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Posts : 555
Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Sat Sep 01, 2012 7:59 am

As we are now asking for a limit of one story per writer per month - for polling - this area is for any EXTRA stories inspired by the challenge topic which you simply wish to share.

So - consider it a home for those bouncing and multiplying bunnies.

(Reader gals - overspill bunnies need carrots too - so do continue to give them awestruck comments in the usual place... Ta.)
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PostSubject: October -- Twist in the Tale   Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:04 pm

This was originally posted for the October 2010 challenge, "A Dark and Stormy Night." A friend thought it fit this month's prompt and suggested recycling it; so, here it is, slightly rewritten. Hope no one minds. Of course, it's not for polling.


Turnabout Is Not Always Fair Play

Thunder and torrential rain accompanied two riders on a late afternoon as they rode their exhausted horses toward the unknown town. Daylight had seemingly long departed, but one would not know it. The all too frequent lightning illuminated the trail ahead, into the middle distance, as would a lantern in the night. Gusts of wind whipped the weary men and mounts from all sides. It was, indeed, a dark and stormy night.

They just barely made out a faded "Cimarron" on the sign outside town. Seeking shelter, they found the hotel. One dismounted and quickly grabbed saddlebags, bedrolls, and rifles from both horses, while the other took the reins of the now riderless mount and steered it and his own in the direction of the livery.

Entering the hotel, Jed "Kid" Curry dropped his parcels just inside the door, then stepped outside again briefly, removing and shaking out his slicker under the shelter of the canopy. Folding it up, inside out, he draped it over one arm, the better not to get the dry part of him wet. Dripping anyway, he strode to the desk and rang the bell. After a long minute, a clerk appeared.

"I'd like a room, please."

The clerk regarded the young man. His dark blond hair and boyish countenance drenched beneath a dripping brown hat, Kid Curry appeared, for all intents and purposes, a drowned rat. Looking beyond the prospective guest at the pair of everything heaped on the floor, the clerk asked, "For how many?"

"Two. My partner'll be along in a couple of minutes."

"Just sign right here," the clerk said as he offered Kid a pen and pushed the register in front of him. "Really didn't expect anyone on a day like this. It's been real quiet. One bed or two?"

"How much for two?"

"Three dollars."

"And one?"

"Two dollars."

Kid sighed. The rates were high, but beggars could not be choosers. "Does either one come with a bath?"

The clerk smiled. The young man suddenly seemed more acceptable than at first glance. "Oh yes, sir, we have a room with two beds and a bath, for $3.50. But, unfortunately, because of the storm, we're short staffed, and there's no one to draw the bath."

Kid Curry was disappointed. Sighing, he asked, "Will there be someone to do that in the mornin’?"

"There should be, uh," the clerk turned the register toward him, "Mr. Jones. Depends on if the storm passes or not."

Kid sighed. "All right, we'll take the two beds and bath."

"You won't be sorry, Mr. Jones. Room 14. One of our best."

Kid rolled his eyes as he handed over the money. "At that rate, it oughta be!"

"How many nights will you be staying?"

"Depends on the weather."

The clerk handed Kid a key. "Very good, sir. Is there anything else I can help with?"

Kid thought a minute. "Yeah. Haven't been through here in a while … Who's the sheriff these days?"

"Name's Jim Lawson. Been sheriff going on almost four years now. Do you know him?"

Kid appeared deep in thought for a few seconds. "No. Been a while since I was here."

Turning to gather their gear, Kid saw his partner, Hannibal Heyes, walk through the door, slicker inside out under his arm. "You're just in time."

Heyes yawned, then smiled, his dimples deeply set. "I see. Let’s get up to the room."

Stooping to help gather their belongings, Heyes was interrupted by the clerk. "Sir, please sign the register before going upstairs."

Heyes complied and signed his alias.

"Mr. Joshua Smith. Very good. Is there anything else I can help you gentlemen with?"

Heyes yawned again. "Sorry, guess I'm kind of tired. Umm, is there some place to get a hot meal? Looks like your dining room is closed."

"Yes, Mr. Smith. In the next block, the cafe. Essy said she'll be open as always; the storm won't change her hours. And it’s on this side of the street, so you shouldn't get too wet."

"Or at least not too much wetter," Heyes acknowledged.

The partners nodded in thanks and gathered their luggage. Heavily climbing the stairs, they reached Room 14. Leaving the door ajar, they dropped their gear on the floor.

Kid fished some matches out of his pocket. "Good thing for slickers … The matches are dry." Striking one, he lit the oil lamp in the wall sconce. Replacing the glass chimney, he turned into darkness. "What happened?"

Heyes shrugged. "Must be drafty in here."

Kid lit another match and the lamp. Again, it glowed for several seconds before extinguishing itself.

Heyes stood with arms folded across his chest. "Kid, don't breathe so hard!"

Kid scowled. "I'm not breathing hard. And these matches aren't wet, either. Must be a draft from the hall." For a third time, he lit the lamp. "Ahh, and then there was light."

Closing the door, Kid turned to his partner. "Well, not sure about you, but I'm looking forward to some dry clothes and a good book."

"Book? How can you be thinkin' about readin' when we haven't had dinner yet?" Heyes was incredulous.

"Dinner? Not hungry." Kid turned to his saddlebags, pulling out dry pants and socks. He started to change.

"And how could you not be hungry? We haven't eaten since breakfast 'cept for some jerky on the trail. I don’t’ know, Kid, a man's gotta eat!" Heyes was red in the face.

Kid grinned at his partner. "Don't worry, Heyes. We'll go the cafe and you can eat. I'll just have some coffee."

Heyes rolled his eyes and set to change out of his own wet clothes. When both were finished, they strode to the door and Kid reached to turn down the lamp. He stopped in mid-motion and stood, unmoving.

"Kid, you okay?"

"Yeah." Turning to his partner, he looked perplexed. "Heyes, I feel kind of – strange."

"Strange? In what way?”

"I don’t know. Just strange." Kid's countenance was a jumble of confusion.

"Aw, come on, Kid. With that silver tongue of yours, you can't explain it better than that?" Heyes laughed.

"No. I'm supposed to be a genius and all, but I feel like I can't even begin to figure this one out." Kid still stood rooted.

Heyes chuckled. Walking the few steps toward his partner, he put both hands on Kid's back and maneuvered him toward the door. "Let's go, genius."

Kid shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs. Leaving the hotel, Heyes took the lead to the cafe. The canopies of the buildings kept them relatively dry. But for the one unprotected alley they had to cross, the quick stroll could even be described as storm-free.

Once inside, they seated themselves at a table near a fireplace and basked for several minutes in the warmth. A pleasant-looking, middle-aged woman approached. "Evenin’. I'm Essy. We stayed open, and I'm glad we did." She smiled warmly. "Now how about some coffee? And for dinner, we have beef stew or fried chicken."

Kid wasted no time. "Thank you, ma'am. I'll have one of each with all the trimmings."

Heyes ordered next. "I'll have the beef stew, please."

"Such nice manners! Comin' right up." The woman walked toward the kitchen.

Heyes frowned at his partner. "Two meals? I thought you weren't hungry."

Kid grinned. "Aw, come on, Heyes. What are you talkin' about? You know I could eat a horse!"

Heyes shook his head in confusion. "Yeah, Kid, I guess you could."

* * * * *

Back in their hotel room after dinner, it took four matches to light the lamp. Both men busied themselves with unpacking their saddlebags and arranging their wet clothes, outerwear, and gear around the room to dry.

Noticing the tub in a small alcove off the main room, Heyes looked longingly. "You know, Kid, a bath would be really nice tonight."

"Well, Heyes, guess that'll just have to wait 'til morning. Why don't you just get ready for bed. That way, morning will be here before you know it."

"Not yet. Gotta clean my gun. Clean yours too, if you want." With that, Heyes reached into Kid's saddlebags for the oil and rags he used in the daily ritual of cleaning his gun. That he was taking things out of his partner's bags did not faze Heyes in the least, nor did the chore he was preparing to start.

Kid regarded Heyes, and shook his head. "You do that every day. Don't you think that’s too much, maybe?"

Heyes smiled. "Kid, you'll just never understand. There's nothin' like a clean gun."

Kid sighed. "I know a gun needs to be cleaned, but every day? But I do appreciate you doing it for me, and it does seem lighter afterwards.”

Heyes' eyes twinkled. "Of course it does. All that dirt and grime's gone. Shoots better clean than dirty."

While Heyes set up for his task, Kid settled into bed with a book. Opening it, he stared at a page for several minutes before looking up. He turned his attention to scanning the room.

"Heyes?"

"Yeah, Kid?"

"Does this room feel funny to you?"

"No, Kid. Seems fine. Feelin' okay? You weren't before."

"Don't know … Feelin' a little strange again – and now the room feels kind of funny, too."

Heyes looked up from his chore. "Kid, that silver tongue of yours back yet? Sayin' you're feelin' strange and the room feelin' funny doesn't give me a lot to go on."

Kid shrugged. "No. Can't say it any better than that."

"Well, if it'll help any, I wouldn't mind ya readin' out loud. I always like that. If my company ain't enough, maybe your voice'll be like another person in the room."

Kid jumped at Heyes' words.

"Kid, you sure you're okay? You seem kinda jumpy – or maybe a cold or somethin's comin' on?"

Kid sighed – and shivered. "No, I don't think so. I'm tired, but I'm not. Feeling like I should be the one cleaning the guns, but I don't want to. Want to read, but can't get past the first page. What's going on?"

Heyes resumed his task. "No idea. It all seems right to me. Read out loud. I really think it'll help."

Kid pulled the blankets up a little further. Maybe the unceasing storm was unnerving him, or maybe he was just overtired. Whatever it was, he would try to put it to the back of his mind. He started to read out loud.

Heyes smiled. When Kid paused, he interjected, "I always like it when you read Tom Sawyer to me. That's my favorite book."

The levity did Kid good. He chuckled. "You mean after all those dime novels?"

Heyes answered, thoughtfully, "No. I think I like Tom Sawyer better than the dime novels."

Kid read aloud for the next fifteen minutes or so, until Heyes finished the job and cleaned up. Reaching again for Kid's saddlebags, Heyes replaced the cleaning supplies exactly to the places from whence they came. He placed the guns in their respective holsters, then yawned and stretched.

"I'm gonna hit the hay. Lookin' forward to that bath in the mornin' and a nice big breakfast."

Kid contemplated his partner. "How can you even think of breakfast at this hour of the night?"

Heyes' feelings seemed genuinely hurt. "Kid, a man's gotta eat!"

Kid just shook his head.

"And sleep … I am tired!" Yawning, Heyes stripped down to his long johns and got into bed, pulling the covers over his head. "Kid, turn down the lamp when you're done, will ya? And get some sleep … I think ya need it, bad!"

In less than five minutes, Kid heard his partner's even breathing. He was always amazed how Heyes could sleep so much. After all, Kid always did his best thinking and planning at night. He chuckled to himself at the times he would wake Heyes up from a sound sleep to tell him of some inspired thought. After all, he was a genius – albeit, right now, an uneasy one.

The blond man attempted to read, but again just stared at the pages. Scanning the room for the umpteenth time, he got up to turn down the lamp, went back to bed, and got comfortable.

* * * * *

A particularly loud series of thunder claps rolled unmercifully, jolting Kid awake. His heart racing, he sat straight up in bed. Lightning illuminated the room almost as if it were day. A creak – and another. Kid grabbed his pistol and scanned the room. He saw nothing, but felt something staring at him …

Turning, Kid aimed his gun – at his partner!

"Kid? What're ya doin'? I'd appreciate your puttin' the gun down." Heyes' calm voice was in marked contrast to his partner's agitated state.

Kid glanced at the gun in his hand, then at Heyes, then again at the gun, and lowered it. Sheepishly, "Sorry, Heyes. Thought I heard something."

"Ya did. The same thunder that woke me up must’ve woke you as well."

"No, it was more than that. Heard a creak – a few."

"The beds creak. You gotta calm down, Kid. You're spookin' me."

"Heyes, do you think this place is …?"

"Haunted? Doubt it."

"Why not? It's taken more than one match each time to light the lamp, which just blows out by itself. There's creaking in the middle of the night, the hair's standing up on the back of my neck, and I've been feeling strange ever since we stepped foot in here." Kid sighed.

Heyes sat up. The light from the storm still flickered in the room, giving it an otherworldly appearance. "Kid, there's an explanation for everything ya mention. It's drafty, so the light blows out. The bed frames creak, so that's what you’re hearin’ and thinkin’ it's somethin' else. You're nervous, so your back's up, and as for feelin' strange, I don’t know. That I can't explain, except maybe sleep'll help."

Kid holstered his Colt and slumped against the pillow. "Don't think sleep's going to agree with me tonight. Just wish the weather would let up so we can get out of here." Then, wistfully, "Although we did just get here, and I was hoping to give the poker tables a try."

"Well, Kid, I always let ya do my thinkin' for me. So, if you want to leave as soon as it clears, guess that's what we'll do." Heyes shrugged and nestled down in the bed again. "Just try to sleep, okay?" Within seconds, he was snoring softly.

Kid lay down to a fitful doze, awaking often to more thunder, creaks, and the occasional groan. He envied Heyes his seemingly peaceful rest. When dawn broke, a bright ray caught the blond man's eye. He yawned, ready for a good night's slumber, but more ready to leave. He would sleep in the saddle.

After waking Heyes, Kid wasted no time readying for the trail. Realizing his partner's need to put this town behind them, Heyes made haste as well. His bath would wait until the next town.

* * * * *

After checking out of the hotel and packing up the horses, the partners stopped for breakfast at Essy's cafe. Both hungrily eyed the menu and ordered up big meals, Kid's almost sleepless night seemingly not hindering his appetite. Indeed, he seemed decidedly calmer.

"Kid, you're in better spirits this morning than last night."

Goose bumps of a sudden appearing on his arms, the blond looked up from his food and regarded his partner. He swallowed hard. "Heyes, don't mention that word."

"What word?"

Kid whispered, "Spirits."

Heyes chuckled with realization. "You know I didn't mean it that way, Kid."

Kid's look was accusatory. "Didn't ya?"

"No, I didn't," the brown-haired partner said emphatically.

After they ate in silence for a few moments, Essy arrived with the coffee pot for a refill. After pouring, she stood by the table. "You two are such nice boys. Wish I had sons like you."

Kid smiled, while Heyes grinned and thanked her.

"You're leaving suddenly, though. Everything all right?"

Kid let Heyes take the lead. "Ma'am, everything's fine. Just have to move on."

"Well, you'll miss all the excitement. Trial's starting tomorrow. And as soon as that one's done, the other'll start right on its heels."

The partners shared a look, and gave their full attention to Essy.

Heyes asked, "Trial, ma'am?"

"Well, sure. A cowboy's accused of murdering his trail boss over at the hotel last month; his trial's first. Then there's the one of the widow charged with killing her lover, a married man with eight kids! Over at Lambert's as well. Now that's the one I'm most interested in."

"Lambert's, ma'am?" Kid asked.

"Sure, Lambert's Inn. The hotel you stayed in last night. The widow killed that man in room 14. Heard tell the poor man isn't resting in peace. But I don't believe in that kind of nonsense. Matter of fact, I heard some talk of strange doings in the hotel, but no one could rightly say what."

Kid dropped his fork.
___________________________

Author's note: The St. James Hotel, formerly Lambert's Inn, in Cimarron, New Mexico, is considered haunted. Twenty-six men were killed within its walls. The killings referenced herein are fictional.
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:43 pm

Mere Words Part II


“I’m terribly sorry to bother you at breakfast, Gentlemen.”

They both stood politely, looking into the inviting blue eyes of Tibby’s mystery huntress. Heyes’ brows gathered in curiosity. “Can we help you with something, Ma’am?”

“Oh, I do hope so. I understand that you’ve been seen in the company of a Mr. Dunbar. Do you know where I can find him?”

Kid’s face radiated with innocence. “Who?”

Irritation flared momentarily in her eyes before her seductive smolder returned. “The short tramp with grey hair - looks a bit like a turtle without its shell. You were talking to him yesterday. In fact, you had breakfast with him in here.”

Heyes scratched the side of his head thoughtfully. “I remember. He called himself Tibby. We have no idea where he is now. We just bought him breakfast because we felt sorry for him.”

“How very kind of you.” She bit gently into a rosebud lip, pulling out a chair. “May I join you for a few moments?”

Heyes gestured to the waitress to bring another coffee as they all sat, his stony face clearly signaling his displeasure at her inviting herself to their table.

“My name is Mrs. Fox, Caroline Fox. Are you in the habit of breakfasting with tramps?”

Mischief played around Heyes’ eyes. “How would you define the word ‘tramp?’ It has more than one meaning you know?”

Kid rapidly took over the conversation. “We felt sorry for him, Mrs. Fox. We’re passin’ through here lookin’ for work, and we know how it feels to be down on your luck. It was only a meal.”

“Are you still looking for work?”

Kid returned to his eggs. “Not here. We’re leavin’ town right after breakfast, Ma’am.”

“I could offer you twenty five dollars, with a further seventy five on producing Mr. Dunbar, if you’re still looking for work?”

Heyes gave her a dismissive glance. “We’re not interested.”

“Why? He clearly trusts you. He’ll talk to you.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed. “Mrs. Fox, you should know that we were smoking on the porch last night. We saw you chase him. It’s clear that he doesn’t want to see you.”

She frowned. “I must speak to him. Name your price. You just don’t have to tell him it’s me until I appear. Please?”

Heyes gave her a cold stare. “We don’t lie to people, and we certainly don’t take them anywhere they don’t want to go. We’re not the kind of men you usually do business with. We can’t help you.”

Her eyes widened. “Please help me. I have nowhere else to turn.” She dropped her head. “I’m desperate. I’d do almost anything just to spend ten minutes alone with him.”

Kid arched his brows, fixing Heyes with dancing eyes.

“Mrs. Fox, much as we appreciate the theatrics over breakfast, you should know that we heard you last night. You wanted him killed. In fact, you said you were prepared to do it yourself. We’re doing our best to behave like gentlemen,” Heyes stood, dismissing her, “but we are leaving town.”

She remained seated, stubbornly drumming her fingers on the table. “How much will it take?”

Kid pushed himself to his feet, throwing down his napkin. “I don’t think you’re much for listenin’, Ma’am. We ain’t interested, and if you won’t go, we will.”

“Wait!” There was a hint of desperation in her voice. “What did you hear?”

Heyes folded his arms. “You said that your two gunmen were useless. You wanted them to bring him to you and then you’d kill him yourself.”

She nodded, turning from one to the other. “Yes. Haven’t you ever said you’d kill anyone? It’s just an expression, but God knows he’d drive a saint to murder. He’s my father and he’s... well, eccentric. I only want to talk to him. Maybe I can get him to listen to reason and come home. You must have someone in your life you’ve said you’d kill – someone who just drives you mad. Please! I’m begging you. Just bring him for one conversation. I won’t force him anywhere. How could I? I’m only a woman.”

Heyes paused. “Your father?”

“Yes!” Her eyes filled with tears. “Why else would I be searching for him? How many young women do you know who are desperately hunting for a middle-aged tramp? Please? If you doubt me, you can stay to make sure he’s safe. I only want to talk to him – after all, there’s nothing I can do if he prefers living rough.”

“Why would he prefer to live like that?” Kid asked, cautiously.

“Who knows? He ran a successful business importing haberdashery from Europe, but he had heart trouble and his partners forced him to retire. His work was his life,” she dabbed at her eyes with a lace trimmed handkerchief, “but he felt useless and went into some kind of crisis.” She stretched out a hand, clutching Kid’s forearm. “Please. He’s not well. Let me talk to him at least. What will it take?”

Heyes scratched his chin. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fox, but that may, or may not, be true. It’s just not what we do. We can’t help.”

She nodded determinedly. “Fifty dollars - with one hundred and fifty dollars more when you bring him to me.” She paused, eyeing them carefully. “Please? If he doesn’t want to come home, you can make sure he can leave. Two hundred dollars for the easiest work you’ve ever done in your life. What do you say?”

**********

“I thought we didn’t work for the likes of her,” Kid muttered. “Since when were our principles for sale?”

“Probably the day we decided to work instead of steal. Ironic, huh?” Heyes shrugged. “It’s autumn. This money’ll see us through the winter without sleeping rough – besides, we’re only going to persuade him to meet with her. We’ll make sure nobody forces him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

“Tibby doesn’t want to see her. Doesn’t that count?”

“Maybe he doesn’t now, but he will. All I need is half an hour with him.”

Kid groaned. “And if he refuses?”

“I’ll persuade him. Trust me, this’ll be easy money.”

Kid sucked in a breath. “Easy? Since when was anythin’ ever easy when there’s money involved?”

Heyes grimaced uncomfortably. “It’s only for a visit. They clear the air, we get paid, and Tibby goes back to doing exactly what he wants to do. Everybody wins.”

“I don’t like this, Heyes. He won’t do it, and you ain’t good when you meet someone as stubborn as you are.”

“Just because my way’s better doesn’t make me stubborn.”

“He ain’t gonna do it, Heyes. We should just leave town and leave them to it.”

“I thought you’d be keen to help out a damsel in distress.”

Kid shook his head ruefully. “The only folks who seem to be in any distress are the ones around her. We should keep right out of this. I don’t like this one little bit.”

“This isn’t like you. You’re usually doing your best to talk me into helping a woman.”

“This is different. We both saw her last night.” Kid’s blue eyes gazed into the middle distance. “There’s an edge to her."

**********

Tibby started to his feet, knocking over the bottle of ginger beer which oozed into the grassy bank. He stretched out a hand and quickly snatched it up. “Where did you two spring from?”

Kid’s eyes wandered lazily over the bread and cheese, laid out on an almost clean looking handkerchief. “We wanted a word. The man at the store told us he’d sold you some food. Where’d you get the money, Tibby?”

The little man scowled, his mobile forehead wrinkling into an irascible knot. “None of your business. What do you want?”

“We wanted to give you this.” Heyes held out a slim package, the grease on the paper betraying the fact that there was some kind of treat concealed in its layers. “When they told us you’d bought bread, cheese, and ginger beer, Thaddeus suggested that some fresh pie would go with it very nicely. He’s always had an eye for good food combinations, has our Thaddeus.”

Tibby fixed the package with hungry eyes. “Pie?”

“Apple. It’s real good.” Heyes held it higher.

“Why?”

Heyes watched the tramp simmer with suspicion. “You didn’t ask that when we saved you from being thrown in the river, gave you a bed for the night, or bought you breakfast.”

“Nope, but this is different. You want something.”

Heyes twinkled engagingly. “Tibby, I’m so disappointed in you. What could we possibly want?”

“Suppose you just tell me?” Tibby sat back down on the grass. “I’m too old for guessing games. There’s no such thing as charity. It always comes with a proviso – stop drinking, go to church, turn up for work – all completely unreasonable demands.”

Heyes, sat beside him, fixing him with twinkling eyes. “Fine. We met Mrs. Fox today – in fact she made a point of coming to see us.” He tilted his head. “We know who you are, Tibby. We know who she is too, and she wants to see you.”

Surprise flickered over his face. “She did? This is all about her, you must realise that.”

Heyes nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure it is, but that’s not why I’m asking you to meet her. We helped you, we think you owe us a small favour.”

Tibby lifted the cheese, festooning his sandwich liberally. “You’ve come bearing bribes. It can’t be that insignificant.”

“A slice of pie is just a sweetener. Just meet her. You and her, in a hotel room for a chat. We’ll make sure you can leave afterwards. I promise.”

Tibby’s round eyes glittered like wet pebbles. “You’re giving me you word, Joshua?”

“I sure am – and that means something to me, Tibby.”

The little tramp chewed pensively. “What’s in it for you?”

“Money. The easiest money we’ll make in a long time.” Heyes smiled engagingly. “Go on. Just sit in a room with her. You don’t have to say a word.”

“She won’t be happy with that. Are you kidding?”

“It may be harsh, but I don’t really care if she’s happy or not. The deal was to take you to her. I don’t care if you refuse to open your mouth. That wasn’t part of the deal.”

Tibby took another bite of his sandwich, looking up at Kid standing beside him. “So that’s it? Just sit in a room with her and you promise to make sure I can leave?” He shook his head. “The only problem is, there’s nothing in it for me - is there?”

Kid arched his eyebrows. “What’ll it take?”

A plump little hand darted out, filching the pie. “Nothing. I can’t be bought, Gentlemen. I’m not going. I’m sorry about your money, but I’m too busy.”

Kid folded his arms. “Aw, come on, Tibby. We helped you - we even saved your ungrateful, little neck. What difference does it make to you?”

“Don’t get me wrong, Thaddeus. I am truly grateful, but you’re talking about shutting me in a room with that viper. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.”

Kid folded his arms. “What way is that to talk about your daughter? She’s worried about you.”

“Daughter? Her!? If I’d ever spawned that vixen, I’d get myself fixed.” His eyes narrowed suspiciously, “I thought you said she’d told you who she was.”

The partners exchanged a glance. “She said you were her father. Why? Just who are you?” muttered Kid.

Tibby tucked away the last of his repast before delicately dusting around his mouth with his fingertips. “Keep away from her. She’ll eat you alive.”

Heyes let out a huff of impatience. “Tibby, I don’t care who anybody is. I want to make some money and leave town. Is that too much to ask?”

Tibby nodded. “It sure is, when I’m to be treated like a tethered goat.”

Heyes stood decisively. “Then you leave us no choice. I’m sorry about this, Tibby.”

Uncertainty played around the cornflower blue eyes. “If you try to force me anywhere I’ll scream bloody murder! I’ll have the law on you.”

“Scream?” Heyes chided. “What kind of man are you?”

“One who’s determined to live life on his own terms, and I don’t care if you look at me as though I’m a coward. If you try to drag me anywhere I’ll have you up for kidnapping.”

“But we’re taking you to the law, Tibby. I’d doubt the sheriff will see that as kidnapping.”

Kid darted a look at his cousin, but kept silent, keen to see where this was going.

“Why!?”

“You damaged that man’s wall. I’m sure he’ll identify you too. That’s criminal damage – you’ll have to pay for it or put it right.” Heyes folded his arms. “A nice little town like this sure won’t take kindly to vagrants messing up the place.”

Tibby simmered with doubt. “You avoid the law. You were worried about what they might think.”

The smile dimpled beneath unreadable eyes. “Nope. There are many professional reasons why men might want to keep a low profile, but that doesn’t mean we’re avoiding the law. You’ve got a choice, Tibby. Go and meet Mrs. Fox, or go and meet the sheriff.”

“You’re bluffing.”

“Thaddeus, you take one arm, I’ll take the other...”

“This is an outrage! That man was threatening me and I merely found a non-violent response.”

Kid’s hand curled around the plump little arm. “Yeah Tibby, you’re a regular Quaker. I’m sure the sheriff will love to hear your sermon on the mount. You can tell him while you’re re-paintin’ the wall.”

“This is blackmail!”

Heyes tutted. “That’s such a nasty word. Try to think of it as a negotiation – one you lost.”

“You can’t turn me in. I can’t be arrested.”

Heyes grabbed the other arm. “I don’t like to correct a man’s grammar, but I think you mean you ‘shouldn’t.’ You clearly can... In fact, you very soon will be.”

Tibby dug in his heels. “Fine! I’ll go. I’ll see her.” He fixed them with furious eyes. “You have no idea what you’re asking me to do.”

Heyes grinned. “We’re asking you to spend some time with an attractive, young woman. You’re blowing things out of all proportion. Try to keep things in perspective.”

“Perspective? You’re making me choose between bad or worse. I won’t forget this. You have my word on that!”

oooOOOooo

Kid’s hard knuckle rapped on the door, which opened to a pair of sparkling, blue eyes. “You brought him? You’re just the cleverest men, aren’t you?” She stepped back to welcome them into the room. “Father... How are you?”

“Save it, Callie. These men were good to me and deserve the money you offered, pay them,” growled Tibby.

“Once we’ve had our little chat.”

Blue eyes met brown before Heyes spoke with calm coldness. “No, Mrs. Fox, the deal was to bring him. We did that, so we want our money,” two pairs of arms folded in unison. “Now.”

She paused, watching Kid systematically check out the room to make sure she was alone. “I paid you to bring him for a chat.”

“No. The deal was to bring him, we didn’t guarantee anything more than that. We want our money Mrs. Fox,” Heyes laid a proprietorial hand on Tibby’s shoulder, “and he’s not your father, either. Now, we want to be paid and won’t tolerate being lied to.”

She bit into her lip, calculating eyes assessing her opponents. “You’ll leave us alone?”

“In the name of all that’s holy, Callie,” snapped Tibby. “We both know what you want to talk about, just pay the men. I want to get on with my day!”

oooOOOooo

Kid was thoroughly fed up. He sat staring at the hotel dining room, trying to decipher his way through the fine line between boredom and hunger, before the waitress walked over and shut the door. The lunch rush was over and the sign dangling from the handle proclaimed it closed until dinner time. He stirred, prodding his cousin with a long finger. “Are you just gonna sit there readin’?”

A pair of dark eyes flicked up. “What else is there to do? We’re waiting for Tibby. I gave him my word we’d take him out of here.”

“You could talk to me,” Kid leaned forward and dropped his voice. “What do you think is goin’ on here?”

Heyes shrugged, glancing around the hotel lobby. “Who knows?”

“Aren’t you even curious?”

“Sure I am, but we’ll be out of here real soon.” Heyes returned to his book. “If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s to keep my nose out other people’s business. It only leads to problems.”

Kid gave a snort of irritation and kicked lightly at the foot Heyes had propped on his knee. “So? Who are they? She’s not his daughter.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s the father of her child? Or have you considered the possibility that she’s running for president and he knows all her dirty secrets?”

Kid’s lips firmed into a line. “If you ain’t goin’ to be serious there’s no point in this conversation.”

“I’m glad you agree.” Heyes arched his brows and returned to his book, only to endure another kick. “WHAT!?”

“What’re you readin’?”

Heyes snapped his book closed.

“Moby Dick.”

“What’s it about?”

“A whale.”

“Like a big fish?”

“Mammal.”

“Huh?”

“A mammal... like us. It’s not a fish.”

Kid stared at the illustration on the cover. “There’s a person in the water? Does the fish eat him?”

Heyes sighed. “No. It’s about destructive obsession,” he rolled his eyes, “like you and this pair.”

Kid tossed the book aside. “Shame. I might have read that if the fish ate Moby... Now back to my point, what’s goin’ on?”

“Thaddeus, they could be runaways from the circus for all I care. For once in our lives, we got paid, and we’ll be out of here soon.”

“How long do we wait? It’s been forty five minutes.”

Dark eyes drifted up to the ceiling, contemplating the room above them. “We could go up now. They’ve had more than enough time.”

oooOOOooo

There was no answer at the door.

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance and knocked again. Nothing.

“Mrs. Fox? Tibby?” called Kid.

Silence.

They knocked again.

“They didn’t come a past us.” Kid darted a quizzical look at Heyes. “They must still be in there.” He stretched out a hand and turned the brass knob. His stomach turned over, completely unprepared for the scene unfolding behind the slowly opening door.

The room was awash with blood – splattered over furniture, walls, and fabrics. Gouts of gore lay littered on the floor, and adhered to the wall behind the bundle of bloody petticoats in the corner. Tibby lay unconscious near the door, a knife near his hand, his drenched clothes stained red.

“Dear God!” exclaimed Heyes, his eyes drawn to the intestines strewn on the floor near what looked like half a kidney. “Tibby! What the hell have you done!?”



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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:59 pm

While going through some old stories in an effort to pin down a bunny for this month's topic, I came across this one from the 12/10 Snow challenge, which fits this month's prompt and will now not leave my head. Hoping re-posting it will get it off the brain and spur another idea for real. Hope no one minds.

Saddle Talk: Snow Bounty

“Heyes, how many days we been on the trail? I’m losin’ track of time.”

“Don’t know, Kid – I’ve lost track of time. Must be three weeks or more.”

“Feels like longer…The ground’s gettin’ harder, or I’m gettin’ older.”

“We’re all gettin’ older, Kid. Not many options with no money.”

“Somethin’s gotta turn up.”

“Sure hope so.”

“Heyes, what’s that sign say? Kinda smeared over.”

“Let’s take a closer look…Is it ‘Boun-ti-ful?’ Must be.”

“Bountiful. Nice name. Suppose it’s brimmin’ over with bounty?”

“Maybe, but hopefully not the kind on our heads.”

“Funny, Heyes, ‘cept I’m not laughin’.”

“Wasn’t meant to be funny, Kid. But don’t hurt none to check it out.”

“Maybe we can get a room and bath.”

“Doubt it, Kid – but it is a nice thought, and we can always wish.”

“Wishin’s not gonna get us a roof over our heads, Heyes. Money is, and that we don’t have.”

“That’s right -- only two dollars and eighty-seven cents between us. The pickin’s would be pretty slim even if we could find somethin’ – but maybe we could spend the night at the livery with the horses. It’s a roof.”

“Not quite what I had in mind, Heyes. But, who knows -- maybe we’ll get lucky in the land of bounty. Jerky might even taste good if I wasn’t covered in trail dust.”

“Kid, if we could get a roof over our heads for four bits a night, we could stop. But I think that’s so much wishful thinking.”

“Two dollars and eighty-seven cents, huh? We could blow the whole wad on a cheap hotel room and the livery for a night…But we’d still be eatin’ jerky…”

“Kid, I thought jerky wasn’t the problem.”

“It isn’t. Can only take it for so long, though.”

“Fresh game has been scarce…”

“Yeah, tell me somethin’ I don’t know, Heyes! I’m the one’s not been able to find it.”

“Losin’ your touch, Kid.”

“Hardly, Heyes. More like it’s gettin’ colder, and the game’s burrowin’ in for the winter.”

“Maybe we should take a hint.”

“A hint? Ya mean these flurries ain’t enough of a hint? Headin’ south don’t seem to be solvin’ the problem!”

“Don’t have to get proddy, Kid! When we’re so far north, it takes a while to get south enough to leave the cold behind.”

“Sorry, Heyes. Ya know, though, it is kinda peaceful.”

“What is? The town? Looks peaceful enough.”

“No, Heyes. The snow.”

“The snow? Yeah, I suppose it is -- kinda.”

“Not kinda. It just is. Snow is peaceful – when there’s not a lot of wind, anyway.”

“Okay, Kid, it can be, but there’s too little of it right now to tell.”

“What’s the need to measure it, Heyes? It’s snowin’, and it’s peaceful.”

“And cold…”

“Well, of course, it’s cold! It’s snowin’!”

“We both hate the cold, Kid. In case you forgot, that’s why we’re headed south.”

“I ain’t forgot. Just want a soft bed …”

“I know, and a bath and something to eat that ain’t jerky!”

“Now who’s gettin’ proddy, Heyes?”

“Sorry, Kid. But, ya know, we have to make a decision. It’s startin’ to snow. It could keep up, and we hafta hole up here with no money, or we keep going, trying to make tracks, and possibly get caught in a blizzard.”

“Let’s take our chances here, Heyes. Do we know a Sheriff Dave Smithers?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Soundin’ good. Maybe our luck’s about to change.”

“Or the season, anyway.”

“Heyes, what say we stop?”

“Nice thought, Kid, but what do we do after a night and it keeps snowing, and we can’t leave?”

“Good question, Heyes. But the way I see it, worse thing is they throw us in jail until the snow stops for vagrancy. A bed and three squares sounds mighty temptin’.”

“And just might get Sheriff Dave Smithers’ getting ideas.”

“Or not, Heyes. You’re a gambler. Which odds do ya like better – the snow, or, worse case, gettin’ thrown in jail?”

“Well, puttin’ it that way, Kid, I’m not gonna bet against the snow – too unpredictable. Guess we stay here and hope the townspeople share the bounty with two down-on-our-luck strangers. Who knows? Might even get lucky and land an odd job to pay for our keep.”

“That’s the spirit, Heyes! Luck of the righteous, in the season of peace.”

“Season of peace? You mean, Christmas?”

“Sure, Heyes. That fella over there just said, ‘Merry Christmas’ to the other gent. Must be Christmas day.”

“Maybe, Kid... Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Heyes...So we’ll stop?”

“Yup, I’m liking the odds more and more.”
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:13 pm

This a continuation of the Tibby story. If you want to catch up with it, part one is on September's challenge 'Defensive Position' and part two is in this overspill area.


Mere Words (part 3)



The Kid raised his head from the bunk and peered at Tibby’s scrubbed figure being carried into the cell next to theirs. He was starting to come round, probably prompted by the buckets of water they had heard sloshing over him in the backyard, and the vigorous scrubbing, removing every trace of the blood and gore from his corpulent little frame. It was a pink, polished, and punch-drunk hobo who was deposited on the bunk on the other side of the bars from the partners. He had been dressed in a shabby shirt and dungarees from the church welfare’s box of cast-off clothes, his stubby feet buried in clothing far too long for him.

“Sheriff, why have we been locked up?” Heyes fixed the lawman with his most angelic look. “We were only paid to find a tramp for a lady who said her father had taken to the road. We’re innocent bystanders. We called you!”

“I ain’t ever seen anythin’ like it,” snarled the grizzled lawman. “The place was a bloodbath.

Nobody’s goin’ anywhere until I find out what’s goin’ on.” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Sheriff’s still over there with the doc. I’m the deputy.”

“His deputy?” The Kid raised quizzical eyebrows. “Ain’t they usually young fellas startin’ their career? You’re a bit long in the tooth for this job, ain’t you?”

He shook his grey head. “I’ve been the deputy here for nigh on thirty years, son. I ain’t got no wish to be sheriff – they get shot at, get punches thrown at them, and the last I saw of the latest, he was pickin’ up intestines and puttin’ them into a bucket. Now, why d’you think I’d want to do a damn fool job like that?”

The Kid chuckled. “I see. I guess you’re lucky you got a boss who doesn’t make you do the dirty work.”

The deputy gave a cunning glint. “What? With my back? He could try, I guess, but Gus Tallmadge has forgotten more wrinkles than he’ll ever know.”

The door opened and the sheriff walked in carrying a galvanized bucket. “Offal!” he announced, dropping it on the desk with a clatter.

“It sure is awful,” Gus nodded. “I ain’t ever seen the likes of it in my life.”

A man in a black suit closed the door to the sheriff’s office behind him. “No – it’s offal. It came from a pig.”

Gus gave the growth of stubble on his chin a rasping scratch. “That ain’t no way to talk about that poor woman, Doc!”

The doctor dropped his hat on the desk and perched beside the bucket. “No. It’s offal, the innards of a pig. It’s not human. It looks fairly close, but I dissected enough of them when I was a young student to know the difference.” He arched his eyebrows in query, scrutinizing the men in the cells. “There’s no body either. Would any of you care to tell us what the Sam Hill is goin’ on here?”

Heyes grasped the bars and pressed his face between them. “No body, but what about the pile of clothes in the corner?”

“That’s exactly what it was, son.” The sheriff folded his arms. “A pile of clothes, covered in intestines, blood, bits of pig’s innards – then at least a bucketful was thrown around the room for good measure. It was a set up. Now - I got an angry hotel owner who wants someone to pay for the damage, and I also got you three. Start talkin’. What’s goin’ on?”

Heyes threw up his hands in resignation. “We have no idea. A Mrs. Fox said her father had some kind of breakdown, and was living as a tramp.” He pointed at Tibby. “She wanted us to persuade him to meet her so she could talk sense into him. That’s it. That’s all we know. We went to the room after a while and found him unconscious; we found the mess too. We’re innocent bystanders – we are the ones who called for the law, after all.”

“The old man’s not injured,” the doctor murmured. “I think he’s been drugged, judging by his pupils, his pulse rate, and the fact that his snoring sounds like a rutting boar stuck down a well. Let’s see what he’s got to say when he wakes up.”

oooOOOooo

Tibby’s consciousness ebbed and flowed until he was more in the land of the living than the land of Nod. His bloodshot eyes flickered open, only to find himself staring into a pair of hostile dark eyes. He would have preferred the intense dark eyes to be much further away than the next cell, but right now the convenient barrier of a set of bars would have to do.

Tibby shook his head but the throbbing pain, moving in his head like the clapper of a dissonant bell, convinced him that staying still was a better idea.

“Tibby!” Heyes hissed. “I don’t take kindly to being thrown in a prison cell for no good reason. Have you got that?” Tibby groaned and pulled the thin pillow over his face, only to find it dragged through the bars to the next cell. “We took you to that hotel room, and stayed to make sure you got out of there, because I gave you my word. The next thing we knew, Mrs. Fox had disappeared, and the place was like an abattoir.”

The Kid’s voice drifted in from behind Heyes. “You can’t hide in there forever, Tibby. The sheriff’s wantin’ answers too.” Tibby closed his eyes, only opening them at the simultaneously unsettling and comforting words from the Kid. “Mrs. Fox has gone, so we’ll have to look after you now. My friend here will confirm that we ain’t never used fake blood. Isn’t that right, Joshua?”

“Never, we’re sticklers for realism,” Heyes agreed. “So, what are you going to tell the sheriff?”

Tibby took a deep breath. “Can you two keep a secret?”

Heyes narrowed his eyes. “Yes, but in your case we’ll make an exception. You’re trouble, Tibby, and the sooner we can put some distance between us and you the better I’ll like it, but we have unfinished business right now.”

“You got paid, didn’t you?” Tibby whined.

Heyes turned and leaned his back against the bars. “We want to know what you’re going to do to make this up to us.” He paused letting his words sink in. “And make no mistake – you will.”

“I didn’t do this. Callie did,” Tibby protested, weakly.

“Callie? Mrs. Fox?” Heyes shrugged. “You know her well, and you knew what was going on, but did you warn us?”

“I warned you over and over again, but it didn’t make any difference. You wanted the money!”

“That ain’t what we want any more,” muttered the Kid, joining Heyes on the bed and pressing his back on the bars towards Tibby’s helpless frame.

Gus wandered over, alerted by the voices. “So, you’re up? You want some coffee and then, maybe, you can tell us what’s goin’ on?”

Tibby nodded meekly.

The lawman’s eyes narrowed, glancing at the couple in the next cell. “Have they been givin’ you a hard time?” Hurt glittered in the innocent brown and blues in the next cell, clearly miffed at such an unjust accusation. Gus grinned at the partners. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did. You ain’t a part of this or you wouldn’t have called the law. You’d better come up with some good answers, old man. The manager of the hotel ain’t pleased at the mess in his room.”

Heyes gave their jailer his most innocent smile. “Any chance we could get some of that coffee too?”

oooOOOooo

Tibby sat in his cell cradling the coffee, having been fully appraised of what had happened after he had lapsed into unconsciousness. “Tell the manager of the hotel, the damages will be paid for.”

Gus gave a mighty guffaw. “Oh yeah? Do you expect us to release you on that? A vagrant says he’s got the money to redecorate a room, so we just accept that?”

“I’m not a vagrant.” Tibby raised the cup drinking deeply. “I’m a writer, posing as a tramp for a story; what it’s like to be a knight of the road, how folks treat you – that sort of thing.”

The deputy frowned. “You got anyone who can back that up?”

“My editor. Send a telegram to Charles Miller in New York. He’ll confirm and pick up the bill.”

“So what was all that about? Why were all those pig innards spilled all over the place,” demanded Heyes, leaning on the bars of his cell.

“I’m working on a story, and so is Callie - the same one; and she’ll to anything to get there first. She had been travelling dressed as a boy, and obviously thought she could beat me to publication if I was locked up.” Tibby shook his grey head. “She’s ruthless, and known for it. I didn’t want to see her. But you boys had been kind to me and she was paying you to bring me to her. I thought it was a good way to repay your goodness.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance, knowing that kindness played little or no part in Tibby’s decision to see Mrs. Fox.

“It would seem that she drugged me and messed up the room, hoping that I’d be inconvenienced in custody for long enough to give her enough advantage to scoop the story.” Tibby twinkled as engagingly as he could, raising his little, turtle head. “She’s a mad-woman, but there’s no real damage done, not if the room’s paid for.”

Heyes folded his arms. “And why should we accept your word for this?”

“Nobody was hurt. We know that – and the damage will be rectified.”

Gus scratched his face. “What is this story?”

Tibby turned oval, blue eyes on the group in turn. “Hey, she hasn’t published yet, and needed information from me; so she isn’t doing so great. If you think I’m putting the story out there to let someone else get it, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“So that’s why she wanted to see you? To check what information you had?” Heyes frowned. “Something doesn’t add up here. She must have known you wouldn’t tell her – not if you’re rivals.”

Tibby scowled at him. “She mostly wanted to do something to get me locked up, and stop me from continuing my work. It would seem that she achieved her ends – for now.”

Heyes folded his arms. “Who do you write for? I’ve never heard Tiberius Dunbar – with or without an ‘F.’”

“I write under a pseudonym. Have you ever heard of ‘Dogberry?’”

Heyes’ jaw dropped open. “I sure have! You’re Dogberry?”

Gus and the Kid exchanged a glance. “Dogberry? That sounds more like a mongrels leavin’s than some fine writer,” the deputy grinned at Tibby. “What d’you write about?”

“Social injustice mostly.” Tibby bridled at the lawman. “And Dogberry is a Shakespearean character from ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’”

“Much Ado About Nothin’, is it?” Gus chortled. “That kinda sums up what’s gone on today – somethin’ and nuthin’. We all thought a mad axeman was on the loose, now it seems more like a pair of prissy writers havin’ a hissy fit.” The deputy shook his head. “Well, we’d better get that telegram sent, so we can get you all outta here. I’ve got a woman comin’ round.”

“Chloroform wearing off, deputy?” muttered Tibby.

“Huh?”

“Ignore him, Gus. He could cause a fight in an empty house.” The Kid glared at Tibby. “And you – try to keep out of trouble, at least until we get outta here!”

oooOOOooo

Heyes and Tibby sat back to back in their respective cells, leaning on the bars separating the ex-outlaw leader from his current source of irritation; but what annoyed him most was the curiosity worming through his anger. There was a lot more to this story, and he wanted to know what that was in spite of himself. He picked at the meal on the tin plate, before setting it aside, his mind gyrating with speculation.

The Kid picked up what looked like a piece of leather, eyeing it with disdain. “This is the toughest chicken I’ve ever had in my life. I’m expectin’ it to call me out for a fight any minute now.”

Heyes cleared his throat. “Let’s have it, Tibby. What’s really going on?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Tibby, We’re going to get out of here sometime, probably very soon. You haven’t told the half of it. Are you really Dogberry?”

“Yup.”

“The man who wrote the exposé on corruption in the orphanages?”

“You mean, the children being forced to do piece-work for money which went straight into the staff’s pockets, as well as the substandard food served?”

Heyes nodded. At least he seemed to know some of Dogberry’s work. “What else have you written?”

“Don’t get me started. There were the mental hospitals, the building contracts for sale, the bridge in New York which collapsed – after the officials took a cut to keep quiet about cheap materials being used, children being sold like livestock – you name it.”

“Well, I’ve got to admit- you seem to know Dogberry’s work.” Heyes turned to look at the little man. “So who’s Callie? I’ve never heard of Mrs. Fox.”

Tibby flicked his head round to give an impish glint. “You don’t think either of us can post those stories under our real names, do you? We’d never be able to infiltrate anywhere again. Callie – Mrs. Fox – writes under the name of Calliope; the name of the goddess of epic poetry.” Tubby gave a sigh. “If you ask me she should write under the name of Nemesis – the Greek goddess of revenge. That’d be nearer the mark.”

Heyes tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling while he processed this information. Calliope and Dogberry were certainly rivals, and their respective newspapers played that up in order to whip up a following, and show that each had a bigger social conscience than the other. “So, just why was Calliope – Callie – chasing you, and why did she have men out to get you?”

“Mr. Smith, do you really think I’m going to share everything with a man who has already been employed by my biggest rival?”

Heyes’ voice became serious. “Yes, Tibby, I do. Let me remind you, we’ll be out of here soon and I want answers as to why I’ve been locked up. You can tell me here, or you can tell me out there somewhere – but make no mistake. I want to know what you got us mixed up in. Neither you, nor your writing buddy, seem to care too much what you have to do; results are all that matter.”

Tibby placed his plate on the floor of the cell. “Yes, I get results, thanks for the compliment.”

“Tibby, I’m not complimenting you; I’m threatening you.” Heyes turned fixing the small man with a harsh glare. “This is nothing to do with a ‘Knight of the Road’ piece. What did you, and your arch enemy, get us mixed up in?”

Tibby smiled, glad yet again that there were bars between him and these imposing men. “You’re a smart man, Mr. Smith. It’s just a shame you weren’t smart enough to pick a better alias.”

Heyes stood, facing Tibby through the bars. “The world’s full of people called Smith. It’s a common name for a reason.” He folded his arms. “The truth, Tibby; Dogberry doesn’t do quaint, folksy tales. He does cutting exposés and investigations, and in order to do that you have to get down and dirty. What did you get us mixed up in?”

Tibby sighed, glancing surreptitiously at the deputy, reading a dime novel with his feet up in the desk. He stuck his face through the bars. “I don’t suppose there’s any harm in telling you. There are men going missing in droves around here, and the authorities just don’t seem to care. That’s why I was pretending to be a tramp, the men who disappeared were homeless drifters,” Tibby smiled, his eyebrows arching with sudden inspiration. “Like you two...”

A pair of cornflower-blue eyes slid slyly from one partner to the other. “My cover’s blown here, but you two could work for me. You could mess up, grow beards – you could make great tramps, and no one would recognize you. Are you looking for easy money, boys?”

“What do you mean? I ain’t a tramp – I’m real careful with my appearance,” the Kid blustered, pointing at Heyes. “Look at my hat, then look at the state of his. If anyone should play a tramp it should be him. We got these at the same time, and all I’ve changed was the band. He had those holes within months.”

Tibby snickered. “I’ll pay real good money, how about it, boys? Once my editor gets the hotel bill sorted you’ll know I’m who I really say I am.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance. “Yeah? So, we look like the kind of folks who’re disappearin’ in droves, and work with two of the slipperiest, weasels we ever met.” The Kid folded his arms. “Danger on all sides. What could go wrong?”

“Weasels?” Heyes shook his head. “That’s unfair to the beasts. I’ve read about this new journalism, and the people who are involved in it; as virtuous as a buzz saw in a kindergarten. We all know how much your word’s worth. Don’t we, Tibby? How can we possibly work with you?”


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:22 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:04 pm

Love the new Tibby story! I'm going to have to pay more attention to the over flow area, I've been missing some good ones here! As usual; too many great lines to quote them all, but---He could cause a fight in an empty room!' or something like that! Got a real chuckle. Where in the world do you find the time for all this!?

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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:00 am

I hope no one minds. This was my first ASJ fanfic and I thought it fit this month's prompt. It's titled "Ruffing It" on my fanfic account.

oooOOOoo

"Is he still following?"

"I can't tell…oh wait! There he is."

"Shoot! Does he ever give up?"

The brown-haired ex-outlaw kicked his horse into a gallop. His partner raced close behind on his own mount. Their horses charged up the hill and through the trees. The creatures' mighty hooves pounded the earth and crushed the pine needles on the forest floor.

Hannibal Heyes' black hat hung by its stampede string; his hair whip

ped back in the wind. Kid Curry's blue shirt was soaking with sweat. Ringlets of wet, blonde curls were pasted onto his brow.

They reined their horses into a stream bubbling merrily through the woods. The pair rode on in the water, in an attempt to cut off their tracks. After riding a ways in the cool water, they left the stream, urging their horses onward and deeper into the forest.

They rode on for a while not speaking. Fifteen minutes later they slowed their horses to a trot. Both man and beast panted. Heyes undid his neckerchief and wiped the sweat from his face.

"Do you reckon we lost him, Heyes?" Kid asked. He was fanning his shirt, trying to cool off.

His partner shook his head. "I dunno, Kid," he panted a reply.

"Maybe we oughta give up. He's been so determined for the last three days an-"

"Give up?! Are you nuts, Kid? I'm not giving up to-to-to that!" Heyes snapped.

"Well, it was just a thought."

"Yeah? Well, quit thinkin'. That's my job."

Kid chose to ignore that remark, though his icy blue eyes fixed on Heyes for but a second. He looked over his shoulder and then back at Heyes. "What do you reckon we oughta do then, oh wise and mighty thinker?" He asked sarcastically. Hey, could he help it if Heyes thought he was so smart all the time?

"We need to keep riding." Heyes nudged his horse into a canter.

"But, Heyes-!" Kid stopped and growled in frustration. He hurried to catch up with Heyes.

They rode on until sunset and after Heyes had led them in several circles and up more streams, they made camp. No fire, of course.

"No fire?! But, Heyes, I'm hungry!" Kid protested.

"You're always hungry. Now shut up and eat your jerky." Heyes glanced up at Kid and was amused at the sight of his cousin shooting daggers with his eyes. When Kid stomped off toward where his horse was tethered, Heyes allowed himself a small smile. (And my goodness what a smile! Just look at that, ladies!)

Kid returned a short while later carrying his saddlebags. And grumbling. He threw down his saddlebags and sat down on his bedroll, glaring at Heyes with his signature Curry stare. He took a vicious bite of his jerky and continued glaring. (Nobody messes with a Kid who has an empty stomach, eh?)

Heyes glared back for a moment before shifting uncomfortably under the cold eyes. "Look, Kid, this isn't entirely my fault. You were the one who-" He stopped when he heard a rustling in the bushes. "You hear that?" Heyes whispered. Kid nodded. In an instant, Heyes was on his feet and walking quickly to his still saddled horse.

"Wai' a mi'ute!" Kid tried to protest through the jerky in his mouth. Heyes was already on his horse. Kid growled and quickly grabbed his bedroll and saddlebags. The disgruntled partner mounted up and took off after Heyes.

A moment later, the abandoned camp was still and silent. There was nothing but the sounds of the forest…and an intruder who stepped into the clearing. A pair of brown eyes scanned the scene before him. Boot- and hoof- prints were there on the ground. A mark on the dirt where a bedroll had been lain and then picked up in a hurry. The eyes rested on a piece of jerky left behind in his quarry's haste. He picked it up and then followed the tracks of Kid Curry's and Hannibal Heyes' horses…

It was dark and Kid was riding his horse just in front of Heyes'. He was tired and hungry and cold. His stomach rumbled in protest. Did he mention hungry? He was sick and tired of running. Sick and tired of Heyes' brilliant plans. Sick and tired of his partner chattering away behind him. Sick and tired of- well, he was just plain 'sick and tired'. His mind made up, he reined his horse to a sudden stop making Heyes' horse squeal, not expecting it.

"Hey! What's the big idea?!" Heyes yelled from his saddle. He righted himself after falling onto his horse's neck.

"Heyes."

Heyes cocked his head slightly. He didn't like that tone of voice. "Kid, I don't like that tone of voice you're using." (See?)

"This is stupid."

"Stupid! But I'm just tryin' to-"

"We're gonna stop this right here and now." Kid dismounted and walked over to Heyes' horse. "Get off your horse, Heyes."

Heyes mouth gaped. "Get off? Now, c'mon, Kid. You and I both know that-Woah!" He landed on the ground with a thud. "Now why'd you do that for?!"

"Because we're stopping and we're gonna make camp. And I'm gonna sit down and light me a fire and we're both gonna sit down and eat supper. A nice warm supper. And then we're goin' to go to sleep." Kid's voice was calm and cool.

"But he's bound to catch up any minute-"

"I don't care!"

"Well I do!"

"You wanna make somethin' of it?"

"Yeah! Yeah, I do!" Heyes balled his fists but Kid landed the first he tackled Heyes and they landed in a heap. Pretty soon they were both rolling on the ground; clouds of dust forming around them. It wasn't until their horses neighed and began to stomp their hooves that they stopped. Breathing hard, they both lay on their bellies facing the forest and listening.

"It's him! Oh no! I'm outta here!" Heyes started to get up and make for his horse when Kid pulled him back down on the ground. "Oof!"

"No. We're stayin' right here." (See, Heyes? I told you shouldn't mess with him when he's hungry.)

There it was! In the brush! A rustling in the leaves and it was coming in fast. There, the bush a few feet away wiggled and-

"Bark, bark!" A little black nose poked out of the bush and was quickly followed by a fluffy white body. Well, it was mostly white. It's legs and underbelly were covered in mud and it's long fluffy tail had leaves stuck in it.

Heyes groaned and rolled on his back. The small fluffy dog barked and wagged his tail happily, ecstatic to have finally caught up. He ran straight to Kid and put his paws in his lap, panting in his face.

"Kid, so help me! I told you not to feed him any of that food we had!"

Kid picked up the dog and held him out at arms length. The small dog wiggled and licked Kid's nose. Kid grinned and carried the dog over to his horse.

"What are you doing?" Heyes sat up and watched as Kid brought something out of his saddlebag. "No-No, Kid, don't!" Kid gave the dog another piece of jerky. And another. And another. "No!" Heyes groaned and flopped down on his back again.

NOTE: The dog in this story is based on my big sister's Bichon mix who would do anything, I literally mean ANYTHING (absolutely not joking), for food. He gave me the idea to do this story when he walked on his hind legs from the front door all the way to his my big sister's bedroom for one itsy bitsy piece of hotdog. That and many other crazy things he does. The first thing he does every morning is go to the kitchen table and jump up in the chair, as if expecting breakfast. Crazy little dog.

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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:44 am

For February 2013

Maz's Challenge Story sparked the following idea. She can take the credit and I'll take the blame... Very Happy




MY TELL-TALE HEART

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe


TRUE! --larcenous --very, very dreadfully larcenous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am illogical? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was my sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I illogical? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Objections there were none. Passion there was all. I guarded that old safe. It had never wronged me. It had never given me insult. But for its gold I had all desire. I think it was its tumblers! Yes, it was this! They had the feel of first love –soft and supple, seducing me. Whenever my eye fell upon them, my blood ran hot; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the contents of the old safe, and thus rid myself of the temptation forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me larcenous. Lawmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never more solicitous to the old safe than during the whole week before I robbed it. And every night, about midnight, I turned the tumblers and listened --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for myself, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my hand. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old safe’s contents. It took me an hour to place my whole hand within the opening so far that I could feel the money and jewels as they lay upon the shelves. Ha! would a common thief have been so wise as this? And then, when my hand was well inside the safe, I undid the lantern cautiously --oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the contents. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the bank, and spoke courageously to the safe, patting it in a friendly manner, and inquiring how it had passed the night. So you see, the sheriff’s deputy would have been a very alert man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon the safe while he made his rounds.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the safe. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my genius. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the safe, little by little, and the deputy not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for I heard him walk toward the bank suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. The back room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the safe, and I kept twisting the tumblers steadily, steadily.

I had my hand in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the deputy ran up the steps, crying out --"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him leave. He was still standing at the front door listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the silent watches in the town.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own chest, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the deputy felt, and pitied him, although I snickered at heart. I knew that he had been listening carefully ever since the first slight noise, when he had run up the steps to the front door. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the alley --it is only a rat crossing the street," or "It is merely a cat which has made a single meow." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Failure, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and surrounded the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of myself within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him leave the premises, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the safe.

It was the tumblers --steel-forged, shiny, provocative,--and I grew furious as I gazed upon the safe. I saw it with perfect clarity --all a dull black, with a hideous photograph of an eye masking its center that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old safe: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned tumblers.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for mania is but over-acuteness of the sense? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of my heart. It increased my aching desire, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the corner. Meantime the hellish tattoo of my heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The deputy’s anxiety must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well I have told you that I am larcenous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old bank, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable emotion. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought my heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a passerby! The safe’s hour had come! With a huge smile, I threw open the lantern and spun the tumblers madly. I grinned once --once only. In an instant I yanked the handle madly, and pulled the heavy door open. I then laughed quietly, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, my heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The safe had given up its contents. I removed the money and examined the notes. Yes, there were many, so many. I placed my hand upon the shelves and felt around them many minutes. There was nothing else inside. The safe was empty. Its tumblers would trouble me no more.

If still you think me illogical, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the haul. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I counted all the money. I closed the door to the safe and twirled the tumblers.

I then took up my carpet bag from the floor of the chamber, and deposited all the money in the hidden bottom section. I then closed the bag so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even the sheriff’s --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to find --no paper evidence --no extra money whatever. I had been too careful for that. The hidden compartment had it all --ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the front door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect courtesy, as officers of the law. A laugh had been heard by a passerby during the night; suspicion of robbery had been aroused; details had been given at the sheriff’s office, and they (the lawmen) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the peace officers welcome. The laugh, I said, was my own in a dream. The manager, I mentioned, had asked me to guard the safe while he was absent to another town. I took my visitors all over the bank. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to the back room. I showed them the safe, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and bid them here to rest from their labors, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat at the very spot next to which reposed the carpet bag with my haul.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, before long, I felt myself getting apprehensive and wished them gone. My head ached, and I felt a thumping in my chest: but still they sat and continued chatting. The thumping became more striking: --It continued and became more striking: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained strength --until, at length, I found it dominating.

No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a Chiricahua makes when playing a drum. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I raved --I swore --I pulled my gun! I waved it back and forth, and aimed it at the carpet bag, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my predicament! --this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Deputies!" I shrieked, "bluff no more! I admit the deed! –tear open the bottom of this bag! yes, here! --Here are the spoils of my guilty heart!"

(As told by Hannibal Heyes to his lawyer in the eighteenth year of his incarceration in the Wyoming Territorial Prison.)


-THE END-


Based upon "The Tell-Tale Heart," available at:
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/telltale.html



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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:46 pm

With apologies to Joyce Kilmer...
(and for the centennial of "Trees")

I hope that we will soonward see
A wire declaring our amnesty
As we ride on two abreast
It seems a sometimes daunting quest
But imagine what life might be one day
When inward fears we could allay
So we may have no other cares
Than where we go upon our mares
When wanted posters go up in flames
And bounty hunters forget our names...
Wishes are made by fools like we
But only the gov'nor proclaims amnesty.
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:03 am

Just posting an old, old friend of a story which happens to fit this months prompt.

High Stakes

by Calico



"I'll take..." Hannibal Heyes paused for a second, mused, "...I'll take two."


The dealer, with a slight - knowing - smile, flicked two cards across the table.


The next player also took a moment to study his cards. "I'll take one," came the deep voice of the older man.


Flick. Another silent smile from the dealer.


Jed Curry frowned. This was an important hand, the stakes were high. "I'll take..." A firm chin was stroked, thoughtfully. Still thinking.

The dealer's tapered fingers lingered on the pack. An eyebrow was raised at the blond gambler.


"I'll take three," came the decision.


Flick. Flick. Flick.


For a moment, a dark brown gaze watched the boyish features stay expressionless. Not quite a 'Heyes' poker face - but pretty good. Then the blue eyes crinkled, ruefully. "I got nothin'!" A handful of - nothing - was tossed in.


"And, dealer takes two." A deft movement flicked out two cards.


The dealer's face gave nothing away. Or...did it?

Dark eyes scanned it searchingly, from beneath discretely lowered lashes. Was that a disappointed look? There! Before the lids dropped.

But... It could be a bluff.

And...

The intelligent gaze flicked to the older man on the right.

When he had fanned his hand after taking a single card, had there been a hint of smugness? Just the smallest tightening of the corners of the mouth?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Hannibal Heyes had played against these particular opponents before.

He knew not to underestimate them.

Not to take any 'tells' at face value.

He took another look at his cards. Not that he needed to. He knew what they were. A strong hand. But - was it strong enough? He was not sure. The glance went to the pot. No doubts there! Whatever he thought about the odds - he sure liked the look of that pot!


From under a curly blond fringe, a hopeful gaze was thrown, first at his friend - always better with the cards, then at that so tempting pot. A mute conversation was held. The dark-eyed player understood. His partner was relying on him.


"I'm in for ...three," declared Hannibal Heyes, confidently.


"See you," grunted the older man.


"I'll see you and," the dealer's eyebrow rose, challengingly, "...raise you five!"


An audible intake of breath. Hannibal Heyes shot his partner an annoyed look. No need to give anything away, even if you WERE out of the game.


"Too rich for me!" declared the older man, throwing in his hand.


"What about you?" smiled the dealer at the solitary, remaining adversary. "Is it," the smile broadened, "...too rich for you, too?"


The dark eyes checked the ample resources of the dealer against his own scanty stock. Still he managed a nonchalant smile. "I'll see you - and - raise you another three!"


"Fighting talk!" admired the older gambler on his right. "Especially the way the luck's been running. That," he nodded to indicate the dealer, "...that wily card-sharp has been beating the odds all evening!"


"I mean to keep it that way, too!" silked the dealer, eyes narrowed. "I'll see your three. What do you have?"


"The luck has to turn sometime!" declared Hannibal Heyes, stoutly. "Full house! Jacks over sevens."


Gratifyingly impressed sounds from his partner and the older player.


The shoulders of the dealer drooped. "You're right," resigned voice, "...The luck has to turn sometime."


A delighted grin dimpled a satisfied gambler's face. Hands reached for the pot.


"Sometime! But not THIS evening!" went on the dealer, gently catching one of the eager wrists. "...Queens over tens! Read 'em and weep!" she crowed, laying down her hand.


"Mother!" whined Hannibal. Sheesh! Not again!


"Mrs. Heyes!" protested young Jed Curry. "You pretended you'd lost!"


"You two never learn do you?" grinned Hannibal's father, standing up from his place at the kitchen table and stretching.


Both small boys watched the pot being swept back into the button box. The last of the extra big and extra shiny 'staying up late' brass buttons were flourished, gloatingly, before them - and then dropped in with the others. That meant - a resigned glance was exchanged - bedtime now. No more arguing.


"...When you sit down to cards with HER," went on Mister Heyes, with a rueful shake of the head at his wife, "you count yourself..." He raised his eyebrows, encouragingly, at his young son to complete the oft-heard family quotation.


Hannibal watched his mother split and restack the pack one handed, before putting it away. Would he EVER be able to do that QUITE as neatly? "You count yourself lucky to keep a shirt on your back," he sighed, "...let alone a button to fasten it with!"
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:01 am

This is an edited compilation of a couple of challenge stories I posted about four years ago. Some of you may remember it but I hope it’s fresh and enjoyable to newer members. It is also the first part of a longer story that I’m writing.

I write for fun when my health allows and would probably feel deflated with too much criticism but I would appreciate being corrected when I use inappropriate English words.

(To borrow an example from Penski: if I wrote gaol instead of jail etc.)

Thanks




Cards on the Table




“Can you see the clock, Kid?”

“Huh?”

“The clock in the hall, can you see it?”

Kid Curry moved his head as far as his bonds would allow, “Yeah, I can see it, Heyes.”

“And?”

“And I can see some firewood, part of the door and if I could see the hat stand I’d die a happy man.”

Hannibal Heyes sighed.

“Kid, could ya tell me the time?”

Curry moved his head again, “Ten o’clock,” he announced.

“Exactly?”

“What d’ya mean?”

“Well it’d be surprising if it was exactly ten o’clock. I was thinking that perhaps it was a little before ten or shortly after.”

“Nope.  Ten o’clock exactly.”  Curry emphasized the last word and Heyes fell silent, apparently satisfied with his answer. The ticking of the long case clock had suddenly become very loud in Curry’s ears and he wished that his partner had not drawn his attention to it.

“So it’s ten o’clock precisely?” Heyes continued after a couple of minutes.

“Well it was when you asked me, Heyes, but now it’s a bit after.”  The two men were each tied to a chair placed on opposite sides of a large table but with their backs to each other so Curry could only imagine the look on his partner’s face. “I thought these clocks were supposed to make some sort of sound when it’s exactly-”

“They chime.”

“Yeah, that’s it, chime. Why d’ya think it don’t do that, Heyes?”

“Perhaps that bit’s broken or it could be turned off.”

“Yeah, I guess that sort of thing would annoy Jake. The ticking’s beginning to get on my nerves.”

“It was better yesterday.”

“What, the ticking?”

“No. Yesterday I could see the clock.”

Sheesh, what was it with Heyes and the time? It wasn’t as if he was in the middle of cracking a safe. It wasn’t as if there was anywhere they could go.

“I’d be happy to swap places with you, Heyes. Maybe tomorrow we could put in a special request. I’m sure Ralph will understand. He seems more reasonable than his brother. I’m sure if you explained-”

“We won’t be here tomorrow, Kid. Remember? Tomorrow’s Thursday. Sheriff Norman will be leaving town early in the morning and that means-”

“We’ll be on our way to jail,” his partner finished.




************


Earlier that week


Heyes gathered up the cards from the table and his practiced fingers began to shuffle. He offered the cards to the player on his left to cut and then started the deal.

He had been sitting at the same table in the Silver Palace saloon for almost four hours and during that time the pile of money in front of him had increased steadily.

Only one other player had remained at the table all evening, a man called Sterling.

Although Sterling had lost both money and honours to Heyes, both men had benefited from the other players trying their luck at the table, mainly local ranch hands, none of whom had remained long.

At the moment there were three other players; a young cowboy, a ranch hand and an older, grey- haired man who had introduced himself as Sam Perkins the owner of the town mercantile

Heyes finished dealing and the other players picked up their cards. After a quick glance at his own hand, which revealed three kings, Heyes’ eyes drifted away from the table.

A big, burly man had just walked through the batwing doors and stood surveying the scene. He was smoking a huge cigar and was wearing what looked like a shiny star on his chest although Heyes couldn’t be certain. Even so you couldn’t be too careful and when the two men’s eyes met Heyes managed a small smile by way of greeting before focusing once again on the game.  

Each of the players threw a dollar into the pot and a pretty young saloon girl placed a glass of beer in front of Heyes and moved to stand behind Sterling putting his drink on the table next to him. She had been hovering between the two men most of the evening. She smiled invitingly at Heyes. She was certainly very pretty and without the world weary expression that most of the women in her profession had. Plenty of time for that Heyes thought.

The ranch hand on his left took one more look at his cards before throwing them down and picking up the few remaining coins in front of him. “I’m off whilst I still have some left for a couple of beers,” he complained. As he stood up he bumped into the saloon girl “Out of my way, Molly,” he yelled pushing past her.

Sterling fanned his cards close to his chest and took a sip of his beer before throwing five silver dollars into the pot.

Perkins shuffled slightly in his chair, “Call,” he declared as his coins jingled against the others in the centre of the table.

The young cowboy in the next seat to Perkins was sweating profusely. He was absent-mindedly playing with the money beside him and studying his cards.

Sterling leaned over, “Are you going to bet?” he asked.

The cowboy raised his head and stared at Sterling, “Your five dollars and five more,” he replied.

“Call,” Heyes put a ten dollar bill into the centre of the table. His eyes took a quick sweep of the saloon.

The sheriff was sitting in the far corner of the room apparently in deep conversation with two other men.

In another corner a blonde haired saloon girl was leaning against the piano and flirting with the piano player who had taken a short break from playing.

His eyes finally came to rest on a large brown Stetson complete with silver trim. The owner of the hat was engaged in his own poker game, his head bent over studying his cards but sensing his partner’s gaze he looked up and their eyes met briefly.

Sterling took another sip of his beer and put five more dollars into the pot.

“That’s too much for me,” Perkins said placing his cards face down on the table.

Molly came and stood next to Heyes, resting her hand lightly on his shoulder. It sure would be nice to spend some time with her. Perhaps he’d played enough poker for one night. He picked up the pack and dealt a further card to the other two players as requested and took one for himself. He was pleased with his earlier decision to keep the ace of hearts.

The piano player had started playing again and the sound rose above the general noise of the saloon, it was a tune Heyes had heard many times before. Molly began to sway gently to the sound of the music and Heyes smiled to himself as he felt her body brush against his. It was definitely time for a change of scene.

The betting continued until there was a sizeable pot in the centre of the table  and the young cowboy’s nerve finally left him. He threw his cards down and stood up pushing his chair back with such force that it fell to the floor as he stormed away in the direction of the bar.

Heyes held his cards close to his chest as he leaned over and picked up the chair but as he resumed his upright position his eyes again met the sheriff’s.

“Is there a problem here?”

“No, no problem, sheriff,” Heyes replied. The sheriff shifted his stance and looked at Sterling.

“The young lad just got in a bit out of his depth, sheriff. I’m sure a couple of beers will cool him down.”

“I’ve been watching you two.”

“Is that right, sheriff?”  Taking advantage of the break in play Heyes picked up his glass.

“We don’t hold with professional gamblers in our town-”

“I can assure you, I’m not a professional gambler, sheriff,” Sterling said, “I’m a salesman as I’m sure Mr Perkins here can confirm.”

“That’s right, sheriff.”

“And what is it you sell?”

“Bryant pumps-” he started as all eyes suddenly turned in Heyes’ direction.

“Wrong way,” Heyes gasped, pointing at his throat.

“-Is the specialized item I trade in but also many other-”

“Yeah, alright, I don’t need a list,” the sheriff interrupted, turning back to Sterling.

“How long are you planning on staying in town?”

“Just a few more days, Sheriff.  My business with Mr Perkins here is almost concluded but it’s my intention to visit some of the outlying ranches and homesteads and offer them the opportunity to purchase -”

“Yeah, alright, there’s no need to go on about it.” The sheriff turned his attention to Heyes and asked, “How about you?”

“Well sheriff we arrived today and -”

“We?”

Heyes cursed his mistake but continued as smoothly as he could, “Yes Sheriff, my partner and I. After giving our horses a couple of days rest we’ll be moving on.”

“Your partner, he don’t play poker?”

Heyes hesitated, “He’s at another table, sheriff, when we came -”

“Yeah, alright, I don’t need your life history.” The sheriff rubbed his hand against his unshaven chin before adding, “Just remember I’ll be watching you. Both of you,” he emphasized, as his gaze moved from Heyes to Sterling and back again before he turned and walked away.

Heyes  regained his composure and turning to Sterling said, “I believe it’s my bet, I’ll see you.”

Sterling placed his cards face up on the table, one at a time and smiled. “Full House.”

Heyes looked down at the three queens and two aces on the table and returned the smile. “Unlucky,” he replied revealing his three kings and two aces.

He reached over and gathered the not inconsiderable amount sitting in the middle of the table but not without keeping one eye on his opponent. If he had judged Sterling correctly he wouldn’t take his loss too badly knowing that overall he had done well out of his evenings play but experience told him it was always as well to expect the unexpected.

Sterling gave Heyes a wry smile. He reached into his vest pocket and took out his watch, “Gentlemen, I have an early start tomorrow and I think I’ve probably played long enough for one evening.”

He collected his money together and stood up. Heyes acknowledged him with a slight nod of his head and watched as he strode across the saloon and out through the doors.

“Well, Mr Perkins, seeing as there’s just the two of us and seeing as no one seems to be fighting a path to our table, I’ve finished gambling for tonight.”

“From what I’ve seen, Mr Smith, when you play cards it don’t seem much of a gamble, not for you anyway.”

Heyes finished stuffing bills into his vest pocket and grinned. “Goodnight, Mr Perkins and thanks for the game.”

He rose to his feet placing a hand on his back and spent a few moments stretching the crinkles out of it before scooping the coins off the table and putting them into his pants’ pocket.

Turning to Molly he smiled, “Well, Molly, how about we take a walk over to the bar and have ourselves a couple of drinks?”

“Sure, Honey, whatever you say,” she replied before linking her arm with his and leading him away from the table.

Curry looked up and was concerned for an instant to see that his partner was no longer in his seat but a quick glance behind him revealed Heyes standing at the bar talking to a saloon girl.

The players at his table didn’t seem to know the odds of helping two pair. What’s more one of the players was drinking far too much which didn’t help his thinking but did boost his confidence and as a result he was beginning to loose heavily. They’d recently changed to playing stud poker but it was all the same to Curry; stud or draw he didn’t seem able to lose tonight.

He looked at the pair of eights lying face up on the table in front of him. They would go nicely with the one lying face down.

Three of the men at the table had folded on receipt of their penultimate card so that left the player to his right who had a pair of queens and a ten showing and the red-faced man sitting facing Curry. He had a run of picture cards.

Having been taught by a master Curry knew the odds against that fourth queen landing in his opponent’s hand were huge. With only one card left to be dealt it looked like his game and he considered placing a large bet.  

A peel of laughter from the adjacent table broke his concentration. A group of cowboys were surrounding a woman with the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. Her eyes were complimented by a very pretty low cut emerald dress.

With the speed he was famous for Curry decided that it was time he followed his partner’s example and gave at least one of the young women of Clearwater the attention they deserved.

In an act of benevolence which he wouldn’t have dared perform if his partner had been sitting with him, Curry looked at the man across the table and said, “If you’re thinking of making another bet I think I should tell you that straights and flushes aren’t played in stud poker unless everyone agrees to it at the start of the game.”

The man seemed momentarily stunned to silence before blustering, “Don’t give me that, we play straights here.

He turned to each of the men sitting at the table in turn,” Don’t we?”

His eyes finally came to rest on the player sitting on Curry’s right.

“He’s right,” the man mumbled.

Curry was surprised that this man, who had hardly said a word all evening, had chosen to get involved.

“It’s the rule according to Hoyle.”

“And who the heck is Hoyle? The first man bellowed. His red face becoming more pronounced with each second that passed. “He doesn’t live in this town, that’s for sure.”

“He’s not a man, Jake. It’s a book .Well of course he was a -”

Shut up, Ralph. “I don’t want to know. Books! You’ve always got your head stuck in a book. That’s why you have to wear those things on your face. I keep telling you - real men don’t read books.”

The man, who Curry now knew as Ralph, looked away at this last comment, dipping his head slightly in a gesture which Curry realized he had seen several times during the evening when he had happened to glance in the man’s direction. It had been as if the man had been secretly watching him for some reason.

Meanwhile, Jake returned his attention to Curry. “How about you?” he asked. “Are you a real man?”

Curry had that feeling that he had been here before. What was it Heyes called it? Day something or other.  Probably because it had happened on another day. No, that wasn’t it. But it had. Often. Sometimes it was in the day but mostly it was in the evening and usually it was because Heyes was too good at Poker. But not tonight, tonight his partner wasn’t even at the table.

“Look, er, Jake, isn’t it? It seems silly for us to fall out over this. How about if we finish this hand and then if everyone agrees, next game we can -”

“I’ve done talking. Let’s settle this like real men. On your feet!”  

“Jake, don’t. You don’t know -”

“For the last time, Ralph.  SHUT UP!”

Jake put his left hand on the table and staggered to his feet. As he did so, Curry heard the familiar sound of scraping chairs as the other men sitting around the table hurried to excuse themselves from any stray bullets that might choose to fly in their direction.
                                       
Some sort of sixth sense caused Heyes to turn away from Molly and let his hand drop from her shoulder. He knew instinctively what had caused a hush to descend on the saloon. It had happened too many times before.

Curry stood with his back to the bar so all Heyes could see was his broad shoulders and his silver trimmed hat. Neither moved.

Heyes was aware that there was another man standing, but frustratingly most of his body and all of his face were obscured by Curry.

Although he couldn’t see his partner’s face he could picture it exactly, every detail burned into his mind. He had seen this same scenario played out too many times before.

Often it was Heyes himself that was the cause of the altercation. Sometimes he was able to diffuse the situation but there was no chance of that tonight. Things had gone too far.

The room was eerily quiet; so quiet that Heyes was sure that Molly would be able to hear his heart hammering in his chest.

No one moved, even the smoke hanging in the air seemed to be waiting for something to happen.  

After what seemed like hours, but was only a matter of seconds it was all over.

The silence was broken by the gasps of awe and amazement that had become so familiar to Heyes and he let out the breath he had been holding but as he watched the sheriff march across the room towards his partner he hoped that his relief wasn’t too premature.
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:03 pm

Too Quiet
By Hannibal Heyes

“Heyes, what are you doin’?”
“Writing something for the Appreciation Ladies.”
“Does Maz know?”
“If she knew, would I be writing it?”
“I guess not.”
“Exactly. It’s quiet. She’s worn out from meeting Calico today.”
“That the cat woman?”
“MY cat woman.”
“Okay, but is it her?”
“Yes.”
“Guess they spent the day talkin’ about us, huh?”
“That’s what I’m writing about, Kid. Usually, when they meet they talk about us. Talk about baby rabbits too.”
“Bunnies. Maz, says they talk about bunnies.”
“That’s what a baby rabbit is.”
“I know that, just never figured out why they talk about them so much.”
“Well, I overheard them talking on that tell-a-foam thing and I don’t think we were on their minds today.”
“We weren’t?”
“Seems they went looking for a guy named Shirley Lock and bought a cummerbund at a speedy café.”
“They what? A guy named Shirley? That’s a girl’s name and what the heck’s a come-here-band?”
“Something to hold up your courgettes, I think.”
“Oh.”
“Anyway. They found this place after a lot of walking about and bought a batch of cummerbunds.”
“What they up to?”
“I don’t know but I heard them talking about two guys called Benny and Dick.”
“Well, we know who Benny is but who the heck’s this Dick?”
“I don’t know but I have a feeling it has something to do with Penski getting the Gang together.”
“Could be. So what we gonna do about it Heyes?”
“I thought if I wrote something for the ladies it might keep their minds on us. Make sure they don’t get themselves involved in anything illegal.”
“We wouldn’t want that. Not now we’re such peaceable fellas.”
“Exactly.”
“So what you gonna write?”
“How ‘bout this for starters?”
DEAR LADIES OF THE BORED….

_________________
Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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ChristinaASJ

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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:05 pm

I’ve been unable to write new stories for a while due to ill health.

I recently came across this one that I first posted a few years ago and which fits this month’s prompt.

I thought as it’s Christmas it would be fun to join in.



A Christmas Story


By Christina Johnson


For our Christmas story we travel to the small town of Florence, Colorado. It is Christmas Eve and the town has a festive air. A flurry of snow has fallen overnight, covering everything with a white sheen which is glistening in the early morning sunshine.

The town is already bustling with the townspeople intent on doing their last minute errands and making sure they have everything they need for tomorrow’s festivities. At the end of the street, opposite the Sheriff’s office a large Christmas tree is being decorated ready for tonight’s carol service.

But let’s not linger here. We are going up the street to the town’s only café where we will find the heroes of our story engaged in eating a hearty breakfast. Or should I say one of our heroes is enjoying his breakfast of eggs, bacon and golden biscuits (and I think you all know who that is!)  The other is engaged in pushing his food around his plate whilst he peruses the town’s weekly newspaper.


“Are you going to eat that?”

“Huh?”

“Your breakfast, are you going to eat it?”

Hannibal Heyes looked up from his newspaper and smiled. Using one finger he pushed his plate towards his partner.

“It would be a shame to waste good food.”

“It sure would,” his partner agreed as he went back to his reading.

“What’s so interesting anyway?” Kid Curry asked between mouthfuls.

“It says the bank was robbed in Canon City.”

“That’s the next town isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I think so. The gang got away with about $2000 dollars and they shot the bank manager. They think it was the Fowler gang.”

“Good.”

Heyes looked at his partner and raised an eyebrow.

“What I mean is,” he added more quietly. “It’s good they think it’s the Fowler gang at least that’s one bank job they can’t pin on us. Not that it’s going to make any difference. It’s been nearly two years now. I don’t think the governor has any intention of giving us that amnesty.”

“Eighteen months,” Heyes replied, folding his newspaper and laying it down on the table.

“What?”

“It’s been eighteen months since we went to see Lom in Porterville.”

“Well it’s the second Christmas anyway.”

“Can’t argue with that, Thaddeus.”

At the mention of his alias Curry looked round to see the friendly waitress approaching.

“Two clean plates,” she smiled. “That’s what I like to see. Would either of you gentlemen like more coffee?”

“Yes, I think I would. Thank you, Ma’am.”

She collected their plates, “I’ll bring you a fresh pot.”

“You’re having more coffee, Joshua? I thought  you’d be keen to get to the saloon.”

“I thought I might stay here for a while and read some more of this newspaper, you can find out some interesting things about a town from a newspaper.”  

“We’ve been in town three days, what more is there to find out? The time of  tonight’s carol service. Or perhaps you’re looking for an interesting article on Christmas traditions that you’ll be able to discuss with Miss Perkins next time you bump into her.” The warning look he received from his partner made Curry think better of continuing this particular line of teasing. To be fair it was only luck; his good luck and his partner’s bad luck that it always seemed to be Heyes that the middle-aged spinster managed to corner.

“Well,” he smiled. “I think I’ll take a walk and perhaps call in at the mercantile, I’ll meet you in the saloon later.” Curry stood up just as the waitress arrived at the table with a fresh pot of coffee.

“Aren’t you having any more coffee, Mr Jones?”

“No thank you, Ma’am”

“But you will be here this evening, won’t you? It being Christmas Eve we have a special meal planned, you might even call it a feast.”

“Mr Jones and I will be spending this evening in the saloon, Ma’am,” Heyes replied wickedly.

Curry shot his partner a look, “But I’m sure we could manage an hour to eat, Joshua.”

Heyes looked at his friend and a huge grin broke out on his face, “Sure we can, Thaddeus, after all it is Christmas.”

***


Unknown to Kid Curry at the very moment he was planning his exit from the café a showdown was being planned in the street. No sooner had he stepped out onto the street than his hat flew off his head and he felt a cold, wet sensation on the back of his neck. Curry’s hand went down to his holster as he spun round only to come face to face with another kid, 10 years old, he guessed.

“Sorry, Sir,” the boy gulped. “It were an accident.”

“You threw a snowball, it hit me and it was an accident?” Curry exclaimed.

He felt a tug at his coat. He looked down and saw a young girl, she was holding his hat.

“Please mister, please don’t shoot my brother, it was me he should’ve hit,” she sobbed.

Curry realized his hand was still near his weapon and quickly pulled it away. He crouched down so that his face was level with the girl’s and looking into her eyes, he smiled.

“It’s okay, I’m not going to shoot anyone, now dry your eyes, a pretty girl like you shouldn’t be crying.”

He reached over and took his hat out of her hand, “Thank you.”

She wiped her sleeve across her face and sniffed. Curry stood up and turned his attention to the boy.

“Come here!” He ordered.

The boy dropped his head and edged forward. “I’m real sorry,” he murmured.

“And so you should be. A big boy like you shouldn’t be throwing snowballs at his little sister he should be looking out for her.” Curry reached into his pocket, pulled out a coin and flipped it to the boy.

“Catch!” The boy looked surprised. “Now go and buy your sister some candy and remember, no more snowballs.”

“Yes, Sir, I mean no, Sir. Thanks!” The boy grinned.

Curry felt another tug at his coat.

“You’re nice mister,” the young girl smiled. She took hold of her brother’s hand and they ran off down the street.

Curry followed but not as far as the mercantile because despite what he had told his partner, that wasn’t his destination. The mercantile in this town didn’t sell what he wanted to buy, nor did the general store. He’d searched both unsuccessfully. There was only one place that did, he knew because he’d seen a display in the window. He stood looking at it now and took a deep breath. Heyes, I sure hope you’re gonna appreciate this. He looked in the direction of the café to make sure his partner was nowhere in sight and stepped inside Milady’s Modes.  

***
                                 

It was true that Hannibal Heyes was happy to read some more of the Florence Gazette but that wasn’t his reason for lingering over another cup of coffee. When he calculated that enough time had elapsed for his partner to be safely installed in the saloon he threw a few coins on the table, along with his folded newspaper, tipped his hat to the waitress and left the café. After checking carefully that there were no signs of the Kid he strode purposefully in the direction of the mercantile.

The smell that greeted Heyes when he entered the store evoked memories of his childhood and for a few moments he was taken back to the happy Christmases he had once enjoyed. Shaking these thoughts from his mind he started to wander around the store examining the shelves as he did so. He soon found what he was looking for and was heading back towards the counter when a familiar voice made him stop in his tracks.

“And some red ribbon, please, Mr Graves.”

“Certainly, Miss Perkins.”

“Oh no, it can’t be,” Heyes muttered. “Not again.”

He approached the counter with a certain amount of trepidation. Miss Perkins was standing with her back to him. As he got nearer he could see that she seemed to be wrapping a length of red ribbon around some sort of vegetation.

The storekeeper addressed him, “Good morning, Sir, will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“That’ll be a dollar two bits. Would you like it wrapping?”

“Please,” Heyes nodded. He searched in his pocket and put the correct amount on the counter.

“Why, Mr Smith. Good morning!”

“Heyes turned towards the voice and raised his hat, “Good morning, Miss Perkins. I trust you are well?”

“Very well thank you, Mr Smith and you have arrived at exactly the right moment.”

“I have?”

“Do you remember those Christmas traditions we were talking about?” A feeling of foreboding began to sweep over Heyes. “Well I have another one right here and you can help me try it out,” she smiled.

“I can? Um, I mean…. er, what is it?” Heyes regarded the piece of vegetation in Miss Perkins’ hand, it had white berries and was admittedly beautifully wrapped in the aforementioned red ribbon but he was at a complete loss as to how this could be connected to any Christmas tradition or indeed how he might be involved in trying it out.

“It’s called mistletoe,” she beamed.

“It is?”

“And according to this edition of Harper’s weekly,” for the first time Heyes noticed some sort of periodical on the counter that Miss Perkins was tapping with her forefinger, “It’s lucky.”

Heyes was starting to feel decidedly uncomfortable and felt that the store had suddenly become quite warm. He glanced at the man behind the counter who had now wrapped his parcel and seemed to sense his discomfort. From the smirk on his face he was clearly enjoying it.

“All we have to do,” she took a step towards Heyes and he automatically took a step back in turn, “Is to hold the mistletoe above our heads and kiss.”

“And what?”  Heyes spluttered.

“And kiss!”  Miss Perkins held the mistletoe high above her head and once more advanced towards her prey. Heyes was aware of a chortle coming from behind the counter. Panic seized the ex leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang and momentarily he was rendered speechless.

He started to cough, “Germs!” he pointed at his throat and coughed some more. “Came on sudden this morning. It would sure be unlucky if you caught them, it being Christmas.” And with that Heyes made a dash for the door. He had his hand on the handle and was just about to turn it when the storekeeper called him back.

“Mr Smith.”

“What?”

“I believe you have forgotten your parcel.”

In one swift movement Heyes reached the counter, retrieved the parcel, tipped his hat to the lady and was out of the store.  He was followed by the sound of the storekeeper’s hearty laughter.                

***


After depositing his purchase in their hotel room Curry walked over to the saloon. There was no sign of Heyes so he walked over to the bar to order a drink. Before he could catch the barkeep’s eye the conversation taking place between a couple of cowboys standing next to him caught his attention.

“But how sure are you?” the first cowboy asked.

“I was on a train he robbed. I got a good look at him and then there’s that black hat he wears, it’s famous you know.” his companion replied.

“Then we should go to the sheriff, now.”

Curry felt as if he had been punched in the guts. He tried very hard to keep his composure as he turned and watched the two men walk out of the saloon. Trying to assume a nonchalant air, Curry followed them.

***

                           
Heyes left the hotel cautiously he didn’t want to meet Miss Perkins again. The thought of their encounter made him shudder but he was pleased with his purchase now safely tucked away in his saddlebags. He marched across to the saloon and almost bumped into his partner coming out.

“Hey, what’s the rush, Kid? Are you okay?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Not a ghost, Heyes, but maybe a posse.”

“What?”

“You see those two men hurrying down the street; the one in a checked shirt and the man wearing a brown hat. Well one of them was on a train you robbed and he’s on his way to tell the sheriff you’re in town.”

Without another word they turned and headed the other way in the direction of the livery.

Suddenly Curry stopped and caught his partner’s arm. “Wait a minute, Heyes. This is stupid, leaving without any supplies especially in this weather. Maybe one of us should go back to our room and collect our things while the other saddles the horses. We could meet in the alley at the back of the hotel.”

“I don’t think there’s time, Kid.” Heyes replied with a sad smile. “But don’t worry at least we are both wearing our warm coats and I have a plan. We’ll leave town, ride for a bit, find somewhere to lay low and avoid that posse that’s forming. They’ll soon give up, remember it’s Christmas Eve; they’ll want to be back with their families. Then when it’s dark, say about six o’clock we’ll sneak back into town and collect our belongings and then head out of town without anyone being the wiser ‘cos, that’s when everyone will be busy at the carol service.”

“Six o’clock, huh?” Kid grinned. “Okay, Heyes, we’ll do it your way.”

The partners soon had their horses saddled and were heading out of town.


***


It was slightly after six when the two men rode back into town. They had been lucky. The snow that was now falling quite heavily had only started recently. Even so the men were very thankful to have their warm coats. Their collars were now turned up and their bandanas wrapped tightly around their necks.

They were cold, hungry and slightly wet but their discomfort had been well worth it as they had seen no signs of a posse and now as Heyes had predicted the streets were empty. They tethered their horses outside the hotel and dismounted.

“It looks quiet, Kid, but we’d best not take any chances,” Heyes said, knocking the snow off his hat. “I can’t imagine the hotel clerk will have left his post.”

“Yeah, Heyes, whoever heard of a hotel with no back door?” Curry took out his Colt and held it by his side. He nodded at his partner who slowly pushed the hotel door open. As they had feared the hotel clerk was standing at the desk. He looked up when the two men walked in.

“Gentlemen, Gentlemen, come in, you must be frozen.  Come and warm yourself by the fire.” The two men exchanged a glance, Heyes gave a slight nod of his head and Curry holstered his gun.

“Have you been out riding all day?”

“Most of it,” Heyes replied.

“Then you’ve missed all the excitement.”

“Excitement?”

“The sheriff arrested Jake Fowler, right here in our town.”

The clerk misread the glazed looks on the two men’s faces, so he decided he needed to give them some more information. “You know, the famous train and bank robber. He was recognized by a man who had been a passenger on a train he robbed and of course the outlaw’s big black hat is a dead giveaway.”

The clerk regarded the two men standing in front of him, they looked decidedly unwell. “Gentlemen, forgive me, you’ll want to get out of those wet clothes and have something to eat. Room nine, isn’t it?” He held out a key.

Curry took it, “Thanks.”

The two men turned and walked up the stairs to their room.


                     
Curry closed the door and turned the key. “Heyes, I’m sorry but when I heard those two men talking, I thought...”

“You thought a train robber, wearing a black hat, it must be me.”

“Yeah.”

Heyes chuckled.

“You’re not mad at me Heyes?”

“No, Kid. I’m not. Forget it. Take your coat off and sit down in this chair. I’ve got something to give you.” Curry did as he was asked and Heyes reached into his saddlebags and took out a parcel. “Here, I know it’s a bit early.  Happy Christmas, Kid!”

Curry took his present and opened it. “A shirt! Thanks, Heyes; it’s the same colour as -”

“The one you tore into bandages last time I got shot. Yeah, I know. It’s the shade of blue that matches your eyes perfectly, Kid, the one that all the ladies find irresistible.”

Curry looked at his partner but decided to let his comment pass for now.

“I have something for you too, Heyes.” Curry opened his saddlebag. “Happy Christmas!”

Heyes took the gift from his friend. “Well there’s only one thing this can be. I’m a little surprised, Kid.”

“But you love them, Heyes, why wouldn’t I buy you one for Christmas?”

“Sure but where did you get it, Kid? I’ve looked in the mercantile and the general store and there were none to be seen. I’d come to the conclusion that the town was completely illiterate ‘till I discovered that newspaper this morning.”

Curry began to shift uneasily in his chair. “Why does it matter where I got it, Heyes? Just open it.”

Heyes noticed Kid’s uneasiness and decided this was something that could be pursued later but for now he said nothing and opened his present.

“Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.”

“You like his books, right, Heyes?”

“Yeah, he writes great stories. Thanks Kid.”

“And I liked the title, ‘cos that’s what we’ve got isn’t it?”

Heyes looked curiously at his partner.

“Great expectations, you know the amnesty.”

Heyes grinned. “Yeah, that’s exactly what we’ve got, Kid; great expectations. All we need is a little faith. Now, let’s get out of these wet clothes. Didn’t that waitress mention something about a Christmas feast?”
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skykomish

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PostSubject: Speech Challenge   Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:49 am

This is the story I would have posted for the August challenge had I finished it in time.


It was hard stayin’ awake on the train.  The swayin’ of the car, the regular tick of the tracks, all worked to put a boy of ten to sleep.  But I wanted to stay awake.  I was tryin’ real hard to fix every part a this trip in my head.  So as not to forget.

 
We—Pa and me—left Philadelphia real early that Thursday mornin’.  The sun wasn’t up, and the folks at the station were tired and grumpy.  No polite talkin’ among the passengers.  


I wasn’t sorry to leave Philadelphia.  I hated the dust.  All those people crammed into a maze of streets, and some a those streets didn’t smell so good.  The noise never stopped.  Guess the worst part was the lack a space and the lack a freedom.  Han and me—that’s what we called Heyes when we were boys—were used to spendin’ our time outside fishin’ and trappin’ and pretty much doin’ as we pleased once the chores were done.  I missed Han too.


Ma still had family in Philadelphia.  It was real interestin’ meetin’ Ma’s folks.  The Murphys were farmers from County Wicklow.   I didn’t understand everythin’ I heard, but the gist of the story is that Ma’s folks lost their land in some kinda tithe war.  They ended dirt poor in Dublin with too many mouths and too little food.   Pa used to tease Ma ‘bout bein’ a thief.  I learned in Philly that she really was one.


Ma could never watch folks suffer.  When she saw injustice or folks causin’ hardship for others, she had to do somethin’.  Things didn’t always work out the way she planned, but she couldn’t sit still and watch.  She was a doer, my Ma.  That’s how she found herself stealin’.  


She was the oldest and couldn’t watch her brothers and sisters starve.  It started with food.  By the time she was fifteen she was a pick pocket and the authorities were on to her.  Pa said that Grampa Murphy was helped by somethin’ called The Catholic Association, run by a man named O’Connell.  They stepped up and helped Ma leave Ireland for the United States.  The family followed later, but Ma spent a whole year livin’ with Pa’s older sister.  That’s how they got to courtin’.  


Sorry.  I got off track.  This story’s supposed to be about the trip home from Philadelphia.  There I was tryin’ to keep my eyes propped open as Pennsylvania slipped by.  I was treasurin’ every moment, because I didn’t suppose that I’d get the chance to go off with Pa like this again.  Ma had insisted I go, mostly because she was so dang mad at me.  Han and I had been gettin’ on her nerves for months.  


Her uncle had come for a long visit.  He was full a high spirits (of more than one kind) and told us stories about the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish rebellions.  Our heads filled up with visions of glory and excitement.  We were singin’ the rebel songs he taught us and marchin’ all over.   We got to believin’ that those rebellions were some kinda festival.  A great game.


Ma had seen the troubles in Ireland first hand.  She tried to tell us that it was not about glory or honor.  And it was definitely not fun.  It was hatred and bloodshed and neighbor against neighbor.   And with each bloody act the stakes got higher as the people were trained up to seek vengeance.  Between her past and the war goin’ on around us, Ma had no patience with our shenanigans.


Then we got word that my brother Nate had died in battle.  


He died in July, but we didn’t get word ‘til September.  He was buried somewhere on a battlefield.  When we heard that there was gonna be a big dedication, Pa wanted to go.  Then Ma decided that I needed to go with him.  The trip was in November, so the farm could spare us both.


Since we were goin’ all the way to Pennsylvania, we decided to visit kin before the ceremony.  So there we were on an early mornin’ train headed to Gettysburg.  


After arrivin’ the first thing we did was find my brother’s grave.  Wasn’t easy.  All the markers looked just the same.  That bothered me when I was ten, but later I learned that most a the Confederate soldiers were still in unmarked graves with lots a bodies buried together.  At least Nate’s grave was marked.


Pa cried on that plot a grass.  I had only ever seen him cry one time before.  That was when Emily Ann was born.  He didn’t even cry when word came a Nate’s death.  At least not where I could see.  


The first speaker was a man named Everett.  He came from someplace up near Boston.  I tried to listen to him.  I really did.  Ma sent me to learn, but that man just talked.  And talked.  And talked.  And I thought that Han could go on a long time.  Pa finally got tired of it too, so we walked around some until he finished.


Even at ten, I was impressed by the next fella speakin’.  Pa told me that it was President Lincoln.  That man grabbed your attention.  He walked with dignity, but humble.  Kinda reminded me of a preacher.  You know, the good kind that make ya want to listen to ‘em.  I couldn’t help but take notice.  


He spoke for hardly any time at all, but what he said stayed with me.  He said that the men who died made that battlefield holy.  That they gave everythin’.  Called it “the last full measure of devotion.” That included my brother.  Then he said that those still livin’ needed to take action, so that “these dead shall not have died in vain.”  Those words stuck with me too.  I finally understood what Ma had been tryin’ to teach me.  


This was serious business.  Not entertainment.  Killin’ shouldn’t be fun, and war’s no game.  My brother would never get on a train and come home.  


The politicians, and the scholars, and the preachers, and those folks who like to spend their time discussin’ such things (includin’ Han and his Pa) could argue about whether what Nate did was right, or necessary, or good for the country.  But for us, his family, it was just a matter of goin’ on without him.  


Anyway, that’s the speech I remember.
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PostSubject: The extra 100 challenge Spillover   Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:33 pm

This is a challenge story I wrote in response to the prompt "Invitation" The challenge I posted in the April 2016 Extra 100 month special was the first part of the first story in my "Terms Verse". This story here is where I envisioned the partners would be 30 years later.


Invitation to a Partnership Chronicled

You are cordially invited to celebrate the Launching of a Legend

Partners: The Autobiography of Heyes and Curry

By Hannibal Heyes with Jedediah Curry

Question and answer session with

Reception immediately following

~~

Friday, September 17, 1914

7:00 to 11:00 pm

The Palm Court

The Plaza Hotel

Fifth Avenue

New York, New York


____________________________

Hannibal Heyes set down his glass on the polished wood bar and took a deep breath. He felt at peace. He had come into The Oak Bar to settle an uncharacteristic bout of nerves with an aged single malt scotch and a fine cigar in relative solitude and anonymity. The distinguished gentlemen placed a generous tip on the bar and exited the richly paneled masculine retreat in search of his unflappable partner.

The elevator door opened on the eighteenth floor and Heyes was immediately greeted with a multitude of competing sounds. Babies crying, voices raised in conversation, and children squealing with delight all assaulted his ears from numerous open doors along the hotel corridor. A small auburn-haired boy came bursting out of a nearby room closely followed by a smaller blonde girl in pigtails and pounded down the hall, skidding to abrupt halt in front of an amused Hannibal Heyes.

“Uncle Heyes, where did you come from?” the boy asked breathlessly.

“We’re gonna ride the elevator. Daddy said I could push the button.” The pigtailed girl pulled on Heyes’ suit jacket for attention.

“I get to push the button down. You have to wait to push the button up. I’m older so I go first.”

“Who said? You’re not the boss of me, Patrick Curry.”

“I’m older, I am too the boss. Isn’t that right, Uncle Heyes? Isn’t the oldest the leader?” Voices were escalating in volume.

Heyes looked down at the two small faces scowling up at him and sought furiously for an answer that wouldn’t send one howling in protest.

“Well, the oldest always likes to think he’s the leader but the youngest knows better, right Lissa.” Heyes looked up to meet the laughing blue eyes of Jed Curry.

Jed covered the distance to the small group in front of the elevator in a few easy, long strides and swept up his granddaughter in strong arms, planting a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Patrick wasn’t having his viewpoint discounted so easily."Melissa don’t know nothin’. She’s just a dumb little sister.”

“Melissa doesn’t know anything,” Heyes gently corrected, ignoring the muttered, “Now that he’s an author Heyes can conjugate verbs,” from his partner, before hastily adding, “I think the both of you are intelligent children who can come to a workable understanding. Besides, Pat, when you get older you’ll appreciate having a sister. You’re lucky to be surrounded by a large family who loves you.”

“Don’t get mushy on me, too, Uncle Heyes, like Grandma and Grandpa. There’s too many of us, don’t you think? A man’s gotta get some peace and quiet sometimes, without family taggin’ along.” Earnest green eyes met the chocolate brown of the older man and the boy gestured broadly down the busy hallway, the rooms of which were entirely occupied by Curry family members, to demonstrate his point.

Heyes whispered out of the side of his mouth to the man at his side, “The Oak Bar is perfect for that.”

Curry laughed, tickled his granddaughter under the chin and laughed harder when she returned the gesture to him. He set the little girl on her feet and pushed the elevator call button.

“Here’s your father and if you don’t come to an agreement, he’ll push the buttons.”

A curly-haired man joined the group. “Dad, Uncle Heyes, Joshua’s waiting in Mom and Dad’s suite to go over the plans for this evening and your itinerary for the eastern portion of the book tour. Annie’s getting the baby settled. I get to keep these two occupied for a few hours.”

Michael Curry looked down at his two eldest children and smiled convincingly. “We’re going to the Central Park Zoo. I hear they have an elephant named Hattie. I’m going to flip a coin to see who pushes the button to go down and the other can push when we come back up.”

“Mike, here’s a coin and good luck.” Heyes tossed a shiny silver dollar to his “nephew”, who caught it one-handed easily.

“Thanks, Uncle Heyes. Most of the men and the children are joining us while the women are spending money in the shops along Fifth Avenue. You can have some quiet before your big night tonight. It should be some evening.” Mike Curry shook his head in amusement.

Heyes and Jed turned and starting walking down the hall, talking in easy low tones.

“Dad?” Mike called with a chuckle in his voice from inside the just arrived elevator.

“What?”

“Most of the people I meet are afraid to ask but they all want to know if you’re going to wear the Colt tonight. I told them…” The elevator door closed before Mike could finish.

“Well, Kid, are you? I know you have it with you.”

“I don’t think so, Heyes. This don’t seem like the type of hotel that appreciates bullet holes in the ceilin’”

“No, it sure don’t.”

Kid Curry shot his partner a smirk. Heyes and Curry stopped, looked around at the plush carpets, gilt-edged wallpapered panels, fancy plastered ceiling and crystal hallway chandeliers.

“We’ve come a long way from countin’ the pennies in our pockets, haven’t we?"

Heyes draped his right arm across his best friend’s shoulders. “Yes, and one of the best things we can say is that our success, the agency, all its branches, the philanthropy and everything else, came through honest, hard work and it certainly wasn’t easy at times.” His arm drifted down and patted Kid’s back gently before dropping to his side, his face suddenly solemn.

Kid reached out grabbed his partner’s arm to bring them face to face. “There were hard times, some harder than others, but there were plenty of good times as well, even before the amnesty and pardon. I’m satisfied with what we’ve made of our lives and without those hard times to learn from we wouldn’t be here today.”

“That’s for sure. No one would want to read about a couple of small town happy farmers from Kansas.”

“Heyes! You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, Kid, I do.”
______________________________

Joshua Curry sat in a comfortable chair across from his wife and mother who were on the couch in his parents’ suite and silently contemplated the two men who entered the room.

His father and his uncle were larger than life figures in the popular culture. In spite of all their accomplishments, and there were many both professional and personal, both were down to earth in their outlook and approach to life. They inspired strong feelings in people who knew them – love, hate, admired or despised but rarely indifference. He wondered if any of his two step-sisters or seven brothers and sisters would leave such a larger than life mark in history. He suddenly realized that he was grateful to never have felt the pressure to do so but was accepted as himself and encouraged to excel at his interests as all his siblings were.

Jed grabbed an apple from the bowel on the side table. “Anyone want a piece of fruit?” he asked before crossing to kiss his daughter-in-law then his wife and settling next to her on the couch. Heyes was already seated and perusing the papers that lay on the coffee table.

“Josh, you’re our agent and I know you live in New York and are therefore used to the New York way of life but for two old men you have quite a schedule here. Is the western half of the tour as extensive?”

“Uncle Heyes, you’re not old. You are only sixty-two and Dad’s sixty. Neither one of you act old by any stretch of the imagination.”

Erin Curry smiled and looked appreciatively at the two men before her. It was true, Erin thought, and blessed the good fortune that smiled upon the long time partners, who in spite of the demands put upon their bodies and their minds, or maybe because of them, remained in good health and appearance.

She leaned into her husband’s embrace as he casually draped an arm along the back of the couch, his hand resting on her shoulder, drawing her close. Jed might be stiff in the mornings when he first rose from bed but his need for activity and his customary high energy level soon loosened him up. He still walked and moved with a slight swagger and easy confident grace.

“Joshua, don’t worry. Once you get Heyes in front of a crowd all hangin’ on his every word, he’ll be rarin’ to go already plannin’ in his head what he’s going to improve on at the next stop.”

Heyes looked suitable abashed. “Well, someone’s gotta charm the crowds. You just stand there and do the pretty boy but rough, silent, western man act. He gets the women swarming around him at every function we’ve ever been to and him an old happily married man. I’m the wealthy single one.”

“Your choice Heyes. You’ve had plenty of opportunities. Still do for that matter.”

“It’s true, Jed. Good thing I’m not a jealous wife.”

“Darlin’, you know I only have eyes for you. Always have and always will.” Jed leaned forward and nuzzled Erin’s neck which she was obligingly making available.

Three pair of eyes rolled at the sappiness, although, all knew the sentiment was real.

“Dad, mom, please behave yourselves. I need to go over the plans for tonight and tomorrow. You’ll have a day of rest then the tour starts in earnest.”

“Okay Josh, I know the reception tonight is to meet the press, anything special you want us to keep in mind?”

“At six-thirty you’ll meet with the president of Harper & Brothers and the other important executives in The Palm Court. He’ll be the one introducing you and dad to the Press and talking about publishing the book. I’ll bring the family down a little after but before seven when the doors open for the invited guests. Mr. Harper will give his speech and then turn the floor over to you, for questions and answers.” Joshua looked up and gave a hard stare at his father.

“Dad, leave the colt in the room safe. I know you have it with you.”

“Josh, he’s better off stuffing it under the mattress than locking it in that safe. Why I bet I could open that thing in no time. I’m going to talk to the head of security before we check out and leave him the agency card. For a place with their kind of clientele they need expert advice.” Heyes huffed.

“Joshua, take Mary and go relax. You’ve worked hard for this moment and we’re not your only client. I promise we’ll behave. No go and be back at six.” Jed advised his son.

“You’re my biggest and most important clients. Do you know the company is giving you the same run as Mark Twain’s books? Do you know that the advance sales have set a company record for a first time author, the early critical reviews have been excellent and the press has been relentless? Do you know..,”

“I know it wouldn’t have been possible without your constant pestering to write our story down and the encouragement to continue. I know it wouldn’t have gotten published in such a classy way if you hadn’t been our agent.” Brown eyes met the blue of the son of his best friend and the connection calmed the younger man.

“Okay, we’ll leave for a couple of hours. I’ll need the rest for tonight and tomorrow. You all should rest as well. You’re going to have a late night tonight and an early start tomorrow to arrive at Sagamore Hill to visit Former President Theodore Roosevelt.” Joshua and his wife gathered their things and walked to the door accompanied by Heyes.

“Uncle Heyes you’ll get everyone organized so they’re ready in time, right? I can’t imagine why they invited the whole family even after I sent the total number of us children and grandchildren.”

“I’m thinking that Theodore Roosevelt is used to a large family, having a fair number of children himself. Don’t worry Joshua, one thing at a time.”

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“You’ll need your gun tomorrow. Mr. President Roosevelt specifically asked if you would go shooting with him. I think he wants to discuss his time in the Dakota’s and will probably talk books with Uncle Heyes.”

“I’ll bring it. Now, Go!” bellowed the patriarch of the Curry clan.

Heyes watched the young couple leave and nodded absently when Jed remarked, “He’s as nervous as you right before blowing the Pierce & Hamilton ’78 in Denver.”

The words suddenly registered, “I wasn’t nervous.”

“Yes, you were; I know, I read it in a book.” Jed swiped the newly published autobiography off the coffee table and started to thumb through the pages. Heyes glared at his smug partner as Erin gently removed the volume from her husband’s hand and placed it out of reach.

“I’m going to go down the hall to watch the baby so Annie can go shopping with the others. You two better prepare for tonight. You haven’t faced this much National Press attention in quite awhile. Bye gentlemen.”

“Seriously Heyes, please talk with Josh when he gets back, calm him down. You’ve always had more of a connection with him then me.”

“He’s your son, Jed.”

“I know and I know he loves me but in many ways you’re more of a father figure to him than I am. You understand him better; he’s like you and while you and I are like two sides of the same coin, Joshua’s like a foreign currency to me sometimes.”

Heyes looked into the serious face briefly before dropping his gaze to the floor. He shrugged his shoulders. “I never meant to usurp you.”

“I don’t resent you, Heyes. I’m glad you share our lives. With ten children, there was bound to be one or two Erin and I need help with. I feel damn lucky Joshua is as close to you as he is. Maybe it’s the name? Does Joshua mean bookish, intelligent, driven and guarded?”

Heyes shook his silver-flecked dark head and went to look out the large windows at the busy avenue below. He was grateful to Jed and Erin Curry who unselfishly shared their homes and their lives with “Uncle Heyes”. He was an integral member of the Curry family in every way.

Oh, nominally the Denver townhouse was his as was the house in Chicago but in reality he lived at the ranch outside Denver. As he and Kid had done for as long as either one could remember they shared almost everything - the businesses and homes or apartments in Denver, San Francisco, Dallas, St Louis and Chicago. Heyes had told stories, taught to ride and generally was involved in the Curry children’s lives. Of all the children, Sarah and Rachel, Erin’s daughters from her first marriage that left her a young widow and going down the line of Sean, Michael, the twins Bridget and Elizabeth, Joshua, Richard and the last set of twins John and Zachariah, Joshua was as close to having his own child as he would ever experience. And the man who understood the innate connection between Heyes and Joshua accepted, encouraged and approved of the relationship was standing, as always, right next to him.

“You’re starting to brood, Heyes. Stop starin’ out the window and lets go see that elephant. Like Josh said we’re not old men. We don’t need naps. We should catch up with the kids and go feed popcorn to the animals.”

Heyes turned from the window. “Hah! You’ll eat the popcorn yourself. They’ll be none left for the animals.”
____________________________________

“Sean, most of this stuff you can take care of when you get back to Denver.” Jed swept up the opened telegrams into a semblance of a pile. “You’ve been running the San Francisco office just fine for a few years now and Heyes and I know you, Mike and O’Reilly can handle the entire business while we’re gone. Just telegraph us if something unique or terribly interesting comes across your desks. You know how Heyes is.”

Sean Curry just smiled as he pushed a smaller more orderly pile in front of his father. “These pertain to the ranch.” He sat back to watch his father’s reactions. The horse ranch outside of Denver was more a hobby and a space for children to grow up than a working, money making business enterprise. It was just that his father and to a smaller extent his Uncle Heyes had a unique approach to hiring ranch hands. They had a habit of taking in “strays” and down on their luck reformed men. Surprisingly, while life could be interesting at the ranch, they were rarely wrong as judges of character.

“What in the Sam Hill was he doing? I told him!” Jed balled up the telegram in his hand and threw it forcibly across the room where it landed in a small wastepaper basket.

Knock, knock, knock.

“The door’s open, come on in,” two voices called out in unison, one with a hint of exasperation the other held a note of amusement.

Heyes opened the door and hesitated for just a spit second. Perhaps it was the mood of the evening; he was suddenly struck by the striking similarity between Jedediah Curry and his oldest son, Sean. Everyone meeting the two remarked on the resemblance but in that moment, for Heyes, it was like looking at Jed at twenty-seven and Jed at sixty at the same time.

He blinked and stepped into the room, “What’s going on?”

“Wheat’s crashed the truck. He ran into a tree in the middle of a field. He’s fine but the truck is twisted metal. So says Kyle.”

“What was Wheat doing driving the truck? He’s almost seventy; he can’t see too well. He knows Mark will drive him around.”

“Gee, Heyes, I don’t know why Wheat does the things he does half the time but how can you miss seeing a tree. You haffta be blind. You don’t think he’s goin’ blind do you?”

‘Nah, he’s just asserting his title of foreman even if we’ve given most of his duties to Mark.”

“Polish your tongue partner because you gonna have to talk him into finally retirin’ when we get back. He and “assistant foreman Kyle” can keep the foreman’s cabin. We’ll build Mark a new one. Those two are going to kill themselves and I won’t be responsible.”

Heyes and Sean exchanged smiles as Heyes came and joined the seated men at the table.

Unbeknownst to the men, Erin Curry stood in the suite bedroom doorway, admiring the three handsome males. Sean was classically handsome with his strong jaw and soft blond curls in his dark gray suit and no doubt would soon be enjoying the attentions of several unattached women. She sighed and wished he did less appreciating of the variety available and settle on one special woman. She heard Jed’s soft drawl in her head reminding her that he didn’t get married until he was thirty-three and her own retort back that Kid Curry experienced vastly different circumstances.

The salt and pepper head of hair, gray temples and lean frame served to make Heyes the epitome of the older tall, dark, handsome and tantalizing unattached male. He looked as natural in the hand tailored tuxedo as he did in trousers, shirt and boots. His chocolate brown eyes, distinguished good looks and quick intelligent wit have melted hearts all over the nation but he resolutely maintained he was not the marrying kind. Knowing of several broken hearts when he lost interest in a long term relationship, Erin had come to accept that he knew himself and was comfortable with his decision.

The proverbial light of her life and the man who awakened feelings she had thought lost forever was blissfully unaware of his continuing sense of “presence” - that marvelously attractive blend of unpredictability, tenderness, strength, dangerousness and naiveté. Against all odds, the nickname Kid still was apt in a fashion. Erin appreciated the lean, muscular build, easy athletic grace, and full head of wavy still blond hair with only a few strands of gray that hid Jed’s true age. There were lines about the eyes and mouth that hinted at the years but Erin thought they revealed character more than age. That the well fitted tuxedo hid scars of a harsh first half of his life no one need see. She was eternally grateful that her perseverance to push past every barrier he had erected around his heart yielded a marriage of love, friendship and was certainly never dull.

She banished a slight twinge of envy as she smoothed her skirt and felt her thickening waist and need for supporting undergarments that came from giving birth to ten children and a late blooming addiction to pie that she blamed on Jed. Her hand pushed back an auburn curl streaked with more gray than she wanted to admit and prepared to make her entrance.

Sean held up the last large pile of telegrams, “These are personal, mostly well wishes.”

Heyes scanned through papers muttering the names of the senders “Richard and Audrey Nickersen, Tom and Hannah Nickersen, The O’Reillys, Jordon’s, Harry and Julia Briscoe, Georgette and Frank, Clementine and her family, …” His voice tapered off at Jed’s gasp and sudden rise from the chair

“Erin, you look stunning,” Jed whispered as Sean rolled his eyes.

“Thank you. Do you like it?” She did a little twirl in the middle of the floor while aware of Jed’s eyes following her every move.

“The gown is becoming but it’s the woman wearing it that makes a gorgeous picture.”

“You look lovely, Erin.”

“Very nice, mom.”

“That is why you two aren’t married. Heyes, you just wrote a thick book and lovely, while it’s a perfectly acceptable adjective most of the time, it can’t compare next to stunning and gorgeous. Some silver tongue.”

The three older adults shared in companionable laughter.

A manicured finger pointed at the youngest male. “Very nice? That’s the best you can do? I’m sure you can tell when a woman is fishing for a compliment, my dear.”

“You’re my mother.”

“I’m aware of that fact but nonetheless I’m still a woman.”

“Good, you’re all ready. Dad, Uncle Heyes, can you come with me. I’ll walk you down, perform the introductions and then come back for the family as we discussed this afternoon.”

All four turned to the corridor door where Joshua was beckoning with his right hand and checking his watch on his left wrist. He looked back into the room.

“Mom, you look great. You’ll put all the New York matrons to shame.”

“See, He has a wife…” Jed kissed his wife to spare his best friend and oldest son any more unwanted matrimonial pointers.
_________________________

The elevator door closed and they were trapped. Once the door opened life would tilt again.

“Uncle Heyes, I hope you have your notebooks with you because you better keep writing. There are rumors that if the book sustains its initial acclaim that Harper & Brothers will want to option “Heyes and Curry: The Later Years”. Knowing you two, there’ll still be plenty to write about.”

Poker faces met an anxious face. Jed caught Heyes’ look and flicked his eyes toward his son meaningfully. Heyes rested his hand lightly on his pseudo namesake’s arm and looked him straight in the eyes. He spoke with calm authority, “We’ll take things as they come and it will take more than a bunch of reporters, photographers and executives to rattle us. Relax and enjoy the moment, Joshua.”

The young man nodded and looked up to stare at the arrow indicating the descending numbers.

“Kid, are you ready to face the mob?”

“With you and I side by side the mob doesn’t stand a chance, Heyes. Besides, they’ll have cameras and notebooks not pistols and rifles plus we know the floor plan if we need to make our escape.”

Brown eyes met blue with a shared knowing smile. The two long time partners took two deep breaths as the elevator door opened.

“They’re here! It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!”
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:28 pm

I know I never make the challenge these days, sigh...
But I thought I'd show willing by posting a snippet from an OLD one of my stories for the

SOUR GRAPES challenge.

So, from 'Stop W(h)ining..."    

[Any newbies can find the full story either in the VS area on the other site, or at https://calicoasjstories.wordpress.com/2-vs-stories/1-stop-whining/]


TEN MINUTES LATER

Two ex-outlaws, two cigars in two mouths, two hats pulled down, two sets of boots propped on a rail, two cool beers beside them, lounged outside the Santa Rosa bar .

“You’ll never guess what I was guardin’ Heyes…”
“You’ll never guess what I was guarding Kid…”

Kid Curry frowned. However, talking over the silver tongued one was – well, just too much dang effort on a beautiful spring morning. He decided to wait.

“Plants! Who the Sam Hill would want to steal plants, anyhow!” Heyes blew the satisfied smoke ring of a man who has pocketed a substantial fee. “I’ve been playing nursemaid to a set of bud-wood cuttings, Kid. This guy who hired me owns a vineyard – y’know – wine. He’s brought over some kinda special grape all the way from Tuscany.”

“Tuscany!” echoed Curry. “Sangiovese grapes, huh?”

Heyes blinked. “Er, yeah.”

Kid Curry repressed a smirk and appreciated his partner’s surprise. “Makes a medium to full, firm, dry, slightly spicy red that ages…”

“Since when did you know anything ’bout wine except how to drink the dang stuff?”

“Can’t a man appreciate a, a fine bouquet?” the Kid deadpanned.

Heyes did a double-take. WAS that Kid Curry? “Anyhow, ” Heyes pressed on, “this fella, Maggiore, he’s hired me for the rest of the week. Seems there’s what they call a barrel tasting then. He’s kinda concerned about tampering. Apparently there’s this fella called Bianchi and…”

“Heyes…”

“There’s some kinda vendetta. Tell you what, Kid…”

“Heyes…”

“Strikes me he might hire you, too.”

“Heyes I can’t work for Maggiore. An’, I don’t think you should take the job.”

“Why not? Good money, Kid. And he’s a real affable fella,Kinda excitable, maybe.”

“I can’t take the job ‘cos I’m hired by Bianchi to guard HIS barrels till the end o’ the week!”

Heyes took a moment to process this. “Maggiore isn’t planning to tamper with anything of Bianchi’s. Told you, he’s a real nice fella.”

“Well, Bianchi isn’t plannin’ to tamper with anythin’ of Maggiore’s,” interrupted his partner, defensively. Hey , he liked his new boss! Then, brow furrowing, “Maybe neither of us should take the jobs, Heyes.” He met an enquiring, not to say incredulous, look from a pair of deep brown eyes. “If you’re workin’ for Maggiore, and I’m workin’ for Bianchi.” The Kid shifted in his seat, “we’d kinda be on opposite sides.”

Heyes folded his arms. “So, let me get this straight. Maggiore wants to pay ME good money to guard his barrels?”

“Uh huh.”

“Bianchi wants to pay YOU good money to guard HIS barrels?”

“Uh huh.”

“Neither one is planning anything, so this’ll be the easiest good money we’ve made since we quit busting banks? ‘Cept, it’s honest!” Heyes pushed his hat to the back of his tousled dark hair and stared at his partner. “And, you want to turn it down?”

The Kid frowned a little more. Then, his brow relaxed. Another long pull at his cigar.

“Heyes…”

“Uh huh?”

“You persuaded me.”

A grin dimpled Heyes’ cheeks. “It’s what I do, Kid.”

A contented beat.

“You’ll never guess what I was escortin’, Heyes,” began Curry, looking forward to his moment.

A smartly dressed couple exited the town’s bank and began to walk towards the partners.

“Tell me later, Kid,” interrupted Heyes. “And, we don’t know each other! We just happen to be having a beer at the same time.”

“Uh huh,” grunted Curry.

The ex-leader of the notorious Devil’s Hole Gang, rose to his feet and ran lightly down the steps to the street.

“Rosa, mia cara,” smiled Signor Maggiore, This is Signor Smeeth, ‘oo is gonna keep-a safe our …”

Heyes touched his hat to his new boss’s wife and then, politely, returned his attention to what his employer was saying.

From under his hat brim, the watching Kid Curry became aware that Signora Maggiore’s eyes never left his partner’s face. At first she wore a, a slightly dazed expression. Then, as Heyes turned away, this was replaced by a delighted smile. A feminine gaze studied every detail of the dark-haired ex-outlaw from bright silver trimmings to dusty boot heels. The smile broadened. A silk parasol twirled, thoughtfully.

Kid Curry shifted uncomfortably. It was not that unusual for Heyes to get his fair share, a fair share being, oh, about 20% in the Kid’s opinion, of female admiration. But – sheesh! This was his boss’s wife. It could mean trouble! It could, nah! The Kid reassured himself. Heyes was too smart to walk into that kind of trouble, whatever the temptati… Er?
Curry took another look at the temptation. Signora Maggiore sure was a handsome woman for her age. No,the Kid reconsidered, as a pair of lustrous blue eyes flashed HIM a glance from under honey colored lashes. He crossed his legs. Strike out ‘handsome’. Make that, stunning. He hoped his smart partner was smart enough.

“Buon giorno, Signora Maggiore,” said Heyes, fluently. Well, as fluently as four simple words can be.

“How do you do, Mister Smith? My husband informs me you come most highly recommended.” A gracious hand was extended. Heyes blinked. “Is there something wrong, Mister Smith?”

“No – nothing, ma’am.”

Kid Curry lowered his head to hide a smirk. Heyes, who must have learnt and practised the Italian greeting during the last few days with Maggiore, had clearly thrown it away on a lady clearly born, raised – and, from her accent, most expensively educated – back east.

Suddenly, both ex-outlaws’ attention was diverted by the sound of an approaching carriage.

“Maggiore!” shouted the irate tones of Bianchi. “Maggiore! I wanna talka to you!” A fist waved in the air. The carriage veered. A fist stopped waving in the air and returned to where it belonged, on the reins.

With an expression of foreboding, Kid Curry pulled himself to his feet and stepped into the street.

Bianchi scrambled out – scowling. He momentarily switched off the scowl to throw a friendly smile at Curry, a gentlemanly inclination of the head to the watching Signora Maggiore and to help his wife step down. Duty done – he switched the scowl back on.

“I wanna talka to you, Maggiore!”

Two bristling middle-aged men squared up.

“So talk, Bianchi! I keepa the special pair of leetle ears for anyt’in you hava to say!”

“You tella that boy of yours, keep away from my daughter!”

“Isa NO problem! I tell ‘im that already! I tell ‘im, ‘e marries your daughter over my deada body! You tell ‘ER , keep away from ‘IM!”

“Are you sayin’ my daughter is notta GOOD enough for your son?” Bianchi began to strip off his beautifully tailored jacket.

A hesitation. Heyes looked, thoughtfully, at the man with whom he had spent much of the last week. Whatever this WAS about, the essentially good-natured man seemed to have no inclination to imply anything offensive about his neighbor’s daughter.

Bianchi struggled with an inside-out sleeve. “You say my Juliet isn’ good enough for your son, I, – I knocka your ‘ead offa your shoulders!” The jacket was finally pulled off and flung into the arms of a reluctant Kid Curry.

“I did’n say SHE wasn’ good enough!” said Maggiore.

“Y’know, he didn’t say nothin’ like that,” put in Curry. His eyes flicked across the street. The door of the Sheriff’s office had opened. A figure wearing a star-shaped badge watched the scene with mild, ‘don’t make me come over there’, disapproval. Okay, the figure was pleasantly unfamiliar to the ex-outlaws, but – all the same!

“I DO say to my son,” went on Maggiore, “I say, you don’ marry any girl ‘oo giva you a, a stupidita for a papa-in-law!”

“Pah!”
“Tchah!”
“Hah!”
“Pfffttt!”

“I wouldn’ let mia bellissima Juliet marry your boy, not if he was the lasta man on earth!”

“Are you sayin’ my boy isn’ good enough for your family?” Maggiore’s turn to strip off some of the most expensive tailoring available in San Francisco. Heyes’ turn to be the reluctant holder of a discarded jacket. “You saya one bad word ’bout my boy, I– I …”

Bianchi’s turn to hesitate. Kid Curry remembered, in all the swirling family argument last night, his new boss never denied his wife’s repeated assertions that young Michael Maggiore was ‘A gooda boy! A nice-a boy!’

“I don’ say a bad word ’bout your boy, only ’bout his _” A tut from Signora Bianchi.
Curry gathered he had learned his second Italian cuss-word. “Of a papa!”

“Tchah!”
“Pah!”
“Pfffttt!”
“Hah!”

Two figures, elegantly embroidered waistcoats snugly fastened over portly bellies, circled in the dusty street. Four sleeves of snowy white finest linen fluttered gently, as two sets of plump fists were raised in classic ‘sparring’ pose.

“You waita, Maggiore. You finda out ‘oo ees stupidita! The vino Bianchi, it take the golda medal ata the barrel tastin’!”

“Ina your dreams! Once the judges taste-a vino Maggiore …” rapid Italian. Circling.

“Pah!”
“Pfffttt!”
“Tchah!”
“Hah!”

The watching wives exchanged a glance. Feminine eyes rolled. The partners gathered, firstly, this display of what later generations of women might (rightly) dismiss as ‘pointless willy-waving’ was not new. Secondly, the ladies did not expect actual punches to be thrown.

“An’ keep-a way from my barrels! I ‘ave ‘ired, ” Maggiore lowered his fists and pulled forward an unwilling Hannibal Heyes. “I ‘ave ‘ired the best security expert in California. No! No! I ‘ave ‘ired the best security expert in the ‘ole of the West!” An expressive Latin hand gestured. “Looka thosa eyes! Sharp as an eagle!” Heyes’ arm was pulled. “Looka those arms! Muscles lika tiger! Looka thosa …”

“Hey!” remonstrated Heyes. Sheesh! He scowled at his grinning partner.

“See ‘im frown!” triumphed his pleased boss. “Signor Smeeth, ‘e is fierce as a…”

“Pah!” dismissed Bianchi. The grin was wiped off the Kid’s face, as HIS boss turned. “It is I, Paulo Bianchi, ‘oo ‘as ‘ired the best security expert in the west! No! No! I ‘ave ‘ired the best in the ‘ole of America! Looka ‘IS arms! ‘E is MORE muscles than a tiger!” The Kid’s arm was flexed by a proud employer.

“Hey!” he protested. He gave a clearly amused Heyes, ‘the look’.

“Looka THAT scowl!” exulted Bianchi. “Signor Jones, ‘e knowsa not the meanin’ of fear!” A scornful look. “‘E could take-a your man with one-a ‘and tied be’ind ‘is back!”

“Hah! Signor Smeeth, even with both ‘ands be’ind ‘is back, ‘e flatten your man lika, lika, ” Maggiore searched.

“Like a bug?” suggested Heyes.

“Grazie tante. Like-a BUG!” accepted his boss.

“Hey!” objected Curry.

“No offence, Mister Jones,” smiled Heyes, touching his hat.

Maggiore dropped the belligerent posture. “No offence, Signor Jones?” he echoed. The kindly face looked anxious. As if concerned arguing with his boyhood rival had led him to be rude to an innocent stranger.

“None taken,” responded the ex-outlaw, civilly.

“Va bene,” smiled Maggiore. He returned to his aggressive stance. “Is not youra fault, Signor Jones, that you ‘as been ‘ired by that, that…” More rapid Italian. More circling.

“Signor Smeeth, ‘e is recommended by the best Sheriff in the ‘ole of Wyoming!”

“Is not’in! Signor Jones, ‘e ‘as been workin’ for Wells Fargo! Recommended by a – a Colonel!”

“I was deliverin’…” Kid Curry tried to get his last job into the conversation.

“Pfffttt!”
“Hah!”
“Tchah!”
“Pah!”

Kid Curry failed. Utterly!

“You don’ needa to be guardin’ YOUR barrels any’ow! ‘Oo wanna get ata YOUR barrels! Oak! Hah! Only a – a stupidita use-a the oak!”

“Why you guard-a YOUR barrels? Even woodworm have-a more sense than go near YOUR barrels! Chestnut! Pah! Dio mio!”

“You don’ say not’in ’bouta my barrels!”

“No! No! I feela SORRY for YOUR barrels!”

“Whata you tryin’ to say?!”

“Bein’ full of your stinkin’ wine!”

“Leasta I makes wine! Not – not ‘orse peeessss!”

“Paulo!” a sharp reprimand from Signora Bianchi.

“You don’ even make-a wine THAT good! You make-a diseased mule peeessss!”

“Guiseppe! Language!” a second sharp reprimand from Signora Maggiore.

“You take-a that back!”

“YOU take-a it back!”

“The last time I drank-a wine from your grapes…!”

“You don’ say not’in’ ’bout-a my grapes!”

“It was, it was – STEWED!”

Gasps of horror from the two ladies. Silence. Change in mood. Bianchi wore the expression of a man who has let his mouth run away with him. Maggiore wore the expression of a man hearing the virtue of his mother insulted in language too coarse for a dockyard.

“You! You! Well, your wine, is – is STRINGY!”

More dismayed spousal gasps!

Bianchi swung a genuine punch.

With the reflexes of a tiger (possibly the same tiger from whom he had acquired his muscular arms) Heyes pulled his boss clear. He kept hold of one excitable – and incensed – Italian.

Bianchi, his fist, with his full (and not inconsiderable) weight behind it, connecting with nothing, toppled.

With the reflexes of something undefined, though MORE sinewy than a cougar, the Kid caught HIS boss before he landed in the dirt. He kept a firm hold of the second excitable, and completely furious, Italian.

Looking up, the partners saw one of their least favourite sights. The Sheriff, disgruntled at having the calm of his quiet, peaceable town disturbed, was coming over.

“I reep ‘im leemb from leemb!” frothed Maggiore, struggling in Heyes’ vice-like grip.

“Dignity, Sir!” counseled Heyes, one wary eye on the Sheriff. “Rise above it! Show him who’s the gentleman here, huh?”

“I tear ‘im to peeces!” foamed Bianchi, fighting to free himself from a pair of steel strong arms.

“Don’t give him the satisfaction!” entreated Curry.

“Trouble?” grunted the Sheriff.

“No trouble, Sheriff,” soothed Kid Curry, trying his best to manage a conciliatory smile over the head of a wriggling vineyard owner.

“Just a little friendly discussion, about the barrel tasting,” smiled Heyes, his hands still full of straining winemaker.

“And, who would you be fella?” enquired an unconvinced lawman.

“This is Mister Smith,” put in Signora Maggiore. “My husband hired him to make sure there IS no trouble before the barrel tasting.” In a whisper, she added, “Guiseppe! Really!”

“An’ thees, ” Signora Bianchi stepped forward, “thees is Signor Jones! ‘E also make-a sure, for mio spouso, there is-a no trouble!” Undertone. “Paulo! Be’ave!”

“Smith an’ Jones, huh?” The Sheriff raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

The partners did not risk an exchanged glance.

“Uh huh,” they chorused in unison.

A cynical eye examined the tied down guns and general air of danger.

“An’ you two are here to STOP any trouble?” The lawman’s tone was heavy with scepticism.

Another pair of “Uh huhs”.

One by one, the now under control, though still quietly seething, vineyard owners were released by their new employees.

“Good!” approved the Sheriff, “‘cos if there’s one thing gets me all riled up, it’s trouble in my town!” Sharp eyes were still examining Heyes and Curry.

The ex-outlaws plastered on their best ‘innocent’ expressions.

“Me too,” nodded Heyes. “I can’t bear trouble. I just want to do the legitimate, peaceable security job I was hired for. And, I guess Mister, er, Tomes, was it?”

“Signor Jones,” supplied Signora Bianchi.

“I’m sure Mister Jones here feels the same!” Heyes tried a charming smile.

“Sure do!” nodded his partner, eagerly. “I like things real quiet an’, an’ law-abidin’! Always have! Can’t abide trouble!”

“Good!” repeated the Sheriff, “‘cos when I get all riled up, I get suspicious! I start to ask a lotta questions ’bout strangers.” A beat. “But, if there AIN’T no trouble, I never feel the slightest bit curious!” A beat. The Sheriff touched his hat to both ladies, turned on his heel and strode away.

Heyes and Curry finally risked exchanging a glance. A mute conversation.

“I reckon we oughta go, Signor Bianchi,” suggested the Kid.

“Leesten to Signor Jones!” supported Signora Bianchi.

“Va bene. Va bene,” accepted Bianchi. “But, ” a quick glance to check the Sheriff was out of earshot, “you ‘aven’t ‘eard the lasta thees, Maggiore!”

“Any time-a you choose, Bianchi,” hissed back Heyes’ employer.
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:28 pm

I'm cogitating on the prompt since I already utilized what to me is the most obvious use of it. So just for fun, here's that story.

The Speech

Two boys walked alone along a winding country path. Dry branches and crisp leaves crunched underfoot in the cool fall air, the sounds reminiscent of many autumns before, or at least one.

“I did it when I was in your grade. Now it’s your turn.” Stopping, Han laid his books on the ground and picked up a rock, flinging it with all his might.

His cousin Jed mirrored the action. “Don’t see why I have to mem’rize it. It’s stupid!”

“Jed, ya just have to.” The older boy watched his opponent’s missile. “But you’re almost as good as me throwing rocks.”

Jed shrugged. “Ma says I’m startin’ to fill out.” He picked up his books. “What good is me knowin’ a speech from some old book gonna help on the farm? My pa don’t know anythin’ like that.” Blond curls flopped as the boy looked up at his cousin.

Han shrugged. “I don’t know, but both our pas read at night to pass the time when we’re all in bed – their way of relaxing at the end of the day. My pa reads that stuff all the time.”

Jed’s nose crinkled. “Not sure my pa does. It’s stupid. Don’t see the point in it.”

“It’s not stupid – it’s culture.”

“Culture?”

Han straightened. He stood a full three inches over the younger boy. “Sure. It’s what the ladies in town say we need more of out these parts. You know, so we’ll be more like the big cities.”

“But we’re not in a big city.”

“I know. Doesn’t mean we can’t have some of what, say, Chicago and New York have.”

Jed almost stumbled over a boulder. Han reached out an arm to break the fall. The younger boy looked up. “Thanks, Han. But we can have somethin’ else they have that we don’t – maybe a circus!”

Han laughed. “A circus would be fun, but the play’s the thing.”

“Huh?”

Han shrugged. “Nothing. Just something my pa was saying the other night.”

“Maybe we can play more?”

“Nah, had nothing to do with playing.”

“Then what did he mean?”

Han thought. “Like the culture the ladies in town want to bring out here. It’s a line like ya have to memorize, but from something else.”

The younger boy sighed. “Ya mean there’s more of that stuff?”

“Yup, lots of it.” Han reminisced. “Don’t’cha remember all that memorizing I had to do couple years back? Those were just passages. I’m gonna have to start on the whole book now, not just a part like you’re doing.”

The younger boy scowled. “Don’t wanna read the whole book – ever!”

“Jed, ya might change your mind one day.”

“I don’t think so ...”

~~oo00oo~~

“I don’t think so, Heyes.”

“Huh?” The dark-haired man squinted in his cousin’s direction.

“I don’t understand anythin’ you’re readin’. And don’t think I ever want to. Had enough of that when I was a kid.”

Hannibal Heyes lowered his book. The rocking of the saddle did not make for easy reading. “Okay, I’ll read to myself. You’re right – you’re not cut out for the likes of this.”

Kid Curry turned. “You sayin’ I’m stupid?”

“Nope. Just like different things is all.”

Curry did a double-take. “Heyes, am I hearin’ you right?”

“Yep.”

“No more tryin’ to convince me?”

“Nope.”

“Why the change of heart?

Heyes’ eyes opened wide. “Because, Kid, it’s about time I listen to what you’ve been saying. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.”

Kid’s eyes narrowed. “There’s gotta be somethin’ in the air. You feelin’ all right?”

“Feeling fine.”

Curry pulled his mount alongside Heyes. He reached the back of a hand out to his cousin’s check. “Hmm, you’re cool enough.”

“Yep.”

Kid stared hard at his partner. “You’re up to somethin’, Heyes.”

“Nope. I’m not.”

“Then why ya agreein’ with me after all these years?”

Heyes shrugged. “Guess I’m admitting you know what you like. Maybe I can’t do all your thinking for you.”

Kid hastened an answer. “No, you can think for me. Well, maybe sometimes. But, yeah, I like what I like, and …”

Heyes smiled to himself. “Um hmm.”

Curry pursed his lips. What was this surrender? He stared at nothing in particular. To Heyes, he appeared deep in thought. The dark-haired man opened his book and began again to read, to himself this time. The wisp of a warm autumn breeze and the sway of their horses gently lulled both men to nod off in the saddle, only to quickly regain their senses. The silence, companionable and marked by steady hoofbeats, continued for a time.

Kid eyed the landscape. They were used to the terrain here in the southwest now. It rolled and undulated like that back home, but it was different – brown, not green; more high than flat. But Kansas was in their blood.

“Heyes?”

“Hmm?”

“Remember when we had to memorize that stuff back in school?”

“Um hmm.”

“And I didn’t think it mattered a hill of beans?”

“Yep. You still think that.”

Curry’s voice was rueful. “Well, maybe not as much.”

Heyes lowered his book. He smirked. “All right. Just before we agreed you didn’t like it. You having a change of heart?”

Curry removed his hat, running a hand through matted curls. The light autumn breeze felt cool on his perspiration-soaked head. Falls here in the southwest were not as cool as those in Kansas, but still the occasional leaves at higher altitudes rustled with the wind or crunched underfoot, reminiscent of so many yesterdays, long ago. “No, not really. But, maybe … I don’t know. Just …”

“Brings back …”

“Yeah, sort of.” Curry paused. “Heyes, you ever get to thinkin’, what might’ve been different?”

“If …”

“Yeah.”

Heyes removed his hat, settling it in his lap. The sun filtering through white, puffy clouds felt good on his face. The bit of a breeze rustled the open page of his book in one hand. He glanced at the print. Squinting back at his cousin, he reminisced. “I remember that speech you were so worried about. It went off without a hitch.” His countenance darkened. “It was the only one you had to do.” Lightening, he smiled. “You got off easy.”

“Yeah, easy.” Curry’s brow furrowed. “Maybe not so easy.” Kid focused on the ground, now brown, a bit undefined, as the thoughts meandering back to the rhythm of the saddle, of a time, to yesterdays. When he looked up, they shared a soulful glance.

Kid started, and Heyes joined in. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, …”

_________________
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Nebraska Wildfire

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PostSubject: Valparaiso   Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:48 am



Valparaiso


Hannibal Heyes was meticulously filling out the money transfer form, when his cousin and partner walked into the office.

“Hey…um, Joshua, ain’t you done yet?”

“Almost Thaddeus.”

“How much you sendin’?”

“Ten per cent, as always.”

“Ten per cent of four hundred dollars is…”

“Forty dollars, Thaddeus.  It ain’t hard to figure ten per cent. Just take a zero off the end.”

Jedediah Curry looked skeptically at his cousin, but then a thoughtful look came across his face.

“How long we been doing this?”

“Almost fifteen years.”

“You know, we probably wouldn’t be broke all the time if we didn’t always send them ten per cent.”

“Wouldn’t still be alive, if it weren’t for them.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Heyes had finished up the form while they were talking and handed the clerk the forty dollars.  He looked at the receipt that said:

Sister Mary Madeleva
School for Waywards
Valparaiso, Nebraska

As they walked out of the door, Heyes’ thoughts wandered back 15 years.

*********************

“Sister, Sister Patricia!  I have it!  I figured it out!”  The young man swept his dark hair out of his face, as he looked up from the page covered in calculations.  “I’ve figured the area under the curve!”

Sister Patricia looked up from the math tests she was grading and smiled fondly at Hannibal.  Looking back down at the papers through which she was struggling, she wished more of her students had the aptitude or even interest in mathematics that he showed. She walked over to where Hannibal was sitting.

“I’ll compare it to what Professor Michaels sent from Kansas State.”  She smiled.  “I never was very good at integrals.”

“Sister, this should complete the math problems he wanted.  I’ve also finished the chemistry experiments.  Too bad Mr. Peters wouldn’t let me have dynamite or nitro for trying out those problems!”

“I should think not, Hannibal.”  Sister Patricia sighed.  This young man had been a handful even as a youngster.  Now that he was growing into a young man, he needed to leave sisters’ orphanage here at Valparaiso, and make his way at the university in Kansas.  She wasn’t certain they would know what to do with him otherwise.  Luckily Mr. Johnson at the bank was willing to donate the funds needed to send him.  All the sisters’ money was needed for feeding and clothing the ever increasing number of orphans resulting from the recent war between the states, and the border wars before that.  They did their best, but every penny was sorely needed.

Hannibal was straightening up his papers, putting the necessary ones into the binder that was to go back to Manhattan, Kansas with his college admission forms.  Sister Patricia noticed a young man waiting quietly in the hall, hoping not to be noticed.  Having already graded his math exam, Sister was not surprised.  She thought, not for the first time, how the two cousins were like night and day.  Hannibal, with his deep eyes and thick hair was as dark as Jedediah was light, with his sky-blue eyes and hair blonder than the wheat in the field.  While Hannibal often was found in the school rooms after classes were finished, trying to figure out some new math problem or perusing a new book, Jedediah couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom and work with Mr. Peters on the school maintenance, or going on hunting trips to supplement the school’s food supply.

Yet there was an undeniable connection between the cousins.  They were the only family each other had still alive, so it was not surprising, but sometimes uncanny, how close they were.  Sister knew Hannibal had not told Jedediah when he would be finished with his homework.  Yet there in the hall Jedediah was waiting.

“I’ll take this down to Sister Madeleva, so it will stay…be ready for mailing next week.”  Hannibal smiled warmly at Sister Patricia.  She knew that even though Hannibal was one of the older boys here at the orphanage, he was still teased about enjoying his schooling.  Hannibal looked out into the hall cautiously.  A small sigh of relief escaped him, when he noticed that his cousin was waiting for him.  

“Good afternoon, Sister.”  Han smiled again and hurried to meet up with Jedediah.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be back by now, Jed.  Thanks for coming.”  Heyes fell into step with his cousin as they walked down the hall to the English room.

“Knew you’d need some backup, Han.”

“I told you to call me Joshua.”

“T’ain’t your name.”

“Yes, it is!  Hannibal Joshua Heyes.”

“Well, it ain’t what I’m gonna call you.  Always called you Han.”  Jedediah’s brow creased.  “You can call yourself any fool thing you want when you go off to that highfaluting college, but to me you’ll always be Han.”

“Well, then can you call me just Heyes?  That’s probably what I’ll get called in class.”

“Heyes?”  Jedediah’s blue eyes scrunched a bit.  “Yeah, I guess I can start to call you Heyes.”  His eyes turned wistful.  “I always liked your pa and ma.”

Heyes looked off and cleared his throat.  “Well, I guess that will do.  I just thought Joshua sounded a bit friendlier than Hannibal.”

“Whatcha gonna call me?”

“Jed, what do you mean?”

“Well, if you get a new name, so should I.”

“Heck, Jed, you’re just a kid.  You ain’t…aren’t going to college.”

“Don’t remind me.”  Jed looked a bit angry.  “How am I gonna deal with the Harris brothers without you around?”

Heyes thought for a moment.  “Guess, we’ll just have to get them in a fight before I leave, so they know what they’d be in for if I ever hear that they’re going after you while I’m gone.”

“But, Han…Heyes, won’t that get you in trouble?  Sister Madeleva said you had to behave until you left, so no one can say you don’t deserve to go.”

“You think I’m stupid or something?  We gotta do it somewhere the sisters won’t see.”

“Wouldn’t it just be easier for me to come along?  I could get a job at a livery or something.”

“Now think on that, Jed.  Where would you live?  Where would you be safe?  I’ll have to be on the college campus in the dorms, and couldn’t come running every time you needed me.”  He shook his head, determined.  “No, you’ll be safer here with the sisters.”

“You two still hiding behind the sisters’ skirts?”  A sneering voice came up behind them.

Heyes glanced sideways at his cousin.  As they turned in unison to face the threat, he plastered a big smile on his face, as Jed’s eyes and face became hard.

All three of the Harris brothers stood in the hall behind.  Herm was almost Hannibal’s age, Vince was Jedediah’s, and Sal was in-between.  They were stockier than the Kansas cousins. Their punches were the bane of many of the younger boys at the orphanage.  The sisters had tried to reform them, but had not had much success. The cousins had started some of the fights to protect some of the younger boys from being picked on by the brothers.  The Harris brothers started fights just to fight.

“Nah,” Heyes said nonchalantly.  “We was goin’ out to do some shootin’ with Mr. Peters.”  His eyes were as hard as flint, staring down the Harris boys.  He knew word had gotten around the school that the groundskeeper had been giving Jedediah shooting lessons, and that Jedediah was getting very good.  Heyes continued to stare and Jed folded his arms and took a strong stance beside his cousin, blue eyes flinty.

Herm Harris started to look uncomfortable, but then squared his shoulders.  “Ain’t got no guns here.  Let’s see what you can do without them.”

Hannibal and Jedediah just continued to stand firm.  They were known as hardscrabble fighters, with loyalty to each other that did not end.  They had proven themselves in many fights, but avoided many more lately, just based on that reputation.  Hannibal knew this was a fight that they would sooner or later not be able to avoid.  He was hoping though that today, in the school’s main hall, would not be the time and place.

He saw Vince start to move, but then heard a firm, but blessed voice from behind him.

“Why are you gentlemen all here in the hall?  You know it is almost time for dinner, so you should be down in the dining hall, helping with the preparations.”  Sister Madeleva’s voice rapped out.  She stared at the Harris brothers until they lowered their eyes.

“Yes, Sister.”  They shuffled off, but not without a glaring look back at Han and Jed.

“Mr. Heyes.”

Hannibal turned, with Jedediah along with him, and smiled at Sister Madeleva.  He held out his college folder.  “We were just coming to give this to you.”  He glanced down the hall towards the retreating Harris brothers.  “I didn’t think I should keep it in the dormitory, in case it was misplaced or lost.”

“Oh, Hannibal, you do know you bring this on yourselves sometimes, don’t you?”  Sister Madeleva still looked stern, but resigned.

“Yes, Sister,” Heyes smiled even more brilliantly at her.  “Jedediah and I better get a move on and help with dinner too.”

“Yes, Mr. Heyes, I supposed you should.”

*****

That Saturday, the end of the school year dance was held in the Valparaiso town square. The kids from the town school, as well as from the orphanage were invited.

Jed and Han were having a good time, dancing with every available girl.  Hannibal, with his dark, smoldering looks and soon to be a college student, and Jedediah, with his dreamy blue eyes and wavy blonde curls, were popular dance partners.  The party had been going well, until the Harris brothers noticed that Jed had started dancing with one striking young blonde lady more often than the others.  As the banker’s daughter, Sally Johnson was the most eligible young lady there.  Herm Harris didn’t see why a no account like Jed Curry should be dancing with Sally.  Since Herm had made a trip behind the livery a few times, to where some men had liquor available, he had decided he was going to do something about changing Sally’s preferences.

Jed and Sally had just finished a dance, when Herm came up behind them.  Jed had spun around, pushing Sally away from him, but not fast enough to avoid Herm’s punch to his stomach.  With Herm’s reflexes slowed even further by liquor, Jed had enough time to recover, and land a decisive blow to Herm’s jaw.  He started to go down, but his brothers held him up and shoved him back at Jed, coming along to help out.

Hannibal had noticed Herm start to approach Jed and Sally on the dance floor, but it was too crowded for him to be able to make much headway towards them, before the first blows were exchanged.  He was there however to pull one of the brothers off of Jed and deliver his own blow to Vince’s jaw.

The fight continued until the sheriff and a couple other adults pulled them apart.  By that time Mr. Johnson had arrived on the scene, and was infuriated.  Sally had lost her balance when Jed had shoved her out of the way of the fight, and had fallen.  She had dirt all over her lovely white dress.  The sisters had come running too.

“Who started this fight?”  Mr. Johnson demanded to know.

“They did!”  Herm Johnson pointed towards Han and Jed.

“Now wait a minute,” Hannibal started.

“Do I smell liquor on your breath?”  Mr. Johnson bellowed.

Jed and Han looked startled, but Herm and his brothers just smirked.

“Now, Mr. Johnson, I’m certain we can sort this all out…”  Sister Patricia started.

“You, young man,” Mr. Johnson pointed towards Jedediah.  “Haven’t you been behaving a bit too friendly with my daughter tonight?  Dancing with her too often?”

“Sir,” Jedediah floundered for an answer, but Sally interrupted.

“Daddy, he was a perfect…”

“No perfect gentleman would have monopolized your attention so much without some sort of understanding first.  Which of course never could have happened with one of these boys.”

“What is the matter with our boys?”  Sister Madeleva asked.

“Isn’t this the one you wanted me to send to college?”  Mr. Johnson looked at Heyes sternly.  “He’s brawling in the street?”

“Mr. Johnson,” Sister Patricia said.  “Please be reasonable…”

“Reasonable?”  Mr. Johnson’s face turned red.  “With rogues tossing my daughter in the dirt, and fighting with others at a social function?  I knew nothing good would come of having your school in our town.  Hooligans all of them!”  He glared at Heyes.  “Definitely not college material, definitely not.”

“But sir…”  Heyes tried again.

“Hooligans!  Never should have agreed to any of this!”  He grabbed his daughter’s arm and hurried away from the square.

*****

Hannibal spent the last two weeks of the school year in a seeming daze.  He participated in classes, and passed his final exams with excellent marks, but he barely talked to anyone, even Jed.

The sisters had tried to find some other method of financing Hannibal’s college, but funds that had always been short at the orphanage, had trickled to nonexistent after the fight at the dance.  Mr. Johnson was an important man in town, and he had let his opinion of the school be widely known.  Heyes’ planned summer job at the bank, of course, was not going to happen.  Even the summer jobs that the boys had held in town for the past couple of years were not available.  Mr. Johnson held too many business loans in Valparaiso.

With funds low at the school, they were depending more on the game that they were able to obtain, so Jed had been spending a lot of time with Mr. Peters hunting.  He had just come back from such a trip and into the dorm room he shared with Heyes.  His cousin had papers and books all over his desk.

“Han, you do know school is over for the year, don’tcha?”

“Yes.”  Hannibal consulted a book and scribbled some more.

“So whatcha doin’?”  Jedediah sat down in the chair next to the desk, looking at Hannibal’s papers.  “More math?”  He made a face.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I’m devising a plan.”  Hannibal looked up at his cousin, a roguish grin spread on his face.

“You’re what?”

“Do you think you can get some dynamite from the storage shed, without Mr. Peters knowing?”

“Dynamite?”  Jedediah exclaimed.

“Shhhhhhh!  Not so loud.”  Hannibal said quietly.

“Dynamite?”  Jed asked more quietly, but not less agitatedly

“Yes, dynamite.”  Hannibal stated in a determined voice.

Jedediah stared at his cousin, but then asked, “Why do you want dynamite?”

“To blow the safe, of course, kid.”

“First, I’m not a kid, and second, what safe?”

“The one in the bank, of course.”  Hannibal stared at this cousin like he was a young child still.

Jedediah stared at his cousin like he was crazy, and seriously wondered if he was.

“Han, I think I need to hear the whole plan.”

“Jed, I still think you should start calling me Heyes.  Han just doesn’t sound like a good name for a bank robber.”

“You keep calling me a kid, and I’m gonna call you anything I like.  Now what is this plan?”

“I’m gonna blow the safe in Mr. Johnson’s bank.”

“That’s the whole plan?”

“Well, no.  I have all the calculations here for how much dynamite we’ll need.”

“How do you know that, H…eyes?”

“There’s a formula for everything, kid.”  Jedediah frowned, but Hannibal continued. “We can plan this for next weekend, at the town festival, when they are setting off the fireworks.  We won’t need much to just blow the hinges off that old safe they have in the bank.  I got a good look at it, when I was there, about that summer job.”

“Sure…Heyes.  Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you want to do this?”

“To get back at Johnson for ruining my life.”

“Han, I think that happened back in Kansas…when our folks were killed.”

“No, as…horrible as that was, kid, the sisters here have taken good care of us.  But what am I supposed to do now?  I’m done with high school.  I can’t go to college.  I can’t even get a job here in Valparaiso, because Johnson has told everyone we’re no good, no account orphans.  If we don’t leave, the sisters will never start getting donations again.”

“So you’re gonna rob a bank?” Jedediah couldn’t keep the astonishment out of his voice.

“Yeah.  That way we can have a stake, and leave this town.  Hey, I might even get enough to go to college.”

“Why can’t we stay here at the school?”

“I know you can still. You have more schooling to complete.”

Jed made a face.

“But I’m done.  There’s no place for me here now.”  Heyes looked seriously at his cousin.  “Do you wanna stay?”

“Not if you’re leaving.”

“I saw the lock on the back door of the bank building.  It’s just like the one on the storage room here, that Mr. Peters had me open.  He told me it was always good to know how to open locks, in case you lost the key, like the sisters did with that storage door.”

“I don’t think the sisters will like this, H…eyes.”

“We can’t stay, Jed.  We’re just causing them problems.”

“Who’ll protect the little kids from the Harris brothers?”

“I heard they are gonna ride out west and get a ranch job.”

Jedediah snorted.  “They ain’t gonna like all that hard work.”

“Well, now, that ain’t gonna be our problem, is it, kid?”

“Quit calling me kid.”  Jedediah looked stern.  “Or I’m gonna have to flatten ya.”

“Before supper?”

“Nah, maybe after.”


*****

The first bank robbery committed by Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah (soon to be Kid) Curry went off without a problem.  Maybe it was beginners’ luck; maybe because they were not yet dependent on the questionable skills of others.  The door to the bank was easily opened while everyone was still busy at the town celebration.  The safe was expertly blown, in time to some of the largest fireworks of the night.  The boys took two horses and tack from the livery, but left enough money to cover the cost.

They then quietly road off into the night, into the beginning of the rest of their lives, and into the history of the west.

***********************

A few days of riding later, found the boys relaxing by a campfire, drinking coffee, and finishing up a supper of beans and biscuits.

“It’s gonna be colder tonight, Kid.”  Heyes shrugged deeper into his gray coat, his chin down into his bandana, and his hat pulled low.  He took another sip of coffee.  “Probably need to start heading south soon.”

“Would be warmer if we were in a bed.  In a hotel.”  The Kid shivered too, buttoning up his heavy sheepskin coat.  “I’m gettin’ too old for sleeping on the ground in this kinda weather.”

“You know why we’re out here in the hills.  Didn’t like the look that last sheriff gave us.”

“Yeah, I know.”  Kid Curry sighed.  “Least it wasn’t because we were outta money.  Again.”  A thoughtful look took over his face.  “How much money do you think we’ve sent the sisters over the years?”

“Kid, if I told you, you wouldn’t be happy with me.”

“Explain to me again why we do this.”

“You know why.  If the sisters hadn’t taken us in after our parents died, we would’ve starved.”

“Do you think they knew who Rembacker and Hotchkiss were, sending them all those thousands while we were at Devils Hole?”

“Dunno, Kid.”  Heyes looked thoughtful, but then smiled.  “I am thinkin’ they are wishing those two fellas were still sending them those big donations, rather than the Smith and Jones guys who do now, but don’t seem to have as much ready cash.”

“You ever think we should go back?  Visit them?”

“Nah, I don’t think they’d be too proud of us.”

“I dunno about that, Heyes.  I think now they would be.”

“Maybe you’re right, Kid.”  Heyes smiled, with his eyes meeting his cousin’s.  “But it’s too darn cold to head back up to Nebraska with the weather as it is now.  Maybe next year.  Maybe we’ll have our amnesty by then.”

“Yeah, maybe.”  The Kid smiled back.

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Calico

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Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:31 am

Just a half offering for 'A Formula for Everything' ... nothing new, its from my childhood stories
But hey, may be new to some newbies


EXTRACT FROM PAID IN KIND

The Following Afternoon – Sunday 28th June


“What did she SAY – when you asked to borrow the clock?”

“I didn’t ask,” says Han. “…I got Samuel to draw something real nice – I suggested he drew his mother. But we got a picture of those two dang cats YOU wasted OUR Christmas money on! Anyhow, I said he should put it right in the middle of the shelf so Pa sees it when he gets in – propped it in front of the clock. She won’t move it – ‘cos it’ll only set him off complainin’ – an’ I swapped the clock for some old tin. Even if SHE notices – I’ll have the clock back, safe and sound, before Pa’s home … Hurry up with that piece of wood, Jed!”

“What did your last servant die of?” I grumble.

“He didn’t die. He got fired for bein’ too slow fetchin’ a plank when I’d told him to hurry up! Do I hafta do EV’RYTHIN?”

“Ev’rythin’! Seems to me I’M the one doin’ all the fetchin’, carryin’ an’ heftin’! ALL you’re doin’ is sittin’ nice an’ relaxed – danglin’ string!”

“I’M doin’ the measurin’ an’ I’M doin’ the figurin’!” Han protests. He pulls another piece of string off a roll and stretches it along a tape measure he musta borrowed from his stepma’s sewing basket. “…’Course…” he frowns at the kitchen clock, sitting ‘real safe’ on Han’s jacket where neither of us can knock it by accident, “…a watch would be better for the figurin’.”

“Why didn’t you sneak your Pa’s watch then? Woulda been easier than sneakin’ that great thing!”

“…’Cos…” sighs Han, using the patient voice, “…I’ve been forbidden to borrow Pa’s watch – or to take any of his stuff without askin’! He’s never – specif’cally – forbidden me takin’ the kitchen clock out for an airin’. An’, a kitchen clock is kinda – household goods. It don’t – specif’cally – belong ‘clue’sively to my Pa, huh? As for that word ‘sneakin’’. I mighta been…” he searches, “…discrete…” he decides, “…not wantin’ to – to worry the boys’ mother by rousin’ a lotta feminine curiousity …but to call it ‘sneakin’’…” Han gives me a sad shake of the head.

Sheesh!

“…Now what we have here, Jed, is three lengths of string. Or, once combined with the tallow I’m gonna melt – once YOU hurry up and build a fire – three lengths of slow burn FUSE! Ten inches, twenty inches an’…”

“Seems to me,” I interrupt, “…We’re gonna be in so much trouble anyhow – a bit more trouble over a watch isn’t gonna…”

“JED! I’ve told you. We are gonna have a perfect alibi! That’s what the string – I mean, slow burn fuse – is for! You gotta have a little faith! Now – I am gonna light these ten, twenty and thirty inches of slow burn fuse and note down the time taken to…”

“I get the point of the – the al’bye…” I say. “We’ll be well away from where the firecrackers go off. All innocent an’ with lotsa witnesses.”

“For a visibly distant, independently ‘companied and complete ten to fifteen minutes,” nods Han.

“… But…” I frown. “Mrs. Mueller’s not dumb. She’ll guess it’s us. Sheesh – even if it WASN’T us – she’d guess it WAS us! We could be in the next State – it’d STILL be us!”

“She won’t be able to PROVE it!”

“She won’t hafta PROVE it! She’ll tell my Ma an’ your Pa – they’ll ask us – an’…” I tail off. I am getting the ‘patient’ look. “I’m not sayin’ it’s not worth it,” I stress. “Just – thinkin’ some length of tallow an’ string is not gonna stop my Ma knowin’…”

“She’ll hafta ask ‘SACTLY the right question,” soothes Hannibal. “That is – so long as you leave ALL the talkin’ to me.”

Yeah right!
I can really see THAT working with Mister Heyes, let alone MY Ma.
NOT!!
Han’s pretty dang smart when it comes to what he calls ‘quiv’catin’’. Just, not as smart as he thinks he is! He may have had years of practice. But, THEY’VE had the same number of years practice spotting it, huh?
Still, like I say – it’ll be worth it.
If it works. Which is a pretty big ‘if’!

Hannibal brings his slate outta the bag he brought along.

“Now, assumin’ she don’t get distracted bitin’ the heads off small fluffy animals or held up at her witches’ sabbat criticizin’ some other hag’s cauldron cleanin’ technique, Mrs. Mueller – from now on to be known as ‘The Mark’ – will be judgin’ this year’s fourth of July pie and cake bakin’ competitions …”

SHE’S judging ‘cos SHE’S won the pie bake for three years running. The judging is done what they call ‘blind’, so it’s not ‘cos the judges wanted to keep her sweet.

“…This will place ‘The Mark’ on the presentation platform at two ‘o’ clock for a period of ‘bout ten minutes…” The slate pencil squeaks as Han’s diagram is sketched. “…The primary firecrackers will be placed here…” Squeak. “…Here…” Squeak. “…Here…” Squawk. “…We need access to the both platform and the display table BEFORE the fourth…”

I don’t get to taste her cooking. Han does sometimes. When we were – y’know – still just kids, he used to say ‘don’t see how she wins – her stuff tastes like dung’. But, now, he says, ‘If it wasn’t for the hostess – supper at the Muellers’ud be heaven on a plate. ‘Course – that’s one real big ‘if’.’ So, I guess SHE cooks better’n than Mrs. Heyes – which is pretty dang good!

“…Jedediah Curry – from now on to be known as ‘The Tactical Team’, or ‘T’…” Squeak. “… will approach Mrs. Frances Godfrey, of the ladies’ committee, with an offer of help AND the ‘big blue-eyed look’ …”

“Hey!” I protest, feeling my cheeks growing hot.

“…Hannibal Heyes – from now on to be known as ‘The Strategic Supremo’ or ‘S’…” Squeeeaaak! I frown. The ‘S’ is bigger. And fancier script. “…will approach Miss Caroline Field – events organizer – and, by his cunnin’ verbal dext’ery, get HER to request HIS help settin’ up the presentation platform…thus divertin’ suspicion…”

“Han! What the Sam Hill have you been readin’?”

“…Timing trials for the trigger devices will be held …” He checks the clock. “…at five thirty PM Sunday 28th June. IF ‘T’ ever gets that dang fire lit! A mechan’cal run through will be held …” Han looks up. A more normal tone. “Your Ma won’t mind if I come over Wednesday, huh? We’ll never get away without Samuel findin’ us if you come to me.”

“I’ll check – but it won’t be a problem,” I say, beginning to build a fire.

“…A mechan’cal run through will be held Wednesday 1st July …”

—oooOOOooo—

The Mechanical Run Through. Wednesday 1st July

“…Sheesh Han, it musta been fifteen minutes by now…”

“Nah.”

“…Feels like hours!”

“Nah.”

“…Don’t you wanna go check your fuse?”

“Nah. Shush, Jed. I’m tryin’ to count.”

Well, I wanna check the fuse! It’s been AGES!
(No way was I sneaking out OUR kitchen clock! I’ve never been ‘specifically forbidden from airing household goods’ either – but, I can’t see me having the cheek to make that sound half-way reasonable the way Han seems to!)
I trot over, take another look at the tallowed string – which is kinda like a real long, real skinny dip light. Still lit. Working its way towards the thin, thin line of gunpowder we have taken from some of the firecrackers.

“What you hafta realise,” says Han, who’s laying on his belly, eyes fixed on the rough planks we have rigged up and on the fake ‘bunting’. “…Is that with fuses, the skill’s in the length settin’. But the excitement …” He grins at me. “…The excitement’s in the waitin’. But YOUR wait is about to come to an end. Ten, nine, eight…”

I go join him. Will it…?

“…three, two, one…”

Nothing. Han frowns. Then: “…Minus one, minus two, minus…”

What HAS he been reading?

Fizz. We sit up. The thin line is sparking. Fizz. Crack! Crack! We only used a couple for ‘audience attention grabbing sound effects’. Didn’t wanna waste them on a run through.
The threads hidden among the ‘bunting’ singe through. Our test cloth unrolls. Not quite even. Not quite straight. But, still – it unrolls.
Crack! Crack! A second later, threads holding down two taut ferules give way. Two clods of earth – just for testing – fly through the air. Han looks jubilant. He said this bit might NOT work. He said if it did it would be…’Icing on the cake!’
He also said, ‘Pun intended!’. Huh?

“It worked!” I crow. “It worked! You did it Han! Guess you ARE smart as you think you are, huh?”

If that makes Han even more swell-headed than usual – I can’t help it! He deserves to have a swell-head!
He DOES look real smug.

“WE did it, Jed,” he grins. Which is TRUE. But, still, him remembering to say it is…y’know.

Then, Han says, “…So much for the run through. Now for the hard stuff…”

—oooOOOooo—

Saturday 4th July 1863

Most of the setting up was done last night. Miss Field and Mrs. Godfrey were both telling each other they did wonder if folk would wanna celebrate the fourth – what with the war and all. But, Miss Field said it’s good for people to have some distraction from all the worry – and attendance wasn’t compulsory, so they’d just lay on the usual things without making a big deal of it. And Mrs. Godfrey sniffed and said what with the fourth falling on a Saturday this year there’d be bound to be even more drinking, rowdiness and lewd debauchery come nightfall than usual. So, since THAT part of the fourth celebrations would go ahead whatever – more’s the pity – it’d be a sad state of affairs if respectable folk didn’t get to enjoy the day.

I asked her what ‘lewd debauchery’ was, but she just told me to get on with hanging bunting. I asked Miss Field what ‘lewd debauchery’ was – and she said it was an example of a redundant adjective. So, it’s some dull grammar thing.

Han, still working on ‘deflecting suspicion’ – not that there WAS any, since we both like helping out with this kinda stuff anyhow – was busy telling Miss Field it was always best to get as much as possible done in advance…and she said, ‘I know. That’s what I just said, Hannibal.’ Then Han told her, ‘Once everything is in place, you can relax and enjoy the day. And, if anything does go wrong – you’ve time to work on a backup.’ And, Miss Field said, ‘Is there an echo in here?’ Then Han told her, ‘If it ‘twere done, when ‘tis done, ‘twere well it were done quickly…’ and ‘Procastination is the thief of time’. And, Miss Field didn’t say nothing. She just rolled her eyes, handed over the bunting and left us to it.

Anyhow, there are a few finishing touches to do on ‘the plan’. We need to check the pies are set out right. So, I suggest we go get on with it.

“Uh huh,” grunts Han. He’s watching his Pa having his ear bent by Mrs. Mueller. We can’t hear what she’s saying, but she’s getting really annoyed. Han’s Pa has his hands on his hips and is not saying much. He’s NOT getting annoyed – though his lips look kinda pressed together. “It riles her ‘cos she can’t just boss him around the way she likes to,” mutters Han. “I mean he DOES let her boss him – it’s a real pain – but she kinda knows it’s only about stuff he don’t think is important.”

“Why don’t he just …y’know?” I ask.

“What?”

“Tell her to butt out now and forever? He could, couldn’t he?” It’s pretty much what Han USED to say his Pa should do. And, both Mister Heyes and my Pa always say you should stand up to bullies.

Han is quiet for a moment. He shrugs. “Dunno. I guess – I guess it’s not that simple, huh?” Han is not looking at his Pa any more, nor at me. I follow his eyes to where his Stepma is sitting chatting ten to the dozen with her sister Brigit. She looks real cheerful. Amy is on her Aunt’s lap. A podgy hand reaches up to show Brigit a daisy she’s picked. Behind them, Samuel and his little cousin Frederick are rolling on the grass and giggling until they squeal. Kurt Mueller is kinda mock-wrestling them. He lets them win’ and pin him to the ground. He’s laughing too.

“Gotchya Uncle Kurt! Gotchya!” crows Samuel. “Pin yim, Fred’rick! Pin yim!”

Mister Mueller still has David on his shoulders. He looks up. I think he asks if David wants to join in ‘cos David nods and is lifted down. Before he trots over to his brother he…it’s sappy, but he puts his arms round his Granpa’s neck, gives him a kiss. Mister Mueller looks all…Aww.

Han looks at me, gives another shrug.

Yeah, making Mrs. Mueller butt out forever is NOT so simple, even for a grown up. You could do it – but you couldn’t do it to JUST her.
It’s…I dunno.

XXXX

—oooOOOooo—

Han nudges me, gives a little frown and shakes his head. I know why. He’s telling me to stop looking up at the dang clock every half minute.

Mrs. Mueller is over on the platform swanking along the row of raised pork pies. I can’t hear what she’s saying. I’d be willing to bet she’s finding plenty to criticise though. Reverend Thomas and the Doc are up there too. Unlike her, they smile as they taste and make notes.
Some ladies watch the judges. I guess they know which is THEIR baking even though there are no names on it, only numbers. Most folk don’t pay much attention yet, they’re just waiting to clap the results. They mill around, chatting, or saying polite things about the other competition entries round the hall. No patchwork or pin-tucked blouses from the sewing circle this year – it’s all socks and warm shirts and mufflers; stuff for the troops. Us kids hadta do pretty much the same as usual. I see Mrs. Wyatt and Ma look at my copy of the piece on Paul Revere’s ride. It won’t win. It’s supposed to be in the best copy-book writing, what Miss Field sometimes calls ‘cursive’, but it went crooked. Ma looks pleased anyhow. I did try.

Han and I stay well back – ‘visibly distant’. The person ‘independently ‘companying’ us is Miss Field. We’ve been real close, talking to her, not outta her sight for…

It MUST be fifteen minutes by now! MUST be!
The judging started just when it was supposed to; bang on noon.
We did IT at five minutes to.
It’s gotta be fifteen minutes. HASTA be! It’s AGES since I checked the time. It’s not gonna work! I can’t help it; my eyes slide over to the clock.
It’s nearly, nearly ten minutes past. Just like last time I looked. And the time before.
Han has his back to the clock and never even turns round. How does he do it? I guess it’ll either work or it won’t. We can’t do nothing more – so there’s no point looking at the clock again.
I WON’T look.
I look.
It STILL says nearly, nearly ten minutes past. No – no it don’t! It’s …It’s…
It’s time.
Nothing.
It’s not gonna work.

“Jedediah! Did you not hear me? Jedediah…”

Huh? I tear my eyes away from the platform and pay attention to Miss Field.

CRACK! BANG!

“Eeeeeek!” “What the…?” “WHA…?” “@**@!”

CRACK! WHOOSH! BANG!

Squeals! Yelps! Cuss-words from men forgetting themselves!

Han spins round, a grin splitting his face. EVERYONE spins to face the platform. The firecrackers strapped underneath echo and boom. They sound MUCH better’n than outside. It’s deafening.

Mrs. Mueller jumps outta her skin! And she yells…
Well, I can’t tell you what she yells ‘cos I’d hafta wash my mouth out!
But it’s GREAT! RIGHT in front of Reverend Thomas!
The pie she’s holding tips off the plate…
Wow!
This is better’n we hoped.
She has pork pie jelly splattered all over her front!
IF the next part goes to plan the gunpowder line running from under the platform to the table should …

CRACK! WHOOSH! BANG! CRACK! BANG!

The couple of dozen firecrackers hung loosely behind the tablecloth go off. They do exactly what they’re supposed to – come loose and pop all over the platform.

Mrs. Mueller is…
Tears run down my face as I clutch my stomach … It hurts… I can hardly breath…
She’s DANCING up there, firecrackers exploding around her skirts.
So are Reverend Thomas and the Doc – ‘cept, of course, they don’t have skirts. THEY’RE starting to laugh.
It’s all way too noisy to hear the threads crack as they singe through, but the sheet fastened up behind the platform – hidden by all that bunting we pinned yesterday – DOES unfurl. Kinda.
Half of it comes down …half gets stuck.
Oh! THAT wasn’t supposed to happen – some of the streamers catch fire!
It’s okay, though. Doc Wallace pulls them down – stamps on them.
Half frowning, half laughing, he gives the sheet a shake too – which is great
because it straightens!
Gasps – and laughter – as folk read:

“Firecrackers supplied at pre-war prices by ‘Bargain Bertha’.
Apply the ‘secret’ back cellar – Mueller Stores ”

And see the drawing of Mrs. Mueller underneath. She’s trying to close a cash-box stuffed with dollar bills, winking out to the audience and has a speech bubble:

“You ‘Cottoned’ on where I keep the good stuff, surely ‘Sugar’?”

SHE turns to read same time as everyone else – still jumping about as the last of the firecrackers fizzle out. Her mouth drops open. She goes …is it puce? That purple colour.

Then, we get what Han said would be the ‘icing’ – if it worked; which it does. They always taste the savoury stuff first – so the fruit pies are standing to one side. We left a small gap – much narrower than a plate – between the trestles. You can’t tell so long as the stuff on the top holds the tablecloth smooth. Underneath we rigged a kinda catapult – though Han, who, in case you hadn’t noticed, likes to show off, called it a ‘ballista’. It’s pulled back real taut; the threads holding it should singe through right after the sheet releases, letting the ball fastened to the end of it twack through the gap. One of the finishing touches this morning was to make sure one pie was over the opening. Han warned me the pie would probably only tip onto the table despite our practices flinging earth clods. But…

Wow! I reckon that’s what Han meant when he talked about a perfect arc…
Of course, even though the pie’s airborne, the odds of it getting anywhere near HER are…
Again – Wow!
Both Han and I stop laughing for a moment.
It’s just TOO good.
I reckon we both wanna remember THAT splat and THAT look on her face – the bit of her face not covered in berry juice anyhow – forever.

—oooOOOooo—

“…Fourth of July pranks are traditional,” says Doc Wallace, wiping off the splatter of berry juice and fruit that got him. “…I guess I don’t mind giving folk a good laugh watching me dance around.”

“…I’m pretty sure most of the laughing was at ME,” smiles Reverend Thomas, who I don’t think realises he still has a bit of singed bunting hanging from one ear. “YOU were pretty light on your feet, ma-am! It was ME sounding like a buffalo stampede up there! And, like the good book says – there’s ‘a time to laugh’.”

“Laugh!!” fumes Mrs. Mueller. “LAUGH!! I’ll give him ‘laugh’!” and she starts towards Han.

“…You HEARD Miss Field! We were ALL the way over the other side of the Hall the WHOLE time! Ever since the judging started! Pa saw us too! And you did – didn’t you Mrs. Curry? Did any of you see us with firecrackers? Huh? No! No one saw us with firecrackers!”

I do exactly what Han told me to. Keep quiet and look ‘aggrieved’. Which is what you look – ‘pparently – if’n folk say you did something when you didn’t.

“…You little …I’m gonna…”

“NO, you’re not,” says Mister Heyes, not angry exactly but real firm. Mrs. Mueller meets his eyes, drops her hand.

“…You’d better punish him for this, Alex! I’m warning you!”

Mister Heyes looks at Han. Han stares back all wide-eyed and, I guess, ‘aggrieved’. My Ma turns to me, she’s about to ask – straight out – if I had anything to do with this. But, Mister Heyes touches her hand and catches her eye. She stops. Instead, HE asks Han, “…Mrs. Mueller’s telling me I have to punish you. What do you want to say to that, son?”

I blink, ‘cos that’s an odd way to put it. It’s – well – it’s exactly the kinda question that’ll let Han spout one of the answers he’s been practising. When Mister Heyes really wants to pin Han down he always asks something real simple and follows it up with, “It’s a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question, son.”

“…If Jed an’ me HAD done this – I reckon we’d owe Mrs. Mueller a whole twelve hour shift of chores – scrubbin’ an’ packin’ ALL day without getting so much as a sandwich or cup of tea the whole time…We’d certainly owe her that. A whole day of chores an’ missin’ meals would be ‘bout a fair swap for a prank like this, huh? IF it was me an’ Jed…”

Mister Heyes and my Ma exchange a glance. Of course Ma knows about last Saturday ‘cos I hadta explain why I was so late.

“…IF?! It WAS you – you little…”

“…BUT…” goes on Han, talking over her spluttering, “…I don’t see how it COULD have been us. I mean – where would we have got hold o’ firecrackers? You told everyone there were only half a dozen boxes to be had – and you sold ‘em all, huh, ma-am? None went to the Curry place. As for us, just a handful each for David and Samuel – and I reckon you still have them safe for later, Pa?”

Mister Heyes taps his pocket and nods.

“…So, WHERE could Jed an’ I have got the dozens an’ dozens an’ dozens o’ firecrackers that just went off? Huh?”

“It’s a good question alright,” says Mister Heyes. His face is straight, but his eyes are twinkling.

Mrs. Mueller splutters some more…without any words coming out.

“I mean – surely THAT…” Hannibal is pointing at the sheet with the drawing on. “… is only a silly fourth of July joke, huh? I mean, who’d believe you REALLY had a secret cellar full o’ scarce goods just waiting for the prices to rise further? Folk’d hafta have real suspicious minds to believe THAT…” still pointing, “… huh?”

Mrs. Mueller goes puce (if puce IS the colour I think it is) once more. Mister Heyes and my Ma both read the sheet again, then look at her. Ma doesn’t actually curl her lip – but, I reckon part of her wants to.

“Hannibal, Jed,” she says, quietly, “…take that down, please.”

“Bertha,” says Mister Mueller, “…why not let me take you home to get cleaned up?”

—oooOOOooo—

“Hannibal,” says Mister Heyes, as we all walk over to the wagons to fetch our picnics, “…you know what a ‘precedent’ is, huh?”

“Uh huh,” nods Han, “…I reckon so.”

“I don’t want you to think my – my lack of inquisitiveness about the mystery person who planned that prank we just saw, is setting a precedent. If anything similar happened in the future, I’m pretty sure I’d be consumed by curiosity to discover the culprit. Do you understand?”

Mister Heyes hands go to his hips, waiting for an answer. Han sighs. “Uh huh,” he nods.

“There isn’t going to be any more – excitement, is there?” asks my Ma.

Han gives her a wide-eyed ‘innocent’ look.

“How could Jed or I possibly know, ma-am? Only the – the myst’ry person could know that!”

“I’m wagering the mystery person thought, somehow, they were owed ‘one free go’ – and now they’ve had it, they realise if anything else happens it’s bound to lead to a lot of trouble,” says Han’s Pa. “Give me your opinion, Hannibal. Do you think – I’m right?”

“Just an opinion,” Han grins, “…but I’d say that’s a pretty safe wager!”
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PostSubject: A Formula for Everything   Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:03 pm

A Formula for Everything

July 1885

Chief Ranger Curry gave every indication of being a harried man as he critically eyed the almost completed log cabin. The Chief Ranger and the Director of Planning and Community Relations of Yellowstone National Park started out just after dawn to ride the 20 miles from the Mammoth Hot Springs Headquarters to the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, stopping at various points along the way. Kid Curry surveyed the area, making notes in a small notebook he held in his hand as he listened to his partner report updates on the new arrangements Heyes had negotiated with the railroad tie cutters regarding the clearing of the proposed “Grand Loop” road and the portioning out of the resulting logs. The two rangers, finishing the shingle roof of the simple cabin, gave a friendly wave at their boss as Curry strode closer to lend a hand shifting the remaining bundles of shingles up to roof.

Curry hefted the last bundle up before entering the cabin through the sturdy front door. He inspected the workmanship of the utilitarian two room cabin and the attached small barn for horses. “Nice work guys. Who knew that a fancy eastern college man could be so good with his hands. Or is that the experienced ranger is a good teacher?”

Two brown-haired heads peered down from the disappearing hole in the roof with big smiles on both their faces.  The experienced ranger, Greg Zimmer, was the youngest son of a Colorado rancher who decided to try a new vocation, promising adventure and variety, two years ago as one of three men in the National Park Gamekeepers Service and stayed. The other was a new hire, Adam Bergen, a recent graduate from Columbia University’s Natural History program, on the recommendation from George B. Grinnell. Grinnell took part in creating the deal for Curry and Heyes to become employees of Yellowstone National Park in return for the amnesty so Curry was inclined to listen and give the benefit of the doubt to one of the proponents of the conservation movement in America.

Heyes followed Kid’s cabin tour, shaking his head. “I still say building this cabin was a waste of time when we’re started the building of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon Hotel only seven more miles down the road. Especially when you’ve only managed to fill half the open ranger positions.”

Kid sighed as he exited the cabin and began walking the perimeter. “Heyes we’ve been over this before. You and Norris have big plans for the tourists with your grand loop. The Rangers have to able to patrol the area in all kinds of weather and year-round for us to do our job keeping track of the animal populations, watching for forest fires, and if anything illegal is going on.  The hotel will only be open for part of the year. I want a line Ranger Station every 20 or so miles for the Ranger’s use. You know how quick the conditions change and they’ll need to be able to reach a snug stocked shelter in one day’s time or less and they don’t need to open up a big hotel.  A small cabin and storeroom with a place for the horses will do.”

“I just thought since you’re at half-staff and with the tie cutters outfit clearing the area for the road in this area at a good clip and the hotel going up according to schedule that It would save you from building one more cabin. Aren’t you being a might picky?”

“I am being picky, and you know why. Plus, you should talk, I’m just picky about different things, that’s all. So much depends upon us getting this job right, for us and for Yellowstone. I’ve got the two rangers that Harry Yount left us and they’re good men. I’ve got the three college boys that Grinnell and TR recommended and while they’re green to the ways of the west, they’re eager and not afraid of hard work. But you and I know more about the Yellowstone area than any of them. What with necessity of building and planning the park headquarters village not much has gotten done in the rest of the park.”

“I know Kid, and I do think your idea of hiring local boys is a good one.”

Heyes and Curry had competed circuit of the structure and started back to where their horses were tethered. Kid gazed back to the men completing the work on the roof then met the sympathetic browns of his longtime partner.

“Yeah, except the locals are more interested in poaching, slaughtering the buffalo to get rid of competition to the cattle, cutting the lumber and grazing on the land then they are in letting their sons work to protect the game, and the park. Especially, if the people in charge are the ones who have a history of taking their money. You’re at least making some headway in the planning and you did talk that bunch of potential donors Superintendent Norris sent our way from Washington into handing over hard cash to get a plaque with their name on it attached to a stagecoach, a cabin or a room at the hotel. Which donor is gonna get this cabin named after him?”

Heyes laughed. “Don’t know, perhaps I’ll let Adam or Gregg pick a name from my cabin level donor list.” He thought Kid looked as if he had the weight of the world resting on his shoulders and the lack of even a halfhearted smile confirmed his suspicion that Curry was taking his new responsibilities very seriously and maybe was trying too hard. Since they started their new positions and the possibility of a real future became a reality, Kid seemed to lose a little of his ability to live fully in the moment and finding happiness in little things. Funny that, Heyes reflected, he felt freer from worry, especially about the future while his cousin became more thoughtful.

“Kid, I always say there’s a formula for everything. We’ll find the right ingredients and ways to put them together to make this work. You gotta give yourself some time, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.”

Fast approaching pounding hoofbeats had Curry and Heyes snap their heads up, listening hard.  A lone rider atop a lathered horse broke into a clearing and pulled up short in front of the two men.

“I’m glad I found ya. You gotta help quick!”, the young man panted out as he slumped in his saddle, looking panicked. “My friend’s brother is stuck at the bottom of the canyon by the lower falls, north side. He’s hurt and can’t get back up. Please you gotta help us.” The newcomer yanked the tired horse around in preparation to have the rescuers follow him.

Heyes mounted his horse and tried to get details out the worried messenger. Kid took a few precious minutes before wheeling around to yell, “Adam, Gregg, come with us, bring the rope you’re using to haul supplies! Let’s see what we have in the area before I send one you on a four hour round trip ride back to headquarters!”

The riders then took off, shouting questions and answers, in an effort to learn as much as they could of the situation before they arrived at the rescue destination.

~~~~~~*~~~~~

The North Side of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Heyes and Curry found most of the construction crew from the hotel had already arrived and was sorting the mound of supplies they had hastily gathered into piles of what was definitely needed and what might be potentially useful. The partners directed Adam, their college educated ranger, to supervise and organize a mission staging area while they and Greg continued on to the canyon rim. They sought an optimal vantage point in order to fully assess the situation for themselves and stood stock still a few feet from the edge for several long moments before eyes met with some consternation at the task before them.

“Heyes, you want to be the leader?”

“I think this time it’s you, Kid.”

“Thought so. Okay, let’s get to it. That boy don’t have all day, lying so close to the falls and what looks like on fairy unstable ground. We’re lucky it’s not during the melt, the river is choked with rapids but it isn’t at the high-water mark and shouldn’t be too deep outside the main channel. Still, he tumbles down the last few feet into the river and this will likely turn from a rescue to a recovery of a body.”

Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes jogged back to the ever-expanding group of would be rescuers as more of the building crew and the adolescent’s family arrived. Kid whistled loudly to gain everyone’s attention and found a crate to stand on. Heyes remained close at his side.

“Listen up. We have a young man at the bottom of the canyon, dangerously close to the falls and the river. He’s hurt, wet from the fall’s mist, and looks to be on unstable rock and shale. The walls of the canyon are too steep to climb safely as he found out. So, we’re gonna have to set up a rope rescue. Anyone see anything different?”

Kid had the men’s attention, who all nodded that they were with him on the problem.

“Now, here’s what we need to do. First did anyone go for a doc?”

A deep voice called out, “The doc’s too far away but we have our crew medic here with his supplies.”

“Good thinking, thanks, now …”

A worried rancher of middle-age and powerfully built pushed his way to the front of the surrounding crowd. “We need to get my boy up from out of there, RIGHT NOW!” The man’s other two sons flanked him radiating a sense of urgency.

Curry met the father’s eyes with a calm steady stare. “We’re going to, sir, but we need to rescue Willis, that’s your son’s name, right? We need to do it so no else gets hurt and we need to do it smart as we’ll only get one shot at getting him up before it gets dark and unsafe.”

“I need the following people to come forward, Greg Zimmer, Adam Bergen, the construction foreman, any crew chiefs or team leaders that are here, and Willis’s father and brothers so we can work this out.”

A knot of men rushed up and surrounded the partners as Kid stepped off the crate. He directed everyone to identify himself by name and job so that he could match the person with the best role.

Curry pulled out his small notebook and pencil and scribbled roles and names, which he called out, “Heyes is in command of the topside operations. Everyone not going down the canyon reports to him. Staging area and supplies manager is Bob, the construction equipment crew chief. Bob, you’re in charge of organizin’ and checkin’ everything we need to use. Make sure your men check that everything is in working order, the rope we need is strong enough, not rotted and choose the correct length for each leg down. Mr. Taylor, I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep you away so you going to be the safety man. You make sure that a safety perimeter is marked and only people that need to be within it are there. Ben, your older son can be the runner, bringin’ information, questions and supplies between groups. Tom, your other son, I’m told is a pretty good climber and outdoorsman so he’ll be coming with me as part of the down canyon rescue team, either working one of the main or belay lines. Greg, you’re with me going down as the rigger. Any questions so far before I go on?”

Heyes nodded as Curry went along, agreeing with all his assignments so far, except for one. He would save that discussion for the end when he could have a word somewhat privately. He wasn’t challenging Kid’s authority because right now Kid projected calm competence and complete command and that was important in more ways than one.

Kid continued calling out assignments and writing them in his book, “Adam, you’re managing the edge. Make sure everyone that’s close or going over is tied on to an anchor point. You’re also going to coordinate the line crews to let us down and haul up with Quinn, the construction foreman. Adam is in charge of the commands and signals for lowering and hauling up under Heyes direction. Make sure everyone knows the commands and signals up and down the lines. Quinn, you’re in charge of the crews. You know the men here best so choose your steadiest, strongest and ones who have sure feet and hands and are not afraid of heights. Everyone clear?... Any questions? …Get to it.”

The chief ranger snapped his little notebook closed, turned to his partner and shoved the book and pencil stub into Heyes hands before turning to walk to the piles of ropes forming along the canyon rim, untying then unbuckling his gunbelt along the way.

Heyes reached out to grab Curry’s arm, stumbled slightly trying to keep in step and quietly but urgently hissed, “Kid, wait. I gotta talk to you for a minute. About the job assignments, I want to change something.”

The blond stopped abruptly, shifted sideways and gave Heyes his undivided attention.

“You and I are a team, right. We’re used to working together in life-threatening situations and this rescue definitely qualifies. The stakes are high, one slip and you or and the men going down could be sliding and plunging to your death, smashed on the rock or drowning in the river. You need me down there with you. We know how each other thinks and moves, what we’re capable of.”

Kid pulled Heyes further off to the side away from everyone. He stood tall, looked directly in his partner’s worried brown eyes and with a calm intensity explained, “I know you want to be the one to go all the way down with me but I need you up here. Believe me partner, if there were two of you right now I take you with me in heartbeat. But Heyes, I’m trusting you with not only my life but with the lives of everyone, those going all the way down the canyon and those that are staying up here. There is no one else that I can absolutely rely on right now to make sure things are done how and when they need to be. And if things go wrong, I know that you can quickly make and carry out new plans to save who you can. You have to be the one supervising up top, while I take care of things down there. Think of it as I get to jump on the roof of the train, while you supervise up the tracks, everyone’s safe and we get the money.”  

A dark head nodded reluctantly. “It was little more complicated than that and you know it.”

“I do, and that’s why you’re staying up here. You won’t miss any details and you forget nothin’. Here, watch my gun, I’ll need it when I get back up.  Come on, help me check the ropes, choose the best line of approach, and figure out the best points to anchor the rope relays. I want a dual anchor system since I don’t trust the stability of the trees or boulders in this terrain. And we have to go at him from the side to avoid a rockfall burying the poor kid.”

Curry strode off as a man with a mission. Heyes was yanked back from following by a ham-fisted hold on his left arm. The former leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang swung around and came face to face with a hostile Mr. Taylor, father of the downed young man. Heyes shook off the fist, controlled his instinctual response and mentally gave himself two minutes to listen.

“Let me be frank Heyes, I don’t like the park being here. I don’t like you and your partner being in Wyoming and not in prison. I don’t like that gunnie being in charge. Dumb gunnies’ lives may be not be worth much but my sons’ lives are sure worth a lot.”

Brown eyes turned from barely patient to hard in a blink and Heyes didn’t trust himself to respond. He made to move around the mountain of the man.

Taylor blocked his way again and held up a hand. “Let me finish, I’ll be quick.  I want Willis up here safe. I don’t want Tom going down the canyon. His rock climbing is one reason Willis is down there. And Tom’s got wrong ideas about this park already, it’s bad enough I let him work on the construction crew. He don’t need no encouraging by the likes of you. I’ve heard you’re the planner. I may be stuck with you two so why don’t you do what you’re known for and take charge, my son’s life is at stake!”

Heyes took a deep breath, he really didn’t have time for this nonsense but he also remembered that the formula for success included winning over the hostile locals and to do that the locals were going to have to see that their reputations, while earned, were only part of who they are.

“Taylor, I’ll be quick in return. Kid Curry is without a doubt the Fastest Gun in the West and that’s a skill that may be needed in his job. I may be the planner but Kid is the man that makes sure thing get done. You have a practical problem, Kid will take care of it, there’s no one I would depend on more. End of discussion. Time’s wasting, don’t you have a job Mr. Taylor? Is the safety perimeter marked yet? Is everyone in the area supposed to be there?”

Two hours later

Curry adjusted the rope chest harness he was wearing to move the irritation points as he caught his breath nearly at the bottom of the canyon. His face a few inches from the canyon wall, he was surprised to find himself appreciating the composition and color of the wall. The college boys were gradually educating the partners on the science of Yellowstone; Heyes was a natural student but even Kid Curry found himself wanting to pay attention. In return, the ex-outlaws were teaching the practical ways of survival in the unforgiving wilderness. Both groups were finding enjoyment and worth in the exchange of information and ideas. His breath caught, Kid’s mind came back to the matter at hand.

Chief Ranger Curry looked up at his most experienced ranger, Greg Zimmer, located about 60 feet above him and gave thanks for the man’s competence as the two descended all the way down the canyon, some 600 feet or so at this point. There were others stationed at intervals higher up the canyon’s steep slope, Tom, the teen’s brother was above Gregg and had also acquitted himself well. The teams had handled the decent of steep slopes and sheer rock walls with control and coordination and only minor mishaps as the men learned to work together.  

Greg was double checking the last two anchor points and scouting out the possibilities of a lateral move to give his boss a safer option for the last leg of the decent to the rescue point. Kid was approximately 30 feet down river from where Willis was lying. He couldn’t see the victim due a huge boulder sitting half in and half out of the water below but there wasn’t a suitable way down on the other side without endangering the teen further. He doubted Willis would hear him if shouted over the roaring of the river.

Curry waited until Greg looked down and then he pointed to the river. The strong negative head shake was not an unexpected response.

Kid yelled back, “I don’t see any other way, I’m gonna have to go in and struggle upstream. It don’t look too deep. If I keep to the edge I should be able to manage the current. You’ll have control of my line.”

He studied the swirling eddies along the edge of the river in an effort to determine the current patterns, muttering to himself, “It’s a good thing Heyes stayed up top so I can’t hear him havin’ a fit and goin’ on about everythin’ to watch for, what can go wrong with I’ve got to do. As if I haven’t figured that out yet.” Kid wiped the sweat off his forehead with a damp sleeve.

Curry tried to ease himself in slowly but the loose rocks skittered down, making his footing precarious. When the shale started to slide, he found himself dumped in the river along with the collapsing bank. The cold rushing water swirled around his lower thighs and tugged at the boots but the Kid remained on his feet as he gingerly hugged the boulder, slid his feet, one foot at a time along the bottom, testing his ability to stay upright in the strong current before committing to the new position. He slowly worked his way around to the other side. There was a fleeting moment of fear when Curry was abruptly yanked backwards and almost lost his footing. He realized his tether was hung up on the rough surface of the boulder and it took a combined effort of Greg working the rope from above and Curry from below before the two managed to allow for continued advancement of position. Finally, he spotted his objective.

“Willis?” There was no discernible response from the damp figure lying on the cold ground.

Kid raised his voice as he carefully semi-crawled up the steep river embankment, trying not to disturb the soil and rocks. “Willis, can you hear me?”

“Yeah, I can hear you,” came a weak reply, although, the teen didn’t move in any way.

“Hi, Willis, I’m one of the rangers from Yellowstone Park. We have a whole team of men working to get you safely out of here. You and I just have to take care of few things first and then we’ll be on our way.”

The lad lifted his head slightly, his eyes widening at the first look at his rescuer.

Kid knelt by Willis’ side and leaned over him so he could maintain eye contact. “Willis, I can see you hurt your left leg. I can also see some cuts that bled some. I expect you have plenty of bruises. Can you tell me are you hurtin’ bad anywhere else?”

“My left leg hurts bad and I can’t move it. I’m sore all over and real tired and cold. But nothing else is hurtin’ worse than the leg.”

Curry untied the sack attached to his back and started to unload supplies he brought and got to work. He tried to keep up a steady stream of words to calm the frightened teen and let him know what was happening. “Okay, here’s what I’m gonna do. I have some bandages that will cover the open wounds. I’m pretty sure your lower leg is broken so I’m gonna have to wrap that leg to keep the bones from moving too much as we move you back up the canyon wall. I have to run my hands lightly over you to make sure nothing else is broken, I’ll try not to press too hard. You see the rope harness I’m wearing? Well, I’ve got one for you too, cause I’m guessing you’re not climbing up on your own, huh.

Willis was clenching his fists and tensing at the slightest touch. The young man was staring at his rescuer through pain-narrowed and teary eyes. He asked through clenched teeth, “Are you Kid Curry? My brother Tom said Kid Curry was the Chief Ranger at Yellowstone. My brother wants to be a ranger but my father said no way, especially if Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were involved. OWW! Are you done? Please be done.”

“Almost Willis, almost. Your brothers and father are here helping. Tom’s been a big help, he came down with us. You’ll see him soon.” Curry continued to work swiftly, lifting Willis up a little to slip the harness over his head, and pull the boy’s arms through, tightening and adjusting the tension of the ropes and knots as best he could.

“So, are you Kid Curry? Where’s your Colt .45?”

“Yep, I am. Well, you see I’m real partial to that Colt and guns and water don’t mix. I left it with my partner, Hannibal Heyes, up top.”

“Can I call you Kid, Mr. Curry? It’d be swell to be able to say I know Kid Curry. You’re pretty famous, you know.”

Curry’s eyes rolled heavenwards. “Willis, bein’ as you’re going be tied to me real close as we go back around that boulder I think you’re entitled to call me Kid if you want.”

“Kid, you ever do this before?” Fear, exhaustion, and pain was evident in the shaky voice.

The Chief Ranger and ex-outlaw hesitated for a second, stopped what he was doing and again made sure Willis could look him straight in the face. “If you mean have I rescued anyone from the bottom of a canyon next to a raging river then the answer would be no. You’re the first. But, I have rescued a safe from a muddy edge of lake and dragged it up a mountain. And I have had lots of experience moving people and supplies over all sorts of terrain, and conditions. Willis, you said you’ve heard of me, right?”

“Right, you and Hannibal Heyes and the Devil’s Hole Gang are real famous.”

“So, what are our job known for? Good planning, always getting what we came for, and keeping everyone safe – no one gets hurt.”

“Yeah, but…”

“But nothin’, you may not be in a bank or a train and you’re definitely a lot more fragile than a safe but you are valuable. Heyes is up on the rim, making sure everything is going right and on schedule. Believe me, my partner will miss nothing. In fact, he was the one who had the construction guys make a special kind of travois that Greg could carry down on his back and put together down here. Instead of the Devil’s Hole Gang, we have the Yellowstone Ranger and Hotel Construction Gang to do the work. And I’m in charge of safety and security and I’m going to keep you safe. Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Willis, it’s alright to be scared. It’s a pretty scary thing that happened and being pulled back up the canyon by ropes attached to your harness and travois is not something you probably want to do. But I know you’re brave to have attempted to climb down, even if it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I’ m gonna be honest with you, the ride up is going to hurt, I can’t help that. There is a medic waiting for us up top. We’ll try to keep the bumps and jerks down and give you the smoothest ride we can. They’re be stops along the way at the relay stations. And Tom, your brother, will be going up right behind you. Greg, another ranger and me will go up last coz we have to bring up everything we took down. You understand?”

A nod of the head and short bout of convulsive swallows showed Kid that the victim had at least a vague grasp of the situation.

“Ready buddy?”

~~~~~~*~~~~~~

Two months later – Yellowstone National Park, Park Headquarters Building

“Anybody here?”

“In here.”

“Where, here?”

Heyes put down his pen and pushed out from his desk. It was late in the day, an unusual time for a visitor to find their way to Park Headquarters. He left his office to investigate and found a vaguely familiar looking young man studying the large park map mounted on the lobby’s wall.

“Can I help you.”

The visitor turned towards the voice.

“Tom Taylor, is that you? How’s your brother”, Heyes recognized the middle Taylor brother from the canyon rescue. The Taylor Patriarch had been grateful for the Yellowstone’s successful rescue of his younger son Willis, relatively safe and sound, considering the alternative. Though he was up front on his dislike of the Park and the Park’s employees the elder Taylor did make the effort to thank Heyes and shake his hand, although, he all but ignored Curry.

“Willis is doing fine, he’s finally walking on that leg. Not too good yet, but walking, thanks to everyone at Yellowstone.”

“Glad to hear it. What can I do for you.”

“I’m looking for Kid Curry, rather Chief Ranger Curry. Do you know where he is?”

“Well he spent most of the day with Adam tracking some wolves towards Gardiner that the ranchers are saying are bothering their stock. But now I think the college boys are explaining to him why the water of the Travertine Terraces suddenly shifted course sometime yesterday. You should find him easy enough if you head outside toward that way. He shouldn’t be far at all.”

“Thanks, Heyes.”

Heyes was intrigued, knowing of Tom’s desire to try rangering not ranching but also knowing Taylor senior’s opinion of the National Park. He peered outside through the lobby window to watch the retreating back of the young man before returning to his office. The notes on what he wanted to get across about Yellowstone weren’t going to write themselves for his upcoming meeting with the Wyoming Stockgrowers’ Association in Cheyenne.

Deep in thought Heyes scribbled, thought, crossed out, and scribbled some more. He looked up and was startled to notice Kid leaning in the doorway, arms crossed and a slight smile on his face.

“How long have you been there?”

“Not long, how’s the speech going?”

“It’s going, but frankly I don’t expect much success for the first meeting. I just want them to get used to the idea that the park and us are here to stay. And they know we’re not pushovers from our earlier career, not that I want to bring that up, being on how I plan to take even more of their money in the after-meeting poker game.”

Curry came all the way into Heyes’ office and stretched out in a chair.

“Yeah, no doubt about it, you’ll have better luck at poker than of convincin’ them the buffalo heard is entitled to graze on U.S. land.”

“Perhaps instead of money, I’ll talk them into playing for grazing rights. My chips are worth so many buffalo and theirs are worth so many cattle.”

“Get that look out of your eye, Heyes. Norris wouldn’t be pleased if you lost and when he comes back west to find out we’re hosting some ranchers cattle herd on purpose.”

“Ah Kid, that’s no fun. You gotta have a little faith. But I guess you’re the voice of reason, for a change. By the way, what did Tom Taylor want?”

“He wants to apply for a Ranger job after the Hotel construction stops for the winter. He managed to get his mom on his side, who persuaded the father that Tom wasn’t cut out to be a rancher. I’ll tell you Heyes, I’d like to hire him and one of his friends is also interested, the one who rode to get us that day. They’re local boys, good in emergencies, and both of them did real well on that canyon rescue.”

“What did I tell you, There’s a formula for everything. We just added one more ingredient. Our good deed where you played the hero, got you two of the kind of rangers you wanted.”

Curry stomach rumbled, causing him to stand up and stretch. “Well, I’ll leave you to figuring out the formula for getting cooperation from the Stockgrowers Association. I’m done for the day. I’m heading home.”.

“Wait, I’m coming too, figuring out that part of the formula is going to take more than just today.”

The End


If the reader (since I don’t have a beta reader) doesn’t mind I have a few questions for which I would appreciate honest answers and feedback.

1. Does the story contain too much narration and not enough action?
a. Should there have been more of the actual rescue?
b. I don’t know anything about mountain climbing. Additionally, I wanted the rescue to go well with few issues so I intentionally skipped over the up and down canyon scenes

2. My intention was not to write an action story but focus more on the partners settling in to their roles – kind of. Did you feel that the story was boring?

3. I always have trouble writing Heyes, I just feel inadequate in the cleverness department. Was there enough Heyes?

4. Is the Yellowstone thread worth developing, or should it stay a one off? There should probably be a story in-between A Fragile Beginning and this one.   I’m also expanding an old story in the Terms timeline about Heyes entering Kid in a National Marksmanship Contest so I won’t be crushed if there’s no interest.


Thank you vey much.

References:

Philips, K. (2005). Basic Technical Rescue, The National Park Search and Rescue Service, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.

Oh, Ranger!.  This was a book written by a National Park Ranger originally published in the 1920’s. Retrieved from, https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/albright3/preface.htm

The following is an excerpt from the Oh, Ranger book, which served as the plot bunny.

One of the most daring rescues in park history was made in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Two boys employed by the hotel at the Canyon undertook to reach the base of the lower falls on the north side. This slope is so steep that it is practically impossible to scale it, and the pair found themselves helpless at the bottom of the Canyon, nearly half a mile deep, with the raging river on one side of them and the precipitous cliff on the other. They were seen by some tourists who reported their plight to the rangers. One lad was able to climb to a point where he could reach a rope and be pulled to safety. The other boy fell thirty feet while scaling the wall, cut a deep gash in his hip and suffered many abrasions of the body. He lay in the heavy cold mist from the falls, exhausted and chilled, unable to reach the ropes thrown to him. Ranger Ross finally lowered Ranger Kell, his assistant in summer and a Yale varsity football star in the fall, and Remus Allen, a hotel employee, down into the Canyon at a point below the falls. They worked their way up the gorge, sometimes wading through the roaring river. They finally reached the wounded boy, rendered first aid, and dragged him perilously across loose rock and shale to within 50 feet of the top of the Canyon, where they could reach a rope lowered by Ross and his assistants. It took four hours for them to make the rescue, once they were lowered into the Canyon, and all of that time they were in danger of slipping into the plunging river below, in which case their lives would virtually have been thrown away

I had pictures mostly from the Oh Ranger book but I can't get them to come out right.

https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/albright3/chap2c.htm

Testing Mountain Rescue Procedures at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and Falls  
 A Ranger cabin”.        
“Tally Ho” stagecoach for visitors at Yellowstone      
Grand Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone circa 1891.

Modern day pictures of the area      
Lower Yellowstone Falls        
 Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
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PostSubject: Re: Challenge Overspill Area... Stories NOT for polling   Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:27 pm

This is a whimsical tidbit that I wrote a while back as part of a much longer series, but it seemed to fit so well with this month's prompt that I couldn't help but post it to be read along with the other "Up on the Roof" challenges.

Not for this month's polling.

If you are unfamiliar with this series, if might be helpful to know a few facts:


  • Curry & Heyes were granted amnesty in 1887


  • Pair-o-dice = The Sheridan, Wyoming ranch owned by Heyes and Curry


  • Christina = Heyes' wife


  • Lillian, Sam, Rosalyn = The children of Heyes and Christina


  • Alexander Newman = Christina Heyes' dearly loved grandfather


  • Nora = Curry's (much younger) wife


  • Delilah's =  An establishment frequented by a good number of the citizens of Sheridan.




Perspectives on Paternity (or, True Lies)

Pair-o-dice Ranch – April 1903

Eight steps north.  Eight steps south.  Eight steps north.  Eight steps south.  A sigh.  A nervous twist of the neck.  A glance to the west, then at his watch.

The pattern was repeated.

The pattern was repeated again.

“Son, all your fidgeting won’t make this any easier.”  Wisdom, born of experience, gave credence to Grandfather Newman’s words.

“Sit down, before I shove you off this porch.”  These words of wisdom were mumbled from beneath a black hat.

Caution, also born of experience, caused Jed Curry to sit, if only momentarily.  He immediately popped back up.  “I can’t help it.  I gotta move.  I gotta do…somethin’!  What are they doin’ in there, anyway?”

“Look, why don’t you go check the kids?  It’ll take your mind off…”

A moan from inside the cabin interrupted Heyes’ suggestion.

“They’re with Lily.  I’m sure they’re fine,” Jed answered, anxiously rubbing a sweaty right palm against his pant leg.

“I’ll check the kids.”  Alexander pushed himself up from a rocking chair.  “Sit,” he ordered.  When Jed sat down again, Alexander placed a comforting hand on the younger man’s shoulder.  “It will all be over soon.  Trust me!  Nora’s fine.  So is that baby!” He winked, before carefully stepping from the porch of the Curry cabin and slowly making his way across the yard, to the Heyes homestead.

A whimper floated from indoors.

Jed’s head dropped to his hands.  “I can’t take this waitin’!  I’m goin’ in there and…”

“No, you’re not.  Doc Walker’s in there.  So is Christina.  You’d only be in the way and make Nora even more nervous than she is already.”

“Heyes, how did you manage it?  I mean, you done this before.  What if somethin’ goes wrong?  What if I’m not cut out for this fatherhood thing?  What if…”

“Hey!  Nothing is going to go wrong and you’re gonna make a fine father.  Like I told you before — Faith,” Heyes winked.  “You just gotta have a little faith.”

Jed flopped back into the chair, willing his mind to focus on something, anything but the labored sighs of his wife, coming from inside their small cabin.

Faith.  What was that Bible verse Nora read this morning?  Something about temperance, long-suffering and faith.  Jed sure hoped Nora could muster enough faith for the both of them right now because at the moment he had the ill-tempered, suffering parts more than covered.

“…But then, I’m sure you remember,” Heyes continued, never suspecting that Curry hadn’t been following his one-sided conversation for quite some time.  “You were there with me when every one of my kids were born.  Well, every time except the first.  Lillian.”

Heyes’ silver tongue droned on and his eyes carried the glow of nostalgia.  His voice took on a cadence that seemed to have a calming effect on his nervous partner.  “Yeah, that day was warmer than this one, being late summer.” …

Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890

“Hannibal!”

The cry came from the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home.  The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was a good thing, since that’s where Hannibal Heyes was, kneeling on the roof, enthusiastically pounding shingles into place.

“Christina’s calling again, Jed.  I really think you should ride for the doctor.  I need to get in there and stay with her until the two of you get back.”

“Look, Heyes, I want this house done! Today!  ‘Fore this baby’s born!”  Curry hoisted another bundle of shingles onto the roof.

“The house is close enough to done.”

“I want it all done!  Complete!  Is that so hard to understand?  I’m sick’a livin’ in that bunkhouse!”

“It would have been done, if we’d have been shingling last week, as I suggested, instead of you traipsing to town for a visit to Delilah’s.”

“I was looking for somethin’. ”

“I’ll bet you were.”  Sarcasm dripped from the muttered phrase.

“I was lookin’ for a baby gift and I found it.”

“Yeah, Broderie Anglaise.  Where’d you find that, off one of Alona’s petticoats?”

“Christina liked it.  And she made that frilly baby thing out of it.  That trip to town was well worth it, far as I’m concerned.”

“I’ll bet it was.”  Heyes glared.

Christina called again.

“Dang it!  Fine!” Curry dropped the shingles and huffed to the ladder.  “I’m goin’ for the doc.  You best get in there and sit with your wife, before she flattens ya.”

“Birthing children is no small feat, Jed.  Christina really needs me in there.  Have a little respect for motherhood, would you?”

“I got plenty of respect for mothers.  They been poppin’ kids out left and right for generations without help from husbands.  And if it was MY wife havin’ that kid, wild horses couldn’t drag me into that room.” Jed climbed down the ladder and went for his horse.  “I’ll be back later.  Much later.”

***

“Mrs. Hamlin?  What are you doing here?” Heyes asked, opening the front door.  “I was expecting Doctor Walker.”

“I was asked me to come by and help Christina while the doctor takes care of an emergency.  He’ll be here as soon as he can.”

“An emergency?  Jed?  Was Jed hurt?”

“There was an emergency at that Delilah’s Place.  Mr. Curry is there.  And if you ask me, he spends far too much time associating with those women of ill repute.”  The lady shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue.  “That place is a disgrace, it is, and a poor reflection on our fine town.  Why, the town council ought to…”

“Hannibal!”

“Mrs. Hamlin, why don’t you go on upstairs.  I believe Christina needs you.”

1903

“Do you really believe that load of malarkey?”  Curry stared incredulously at his partner.

“It’s the truth.”

“No it ain’t, Heyes.  In fact, it’s about as far from the truth as you can get.” …

Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890

“Hannibal!”

The cry came from the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home.  The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was a good thing, since that’s where Jed Curry was, kneeling on the roof, frantically pounding shingles into place.

“Christina’s callin’ you again,” Jed Curry reminded.  “I really think I should ride for the doctor.  You should be sittin’ in there with her until the two of us get back.”

“Look, Jed, I want this house done!  Today!  Before my child’s born without a roof over his head!”  Heyes hoisted another bundle of shingles onto the roof.  “Not close to done.  Complete!  Finished!  Is that so hard to understand?”

“The house would’a been done, if we’d been up here shinglin’ last week, like I suggested, ‘stead of you sendin’ me traipsin’ to town, lookin’ for… What was I lookin’ for again?”

“Broderie Anglaise.  Lace, for the Christening outfit Christina is making for the baby.”

“An’ like I told you, the general store in Sheridan don’t carry Broder… that fancy stuff, so Christina’s got no lace, the baby’s got no outfit and now you, you ain’t got no roof.”

Heyes glared.

Christina called again.

“Dang it, Heyes, I’m goin’ for the doc!  Now, would you get in there and sit with your wife, PLEASE, or am I gonna hafta flatten ya?”

“Birthing children is something women have been doing on their own for generations, popping them out, left and right without any help from husbands.  Christina doesn’t need me in there.  Have a little respect for motherhood, would you?”

“I got plenty of respect for mothers.  And if it was MY wife havin’ that kid, wild horses couldn’t keep me out of that room.”  Jed climbed down the ladder and went for his horse.  “I’ll be back later with the doc.  Let’s just hope I’m not too late.”

***

Jed Curry pulled his horse to a stop at the alley along-side Delilah’s Place and strained his eyes through the falling darkness.  A robust woman, probably in her mid-fifties, was perched atop a wobbly stack of wooden crates, peering through a small, dirty window.

“Mrs. Hamlin?”

The woman startled. The stack of crates on which she stood began swaying.  There was a loud crack and the woman came crashing to the ground.

“Mrs. Hamlin, are you alright?”  Jed rushed to the woman’s side, an arm of assistance around her as she brushed the dust from her skirts.

“Good heavens, I’ve torn my petticoat!”  The older woman seemed flustered and shoved a long swath of white lace into Curry’s gloved hand.  “I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Curry.  I was just… You see…” She fumbled to a halt, then began again.  “Let me assure you, this situation is NOT what you might think.”

“I wasn’t thinkin’ nothin’, ma’am.  Just lookin’ for the Doc.  You haven’t seen him, have ya?”

“Well,” a guilty flush rose in her cheeks, “since you ask, yes.  He’s…” Instead of speaking, Mrs. Hamlin pointed toward the upper portion of Delilah’s establishment.  “But you did NOT hear that from me!  Is that understood?”

“‘Course, ma’am.  Look, Mrs. Hamlin, my partner’s wife is havin’ a baby and I was hopin’ to get the doc.  You don’t s’pose maybe you could…”

“You were hoping that I could serve as a mid-wife until Dr. Walker is…available?”

“Right, ma’am.”

“That man is a disgrace, he is, and a poor reflection on our fine town.”  The woman shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue.

“Ma’am, seein’ as how I ain’t gonna be thinkin’ nothin’ about you peekin’ in the window here at Miz Delilah’s Place, maybe it’d be best if you an’ me put the best construction on the doc’s visit upstairs.  After all, you and me don’t know what his business here is.  He could be treatin’ some patient who’s sick or hurt or…somethin’.”

“Something.  Yes, you are right of course, Mr. Curry.  Now, if we had more men like yourself, men of impeccable reputation,” she spread the complements thick and heavy, hoping her mild indiscretion might be forgotten, “serving on the town council…”  She patted Curry’s arm.  “Don’t you worry yourself.  I’m on my way now.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Thank you, ma’am.  I’ll be right along, soon as the doc’s uh…done here.”

1903

“Jed, THAT is the most ridiculous …”

“THAT is the truth, Heyes.  Unlike the fairy tale you were tellin’.”

At that moment, the door of the Curry cabin opened and Dr. Walker stepped outside, stretching his shoulders and lower back.

“Well?” two voices chimed in unison as both men jumped to their feet.

“Well, what?”  His eyes met two expectant gazes, one more anxious than the other.  “Oh, you mean the baby!” he exclaimed, chuckling.  “I’m afraid you gentlemen will need to sit tight a bit longer.”

“I’m sick of people tellin’ me to sit!” Curry insisted, moving toward the door.

Dr. Walker stepped into Jed’s path.

“Get outta my way, Doc.  Nora needs me in there.”

“Needs you to do what?” the doctor asked, calmly.

Shaky fingers ran through wavy hair.  A growl of frustration preceded a sigh of resignation and then, again, Jed Curry sat.

***

“I have something for you.”  Christina extended a small package toward Nora.

“What pretty lace!” Nora exclaimed, fingering the edge of a delicate baby gown.

“It’s called Broderie Anglaise.  Jed was the one who found it, though locating it here in Sheridan must have proved difficult.  Anyway, Hannibal and I would love to see your child wear it too.”

Nora smiled her thanks, then closed her eyes, blowing out a long breath and squeezing Christina’s hand until the contraction subsided.

“Dr. Walker says you’re doing fine,” Christina assured, wiping a cool cloth across Nora’s sweat-covered brow.

“Where is he?” Nora wondered, nervously glancing around the cabin.

“He just stepped outside for a breath of air.  Don’t worry.  I’m sure he won’t go far.”

“Good,” Nora mumbled, dropping her head back onto the pillow.  “I wonder how Jed’s holding up.”

“He’s sitting on the porch with Hannibal.  Fretting, from the looks of it.”

“Fretting,” she giggled, then met Christina’s eyes.  “I’m really glad you’re here.”

“That’s what sisters are for,” Christina smiled.  “I wouldn’t be anywhere else!”

“Wish I could have done the same for you when your children were born.”

“Dr. Walker was here,” Christina remembered.  “Except for the first time.  Mrs. Hamlin, you met her at the Oktoberfest last fall, she helped with Lillian’s delivery.”

“I thought Dr. Walker had already set up practice here before you arrived in Sheridan.”

“Oh, he had.  Only there was some sort of emergency that kept him from getting here in time for Lily’s birth.  But thankfully, he got here in time to bind up Hannibal’s ribs.”

“Bind up his ribs?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Christina responded, matter-of-factly. …

Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890

“Hannibal!”

The cry came from a window on the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home.  The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was where Hannibal Heyes had been until his hasty descent resulted in a sudden meeting with the earth two stories below.

“Jed!”  Christina scrambled down the steps and out the front door of her new, almost finished home.  “Oh, Jed, you’ll need to ride for the doctor!  Hannibal’s been hurt!”

“Stay with him until I get back,” Curry ordered, already jumping down the last few rungs of the ladder.

“You just had to get that roof done today, didn’t you, Heyes?” Jed muttered as he saddled his horse.  “Don’t want my child born without a roof over his head!” Curry mimicked, tightening the cinch.

The mare snorted her protest.

“That roof would’a been done already, if we’d been up there shinglin’ last week, like I suggested.  Dang it, Heyes!  If that fall didn’t flatten ya, I ought’a!”  He swung onto his mount and left for town at a gallop.

Heyes, feeling foolish, attempted to sit up, in hopes of drawing Christina’s attention from his severely injured pride.  “Ow!”  His hand moved quickly to his side.

“Oh!”  Christina’s hand moved quickly to her abdomen.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Christina insisted, much too emphatically.  “Just a twinge.”

Heyes studied her face.  “Uh-huh.  How long have you been experiencing these, twinges?”

“Not long.”

“How long?”

“Just since…” she shrugged.  “Well, they only started coming strong and steady these last couple of hours or so.”

“A couple of hours?  When were you planning to let me know?”

“I didn’t see the need, Hannibal.  It’s only been these last few hours that… Oh!”

“Another?”

Christina blew out a long breath and nodded before continuing.  “As I said, they’ve only been strong for a few hours.  All last night, they were extremely mild.”

“All last night?!”

“Women have been birthing babies for generations, Hannibal.”

He noted the shaking of her hands as Christina smoothed her hair.  “With all due respect to motherhood, Christina, we’re getting you into the house and into bed.  It’s a good thing Jed’s already gone for the Doc.”

***

“Mrs. Hamlin!  I’m so glad to find you!”

“You were looking for me, Mr. Curry?”

“Actually, I was lookin’ for Doc Walker, but I hear he’s kinda tied up with some kinda emergency.  See, Heyes, well, he took a fall and…”

“And you were hoping that I could serve as a stand-in until Dr. Walker is available.”

“Right, ma’am.”

“It’s a disgrace, it is, and a poor reflection on our fine town that the council hasn’t been able to persuade another doctor to take up practice here.”  The woman shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue.  “Now, if we had more men like yourself and Mr. Heyes, men of impeccable reputation, serving on the town council…”  She patted Curry’s arm.  “Don’t you worry yourself.  I’m on my way now.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Thank you, ma’am.  I’ll be right along, soon as the Doc’s ready.”

1903

An infant’s cry stole the attention of everyone both inside and outside the Curry cabin.

Jed was immediately on his feet, pushing past Christina who was just opening the door.

“So, everybody fine?” Heyes asked, hugging his wife close and stepping inside the cabin.

Christina smiled and nodded to the Curry family, bonding across the room.  “Remember how happy we were the day Lily was born?”

Heyes grinned.  “Like it was yesterday!”

***

“Ya did good, Nora.  Real good!” Jed praised, swallowing hard, placing a kiss on his wife’s lips and rubbing a calloused hand over his baby’s soft head.  “How you feelin’?”

“Happy,” Nora smiled.  “Tired,” she amended, “but happy!”

Just then, the baby began to wail, loudly, attracting a host of family members, Alexander, Lillian, Sam and Rosalyn.

“Is it okay if I…”

Without waiting for Jed to finish his question, Nora nodded.

Carefully, Jed lifted the newborn into his arms.  A tiny mouth sought out the tip of Jed’s finger and magically, the crying stopped.

Heyes winked.  “A little faith, Jed!  Just like I told ya.”

Jed briefly met his partner’s eyes, then turned to Nora. “You wanna go with the name we talked about?” he asked, eyes shining.

Another nod from Nora confirmed it.

“Heyes family, I want you to meet Nathan.  Nathan Curry.”

“Nathan, after your father,” Heyes remarked out loud, then moved closer to Curry and son lowering his voice to a whisper.  “Your Pa would be proud, Kid.  And Nathan’s gonna grow up to be one heck of a man!  Just like his father!”

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

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Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
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PostSubject: One man's trash ...   Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:18 am

The bunny had another hop this month, and gave me another part of my story arc about Valparaiso.  It still fit this month's prompt so well, that I decided just to post it here in the overspill.

I started the Valparaiso stories just as a one time piece for April 2017, but then it worked for May, and now September ...

Let me know what you think.


“They’re just Irish trash.”  The man watched as his neighbors finished filling in the graves.

“Shhh.  They might hear you.  They’re only little boys.”  His wife looked over to the two boys, sitting side by side on the remnants of the porch steps.  They were utterly silent, except for an occasional sniffle, as they wiped away their tears.

“Just potato eating papists, like the lot of ‘em.”  He had finished rounding up the livestock that remained, but had been scattered by the attack.  They were going to take it back to their farm, since there was no feed left, after the barn had burnt to the ground.

“Now, Joe, I think they were both good Protestant families.  Mary O’Brien told me they didn’t attend the church over to Centerville.”

“Don’t like you associating with any of them.”  He had finished loading the chickens into the wagon, and roughly tied it.  “And now we have to take the boys.  Can’t one of their own kind find a place for them?”

“You know we have the most room right now, with our boys just moved onto their own place.”  Emma didn’t want to think too much on how their boys got their own farm at such a young age.  Joe kept telling her, it was the border raiders who were attacking the farms here about, but it seemed that they were just burning out the Irish families.

“Well, might as well go get them, if’n we have to keep them, ‘til it’s decided what to do with ‘em.”

Emma just nodded, knowing sometimes it was best to be quiet and agreeable around Joe.  It caused the least conflict that way.

The older, dark haired boy was crying as much as the younger, but he put his arm around his cousin as Emma approached.  He looked past her to where her husband was loading up the stock.  He must have either heard their conversation, or was smart enough to know who he needed to watch.

“Boys, it’ll be gettin’ cold soon.  Best get back to our place, and get you settled for the night.”

“It alright for us to come with you?”  Brown eyes met hers, but then returned to look at her husband.  “Mr. Bates don’t seem too happy.”

“Oh, boys, he’s just tired from rounding up the pigs.”  She crouched down and smiled at them, as well as she could, continuing quietly.  “Best come along before he changes his mind.”

“I don’t want to leave Mama.”  The little blonde boy had the bluest eyes she had ever seen, even deeper than those she remembered his mother had possessed, the few times she had talked to Mary Curry.

“Your ma wouldn’t want you out here in the cold by yourself.”

“Mrs. Bates is right, Jed,” the brown-haired boy encouraged his cousin, even though the tears were streaming down his face still.  “He looked up at Emma.  “Can we go say good bye?”  His eyes slid over to the graves, but then looked down.  “Jed has some flowers he wanted to give them.”

“Yes,” Emma looked over towards her husband.  “But be quick now.  Mr. Bates is about ready to leave.”

He nodded, but reached down to pick up a bundle.  “Would you watch this for me?  It’s all we got.”

Emma took the gunny sack and nodded.  “Go on.”

Jed picked up a bunch of wilting sunflowers, and the two boys solemnly walked over to the mounded graves.

Emma walked back to the wagon, as Joe started to turn it around to ready it for the trip home.

The setting sun framed the two small figures as they laid the flowers on the freshly turned earth that now covered everyone they had ever loved, other than each other.


Joe was surprised, but the boys were actually a help around the farm.  They were both small and slight, but possessed a wiry strength.  There were chores they had obviously done before, and they sped through them, as young boys will, wanting something more exciting.  Unfortunately for all, the Bates didn’t have anything more exciting for them, just more chores.

Joe remembered Michael Heyes complaining about these two running off all the time, so they could go fishing, or just exploring.  He looked over as Han fed the pigs and Jed the chickens.  They were both still so solemn, and never ventured from the farm.  Han’s pa had said his son would never stop talking, often to get out of a chore.  They had learned that the boys had snuck off from school the day the raiders had come, which is why they were not home when they struck at sunset.  Joe figured they wouldn’t go fishing for a while now.

He had never really known the boys before this.  They were just two in another gaggle of Irish.  You seldom saw the Currys without the Heyes family.  Joe had never exchanged more than a curt nod with Sean Curry.  Michael Heyes, he had talked to often.  He had felt for the Englishman in among all those Irish, but then he would look over at Colleen Heyes’ dark eyes, and know why.  

It had been a darn shame he had been lost with the rest.


Emma loved having young boys around the farm again.  Her own had grown into young men, who were beyond the need for hugs and cakes made just because it was a nice day.

Jed was one who needed hugs.  She had found her way into his good graces with food.  For as small as he was, he could out eat not only his older cousin, but both Emma and Joe too.  Just as with her boys, she knew this meant he would grow to be tall and strong.

It was the day that she had planned to make some soda bread that she learned how many hugs the boy needed.  She had asked him to collect the eggs, and he come back with a basket full.  He had relaxed some around her.  His eyes were not so dull.

“Oh, Jed, that’s wonderful.”  She tousled his curls gently.  “We’ll have plenty for breakfast tomorrow, and still be able to make to make soda bread.  She had turned to get the flour, and barely heard Jed reply.

“Don’t want no soda bread.”

She turned back and she saw something flicker in his eyes.  “Don’t you like soda bread?  I thought all the Irish … “

“I told you no!”  Jed tossed the eggs against the wall, and swept the bowl off the table shattering it.  He started screaming. “No!  No!”  He looked for something else on which to take out his growing anger.  He was heading towards her china hutch, when Han came running.

“Jed, Jed!”  Han grabbed his cousin, but he tried to twist away.  They fought for a while until Jed suddenly collapsed against Han, and they fell to the floor crying.

Han looked up at Emma.  "Jed's ma made the best soda bread in the county."

Emma looked at the eggs on the wall, the broken crockery, and the little boys crying on the floor.  She went to hug them and hoped she’d have time to clean up the mess before Joe came in from the fields.


“But Joe, why do they need to go away?” Emma was silently crying, but her husband was trying his best to ignore it.  “They have been a help here on the farm, with our boys busy with their own place.  They’ve been very good, done all you asked.”  

“Best if they are with their own kind,” Joe insisted.  He wanted them gone before he became as fond of them as his wife was.  They were both hard workers, as long as it wasn’t a good fishing day.  Lord help him, but that Han could talk anyone into going fishing.  He wondered where such an Irish gift of gab would lead that boy in the end.  

Jed’s blue eyes saw everything.  He knew when Joe would go off to the barn for a smoke or a drink with the groups of men who came around.  Some folks suspected that they were some of the border raiders.  Joe had to get the boys off the farm before they saw something they should not.


“Do you see how pretty the fields are, with the wind rustling through them?” Sister Cecelia asked, as the wagon approached the town.

Sister Patricia didn’t see much that she hadn’t seen already during the trip there.  The town, what there was of it, was surrounded by prairie grass and wheat fields.  It was not much different from Valparaiso, where they had started.  Perhaps there were more cornfields at home.  

It had seemed a good idea for Sister Cecelia to come along with Sister Pat on this trip because the younger sister’s gentle manner might be beneficial.  The story they had been given, about the two boys they were to pick up, had worried Sister Madeleva.  After losing their parents in such a traumatic way, taking them away from the only home they had known, was going to require all the care they could give them.

Sister Patricia loved all the children at the Valparaiso Home for Waywards, but she was a rough and tumble sort of person, who loved to teach math and play baseball with the boys.  Sister Cecelia was more apt to read them a story and make them a mug of hot cocoa, wrapping a hand knit blanket around them.  

It was possible the boys would need both.

Sister Patricia had pulled the wagon up in front of the general store, when she saw them.  One was as dark as the other was light.  Both were very solemn, but there was a spark of something in their eyes.  Sadness yet, anger maybe.

They had barely stopped when the man and woman with the boys approached Sister Patricia.

“Sisters, I’m Joe Bates, and this is my wife, Emma.”  He shoved the boys forward.  “Here they are.”

Emma quietly moved around her husband.  “This is Han.”  She tousled the dark hair, and he scowled.  “And this is Jed.” She put a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up at the sisters with his blue eyes, seeing everything.

Sister Pat climbed from the wagon and leaned down to be at eye level with the boys.  She wasn’t the tallest of women, so it wasn’t difficult for her.
 
“I’ve been told your name is Hannibal Joshua.”  She looked him in his dark, deep eyes.  He nodded, watching her.  “You were named after two brave men.”

Han stood up a bit straighter.

Sister Cecelia put her hand on Jed’s shoulder.  She saw him flinch a bit, so she patted it, and then smiled at him with her soft smile.  “And you are Jedediah Thaddeus?”  He looked over to Han who nodded, so Jed smiled back, but his blue eyes remained still.  “You were named after two great men too.  King Solomon and the Apostle Thaddeus.”  Jed looked a bit confused, and his smile slipped a bit.  He sidled closer to his cousin.  “Would you like to hear the story of both of them?”  Jed nodded slightly.  “Good.  We will have something to talk about on the trip home.”

Something wild started to peer out of Jed’s eyes, and Han took a hold of his hand.  He took a breath and looked down at the ground.

Sister Patricia noticed the change, and knew boys.  “I don’t know about you all, but I’m starving after such a long trip.”  She brought up a big smile for the boys.  “You wouldn’t be hungry, would you?”

“We fed them breakfast, Sister,” Joe Bates started.  “And we’ll need to get going again, to make it back to the farm before sundown.”

Sister Patricia just looked at him.  For all that he seemed to want to dump the boys and get back home, there were also longing glances.  It would have been the best thing for the boys, to have remained here and been raised on the Bates’ farm.  She still didn’t understand why they had contacted the orphanage.  The boys would have been free labor for several years, if nothing else.  Some other reason must have prompted them to send the boys away.

“Well, Sister Cecelia and I will starve if we don’t eat before we start back to Valparaiso.”  She reached out her hand and shook Joe Bates’ hand.  Then she looked at his wife, Emma, who looked like she wanted to cry.  She gave her a big hug.  “We will take good care of the boys.”

Emma just nodded.  She then turned to the boys.  Jed eagerly gave her a hug, and then gave his cousin a look.  Han was reluctant, but did give Emma just as tight of a hug.  She released him and stood back with a hand on each of their shoulders.  “Be good for the sisters.”

“We will,” Jed promised, giving Emma one of his rare but brilliant smiles.  Han nodded, but watched as Joe lead his wife away.

“You two didn’t answer me earlier,” Sister Pat said as the Bates pulled away in their wagon.

“What was that, Sister?” Han asked with bright eyes.

“Are you hungry?”

Jed smiled.  “Yes, ma’am.”

Han rolled his eyes.  “He’s always hungry, Sister.”


The beginning of the trip back to Valparaiso started off quiet.  The boys sat in the back of the wagon, only talking if the sisters asked them a question.  Sister Cecelia made good on her promise and started her tales of King Solomon and why he was also known as Jedediah.  Eventually sleep overtook his namesake.  

Hannibal was still staring at the passing fields, trying not to look bored.  

“Sisters?”

Pat and Cecelia were surprised to hear a question.

“Yes, son?” Cecelia turned and asked.
“Would either of you have a book I could read?  I ‘spect this will be a long trip.”  Han’s eyes were deep and dark.

“We have a Bible.”

“Oh.”  Han looked disappointed.  “Is that the only book you sisters have at your school?”

“Oh, no,” Sister Patricia replied.  “We have all the books any school would have.  Math, science, literature, much more.”

“We just travel light, so the horses don’t strain, and we don’t lose the school books.”  Sister Cecelia explained.  “We always bring our Bible.”

“Oh.”  Han was quiet for a while.

“Does your bible have Psalms in it?” he eventually asked.

“Yes, it does, Han,” Sister Pat replied.

“Mama said the Catholic Bible was different.”  He nodded at Jed.  “His ma had one.”

The sisters exchanged a glance.

“But your mother had a different one?”

“It was Pa’s Bible, but Mama read the Psalms out of it, sometimes at night.” He scrunched his face.  “I think it was written by King James.”

Sister Pat laughed.  “I think he had some help.”

“I looked for it when we were gatherin’ up some things, but I couldn’t find it.”  Han’s face started to tremble.  “I think it was burnt.”

Sister Pat exchanged looks with Sister Cecelia.

“Han, hand me my bag there, please,” Sister Cecelia asked.

He wiped his eyes and did as she asked.

“Would you like me to read some of the Psalms?”

Han just nodded.

Eventually he fell asleep to the lull of Cecelia’s voice.


They had made camp for the evening, by a bubbling stream.  Night had fallen, and the boys were asleep.  Han had his head resting on his bundle of clothes.  Jed was resting against Sister Cecelia, with her arm around him.

“Why ever would anyone give up such treasures?” Sister Cecelia asked softly.

Sister Patricia sighed quietly, looking into the campfire.  “There’d been a lot of anti-Irish sentiment.  I suppose they didn’t want to bring it upon themselves.”

“Then it’s up to us to keep them safe, isn’t it?”  Sister Cecelia gently brushed a few curls out of Jed’s face.

“As much as we can, Cecelia.  As much as we can.”  

Sister Cecelia’s breathing eventually settled into a calm rhythm as she fell asleep with the boys.

It took Sister Patricia a bit longer, as she gazed out into the dark.

“Lord, let me have faith.”
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