster. They seemed a mismatched pair.
“Any trouble?” Bloodstone asked as they walked up to him.
“Nah, we were real careful we weren’t followed,” growled Heavy.
“That’s not quite true is it?” contradicted the other, in a refined voice.
Heavy threw him a disgusted look and rolled his eyes. “Talk over there,” he commanded, gesturing at the meagre shelter Bloodstone had waited under earlier.
“What d’ya mean?” Bloodstone asked when they were out of the rain some.
“Only that,” Slender heaved the saddle to the deck and began to rummage in the valise. “We ran into his bit of fluff on the way to the train.” He nodded his head in Heavy’s direction and smirked. “Demanding to know where we was going.” Now he chuckled, amused by the murderous look Heavy was giving him.
“Dandy I swear … .” Heavy started towards him, fist clenched and raised.
Edward Dandy seemed unconcerned and just shrugged into a slicker. That wasn’t his real name. Nobody knew what that was but he found it acceptable known as that.
“Enough!” Bloodstone intervened. “You aren’t here to update me on Didcot’s love life.” He paused when he saw Dandy’s face about to speak. “Or yours!”
“It seems, Carl that Mr Bloodstone has little romance in his soul,” Dandy said mildly, tugging at his jacket cuffs under his slicker. Earning him a glare from both parties, he nodded. He would say no more.
“Job still on?” Carl Didcot asked.
“Yeah but it’s changed. Curry went off on his own and got some help.” Bloodstone’s facial expression told both men what he thought of that.
Dandy and Didcot exchanged a glance. By mute agreement, Dandy responded.
“Well in that case have you got us here on a fool’s errand, Mr Bloodstone?”
Although he spoke politely and quietly, there was an underlying edge to his tone. Bloodstone had “worked” with these two for some years and he knew the man’s capabilities all too well. He had seen the aftermath. His manner and appearance belied just how dangerous he was. Easily dismissed as innocuous, this was a fact that Edward Dandy relied on when seeking to put people at ease.
“Yeah, trains cost money y’know,” Carl Didcot added, both fists clenched at his side. He wasn’t above using them if financial compensation wasn’t forthcoming – employer or no employer.
“You’ll get ya money!” Bloodstone snapped. He paused. “The job’s changed that’s all.”
“Oh yes?” said Dandy, pulling a flat wide brimmed hat out of the seemingly bottomless depth of his valise. He gave the hat a smart shake and the crown set itself. With a rueful smile at his companions, he placed it carefully on his head and adjusted it slightly. “You were saying?” he said, now adequately attired for riding in wet weather.
“I don’t trust these men that Curry has found. Got a feeling we oughta interrupt their little get together and see what it’s all about.” He gave a hard laugh. “I’m told he had HANNIBAL HEYES open the safe.” He rolled his eyes disbelievingly.
“Hannibal Heyes? Last I heard of him, he got amnesty a few years back.” Didcot asked.
“Yeah that’s why I don’t believe it. No one’s heard of him since.”
Dandy rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hmm,” he mused.
“Problem?” Bloodstone asked.
“Awh, Ed ya don’t believe it?” Didcot was incredulous.
“Well … .” Dandy started with a nod of his head. “Anything’s believable from Hannibal Heyes. I heard he WAS a genius.”
“You ever meet him?” Bloodstone asked, knowing these two had run into all sorts of people in their time. He was constantly amazed at who they knew and how they came to know them.
“No,” Dandy shook his head. “But I er saw his partner once,” he added, slowly. “When I was a boy. Saw him practising his fast draw. Remember thinking, nobody’s that fast. Until that is … .” He gave a smug grin. “Until me of course.” He paused. “Didn’t know who he was then but later I worked it out. He was calling himself Jones.” He paused again, this time with a frown. “I heard Kid Curry lives in Boston now of all places.”
The colour drained from Bloodstone’s face. “Boston?” he murmured. “The address I wrote to Jedidiah Curry was in Boston.”
Dandy smiled, enjoying himself. “And of course, Hannibal Heyes’ partner IS Kid Curry, whose full name is … Jedidiah.”
“Oh c**p!” Bloodstone turned away and used some very un-PG-like language (that the author doesn’t know!)
Didcot and Dandy exchanged glances and agreed that Dandy should shut up now. Didcot asked the question. “What time’s the meeting?”
Bloodstone turned back, bright red in the face and drew out his pocket watch. “’Bout two hours. In Longwater,” he snapped, not at all happy with the turn of events. “We’d best ride if we wanna make it in this weather.”
Didcot nodded and fastened up his coat to the neck. “Yeah, gonna be hard going. Roads will be washed out. Ya got horses?”
ASJASJASJASJ“Deputy” Jones, Sheriff Gunnison, from Longwater and Federal Marshall Gruber, crouched concealed in the shrubbery outside Jeremiah Curry’s parlour. They had sneaked up to the house in advance of Cowdry and Wheat’s arrival, so they would be in position. SheriffGunnison had insisted on being involved in this venture. His had his two deputies, concealed on the ridge, overlooking the road. Their orders, to let people approach the house, but not let anyone leave until Gunnison said so. If there was skulduggery afoot in his town, then Gunnison wanted in with the stopping of it. A big man with the classic, white blond hair of his Scandinavian extraction, the Kid was amazed at how little space Gunnison took up as he crouched beside him. It was obvious that Gunnison was used to skulking in bushes and neither of them were hardly making a sound.
On the other side of Gunnison, not so Gruber. His face wrinkled with distaste as he flicked back the overly affectionate foliage, intent on getting to know him better. He squeaked as a spider crawled up his arm; stamped his foot on a worm and squirmed at the imagined ants down his neck.
“Shhh!” Gunnison glared at him furiously.
“Sorry,” Gruber whispered. “I’m not very comfortable.”
“Ya not supposed to be comfortable! We’re on a stakeout! Now hush up. They’ll be here in a bit.”
Gunnison shuddered and gave Deputy Jones a look that said, where did you get him from?
ASJASJASJASJTurning into the lane came a buggy, driven by Wheat. Next to him sat Cowdry, who was fiddling nervously with his clothing. Even though the Curry residence was only on the edge of Longwater, Cowdry had still refused to get on a horse. He wasn’t EVER riding again no matter what and Mr Curry had made him a firm commitment that he wouldn’t have to. An adamant Cowdry forced a protesting Wheat into hiring the buggy. As he drove, he muttered under his breath that being a chauffeur wasn’t in his job description and he was gonna see ‘bout a raise when all this was over.
Wheat liked it even less when he pulled up outside the Curry residence and Cowdry made no move to get out. He looked at Cowdry with a questioning look. Cowdry looked back with a smug face, slipping naturally into being Hannibal Heyes. Wheat growled, and got out, stomping round to tether the horse before Cowdry moved.
“Don’t see why I’s gotta wait on you. Ya ain’t him!” Wheat murmured, as Cowdry stepped down from the buggy next to him.
Cowdry gave his jacket a final tug. “I am now,” he replied, set his shoulders and started up the short path to the door of the house. He gave the bell cord a tug.
Wheat stared daggers at his back and followed, reaching the door as it opened.
“Welcome!” greeted Jeremiah Curry, enthusiastically. In truth, he was relieved to see them.After the conversation with Bloodstone earlier, he had begun to doubt their credibility. Now here they were just as they’d promised. The other valid point that Bloodstone had mentioned, about them setting him up, disappeared from his mind. All was well.
“Mr Curry. Nice to see you again,” Cowdry said, cheerfully as they shook hands.
“Come in. Come in.”
ASJASJASJASJIn the bushes, Gruber crept a little closer to Sheriff Gunnison.
“How are we gonna know what’s going on?” he whispered.
“If ya shuddup we’ll hear!” Gunnison snapped, losing his patience. “I know the layout of the house. THAT’s the parlour!”
“But how d’ya know that’s where …. .”
ASJASJASJASJInside, Jeremiah had indeed shown Wheat and Cowdry into the parlour. Cowdry looked round with interest.
“Nice room, Mr Curry.”
Jeremiah smiled. “Awh, it’s my wife’s doing really. I just put things where she tells me.”
Cowdry nodded and then puffed. “Rather warm though. Mind if I open the window a little?”
“No, no, by all means. Sarah doesn’t like draughts so … .” Jeremiah made a move to the nearest window but Cowdry beat him to it.
ASJASJASJASJThe skulkers ducked down as the window above them opened.
ASJASJASJASJ“Ah! That’s better. ‘Fraid I can’t take the heat like I used to. Must be my time of life, ay?”Cowdry chuckled and moved away from the window.
ASJASJASJASJThe Kid and Gunnison swopped grins and then glared at Gruber, who was fighting off the amorous intentions of the foliage again. This time Gunnison drew his gun and shook it menacingly at Gruber, holding the bush back so Gruber was in no doubt. Grubber nodded furiously and Gunnison let go of the brush as he turned his attention back to the goings on inside the room. Gruber gave a muffled squeak as the bush wacked him in the face. The Kid bit his lip and dropped his head to hide the smirk. Gruber was a liability. Let’s hope he wasn’t going to get them into trouble.
ASJASJASJASJ“Well, Mr Curry shall we get down to business,” said Cowdry, taking an uninvited seat.
“Yes, yes of course. Can I offer you some refreshment perhaps?” Jeremiah said as he took a seat opposite.
Cowdry reached for his watch and flicked it open. “What time is our train, Walter?”
“Er …?” Wheat hadn’t expected to be part of the conversation and had remained on his feet.He had no idea what Cowdry was talking about. The plan was to meet back in town, discuss the next move and then stay the night.
“Eight o’clock wasn’t it?” Cowdry suggested smoothly, realising that his question had fazed the big man.
“Er … yes. Yeah, that’s the time alright. Eight o’clock.” Wheat blustered. “Mustn’t be late,” he added for good measure.
“No indeed,” said Cowdry tucking the watch away. “Thank you, Mr Curry but we can’t stay. Let’s conclude our business and we’ll be on our way.” He slapped his thighs and put his head down as if he was thinking. Which he was. He and Heyes had scripted this meeting and he was trying to remember how it should play out. “Last evening, Walter and I were able to secure what you asked me for,” he began slowly.
“Oh,” Jeremiah sighed with relief. “That’s good.”
“And I have to tell you … .” Cowdry reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and withdrew a piece of paper. “Now that I’ve read this … .” He waved the paper. “That I’m afraid I have to change the terms of our arrangement.”
Having read it, Cowdry knew what the formula was. He had to admire Sam Flixton’s sense of humour but at the same time, couldn’t risk Jeremiah getting a look at it in case he would figure it out as well. If that happened, their ruse would unravel very fast indeed. Perhaps even before they wanted it to.
Jeremiah’s face changed from happy to alarm. “What … what d’ya mean?” He looked from Cowdry to Wheat. That man looked equally as surprised. He thought they were just here to give Curry the formula, take the rest of the money and skedaddle. Apparently not.
Cowdry leant forward and looked at Jeremiah. “This … is more valuable then you led me to believe.”
Jeremiah gulped, his eyes never leaving the piece of paper Cowdry held. So near, yet so far.
“Um … it’s just a … few numbers … doesn’t mean …. .”
“No, Mr Curry,” Cowdry interrupted, putting Jeremiah out of the agony of trying to invent something on the spot. “I rather think that I under-priced my fee so … I’m afraid … the price has gone up.”
Jeremiah gasped and he pulled at the collar of his shirt. “Up? We agreed five hundred, two up front which I’ve given you and three now.”
“Yes indeed,” Cowdry agreed. “That is what we agreed but you see I know what this is.” He waved the paper again. “And I think it’s worth more to you than just another three.”
Jeremiah gulped. He was sweating now and pulled out a handkerchief to mop his face with a fumbling hand. “Y’can’t …. !” he cried. “Y’can’t change the deal!”
“Oh,” Cowdry lips formed an O. “Yes I can, Mr Curry. You see, Hannibal Heyes has a reputation and if I was to give you … .” He tapped the paper on his other hand. “This for a trifling three hundred, now that I know what it is, then … I would be doing myself a disservice wouldn’t I?” He smiled pleasantly but it did nothing for Jeremiah’s discomfort. “And I’m afraid I simply can’t have that.” He features hardened into a man who brooked no arguments.
“How …?” Jeremiah gulped hard. He was no longer dealing with the genial smiling man from before. This was the face of a notorious outlaw, with a fearsome reputation. He had no doubts that Bloodstone was wrong. This was indeed Hannibal Heyes. “How … much more?” he forced out. He didn’t have much more. He’d scrambled to find three hundred as it was. Selling items of value from the house, even some of his wife’s jewellery. There would be hell to play when she found out.
“Ooh,” Cowdry pursed his lips, in thought. “Not a lot more. Shall we call it a round thousand?”
Cowdry wrinkled up his nose and smacking his lips. “Tell you what I’ll do,” he said, generously. “You’ve already given me two haven’t you?”
Jeremiah nodded his head weakly. “Yes,” he gasped, in a small voice.
“Then let’s just call it eight hundred and we’re done,” Cowdry beamed.
Jeremiah put his head in his hands. “But I don’t have eight hundred,” he said, in despair.
Cowdry and Wheat swopped glances. Cowdry was asking what do we do in this situation.Wheat was saying, I think you’ve pushed him too far.
ASJASJASJASJThe Kid heard horses coming down the lane at speed. He put a hand on Gunnison’s arm. Thanks to Anne Godfrey and Rose’s timely warning, they weren’t surprised to see Bloodstone and the two men with him. The Kid and Gunnison swopped glances. An innocuous meeting would shortly turn into something much more dangerous. Both drew their guns silently. Gruber was wide-eyed at the development and fumbled to unholster his, dropping it with a low thud in his haste. Receiving a double frown, he smiled weakly and groped around in the flowerbed.
The Kid and Gunnison, in unison, shook their heads in despair before turning back to see the new arrivals tether their horses next to the buggy. From where they were crouched, they would remain undetected PROVIDING Gruber stopped making noise!
The Kid knew Bloodstone of course and Gunnison knew him on sight. Of more concern were the other two men. The Kid narrowed his eyes, noting the fancy holster of the more slender of the two. He must be the gunman, Edward Dandy. He knew the name. Even far away in Boston, professional interest if you like made him keep up with gunmen making a name for themselves. When Anne had said Edward Dandy, he knew he was one of the worst. He was fast and deadly. Always shot to kill. The Kid’s mouth went dry and he closed his eyes as if in silent prayer. He thought he was done with all this.
The skulkers watched the three men approach the door. To their surprise, rather than knock, Bloodstone walked straight in, leaving the door open.
The occupants of the room turned as Bloodstone entered, followed by two dangerous looking man. Wheat immediately drew his gun and one of the two men seeing this, drew his with lightning speed.
“Easy,” Wheat growled, in warning. “No need to get excited before we’re acquainted.”
Cowdry recognised Bloodstone immediately and his eyes widened.
“Mr Bloodstone, how nice to see you again,” Cowdry said a wide Heyesian grin of greeting on his face. He stepped forward, offering his hand.
“Nathan, this is Walter Brown and Hannibal Heyes.” Jeremiah said, conversationally, ignoring the fact that two men present had their guns drawn.
“Naw! This is Cowley. He was with … .”
“No, Mr Bloodstone. It’s Cowdry. Paul Cowdry.”
“You said you were Hannibal Heyes,” Jeremiah frowned in confusion.
“Yes I did give you that impression didn’t I? No, I’m afraid Mr Heyes is indisposed. So he sent me instead,” Cowdry said, pleasantly.
“Never mind that,” Bloodstone growled. “Whoever he is, he works for that Jedidiah Curry. I TOLD you, Jerry. Something smells around here and I don’t like it. Not one little bit.”
From where he stood, Wheat was the only man in the room, and the only one paying enough attention, to see the three lawmen silently enter the hall.
The Kid nodded at Wheat and then tossed his head in the direction of the Bloodstone trio. Wheat knew what he wanted and was reluctant. This might be painful. The Kid twitched his head again more forcefully. Taking a deep breath, Wheat moved fast for the big man he was, knocking into the heavyset man. This provided the distraction for the lawmen to enter the room. The slender man turned and fired. The close proximity and the surprise meant his aim was off. The bullet went harmlessly off into the wall, narrowly missing Gruber, who fainted clean away.
“Leave it!” the Kid growled.
“Awh!” The punch Bloodstone threw, glanced off Gunnison’s chin, the second doubled him over, knocking him to the floor. Bloodstone went with him, pressing his advantage.
Dandy glanced down. Bloodstone and Gunnison were grappling at each other on the floor. Brown and Didcot were slugging it out in front of him. That left the deputy.
“I said leave it!” the Kid barked, reading the intention on Dandy’s face.
However, before either could react, two things happened.
The combined weight of Bloodstone and Gunnison as they rolled around on the floor, slammed into the Kid’s legs, knocking him of balance.
The bullet the Kid had intended for Dandy’s hand missed him. Instead, it found its mark in the shoulder of Jeremiah Curry. He had risen to his feet when the commotion started and now found himself, hitting the wall and sliding down it to sprawl on the floor.
Wheat, now in his stride and beginning to enjoy himself, felt his right fist connect with Didcot’s jaw. The haymaker sent Didcot reeling into Dandy.
The bullet Dandy intended for the Deputy went into the ceiling.
Dandy quickly regained his balance. “Hey you! Deputy!” he shouted.
The yell broke the concentration of the fighting men. They broke apart as if their opponent had suddenly become red-hot. All eyes turned in the direction of the man who had shouted. The elegantly dressed young man with a fancy looking gun in an equally fancy holster didn’t look very dangerous to the casual observer. Yet on closer inspection, the tied down holster, the confident stance, the air of calmness portrayed a man secure in his abilities. Eyes turned to the object of the shout.
The Kid focused on the man who had called him. The other occupants of the room, faded into the background. All of them sensed the tension of the standoff. Their own scuffles paling into insignificance.
“Well if it isn’t Kid Curry,” Dandy sneered. “I saw you once. Long time ago. You were practising your fast draw. Didn’t know who you were then. I was just a kid. But I do now.” He shook his head. “Kid Curry.” He spat the name contemptuously and his face took on an angry snarl. “You’re Irish ain’t ya?”
“My folks were yeah. What of it?”
“I’ve always hated the Irish!” Dandy growled, his previous refined accent going by the wayside.
The Kid turned so he was directly facing him. He tried a pleasant smile.
“Sorry to hear that,” he said mildly. “Guess folks can’t like everyone they meet, huh?”
He had been in this position many times before but this was the first time he had doubts about his abilities. Having practiced several times over the past few days he knew he was painfully slow by his previous standards. To be expected of course. Here he was facing a man who was calling him out. The Kid didn’t think he had a chance against a man like Edward Dandy. He knew his reputation. Yet here he was anyway. He had to try a different tack. Perhaps he could take a leaf out of Heyes’ book and try talking him round. After all, he had joked the other day that thinking wasn’t as hard as Heyes had always maintained it was. And he did a lot of thinking and talking in his new business career. He just had to apply a little of what he’d learned over the past few years to this situation. Simple.
“I’ve always wondered who would come off best between you and me. Time to find out, old man. Let’s do it.” Dandy gestured to the gun in the Kid’s hand and holstered his own.
The Kid knew that the time for talking was over. Entirely focused on the man in front of him, he considered his options. He could shoot, take Dandy down, while his gun was holstered. That was only a brief consideration. For one thing, that wasn’t sporting. For another and the more alarming, perhaps he wanted to test himself again. Perhaps secretly he needed to test himself again. But why? He wasn’t that man anymore. He had a wife and children, a business and a proper home. He had everything to lose. Before he had nothing, no ties, no possessions, nothing to care about with the possible exception of Heyes. Yet, Dandy had made it personal. Sneering at his heritage, by extension his parents, his family. No!
Slowly the Kid holstered his gun. His thumbs tucked themselves into the front of his gun belt.
“Kid,” Wheat gasped.
“Mr Curry?” Cowdry swallowed hard. “I don’t think you want to do this sir.” He sounded calm. He wasn’t. Yet he stepped forward to stand slightly in front of Dandy anyway.
“Paul. Step away.” The Kid’s voice was low. When Cowdry didn’t he barked, “Now!”
Rather than waiting, Dandy pushed Cowdry roughly aside. So roughly, Cowdry stumbled and fell, heavily into a sideboard. He grunted and slumped, dazed, against the unforgiving piece of furniture.
The Kid didn’t move. He couldn’t. Whilst he might be prepared to give his opponent a sporting chance, he knew Dandy wouldn’t extend the same courtesy. He could only afford a quick glance.
The Kid brought his eyes back to Dandy’s direction. In that moment, the Kid felt the wave of protection so familiar in the past for Heyes, now transferred to Cowdry. No one, no matter what their reputation, messed with the Kid’s family. And Cowdry was his family. He was his best friend in Boston. Always faithfully, always reliable. A little unpredictable perhaps, the Kid thought ruefully. And that’s how it should be.
When he turned to face Dandy, the Kid was the legendary gunman of old. His eyes were ice blue and was face was impassive. The only sign that there was something going on inside, the slight flicker of a muscle in his cheek. In his peripheral vision, the Kid could see his man slumped in the corner. His mouth went dry and he licked his lips. He knew what was going to happen, as sure as night follows day.
“Scared, Curry?” Dandy grinned, manically.
The Kid fixed his attention on Dandy. He straightened his shoulders back and loosened his arms, thumbs hooked in his gun belt again. As he did so, it all came back. The feeling, the knowledge, the demeanour. Muscle memory perhaps? Call it what you like, the Kid was in the zone. With it came the language of the gunfight. The preamble. The challenge was issued.Now came the counter challenge.
“Now why should I be scared of you?” The drawl was low and ominous. Wheat and Didcot involuntarily took a step away, lessening the chance of stopping a stray bullet. A gunfight was coming. They both knew it.
Dandy raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Oh, so you’re challenging me are you?”
The Kid shook his head slightly. “No, Dandy, you’re challenging me.”
“You know who I am,” Dandy said, slightly surprised but pleased all the same. The infamous Kid Curry knew who he was.
“Yeah I know who you are,” the Kid admitted. He paused and with a lot more bravado than he felt, went on. “Are you SURE you can beat me, Dandy?” he asked, slowly. “After all ya said ya’d seen me. You KNOW how fast I am.”
“WAS old man.” Dandy shook his head, dismissively. “Not anymore.”
“Are you REALLY that sure of that, Edward Dandy?”
He paused again, looking for any sign of reaction.
Dandy stiffened slightly, a fraction before he went for his gun.
A gun cleared its holster. It cocked.
A gun found a firing position.
A finger squeezed a trigger.
A bullet flew.
A miniscule fraction of a second later, another gun fired.Another bullet flew.
A bloom of red appeared on a right shoulder.
A second bullet, buried itself somewhere more vital.
A gun dropped from a hand.
Fingers laced themselves over a stomach, frantically trying to stem the freely flowing blood.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname