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 June 2012 - Diamond (s)

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Calico

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Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:25 am

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,

All ye here present having matters pertaining to the Yellow Bandanny Challenge, draw near and give your attendance.

In honour of the Jubilee of her most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Second of that Name, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

The June Challenge will be:

sunny sunny sunny Diamond (s)sunny sunny sunny

Let the sparkling, twinkling, glinting and glittering - and just possibly the filching, faking, and fraudulent field salting - begin.
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:30 am

The beginning of this one was from the weekly word challenge for "mettlesome". I just like the thought of how Heyes would break a horse.

A Diamond In The Rough

The sun shone brightly on her, turning her copper tresses golden. She was beautiful and Heyes was captivated. Her brown eyes watched him come towards her. Her expression was guarded but inviting and he didn’t hesitate. He was in love. It was that fast and he fell hard.

Kid watched it all happen with an amused grin. Trust his partner to pick a hussy. To him she was a nasty tempered cow. He’d had her pegged from the moment they met, but he kept quiet. He saw that Heyes was beyond reasoning with so he sat back to observe the fireworks.

Heyes reach for her, but she skipped lightly away. Teasingly, she was keeping herself beyond his caress. He spoke softly to her and Kid could see that she was responding to his partner’s silver tongue. Her eyes closed slightly and she tilted her head at a charming angle. She allowed him to approach.

Heyes reached out slowly and gently ran his hand along her face and neck. She positively glowed with the attention and tucked her head into his shoulder. Heyes was lost. He had to have her. Sure, she was mettlesome and it would take all his patience to live with her, but she would be worth it. She was wonderful.

With pride, he slid the lead rope around her neck and led her from the corral. “I’ll take this sorrel,” he said with a huge smile.

Leading her through the gate, Heyes stopped in front of the Kid. “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” Heyes asked his partner.

“Yep, but pretty is as pretty does, Heyes. She looks like a handful to me. What are you gonna do with an unbroken filly? It’s going to be a long time before she’s useful.” said Kid.

“I know, but when she is, she’ll be great,” said Heyes confidently.

“Sure, if she don’t kill you on the way,” said Kid hopping off the fence and walking towards the saloon.

Heyes, irritated, stared after his partner and then shrugged. Some people don’t appreciate fine horseflesh he thought. He knew it would take a lot of work, but he had time. His bay gelding was still going strong even though he was getting a bit long in the tooth. Heyes hadn’t come into town with the idea of purchasing a new horse, but he and Kid had passed the stockyard on the way in and had seen the herd of horses corralled there. The sorrel stood out amongst the other horses like a diamond in a coalfield. He had to have her.

Kid had been annoyed when Heyes insisted on finding the wrangler instead of heading to the saloon as planned. He was tired, hungry and, most of all, parched. He entered the saloon and sat at a corner table waiting for Heyes. Heyes came in sporting a smile so large it looked painful. Sitting down as the barkeep brought two beers, he said, “I got a great deal on her, Kid. That guy obviously was no judge of horseflesh; he let her go for twenty dollars! Can you believe that? Only twenty dollars for a filly like that. Why, I bet she’s mostly thoroughbred. She sure has a fine head on her, doesn’t she? And did you see her hind end? Four year’s old and she already has a butt on her like that! She sure is something.”

“Yeah, she’s green, Heyes,” said Kid.

“So? They’re all green to start, Kid. It won’t take much to train her. I can tell she’s real smart. Why…”said Heyes as he continued to regale Kid with the fine qualities of his new purchase. Kid let Heyes ramble on until he finally ran out of superlatives and the words dribbled away. Looking at the silent Kid, Heyes finished his beer in a couple of gulps and headed out to the livery to check on his new filly. Kid watched him go and had to smile at his friend’s obsession.

Once back at the Hole, Heyes had watched his filly carefully when she was first turned out with the other horses. There had been bites and nips while she learned her place in the pecking order. The filly submitted only to the alpha mare; a wise old draft horse the gang used to pull wagons; the filly was not big enough or strong enough to dominate this one and had, therefore, willingly accepted her place in the herd. This told Heyes a lot about who she was and he was pleased at her intellect.

Early one fine sunny morning a week or so later, Heyes emerged from the barn carrying his lariat in his hand and a halter tossed over his shoulder.

Hank was sitting on a stump in front of the bunkhouse repairing a bridle. He looked up for a moment and saw Heyes opening the corral gate. Knowing what this signaled, Hank ducked into the bunkhouse to let the rest of the gang know the time had come. The outlaws were sprawled about the bunkhouse relaxing.

“Heyes is gettin’ on that filly. Five’ll get you ten he won’t last the first minute,” cried Hank holding up some cash.

Everyone sprang up eager to place their bets and get outside to see the show.

Heyes had spent the past week just talking to his filly. He wanted her to learn the sound of his voice and took pains to keep up an idle, reassuring patter for her. He always brought a carrot or apple to entice her over and made sure to whistle as she approached so that she soon learned that his presence was a benefit to her. He had sent the other horses out to pasture so that she would become lonesome and bond faster with him. The plan had worked well. At his whistle, the filly lifted her head, pricked her ears and walked daintily to him. She was just reaching out to take the apple he held when the gang noisily approached. Snorting, she shied away and trotted to the other side of her enclosure.

“Damn it, you spooked her,” snapped Heyes.

“So rope her, Heyes. You’ve got to snub her out anyways, don’t you?” asked Wheat.

“I ain’t snubbing her out, Wheat. Now will you all get out of here?” said Heyes.

“If you don’t snub her, Heyes, how ya gonna git on her?” asked Kyle.

“I’m not getting on her today, boys. I’m still gentling her,” said Heyes.

Now it was Wheat’s turn to snort, “Gentling her? What for? Just climb up there and hang on. Unless, of course, you’re chicken.”

Heyes glared back at Wheat.

Kid had heard the commotion outside and had just arrived unseen from the leader’s cabin. “Wheat…” he said warningly.

“Aw, Kid, I didn’t mean anything by it. Heyes says he ain’t snubbing her,” explained Wheat.

“So then there’s nothing for you boys to see. Why don’t you go on back to minding your own business and let Heyes get on with his,” suggested Kid.

With a few grumbles and curses the outlaws left reluctantly.

“Thanks, Kid. Those idiots could spook a corpse when they get to chattering like that,” said Heyes returning his attention to the filly and trying to coax her back.

“If you aren’t going to snub her, Heyes, how do you plan to break her?” asked Kid.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan,” Heyes said as he crossed the corral.

“Of course you do, Heyes. Why’d I even ask?” said Kid shaking his head. He watched Heyes cross the corral before he turned to go back to the breakfast he’d left when he had heard the commotion.

The filly had backed herself into the corner protectively. Kind of like the Kid and me, Heyes thought; she wants her back to the wall. He started speaking softly to her again and her ears flicked back and forth, listening. There was no way he would snub this filly. He loved her spirit and had no desire to break it.

Over the years, Heyes had watched lots of old hands break young horses. This typically involved roping the horse and blindfolding it. The horse would then be tied down tight to the snubbing post, an old post centered in the corral, unable to move its head. Heyes had seen the results many times. Horses would be immobilized; often they would sweat up something awful and snort wildly with fear. The hands would saddle up the frightened animal and then climb on up and give the other hands the signal to release the rope. The horse would react to the strangeness of a rider by bucking and leaping in hopes of getting free. If the hand was any good, he would ride the horse until it was exhausted and submissive. As a result, you’d get a horse that had lost its will. If the hand wasn’t any good, he be thrown and you’d get a rogue in the making. Heyes had no desire to do either to his horse.

Reaching her, he held out the treat tightly as she bit into the apple. With his other hand, he rubbed the rope along her neck and shoulder allowing it to snake to the ground. Heyes then slipped the rope around her neck. He put it on and off several times while she munched contentedly. That was enough for today.

After a few days with the rope, Heyes began rubbing an empty grain sack against her to get her used to being touched all over. He flapped the sack at her and swatted her gently so that she learned to stand quietly and accept movement around her. It wasn’t long before she allowed herself to be haltered and, once she was, Heyes left a lead rope dangling from her head. She moved about the corral during the next few days occasionally stepping on the rope and bringing herself up short. She soon learned the jerk of the rope was a signal to stand quietly.

When the day finally arrived and Heyes mounted his mare, it was almost anticlimactic. The boys and Kid had gotten so used to him ‘pussyfooting’ around his horse, as Wheat called it, that they no longer paid any attention to what Heyes was doing with her.

Kid was on his way to the bunkhouse late one afternoon when he happened to look over towards the corral and saw Heyes quietly sitting on his filly and walking her about the corral. Surprised, he wandered over to the fence and leaned his elbows on the top rail. He watched silently as Heyes kept her moving in large, loopy circles and turns never quite letting her straighten out; just constantly moving her between the light pressure of his legs. Kid had to admit he’d never seen a horse take so calmly to a rider. She looked perfectly relaxed and completely comfortable with Heyes. Leave it Heyes to figure out a new way of doing things. Of course, breaking a horse this way took time and that was not something most outlaws or cowboys had lots of. Kid admired the filly. She really was pretty; her coat shone brightly in the afternoon sun and the copper highlights to her color made her look like flickering firelight. As Heyes rode towards him, Kid smiled and said, “She looks good, Heyes. You’ve done real good with her. ” Heyes smiled broadly at Kid but continued to speak only to the mare. Better he talk her ears off than mine, thought Kid. He watched the pair a few moments more before he headed off to the bunkhouse for a cup of coffee from the pot the boys always had brewing.

“What’s up with Heyes and that horse, Kid?” asked Wheat. “Why don’t he just break her like any other horse?” The boys were seated around the old table in the bunkhouse playing cards. There were two open whiskey bottles half empty and the boys looked to be half in the bag.

“C’mon, Wheat. You know Heyes. He don’t like to do things like everyone else,” said Lobo. “He always thinks he knows a better way.”

Kid narrowed his eyes at Lobo and looked him over real careful like. “You boys might want to lay off the drinking a bit. It ain’t healthy.” Lobo took one look at Kid’s expression and decided he had nothing further to add. Kid shook his head and left the bunkhouse with coffee in hand; he was tired and he needed it. He and Heyes were riding into Belton in an hour or so to have a little fun and to pick up a few supplies.

Wheat laughed out loud after the Kid had left. “Well I think he’s wasting time. Someone just needs to climb aboard that nag and hang on.”

It wasn’t long after the two outlaw leaders had left the Hole that Lobo started needling Wheat. The gang had spent a long afternoon sipping whiskey and playing cards and Lobo was not only drunk, he was bored. “I think you ought to help Heyes out, Wheat. He don’t seem to be able to lay down the law to that filly. Seems to me, you’re a good hand with the horses. Why don’t you get on that filly and finish her off for Heyes?”

“Lobo, Heyes’ll….”began Kyle.

“Shut up, Kyle,” said Lobo with a menacing glare. Returning his attention to Wheat, he said “Takes a strong hand to break a fine filly like that. Don’t seem like Heyes is strong enough, but I’d bet you are, Wheat.”

“Wheat, you don’t want to…,” said Kyle.

“Shut up, Kyle,” said Wheat.

Shrugging, Kyle shut up. He knew Heyes was gonna be pissed, but he knew this was gonna be fun, too.

Wheat lassoed the filly easily enough. She was reluctant to follow this man and pulled uneasily at the lead. Yanking her roughly, Wheat led her to the snubbing post. Lobo was next to the post and had a saddle in his arms. He tossed it onto the filly’s back and she tensed up as the cinch slapped down her other side. The rest of the gang were pulling out their cash and chattering excitedly. Pulling the cinch up tight, Lobo nodded to Wheat who swung up onto the now frightened horse. “Let her go,” Wheat said. Lobo released the lead as Wheat braced himself for the first leap.

Nothing happened. The filly was comfortable enough with being ridden that, while nervous, she stood quietly waiting for a command from Wheat. She turned her head expectantly and looked at her rider. Wheat clucked to her and she started to walk quietly. “Don’t that beat all,” said Wheat to himself.

The outlaws were so shocked by the well behaved filly, that they didn’t hear Heyes and Kid galloping towards the corral and, when they finally did, they saw the look on Heyes’s face and ran for cover.

Reining up at the corral, Heyes sprang out of the saddle and was halfway over the fence before Kid caught hold of his shirt. Pulling his cousin backwards and down, Kid threw himself on top of his partner. Riding a human bronco, Kid hung on tight as Heyes struggled to free himself. “Let go, I’m gonna kill him,” said Heyes.

“I know, Heyes, that’s why I ain’t letting go,” said Kid. Heyes continued to struggle for a few more moments and then quieted. “If he’s ruined her, I swear I’ll…” began Heyes. “C’mon, Heyes, she looks fine. You ain’t killing Wheat,” said Kid firmly. “’Sides, killing’s too quick; you can think of something better than that.”

Kid eased up on Heyes as he felt him relax. Heyes sat up, sighed, and wiped his hair out of eyes and said, “You’re right, she’s fine, thanks.” Heyes stood and took a moment to compose himself. Wheat had scrambled off the filly and he and Lobo were frozen in place waiting.

“Heyes, I was just trying to help. I guess I was a little drunk. I wasn’t thinking…,” babbled Wheat.

Heyes walked up and snatched the reins from Wheat glaring at him. He led the filly over to the fence and handed the reins to Kid who was leaning over the top rail watching his cousin closely. Heyes walked back to Lobo and Wheat. They cringed a bit and lowered their eyes.

"Come up to the cabin first thing in the morning,” growled Heyes. He was furious. He and Kid had turned back when they'd discovered an ambitious posse waiting at the entrance to the canyon. If they hadn't, Wheat might've ruined his filly. Not trusting himself to say more, he turned and left his two men staring after him.

“Huh. That weren’t so bad,” said Wheat, “If I were leader….”

“Shut up, Wheat,” said Lobo walking away.

The next day, the gang clustered around the outhouse. Heyes and Kid sat in a pair of comfortable chairs nearby, guns drawn, and cool drinks at hand. The building had been moved out of place, and down in the hole it had covered, were two unhappy outlaws mucking it out by hand.
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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:33 am

Saddle Talk: Jack o’ Diamonds

♫ “Jack ‘o diamonds,
Jack ‘o diamonds,
I know you of old,
You rob my poor pockets of silver and gold.
Oh whiskey vil…”♫

“All right, Kid, enough already!”

♫ “Oh whiskey, villain, you been my downfall…”♫

“I’m gonna be your downfall if’n ya don’t stop it right now!”

“Ha! Just try it, Heyes.”

“Don’t laugh at me, Kid.”

“You’re just in a bad mood.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Oh, yes you are. Come on. You lose a big pot because you don’t get a diamond to complete the flush, so now you’re takin’ it out on me?”

“Kid, I’m not taking it out on you!”

“Hmph, no? Then why the fuss?”

“Because I wish you’d be quiet.”

“So you can feel sorry for yourself? Sheesh, Heyes, I’m just singin’ to pass the time.”

“Singing? Is that what ya call it? And THAT particular song?!”

“Yeah, that’s what I call it. And I like the song – I’ve sung it before. Roll your eyes all ya want.”

“Fine!”

“Good. ♫ Oh whisky, villain,
You been my downfall
You've kicked me, you've cuffed me
But I love you for all.”♫

“Kid, that don’t make sense! No man could love a woman for doing all that to him!”

“Heyes, it’s just a song. It don’t have to make sense.”

“Maybe so, but she’s gonna kick him and cuff him? Don’t she like the fella?”

“I don’t know, Heyes. Thought it was the whiskey doin’ it. I just sing ‘em.”

“If ya call that singing! So why bother with anything that don’t make sense? THAT don’t make sense!

“You’re yellin’ again, Heyes. And it don’t make sense that you’re so angry over a game. Ya win some, ya lose some…”

“Kid, stop telling me I’m shouting, because I’m NOT! And enough with the philosophizing!”

“I didn’t say you were shoutin’. I said you were yellin’. Ya know, you’re right, Heyes. You're NOT shoutin'. Right now you’re yellin’, and that’s louder’n shoutin’, and THAT don’t make sense! And if that’s philosophizin’, fine!”

“Huh?!”

“Yellin’ is louder than shoutin’!”

“Now who’s raising his voice?!…Whatever ya say, Kid. They’re both the same to me.”

“Ha! Like the preacher used to say, ‘I’ll just raise my voice in song.’”

“Kid, he meant for everybody. Together, it all sounded good. You’re just a screech owl.”

“Oh, get off it, Heyes! That’s low. You’re just mad ‘cause ya lost.”

“Poker don’t have anything to do with it.”

“Don’t it?”

“I don’t lose at poker. That guy was cheating. You saw it, or did you take time off from watching my back?”

“Heyes, you know I was right there, but it all happened so fast. Who knew the dealer would have a Derringer and be that quick to whip it out? Guess someone complains and out comes the gun. And then the owner with his own Colt right there, like they'd practiced it a time or two and sayin' he'd get the sheriff to hear ya out. Sheesh. What could we do but leave. I believe ya that the guy was cheatin', but I didn't see it. Guess he was good.”

“Yeah, he was. But I saw it, and they didn’t give me a chance to prove it.”

“Sure they did. But good thing we just took our leave pretty as ya please, so ya didn’t have to explain it to the sheriff.”

“The owner shoulda just let me prove it to him.”

“So he didn’t wanna hear it. That’s his right.”

“Which side are you on, Kid? Sounds like you’re sticking up for him!”

“You know better than that, Heyes.”

“Unless he’s running a crooked house. That must be it. Why else would he offer to get the sheriff?”

“Umm, because he didn’t want any trouble?”

“What trouble, Kid? Not from me. You know I was calm. But an armed dealer, and the owner right there backing him up? That's a new one.”

“I know. But try to see it from his side. Maybe he’s seen too much trouble before.”

“Or maybe he didn’t want to be found out.”

“Could be, Heyes. Or maybe he owns the town.”

“Yeah, like Plummer, huh? Guess I didn’t think of that.”

“Ha, ha! Heyes, sometimes maybe I have to do some of your thinkin’ for ya, huh?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, Kid!”

“Ah, Heyes, just a little joshin’. Lighten the mood.”

“I don’t wanna lighten the mood.”

“Okay, suit yourself.
♫ Jack ‘o diamonds,
Jack ‘o diamonds,
I know you of old,
You rob my poor pockets of silver and gold.”♫

“Kid, so help me…”

“I am tryin’ to help ya, Heyes. Didn’t your pa used to say that music calms the soul?”

“Yeah. But he meant a sweet sound, not rusty hinges.”

“Enough with the low blows, Heyes. I’m gonna ride ahead till you cool off.”

“Fine!”

“Okay. Suit yourself – AGAIN!...
♫ Oh Molly, oh Molly
For your sake alone
Gotta leave my old parents
My house and my home
Gotta leave my old parents
you called me to roam.

“Jack o' diamonds
Jack o' diamonds
I know you of old…” ♫

“Kid, hold up!...You left out the line about the old rebel soldier.”

“Yup. So what? Listenin’ after all, huh?”

“Whatever. Can't help but hear it! But it is part of the song.”

“I know, Heyes. But, I’m not an old reb soldier, and Dixie’s not my home.”

“But it’s just a song, Kid.”

“Ha, you have me there, Heyes! You in a better mood now?”

“Maybe.”

“You’re just missin’ my company?”

“Maybe.”

“Oh, Heyes, admit it. You’d rather have me around with my singin’ than be alone by yourself, even if it is just a little ways behind.”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe? What happened to that silver tongue?”

“Nothing.”

“Uh huh. Whatever ya say, Heyes.
♫ Jack o' diamonds
Jack o' diamonds
I know you of old
You rob my poor pockets of silver and gold.” ♫

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:19 pm

Okay, reading the others inspired me.

Diamonds Are Not An Outlaw's Best Friend

Kyle lit the fuse and they raced back into the trees as the track blew.  Soon the train came to a screeching halt, just as planned.  Big Jim gave the signal and the gang swooped down on the unsuspecting train – each gang member knowing his role.  The Kid covered the guards while Big Jim and Heyes entered the mail car where the safe was located.  Wheat, Kyle and the others held the passengers, engineer, fireman, and conductor at bay.    Even though this was only the second train robbery the gang had attempted, all was going well.

~~~~000~~~~

Heyes gave a satisfied grunt as he heard the click.  He sat back on his heels and pulled the door to the safe open, smiling at Big Jim, who smiled back as he reached in to remove the contents.

Big Jim counted the stacks of bills as he stowed them in his saddle bags.  “Hannibal, there’s over five thousand here.  You were right.  They thought the money would be safer on a train than a stagecoach, more fools them.”

“The men will sure be happy with this Big Jim.  Trains are the wave of the future,” Heyes responded.

Big Jim reached back into the safe and pulled out a leather bag.  “What’s this?”

From the bag, Big Jim extracted a jewel case.  Heyes gasped as Big Jim exposed an elaborate necklace.  Big Jim walked over to the door of the mail car and contemplated the necklace; its diamonds glittered in the sun and threw multi-hued shafts of light this way and that.  The passengers looked up.  One man rose and began yelling.  

“Be quiet and sit down,” Wheat ordered, gesturing with his shotgun.  The man sat quickly, gulping and looking distressed.  The other passengers watched Big Jim avidly inspect the necklace.

“Kyle, watch this one,” Wheat ordered and walked over to join Big Jim and Heyes.

Heyes looked at his watch then turned to Big Jim.  “We need to get going, the posse should be heading out about now.”  Big Jim nodded but made no move to pack up, mesmerized by the diamond necklace in his hands.

Heyes gave a sigh.  “Big Jim, you know your own rules – we only take the money.  You have to put that back.  We don’t have anywhere to get rid of something like that.”

Wheat glared at Heyes.  “That sure is beautiful Jim.  Must be worth a fortune.”

The Kid walked up, keeping his gun trained on the guards.  “We have to go.  That belongs to one of the passengers, probably that man over there.”  The Kid gestured at the passenger who had protested and was now glaring daggers in their direction.  

“The law will work hard to get that back.  Taking it’s a bad idea; it’s big trouble,” argued Heyes.

Wheat turned to him, “Who made you boss?  Big Jim is the leader, not you.  What do you want to do Jim?”

Big Jim looked up from his avaricious contemplation of the necklace.  “Boys this is our chance for the big score – this is worth more than the five thousand in the safe.  I’ve got an idea of where to sell it.”  He put it back in the bag, threw the jewel box away, and tucked the bag inside his shirt.  “Let’s ride.”

“But, Jim…” expostulated Heyes.

“Quiet, Hannibal,” Big Jim ordered.  “I’m in charge, not you.  Now get moving.”

Heyes opened his mouth, but closed it when he caught the Kid’s eye and slight head shake.

The gang mounted up; the Kid waited, holding the guards at bay until the gang was out of sight.  Then he rode fast to join up with the rest.

~~~000~~~

Back at the Hole, Big Jim divided the money up among the gang members.  Finally, he reached into his shirt and pulled out the necklace.

“Men, we got ourselves a bonus with that last job.  This necklace is worth a fortune.  Now Hannibal is right that it could be dangerous, but I’ve decided it’s worth the risk.”  The men hooted and hollered, jostling for a better view.

Heyes rolled his eyes and couldn’t keep quiet.  “Big Jim, that necklace ain’t like the cash and the gold we take.  It’s, it’s – unique.  It can be identified; it can be traced.  Even if you sell it, the law can track it back to us.  Then we’re all in trouble.”

Wheat snorted.  “Heyes, it ain’t like anyone don’t know we robbed that train.”

“But if we’re caught with some of the money, no one can prove it came from that train – there’s no proof.  They’ll have to track down the passengers to come back and be witnesses and that’s a lot of trouble that most of them won’t want to take.  But with this, with this, this is evidence and its owner probably won’t rest until he gets it back.”

The other men quieted and stood listening – all except the Kid who lined up beside Heyes as Big Jim began to glower.  “Big Jim, maybe you should think some more about what to do with these diamonds,” he began.

Big Jim’s face darkened with fury as he contemplated the two of them.  Around them the other gang members watched, their heads turning back and forth between Big Jim and Heyes, murmuring as they took sides in the debate.

“I run this gang, Hannibal, not you and not your gunnie there.  If you have a problem with that, the two of you can leave.”  He stared at the two as they stood in a circle formed by the other gang members.  

Heyes glared back then lowered his eyes.  “Not trying to take over, Big Jim, you’re a great leader, but diamonds are trouble.”

Big Jim took a deep breath and looked around at the assembled group, who looked down.

“Hannibal does have a point that this necklace is recognizable.  So what I am going to do is take it apart.  Then I’ll take it to Rocky Gap, where I know a jeweler I can sell the diamonds and gold fittings, no questions asked.”

“Since Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry are so worried about it, they will stay here at the Hole doing guard duty.  Wheat, Smithy, and Tallman can come with me; the rest of you go to Miss Kitty’s parlor in Mantooth – we’ll meet up with you there in about four days.  Those who don’t come with me will get their share when I get to Miss Kitty’s.  While we will get less for the diamonds out of the necklace, you needn’t worry.  Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry, of course, having avoided the risk will forfeit their shares of the reward.”

He turned and stalked out of the bunkhouse over to his cabin and shut the door decisively.  The others looked at each other for a moment, then at Heyes and Kid Curry standing by themselves, before quickly turning to pack for the trip.  Wheat looked over at the two and sniffed, then turned towards his bunk with a smirk.

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other grimly.  They silently gathered the provisions they would need when they relieved the guards.  No one spoke to them as they left.

~~~000~~~

Six days later, Heyes and the Kid, were still up at the guard post, desultorily playing blackjack.  “Think they’ll be back soon, Heyes?”

“Yeah, they’ll be back soon.”

The Kid paused in dealing and looked at Heyes.  “Should we be here when they get back, do ya think?”

“Why not?” Heyes demanded although he didn’t look at the Kid when he spoke.

“Why not?  Because sometimes ya have a big mouth, Heyes.  Ya don’t question the leader in front of everyone.  What were you thinkin’?”

“I was right.”

“That don’t matter.”

Suddenly they heard the three shots signaling the return of the gang.

They quickly picked up the field glasses and looked.

“Heyes, there’s some missin’ can you tell who?”

“No, let me go down and see what’s going on.  You stay here, just in case it’s some type of trap.”

“For the gang or just us?  How mad do you think Big Jim still is?”  The Kid quirked an eyebrow at Heyes then picked up a rifle and aimed it towards the meeting point.

Heyes laughed, “I’m sure he’s forgiven us.  Money has a way of doing that – and we aren’t getting any.”  He stood up to head to the meeting point, then stopped and turned back.  “Still, I’m glad you have my back, Kid.”

~~~000~~~

Heyes sat on his horse, his expression grim, watching the remnants of the gang ride up.  He saw Wheat had his head bandaged and his arm in a sling.  Kyle was riding next to him, ready to prop him up in his saddle as he sagged.  He didn’t see Big Jim or three others.

“What happened?” Heyes asked as the gang reached him.

“You were right, Heyes,” Kyle said as they stopped.  “It was a trap; the law were waitin’ at the jeweler’s when they got there.”  Wheat mumbled and looked down, swaying in his saddle.

“Get him up to the bunkhouse.  Hank, you and Jesse go relieve the Kid,” Heyes instructed – he gave the signal to the Kid to meet them at the bunkhouse.”

Once Wheat had been assisted off his horse and to his bunk, and the Kid had joined them, Heyes looked around at the group then down at Wheat.  “Okay, now tell me what happened.”

“Kyle told you, it was a trap.  They were waiting for us.  Tallman’s dead.  Smithy I don’t know – they took him but he was bad hurt.  They got Big Jim – they’re taking him to Lassiter for trial.  I got away and made it to Miss Kitty’s.”  He sighed and though it obviously bothered him to say it, muttered, “You were right Heyes.  That passenger from the train was right there with the lawmen.  He wanted his diamonds back.”  He fell silent, exhausted by the effort to get to the Hole and to relate the story.

Lobo spoke, “we sent Dutchy to go to Lassiter to see what he could find out.  He should be back in two or three days.”

Heyes nodded and began pacing.  He stopped and looked at the Kid.  “Kid, do they know you in Lassiter?”

“No.  I’ll go join Dutchy and see what we can do for Big Jim.  Maybe we can break him out; Smithy too if he’s alive.”

“Thanks.”

~~~000~~~

The Kid and Dutchy returned empty-handed.

The gang sat around the table glumly while they reported.

“Nothin’ we could do.  The trial was over when I got there,” the Kid explained.

“I watched it.  Even broken apart that way, they had witnesses who could trace those diamonds to the necklace and then that passenger testified and it was all over.  Big Jim got seven years and is already at the territorial prison,” Dutchy explained.

The Kid resumed, “too many guards to break him out when they transported him.  No sign of Smithy – I don’t know what happened to him, but whatever it was, don’t look like he’s comin’ back here.”

The outlaws all looked at each other.  Finally, Lobo spoke

“Heyes, we been talking and we’re all agreed.”

Heyes looked at them narrowly.  The Kid got up and walked over to the door, leaning on the wall as he folded his arms and waited to hear what had been agreed.

“Anyway, Heyes, we all think you should lead the gang now.  We all know you planned the last few jobs for Big Jim and you were right about those diamonds.  We want you to take over.”

Heyes looked around.  “All of you think that do you?” he asked, looking directly at Wheat, who was still a little pale.

Wheat glared back then lowered his eyes.  “Yeah it was unanimous.”

Heyes looked at the Kid, who smiled and nodded.

“Alright, I’ll do it.  Hey Hank there any whiskey left?”

The men cheered and the first smiles in days were exchanged as the whiskey was poured and drunk.


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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:44 pm

Dear Queen Elizabeth

I have once again been United with those two infamous men far from your Kingdom, ‘out west’.

A gorgeous man named Hannibal Heyes continues to send my heart into Jubilation although I struggle to understand just how it all started.

My emotions are Royally mixed when it comes to his partner, Kid Curry, a man Crowned with a fine head of blond hair.

On the one hand he is unquestionably handsome but his lack of trust in me irks more than I care to admit.

No doubt time will take my relationship with these men to its Crowning Glory.

Devotions from your friend in the west on this your Diamond Jubilee,

Elizabeth Darkly

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:33 pm

***This may be a stretch to fit the topic, so I'll understand if its not eligible for the prize. Some of you may have read this on the fanfiction site. For those that haven't, I hope you enjoy :)****

THE HIDIN' PLACE

"Whoa, what is this?"

"What the…?"

"Oh, sorry Wheat, but I can't see where I'm agoin'."

"Well shoot Kyle. I can't see where I'm goin' neither but I ain't runnin' into ya every few seconds!"

"Will you two shut up!"

"S'cuse me Heyes! T'weren't my idea to hide in here."

"Wheat..."

"Well sorry Kid. I just think we coulda found a better place to lay low 'til that posse gave up!"

"Wheat. May I remind you that this was the only option we had other than run our horses to death or give ourselves up. Besides, Kid's horse had started to go lame. Now I don't know about you, but I wasn't going to leave him behind and I'm not ready to spend the next twenty years behind bars. Besides, this cave HAS to have another entrance. Feel the breeze blowing through here? Only caves with more than one entrance have that strong a wind blowing through them."

"And just how is it you know that Heyes?"

"Because, WHEAT, how many caves in and around Devil's Hole have we stocked with supplies? And how many of those caves have we searched for a rear exit in case of trouble? If, during those times we were packing in supplies, you had taken notice of something OTHER than your desire to be leader; and yes, I know all about that; you would've discovered that all the caves we found other entrances in had a strong breeze in them. Those that had no other opening did NOT have a strong breeze. THIS cave here, you can feel a pretty good breeze. Therefore, there should be another opening somewhere."

"Yeah, well, you coulda at least picked a cave to hide in we had stocked."

"Wheat, why the heck didn't you go on to the Hole with Lobo and the rest? Why'd you have to follow me and Heyes when we all split up?"

"'Cause somebody got to watch out fer you two."

"Is that so? WHO was it again that caused that rock fall back there where we came in?"

"THAT WAS KYLE'S FAULT! He's the one done lit that stick of dynamite!"

"I thought it was a candle!"

"ALRIGHT! EVERYBODY SHUT UP! This arguin' ain't helping us find a way outta here!"

"Any ideas Heyes?"

"I'm working on it Kid. Kyle, you got any of those matches left?"

"Yeah, I think so…here. Heyes, you don't think there's no bears sleepin' in here…do ya?"

"No. I think he'd already been here havin' supper if there was. But, on the off chance there's one hiding around one of these corners, we'll just feed Wheat to him."

"That AIN'T funny Heyes!"

"Well, Wheat, bears need their fiber too…

Let me strike this match here…

Kid, did you grab your saddlebags before you ran in here?"

"Yeah."

"You still packing around that shirt you ripped up trying to get that rabbit you shot out of that briar patch a couple days ago?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Give it here. I'm gonna wrap it around this piece of wood I found on the ground and make a torch."

"Here ya go."

…"There. Now maybe we can see where we're going. Might as well get started. Let's head down this passage and see what we can find."

"Well, I think we should stay here and try to dig our way out."

"Well, Wheat, you stay right here and pretend to be a gopher. I'm going to look for another way out."

"Wheat, don't you think we'd be better off goin' with Kid and Heyes?"

"Kyle, have you ever known me to have a bad idea?"

"Well, remember that one time…"

"SHUT UP and git over here to help me dig!"

"By the way Wheat. Suppose you spend hours on end and actually dig a big enough tunnel through there to get back out that way. How are you gonna know that posse won't be waiting for you on the other side? You know they probably heard Kyle's candle explode…C'mon Kid."

"Well I think that makes a good bunch of sense Wheat. What if they are waitin' fer us out there? If Heyes and Kid go off through yonder, won't be nobody to save us."

…"Ya know Kyle. After I think about it, I'd say we'd be better off goin' with them two. Looks like a whole bunch of work to dig through there anyway. Let's go…

HEY YOU TWO. WAIT UP!"

_______________________________________________

"How long we been walkin' Heyes?"

"I'd guess about twenty minutes or so."

"Do you have any idea where you're goin'?"

"Yes Wheat I do. I'm going this way…"

"Some cave explorer you are."

"Wheat! I've about had it with you! One more word and I swear I'll put a bullet in your backside!"

"Now Kid…"

"Well, now that sounded like one more word to me!..."

"KID! Put your gun back up. If you shoot him, that just means we'd have to carry him…

Look up there. Looks like the passage splits up ahead."

"Which way should we go Heyes?"

"Hmm…looks like this left passage starts to go downhill a little bit. This one straight ahead looks to stay about the same level. Wait a minute… Everybody be quiet."

"What is it? A bear?"

"Kyle! Shh…

"I knew we shoulda stayed and tried to dig out."

"QUIET…"

"What do you hear Heyes?"

"C'mere Kid. Take a step down this left passage, tell me what that sounds like to you."

…"Sounds like water, like a creek or something."

"Right! It sure does!"

"You care to explain what's so excitin' about that?"

"Well, I been readin' about some fellas back east exploring some cave in Kentucky or Tennesse or somewhere. Anyway, that newspaper article said that one time, they got lost, and they found their way out by following the water flowing through the cave. So I figure our best bet would be to go down this left passage, find the water, and follow it. I mean, it has to go somewhere, right?"

"Yeah, it goes somewhere. But what guarantee you got that it goes back outside?"

"I don't Kid. But its better than stayin' stuck in here with Wheat and no food."

"Yeah, it sure is. Lead on."

_______________________________________________

"NOW, how long we been walkin'?"

"Wheat, you ask me that one more time and I AM gonna let Kid shoot you!"

"Wooeee! Lookee there! The ceiling and walls are all white-looking and sparkly! You think them's diamonds?"

"No Kyle. They're not diamonds. They're just some kind of cave rock."

"Well they sure do sparkle like diamonds! And look at that one there! Looks like a rock flower growing on the wall. What kind of stuff is this Heyes?"

"Well now, I'm not sure what its called. Seems though like I remember hearing somewhere that indians go in caves and get some kind of mineral off the wall to use in their medicines and things. Maybe this is the stuff they get."

"That's the craziest thing I've ever heard! Whoever heard of somebody eating rocks off'n the walls of caves."

"I don't know Wheat. Why don't you try a bite and see what it tastes like? It might be good."

"Don't have to. Kyle done went and licked it."

"Kyle! What's the matter with you? Its untelling what that stuff could do to you!"

"Well, you said indians eat it. I just thought I'd see if'n it was any good."

"Was you raised by wild animals? Quit licking the wall."

"I just took a little bite…"

"Look there! We've reached the water! Looks like its flowing out the direction we're heading. Let's just keep going this way."

"OWWW!"

"Now what's ailing you Wheat?"

"I done went and smacked my head on something. Look at all them things hanging down from the roof. Mother Nature ought to have to move them things. A body could knock his brains out."

"A body would need brains first…"

"Heh, heh,…AHEM…just watch where you're going Wheat."

"Oooh, I don't feel too good."

"Now what's wrong with you Kyle?"

"Don't know. My stomach started hurting all sudden-like."

"Did you eat something bad earlier today maybe?"

"Its probably from licking the wall like a dog back there a little while ago."

"You know Kid, you may be on to something there."

"My gut keeps crampin'…OOOH…"

"Kyle, if you gonna throw up, run back that way."

"Nope, don't need to throw up. Feels like I'm gonna have ta….."

…..

"Now where's he runnin' off to?"

"Go check on him Wheat."

"Me? Why do I have to go?"

"Because the Leader says so and his partner will shoot you if you don't."

…"Hey Kyle! Where'd you go?"



"Wooeee Kyle! What crawled up in you and died?"

"Is he alright Wheat?"

"Yeah, he's alright, but I sure ain't."

"What?"

"Don't walk down that way! It'll make you want to go drown yerself in that there creek."

_________________________________________________

"Oooooh…"

"Well, welcome back Kyle! Where, uh, did your shirt sleeves go?"

"I buried 'em."

"I….okay. That's all I need to know. Let's just keep going."

___________________________________________________________________________

"Hey Kid. Come up here and look at this."

"What are you looking at Heyes?"

"This. Looks like some kind of nest. See all these little twigs and leaves and such."

"Yeah. Looks like a packrat's nest."

"Which means there must be an opening nearby. I never known packrats to go very far back in a cave. They wouldn't be able to see."

"Can we rest fer a spell? My feet are killin' me."

"No. C'mon Wheat. I think we're close to the surface."

"Well, its about dang time!"

"Is it just me Kid, or is this passage getting smaller?"

"Nope, it ain't just you. The further we go, the more I have to stoop over."

"Sure is hard on the back."

"Heyes! Look up ahead. I see some light!"

"Where?...Oh yeah! I see it too! Let's go."

"Look how little it is Heyes. Couldn't you have found a bigger way out?"

"Quit complaining Wheat. It's a way out. Now come on. We'll just have to climb up on that little rock and squeeze through it. Kyle, you go last."

"How come I got to go last?"

"For obvious reasons. Go ahead Kid."

"Nmmmmhhhh…whew! Nmmmmmhhh…That's a little tight."

"Did you make it?"

"Yeah Heyes. I'm out. But to get through it a little easier, you might have to blow all the air out of your lungs."

"Alright Wheat. You're next."

"If I get stuck and die, I'm comin' back to haunt you."

"That's fine. I'll just ignore you like I do now. Now git goin'."

"Mmmaaaahhhhh…this is the last time I go exploring with you two."

"Wheat, shut up and go on."

"Aaaammmmmhhh…Finally! Daylight!"

"Okay Kyle. I'm gonna go and you come right behind me, alright?"

"Alright Heyes. Just don't leave me if'n I git stuck."

"We won't, and you won't get stuck. Let's go…

Nnnmmmhhh…Well, that was a little tight.

C'mon Kyle."

"I'm comin'…Mmmmmgghhhh…Uh oh!"

"Uh oh what?"

"My gunbelt's hung on something!"

"Well, can you reach back and get it loose?"

"I'm trying. I can't git my arm back there to find where its hung at."

"Well, can you back up and try coming through again?"

"Let me see…..nope. Whatever its hung on, its hung on it good."

"Alright. Hold on. C'mere Kid.

Alright Kyle. I'm gonna grab one arm and Kid's gonna grab the other and we're gonna pull you out of there."

"Won't that hurt?"

"Would you rather stay there?"

"No. I guess not….

Okay. I'm ready."

"Ready Kid?"

"Yeah, as ready as I'll ever be."

"Alright. PULL!"

"NNNNMMMMMGGGHHHHHFMMMMM!"

"WHEW! One more time Kid. PULL!"

"MMNNNNNGGGAAAHHHHHHH!"

"WHOA! Whew…Okay Kyle. You can get off us now."

"Oh yeah. Sorry."

"Better reach back in there and grab your gun."

"Yeah, guess so…..



Aha! There she is! She was wedged behind a rock."

"Where are we Heyes?"

"Don't rightly know Kid."

"Well, that's just great! So we've climbed out of the hole in the ground to be lost up here."

"Wheat….

Let's see. The sun's starting to go down and it sets in the west. Devil's Hole was to the north of the town where we just robbed the bank. And you can always watch the sun setting behind the leader's cabin so…if the cabin sits here, and we went that direction when we left then…."

"I'm just going to sit down while he's pacing. Untelling how long he'll be at it."

"I got it! We need to go in that direction!"

"Are you sure Heyes?"

"Of course I'm sure Kid! Its just a simple bit of navigating. Nothing to it! See, I figure we were only about twenty, forty minutes at the most away from the entrance to Devil's Hole when we had to stop. And as far as I could tell, we went pretty much in the same direction the whole time we were underground, give or take a few feet difference. So if we start walking in that direction, we should make it to the Hole in a couple hours."

"Well, I sure hope you're right. Let's get going. I don't want to be out here all night."

____________________________________________________________________________

"HOW much further we have to go? My feet are killing me, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, and I'm ready to be in a bed!"

"Oh, I'd say about five minutes Wheat."

"Now how can you be so sure Heyes?"

"Because look up ahead. You can just make out the outline of the bunkhouse if you look hard enough."

"Yahoo! I knew Heyes would git us back!"

"Thanks Kyle. Good to know someone had some faith in me."

_________________________________________

"Where have you fellers been? We was gittin' ready to come lookin' fer you, afraid the posse had got you or somethin'"

"Howdy Preacher! Good to see you to!"

"What happened Heyes? You all are filthy. Where's your horses?"

"Well, we'll have to go round our horses up in the morning. As for where we've been…well, it's a long story. And I'll tell it to you as soon as I get cleaned up."

"After we eat of course."

"Yes Kid. After we eat."

_____________________________________________________

"Whew, what a day."

"I know Kid. It was a tough one. At least we're back now. Got cleaned up, had dinner, and now to relax a little on the porch."

"Many more robberies end up turning out this way, and I've got a good mind to retire from this line of work."

"Aw Kid. What else we gonna do?"

"I don't know. I'm sure we could find somethin'. I know one thing we AIN'T doing."

"And what's that?"

"We AIN'T gonna be givin' cave tours."

*****A/N...Gypsum is a mineral found growing in limestone caves. In its pristine state, it is normally white and will sparkle when hit by light. Archeologists have found evidence of Native Americans in some caves collecting gypsum from the cave walls.

Another mineral that can be found on a cave wall is magnesium oxide, which when ingested, can cause diarrhea.

Poor Kyle.*****
[flash][/flash]

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:16 pm

The Boys of Spring

It was a beautiful spring day; the sun was shining, a warm breeze blew the scents of blooming wildflowers through the open window of the cabin. Heyes and the Kid were sitting at the table, the Kid cleaning every gun he could find and Heyes reviewing the plans for the next job for the umpteenth time. Outside the murmur of voices grew louder, but they ignored it. Both stopped and drummed their fingers periodically, but neither was willing to voice how bored he was.

The sound of fist hitting face and bodies hitting dirt caused both to jump up and head out the open door to see what was happening. Slim Jenkins and Big-Ear Brown were rolling in the dirt between the bunkhouse and the cabin flailing at each other while the other gang members stood around taking bets and shouting encouragement to their favorites. Wheat, seeing the two of them in the doorway, ambled up to the porch.

“What’s the problem, Wheat?” the Kid asked.

“Everyone’s bored and it’s starting to tell. Good thing you have everyone’s guns to clean them in there, Kid. Heyes, you need to find a way to get rid of those men sitting down beyond the entrance before everyone goes stir crazy in here,” Wheat responded, looking out at the men. “Shoot would have thought you knew that,” he muttered.

“They’ll get bored and leave in a few days, Wheat,” Heyes responded, eyes on the two men rolling on the ground. “They’re already losing men who have better things to do than sit around waiting to be shot at if they are right and that is the entrance to Devil’s Hole. We have plenty of supplies, and it’s still three weeks till we need to leave for our next job. No reason for us to do anything that would let them know we’re here and they’re getting to us. That would only encourage others to try it another time.”

As he spoke, the pugilists broke apart and lay exhausted next to each other on the ground. New shouts erupted as fights broke out among the spectators over who had won.

The Kid uttered an oath and stepped off the porch, pulling his gun as he went and shooting into the air. “That’s enough! Kyle, take Slim and go throw a bucket of water on him or stuff his head into the bucket or somethin’. Hank, you do the same to Big-Ear.”

They all looked at him in surprise.

“The next one of you who starts fightin’ is goin’ to be fightin’ me,” he announced staring at each man in turn. “Understand me?” The men looked down and shuffled their feet in the dirt. “I said, do you understand me?” the Kid demanded.

“Yeah.”

“We understand.”

“Won’t happen again, Kid.”

The men murmured their acknowledgement of the Kid’s orders and slowly shuffled back to the bunkhouse.

The Kid turned around and stalked back into the leaders’ cabin, exchanging looks with Heyes as he went.

Heyes turned to Wheat. “Wheat, I expect you to keep some semblance of order among the men.”

“Well shoot, Heyes, we done got sick of poker and all the repairs are done. Tain’t anything to keep them busy with. They’re bored. What do you expect me to do with them?”

“That’s up to you, Wheat, but I don’t want any more fighting. Next time it’ll be guns not fists and then we’ll all have problems.” Heyes turned around and walked back into the cabin, closing the door as he went.

He sat back down at the table, ran his hands through his hair, and watched the Kid resume cleaning the guns. He sighed, “I would never tell him this, but Wheat’s right, Kid. We have to find some way to occupy the boys or there’s going to be serious trouble here. Maybe I should have them dig a new well or build an extension to the barn or something.”

“That ain’t gonna make them any happier about being stuck here than they are now. Gotta say I’m gettin’ pretty tired of sittin’ here too.” He shot a look at Heyes. “And diggin’ a well ain’t gonna make me any happier about it either.”

“So, you have any suggestions?”

The Kid looked at him for a moment, contemplating the issue as he finished cleaning Kyle’s pistol, and then grinned. “I just might.” He holstered the gun then stood up and walked into his room.

Heyes watched him go, wondering what on earth the Kid had in mind. He didn’t think the boys would be too happy with extra target practice if that was what the Kid was thinking.

The Kid came back out carrying a long wooden bat and holding a leather ball in his hand. Heyes looked at him then grinned back at him. “Where did you get those?!” he exclaimed.

“Saw them at Durson’s general store last time we stocked up. But you remember how hard it was rainin’ when we got back, so I put them in my room. It kept rainin’ for a week so I forgot about them.”

“Getting awfully forgetful, aren’t you? Must be getting old.”

“You’re gonna have to make up some of the rules so we can play with eleven men and two teams and figure out how to rotate the guards in and out as they do shifts, but there’s that flat space down by the stream where we could lay out a diamond.”

He stopped and laughed. “You’ll have to be real specific about stealin’ bases.”

Heyes threw his head back and laughed. When he stopped, he looked at the Kid, his eyes lighting up. “Maybe we can have one man pitch to both teams, and then have two five men teams with the pitcher rotating in and out of both teams. Let me think about this.” He grabbed some paper and used his pocketknife to trim a pencil, started drawing and muttering to himself. The Kid sat, idly tossing the ball up in the air and catching it, grinning as he watched Heyes plan.

They crossed over to the bunkhouse, rested the bat outside the door, and entered. Hank was cooking and muttering to himself; several of the men were napping in their bunks, and the rest were playing poker. They all looked up as their leaders entered.

Heyes smiled as he looked around at them. “Men, I know we’re all getting mighty sick of each other’s company but we just need to put up with it for a few more days. I’ve come up with something to keep us occupied.” The men looked warily at one another, not sure they were going to appreciate being kept occupied – it sounded like hard work to them.”

Kyle grinned, “what you have in mind Heyes – we gonna get rid of that dang posse?”

“No, we’re going to keep right on ignoring them. The Kid and I went up to the guard post and looked; those men are getting even more restless than you men are. It won’t be long now before they give up and go home. No we are going to have ourselves a tournament – a baseball tournament.”

The men stared at them blankly then looked at each other and went back to what they were doing.

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other for a moment.

Heyes started again. “That’s right a baseball tournament. We’re going to play several games, and I’ve made some special rules for us. The Kid and I will each lead a team, but composition of the teams will change each time, so that we can continue standing guard and no one will miss out. Then we will total both team and individual scores. The Kid and I will buy the winning team a bottle of the good stuff next time we’re in town. The individual who hits the most home runs will get an extra share of our next job. How’s that sound?”

As he mentioned the free drinks and the extra share everyone perked up and began paying attention. At the end of his speech, Heyes got a roar of approval and the men gathered around.

“Okay, men, first thing you need to do is set up a diamond down by the stream on that flat parcel of land. I want thirty full strides between each base. Go on, get started.”

The men surged out of the bunkhouse, laughing and making bets with each other as they went off to set up the field.

Heyes turned to the Kid as they stood watching them go. “How long do you think we can keep them busy, Kid?”

The Kid watched them for a moment, then turned and grinned. “I’d say they’ll last till it rains and I think our watchers will leave by the next time it rains. Don’t think they’re in any mood to sit there wet and cold. So we only need it to last that long.”

“Yup, that’s what I thought too.” Heyes reached down and hefted the bat, then looked at the Kid. “Bet you a bottle of the good stuff I hit more runs than you do.”

The Kid snorted, “Can’t wait to collect on that bet, Heyes. I’ll hold you to it.”

As they began to follow their men to the stream, the Kid suddenly stopped and grabbed Heyes’ shoulder to stop him. “Just one thing, Heyes.”

“What, beginning to have second thoughts about our bet? Know I’ll win it do you?”

“In your dreams, Heyes. Just one question, which of us gets stuck with Kyle on our team?”

Heyes' eyes widened for a moment. He reached into his pocket, grinning, and pulled out a coin. “Call it.”


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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:39 pm


Queen of Diamonds

I delight in masques and revels. ~ William Shakespeare

It was cold, bitter cold. Cold enough to sear a man’s lungs when he breathed in, cold enough that the snow underfoot squeaked when it was trod on. The Kid did not linger on the siding but went back into the dingy funk of the shack where a handful of passengers and crew waited for the tracks over the pass to Pendleton to be cleared.

Two soldiers, sozzled and slovenly, sprawled against one wall. A drummer snored from his corner. Through a door at the back of the room he could hear one of the railroad agents, slamming desk drawers and moving his chair around. It was only slightly warmer inside. A small stove on the other half of the room made a gallant attempt at producing heat but didn’t do much more than add to the smell.

The lone female passenger sat on the bench behind the stove. There was a book in her hands, but he couldn’t tell if she was reading. She certainly wasn’t turning the pages very often. A dark tweed ulster covered her from the fur tippet at her neck to a pair of neat little ankles, and a veil was pulled down over her face, but some instinct told him she was young.

She hadn’t spoken to anyone since boarding the train in Salt Lake City, and the porter, after the Kid slipped a silver dollar into his hand, confided that she was a foreigner. It was the porter’s opinion that she was a daisy, but also --- unfortunately --- that she didn’t speak English.

She was tapping her toes against the floor, probably to keep the circulation going, and after a while she got up and walked to the door and slipped out. She’d be back soon, he thought. Nobody was going to stay out in that freezing air for very long. Curiosity and boredom drove him to pick up the book she left on the bench.

Splen-dewers et misers days cordy-zanies,” he read out painfully. He sat down and puzzled through a few pages. It was a pretty, elegant book, with a heavily embossed leather cover. He was about to start looking for pictures when she came back in. Some imp of deviltry drove him to raise the book and hold it in front of his face.

M’sieu!” It was a soft, small voice, and at that moment indignant.

The Kid screwed his features into a confused scowl. “Lucy-Ann dee Ruby-empire…”

“M’sieu, je vous en prie.” There was the faintest suggestion of a laugh in her voice now.

“Reckon I slaughtered that and left it staked out on the prairie,” he smiled at her. She started to smile back and then pulled the corners of her mouth down severely.

“Mon livre, m’sieu.”

“I don’t savvy the lingo but that’s got to be ‘Mister, I want my book back.’” He hazarded.

Je vous en prie.” Her voice became coaxing. He stood up and handed it over.

He was right; she was young. The veil was not thick enough to disguise a decided little chin, a nicely-shaped mouth, and very long lashes. He wasn’t sure about the chin, but he thoroughly approved of the lashes.

“My name’s Jones, mam’zelle. Thaddeus Jones.” He tapped himself on the chest and drew the word out. “Jooones.”

Excusez-moi.” She slipped past him and regained her seat.

“That ain’t hardly fair, mam’zelle.” He kept his voice low, not wanting to rouse the other men. “It’d be only friendly to introduce yourself.”

He tapped his chest again. “Jones.”

Dupont. Félicie Dupont.” She looked up at him through those lashes and he could have shouted from sheer pleasure. Her eyes were hazel.

“Fleecy dewBong? “

She smothered a chuckle and bit her lip, forcing her mouth back into prim and proper lines.

“We’ll have t’think of somethin’ else, Fleecy’s a da --- beg pardon, mam’zelle, darned funny name for a lady. Makes you sound like a poodle dog.” He sat down beside her.

“We’ve got a long wait ahead of us--- these railroad jaspers won’t have us out of here before mornin’. I don’t suppose you’d care to learn how to play poker?’’ He looked at her hopefully.

Pokaire?” She raised the veil, just to the level of her eyes.

“It’s a card game.” He reached into his coat and pulled out the deck he kept squirreled away in an inner pocket.

She looked doubtful.

“All right, not poker then. How about blackjack? It’s easier for a beginner.”

He hooked one foot around the rung of a nearby chair and pulled it over. “You got any paper an’ pencil, mam’zelle?”

He pantomimed writing on his palm, and she gave a murmured exclamation and opened the bag that hung from one wrist. He accepted a slip of paper and a slim gold pencil.

“The idea is to keep drawin’ cards until they add up to twenty-one,” he began. “The Queen, now, she’s worth ten.”

He turned up a card and a dark-eyed queen of diamonds smiled saucily up at him. He wrote the number 10 on the paper. “Looks kind of like you, don’t she?”

He cast a surreptitious look at her. She was small and neatly put together and now that her veil had been tucked up, he could see a piquant, three-cornered face. No one would call her pretty, exactly, but she managed to give the impression that if you were a friend of hers, life would be full of pleasant surprises. It was her eyes, he thought --- they had a way of glancing sideways at a man with tantalizing hints of mischief and complicity.

He shuffled the deck and began to deal the cards using the chair seat as a table, and she leaned forward to watch him.

“I can’t make ‘em do tricks like my partner can. Wish you could see him with a poker deck, mam’zelle.” He stopped himself. “Well, no, I don’t. I don’t need him around when I’ve got a girl I’m tryin’ to impress. He’s slick, he is.”

She cocked her head. She looked like a little cat, he thought, bright-eyed and playful.

“Maybe I shouldn’t say that. He’s good at what he does, though. He’s my cousin. We grew up together.” His voice trailed away and there was a moment’s silence.

“When our folks were…after they were gone, he took care of me. They sent us to a home, and I reckon I’d have died there but for him. He stole food for me, kept me from the worst of the beatin’s. And when he decided it was time to leave there, he took me with him.”

He cleared his throat. “But that was a long time ago. Well now…pair of treys and a lady! Let’s see what I dealt myself. A jack and a nine. Reckon this one’s mine, mam’zelle. Better luck next time.”

They played, and at first she lost. When she finally began to win, she would laugh, a bubbling little sound, and he started cheating to let her win more often. Eventually his efforts became blatant and she laid her hand over his and frowned.

Non.” The monosyllable was as determined as her chin.

“All right, mam’zelle. I reckon I can play fair for you.”

The soldiers and the drummer slept on. The railroad agent came out of the office, looked at them with a profound lack of interest, and disappeared back into his haven. Occasionally a gust of wind would come through the walls of the shack like a terrier after a mouse and they unconsciously drew closer together.

“Not very homey, is it?” He stood up to open the stove door and throw in another handful of coal. “Somehow a fire should make a place like home. I’m one to talk --- I ain’t had a home since I was shirt-tail kid. A home and a warm fire waitin’, that’s for other men. Not me.”

She regarded him gravely.

“I killed a man. Shot him dead in a gunfight over somethin’ that seemed mighty important at the time. He was fast, but I was faster.” The Kid’s voice was bleak. “That’s my trouble --- I’m always faster. People are lookin’ for me, for that…an’ for other things. I can’t even call myself by the name my parents gave me.”

“It’s like the last piece of them is gone now.”

“Somebody said to me once that a driftin’ man is like a wolf. You hear him howlin’ off in the hills and then one day you don’t hear him no more. I reckon I’m that wolf. One of these days, they’ll catch up with me.” He gave her a lopsided grin that belied his bitter words. “My partner’s been pretty good at watchin’ out for us, but a man can’t stay a fugitive from the law of averages forever.”

She was leaning forward, looking concerned, almost as though she understood what he was telling her. Her eyebrows pulled together and there was a little line between them.

“Don’t you make sad faces on account of me, mam’zelle. I ain’t worth it. I ain’t been worth it since the day I stopped carin’ how far down I’d gone.”

He gathered the cards together and dealt another game. They played on into the night, until she could barely keep her eyes open and he took pity on her, pushing the chair away and tucking the deck back into his pocket.

“You want to go to sleep, mam’zelle, go ahead on. I won’t bother you.”

She gave him a puzzled looked and he put his palms together under one ear and tipped his head to the side, pretending to snore. She nodded and leaned back. After a few minutes her breathing evened out and she began to slowly slide down the wall away from him.

He carefully put one arm over her shoulder and pulled her against his coat. She murmured something indistinct and slept on.

When dawn broke she was still nestled against him. The Kid reached up and gently moved a lock of dark hair that had fallen down over her face. She stirred against his shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at him sleepily, and he felt a strange grip in his chest.

“Don’t look at me like that, mam’zelle,” he whispered, and his voice was thick with longing. “Gets a man to thinkin’.”

He sensed her stiffen, and he tightened his clasp a little.

“Thinkin’ maybe he could do worse than wake up every mornin’ and see you there beside him.”

She tried to pull away from him and a suspicion began to creep into his mind.

“I reckon if I’m goin’ to kiss you, I’d better do it now while ever’body else is asleep,” he said, deliberately.

She tore herself from his arms and shot over to the other side of the bench. He rose to his feet and loomed over her. He took her chin in his hand and forced it up, forced her to look at him.

“You speak English,” he accused her angrily. “You’ve been listenin’ to me all night an’ you’ve understood every word I said.”

Her guilty blush betrayed her. He turned on his heel and went out into the cold.

He stood on the edge of the siding, eyes squinting against the early-morning glare off the snowfall, cursing himself for a fool. Damn you for a chucklehead, he thought. Cuttin’ yourself open for a total stranger. He tried to remember all he’d told her.

He heard the door to the shack open and close, and sensed her come up behind him.

“I am so sorry,” she said, after a moment. “What I did was unforgivable, but I hope I can make you understand.”

The line of his shoulders was set and uncompromising. She waited for a reply and when none came she continued. There was not even a trace of an accent in her voice.

“My name really is Felicity Dupont. Mrs. Georges Dupont, I should say --- I’m a widow. I was supposed to be travelling to Portland with a friend but she fell ill at the last minute and I had to come on alone. The first day out, a stranger tried to strike up an acquaintance and I just didn’t want to be bothered fending him off. So, I pretended I couldn’t understand English. “

“I know it sounds silly, but it worked. I decided that for the rest of the trip I would just be a poor stupid foreigner and that way I would be left alone.”

“I reckon I can’t blame you for that,” he admitted.

“But it was my fault for not stopping the charade with you. It’s just that I couldn’t think of how to do it.” Her voice softened. “And after a while I didn’t want to.”

“Must’ve been hilarious, listening to me run my mouth off,” he said sarcastically. “Quite a joke.”

“Some might call it a joke,” she agreed. She laid one gloved hand on his sleeve and gently tugged on it until he turned to face her.

“But --- considering that I’ve just spent twelve hours with a man who told me the truth and nothing but the truth for the entire time? --- I’d call it more of an event. I don’t think there are many women who have had that privilege.”

Despite himself, a grin began to quirk up one corner of his mouth. “I reckon you know all my secrets now, Mrs. Dupont.”

“Not at all, Mr. Jones. I have another confession to make --- I’m terribly deaf, sometimes.”

He pondered the statement and decided it was, after all, an olive branch.

“So all them pretty speeches I made you, you didn’t hear?"

A demure twinkle was in her eye. “If you’re traveling as far as Portland, could be you’ll have the chance to say them all over again.”

He took her hand and slid it into the crook of his elbow, covering it with his large one. “They say practice makes perfect."

“That they do, Mr. Jones. That they do.”

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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:41 pm


Dear Joshua;

As promised I am going to give you as detailed an account of our wedding day as is possible in the time allowed. Steven and I are going to be heading out soon for our honeymoon which is going to be two weeks in San Francisco. Well, not all the two weeks will be spent there, some of the time will be spent getting there in the first place and then coming back again.
Thaddeus commented that you both know some people in that city and even gave us the address of one; Silky O’Sullivan and told us to be sure to drop by and introduce ourselves. Thaddeus seemed to think that there was a joke in there somewhere as he couldn’t stop laughing, which I thought to be rather odd. He did however assure us that he would send Mr. O’Sullivan a telegram to inform him of our coming and to be sure to show us the sights!
Oh dear! I’ve jumped ahead of things here haven’t I? Clem and I spent the day before the wedding out at the ranch, while Steven stayed in town because we all know that it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding! I believe David Gibson and Thaddeus did a lot to keep Steven occupied throughout the evening and indeed even seemed to manage to get themselves into some trouble of sorts over at the local saloon. Not quite sure what that was all about—nobody’s saying.
Still we ladies had quite the time together here at home getting all the last minute things ready for the big day. Of course we had the ceremony out at the ranch and pretty much the whole town was invited. (Don’t be mad Joshua, but I even invited Sam and Maribelle. I still haven’t quite forgiven him his transgressions, but after what they went through Momma felt that it would be a good gesture.). Anyway—yes we all had such good fun that evening with telling stories and finishing up the baking for the next day. It must have been well on to midnight before we blew out the lamps and headed for bed.
Momma even took me aside at one point during the evening to tell me a little bit more about what to expect on my wedding night. At first I thought that this was rather silly of her—as if I didn’t know! But then I came to realize that ‘no!’ I didn’t know! At first I felt a little scared and skeptical. Steven has always been so kind and gentle with me that of course he wouldn’t do ‘THAT’! That’s disgusting! At which point Momma just laughed and assured me that I probably wouldn’t find it disgusting once we got down to it!
Now of course, that we’ve had our wedding night, I must say….OH! No I don’t think I should say! I believe I have already said more than what is proper for a young woman to say to a man who is not her husband! But I must say that I never would have thought…oh! Never mind. You being a man of course you know all about this stuff and indeed, you must be laughing at my naivety!
Oh, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself again! It’s just that I’m so happy! ‘Bridget Granger’, ‘Mrs. Steven Granger’—either way, it does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I can’t believe that I am actually a married woman now! I thought that I would feel different; that being married would somehow make me older or wiser or just different. But other than being incredibly happy I’m still the same old me.
It was just such a lovely day. The weather could not have been nicer—oh thank goodness it didn’t rain! We had far too many guests to fit everyone into the house and everything was all laid out already for an outdoor gathering, so we were fortunate there. The flowers and decorations that Clem and Beth had gathered and placed around at the tables were very appropriate and gave the air a wonderful scent of summertime freshness.
Momma gave me her wedding dress to wear and it was so beautiful! It was made from a really lovely cream coloured material that was so soft and silky to the touch, and embroidered with ribbons and lace with yellow flower designs running through it all. The veil I wore was also that lovely lace with the floral design. It was so pretty and I was so excited when Momma pulled it out of her oak chest and presented to me to wear on my day. I think Beth was jealous!
Of course Papa gave me away and he looked so different, but quite handsome in his suit. He was so pleased that I was happy, but he looked a little sad too on occasion when he didn’t think I was looking at him. But still, on the most part I think he was happy and I know he likes Steven very much. OH! And Steven! Well, I always knew he was a handsome man of course, but he looked absolutely gorgeous in his wedding attire! I must say that there’s just something about getting a man all spiffyed up and into a suit that just gets my heart a pitter pattering!
And Thaddeus—oh my! I remember seeing him in a suit way back when Momma was on trial, and thought then how handsome he was, but that was nothing compared to how he was looking on my day! As I said; I knew he was handsome—well of course, that’s obvious! But seeing him dressed to the nines in that fine charcoal gray suit just took my breath away, if I can say that about a man who was not my husband-to-be while at my wedding! Still, he and Beth spent most of the day in each other’s company when she wasn’t performing her Maid-of-Honour duties and I must say that they made a very lovely couple! Maybe we’ll get something going there yet!
Then seeing Thaddeus all dressed up and looking so fine, made me think about what you would look like in a nice suit! Hmmm. You would have been turning some heads as well, I’m sure. But then of course, thinking along those lines, it made me a little sad that you could not be here to enjoy this day with us. I had so hoped that all this nonsense would have been cleared away and part of the past by now. I missed your presence here very much and I know that Thaddeus did too.
Don’t get me wrong, Thaddeus had a good time and he and David seemed to be able to find something funny in just about everything that went on. Really, they were like a pair of little boys continually laughing at some inside joke! But just occasionally when there would be a lull in their merriment Thaddeus would take on a more melancholy expression and I knew that he was thinking of you.
We all missed having you there Joshua, and I know that Steven and I are taking time away for our honeymoon, but as soon as we get back we will be hard at it again. Steven has just about all the testimonies gathered up now and the main thing left to do is to get a date set up. Of course the officials at the other end don’t seem to be in any hurry to do this so it’s taking a lot of pushing and persistence to get them to sit up and take notice. Why does everything have to take so long!!
Anyway—sorry; I don’t want to make you sad. This is supposed to be a happy letter, telling you all about our happy day! And it was a glorious day! Momma did so much to make everything come together and though she had help from most of the ladies here, she was still the one who organized it all and I will be forever thankful to her for that.
Momma actually did very well throughout the whole day and I know she had a good time too, but the next morning, when Steven and I were leaving for our honeymoon, she had a hard time holding it together. I never really thought about how this was for her, watching me, a married woman now, leaving with my new husband to begin a new life. Once I realized it, I felt bad about leaving, almost like I was abandoning her! But then, being Momma she saw my distress and quickly hugged me and let me know that all was well and that she was very happy for me.
She must know that I love her dearly and that she will never be far from my thoughts. Denver is not that far off so of course we will be coming out for holidays and visits throughout the year—it’s not like she’s never going to see me again! Still, I suppose watching your children depart the family home must be difficult. But she still has Beth and little Jay to keep her busy so I’m sure she’ll be fine.
Anyway, back to the wedding day—again! Clementine is also quite the gal to have at a party! She was so full of high spirits the whole day that it would have been impossible for anyone not to be affected by it. Of course some of the ladies weren’t quite sure how to take her as she insisted on flirting shamelessly with all the men present, whether they be married or not! She even flirted with Steven! Can you imagine? But I’ve known her long enough now to know that she means nothing by it and that it’s just her way!
The only thing that would have made the day more perfect of course would have been your presence. But I did as you suggested and I held you in my thoughts and in my heart throughout the day and so in a way, yes—you were here with me. I hope that you thought to do the same at your end and that you were able to feel some happiness and joy for me on my wedding day.
Oh and my ring!! Goodness gracious—how could I have forgotten about that!? It’s so beautiful. Of course it wasn’t until after the ceremony that I actually took the time to look at it, and then it just took my breath away! It’s a gold band (of course) but more than just that! Steven had had it made especially for me, adorning the band with a lovely diamond and then including my birth stone—one on either side of the diamond! And then some very delicate floral engravings set right into the gold, curling around and accentuating the stones. It’s so lovely; I can’t wait to show it to you!
I love you so much Joshua and aside from Steven, you are my dearest friend. Please stay safe and well and I will come out for a visit again as soon as I am able.

With much love and warm wishes

Bridget (Granger!!!!)

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skykomish

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:37 pm

Please forgive any oddities in the paragraphing. For some reason I had a hard time with the formatting.

Diamonds and Gold



What some men will do here for diamonds
What some men will do here for gold
They're wounded but they just keep on climbin'
And they sleep by the side of the road

Tom Waits





“Please describe to me what happened after your parents died.”

I choked on my beer. “WW-What?”

“You heard me, Mr. Heyes. I would like to hear about what happened after your family
was killed.” His eyes stayed friendly, but his mouth hardened at the edges.

I got stubborn. “I don't want to talk about that.”

“They were all killed in the raid. Isn't that right?”

“I said, I don't want to talk about that.” I'm guessing that my eyes were lookin' stoney.

“I'm not asking for details about the raid, Mr. Heyes. I'm interested in what happened to you and Mr. Curry after your families were killed.”

I gulped my beer and glared at him, reaching for the old outlaw-leader stare.

He just blinked. His face had a firm grip on bland friendliness. I don't think I was the first hard case he'd interviewed.

“I don't want to talk about it.”

He frowned and set his pen and papers down on the rough, wooden table tucked into the back of the saloon.

“Mr. Heyes you have been paid very handsomely to answer my questions. The only information my publisher agreed not to pursue involved details about crimes which could implicate your friends who are still subject to criminal prosecution. By the terms of our contract you are required to answer my question.”

I glared.

The gray haired writer calmly ordered another round of beers and waited. “Popular folklore claims that you lost everything in Quantrill's raid on Lawrence and then buried your families alone. What were you? Eleven?”

“Do you believe every story your hear?” Beer sloshed from my mug when I pounded it on the table to make my point. “We lived in a farming community, not out on the frontier homesteading. We hadn't even walked a mile toward town when folks came with a wagon. They had seen the smoke. I was carrying Jed's little sister, Emily Ann.” I sucked down the rest of my beer. “Do you bother to do any research, or do you just wallow in every wild theory dreamed up by the dime novel writers?”

He raised his eyebrows and waited. I stared back. He was patient.

I cracked first. “There were no women or children killed at Lawrence. I lost an uncle. His family moved back east after the raid, but I never lived in Lawrence, and Quantrill didn't kill my family.”

“Then who did?”

“A lunatic. Or maybe it was just the lunacy of the war. I was too young to really understand.”

“Hmm,” he mused and wrote something down.

I was hoping he would ask about something else now. Anything else. It wasn't the last time he'd disappoint me. “Back to the events after your parents death, Mr. Heyes. You said that you and Jed Curry were walking toward town, and you were carrying someone?”

“Yeah. Emily Ann. Jed's little sister.”

“So you and Mr. Curry weren't the only survivors.”

“Emily Ann was real little. She must have been around three. She hid under a pile of dirty clothes in a hamper and came out when she heard Jed and me talking.”

“So Kid Curry has a sister?”

“Somewhere. But we were separated when they sent us to Valparaiso. He doesn't know what happened to her.”

The writer tapped his pen on the table and stared out a window for a moment.

I took a sip and waited.

He sighed and met my eyes again. “So a wagon met you?”

“Yes. Some men from town came out to investigate the smoke. We told them about the raid, and they loaded Jed, Emily Ann, and me into the wagon. I think someone else road ahead to check out the farms, but I'm not real sure. My memories are a little
fuzzy.”

“Understandable, Mr. Heyes. What happened when you reached town?”

I set my jaw, getting ready to protest again.

My interviewer snorted and set down his pen. “Mr. Heyes, you can answer my questions or refund your considerable fee to my publisher. The choice is yours.”

I made a show of thinking it over, but there really wasn't anything to decide. As the man had pointed out earlier, I was being paid a lot of money. I drew in a breath and told him.

“They took us to Miss Perkins first. She had been our school teacher, but she retired when she got married. She and her husband didn't have any children yet, and we knew her, so they took us there. I don't remember much talking. She got us baths
and fresh clothes and tended a scratch or two. Emily Ann stared straight ahead and wouldn't speak. Jed whispered to his sister, but didn't say much else. No one asked us about the raid until the next day when the sheriff came.”

“So you and Mr. Curry didn't bury your families?”

“You're worryin' that old rumor like a dog with a bone. No. The town officials took care of that. We were kids.”

“Exactly how old were you and Mr. Curry?”

“I was twelve. Kid was just ten.”

“And Mr. Curry's sister was three?”

“Uh-huh.”

“How did you become separated?”

“We weren't at first. Miss Perkins kept all three of us until after the funerals. But once those particulars were settled, it was time to think about where we would all stay for good. I had an Aunt somewhere in the east, but no one knew how to find her. She had left Lawrence in a hurry after the raid. My oldest brother, Jacob, had run off and joined the Confederate army. We didn't know if he was alive or dead, and hadn't the foggiest notion of how to find him.”

“Didn't Mr. Curry have an older brother who served in the Union forces?”

I raised an eyebrow and frowned. “How'd ya know that?”

He smiled and sipped his beer. “It's a matter of public record, and I do research before I begin an interview.”

“So you knew all along that those dime novel rumors were a crock.”

I took a drink and considered the man sitting across from me. His face was craggy and his hair was mostly gray. Gun-metal blue eyes observed, weighed, and considered every movement I made and every word I spoke. This man was no fool. “So you were just baiting me to get me to talk?”

He inclined his head and motioned for me to continue.

“Mr. and Mrs. Curry had received word of Nate's death before the raid. The three of us were alone. Miss Perkins did her best, but she and her husband hadn't been married long, and they thought that Jed and I might be too much to handle. She planned to keep Emily Ann, but the town made plans to send Jed and me to a home.” I stared out an open window into the empty street. Remembering. “I hope she kept Emily Ann. Miss Perkins was a nice lady.”

“Did Mr. Curry make any effort to find his sister?”

I caught his eyes and stared. I'm sure that my voice came out cold and hard and without emotion. “Miss Perkins and her husband didn't stay in Stanton. Me and Kid couldn't remember her husband's name. Anyway, by the time we had the resources to look for Emily Ann, we were pretty sure that we wouldn't be welcome in a respectable home. A young girl doesn't belong on the outlaw trail.”

“And now?”

“I was only paid to talk about the past.”

“Fair enough.”

“Tell me about your mother's funeral.”

I scowled and gathered my thoughts. The saloon girl set another beer in front of me. I fetched a smile for her and took a drink. “There are whole parts of those days that are a complete blank. I don't remember much. Just impressions and brief snippets that are clear.”

“I'll take whatever you can recall, Mr. Heyes.”

“It was chilly outside, but in the church it was crowded and hot. It smelled of too many people and candle wax and death. I was ushered through the small, crowded space with Miss Perkins on one side and Jed and his sister on the other. I don't remember
who else was there. It was cloudy outside, and the light was dim.

"I don't remember what folks said about the deceased or who spoke. That's all a blur of dark fabric and mumbles. But near the end Miss Perkins hustled Jed and me up to the front of the church where the coffin was open for viewing. I hadn't seen my mother since the raid. I was afraid to look. She'd been screaming with blood running down her arm and her dress was torn the last time I'd seen her. They left me alone next to the casket, because I was twelve—nearly a man—and her only living child.

"I remember the rough wood of the coffin. I think they made it out of white oak. That tree grew naturally in eastern Kansas. The wood grain filled my vision for a long time. Finally, I gathered my nerve and forced my eyes to look over the edge. The light of the candles glinted off something near her neck. The light sparkled in my tears. I had to blink them away to see clearly.

"Laying in the hollow of her throat was a small, gold necklace she always wore. Three tiny chips glittered in the center of the cross. Ma had told me they were diamonds. Her grandma had given her the necklace when she was married. It was old and had been in the family a long time. My eyes slid from side to side. No one else stood by the coffin. I reached inside and caressed her cheek. It was cold and waxy. My hand slid to the delicate gold links at her neck. They snapped easily, and I gathered the cross and chain in the palm of my hand before walking away. I never did look at her face. I just couldn't.”

The writer lit a cigar. He offered me one, and I accepted. We smoked in silence.

His voice broke the stillness like the shock of icy water. “Where is her necklace now? Can I see it?”

I looked up and smirked. “With the life I've led do you think I could hold onto a keepsake like that? You're the one dreamin' up fanciful stories for the dime novel readers now.” I shook my head and chuckled. “I think that I've had enough for one day. You want to meet here again tomorrow.”

“All right, Mr. Heyes. I'll be waiting for you at 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. Thank you.”

He left some coins on the table and hurried from the saloon. The bat-wing doors swung behind him.

I finished my beer. Once I was sure that he was gone, I fished my watch out of a pocket. I checked the time before releasing the latch that held the back compartment closed. A broken, gold chain slithered into my hand. Her small cross nestled in the
pooled links. Three diamond chips reflected the smokey light.
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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:57 am

Thanks and appreciation to Joan Baez, whose song got me unstuck.

-----------------------

Well I’ll be damned; here comes your ghost again,
But that’s not unusual.
It’s just that the moon is full,
And you happened to call.


“This is the last of them,” Horace said.

Seated on the rug among piles of papers, notebooks, and shoeboxes overflowing with – well, she didn’t want to call it trash, but really! – Emily pushed tendrils of hair away from her sweaty face and sighed. Deeply.

“I can’t believe you found another one! I’m already swimming in keepsakes, and there’s more?”

Horace shrugged. “You know Mama never threw out anything. I’ve even found railroad tickets and schedules from the 1880’s!”

“What possible reason could she have for keeping railroad tickets?” Emily wondered.

Horace got down on his knees and cleared a space to sit on the cluttered carpet. “I imagine they reminded her of things that happened on those trips. You know how she was. Remember that time she found a theatre program from way back when, and I told her to toss it? She said, oh no, she remembered who took her to that play, and her eyes got all dreamy. And she ended up putting it away in one of her keepsake boxes.”

“It’s probably here somewhere right now. I might even be sitting on it.” Emily tried to shift her position a bit, pulling at her tangled skirt, but it was impossible to find a comfortable spot among all the stacks.

“Well, I think this is the last one. I found this one way down in the bottom of her closet.”

Emily took the small wooden box from her brother. “This one must be really old, then, maybe as old as those railroad schedules.”

“Judging by the dust, it’s probably been in that closet since the 1880’s.”

“Judging by the illustration, too, I think. And there’s a tag, too.” Emily brushed dust off the lid. “Looks like . . . Henderson’s for Ladies, Denver, Colorado. Sale date of September 30, 1885. Wow!” She removed the cover, sending little clouds of old dust into the air. Horace sneezed.

“What is it? More costume jewelry?”

“No,” Emily replied. She was holding a short stack of yellowed envelopes, tied together with a faded ribbon. “Letters.” She pulled the top envelope out. “The postmark is 1882.” She untied the fragile ribbon and looked through the envelopes. “They’re all from that time. And some newspaper.”

“Are you serious? Those letters have been in Mom’s closet for 50 years?”

“Apparently so.” Emily opened the first envelope and carefully pulled out a yellowed letter.

“You’re going to read Mama’s mail?”

“Sure, why not? It’s not like she’s around to care anymore.” Emily smoothed out the folded letter out on her lap.

“I don’t know. . . it seems kind of creepy. Feels like going through mama’s personal things.”

“Horace! We ARE going through her personal things! That’s what we’ve been doing for weeks! Why do you care now? Besides, aren’t you curious?”

Emily held the letter up to the light and began to read out loud.

My darling girl,
It seems like years since I’ve seen you, held you in my arms, kissed you. When I go to sleep, I think of you, and the memory of the sweet taste of your mouth both relaxes me and arouses me. I try to imagine your womanly scent, the warmth of your breath, and the feel of all of your skin against all of mine –


“Give me that thing!” Horace grabbed the letter from his sister’s hand.

“Give that back to me right now!” Emily reached, but he held the letter too high for her to get.

“Do you really want to read this?”

“Don’t you?”

Horace’s arm came down. “You do realize this letter isn’t from Dad.”

Emily rested her hands in her lap. She took a deep breath before speaking.

“Of course I do. Now give that back to me.”

Brother and sister looked at each other for a long moment. Horace returned the letter to her. She read out loud.

I know I haven’t written as much as I promised, and I do apologize. Things have been pretty hot for us lately. No sooner do we think we can settle down for a bit, find work and stay in some town a week or two, something happens. We get recognized, or, even worse, we think we get recognized, and we have to vamoose before we collect whatever little pay we might have earned. And it’s back to taking turns sleeping on the cold ground, eating cold food, and trying to stay one step ahead of the latest posse, just a little bit longer.

Will write again, my darling girl, as soon as possible.

As ever, H H

“A posse? Who the heck is HH, and how did Mama get involved with some crook?”

“All these letters have the same handwriting. Let’s see.”

My Darling Girl,

I hope this short letter finds you well, comfortable and safe. More safe than you can be with me right now! I was so angry when you showed up Mac’s place in Texas, asking for Joshua Smith. If someone in Denver ever finds out that you’d been seen with me or Thaddeus, you could be in a whole pile of trouble. Guilt by association, you know. You could even be arrested. Remember that Belle Jordan I told you about? She almost went to prison for 3 years for something she didn’t do, all because she knew me and the Kid.

I did receive your letters, all of them, and they are more precious to me than I can tell you. I read them, I committed each word to memory, I inhaled the scent of your perfume from them, and then I burned them. Each and every one. And you should destroy my letters as well. Letters are evidence, and can be dangerous. No one must know about us. I tell you this, because I care for your safety and security even more than my own.

And yes, I admit it – once I got over my anger, I loved every moment with you. But, darling girl, you can never, never do such a thing again. You do not realize the danger you put yourself in. A determined bounty hunter will do anything to collect the $20,000 reward on us. And he would hurt you to do it. Please, darling girl, please do what I ask.

As ever, HH

“Sheesh! Mama was involved with a bounty hunter?”

“No, Em, aren’t you playing attention? Mama was involved with a criminal. More than one, since he refers to ‘us’. And they had to be big-name crooks, to have a $20,000 reward on them in the 1880’s. That’d be like a million dollars now.”

Emily took a deep breath and looked at the small stack of old letters. “Wow. Just . . . wow.” She looked at her brother’s frown. “Go on?”

He wiped his forehead. “Yeah. I want to know.”

My Darling Girl,

I am a selfish fool. Selfish, and cunning, and sneaky. Everything they say about me is true. You tell me that I am a better man than I think, and I try to be, because I see the trust and love in your eyes. Your faith in me makes me want to be a better man.

And yet, if I weren’t such a conniver and liar, the Kid and I would probably be in the Wyoming Territorial Prison right now. Everything worked out well with the Hadleyburg Affair. And thanks to one sneaky, snake-eyed Bannerman agent who has, improbably, become our friend, you and I were able to steal some time together in Colorado Springs. Time too short, and being short, only more precious.

Only a fool would agree to such an arrangement, and I mean, me. Jed knew he couldn’t stop me, and, as always, he backed me up. That doesn’t mean he liked it! I know he is right, too. But I am a fool, and selfish, and so I took a chance with your life, just to have three days with you. Your letter assures me that you are willing to “risk it all” for me, but, my darling girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The risk is so great for you, and you just don’t understand. But I do. And, knowing the risk, I did it anyway.

Don’t expect to hear from me for a while, sweet. Me and Jed need to find work, and, the way our luck’s been running, we probably need to find ourselves a big hole to hide in. And then pull that hole in after us.

I hope you burn this letter, as I asked. If anybody ever sees this, and finds out you’re associated with a big-time outlaw (although retired!), things won’t go well for you.

As ever, HH

“Next one?”

“Sure.”

My Darling Girl,

I got three letters from you! What a beautiful day!

To answer your question, no, still no news on the amnesty. We still hold out some hope – what else can we do? Neither one of us wants to go back to robbing banks and trains –

“Robbing banks and trains?”

“Shh!!”

And it seems all we can do is keep doing what we’ve been doing. The Governor of Wyoming holds all the cards. You’d think a poker player like me wouldn’t let something like that happen, would you? Guess I’m not so clever after all. You could do a lot better than me.

We’re not sure what to do next. Just keep drifting, I guess. We sure don’t want to do mining again, because we’ve had some bad luck with that. Every time we get a little money and we think, we can get ahead just a bit, something goes wrong. Jed tries to keep my spirits up, but I know he’s discouraged too. Our go-between, a sheriff in Wyoming, keeps telling us to hold out hope, but it gets harder and harder. And you keep telling me to hold out hope, and you still believe that we have a future together, and I admire you your perfect faith. We all seem to be trying to make each other believe good things will happen, but they don’t.

Sorry to end this on such a sour note, darling girl. It’s just my typical mood these days. But I will “keep on keeping on” as you urge me to. You are worth it all.

As ever, HH

Brother and sister looked at each other. Emily’s voice was quiet. “You know who these letters are from, don’t you?”

“A bank robber with the initials of HH, who has a partner called Jed or Kid, and they’re trying to get amnesty? Of course I do. How did Mama ever get involved with Hannibal Heyes?”

“Only one letter left. Maybe we’ll find an answer there. This one’s dated 1884.”

My Darling Girl,

Do you mind if I still call you that? Just one last time. We finally got back to Mac’s ranch and there I found your letter of April 3. Apparently a couple other letters got lost along the way, but that don’t really matter, does it? I got the one that matters, the one with the clipping from the Rocky Mountain News about your engagement. You made the right choice. Without the amnesty, I have nothing to offer you, nothing but “memories of diamonds and rust” as you put it so poetically. Even with the amnesty, there probably would still be people out to get me and the Kid, even if the law didn’t want us anymore. We angered too many rich, powerful people. Our Sheriff friend, Lom Trevors, really seems to believe the amnesty is close. Well, we’ve heard that before. Even with it, though, I cannot be sure to give you all the good things that you deserve.

Life moves on. I would pray for your happiness, but any ability I had for prayer was burnt out of me on the Kansas prairie when I was a boy. Instead, I congratulate you on your good decision. Mr. Taylor sounds like a decent man with a real future, something I may never be able to offer you. You deserve a man who can make a real commitment to you. I can’t do that now. I may never be able to do that.

I’ve never regretted all the bad decisions I made in the past more than I do right at this minute.

You won’t hear from me again. If nothing else, my word is still worth something. I don’t give it away lightly.

I wish you happiness, always. I mean that.

HH

“There are a couple of pages from a newspaper here, too.”

“The engagement notice?”

“No.” Horace unfolded the fragile paper carefully and showed it to his sister. “It’s all about Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry getting their amnesty. Only one year after his last letter.”

Emily put the letters back together and retied them with the ancient ribbon. “These are historical documents, you know. Heyes and Curry are famous. And these show a whole side of Hannibal Heyes’ life that nobody knows about. Maybe we should donate these to the Smithsonian.”

“Maybe,” Horace said. “Or maybe not. They’re historical documents of our mother. I think maybe they should stay with us, at least for now. I’ve got that safety deposit box at the Wells Fargo downtown. They’ll be as safe there as they were in Mama’s closet.”

Emily smiled. “Is that the same Wells Fargo bank that Curry and Heyes robbed once?”

Horace returned the smile. “The very same. Poetic justice, don’t you think? Besides, it’s our family history as much as that of the Heyes family. His kids and grandkids have plenty of things to remember him by. This is what we’ve got. I think we should keep it.”

Emily nodded. “Okay. They’re ours. And it’s our secret. Besides, nobody’s going to care about a couple ‘pretty good bad men’ any more, now that they’re both gone.”

She placed the letters and the newspaper pages back into the small wooden box. Horace pushed himself up and took the box from his sister. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead.

“Just like the Governor told Heyes and Curry, sis. It’ll be our secret.”

_________________
"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

"The failure in doing something is stopping too soon."
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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:45 am

Some silly fluff. With apologies to the Beatles:


Money in the Safe with Diamonds


Picture yourselves in a bank in a city
With Colts and Schofields and not any fears
Kid Curry calls you, you answer quite slowly
A man with stethoscope ears

Cellophane wrappers of yellow and green
Beckoning to your hand
Look for the bundles and jewels inside
And they’re gone

Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds, ahh

Quietly ride to a bridge by a fountain
Where Devil's Hole outlaws wait patiently by
Everyone smiles as you trot past the leader
Holding the haul up incredibly high

News stories and wanted posters appear
Waiting to bring you down
Climb on your horse with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone

Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds, ahh

Picture yourselves in a bank in a city
With nitro, a pump, a clock and seal putty
Suddenly Curry is standing beside you
The man with stethoscope eyes

Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds, ahh

Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds, ahh

Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds
Money in the safe with diamonds

_________________
This is one of my schemes... ~ Hannibal Heyes

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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:30 pm

Diamonds in the Rough

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.”
- Thomas Browne, Sr.


This story takes place after Heyes and Jed leave Ginny, Fred, George, and Emily Hamiltons (May's challenge). And by the way, I'm sure Fred and George Hamilton will be in another story/challenge some day.



Han and Jed walked around Denver taking in the many sights. It was the largest town they had ever been to and they were amazed by the covered wagon trains, the streets of businesses, and the rows of brothels and cribs.

“Crimany, Han, look at how big everything is and how many folks there are!” Jed exclaimed as he looked from one brick building to another.

“And how many saloons and cafes there are.” Heyes poked his head in a saloon door as they passed it. “Lots of games and women in fancy dresses in there.”

“Think we can find some work and maybe a place to stay?”

Han put an arm around his cousin. “I’m sure we can find some kind of work here. All these stores have to be swept out and the stalls at the livery will need mucking out.”

Jed wrinkled his nose. “I love horses, but not cleanin’ up after ‘em.”

Heyes sat down on a boardwalk, just off the street. “We better put on our boots so we look good for gettin’ a job.”

“Mine are gettin’ too small.” Jed struggled to squeeze his foot into his left boot.

“Just do your best and we’ll get another pair as soon as we can afford it.”

“You mean you’ll get another pair and I’ll have to wear yours with the hole.” Jed stomped his foot in and managed to tie his right boot. “At least yours will fit me.”

Both boys stood up and Heyes said, “Let me look at you…” as he scrutinized the younger boy and brushed dirt from his pants. “Run your fingers through your hair; it’s a mess.”

“I can’t help it if it curls and looks that way.” Jed did his best flattening down his hair.

“And take off that old gun belt and gun; put them in your knapsack. You don’t need it while we’re in town.”

“But…” A look from his older cousin and Jed unbuckled the belt and put it in his sack. “Okay,” Jed grudgingly said.

The two boys went from place to place looking for work, only to hear one rejection after another. By late afternoon, they were tired and frustrated.

“We’ll find work,” Heyes said, in an attempt to convince himself, as much as Jed. “It’s a big town and we have more places to go.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Jed agreed. “So can I take my boots off…”

“LOOK OUT!” came a shout down the street.

The boys looked up and saw horses with a driver-less wagon barreling down the road. Down the street, a gentleman, not paying attention, walked off the boardwalk and into the path of the horse.

“MISTER…” Heyes yelled as Jed jumped up and ran toward the horse. “JED… NO!”

Jed ran as fast as he could and managed to grab onto the harness of the horse closest to him as they thundered by. Without conscious thought, he hauled himself up and onto the chestnut’s back, reaching for the dangling reins. He veered the horses around the gentleman and others while slowing the team’s speed, but before he could get them down to a walk, he lost his precarious perch and slipped off, right under the horses’ hooves.

“Jed! Jed!” Heyes ran to his cousin lying in the middle of the road. He carefully turned him over on his back and sighed when he heard a groan. “Please be okay!”

A group of bystanders gathered around, whispering about the boy who stopped the runaway horses, when the gentleman pushed his way through.

When he came upon the boy, he saw the young blond not moving. He asked in a silky-smooth voice, “Is he dead?”

Heyes shook his head, choking out a reply, “Jed’s hurt bad, but he’s breathing.”

The gentleman knelt and put a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “Where’s your family, boy? Who can we get for you?”

“Don’t have any family except each other. The rest were killed in the war.”

The crowd quickly began to disperse after the sheriff and a man with a black bag appeared. The doctor bent over and began a quick exam of Jed’s injuries.

The sheriff grabbed the gentleman’s arm, as he attempted to leave. “Wait a minute. What happened here?”

“There were horses and a wagon that came rushing out of control down the street and this young man steered them away from me and other while stopping them,” the gentleman recounted.

“And fell under the horses,” continued Heyes. “Will he be alright, Doc?”

“We’ll have to get him to my office. He definitely broke his leg and has a concussion, possibly more.”

The sheriff looked around, just in time to see the gentleman about to walk away. “O’Sullivan, isn’t it? Where do you think you’re going? Don’t you think you should help these boys since the one DID save your life? Help us get the boy to the doc’s office.”

“Well, I guess I can do that much,” resigned the gentleman

A short time later, Jed lay unconscious on an examination table with Heyes hovering nearby while the doctor examined him more carefully.

“If that’ll be all…” The gentleman tipped his hat, about to exit the office.

“Mr O’Sullivan,” the sheriff glared at him, “didn’t I hear from other townsfolk about him saving your life?”

“Well…”

“This boy is going to need attention and a place to stay for a few months to recover.”

“He saved others’ lives, too, you know. Not just mine.”

“We don’t need no body’s help,” Heyes said, defiantly. “Me and Jed take care of each other.”

“Well this time you and Jed DO need help, unless you have a bed he can stay in for a few months,” the doctor told Heyes. “Well, do you?”

Heyes hung his head. “No, sir.”

The doctor faced the gentleman. “I’ll care for the boy for free if you provide a place for them to stay.”

“Well, I guess he could stay in a spare room I have. It’s nothing fancy. But I don’t owe you anything, boy,” O’Sullivan said to Heyes.

“I can work for my keep and care for my cousin,” Heyes told him defiantly. “I don’t expect nothing from you, but a bed for Jed.”

“Well, now that we have that decided, how about being civil and introducing yourselves while I get back to the patient,” the doctor said, to relieve the tension.

The gentleman huffed and held out a hand. “Name’s Mr. O’Sullivan.”

“Hannibal Heyes.” Heyes shook his hand. “I just go by Heyes, though. And that’s my cousin, Jed Curry.”

“Mr. O’Sullivan, send a carriage around for the boys tomorrow morning,” the doctor went back to his patient. “IF he’s conscious and able to be moved, I’ll bring him to you.”

The sheriff shook O’Sullivan’s hand. “It’s a good thing that you are doing, sir.”

“Good thing…” the gentleman grumbled, as he exited the office with the sheriff.

“Heyes, it appears Jed broke a rib,” the doctor said as he tended to the patient. “We’re going to have to keep his chest wrapped tight until that rib heals. Glad he’s still unconscious while we set the leg. We’ll put a cast on it…”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The next morning, Heyes and a barely conscious Jed rode in a carriage with Doctor White to Mr. O’Sullivan’s house.

“I wish we didn’t have to stay here,” Heyes muttered as the carriage came to a stop at a 2-story house on a street with similar homes; all large and well maintained.

“You don’t have a choice, Heyes. Not until Jed gets better,” the doctor reminded him. “Looks like a very nice place and I’ll be here occasionally to check on my patient.”

A male servant came out of the house. “Doctor White? My name is Harris. And you are?”

“Heyes and this is my cousin, Jed.”

Harris grabbed the knapsacks in the carriage. “Please follow me.”

The doctor and Heyes carried Jed inside and up into an attic room and laid him in a brass double bed. Heyes looked around and saw dresser, a table with two chairs, a stand with a bowl and pitcher of water, and a chamber pot. Two windows, at the peak ends, allowed a nice breeze to blow into the room.

“This is your room. You are not to wander throughout the house, without permission. There are back stairs to take you into the kitchen and out a back door. Do not bother Mr. O’Sullivan or his guests. If you need anything, you will go to the kitchen and have someone get me. Do you understand?”

Heyes nodded. “I… We appreciate all of this.”

“Dinner will be at 7:00. You will come into the kitchen to get the meal and eat up here.”

A faint ringing of a bell had Harris heading downstairs.

“Thank you, Harris,” Heyes stammered.

“Heyes, do you remember all my instructions how to care for Jed?” the doctor asked and waited until Heyes nodded. “I have other patients to attend to. Don’t hesitate to have Harris call for me, if I’m needed. Jed should sleep another few hours and he’ll be in pain when he wakes up. Make sure he drinks water and give him laudanum. It’s best if he sleeps for the next few days.”

“Okay,” Heyes said.

The doctor checked the sleeping patient one more time before heading toward the stairs. “Take good care of your cousin, Heyes.”

“I will. Have most of our lives,” Heyes called back to the departing doctor.

Heyes pulled the blanket up closer to Jed’s chin before looking around the room. There was a view of a garden in the back from one window and the other one looked out over the front door. He unpacked, putting their few belongings into dresser drawers. He poured a glass of water, preparing for when his cousin would wake up, and laid out the medicine bottles on the top of the dresser. “There. Now what do I do?” Heyes mumbled.

A carriage pulled up to the house and Heyes watched from the window as a man and woman climbed out and went to the door. Heyes glanced at Jed and then went down the attic stairs. As he made his way to the back stairs, he stopped as he heard voices downstairs.

“Who was that watching us arrive from your attic window, Silky?” demanded a male voice.

Silky sighed. “That, Soapy, is my forced-upon company for the next few weeks.”

“Forced-upon?”

“Yesterday there was a runaway wagon and horses. I would have been hit if not for a boy who stopped them. Unfortunately, he fell and was severely injured.”

“That’s not your concern, Silky!”

“True, true, but the sheriff guilted me into providing room for the boy and his cousin while he recovers. I have them in the attic,” Silky explained.

“Is there no family to care for them?”

“No family. They say they died in the war. Just a couple of worthless orphans…”

“How injured is the boy?” asked a female.

“Doctor said he broke his leg and a rib and has a concussion, Jenny.”

“And you have them in your attic?” Jenny asked, concerned.

“Oh, Harris made it up alright. Probably better than the urchins have ever had.”

“Urchins, huh?” Soapy said with disgust in his voice. “Watch that they don’t steal from you.”

“Now wouldn’t that be something…the con-man being out-conned by a couple of paltry boys,” Jenny laughed.

“A con man? Urchins…” Heyes muttered, as he continued down the back stairs to the kitchen. In the kitchen he saw Harris having coffee with a woman. “Excuse me, Harris?”

“Yes? Oh, Margaret, this is…”

“Heyes.”

“That’s right. Margaret is O’Sullivan’s cook.”

“Ma’am,” Heyes acknowledged her before turning back to Harris. “I was wondering if I might borrow a book. And I want you to give me chores so I can earn my keep.”

“You read?” Harris asked.

Heyes bit his tongue. “Yes, sir.”

“I’m sure I can find you something to read in Mr. O’Sullivan’s library. I’ll bring something up to you.”

Heyes poured some coffee and headed back upstairs. As he neared the top, he heard a weak, “Han? Han?!”

He hurried to the bed and saw pained blue eyes staring up at him. “Hey, you’re finally awake. About time.”

“Where are we? What happened?”

“We’re in an attic bedroom of a Mr. Silky O’Sullivan. And what happened is that you decided to be a hero and stop runaway horses pulling a wagon. Almost got yourself killed, Jed.”

“Oh, I remember. Didn’t want folks to get hurt.” Jed winced in pain.

“Here,” Heyes got the glass of water, “let me help you drink some of this and give you more medicine for the pain.”

The next few days, Heyes read the books Harris brought up to him as he watched over Jed and an assortment of men and women coming and going at all hours.

One afternoon, Heyes was heading to the kitchen when he heard raised voices downstairs.

“I tell you it won’t work, Soapy! You need a young fella who looks as innocent as a newborn baby to pull that trick.”

“And you know, as well as I do, that we don’t have anyone that fits that description.”

Heyes made up his mind and walked to the top of the stairs. “Excuse me, Mr. O’Sullivan. I know I’m not supposed to bother you, but… I did say I wanted to earn my keep and I couldn’t help but hear that you need someone. Maybe I could help you out.”

“Who is that?!” Soapy demanded, as he pointed up to Heyes.

“That’s one of my guests I told you about,” Silky explained. “Get back up…”

“You know, Silky and Soapy, he just might do.” Jenny walked to the bottom of the stairs. “Come down here, boy.”

Heyes cautiously walked down the stairs.

“What your name, son?” she asked.

“Heyes, but I ain’t nobody’s son.”

“Fair enough, Heyes. How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

“I think we should give him a try and see how he does,” Jenny said as she walked around and eyed him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Han, where you goin’?” Jed asked as he rubbed his eyes.

Heyes went over to the bed. “Have some chores to do. Can’t expect us to stay in a place this nice without earning our keep. How are you feeling?”

“I’m hurtin’ some.” Jed pushed the blankets off him.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Han put the medicine down and covered him back up.

“Got chores to do.”

“I have chores to do! Your chore is to get better.” Han gave his cousin more medicine and a glass of water, helping him lift his head to drink. “While I’m gone, the cook will be checking up on you. Nice lady named Margaret. If you need anything, let her know. Okay?”

Jed nodded sleepily. “Okay.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes walked down the boardwalk and bumped into a well-dressed gentleman. “Oh, I’m sorry!”

“Watch where you’re going!” the man barked.

Heyes grinned as he walked over to Silky, Soapy, and Jenny.

“Well?” asked Silky.

“Got it,” Heyes beamed as he pulled a billfold from his pants.

Jenny smiled. “He just might do.”

“Stealing is one thing, but can he pull off a con,” Soapy said in a gruff voice as he took the wallet from Heyes.

“Let’s try him out with a pigeon drop,” Silky suggested.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes walked into a restaurant, carrying a gold-plated, cheap pocket watch. He sat down at a table and ordered when Soapy and Jenny walked into the diner and sat down.

After he had eaten and received a bill, Heyes patted down his pockets. “Gosh, I can’t seem to find my money. I know I have a gold piece and some bills.” His face flushed with embarrassment as the owner scowled. “I must have left it at the boarding house. What if I leave my grandpappy’s gold watch here? You can keep it until I come back with my money.”

The owner picked up the pocket watch and looked at it carefully. “Well, I suppose since it’s gold.”

“Oh, it is!” assured Heyes. “I’ll be right back with my money.”

Heyes left the restaurant and about ten minutes later, Soapy and Jenny came to the counter to pay their bill.

“Sweetheart, look at this exquisite watch! Why it reminds me of one I saw in a museum in London,” Jenny cooed. She held it up to Soapy’s vest. “You must have it!”

“It does appear well-made. How much for the watch?” Soapy asked the owner.

“It’s not for sale; it’s…”

“Everything is for sale, for a price. How about $300.”

The owner gulped. “It really isn’t for sale, but… Check back with me this evening. It may be available to buy then.”

“Fair enough,” Soapy said as he paid the bill and they walked out of the diner.

Fifteen minutes later, Heyes rushed into the café. “Sir, I have the money for my bill. I had left it at the boarding house, like I thought.” Heyes gave several dollars to the owner for the bill. “May I have my grandpappy’s watch back?”

“About your watch,” the owner began, “I was wondering if you might sell it.”

“Sell my watch? I don’t think I could bear to part with grandpappy’s watch.”

“Everything is for sale, for a price. What if I offered you $150?”

“Well, I do need the money,” Heyes looked torn. Reluctantly he handed over the watch. “Guess I really don’t have a choice since I have bills to pay.”

The owner smiled and gave Heyes $150.

“He’s wonderful!” Jenny exclaimed from their viewpoint.

“He’ll do,” Soapy acknowledged.

Silky agreed. “Just need to polish that rough diamond. Wonder if he could learn safecracking and picking locks from Keys McCoy…”

Jenny grinned. “Think he’s any good at blackjack?”

_________________
h
"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:28 pm

Thanks to Riders and Sky for their help with this.

The Ring
“Why, dear, that’s a lovely diamond. Not as big perhaps as Mrs. Wright's, but Lawrence never was one for ostentation, I suppose."

“Oh, Mrs. Bartlett, thank you, but it suits me just fine." Lucy Sloane sighed, then brightened. "Lawrie brought it back with him from San Francisco.”

“Well, you are a lucky girl, Lucy. Lawrence is certainly the most eligible bachelor in the county.” The older woman smiled. “And for him to offer a diamond ring to his betrothed certainly shows everyone the esteem and love he has for you, not to mention the place you will be taking in society.”

“Oh, Mrs. B, you know neither of us needs anyone's approval, much less society's!"

“Lucy dear, it is a pity your father does not fancy such things; he is an important enough man. But, when your future father-in-law owns the most successful bank in the county, you will most certainly rise in standing.”

Lucy’s visage clouded. “But Lawrie and I could care less about that, and that's not why I'm marrying him.”

Mrs. Bartlett sighed and patted the younger woman's forearm reassuringly. “Lucy, dear, it is wonderful that you want to stay as you are, but I fear that with Lawrence working at the bank, his father obviously has other plans for him than running a ranch.”

The younger woman contemplated the ground, seemingly deep in thought.

After several seconds, Mrs. Bartlett put her finger to Lucy’s chin and lifted it. “Now, now, dear, I did not mean to put you in the doldrums. You and Lawrence can run a magnificent ranch whilst he also runs the bank. That would be the best of both worlds.”

Lucy’s nose crinkled. “Mrs. B, Lawrie has no interest in running the bank. That’s his father’s concern. He’s a clerk, like anyone else starting out. And he plans to stay only until we save enough to expand on what my father is giving us for the wedding. Besides, Mr. Reeve has been grooming Mr. Wright to run the bank for a long time now.”

Mrs. Bartlett’s countenance radiated the look of someone who knew better. “Ah, but my dear, since Mr. Reeve has finally persuaded Lawrence to work at the bank, he will rise quickly in responsibility, and title. You mark my words.”

Lucy glanced from her diamond ring toward the bank across the street back to Mrs. Bartlett. “Mr. Reeve might try, but Lawrie has other ideas.”

The older woman smiled. “We’ll see, dear. We’ll see.”

**

Across the street at the New Alamance Savings and Loan, Ambrose Reeve looked over his son’s shoulder.

The young man stopped counting the bills in his hands. “Father, I know how to count. Please let me do my job.”

Mr. Reeve raised an eyebrow. “Lawrence, you made it very clear you want to be treated as any newly hired clerk. I go out of my way to do so, and you complain?”

Lawrie sighed and met the older man's gaze. “Father, surely you have better things to do. You know I’m not going to slip any bills into my pocket.”

The banker smiled. “I know that, son. Now, if you would let me make you vice president, as is only fitting...”

“Father, really. Banking isn't in my blood.”

Sternly, “Isn’t it, son? Profits from this bank put you through Yale. And paid for any excursions you have made – most recently, San Francisco. And where did the money for Lucy’s ring come from? Not every girl in this town owns a diamond.”

Lawrie lowered his voice to maintain some calm. “Father, it’s a good thing it's after hours and no one else is here. Might I remind you I went to San Francisco as a messenger only. And at your begging because Mr. Wright was out of town. And I paid for Lucy’s ring myself, the money earned from that trip being the last bit I needed. And it’s a small stone, not an ostentatious one like Mrs. Wright received for her engagement. It suits Lucy and me just fine.”

Mr. Reeve rolled his eyes. “Surely you’re not saying Jeremiah did badly by his wife? Lawrence, I want only the best for you. You’re my only son. I want you to take over the bank one day.”

Lawrie angrily strode a few steps away. “Father, please, we’ve been through this. I have no desire to go into banking! I’ve been happy working at Mr. Sloane’s place. He’s giving Lucy and me a hundred acres as a wedding gift. It’s a start to something bigger. ‘That’s’ what I want.”

The older man shook his head. “Rufus Sloane told me he wanted to make a wedding gift of a thousand acres, but you refused. Pride goeth before a fall, Lawrence. You could have so much more.”

The son raised his voice, “Father, I want to work for what I have! Why can’t you understand that?!”

Mr. Reeve’s brow furrowed as he sighed, loudly. “I'll try, son.”

**

Two men on horseback rode into New Alamance. Entering the main street, they passed the sheriff’s office and noted the name on the door. They grinned and nodded to each other, and walked their mounts across the way. Dismounting in front of the hotel, they grabbed rifles, bed rolls, and saddlebags, and strode into the hostelry.

The desk clerk acknowledged them, “Gentlemen. Just in from the trail, I see.”

“Uh huh,” the darker-haired man replied. “We’d like a room with a view of the main street, please.”

“One bed or two?”

The blond man frowned. “Two.”

“Let’s see, we are almost full…”

“If all ya have is one bed, we’ll share,” the darker-haired man glanced at his partner, “as long as it’s in the front…Uh, we like the light better in the front.”

“Well, gentlemen, you’re in luck. We do have a room in the front, but you’ll have to go to the third floor. Second’s full.”

“That’s fine,” replied the darker man.

His partner sighed.

The desk clerk turned the register toward them and offered a pen. “Sign right here, please.” He turned to grab a key. “That will be room 312. Upstairs to the third floor, then right.”

The blond man grabbed the key and started for the stairs, his partner following.

The desk clerk called after them. “Would you gentlemen like a bath sent up?”

Both stopped, looked at the desk clerk, then eyed each other up and down. The darker one replied, “Nah, we’ll make our way to the bath house after a drink.”

The blond man nodded his approval.

They turned and walked up the stairs.

**

The next morning, the partners headed out of the hotel.

The darker one took in the landscape. “Bank’s not open yet. We’ll mosey over after breakfast.”

The blond man smiled, “Yup, eatin’s first. I’m hungry.”

“So am I. Let’s go.”

**

At nine o’clock sharp, several customers warmly greeted Mr. Reeve as he opened the bank for business.

“Mornin’, Ambrose,” the sheriff greeted as he walked in.

“Sheriff. Lovely day.”

“Indeed.”

“Here on business?”

“Maybe later. Taking the morning rounds because Billy got in late last night. Might be a young fella, but he’s still gonna sleep in after a long ride.”

The banker queried, “All’s well in Casper, I take it?”

“Suppose so. Long as that Grance Howard’s off my hands, the better I like it. Marshall in Casper can take care of him now.”

Mr. Reeve appeared concerned. “You think his men will be looking to free him?”

“Suppose. Like I said, it’s the authorities in Casper’s problem now.”

The banker slapped the sheriff on the back. “Well, sheriff, all’s well here. Hope you and Billy can rest easy for a good, long spell.”

“I hope so, too.” The sheriff took a last cursory look around the bank before making his exit.

**

A half hour later, the two partners left the café.

The blond man spoke in a low tone, “Better look over the bank afore doin' anythin’ else.”

The darker one nodded. “Then we’ll head over to the saloon. A drink and some poker’ll hit the spot, then get on with things.”

His partner grinned. “Sounds ‘bout right.”

**

When the pair entered, they found the bank bustling. Grinning to each other, they separated. The darker one took note of the safe behind the tellers’ positions, while the blond man unobtrusively inspected the windows. When the dark-haired partner finished perusing the safe from afar, he surveyed the rest of the interior. They spent perhaps five minutes, and no one took notice.

Walking outside, they strolled along, eying one end of the building before turning the corner into the alley. Taking special notice of the windows and back door of the bank, and the businesses exiting into the alleys surrounding the savings and loan, they finally ended up back on the boardwalk in front.

“Time for that drink.”

**

The bank at late morning was quiet when Lawrie Reeve looked up from behind the teller’s window. His countenance quickly brightened. “Lucy, honey, what brings you in?”

She blew a kiss. “You.”

“I thought you had a fitting for your dress.”

“I did, and we’re done. One more thing to cross off the list.”

Lawrie's eyes brightened. “And I can’t wait to see you in that dress.”

Lucy grinned playfully. “I know. But you’ll just have to be patient, Mr. Reeve.”

Her fiance chuckled. “So where did that old wives’ tale come from, that I can’t see it until the wedding day?”

Lucy prettily shrugged. “It’s not an old wives’ tale. It’s for luck.”

“Luck, huh?”

“Um hmm. Your ma’s explained that to you, hasn’t she?”

Lawrie rolled his eyes. “Yup. Just like you’ve done, a hundred times!”

Lucy walked her fingers up her finace’s forearm. Sotte voce, “Well, you might have to wait to see me in that dress, but that night, you can…”

“Lucy!” His voice lowered to a whisper as he glanced around, “Not here!”

Her eyes danced. “Okay…Not here. But…”

“Lucy!”

“Um hmm.” She smiled.

**

The partners stepped out of the saloon, the dark-haired man counting some bills.

His blond counterpart asked, “How much? Ya done real good in there.”

The darker one winked, “I had a good teacher. Won about fifty, but only need a few for a deposit.”

They walked toward the bank.

**

The two men stopped a moment as they entered the savings and loan, letting their eyes adjust from the brightness outside to the darker interior.

The man behind a teller’s cage interrupted his conversation with a young woman. “May I help you gentlemen?"

The blond man spoke, “Mah friend here’d like to open an account.”

The darker one met the gaze of the teller. “That’s right.”

The clerk gestured for the young lady to wait, and he stepped from behind the teller’s cage. “I’ll get the bank manager. He can help you with an account.”

The partners tipped their hats to the young woman and took seats in front of the desk the teller indicated.

Several seconds later, the clerk emerged from an office with a tall, slightly older man, who strode to the two and offered his hand, “Jeremiah Wright. I understand you want to open an account?”

The pair clumsily stood and shook hands, completing the round of introductions, before sitting again.

The darker man spoke, “That’s right. I’d like to deposit ten dollars.”

Wright reached into a drawer for some papers. “Very good. You gentlemen new in town?”

The blond man opened his mouth as if to speak, but the darker one answered first, “Yup. We’re in ranching. Thinking of buying a place depending on what’s available. Also wanna make sure the bank’s secure, so just a small deposit for now. Can we see the vault, uh, Mr. Wright?”

The bank manager raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s not something we normally do. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

“Sure, I understand. No harm done.” The darker man nodded.

“Very good. Now let me get some information from you and we'll get that account opened."

As Mr. Wright's questions and his partner's answers settled to a din, the blond man glanced around the bank once more. They and the teller and young woman speaking with him were the only ones in the building, perhaps the lull before a lunchtime rush. Even though he paid close heed to the placement of everything in the bank earlier, the fair-haired man memorized the interior yet again.

The seemingly incessant question and answer session droned on, and the blond partner absentmindedly fidgeted and drummed on the chair handles with his fingers.

Mr. Wright rose. "This will be a few more minutes. I'll see to a bank book and enter your deposit, which will be your receipt."

The dark-haired man replied, "Thank you." Then, as the drumming continued, he addressed his partner, “Do you have to do that?”

Blue eyes met brown. The drumming stopped.

The blond man sheepishly cleared his throat and sat up straight, for a second. As darker eyes looked away toward the window, the drumming started again. Another look from the dark-haired partner stilled the fair-haired man for a few seconds, before he started squirming in his seat. Another look.

Finally, the blond man rose. “I’ll wait at the saloon.”

**

No sooner had the fair-haired man walked the half block to the saloon, ordered, and started to sip his drink than he heard shooting. Rushing to the street, he heard screams and one particular yell above it all, “Take cover! The bank’s being robbed!”

Instinctively reaching for his pistol, he quickly pulled his hand away without drawing, seeking first to disentangle himself from the scrambling sea of humanity around him. As he took a step one way, he bumped into a saloon girl. Helping her up, he headed in the opposite direction, only to land flat on his back as an anonymous arm blew across his chest, knocking the breath out of him. He lay thus for a short time as the throng about him scattered, a few trampling him and one or two others similarly situated. Finally, someone grabbed his arms and pulled him to his feet.

“Get off the street ‘lessen ya wanna get shot!”

Dazed, he walked in the direction of the bank. He saw the sheriff and deputy barricaded behind a wagon on its side across from the savings and loan. Men in front whipped their horses around in a frenzy. Bullets flew from both sides. Yet again, his instincts had him reach for and this time draw his sidearm. The horses galloped off.

“Hands in the air where I can see them!”

Colt at the ready, the blond man blinked furiously and brought his left hand up to rub his eyes to clear the churning dust.

“I repeat, hands in the air where I can see them!”

The dust finally clearing, the blond man stepped toward the bank.

“Are you deaf, man? Get your hands in the air!”

The fair-haired man stopped in his tracks. Looking around, he realized he was the only one between the bank and the sheriff.

“One last time, toss the gun aside and put your hands up!”

Gulping, he squinted in the midday sun and threw his Colt to his right, before raising his hands. The sheriff eyed the blond up and down before gesturing for him to put his hands behind his back. He did so, and they were quickly secured with iron cuffs.

The deputy had entered the bank and immediately appeared in the threshold, “Everyone’s down in here, sheriff!”

The sheriff cursed loudly, then turned his attention back to his prisoner. The lawman quickly hauled the man to the boardwalk and roughly pushed him down. "Don't move a muscle 'lessen you wanna be needing the doc!" He addressed his deputy, "Billy, keep this one covered." The sheriff moved toward the bank, holding his sidearm at the ready as he entered.

Dazed, the blond man strained to see inside, but shadows impeded his view. Faintly aware of the commotion of townsfolk emerging from cover and approaching the bank, he heard the deputy curse as he rushed toward them. Looking up too quickly, blue eyes squeezed shut as the bright noon sun momentarily blinded him. Turning his head back to the bank, he leaned into the bare shade of an awning as the sheriff ran out and joined his deputy; still, he could not see inside. Worry about his partner filled him, but shouts of an advancing throng and the lawmen trying to hold them back reverberated through the fair-haired man's being as he squirmed, trying to free himself from the iron bracelets. He faced the sun again, eyes downcast this time to avoid direct exposure.

Squinting, his emotions cascading in too many directions, he finally, momentarily, turned full attention on something caught in a glint of the sun's rays: Lying in the dust, its luster dulled by a spot of crimson, lay a diamond ring.
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Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 54

PostSubject: Re: June 2012 - Diamond (s)   Sun Jul 01, 2012 3:38 pm

This is a little late, but I decided to post it anyway. Just a short piece to help me get back in the swing of writing challenges.

Diamonds

“Heyes, I’m tellin’ ya I’m feelin’ lucky tonight. Just let me have the twenty dollars and I’ll triple it in an hour with the way those guys are playing.”

“Kid, do I have to remind you that I’m the poker player?” Heyes frowned.

They were sitting a corner table in a saloon that looked pretty much like all the other saloons they’d visited over the last few years.

“I play poker too ya know,” Curry replied, indignantly.

“Okay, tell you what, this time you can try your hand at cards while I enjoy my beer and the attention of that fine lady over there. He smiled and waved to the bar maid, indicating that he’d like another drink. She sashayed over and smiled down at the dark haired man.

“What can I get you, honey?”

“Another one of these, and that pretty smile of yours.”

“Sure thing, I’ll be right back.”

“Have fun, Kid.”

“I will,” Curry said, taking the bills Heyes had handed him and strolling over to the large round table where a group of men were just finishing a game.

“That’s all for me,” a small, light haired man said as he stood.

“Mind if I join?” Curry asked.

“Twenty dollar buy in,” the dealer stated, looking up at the new arrival.

“Fine,” Curry answered. “Uh, do you mind if I ask if anyone declared we’d be playing with straights and flushes?”

The dealer gave him a suspicious look. “As a matter-of-fact, Simpson over there did just that before we started the game.”

“Alright then, I just wanted to check first.” Curry sat down and the dealer began shuffling the cards.

Heyes was keeping one eye on the card game and the other on the bar maid while he drained his second mug of beer. His partner had won the last pot and had a fair amount of chips in front of him. Probably doubled his money, Heyes guessed. Maybe Curry was going to be lucky at cards tonight after all.

The man to Curry’s right, Simpson, opened with a ten dollar bet and three of the four other players called. Simpson took two cards.

“How many’ll you have?” the dealer addressed Curry, as the former outlaw glanced from the cards in his hand to the faces of the other players.

“One,” he said, showing no emotion.

Eyebrows rose around the table. The man to Curry’s left had folded. The next man took three, the man after that took one. The four remaining players all studied their new hands.

“Ten dollars,” said the man who’d opened and taken two.

Curry watched him. Three of a kind? Two pair maybe? He looked down at his own hand. Three, eight, nine, king, and ace…all the same suit. “I’ll see your ten, and raise ten more,” he said, his voice showing no emotion as he scanned the faces of the other players.

“Call,” said the man who’d taken three, and pushed twenty dollars in chips into the center.

Straight? Flush? Curry considered the possibility. He didn’t raise though.

“I’m out,” replied the player who had also only taken one. Guess he didn’t make his…

The dealer looked back to the man on Curry’s right. “Ten more to you,” he said flatly. Simpson nodded and pushed twenty dollars into the center.

Curry looked down at his remaining ten dollars. There was ninety dollars in the pot. He had an ace high flush, this guy had opened so he must have started with a pair of jacks or better, and probably had two pair now, maybe three of a kind.

Curry put his last ten dollars into the pot.

The next player threw down his cards and grunted his disappointment.

The remaining two players looked at each other with steady gazes. Slowly, Curry turned over his cards. “All clubs,” he said with a smile.

The other man slowly and began to turn his cards over. All five were diamonds, also ace high.

Curry’s smile faded. “You opened!” he said, his voice rising.

“Uh huh, the man said. Had jacks. Threw one away.”

“You kept three diamonds?” Curry was incredulous.
“Yep, diamonds are my lucky suit.” The man smiled and gathered in the pot.
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