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 October 2012 - Twist in the Tale

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Calico

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Age : 52
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PostSubject: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:02 am

Hello, hello, hello,

I had a topic all ready and waiting - and suddenly - 30 seconds ago as I typed, changed my mind.
So - NO Rioja went into this months choice!!

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sharpen pencils, refill pens and damp cotton-bud your keyboards, in readiness for another fest of creativity.

This month your topic is...

Twist In The Tale

Let the plotting and scheming, and the jotting and theming - commence.

(NB: there is a minor tradition that in October I give you gals and guy a topic which could possibly be given a Hallow'een twist...
Completely optional!)

(NB2: Extra schmaltz points for stories with a twist in the tail involving teeny tiny kitties with weeny liddle bandages on their injured mood indication devices. NOT! Rolling Eyes Oh, all right then!)

Remember - ONE polling story each please. There's an overflow area for prolific pen-mistresses!

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:50 pm

Well I'll jump in, I think there's enough twists in this tale to meet the challenge -- not least of which is it's different from what I usually write.

Muddy Gap


Heyes shook his head to dislodge some of the rain pooling on the crown of his hat. “Muddy Gap, huh, sure lives up to its name.” The wind picked up sending icy tendrils of water cascading down his neck.

Muddy Gap was a sorry little town -- one street, or rather one mud-slick, and the few buildings standing seemed to be trying to melt in to join the general muck. Once it had been a thriving boom town – once. Now the mine was played out and so was the town. Heyes and the Kid had just finished two weeks clearing a ranch of mountain lions and wolves and were heading south to enjoy themselves when it began raining. Muddy Gap was the first town they’d come to in these mountains in two days.

The Kid shrugged his slicker higher around his neck and shoulders trying to keep out some of the rain as he urged his horse through the ankle-deep mud that formed the main street of the dilapidated town. “Barn’s next to the hotel over there. Let’s leave the horses and get out of this rain.”

~~~000~~~

“We’d like a room, in the front overlooking the street,” Heyes informed the desk clerk.

“Such as it is,” the Kid muttered. He waited while Heyes signed the register. “Any chance of a hot bath?”

“Not tonight.”

“A laundry for our clothes?”

“Not till Monday.”

“Dinner?”

“Clancy’s.”

“A drink?”

“Clancy’s”

“Any poker?”

“Clancy’s… Tomorrow.”

“Well Joshua, I guess we’re going to Clancy’s once we unpack but not playin’ poker.”

“I guess so.” Heyes looked at the storm outside then back at the desk clerk. “Just how far away is Clancy’s?”

The desk clerk smiled. “You don’t need to go outside; it’s through there.” He pointed towards a door. On the wall between the doorway and the front desk was a poorly painted portrait of a dour looking woman – with a hawk-billed nose, too many teeth, and no chin – holding a beautiful little blonde child.

“Who’s that?” Heyes asked intrigued.

“That’s Mabel and her daughter Harriet.”

“This hotel’s named Mabel’s isn’t it?” asked the Kid.

“Yeah.”

“She own it?”

“Used to. Here’s your key.” The desk clerk shut the register and turned his back on the men.

Heyes and the Kid raised their eyebrows as they looked at each other but picked up their things and headed up to their room.

The room was in keeping with the town; grey and worn, it had seen better days. The mattress sagged in the middle almost to the floor, and the dresser didn’t sit steady on its legs. The wall paper was peeling in the corner and it was clear the window leaked.

“Cheerful place isn’t it?” the Kid commented, looking around.

Heyes laughed. “Come on let’s change and go to Clancy’s; bet this will look better after food and a couple drinks.”

“Might take more than a couple drinks,” the Kid grinned, “but I’m willin’ to try. At least it’s dry.” The wind rattled the window and the damp stain under the sill grew as he watched. “Mostly,” he muttered.

~~~000~~~

Heyes and the Kid entered Clancy’s through the door and looked around. It looked like many of the bars that they had been in in small towns, but without the liveliness. The only inhabitant was a bartender who was rearranging the dusty bottles on the shelf behind the bar. The rest of the room sat empty and in shadows. They walked up to the bar, ordered the stew and biscuits and a bottle of whiskey, and went and sat at a table. As they lit the lantern on the table, the bartender came over with the bottle and two glasses.

Heyes smiled at him. “It always this busy on a Friday night?” he asked, looking around.

“Not many likely to come out tonight,” the bartender commented and walked back to the bar.

“Real friendly around here,” the Kid grunted as he poured them each a shot.

“Yeah, kinda quiet here alright.”

The bartender brought them their stew and returned to his task of staring mindlessly at the bar.

Heyes and the Kid turned their attention to the food, realizing that they were ravenous. After a few bites they sat back and looked around.

“You know Kid, I could get to like a place that makes stew this good.”

“Yeah, almost seems like home. Don’t the name Clancy sound real familiar? Somethin’ about stew, too.”

Heyes frowned in thought then grinned, “Yeah, remember Clancy Dwyer, rode with us back with Big Jim – made the best stew in the Hole.”

“Oh yeah.” The Kid took another drink. “Here’s to Clancy and good food.”

“HEYES! KID! Great to see you!” An old man shouted at them.

The looked up and quickly silenced him.

“Clancy! Sit down, sit down. Great to see you, but can you keep it down?” Heyes hushed him as the Kid pushed out a chair.

“For the moment, I’m Joshua Smith and he’s Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes hissed at the man. Clancy Dwyer looked much older than when they had last seen him, riding out of the Hole to take up a new life. His clothing sagged and was full of holes. Clancy himself was greyer and careworn.

Clancy looked at them. “Smith and Jones, huh. And here I’ve been hearing such things about you two since you took over from Big Jim.”

“Well we’re kinda retired, you might say,” the Kid explained, “but we’re still wanted so we don’t need you spreadin’ our names.”

“Don’t worry about that, boys. I won’t and nobody listens to me anyways.” Clancy grinned, happy to see them.

“How long’s it been, Clancy?” Heyes asked.

Clancy pursed his lips and looked at the ceiling. “Must be eight, nine years.”

“Want a drink? We can get another glass.”

“No. I don’t drink anymore,” Clancy replied, then sat silently staring morosely at nothing.

Heyes and the Kid exchanged glances.

“What have you been up to Clancy? You own this bar do you?”

“Not anymore, not anymore. You remember, when I left Big Jim and the gang it was to marry Mabel – the sweetest, most beautiful girl you’d ever see inside of a saloon,” he reminisced.

The Kid, looked at Heyes and mouthed, “Mabel? Beautiful?”

Heyes shrugged. “It was a long time ago Clancy.”

“Anyways, Mabel was in the family way and I wanted to take care of her, like a man should. So we took our savings and came here to Muddy Gap. Oh, you wouldn’t believe how nice this place was back then. The mine was going strong; the place was booming. Anyways, we started this hotel and bar. Did real fine with it too…” He trailed off.

“That sounds real nice, Clancy,” Heyes urged him on. “Why’d you sell out if you’re still here?”

“Well soon enough, Mabel had herself a little girl – Harriet. That girl was the light of my life. So full of fun, and laughter, and love. We had a great life and then I lost it all.” He sighed again. “Life was good for a long time. Harriet grew. She learned to walk and talk. She had the most wonderful laugh and her favorite thing in the world was to play hide and seek with me. She could play all day.”

The Kid glanced up and noticed the bartender staring at them. When he saw the Kid looking, he turned away.


Clancy continued, “Mabel was just so beautiful; I couldn’t believe she’d marry me. We had a wonderful life, but I got jealous, real jealous of the men hanging around her. Oh, I knew she loved me, but when I’d drink I’d forget.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah life was good, till the O’Leary brothers came to town. They had a stake and they thought they were something. Well one of them -- Patrick, Paddy O’Leary… He took a real shine to Mabel. I’d always find him hanging around. Always there ‘helping’ Mabel; telling her jokes, making her laugh. Yeah that Paddy and his brother Michael, just thought they were everything.”

Clancy scowled. “I told him to stay away from her, but he just laughed and came back, again and again. Finally, it came to a head.”

He turned to the Kid. “Can you imagine it? Me, I got into a showdown, an honest to goodness showdown with him in the street right out there. I’d been drinking and getting madder and madder all day – pot valiant, I guess.”

They all turned as if they could see through the walls of the saloon and the rain to the street and see the gunfight happening then.

“Let me guess, Clancy,” the Kid said, “you both missed?”

“No. No I didn’t miss. Shot him dead, right out there.” Clancy stopped speaking for a moment.

“What happened then Clancy?” Heyes urged him on.

“There wasn’t any law here and most folks agreed it was a fair fight. That should have been it. But Michael, Paddy’s brother, swore he’d get his revenge. I didn’t think about that, I was too busy thinking about my beautiful Mabel and playing hide and seek with my Harriet.”

“It happened the next night, after I’d closed down the bar.” He looked at the two of them. “Sometime that night, there was an explosion. Our house… we had a fine home right by the sign to Muddy Gap at the edge of town. Anyways, our home blew up. There were flames everywhere. The screaming…, the flames… the heat… In the morning, when the ashes had cooled enough, they found two bodies. Yeah, I lost them that night. I lost my beautiful Mabel and Harriet, the loves of my life.” Clancy finished his voice dropping to a whisper at the end. “That’s why I don’t drink anymore. Drinking and jealousy cost me everything.”

Heyes and the Kid were speechless. They looked away, anywhere other than at their old friend. As they stared out the window to the street beyond a brilliant flash of lightning blinded them, and a crash of thunder shook the room. When they looked back at Clancy he was gone, his chair tucked neatly against the table.

They pushed their plates away, unable to eat more, and poured themselves two more glasses.

“Poor Clancy,” Heyes commented.

“Yeah.”

The bartender came up to take the plates. “You two done? You want anything else?”

“No. Say, tell us, where does Clancy live now?”

“Clancy?”

“Yeah, Clancy the man who used to own this bar. Where does he live now?”

“Clancy ain’t owned the bar for four years. Not since the fire. They sold out right after and left. Headed back east I heard.”

“They?” Heyes asked.

“Yeah, Mabel and her little girl.”

“I thought they died in the fire,” the Kid stated frowning.

“No. They made it out. But Clancy didn’t. They found two bodies in the morning – Clancy and Michael O’Leary. With Clancy dead, Mabel and Harriet didn’t want to stick around; they left right after the funeral.”

“What are you talking about?” Heyes exclaimed. “Clancy was just here, talking to us. We’re old friends, knew him years ago.”

The bartender looked them up and down. “There ain’t been a soul in here all night, but you two. Clancy died four years ago tonight. It was raining that night too.” He looked at them again. “Come to think of it, it’s rained this night every year since then.” He scowled. “I don’t know what you two are about, but Clancy’s dead and there was no else here. Now I want to close up so take that whiskey and get out of here!”

~~~000~~~

Heyes and the Kid checked out in the morning. It was grey and damp but not actually raining.

“You’re not staying for the poker?” the desk clerk asked.

“No, we decided we need to get goin’. Folks expectin’ us and all that,” the Kid explained.

Heyes looked at the man. “When did the mine close?”

“Funny you should ask that,” the desk clerk replied. “It was three years ago, yesterday. I remember it was raining hard that day too.”

~~~000~~~

They paused by the sign on the edge of town, looking at the burned-out ruins of a house that they had missed in the rain and gloom the day before. As they looked, the clouds parted slightly and a watery beam of sunlight lit the overgrown bushes at the corner of the ruined home. Mist rose around them from the sodden ground.

Suddenly they heard the high-pitched happy trill of a little girl’s laugh. “Come and find me Daddy; find me. I love you.”

The clouds closed in again. Heyes and the Kid turned and rode down the mountain without speaking.



Last edited by riders57 on Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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sistergrace

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:52 pm

Timpson, Texas

"Mouthful, ain't it?"

"What's a mouthful?"

"The name of that saloon." The Kid pointed toward the sign. "Tipsy Tess's Timpson Texas Tavern."

"You got that right, Kid," his partner acknowledged. "A real tongue-twister."

"I'll bet even that silver tongue of yours would be trippin' over itself, tryin' to get through that one."

"Tipsy Tess's Timpson Texas Tavern. There. Not so hard."

"I meant after a brew or two. And speakin' of brews... Shall we, Joshua?"

"After you, Thaddeus."

***

"I'm Tess. What can I get you fellas?" asked the bartender, a grey-haired woman, with deeply etched smile lines surrounding sparkling eyes.

"Beer," Heyes answered, holding up two fingers.

The Kid tossed his hat aside and leaned both elbows back onto the bar top, surveying the tiny establishment. A woman caught his eye, not a difficult task, considering the Kid's deep appreciation of women-folk in general, and this one, well, she happened to be the saloon's only other patron at the moment, making her pretty tough to miss. The Kid smiled politely and nodded his greeting.

Heyes rolled his eyes.

The woman, seated at a back corner table, smiled back warmly, and waved her hand, signaling to both of them.

Curry snagged the mug Tess had just slid down the bar's waxed surface and made a move in the direction of the woman's table.

Heyes caught his partner's arm and shook his head. "She's a nun, Kid."

"A nun? In a bar?" Curry shook his head, skeptically. "C'mon, Heyes."

"Just take a look at how she's dressed!"

With one quick glance, the Kid took in her dark, tweed skirt, her modest, high-necked, blouse, her mousy-brown tresses, pulled tightly into an unattractive bun, and the pitcher of beer on the table in front of her. "Two bits says she's not." His challenge was extended along with his right hand.

"You're on." Heyes grabbed his own beer and followed.

"Hello, ma'am. I'm..."

At that precise moment, the woman turned away, raising a finger of pause and spewed a mouthful of beverage into a nearby pail. "Pardon, gentlemen." She dabbed her lips as delicately as possible against her sleeve and stood. "They call me Grace." Her smile was as gentle as it was genuine. "And your names are...?"

"Joshua Smith, ma'am," Heyes introduced, eyes taking in the spittoon on the floor next to Grace, more than half full.

Curry stared, dumb-founded.

"And this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones," Heyes assisted.

"Pleased to meet you." Grace gave a half-hearted attempt at a curtsey, then motioned toward two chairs. "Join me, please."

The Kid found his tongue as he sat. "You're not a nun, are you, ma'am?"

"I'm a tester," Grace answered.

"Tester?" Heyes wondered, also sitting.

"Taste tester," Grace affirmed, nodding.

"A beer taste tester?" The Kid chuckled through his words and cast a look of victory Heyes' way. "My friend here thought you were a nun."

"A nun! Imagine!" Grace poured a small amount from the pitcher, watched carefully as the foam dissipated, then swirled the amber concoction expertly around her glass. She sniffed, sipped, then swigged a mouthful. There was a loud swishing noise before Grace again spewed in the direction of the spittoon, and again dabbed at her mouth delicately, using her sleeve. "Tess!" she called, causing both Heyes and Curry to jump. "Send out the Leinenkugel's!"

"Tess arrived promptly with a pitcher and three glasses. "Here you go, Grace. The Leinenkugel's, Summer Shandy."

"Summer what?" the Kid asked.

"Shandy," Grace explained, patiently. "Beer mixed with lemonade."

"Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good beer by diluting it with..."

Grace poured a glass and shoved it toward him. "Taste."

Heyes tasted, and shrugged. "Not bad. That'd cut the dust nicely after a day on the trail. What do you think, Thaddeus?"

The Kid tasted, and nodded his agreement.

Throughout the evening, hour after hour, the brew-fest continued, until finally Tess arrived with a final sample. "Last one, folks," she declared. "This brew comes from Mexico."

"Wait! Try this." Taking a knife, Grace sliced a lime, then squeezed several drops of its juice into Heyes' glass, Curry's, and then her own. "Bottoms up, gentlemen!" She touched her glass to each of theirs and winked before chugging. Finishing, she turned her glass upside down on the table before dabbing her mouth on her sleeve one last time. "Ahhh! Good stuff!" she belched.

Moral of the story:

If Grace can't come up with a Twist for her Tale, she's happy to settle for a Twist in her Ale!

_________________
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
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AllegraW



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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:44 am

It is with some trepidation that I return to the challenges but for the first time in an age a bunny nudged my keyboard so here goes...



A Twist in the Tail...or thereabouts anyway...

“What in the blazes happened here?” Kid Curry stood next to his partner sharing an identical look of disbelief as they surveyed the tangle of twisted fuse line strewn over the store room floor.

Heyes, his face like thunder, turned back toward the open door they’d just come through and his bellow sounded right across the Devil’s Hole, “Kyle!”

The Kid turned in the same second shouting, “Wheat!”

Turning back, they briefly caught each others’ eyes, and Heyes tried to control his irritation. He didn’t need this. He was in the middle of trying to work out their next job and they had just gone over to the store room to check out certain supplies. This was an unnecessary annoyance. Kid got down on his hunches and picked up a pile of the knotted mass, pulling it apart, looking half-heartedly for the end of the fuse. He sighed; “What a mess.”

They heard movement outside and Heyes went to the door to see Kyle hurrying towards him, Wheat a few steps behind.

“What’s the matter, Heyes?” smiled Kyle. “Ya can’t find somethin’? I’ll help ya. I keep the storeroom pretty good, don’ I…uh, oh…dang!” He came to an abrupt stop mid-sentence looking past Heyes and seeing the twists and tangles on the floor. Heyes couldn’t believe it; Kyle was actually blushing.

Wheat looked over Kyle’s shoulder and then took a step back. “Kyle! You said you was gonna clear that up.”

If possible, Kyle went even redder. “I forgot.” Wheat gave him a ‘now look what you’ve gotten us into’ glare.

Heyes frowned at the pair of them, “What have you been doing?”

“Nothin’,” muttered Wheat as Kyle blurted out, “Experimentin’”.

“This,” said Heyes pointing to the fuse line, “is an experiment?”

Kyle shifted uncomfortably and then opened his mouth to speak. Heyes, however, quickly held up his hand to stop him. “You know what, Kyle. I’ve just had a thought. I’m kinda preoccupied at the moment so I’ll just ask you whether I’m actually gonna want to hear any explanation you would give?”

“Uh…no,” mumbled Kyle sheepishly, “probably not.”.

Heyes gave an impatient snort. “I figured…Just clear it up, both of you. Don’t make me have to explain it.” Wheat and Kyle mooched reluctantly into the store house and Heyes turned and stalked off back towards the Leader’s cabin, his thoughts already back on the job they were planning. Kid watched him go, knowing how the long twisted tail of fuse line was already dismissed from his mind and forgotten.

The Kid was not so easy to distract. He stood up and leaned against one of the vertical beams holding up the store room roof giving both Kyle and Wheat the benefit of a Curry stare. “Ya know, I think I do wanna hear this.”

Kyle and Wheat shared a look. “Can’t we just clear it up?” Kyle pleaded.

Curry merely folded his arms and continued to stare them both down.

“It ain’t important or nothin’,” grouched Wheat.

Kid shook his head. “That’s a lot of fuse line you made a mess of. I wanna know why?”

“We was just foolin’ around,” snapped Wheat.

“Foolin’ around?” Curry raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, just foolin’ around, that’s all.” Wheat obviously did not care to elaborate. Kid turned to Kyle, his face questioning.

“Aw, Kid, it weren’t nothin’ bad,” Kyle said giving Curry a lopsided grin, “Wheat an’ me, well, we just decided to have a little competition between the two of us, you know…just for…ahem… fun.” He shuffled his feet uncomfortably under Curry’s stare as Wheat looked stonily at the floor.

“What sort of ‘fun’ competition?”

“It don’t matter,” hissed Wheat, the color in his cheeks taking on a remarkable resemblance to Kyles’.

“I was asking Kyle,” Kid told him not looking away from where Kyle was still obviously half-grinning from the memory.

“A competition to see who’s the fastest,” Kyle told him. “Ya see, couple o’ nights ago we had this idea to see who could get untied fastest but, well, we wanted to make it more excitin’…”

Curry’s eyes narrowed, “and…?”

“…And so we came over here and wrapped ourselves up in fuse wire and then said whoever got out first could light the fuse line around the one who was still tied up…you know…to give us incentive to try an’ get out quicker…” Kyle trailed off at Kid’s look of disbelief.

Curry looked to Wheat for confirmation.

Wheat was now bright red in the face. “It weren’t nothin’,” he grumbled. “We was just bored.”

“No one gets that bored,” Kid told him. ‘It’s just ain’t possible.”

“Well, we were pretty drunk too,” admitted Kyle sheepishly.

Kid gave him a wry glance. “And I don’t personally think I could get that drunk either, but each to his own. Who won?”

“No one won,” answered Wheat sulkily.

“Reckon we were a bit too drunk,” Kyle told the Kid. “’cause we found we’d gotten ourselves so tangled up that neither of us could get out. In the end we must’ve fallen’ asleep cos next thing I know it’s mornin’ and Lobo is wakin’ us up and helpin’ to untie us. I had one heck of a headache and a mighty big thirst.” He looked slightly uncertainly at Kid’s incredulous face. “Felt a bit dumb, too.”

“You don’t say,” Kid quipped.

“Anyway, we just wanted to go to bed then and I reckoned to tidy up the store room later.”

“Which I told you to do,” Wheat hissed at him.

Kyle surveyed the mess on the store room floor again looking apologetic. “Like I said, I forgot.”

Kid shook his head. “You know what, boys? Sometimes you both truly terrify me.”

Kyle grinned. “Thanks, Kid.”

“That wasn’t a compliment,” barked Curry. He scratched his head under his hat and looked around him while he readjusted his headgear. “Ya know what? I don’t think I want to hear anything more about this either. Heyes was right – just clear this up, the both of ya and I’m gonna go an’ see how he’s getting on.”

“Bye, Kid,” called Kyle and Wheat punched him in the side. “Ow! What was that fer?”

“C’mon,” said Wheat, pulling him into the room.

They knelt down looking for an end to the fuse but, after a few moments of this activity Wheat gave Kyle a challenging look. “Ya know, I still reckon I would’ve been faster if I hadn’t been so cotton-pickin’ drunk,” he told him.

“You wouldn’t of been faster even straight sober and carryin’ a knife,” answered Kyle.

“Easy to say now,” shot back Wheat.

“I’ll prove it to ya anytime,” Kyle smiled. “I’m skinnier an’ faster ‘n you!”

“Oh yeah? Then prove it now!” Wheat threw down his verbal gauntlet.

“All right! Let’s get this untangled and tie ourselves up in it again. I’ll show ya who’s better.”

“Same rules?” asked Wheat.

“Same rules,” confirmed Kyle with a huge grin.

Back in the leader’s cabin Heyes and Kid were hunched over a map and a railway timetable as they made various calculations together and Heyes scribbled notes. They’d made good progress in the past couple of hours and Heyes seemed to be on a roll. It would be a good job, Kid thought. Heyes’ plan was coming together nicely. Suddenly he became aware of a faint noise in the distance. Distracted, he looked up, then rose from the desk and went over to the window.

Heyes noticed Kid’s puzzled look. “What is it, Kid?”

“Ya hear somethin’?” said Kid peering out of the winder.

Puzzled Heyes was quiet and listened. Another cry could be faintly heard.

“What’s that?” Heyes asked.

The Kid listened harder and, as he concentrated he heard the cry again but this time he could distinguish it more clearly.

“Lobo!! Help us!” Kyle’s voice could be faintly heard calling.

Curry’s shoulders relaxed and he returned to the desk. “Don’t worry about it, Heyes,” he told his partner, a slight smile playing on his lips. “It’s nothin’. Let’s get back to work.”


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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:52 am

Best Served Cold

I woke with a start, my heart thumping loudly and the blood rushing through my ears. What was that? I strained every sense to listen through the blackness.

Nothing. Silence.

I gulped, chiding myself for letting my imagination run riot. Get a grip, Man! There was nobody there – just like any other night. I curled back into the mattress and pulled the covers around my shoulders, waiting for the adrenaline to subside. My breathing gradually became slower and deeper until my eyelids drooped, an augur of the return of sweet, refreshing sleep.

My eyes flicked open. That was a creak, I’m sure of it this time... There! It sounded like a footstep on a recalcitrant floorboard. Yes – there it was again. Somebody was here... Or was there? These old houses made all kinds of strange noises in the night.

I sat bolt upright, every nerve alight with concentration. Was he here? Had he finally come? Nah, surely it was just my fanciful imagination, after all, why would Hannibal Heyes be here, seeking revenge after all these years? Common sense did its best to fight through my irrational fears, one side of my mouth twitching slightly at how quickly that frightened little child could return, seeing nebulous forms in the shadows or hearing the monster under the bed.

I pulled back the covers and swung my legs out of bed. Logic dictated that an investigation would put the matter to rest once and for all, so I pushed my feet into my slippers and tied on a robe, pausing only to wonder how sensible this course of action really was as my heart skipped a beat at another groaning floorboard. If someone was in the house, they were getting nearer.

Where was that damned gun?

I paused, before dismissing the idea of a light. This place was remote and far from help, and if somebody was hiding in the blackness it would be madness to draw their attention to my whereabouts.

I stopped by the door, noticing my rasping breath in the stillness. Was it safe to open the door? What choice did I have? I had to go through the door or skinny out the window - and I was two storeys up.

I turned the handle, gulping at the heart stopping rasp from the hinges and crept into the dark hallway.

I used my left hand to feel my way to the staircase, my pistol clutched in my sweating right hand, but the back of my neck prickled at the sight before me. Somebody was slinking up the stairs, silently and relentlessly. Was it him? Was he hunting me like a cat?

My mind struggled to grasp the concept. This could not be possible. Hannibal Heyes, here? But everyone knew the man was relentless and he would never let up in his hunt for the man who had killed his partner. He would pursue his prey to the ends of the earth.

“Heyes?” My voice rasped with fear. “Is that you?”

The figure stopped, the whole demeanour of the shade suddenly becoming more relaxed. His insouciance was legendary, and I was now watching a criminal comfortable enough in his skin to be caught in the act of housebreaking without turning a hair.

The figure on the stair case spoke. “Cooper? I’ve come for you.”

“I’m not Cooper. He died years ago.” I damned myself for allowing my fear to lace my words. Heyes sounded so confident in comparison, but I suppose he had nothing left to lose.

“Liar. You’re Cooper. I’ve watched this place for days. I’ve seen you come and go.” The figure started move up towards the landing. “I’ve tracked you for three years, you changed your name, grew a beard, even moved to another state – but I found you. Did you think I’d ever rest until I killed the coward who shot Kid Curry in the back, just to make a name for himself?”

“Honestly, I’m not Cooper. My name is Francis – Raymond Francis.”

Heyes gave a derisory snicker. “Does it matter what name they put on your gravestone? I know who you really are, and you’re going to die.”

I started to sweat. “I’m not Cooper. I came here because I wanted to meet you, Heyes. It was a terrible tragedy, what happened to Kid- killed only a year after getting amnesty, but you threw it all away in a quest for revenge. I want to talk to you.”

“Then you’re a fool and coward. I didn’t come here to talk – I came here to kill you.”

I shook my head furiously. “I’m not Cooper. I swear.”

The indistinct figure reached the landing, standing about five yards from me. The faint moonlight from the window caught a pair of intense, dark eyes and a cold smile dimpled across a ghostly face. “I want to see you die, Cooper. I want to see the light go out in your eyes.”

He raised his arm, and although he was shrouded by the night my instincts told he was pointing a gun at me. I stepped backwards, hoping to get lost in the shadows. “Come with me. Talk to me...”

“Talk!? The minute you pulled that trigger, you signed your own death warrant.” Heyes stepped towards me. “That’s why you ran. You killed a good, kind man just to make a name for yourself, and then you have to spend your life running and hiding. It was for nothing! A total waste..,” Heyes’ voice crackled with hatred. “You bastard! We worked so hard for that amnesty. We finally had a future...”

The figure advanced on me and I sunk back into the corner. There was nowhere to go.

“You gutless, worthless piece of sh*t. There’s no point in trying to hide in the darkness. I am the dark. I’m the last thing you’ll ever see.”

The figure strode over to me and raised the gun, pointing straight at my head. There was a flash in the gloom and a deafening noise...

Then it all went black.

oooOOOooo

I don’t know how long I sat there, trying to make sense of it all. The cold grey fingers of dawn gradually lit up the world, illuminating my shocked, numb body. The hallway was still the same, and the world seemed unchanged, but I wasn’t. I’d never be the same again.

I hauled myself to my feet and stumbled into the bedroom. I sat down at my laptop and began to write:

‘I have been a journalist for twenty three years, but I have never experienced anything like the night I spent in the old Cooper place. For those of you unfamiliar with Nevada, it was the scene of the showdown between the famous outlaw, Hannibal Heyes, and the man who killed his cousin, Kid Curry. He killed Cooper before turning the gun on himself, determined not to live life on the run, or to hang for an act of natural justice. They said it was haunted, but I never believed in ghosts before now...



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Niekx

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:06 pm

Hi everyone here it is: my very first attempt at writing something. Million thanks to Silverkelpie for beta-reading it and for coming up with the idea of making it fit for this challenge. Here goes...bottle

Thoughtful Conversations

My partner is riding slightly in front of me as usual, and appears perfectly content. No need to hide the thoughtful expression on my face - although I figure that if Heyes looked back right now he would frown and wonder what I was thinking. Luckily I am not a talkative person to begin with, so my silence is nothing out of the ordinary. You might say that I am the worrier in this partnership, but as soon as I start to worry Heyes is not far behind. But, he’ll never admit to it.

Why do I get in such a mood sometimes? Some might call it melancholy. There seems to be no reason at all. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and no pounding hoofs announcing a pursuing posse have been heard for days. The surroundings are actually quite soothing, if nothing else. The soft forest cover, makes riding my horse feel like a massage. Not even the horse’s hooves make a sound and, surprisingly, even Heyes has decided not to disturb the silence. Makes me think of other times….

“He son, why are you sitting around in the barn for? I thought you were out in the field playing with Han and the other kids?”

“They didn’t want me there.” I sulked, bouncing my leggs against the bale of hay I was sitting on.

“Well, why is that? You two usually are as thick as thieves and I thought I heard Han say you were going to try out that new kite”. Pa asked, surprised.

“That is just the point. I can’t.” Bounce, bounce.

“You can’t, what?”

“Run fast enough to get it in the air. Han says, I am too little.”

“Hmm… I see.” He sat himself next to me on the hay and stroked his hand through my hair.

“Then maybe I should help you make your own kite. That might prove him wrong, now wouldn’t it? Instead of you sitting around here all day ruining the horses meal.”
“Stop kicking that hay, Jed!”

I stopped bouncing my legs and looked up at my dad as if I saw him for the first time.

“Do you really know how to MAKE a kite? How do you know? Can you show me? This would be so awesome, for because Uncle Heyes bought Han’s kite in the store!”

“I sure can. Your grandpa taught me when I was about your age. It’s a real Curry tradition and it’s about time I passed it on to you.” He gently urged me off the bale and pushed me towards the barn door.

“Why don’t you just run up to your Ma and ask her if she has some thread we can use and maybe an old paper bag. Meanwhile, I’ll check the barn for some wooden sticks and stuff. Meet you back here in half an hour, Partner.”

Grinning from ear to ear I was already on my way to the farmhouse, when he called me back.

“Oh and Jed?”

“Yessir?”

“Ask your Ma if she’s still got some cloth of my old shirt lying around. Your kite is gonna need a tail if you’re ever gonna fly it properly.”

“But Dad, Han’s kite hasn’t got no tail!”

“Exactly,” Pa smirked, “that’s why you couldn’t lift it in the air. I bet they‘re still trying everything they can, but they can’t. We’ll show them how it’s done. A Curry Kite will out-fly them all!”

Dad and I worked on it the rest of the afternoon in silent companionship and by the time it was finished, he showed me how to fly it. First he helped me and then I managed it myself. It flew beautifully above the fields, above the barn, above the house, dancing on the wind, swaying the red tail along. That was some afternoon…

But what has got me back there? Must be because of what happened in the last town we visited. What did that little kid say to me again? I did not even hear him at first, as he approached me from behind. I was in the general sore checking out the shirt section and was thinking on buying a white silk shirt for a change.

“Mister, can you help me?”

The soft voice startled me. That’s not good, freezing up like that. I must be letting my guard down! I quickly recovered as I saw a little person tapping his fingers on my leg.

“Sure”, I said, “what’s up?”

“I have just bought this kite, but actually I don’t know how to make it fly. Do you know how?

“Sure,” I said again, looking at the bright red kite with yellow stripes, brand new, with a green tail sticking out of the brown paper bag.

“I was the champion kite flyer in all of Kansas. Just ask my friend Joshua over there. I was unbeatable and he hated every minute of it.” Just remembering how surprised Han was, when I joined them again the next day – showing off my very own Curry kite. The memory of that afternoon brought a big grin to my face. “But I think, you’d better ask your Dad to show you how to do it. I bet he’d be very happy to teach you the tricks. Any Dad knows how to fly a kite, it’s a trade secret among boys”.

“That is just the point. I can’t”, answered the little boy, “That’s why I need to get word to him, to let him know that I need his help. Maybe after he reads my letter he’ll come back and show me lots of other stuff I don’t know about yet”.

Then my eyes fell on the envelope in the boy’s hand and when I gave him a puzzled look he looked through the window at the sky and continued talking.

“Ma says that Pa is up there somewhere watching out for us. So, I figured that if I bind my letter to the kites tail and get it to fly high enough, he might be able to catch it. Don’t you think he will, sir?”

I was dumbstruck and my throat tightened, unable to reply. Before I could answer him, the boy’s mother came around the corner and took him by the hand.

“Don’t bother this gentleman, Samuel! Did you get the kite you wanted? Let’s go”.

And before I recovered enough to utter a response, they exited the store and walked out on the street.

Just fly a kite high enough to send word up to heaven. It could have been my idea…. Why didn’t Han and me think of that after our folks were killed? Sure, Han would have laughed at me cynically for only mentioning a thing like that. As a matter of fact, he still would if I brought it up now…

Let’s just imagine it for a moment, though. Would our parents come back and show us the way out of this mess Heyes and me call living? Would they even read a letter from us? Or would they just ignore it, since we didn’t exactly turn out as we were supposed to?

Nah, I am sure they would at least be proud of our efforts at going for an amnesty, pipedream as it may be. Maybe they wouldn’t come back, but it sure would be nice to tell them though…. That we are trying…

Why don’t we use that ugly red shirt of mine to build one of those kites? It’s just my luck that once you want to get rid of a shirt you’re in no need of bandages. Maybe Heyes has got some fishing line in his saddlebags …

“Heyes…?”

“Yeh...”

“…….”

“Yeh, Kid?”

“No, never mind.”

“Something wrong, Kid?”

“No, just thinking.”

“Kid, how many times did I tell you, that that has gotten us in to more….”

“Heyes, shut up.”

_________________
If you're playing a poker game and you look around the table and can't tell who the sucker is
...it's you!
- Paul Newman -
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HannaHeyes

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:58 pm

(Thanks IO for your suggestions!)

It was a long forgotten Autumn night in late October. The air was damp with the smell of wet leaves and hot horses. We had just ridden into some two-bit town, tired and dirty from outrunning a posse. We didn't even go to the hotel first. We headed straight for the saloon. I procured us a bottle of watered down whiskey and joined Kid at the back table.

We'd had about half the bottle when she walked in looking like a drowned rat, her black and red dress sticking closely to her hourglass form. I seen the Kid looking at her and I knew what was coming next. You don't see respectable women come into a saloon very often, so we both thought she worked there. Kid gets up and as he's making his way towards the bar, you could see her talking to the bartender. Then she looks back at me. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but Kid probably overheard her as he approached the spot beside her. He talks to her for a moment, they have a drink, then he nods his head as she leaves. She kinda skips out the door.

He comes back to our table and tells me we have a job. I look at him incredulously. He didn't even talk it over with me first! He says she needs somebody to find her the perfect horse, that it needed to be a coal black stallion with one white foot, and that she didn't have time to look for it herself because of something she had to stay and watch at home. I asked him what she needed it for. Supposedly, she was a breeder and was in desperate need to improve her stock or lose her farm. Kid said that she was on the verge of tears when she was talking. I think he was just seeing the water drip down her face. I asked if he found out why she was wet because it wasn't raining outside. Kid looked at me like I was crazy, said there was some things you just didn't ask a woman. Maybe she was wet from earlier. I don't know. I just found it odd. I asked him if he at least found out her name. Veronica, he said.

-----ooo-----

So, the next day, we set about going to all the ranches nearby looking for Veronica's idea of the perfect horse. None of them had a black stallion with one white foot. We heard from one of the ranchers that a man named Farmer might have what we was looking for. But he was a half day's ride away. I looked at Kid with an expression that asked, 'is this worth the fifty dollars we're getting paid'. He just nodded his head yes and turned his horse towards the Farmer spread.

-----ooo-----

It was that evening when we reached our destination. A low-lying fog had drifted into the valley, the kind of thick fog you get after a spring night's storm. The lanterns on the three story house was the only way we found our way to the front door. The house was sorta rundown. Paint was peeling, boards on the porch were warped, only one of the windows wasn't boarded up. There was a sign on the door that said ‘vacancy’. We knocked on the door. Nothing. We knocked again. Eventually we heard footsteps.

"Can I help you," a little elderly lady said as she opened the door slightly.

"We're looking for a man named Farmer ma'am. Does he live here?" I asked politely.

"This is his house," she said, "he's busy out back."

"This late?"

"He got a late start today. Got to get stuff taken care of. Come in and rest yourself. I'll go fetch him."

We go in and she pours us each a cup of coffee, then she goes out the back door. The inside of the house looked almost as bad as the outside. Ragged furniture, torn rugs, dusty. A few moments later, the little lady returns, followed by a huge, rough-looking man. When I say huge, I mean HUGE. He was at least six foot five and three hundred pounds, and it was all muscle. I'm glad he never took up being a lawman. I'd hate to run into him on a bad day.

"Hello Mr. Farmer. I'm Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones. We heard you may have a horse we're looking for."

He kinda grunts a 'yes' then says, "In the barn." He then turns and heads back out the back door. I shrug my shoulders at Kid and we get up to follow him after we tip our hats to the lady.

As we walk to the barn, we notice the back yard looks like its been dug up in places, like a fresh grave looks. Strange. Mr. Farmer has already disappeared inside so we hurry to catch up with him. We open the barn door and both gasp at the same time. There stands Veronica with squirrel tails hanging off her belt.

"I've been waiting for you," she says.

Then everything goes dark...

-----ooo-----

When I regain consciousness, I find us both tied to chairs and unarmed.

"Hi there," Veronica bends down and says to me.

"You sure got a funny way of saying hello," I tell her.

"Well, I had to get you ready," she says.

"Ready for what?" Kid asks.

“Ready for the ceremony.”

“WHAT ceremony?!”

"Ready for the wedding."

"What?!" we say simultaneously.

"What are you talking about?" I ask.

"I saw you two riding into town earlier and I knew at that moment, you were the one I wanted. The stars told me last night that I would be meeting a new love interest."

"The stars told you..." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The girl was obviously crazy.

"I know you're thinking I'm 'touched in the head', but let me assure you I'm not," she explains. "I knew the man I would marry would have dark hair and dark eyes. It matches me perfectly. And the stars said so. One doesn’t argue with the universe.”

"Well, why the big story about finding you a horse?" I ask.

"I had to get you here of your own accord. That was the first ruse I thought of. If you didn’t come voluntarily, it just wouldn’t be proper. Now, my grandma is going to help me get ready. My brother here will make sure you don't get away. I'll be right back my love."

And with that, she disappears out the door. Big brother stands there staring at us like a hungry mountain lion. I have to say, it made me uncomfortable.

"Well, I think we best be getting outta here, unless you want to become 'Miss Looney's' husband," Kid whispers to me.

"You think I don't know that?!" I tried moving my wrists to try and loosen the ropes. It didn't work. "Say, Mr. Farmer is it? You know, if I'm gonna get married, I should freshen up. You think you could untie me so I can get ready?"

The big oaf appears to think for a minute then says, "Okay." Well, that was easy. “But DO NOT leave this barn. I don’t want to dig another hole tonight.”

He unties me and I ask for some water to wash the dirt off my face. Apparently, Mr. Farmer is a few people shy of a posse because he left me standing there to get some water. Which was a good thing. I quickly untie Kid and we race for the door to find Farmer outside pumping water into a bucket. He's right in our line of escape. We sneak as quietly as possible out the door and are about to turn the corner when buckshot striking the wall stops us.

"Where do you think you're going?" the little old lady says as she reloads.

"Uh...nowhere. Just wanted some fresh air before the ceremony," I say reluctantly.

“You ain’t leavin’. Veronica needs to be happy. You want fresh air, go to a window.”

Farmer runs back over to us and herds us back in the barn while the old lady watches from behind. “You shouldn’t do that,” he says. “That’s why the other ones are in the back yard.”

I don’t know exactly what he meant by that, and I don’t think I want to know. It wasn't a couple minutes later that Veronica comes back in, dressed all in black.

"Isn't it tradition to get married in a white dress?" I ask sarcastically.

"Yes, but, my previous husband died on our wedding night."

For once, I'm speechless...but only for a second. "Previous husband died?! How?”

"He hung himself. Guess he couldn’t handle the stress."

"And nothing about that seems strange to you?" Kid asks.

"Well, I just figured it wasn't meant to be. But I know you're the one," she says to me.

'Granny Shotgun' makes me move over to stand beside Veronica. Then big brother stands in front of us and pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket. Veronica does some little dance beside me and throws some feathers around. The girl is definitely unhinged.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to..."

Well, at least the wedding won't be legal. Kid just stood there...what else could he do?

“Do you Veronica take this man to be your husband?”

“I do.”

“Do you take her to be your wife?”

“Well, now, let’s talk about this…”

“No talking! Just answer the question!” Granny yells at me.

“Well….”

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Farmer says. “I now pronounce you man and wife. Now, kiss her.”

I hesitate and Granny comes over and pushes me into her. I give her a peck on the cheek. She turns around and kisses me so hard I think she’s going to deflate one of my lungs. Kid turns away. I know he’s laughing.

So, the 'ceremony' ends and I'm rushed into the house at gunpoint with my new 'bride'. Kid is escorted off the property, given our hardware, and warned not to come back, unless he wanted to be buried in the back yard.

Once inside and alone in a room on the top floor, Veronica does some kind of weird dance around the room with a candle and a feather. I ask her what she’s doing. She says she’s purifying the room, whatever that’s suppose to mean. Then she announces she's going to take a bath. That was fine with me. I sure wasn't planning on doing anything else. Of course, the door locks behind her. I wait a couple of minutes, then pull my lock pick out and set to work escaping. I start to work on the lock when all of a sudden, the door opens and there stands the little old lady. She comes into the room, shotgun in hand, and gives me the evil eye. Then she says,...

"I hope you didn't have any honeymoon plans 'cause you're about to throw yourself out of that window."

I know she could see the shock on my face. "Ma'am?"

"My Veronica is NOT gonna stay married. I won't lose her to some man. That's why I killed her other husband."

"YOU killed him?! I thought he hung himself.”

“He did hang…after I slipped him something to knock him out. My grandson helped me lift him off the floor.”

“Well why let the fake ceremony go on and go through the trouble? Wouldn't it be easier to just forbid her from marrying?"

She steps closer to me. "No. I want her to be happy. Getting married makes her happy. But she ain't stayin' married, I take care of that. She never figured out he didn't die by his own hand. Now, you're going to conveniently trip and fall out of that window one way or another. Oh, she'll be heartbroken for a little while, but she'll get over it."

Again, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The whole household was insane. She's backed me up right next to the window with her shotgun. All of a sudden, Kid bursts through the door.

"I sure am glad to see you!"

"Alright Granny, drop it!" Kid commands.

But she just looks at him, daring him to do something. After a few seconds, she lunges towards me and pushes me out the window. I catch myself on the window sill. There I hang, by my fingertips, three stories up. Kid rushes over to the window. I see him looking down at me. Then I see the butt of granny’s shotgun come down on the back of his head. Kid goes down. She comes over to me and is getting ready to crush my fingers when Kid jumps up behind her. Apparently, she didn’t hit him hard enough to knock him out. He grabs hold of the shotgun and twists it out of her hands. As he does, it goes off, hitting the ceiling. Kid holds granny at gunpoint.

It was then that Veronica runs in wearing a black robe wanting to know what is going on. Kid tells her that granny was trying to help me fall to my death. She gasps, then shakes her head. You’d think she’d make more of a reaction, but, she acts like it was a normal thing. Kid makes her tie granny’s hands, and then he helps me back into the room.
We're in the process of leaving the house when Veronica comes into the parlor just as we reach the door.

"Where are you going?!" she asks.

“What do you mean ‘where are we going’?! We’re leaving! Your granny just tried to kill my partner. What’s wrong with you people?!”

"Veronica, you know that the wedding isn't legal. And as pretty as you are, I have no desire to be married. Now I suggest you talk to your grandma there and find out just what really happened to your other 'husband'. Me and Thaddeus are leaving here and nobody's gonna stop us."

She looks dumbfounded. I see her lip start to quiver, but I just turn to go.

We mount our horses outside and hightail it outta there. We don't stop until we're at least three counties over. I asked Kid how he got by Veronica's big brother. He tells me he circled 'round the barn when he supposedly left and got the drop on him, left him tied up in the barn. Irony is a beautiful thing at times.

-----ooo-----

I don't know why Kid does it. He always falls for the sob stories from the ladies. Well, let me tell you,...that was one time that left us shaken for quite a while.

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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:27 pm

“I don’t get it, Heyes. Pearson could deliver those papers, why’s he paying us to do it? Why is he paying a $100 for a $10 job?” asked Kid.

“I don’t get it either, but we’re beggars right now, and we can’t be choosers,” said Heyes, “If the man wants to pay me ten times what the job is worth, I’m not about to argue with him. Are you?”

“Nope, I guess not,” said Kid with a chuckle. His horse plodded down the shady, overgrown lane keeping pace with his partner’s gelding. The two men had been down on their luck for a while now and were nearly out of money. This was the first paying job they’d had in almost a month. Not even Heyes’s poker skills could make up for that bad a run of luck. This job was the only thing between Kid and his next meal.

Heyes grinned at him. “It won’t take long to give Mr. Skinks this envelope. After we get that done, we’ll head into town, collect our $100, and have us a fine meal at that fancy hotel. How does that sound?”

Kid smiled but quickly frowned and said, “You know, Heyes, it sounds too good to be true.”

Heyes frowned back at him. “It does, doesn’t it?

OOOOOOOOOO

The old cabin sat in a dying grove of cottonwood trees. It was obvious that the homestead had already raised several generations of families and would be hard pressed to raise more. The barn behind it was listing heavily to the north and appeared to be in imminent danger of collapsing. The roof of the house was missing numerous shingles and the broken chimney belched only the thinnest of smoke plumes. Windows were cracked or outright broken and the front porch looked to be a minefield of potential injuries. The whole place reeked of a quiet desperation.

Hannibal Heyes sat his horse on the rise overlooking the small spread. The dismal home was a pitiful sight. He had no idea what papers he carried in his saddlebags, but, in his opinion, papers to be served were seldom good news. He hated to add more burdens to a life that already looked to be overwhelmed. He glanced at his partner and said, “What do you think?”

“I think I want to get this over with and get dinner. This place gives me the creeps,” said Kid. He had felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle the moment he clapped eyes on this place.

Mid-way down the hill to the ranch, Heyes heard the sound of glass breaking. His saw a rifle thrust out through a window and a shot rang out. He felt the hot whistle of the bullet passing by. “Run!” he yelled unnecessarily; his cousin was already charging back up the hill. Heyes crouched low over his horse’s neck and spurred the animal hard. The bay gelding bounded up the hill and over the rise carrying his rider out of rifle range.

“You know, Kid, I’m beginning to think we ain’t being overpaid after all,” said Heyes, looking over his shoulder.

OOOOOOOOOO

That night, two dark-clothed men rode out of town quietly and headed out towards the Skinks place. They rode silently side by side. Small bits of cloth were wrapped around the metal pieces of their saddles and bridles to muffle the sound of the metal fittings. Leaving the main road, Heyes and Kid entered the forest. The bright shine of the full moon could no longer light their way through the thick tangle of overhanging branches and the partners slowed their horses to a walk so the animals could carefully pick their way through the underbrush. They would cut north in a little while and circle around the back of the Skinks spread. Heyes had a plan, but he had no intention of getting shot at again.

Kid reined his horse up sharply and startled his cousin. Pointing to the ground ahead, he said, “Is that what I think it is?”

Heyes was surprised to see what appeared to be a newly, filled grave. It was an odd thing to find way out here; they were still a long way from the Skinks place or any other homestead. Heyes dismounted for a closer look. He crouched to pick something up. “Looks like it is, Kid,” he said, holding up the small, wooden cross that had fallen over at the head of the grave. He stood up and looked around. All he could hear was the rustling of the dried leaves on the forest floor blown by a stray breeze. Re-mounting, he looked at Kid and shrugged. “C’mon,” he said.

OOOOOOOOOO

They rode silently again, each lost in their own thoughts. Kid was shaken out of his reverie by the tensing of his horse’s back as his gelding’s head shot in the air and he planted his forefeet. Heyes’s horse had begun to dance nervously in place. Dark eyes met blue and two hands reached for their guns. The two horses snorted and blew air, testing the scents that wafted through the night. The partners waited tensely, watchful and ready, but nothing happened. The horses soon relaxed and lost interest in whatever they had sensed nearby.

Heyes holstered his gun first, and laughed. “That must’ve been some bear,” he said.

“You’d think these two hay-burners would be used to the smell of bear by now, wouldn’t you?” said Kid with a smile as he holstered his pistol. Patting his horse to settle the last of the animal’s nerves, he looked at his partner, “We’re getting jumpy in our old age, Heyes. Probably wasn’t nothing but a jackrabbit.”

“A big, scary jackrabbit,” said Heyes, dropping his reins now that his horse was relaxed and pulling out a whiskey bottle from his saddlebag. Grinning, he took a long sip. “Shot of the liquid courage, Kid?” he said, leaning over to pass the bottle to his partner.

Kid reached out and took a deep pull from the bottle before handing it back, “Thanks—hate to admit it, but I needed that.”

Heyes corked the bottle and packed it away. “You know, I’m beginning to feel a mite spooked, too,” he said.

OOOOOOOOOO

The forest was a jungle of shadowy figures in the filtered light of the moon. There was movement everywhere. The partners saw small animals; rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks; running out of the gloom towards them, hurrying past, and disappearing into the night. Ten minutes later, a doe and two speckled fawns dashed past them and a few moments after that they saw a furtive bobcat slinking by, casting nervous glances behind him.

“Heyes, I don’t like this,” whispered Kid.

Heyes didn’t like it either, but he said, “It’s a full moon, Kid. There’re always a lot of animals out and about during the full moon.”

“Not like this,” said Kid.

“Like what?” asked Heyes.

“Not all heading in the same direction—towards us. Or, maybe I should say, away from something,” said Kid.

“You’re imagining things, Kid. We just happen to be riding a busy game trail; that’s all. Stop worrying and start thinking about whether you’ll have the steak or the chicken. Your stomach growling is probably spooking those critters,” said Heyes.

A shrill, eerie shriek ripped through the night and Heyes’s horse reared in fear. He wildly grabbed at the mane, managing not to be unseated, as his horse pivoted on his hind legs and plunged to the ground leaping forward; away from the sound. Kid’s horse was way ahead having immediately wheeled and bolted with his rider sawing at the reins. The terrified animals galloped wildly through the forest banging and scraping their riders into branches and tree trunks. After nearly a mile, the stampeding horses began to slow and Heyes ruthlessly sawed on his reins until he managed to pull up his heaving horse. Kid’s horse stiff-leggedly stopped. The animals were covered with a foamy sweat and their eyes rolled crazily in their heads.

Heyes was wide-eyed and pale. He hissed, “What the hell was that?” Kid shook his head; all his attention was focused on listening for a pursuer.

Another shriek wailed into the air from the underbrush right next to the two men and the maddened horses bolted again; this time with their riders urging them on.

OOOOOOOOOO

Sitting at a corner table, with the sounds of the busy saloon all around them, Heyes and Kid each held a glass in their hand and a nearly empty whiskey bottle sat between them.

“Must’ve been a mountain lion,” said Kid.

“It wasn’t a mountain lion,” said Heyes, slurring slightly.

“How do you know?” said Kid.

“Because a mountain lion can’t outrun a galloping horse and what are the odds of two lions being out there in just the same spots we were?” said Heyes, sarcastically.

Kid stared at him and slugged back the rest of his drink dropping the glass heavily to the table. “Give me another shot,” he said.

“Are you sure? We’ve already had too many,” said Heyes. He was done drinking.

“Keep ‘em coming, Heyes. I’m gonna keep drinking until this makes sense,” said Kid. Heyes refilled his glass.

“So what do we do now?” asked Kid, pausing as he lifted the glass.

“We go back during the day,” said Heyes.

“We already tried that. I seem to recall getting shot at,” said Kid. “Did you forget already?”

“We’ll go back tomorrow and keep an eye on the house. Sooner or later, old man Skinks is going to have to go do some chores. We’ll sneak in and leave the papers. I’m telling you right now, Kid, the minute I get paid, I’m getting out of this place,” said Heyes.

Kid looked at him blearily and nodded, “Good plan; I like it.”

OOOOOOOOOO

The next morning was clear and cold. Autumn leaves glowed brightly in the sun lending a burnished golden color to the road they littered. The horses jogged along peacefully, yesterday’s nerves a distant memory. The riders, too, were comforted by the daylight.

“You know, Kid. I reckon you’re right. That probably was a couple of mountain lions. I mean coincidences happen, right?” said Heyes.

Kid wanted to believe it, but he didn’t. Heyes had been right the first time. Those weren’t any mountain lions. The only problem was that Kid had no idea what it might have been. They were only a few miles from the Skinks place now and, once again, Kid felt the icy fingers of fear trailing down his spine.

“It did sound like a mountain lion, didn’t it?” asked Heyes.

Kid looked at his partner. His brown eyes were begging Kid to agree, but he couldn’t. “That wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard before. It wasn’t an animal, that’s for sure,” said Kid.

“Geez, is it too much to ask that just once you say what I want you to say?” snapped Heyes.

Kid started to reply, but Heyes pulled up and said, “Oh, crap, here we go again.” He was pointing to the shoulder of the road. Kid looked and saw the mangled remains of a disemboweled deer. Swallowing hard, he walked his horse over for a closer look. The horse balked and began to tremble. Heyes had already jumped off his gelding and he tugged the animal forward by its reins. It, too, was shaking and breaking a sweat. Kid was now off and fighting his horse, trying to physically haul the twelve hundred pound beast forward.

Near enough to see the pathetic carcass, Heyes noticed the four broken legs and then he saw a sight that drained the blood from his head. “The head’s been torn off,” he said. His face was pale.

“Some animal’s been at the kill. Probably, ran off with the skull,” said Kid, wondering why his partner was feeling so squeamish. It wasn’t as if Heyes hadn’t seen plenty of things dead.

“The skull’s still there, Kid. It’s right next to the body kind of looking at it. Almost as though it can’t believe it,” said Heyes in a weird, highly pitched voice.

“We’re acting like a couple of little kids on Halloween, Heyes. There’s a reasonable explanation for this. That mountain li….” started Kid.

“It wasn’t an animal! I don’t know what it was, but no animal mangles its kill like that, and then doesn’t eat anything,” said Heyes. He was scared in a primordial way as though the animal part of him sensed a dangerous predator. “Let’s go. I’m getting this job done—now.”

OOOOOOOOOO

They had watched the shack all afternoon and, finally at dusk, they saw an old, wizened man emerge from the back door and go into the outhouse. Heyes quickly ran down the hill with Kid following on his heels. Kid ran to the outhouse door and leaned all his weight against it while Heyes ran into the house clutching the envelope.

“What?! Who’s there? What are you doing?” said a frantic voice inside the outhouse. “Let me out!”

“Take it easy, old man. We’re just delivering you some papers from Mr. Pearson,” said Kid calmly, “My partner will be out of your house in just a second.”

“No!” the man screamed. “Get him out, get him out now. He’ll get killed!”

Kid pulled away and swung the door open, hauling the old man out by his arm. The man was holding his unbuttoned pants up with one hand. “What did you say?” said Kid angrily. Heyes screamed out from within the house. Kid released the man, and ran for the back door his gun springing to hand.

The old man ran after him crying, and yelling, “Don’t shoot. Oh, please don’t shoot my boy!”

Kid burst into a small kitchen. Heyes was lying on the floor, blood smeared across his face. Kid heard the front door bang open and the sounds of someone running away. The old man skittered into the room.

“Is he dead?” sobbed the man, tears streaming down his face.

Kid holstered his gun, and knelt by Heyes, gently rolling him onto his back. His eyes were fluttering open as he returned to consciousness.

“Heyes, you okay?” said Kid. He swept his partner’s hair back and saw a jagged cut at the hairline. It wasn’t deep but it was bleeding freely. He saw a splintered chair in the corner; Heyes had been ambushed.

Heyes sat up, holding his head. He looked at the old man, who was still crying. “Who, what is he?” said Heyes.

“He’s my son. Lord help me, he’s my boy,” cried Mr. Skinks.

OOOOOOOOOO

“He was born like that. All hairy and he had a tail. It was the worst shock of my life; worse yet, for my wife. She never got over it; she died a few months after he came into this world. Her heart had been broken and it didn’t help that our families shunned us over the boy. They wanted to put him down like a useless animal. I wasn’t going to let that happen. He’s my boy,” said Skinks, pouring a cup of coffee for Heyes. Setting the pot back on the stove, he sat down with the two partners at the table and continued, “It’s not just his looks. He’s not quite right in the head, neither. It’s like he’s half animal. I’ve kept him here, away from people, his whole life. He stays in the house during the day, but at night I let him run free. No one can see him then. You see?”

“Mr. Skinks,” said Heyes softly, “we saw some dead animals. Was that your boy?”

Skinks lowered his head and pressed his eyes shut. “Yes. He hunts at night. He hunts like an animal and he kills.” Raising his head, slightly panicked lest they misunderstand, he added, “But, not people, he’s never hunted people.”

“We found a grave yesterday; out in the forest. Do you know about that?” asked Kid.

Skinks laughed sadly, “That was his dog. It was the only thing in the whole world that loved him exactly the way he is. Damn dog up and died the other day. Elroy was heartbroken. We took him out and buried him where they used to run free. The boy’s been grieving ever since.”

Heyes looked at Kid, compassion glistening in his eyes, and he looked back at the pitiful, broken man. Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out an envelope and held it out, “Mr. Skinks, we’ve been asked to deliver this to you,” said Heyes.

Mr. Skinks took the envelope. He set it on the table and stared down at it. “I don’t get any mail. There’s no one that remembers us,” he said. With a shaky hand he picked up the envelope and tore it open pulling out the folded letter inside and reading it. Tears sprang to his eyes and flowed freely down his craggy face.

Alarmed, Kid reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Is it very bad news?”

“Yes. No. My brother died. He’s left me and Elroy his fortune. He said he wanted to provide for the boy. A hundred thousand dollars? Can you believe that?” said Skinks, laughing and crying at once. “Elroy can be taken care of the rest of his life. I’m sorry. I have to go find him. He’ll be scared. Thank you, boys, thank you so much,” he said, shaking hands and hustling out the door.

The partners gazed after him and then Heyes said, “What do you think we should do, Kid? I mean the poor guy’s devoted his whole life to taking care of his son, but the son seemed pretty dangerous to me.”

Kid grabbed the back of Heyes’s shirt collar and hauled him to his feet. Pushing him towards the door, Kid said, “I think you should stop thinking and we should get out of here before Elroy comes back to celebrate.”


Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:00 pm

A Twist in the Tale

Kid Curry fought through the deep fog. His partner was calling him—needing him. But… Was that Heyes? Kid opened his eyes and instantly was sorry he had. They hurt from the light and his head pounded.

“Ugghhh…” Curry moaned as he covered his eyes with his arm.

“That’s right, Kid. Wake up,” Heyes encouraged. “Is the light hurting you?” He got up from the bed, went to the window and shut the drape. “That should be better. I bet you have a whale of a headache.”

“Heyes, do you need to talk so much?” The Kid kept his arm over his head.

Heyes smiled. “Guess I missed you.”

“What happened to me? I feel like someone’s takin’ a hammer to my head.”

“You don’t remember? A snake spooked your horse and you took a nasty tumble. One of his hooves kicked you in the head.”

The Kid lay there. Heyes didn’t quite sound like himself.

“Are you falling back to sleep?”

“No, just thinkin’. How long have I been out?”

“About three days. Doc said if you didn’t wake soon you’d have lasting symptoms.”

He talked a lot like Heyes, but didn’t quite sound like his partner. Curry ventured a look. The room was blurry and dim. A dark form sat next to him on the bed. Slowly his eyes adjusted and came more into focus.

“Bilson!” The Kid, in one fluent motion, sat up and grabbed for his gun he knew would be here.

“Bilson?! Whoa, Kid—you’re aiming that gun at me!” Heyes jumped from the bed and backed up.

“You’re not my partner! You’re supposed to be dead!” Curry’s head throbbed and his vision was still fuzzy. He held the gun with both hands to steady it.

“You think I’m Danny Bilson?! Kid, you’re scaring me. I’m going to get the doc, okay?”

Curry nodded and immediately regretted it. As soon as Bilson left the room, the Kid tried putting on his pants and boots. He was buckling his gun belt on when the door opened.

“The doc is on his… Where do you think you’re going?” Heyes went to steady a swaying Curry, but stopped when the gun was drawn on him again. “Kid, give me your gun.”

“Get away from me, Bilson!” The Kid leaned back into a corner, becoming dizzier and sliding down the wall. “Don’t come any closer.” He held his head with his free hand. “Ugghhh…” The gun dropped as he brought his other hand up and gasped in pain.

Heyes kicked the gun away and eased a semi-conscious Kid back on the bed. “The doc will be here soon.”

Curry felt like his head was exploding. He curled in a ball, holding his head, and moaned.

The doctor came through the open door and saw the patient. “Oh my! I can see you’re in pain. Let me get you something to help.” He rummaged through his bag. “What happened?”

Heyes ran a hand through his hair. “He woke up and complained about the light. He thought I was someone else—someone who is dead—and he became upset.

The doctor put a few drops on a cloth. “Son, I want you to breath this. It’ll help with the pain.” He placed the cloth on Curry’s face and a few moments later the Kid went to sleep.

“What did you give him?” Heyes asked concerned. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Just relax, son. I gave him a little ether so he’d sleep. He has a severe concussion and woke up confused. And he was up too fast. I suggest you keep that gun away from him and let him wake up slowly. You may have to explain things to him. I’ll leave some medicine I want you to give him as soon as he wakes for the pain.”

* ~ *

A couple hours later, Curry groaned.

Heyes mixed up the powder in a glass. “Take it easy, Kid. I need you to drink this. It’ll help with the pain.”

The Kid grimaced as he drank the water and lay back down. “Where’s Heyes? What did you do to him?” his speech slurred and his eyes closed because of blurry vision.

“I am Heyes. The doc said you’ll be confused because of the concussion.”

“Not Heyes. Bilson.”

“Danny Bilson is dead. Remember? You killed him.”

“Look like Bilson… Sound like Bilson,” Curry said as he drifted to sleep.

* ~ *

Next time the Kid woke, he was more alert. His vision was a little fuzzy as he glanced around the room and saw a man reading a book by the window.

Heyes, hearing movement, put the book down. “Hey, you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“Got a headache.”

“I bet you do. And do you know who I am?”

“You keep sayin’ you’re Heyes, but you look like Bilson.”

“Your eyes still not in focus, huh?”

“No, everything is fuzzy yet.” Curry sighed. “Are you sure you’re Heyes?”

“Go ahead and ask me something only I would know.”

The Kid thought for a moment. “Late one night, after we got to the Home…”

“We cut ourselves with a knife and mixed our blood—became brothers,” Heyes continued the thought. “We still have faint scars from it. Here’s mine.”

Curry tried to focus on the hand and saw the scar. “You still look like Bilson.”

Heyes smiled. “Doc said you’d be a little confused after that knock on the head. Heck, I told him that was normal. You just rest up. Town seems okay so we can stay for awhile.”

“What about money?”

“I’ll pay a little poker to keep us going for awhile.”

“Don’t win too much or get in trouble. I’m not there to watch your ba…” Curry drifted back to sleep.

* ~ *

Heyes was shaving and noticed in the mirror that his partner was stirring. “Good morning. How you feeling today?”

“Better, but you still look and sound like Danny Bilson.”

Heyes shook his head. “Doc said you might have permanent problems. Feel like getting up for awhile?”

“Yeah.”

* ~ *

A few months later, they were arguing on the trail.

“You know, Heyes, you’re more annoyin’ than I remember you bein’.”

“I’m annoying! You’re the one who keeps looking at me and acting like I’m a stranger.”

“Well, you don’t seem like the same person before the accident and you still remind me of Danny Bilson.”

“There you go with the Danny Bilson again! I’m getting tired of you saying that, Kid.”

“Well, you do!”

They reached a fork in the road and Heyes followed the path to the left. “Maybe we should just break up then—go our separate ways.”

“Maybe we should.” Curry reined his horse to the right.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Heyes asked.

“Thought we were goin’ our separate ways.”

“Not now—when I say.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes sat on the bed holding the Kid’s hand. “You’ve been laying there for over three days. Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough sleep? Come on, Kid, wake up. I’m getting worried about you.”

A knock on the door brought Heyes to his feet, one hand hovering over the butt of his gun while the other slowly answered the door. “Doc,” Heyes said, relief in his voice, as he opened the door.

The doctor walked in and over to the bed. “How’s the patient today? Any changes?” He opened each one of Curry’s eyelids to check the pupils.

“He squeezed my hand,” Heyes said, hopeful.

The Doctor felt for a fever. “He might, but he’s still in a coma.”

“He was really restless last night, more than before. And his eyes are open, but he don’t seem to be focusing on anything.”

“Hopefully he’s coming out of it then. I’ve seen before where men in a coma seem to be awake but aren’t and moving around like they are agitated. Like I said before, head wounds are tricky.” The doctor pulled out his stethoscope and listened to Curry’s chest. “Heart’s beating stronger and his lungs are still clear. That’s good.”

Heyes watched with interest. “Can I?”

“Listen? Sure.” The doctor handed him the stethoscope.

Heyes put the one end in his ears and the other end on the Kid’s chest and smiled as he listened to the heartbeat. “That’s amazing,” he said as he handed the instrument back to the doctor.

“Well, there’s not much else I can do. Have someone get me if there’s a change. Keep trying to get water into him, a few drops at a time.”

Heyes nodded as he kept a watchful eye on his partner.

“And Mr. Smith…”

Heyes looked up.

“Get sleep. I’m having the hotel send up some sandwiches. Make sure you eat them.”

“Okay,” Heyes agreed, wearily.

Curry began thrashing in the bed and mumbling, “Bilson.”

Heyes sat down and stroked the Kid’s hand. “It’s okay, Kid. I’m watching your back. Bilson is dead.”

“No… Heyes…” Curry moved like he was running and shooting at the same time.

Heyes sighed. “I wish you’d wake up, Kid.”

* ~ *

Curry looked around the room. Things were a blur, but he saw his partner resting on a chair with a half-eaten sandwich on his lap. He moved his head and groaned.

Brown eyes opened and the blue eyes focus on them. “Kid?”

“Heyes… really you.” Curry drifted into a sleep.

* ~ *

Kid Curry fought through the deep fog. His partner was calling him—needing him. Kid opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. They hurt from the light and his head pounded.

“Ugghhh…” Curry moaned as he covered his eyes with his arm.

“That’s right, Kid. Wake up,” Heyes encouraged. “Is the light hurting you?” He got up from the bed, went to the window and shut the drape. “That should be better. I bet you have a whale of a headache.”

“Heyes, have to talk so much?” The Kid kept his arm over his head.

Heyes smiled. “Guess I missed you.”

“What happened? Feel like there’s a hammer to my head.”

“You don’t remember? A snake spooked your horse and you took a nasty tumble. One of his hooves kicked you in the head.”

Curry furrowed his brow and removed his arm, looking into brown eyes. “It’s really you,” he said relieved.

“Of course it’s me. Who’d you think I was?”

“Bilson.”

“Bilson?”

“Yeah, I woke up and you were Bilson,” Curry said, his eyes getting heavy. “Bilson, but it was you.”

“Doc said you’d be confused. Get some sleep and I’ll stay right here.”

* ~ *

Curry opened his eyes and smiled with relief when he saw Heyes. “You’re still Heyes.”

“Of course I am.” Heyes poured a glass of water. “Think you can drink some of this?”

The Kid drank as Heyes helped steady the cup.

“Doc will be here soon. Do you remember what name you should use?”

Curry closed his eyes and thought a moment. “Thaddeus Jones.”

“That’s right. And I’m…”

“Joshua Smith.”

Heyes smiled.

The door opened cautiously after a knock. “Mr. Smith?” The doctor poked his head in the room.

“Come in, Dr. Morse,” Heyes invited.

“How’s the patient… You seem alert.” The doctor walked to the bed and visually checked over the Kid. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

“Thaddeus Jones.”

“Good. How are you feeling, Mr. Jones?”

“Like there’s a stampede in my head.”

“How’s your vision? How many fingers am I holding up?”

The Kid concentrated. “Four, but they’re fuzzy.”

“That will get better with time. Think you can eat something?”

Curry barely shook his head. “Feel queasy.”

“That’s to be expected.” The doctor faced Heyes. “Any confusion?”

Heyes smiled. “No more than usual, Doc.”

“Good… good.” The doctor poured a glass of water, mixed powder into it and helped hold the cup while the Kid drank. “This will help with the pain. I want you to stay in bed and sleep for now. Have the kitchen make him some broth. In a few days you can get up, but I want you to take it easy for a week or two. If you need me, you know where I am.” The doctor got up and put a few items back in his bag.

Heyes escorted the doctor to the door. “Thanks for coming.” He turned and saw his partner asleep.

* ~ *

A few days later, Heyes and the Kid were sitting in rocking chairs on the hotel porch. Curry looked over at Heyes and smiled.

“What?” Heyes said. “You keep looking over at me and smiling.”

“Just relieved to see you’re you and not Bilson.”

“You said you woke up and I looked and sounded like Bilson.”

“Uh huh. Was the darnedest thing.”

“Sounds like a nightmare.”

The men sat in silence watching the town folks go about their business.”

“Joshua, did Wheat and Kyle ever rob a poker game we were in?”

“What? Wheat and Kyle rob a poker game? Nope, that never happened. Why do you ask?”

“Just that I remember it happenin’.”

“I think you’re confusing your dreams with what really happened.”

“What about you gettin’ shot in the head?”

“I did get shot in the head once and we stayed at the Carlson’s ranch.”

“Did I run up a hill, guns blazin’, and scare off a posse?”

Heyes chuckled. “Nope, but you did figure out the killer.”

“What about the bounty hunter…”

“Joe Sims?”

“Did he have a Sharps buffalo rifle?”

“Nope. Don’t you remember? That rancher shot him dead.”

“Oh, yeah… What about Tombstone?”

“What about Tombstone?”

“Did you play cards with Doc Holliday?”

Heyes sat up. “I played cards with Doc Holliday? Did I win?”

“Yeah, but Wyatt Earp made you lose all the money back.”

“Huh, I beat Holliday at cards.”

“So that happened?” the Kid asked.

“Nope, but I wish it had.”

“What about the Jordans—did that happen?”

“Yep, the Jordan’s girls helped us escape from a posse and then had to help Mrs. Jordan prove her innocence.”

“That’s right. What about Mia Bronson?”

“Who?”

“The lady who owned the saloon and…” Seeing Heyes’ confusion, Curry stopped. “I guess that didn’t happen.”

“Nope.”

* ~ *

Several weeks later on the trail…

“What about BeeGee?”

Heyes turned in his saddle. “Who?”

“Was I ever married to Clem?”

“You married? To Clem?”

“How about you fallin’ in love with a schoolmarm?”

“Me and a schoolmarm? Heyes shook his head in disbelief.

“Did we get amnesty for rescuin’ a girl, only to have a new governor come into office?”

Heyes sighed as he faced the front, again. “Kid, I can’t wait until you have this all sorted out.











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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Wed Oct 24, 2012 1:46 pm

The child buried his face into his mother’s skirts before peeping at the outlaws with huge, blinking, fretful eyes. The blond man’s piercing gaze scanned the room above the level of the little ginger head, assessing each and every one of the customers cramming against the wall. He stepped back to let more men holding guns make the staff walk from behind the counter, one hunched teller scurrying past a gruff looking man with a moustache who stood beside a small man who was chewing something brown and squelchy.

The boy bit into his lip as a dark man with a dimpled smile instantly commanded everyone’s attention simply by walking into the room. He was the only one not pointing a gun, but he transmitted an air of danger dressed in charm. The boy snuggled further into his mother’s legs. He didn’t like this. Not at all. It wasn’t like the games he played when he pointed wood whittled to look like a handgun at his brother and shouted ‘pchewou’ to let the victims know they’d been ‘gotten.’ His mummy was here and everyone knew that you didn’t point guns at mothers, preachers, or school teachers – well, maybe, it was okay to point them at teachers - as long as you didn’t get caught, but nobody should point one at his mother. He sniffed and wiped his nose on the skirt for courage. Heroes never had runny noses and he had to be prepared. It just wouldn’t do to be laughed at.

The blond gunman shared a look with the dimpled man, who nodded and headed off behind the counter. This was it – his chance to teach the gunman a lesson, but his stomach turned over, churning in fear and anticipation at the daring act he was about to undertake.

He swallowed down his fear and darted forward, ignoring his mother’s cry, and launched an attack on the lean, muscular leg, delivering a mighty kick before grabbing the thigh and sinking his teeth into it as hard as he could.

The blond gunman let out a cry and stepped back, shaking his leg furiously and pushing at the child’s shoulder with his left hand, trying to detach the champing limpet. “In the name of...! Kyle, Wheat! Don’t just stand there laughin’, get over here and get this brat off me.”

The small, masticating man scuttled forward and grabbed the struggling child around the waist. “Is this yours, Ma’am?” he chortled.

The ashen woman nodded furiously. “Don’t hurt him, please! He’s only five.”

“Hurt him?” the little outlaw snickered, “he’s the only one doin’ any hurtin’ around here. Done got Kid in the leg. Ain’t he trained yet?”

The boy found himself ushered back to his mother’s smothering arms, but took a heart stopping gulp as the blond gunman crouched down in front of him and fixed him with eyes of blue fire. “What’s your name?”

The only response was the silent blinking of the boy’s enormous blue globes set in a face speckled with freckles. The gunman narrowed his eyes. “You do know that was a very stupid thing to do, don’t you?” His face softened. “What’s your name?”

“James,” the child stuttered. “Jimmy,”

The man nodded, the smile twitching at his mouth moderating his stern tone. “Well, Jimmy. There are some very bad men around. You should never, EVER do than to a man who has a gun again. We don’t hurt people, so you’re okay this time, but next time you might not be so lucky.”

Jimmy’s chin set in challenge and stood defensively. “You pointed the gun at my ma,” he snapped back. “I won’t let you shoot her.”

Kid’s eyes widened. “I ain’t gonna shoot your ma,” he shook his head. “I ain’t gonna shoot anyone as long as they behave.”

Jimmy pursed his lips. “Why you got a gun then?”

“To make sure people do as they’re told.”

“Hah!” the child snorted, shaking his head. “See!? My ma never does as she’s told. My pa says that all the time. Leave her alone!”

There was a ripple of uncertain amusement in the bank before Kid stood and ruffled the boy’s red hair. “Son, just promise me that you’ll never attack another man who’s holdin’ a gun, and I’ll promise you I’ll keep your ma safe. Deal?”

Uncertainty rumbled in the freckled face, but Jimmy nodded firmly, staring straight into Kid’s clear blue eyes. “Deal.”

................................

In a television studio -1974

“What age are you, Mr. Nicholas?”

“I’m 97,” croaked the elderly man glancing nervously around the television studio.

“So, you’ve met famous people? They are now dead, and we have established that they weren’t royalty, movie stars or entertainers? We’re stumped.”

Jimmy looked into the glare of the studio lights, his forehead beaded with sweat. This questioning was taking much longer than he thought. He was beginning to wish he’d never agreed to take part in this TV show. As though reading his mind, the presenter stepped in to bolster the flagging guest. “So, it looks as though the panel can’t guess your secret Mr. Nicholas. They’ve used their twenty questions. Would you care to enlighten us?”

He nodded. “I’m the last man alive to be in a bank which was held up by Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

Gasps echoed around the television set before the fashionable woman with her hair set as solidly as a helmet spoke up. “My goodness! Were they frightening? I bet they weren’t really as handsome as the actors who played them.”

The old man laughed lightly. “Handsome? I guess they were. I was five and bit Kid Curry in the leg for pointing a gun at my ma. He was real mad, but now I’m grown I know he tried to get me to be sensible and keep safe.”

“You bit him in the leg?” The audience rang with laughter. “No wonder he was angry.”

“Yeah, he sure was,” the old man frowned pensively, “but it bothered him... A little kid scared to death for his ma. I could see it in his eyes. I can see it now. That was the last bank job the Devil’s Hole Gang ever pulled. They robbed one train after that... Then they went for amnesty. I’ve always wondered if I had anythin’ to do with that. I knew Kid Curry didn’t like me looking at him as though he was some kind of bum.”



This story was inspired by a newstory announcing that the video of Samuel J Seymour appearing on 'I've got a secret' in 1956, had been uploaded on to youtube. At that time he was the last person alive who had seen President Loncoln be assasinated.



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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:41 pm

“You don’t like it, Kid?”

“No, Heyes, I don’t. This book is one tall tale after another. It’s worse than a dime novel.”

“You’re wrong, Kid. This is better than any dime novel.”

“Better? How? It’s a pack of lies. The only time two words strung together are true is when our names are mentioned.”

“Kid, you’re looking at this the wrong way. It doesn’t matter if it’s all true, or even mostly true. What matters is, we’re getting paid big money for the stories of our lives. And tall tales are what the reading public wants and likes. ”

“Ain’t there enough lies been told about us, Heyes? I thought we signed this book contract so we could tell the truth and set the record straight.”

“Come on, Kid. We didn’t sign a book contract so we could make a public confession. At least, I didn’t. We signed a book contract and hired a ghost writer so we could make some real money. And once this book is published, we can build on it. We can do lecture tours and tell stories about being famous crooks. We could get you a starring role in that big Wild West show doing trick shooting. You could show everyone how your gun shoots two bullets. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“No, Heyes, it wouldn’t. I’m not putting myself on display like some animal in the zoo, for everyone to come stare at. And I sure as hell don’t want to be standing in front of a bunch of strangers, telling stories about robbing banks and trains. “

“Leave the public speaking to me, Kid. But you ought to think about doing the Wild West show. People would pay big money to see you. And it’s a legal way to use your gun skills without anybody getting hurt, including you.”

“No, Heyes. No. I’m not doing that. And I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to be out on a lecture tour, either.”

“Why not? You know how well I can spin a tale.”

“I sure do, and that’s what worries me. I know you, Heyes. You’d be up there, talking on and on like you always do, and you’d get so carried away with whatever tale you were telling, you’d be putting some twist in it. Once you start running off at the mouth, you’ll want to make the story better, and pretty soon, you’d be telling things you shouldn’t be telling.”

“Kid! I’m hurt, I really am! We finally get amnesty after all these years, and you think I’m going to ruin our deal by talking out of turn?”

“Yep. I do. And don’t look at me like that. You know how you are. You talk so much and so fast, you slip up and say more than you should. And you and I both know, there are still some stories that need to stay between you and me.”

“Well, there you go, Kid. All the more reason why we let this biography of us go into print just the way it is. Confession may be good for the soul, but it’s not so good for sales. People think we’re modern-day Robin Hoods. We’re famous for being some sort of gentleman robbers, and for not shooting people. We can’t confuse them with the truth. And if you’re thinking, ‘the truth will set you free’ or some other kind of garbage like that, just remember, the truth could send us to prison for a long time.”

“Exactly my point, Heyes. Besides, do you really think people are going to believe everything in a book called ‘Tales of Devil’s Hole?”

“I do, Kid. If it’s in print, people think it has to be true, as crazy as that sounds. Look how people believe the dime novel version of our lives. It’s important for us to get the stories out the way we want them told. If people hear about some twist in the tale later on, we’re already on record. Besides, we still have some people to protect. I mean, do you want the world to know that Judge Hanley let Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry go, when he had them locked up? Think what kind of trouble that would make for him. He doesn’t deserve that. ”

“Well, you’re right about that. I wouldn’t want to see any harm come to Judge Hanley. He’s a good man. Alright. Your silver tongue has done it again. You’ve convinced me about the book. “

“That’s great, Kid. And don’t worry about the lecture tours. You can sit in the front row of the audience and just give me some sort of subtle signal, if I start getting off track. “

“How about I just tackle you? That’s the only way anybody’s ever got you to stop talking.”

“That’d work. And it fits perfectly with the Kid Curry legend.”

“That’s another thing I don’t like, Heyes. I’m not really comfortable with this legend stuff. I wanted the amnesty so we could have a chance for a normal life. All this . . .this publicity and lecture tours and Wild West Shows, which I’m not going to do, by the way, so you can wipe that look off your face right now . . . I thought the book would give the facts, not build us up into something we’re not.”

“Most people already think of these legends as facts, Kid. When the legends become facts, then we print the legends. Anyway, after a couple years, people will start to forget about us. But for the next year or so, we’re legends. And then, well, we’ll see about being private citizens. If people let us.”

“I wouldn’t mind being a private citizen now, Heyes.”

“I know, Kid. I know. Well, in the past, our own success as thieves has hurt us. Now it can help us. We’ll build us a nice nest egg, and then maybe we can buy a ranch, or start a business. But for now, we need to embrace the legend stuff for a while yet.”

“Alright, Heyes. I’ll go along with this for the time being. But you’re still going to have to convince me about this lecture tour thing. I don’t know about that.”

“And I have to convince you about the Wild West show. Don’t forget the Wild West show.”

“One impossible task at a time, Heyes. One at a time.”

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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:23 pm

I had a very difficult time getting this one to 3000 words. I'm afraid that in the cutting, the story no longer works, but since I haven't posted a story in 10 months, I'm posting it anyway.

Twisted Soul

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair."
Macbeth

“You're breaking it. Give it back!” A flush of rage mottled the girl's creamy complexion and clashed with her mahogany curls. An angry mouth slashed her face in grim determination. Blue eyes narrowed beneath a fringe of mahogany bangs. She jabbed her hand forward like a fleshy knife. “It's mine. Give it back, Emeline Brooke. I won it fair and square, and you're a dirty thief.”

Her gray-eyed antagonist's slim hand slipped into the pocket of her pinafore. A smile played at the corners of Emeline's rosebud lips. “You cheated, Lizzie. The locket should have been mine.”

The sly smile stoked Lizzie's fury. “Give it back!” she bellowed before barreling into the other girl.

A youth stuffed into a shirt of patched and frayed flannel darted into the alley. Pudgy hands strained toward the scuffling girls, but hovered with indecision. “Emmy, Lizzie, stop.” The girls paid him no heed. His freckled face, round as a dinner plate, turned to the livery. “Mr. Jones,” he called, “Come help.”

A blond man wearing jeans and a sheepskin jacket emerged from the stable. He peeled the struggling girls apart. The blue-eyed beauty with the shinny curls slammed her shoe into his shin.

“Hey,” he objected loudly. “Stop that!”

Lizzie stopped kicking, crossed her arms, and huffed. Emeline straightened her pinafore and tossed blond braids behind her shoulders.

“What's this about,” asked Curry, his eyes flicking between the combatants.

“Emmy took Lizzie's necklace,” the boy interjected. All eyes turned to the young man who blushed crimson behind jumbled freckles and pimples.

The blond girl's mouth smiled sweetly, but her eyes remained steely. “I was just looking at it, Mr. Jones,” she explained and then dribbled the silver locket into Lizzie's outstretched palm. Turning precisely on her heel, she stalked away.

Curry drew a breath. “Are you okay, Lizzie?” he asked the remaining girl.

Lizzie's face soured. “I'm fine. Emeline Brooke thinks that because her daddy is rich she gets anything she wants. I won this locket fair and square at Marjorie Denton's party. She tried to steal it. I'm telling my Daddy-the-sheriff.” She flounced around the corner.

The boy's eyes trailed after her.

Curry clapped him on the shoulder. “She ain't worth it, Wally. That one's got a mean streak.”

Wally lifted a puzzled face to the Kid. “She's purty, Mr. Jones. Real purty.”

“Yeah, but pretty is as pretty does.”

The boy continued to stare. Curry smiled. “It's time to go finish your chores, Wally.”

Hannibal Heyes leaned in the doorway with arms crossed against the cold. Brown glints danced in his eyes “You the girl's nursemaid now too?”

“Hey! I ain't a nursemaid. I'm the driver for Emeline and her step-ma.”

“Just keep telling yourself that, Thaddeus.”

“At least I don't spend all day shovelin' horse sh—droppin's, Joshua.”

“Emeline stole something from the sheriff's daughter?”

“Just some fight over a tin necklace.” The Kid surveyed the reeking alley. “Can't say what those two girls were doing here though.” He lowered his voice. “Sometimes Emeline gives me goosebumps, Heyes. Crazy, huh?”

“Always said you were a might skittish, Kid. She's a polite girl. Just a bit awkward that you're working for her father. She's kinda young for you, too.” Heyes smiled.

Curry rolled his eyes. “Not funny, Heyes. She's a little girl.”

*****

Hannibal Heyes' boots squished into the sludge of icy mud and straw behind the livery. Plucking a leather glove off his fingers with his teeth, he cracked a thin layer of ice with the bottom of the bucket. Using bare fingers, he eased away shards of ice, like pulling glass from a wound, and then lowered the bucket into the water.

“Joshua.”

Heyes jumped, dropping the bucket and splashing his pants. “What?” he snarled.

“Jumpy today,” teased his partner.

“Wet, cold, and tired,” griped Heyes with a slight smile. “What brings you here? All done 'driving and protecting' the Brooke family ladies for today.”

“Came to check on Emeline's mare. She wants to ride her later. Did Frank fix her broken shoe yet?”

“Emeline came to get her mare for a ride this morning, Kid.”

Curry stared at Heyes. “She said that she was reading. I gotta find her, Heyes. I'm not supposed to let here go out on her own.”

“That family sure is protective of the girl. She's what, twelve, thirteen? Seems old enough to go for a ride on her own to me.”

“Yeah, they are protective. Can't blame 'em though with their luck. First Emeline's mother dies, then the girl's nanny disappears. Brooke remarries, but two months ago Emeline's baby brother dies in his crib. Mr. Brooke's not takin' any chances with his new wife or Emeline.”

Curry hurried inside and grabbed a bridle.

“Whatcha doing?” asked Heyes.

“Goin' after her. What direction did she ride?”

“Toward the hills. But that was hours ago, Kid. Maybe she's back home. Check the Br—”

A keening wail ripped through the grey afternoon.

Heyes followed Curry into the street. Sheriff Malcolm Anderson stood holding a limp figure, like a rag doll with mahogany curls and a tattered blue dress. The sheriff's wife knelt in the muddy street with her face buried in her hands. The piercing cry strained through her lips. The sheriff turned haunted eyes on the duo in front of the livery stable.

“Get the doctor,” he croaked.

Curry hurried down the street.

Heyes cautiously approached the forlorn figure. He studied the girl drooping in his arms. “What happened?”

“She went walkin'. When Lizzie didn't come home for lunch, I went searchin'. I found her at the bottom of a ravine.” The sheriff's voice echoed emptiness and loss.

Heyes reached for a mark on the girl's temple, but pulled back his hand when the father glared. The sheriff turned away and plodded slowly down the street.

********
“She's dead,” Curry announced joining his partner in the stable. The blond ex-outlaw leaned against an empty stall. He peeled off his gloves and blew on his hands.

“What happened?” prodded his partner.

“Looks like she fell down the cliff, but no one saw what happened.”

“What about your little girl?”

“Emeline ain't mine, but she's home. Claims she was sick of me trainlin' her all the time.”

“You in trouble for letting her out unescorted?'

“She didn't tell her folks. Says that way, we both stay outta trouble.”

“Hmm.”

“What?”

“I didn't say anything!”

“But you're sayin' nothin' real loud.”

“Huh? Thaddeus, you aren't─”

The side door slammed against a wall. Wally burst inside, pushed past the partners, and scrambled up to the loft.

Curry looked a question at Heyes who shrugged and tilted his head.

“Wally, what's wrong?” Heyes called.

“I di'nt see nuthin', Mr Smith.”

“What do you mean? Where didn't you see anything?”

“Out at the ridge. Weren't nuthin' ta see.”

The deputy's suddenly stalked through the door. “Where's that half-wit, Wally?” he barked.

Curry pointed at the loft.

“Wally,” called the deputy. “Ya need to come down. The sheriff has some questions about what happened to his daughter.”

“I never hurt Lizzie. She's real purty.”

“Come down here, Wally!”

“Deputy, you don't really think that Wally had something to do with the girl's death, do you?” asked Heyes.

“Folks' pets have been disappearin' ever since that idiot drifted into town. Everyone knows how simpletons are violent and dangerous when they get a chance. The Brooke family's nanny disappeared too. Some folks say she just ran outta town, but if that's true, why'd she leave all her clothes behind. And Wally's been moonin' after Lizzie. Folks think he mighta tried to kiss her, if ya know what I mean, and then they struggled at the ridge. Don't matter if he pushed her apurpose or if she fell tryin' to get away.”

“That's quite a leap there, Deputy,” cautioned Heyes. “Did anyone actually see Wally by the ravine?”

“Nope, but two witnesses saw him skulkin' back to town from out that way.”

Frank, the livery owner, stormed into the stable. “C'mon, Tom,” he argued, “Wally's as gentle as a kitten. He wouldn't hurt Lizzie.”

“Gentle as a kitten,” scoffed the deputy. “You saw those critters all staked out and skinned same as me, Frank. A body can do somethin' like that ain't gentle.”

“True,” agreed Frank heartily, “but ya got no evidence that Wally killed those animals. You're wrong about him, Tom.”

“I di'nt hurt them animals,” mumbled the round face boy clinging to the bottom of the ladder. “I di'nt hurt Lizzie, and I di'nt see nuthin.”

“Well, that'll be up to the sheriff and a judge. I gotta take him in, Frank,” said the deputy.

Frank smiled at the scared youth. “Go ahead, Wally. I'll come directly and make sure they're treating you kindly. Answer the sheriff's questions, boy. Go on now.”

“I di'nt see nuthin,” Wally whimpered and shuffled slowly toward the door. The deputy grabbed his arm and marched him outside.

Frank ran both hands through thick salt and pepper hair. “Damn,” he murmured. “That boy wouldn't hurt anything. I never met a gentler soul. None too bright, but plenty gentle.”

Heyes glanced sideways at his partner. “Wally may be innocent, Frank, but I think that someone helped that girl over the edge.”

“What makes you say such a thing?”

“I got a close look when the sheriff carried her into town. Lizzie had several large bruises on her shoulders and face.”

Curry narrowed his eyes and frowned. “She fell down a cliff, Joshua. Of course she had bruises.”

“But these were all the same shape─kinda ridged and triangular─shaped like a fan,” mused Heyes. “Looked like someone had been hitting her with something.”

“But who'd want to hurt a little girl,” objected Curry.

“Don't know,” answered Frank. “What did Wally mean when he said that he didn't see anything?”

Heyes glanced sharply at him. “I was going to ask you that. He bolted in here just before the deputy arrived claiming that he hadn't seen anything at the ridge.”

“Why'd you ask about the ridge?”

“That's just it, Frank,” added Curry. “We didn't ask him anythin'; He just started denyin'.”

“Maybe we should ask him what he meant,” concluded Frank.

“We?” objected Curry and Heyes simultaneously.

Frank grinned and slapped each ex-outlaw on the shoulder. “Yup, we. I'll pay you a hundred dollars to help me prove that Wally had nothing to do with Lizzie's death. I'll pay you a hundred more when he's free.”

Brown eyes met blue. Heyes raised an eyebrow.

“Each,” responded Curry.

“Seventy-five dollars a piece,” countered Frank.

“Done,” concluded Heyes.

********
When the retired outlaws left the stable, Curry started to cross the street, but Heyes grabbed his arm.

“Where're you going?”

“Back to the Brooke house. I gotta job, ya know.”

“But we just agreed to clear Wally of these charges.”

Curry grinned. “So after ya figure it out, we both get another seventy-five dollars. In the meantime, I work for Mr. Brooke.”

Heyes stared after him and shoved back his hat. With a shrug he walked toward the sheriff's office. Passing the saloon, he stepped over a prone man propped against a bench.

“Wally's innoschent,” slurred the languid figure.

Heyes stopped in mid-stride and slowly lowered his foot. “What do you know about it,” he whispered.

“Namesh Bert Metcalf. I ushed to work for Phineash Brooke. Don't let her hurt Wally. He'sh good to me. Don't let her hurt Wally.” He struggled off the ground and peered around groggily.

“Mrs. Brooke wants to hurt Wally?” asked a puzzled Hannibal Heyes.

“No,” the drunk man moaned. “Not that washed-out-moushe-of-a woman. No, Emeline. Don't let Emeline hurt Wally.”

“Emeline's a little girl.”

The drunk's laugh was bitter. “Don't let her age fool ya. That one's in league with Beelzhebub hishself. But I knowsh how to handle her.”

Metcalf sunk back onto the bench. Heyes shook his head. Emeline Brooke was mincing through the mud and ruts of the street toward the sheriff's office with Kid Curry.

*********
Wally huddled in the corner of his cell. “I di'nt see nuthin', Emmie. I di'nt say nuthin'.” He muttered monotonously, but the men clustered around the sheriff's desk didn't listen.

Emeline Brooke quietly answered questions.

“If ya saw Wally arguing with Lizzie, why didn't ya tell me before?”

Emeline gulped and with brimming eyes looked up at Curry. The blond man nodded encouragement.

“I slipped out for a ride alone. I'm not allowed to do that. I didn't want to admit I went riding, because I could get in trouble, and so could Mr. Jones.”

While the girl spoke, Heyes studied a grey, metal strand hanging from her pinafore pocket. Without warning, he leaned forward and nabbed the strand. Emeline whirled and slammed Heyes with a look of pure rage.

“Hey, Joshua, what are ya doin'?” asked the Kid.

Heyes held up Lizzie's tin locket with one hand and stopped Emeline from grabbing it with the other. “Where'd you get this, Emeline?” he asked with a cold smile.

The girl turned back to Curry. Her lip quivered, and a tear slid down her cheek. “Lizzie traded it for three sticks of licorice. I told her I was sorry for saying she cheated. We made up, and she gave me the locket.” The girl dissolved into sobs and ran out the door. Heyes handed the necklace to the sheriff and hurried afte her. His partner followed.

Emeline was hunched near Burt Metcalf. She turned away, but he grabbed her arm. Heyes and Curry couldn't hear what was said. When the blond strode forward, the drunk let go of the girl.

Heyes snagged his arm. “We're going to figure this thing, Kid. You watch that girl. If she leaves her home tonight, follow her. I'm going to keep tabs on Burt Metcalf. I'm not sure what's going on, but those two are involved.”

*********

Late that night Kid Curry tracked Emeline Brooke by the marks left in the half-frozen mud from her mare's broken shoe. Now the horse was tied outside of a ramshackle cabin in the woods. Feeble light flickered and oozed from the lone window. Curry reached for the door latch, but stopped when he heard Emeline's voice.

Her tone was icy. “Where'd you find it?”

Metcalf snickered. “In the trash behind the saloon. Right where you left it.”

“I lost it,” she replied, but her voice held no heat.

“The whiskey was good, Emeline, but the deal was for two hundred in cash.”

A rasping cough and then a deep retching gag sounded in the shack.

“You aren't going to need the money, Mr. Metcalf,” she sneered. “This should be entertaining. I've not killed with poison before. ”

Curry slammed his shoulder into the door and exploded into the room. “Emeline, what have you done?”

“He was going to tell the sheriff that I killed Lizzie. I didn't have a choice. Besides, he's just drunken scum. The town's better off without him.”

Curry knelt beside the stricken man, checking his pulse.

While the Kid was busy with Metcalf, Emeline talked. She reached under her petticoats and pulled out an iron pipe. With repeated strikes to the back of Curry head, she knocked the gunslinger to the floor and snatched his Colt.

Hannibal Heyes bolted upright from where he crouched, listening outside the cabin. He drew his gun and ran for the door. The washed out candle light outlined Emeline pointing Kid Curry's weapon. The Kid moaned and squinted myopically at the barrel of his gun. Blood washed down his face and neck from the gashes in his scalp.

Emeline kept her eyes fixed on the Kid. “I know you're there, Mr. Smith. Put the gun away. We both know you aren't going to shoot a little girl.”

“Why?” choked out Heyes.

“Because they were in my way. Papa was always mooning about my brother. Stupid baby. All he ever did was cry. But when I held the pillow tightly, he didn't make a sound. Nanny always prattled on about right and wrong. She was so earnest and wanted to help. Until she guessed about my brother. She prattled about mercy right up to the end.”

Her smile was cold. She turned to Heyes. Her eyes were empty.

“I've never used a gun on a human before.”

She sighted down the barrel at Curry's chest.

Heyes aimed.

A trigger was squeezed.

Twelve-year-old Emeline Brooke bled from a single shot to her head.

Heyes threw up in the corner.

He never looked at the dead girl on the floor.

He tended his partner.

Booted footsteps drew his attention.

The sheriff stood in the doorway, gun drawn. His gaze flicked from the girl, to Metcalf, to Heyes, to the injured Curry. His attention settled on a broken riding crop discarded on the floor. A fine piece of workmanship, the crop had a brass decoration in the shape of a fan at the end of the handle.

Heyes' eyes followed the sheriff's. “The bruises,” he whispered.

The lawman's sob tore the wounded silence. “I think it'd be best if you and your friend weren't seen back in town, Mr. Smith,” he groaned. “Ever.”


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PostSubject: Re: October 2012 - Twist in the Tale   Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:49 pm

Twist in the Tale

Hannibal Heyes lounged on the double bed. Intent on the book he held perpendicular to his chest, he barely looked up as a breeze swept through the window, ruffling the threadbare curtains and his hair. A hand absentmindedly smoothed it back into place. Sounds of a busy midday emanated from the street to his second-floor abode, but he paid them no mind. Another, stronger gust plowed past the bed and blew over a precariously balanced boot in its wake, landing with a thud. Still, the reader scarcely tore his eyes away from the page.

Turning a leaf, the dark-haired man set the volume down beside him on the coverlet. Stretching mightily, he yawned and glanced at the door. Holding his gaze there a second or two, he hugged his arms to his chest to stifle a shiver, then buttoned the undone fasteners of his Henley. Rising, Heyes strode the two steps to the window and looked out, scanning the main street. Craning his neck to get as long a view as possible in either direction, he rested a hand on the sill. The comings and goings of the populace on a mid-fall day in this lively town held his attention for a short while. Satisfied, he lowered the sash and returned to the bed. Restoring the book to its former place, he settled back once again to read.

Thus situated, Heyes remained motionless. His thoughts busy with the printed word, he did not hear the too-soft knock at the door. A slightly louder rap in a familiar beat caught his attention. Putting the book aside and grabbing the pistol from his holster on the bedpost, he moved swiftly and silently toward the entrance.

Softly, “Yeah?”

“It’s me.”

Switching the sidearm to his left hand, Heyes undid the lock and opened the door just enough to give his partner entrance. Surveying the hallway, he redid the lock.

“What took you so long? Decide to have that drink without me?” Heyes turned to re-sheath his gun.

“No.”

Heyes grinned. “No?”

Kid shook his head. “Uh uh.” He started to undo his gunbelt.

Heyes took in his partner. The blond man’s clothes were dusty, as they would be from the trail, but seemed even more so – disheveled even. “Trouble?”

“A little.”

“What happened?”

“Nothin’ I couldn’t handle.”

Kid took off his hat and examined it. Cursing under his breath, he tossed it aside and quickly mopped away a bead of red with his hand.

Heyes stepped closer. “What’s that? Blood?”

The blond moved away from Heyes. “It’s nothin’.”

Arms akimbo, Heyes sighed. “Great. Just what we don’t need. We’re here to relax, remember? Enough with the trail. We finally get a stake and a town large enough to disappear in…”

“I know, Heyes!”

“And say it loud enough the whole town’ll hear. It’s a good thing I closed the window.”

Kid Curry sighed and contemplated the worn floral of the carpet. He looked up. “Sorry, Heyes.”

The dark-haired man gave his partner an affectionate squeeze on the shoulder before sitting on the bed. “No need. What happened?”

Kid turned to the window. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told ya.”

Heyes smiled. “Try me.”

The blond man did not make eye contact. “It’s embarrassin’.”

Heyes’ brow furrowed. “How so?”

A sigh. “It just is.”

“That’s it?”

“Uh huh.”

“Okay.” Shrugging, Heyes re-settled himself on the bed and picked up the book. Finding his place, he resumed reading.

Kid watched the comings and goings in the street. Several minutes passed. He sighed again. “Heyes?”

“Yeah?”

“I was robbed.”

Heyes sat bolt upright, the book crashing to the floor. “Robbed?”

Kid still concentrated on the scene below. “Uh huh.”

“By who?”

Kid turned into the room with a pained expression. “I’d rather not say.”

Heyes rose and faced his partner. “You’d rather not say?! You were robbed?” He reached a finger to the cut on Kid’s forehead. “You’re hurt.”

Kid strode further into the room. “It’s nothin’.”

Heyes picked up his bandana, wetting it in the pitcher on the dresser. “You’re bleeding again. Stand still.”

The blond man pulled back slightly, but let Heyes minister to him for a few seconds, before turning again.

“Hold still.”

Another sigh.

“There.” He gave Kid the cloth. “Hold this against it so the bleeding stops. And sit down.”

“I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“Sit.”

Heyes looked quizzically at his partner. “Why not?”

“Because…”

Heyes, exasperatedly, “Because why?”

Kid turned a bright shade of red. “Nothin’.”

“Here we go again. Are we gonna go round in circles before I hear what happened?”

“No.”

“Then why don't you just tell me?”

Kid walked back to the window. Heyes now noticed the wet, mud-crusted seat of his partner’s pants.

“Did you fall off your horse?”

“No.”

“Okay. Then how did you wind up on your rear end?”

The blond man finally met Heyes’ gaze. “Drop it, will ya, Heyes? I told ya, it’s nothin’.”

Heyes’ voice rose slightly. “You were supposed to drop the horses at the livery. Simple thing, but you’re gone a long time and then say you were robbed?!”

Kid looked at him, sheepishly. “The horses are at the livery. And yeah, I was robbed. Told ya that.”

Heyes threw his arms up. “Fine. I heard that – twice! But it’s too embarrassing? Why, because we used to rob, and now you’re the one held up?”

Kid averted his eyes.

“Kid, we’ve been robbed before, but how did it happen in the middle of town? And more important, is the sheriff involved?”

“No.”

“No, what?”

Kid took a few steps back into the room. “No, the sheriff’s not involved. I don’t think he will be.”

Heyes rolled his eyes. “That’s good news, I suppose. But, why not?”

“Because…”

Heyes shook his head. He positioned himself once more in front of his partner. “Here we go again. Will you just tell me what happened?!”

Dryly, “Keep your voice down, Heyes.”

“Fine. I’ll keep my voice down.” He calmed himself. “What happened, and don’t tell me ‘nothin’’?”

Kid Curry sighed, deeply. He paused, glanced at Heyes, who stood patiently waiting. Finally, “There’s really nothin’ to it. I was robbed and got pushed around a little. Can’t we leave it at that?”

Brown eyes met blue. Heyes shrugged. “If that’s all you’re gonna tell me…And if we don’t have to worry about the sheriff…”

Kid interrupted. “We don’t have to worry about the sheriff.”

“Okay.” Heyes shook his head, picked up the book, and once again made himself comfortable on the bed. He tried to concentrate on the story.

Kid took off his shirt, poured water into the wash basin, grabbed a bar of soap, and started to wash up. “Ow!”

“What?”

“This cut burns.”

“That happens when you’re cleaning it.”

“I know.” Kid examined the contusion in the mirror. “Damn, she got me worse than I thought.”

Heyes looked up. “She?”

Kid met his gaze in the mirror. “Yeah.”

“You were robbed by a woman?”

“No.”

“You said ‘she.’”

“I know.”

“Well?”

Kid again averted his eyes. “A girl.”

Heyes grinned. “A girl?”

“Uh huh.”

The dark-haired man tried to stifle a chuckle. “How old was this…girl?”

Kid slammed the bar of soap into the basin, causing a splash. “I don’t know.”

“You saw her. Was she…eighteen?”

Curtly, “No.”

“Older?”

“No.”

Heyes grinned in disbelief. “Younger?”

Kid sighed. He paused.

“You were robbed by a little girl?”

Kid started to finger his collar, but gave up when he realized he was not wearing the shirt. “Yeah.”

Heyes started to laugh.

“It’s not funny, Heyes.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No.”

Heyes put down his book and sat up. “Well, seeing as how you were roughed up a bit…by a girl?!” He laughed, loudly.

Kid hissed, “Heyes, will ya keep it down?”

The ex-outlaw leader clamped his hand over his mouth, but continued to laugh, albeit silently. Finally, he stopped. With a twinkle in his eye, he spoke, barely keeping his voice even. “Okay. So how did this happen? Might as well tell me.” He patted the bed next to him. “Sit down. Take a load off. I think you need it.”

Kid sighed. He shucked his boots and filthy pants off and threw them in the corner. They landed with a bang. Long-john clad, the blond man settled on the bed next to Heyes. “What’cha readin’?”

“A story. So tell me yours, and I’ll tell you about this. Maybe even read to ya if ya want.”

“Okay.”

Heyes waited.

Kid gathered his thoughts. “I was walkin’ back from the livery…”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t rush me, Heyes.”

“Sorry.”

“Well, I was walkin’ back from the livery…”

“You said that.”

“Heyes!”

The dark-haired man stifled another chuckle.

“Well, I was walkin’ back from the livery and heard somethin’ in an alley. I stopped, and there was this little boy who said he needed help. So, I went into the alley…”

“Uh huh.”

“And…a few others jumped me from the roof. One nicked me by accident with his…her knife, and I fell backwards into some mud…”

“Uh huh.”

“Heyes, would ya quit that.”

“Quit what?” Heyes suppressed a grin.

“That ‘uh huh’in’.”

“Sure, Kid.”

“Good.”

Heyes waited expectantly. He spoke when Kid did not. “So it was more than one girl, that you thought was a boy?”

“Yeah. Well, I mean, she – they – were dressed like boys, but kinda ragged. Not good clothes.”

“Okay.”

“And when I was down, one went through my pockets and took the money I had.”

“Did they get anything else?”

Kid smirked. “My bandana.”

Heyes reassured. “Okay, you can get a new one. I’ll even buy ya a new one. Didn’t have much money on ya, did ya?”

“No, you had most of the money.”

“That’s what I thought.” Heyes smiled. “Any idea who these girls – uh, young ladies – were?”

“Yeah. Come to think of it, the one who cut me said she was sorry and didn’t mean to.” The blond man's visage brightened; he chuckled. “You know how we announced ourselves before a robbery? Before they ran off, one said her name was something like ‘Olive Wist’ and that the Widow Fachin would be proud of them today. So they already have a gang and some widow woman as a leader.”

Heyes grew quiet.

Kid nodded to the book lying idly in Heyes’ hands. “Is that a new story by the guy with the funny name?”

“No, not Mark Twain.”

Kid looked at Heyes. “Then who?”

Heyes stammered. “Uh, some guy from England.”

Kid seemed disappointed. “Oh. What’s it about?”

Heyes closed the book and put it on the floor next to the bed. “Uh, something about a pack of kids in London with an old guy as a leader. It’s really not that good.”
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