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 Feb 2013 - Hearts...

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Calico

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Age : 52
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PostSubject: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:19 am

Hey!! Stop poking!! Cat comfy on chair here reading last months stories!! reading

Okay okay - resettles butt.

I have been given the gentlest of hurry up messages.

So...

For all you prowling lurkers here is February's prompt.

It is...


HAH! You gotta earn it - pass the catnip.



purr


That's better.

Your prompt is:


HEARTS

So - whatever valentines style romance is on the suite of cards...
Or whatever aching of blood pumping organs you have planned for the boys

On your marks,
Get set
Go!!!!





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Ghislaine Emrys
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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:24 am

Hearts


I stood behind the locked door, fingering my threadbare clothes, staring through the window although I couldn’t see anything on the other side, and wondered, not for the first time, how I, coming from good Kansas farm stock, had ended up here.

Nervously, I played with the cotton ties that bound me as tightly as handcuffs. I wasn’t used to it, being new here and all, and I didn’t think I was gonna much like it. Not that it mattered, I thought. I’d made my choices and now I had to live with the results.

It had taken me a long time to get here. For a while, but not nearly as long as I’d have liked, things went well and I was, if not exactly happy, then satisfied. I worked hard; oh yes, it was hard on the back, that’s for sure, but I earned my pay! But I also enjoyed the finer things in life. I had a taste for wine and for fine food, and I made a point of enjoying both as often as I could. Maybe too often. Least ways, that’s what my best friend said and who knows—maybe my friend was right. Maybe that’s where it all began to go wrong. But I suppose once I’d started on that path, there was no stopping, no way to get off and nowhere to go but down.

Enough. I still had some pride. So I stood there, not exactly cowering in a corner but not making a point of showing off who I was, neither. I knew my clothes weren’t the fanciest--silk was a long way in my past now—and they weren’t even the cleanest, but they were all I had and I’d come by them honestly. That, at least, was the truth, even if nothing else about me was.

How had I ended up here, I wondered for the thousandth time. If only… Too many regrets to matter. Nothing mattered, anymore. Not the fine, two-story house, with the piano downstairs and the fine furniture, scattered with pillows covered in fabric from France. Not the soft bed with a feather mattress and a cedar chest underneath. Not the laughter and the kindness and the… Oh, if only… No, no sense in wishing I’d done things different. Too late now. Much too late.

I don’t think I stood in that small cell for very long. But it seemed an eternity. I wasn’t used to it, being on display like that. I was barely dressed; just wearing undergarments, really. Embarrassing for someone like me. But I wasn’t me any longer. Those days were gone. And they’d never come back. Once you’ve fallen as low as I have, you can’t do nothing to climb up again.

So I was stuck. I knew it; I just didn’t want to accept it. I looked around but the room hadn’t changed none in fifteen minutes. The others were paying no never mind to me, probably didn’t want to seem too friendly. Not that I wanted to be friends with the likes of them anyway. I still had some standards! Though, if I thought about it, thoughts like that would likely get me into even more trouble than I was in already. So I didn’t think about it no more and dropped the glare from my face.

My confinement was beginning to wear on me. I almost laughed. Well, smiled; really, more a scowl. But no one could tell. I was a master at hiding my feelings. I’d had to do it for years and old habits, survival habits, die hard. I was confined in more ways than one, that was for sure. If I could only get these clothes off, I’d feel a lot better. But when I thought of what I’d be doing then, well… I sighed. The lot of a prisoner was never pleasant, no matter how rich the surroundings.

I knew I was being watched. I used to like being looked at. But that was when I had my looks. Back when I was wining and dining, and being wined and dined. Back when I was at the height of my profession, when people practically fell over themselves to keep me happy because I plied my trade profitably for all concerned. But now look at me!

I couldn’t see through the window. Only the people on the other side could see in; I couldn’t even hear them. It was my first day in this establishment and I wondered how many people were walking by, come just to see the famous resident. It wasn’t a comforting thought and I felt my face flush with shame. I would’ve turned my face away but I’d been warned what would happen if I did that. I didn’t need to be punished any more than I was already, just by being here.

I sighed again. I had to stop thinking like that. This was my life now and I had better get used to it. No one was gonna help me; I couldn’t even help myself. If I could have, I certainly wouldn’t have ended up here!

Make the best of it. Ain’t that what I’ve always done? Take the bad and turn it into something good? That’s how I got to the top in my former life. I knew what I was doing when I started down that road but I clawed my way to the top and for a while, everything was grand. People listened to me, asked me my opinions—me! As if I was important. As if I mattered. I should’ve known better. Nothing in life comes easy. Easy come easy go, they say. And they were right.

If only I hadn’t gotten sick. If only I hadn’t taken that medicine for so long. But I was hurting and, well, the doc said it was good for me. How was I to know it wasn’t? I kept taking it and it made me feel so much better. But I did some stupid things and even though I tried to make things right, it was too late. I ended up here.

I heard the key turn in the lock and then the door opened. Someone I couldn’t see must’ve beckoned because two of the other prisoners both left. They grinned at me triumphantly as they passed me on their way out.

Then the door closed and was locked shut and I did the same to my heart. I wasn’t going to let my hurt show. Not now, not ever.

~~<>~~<>~~<>~~
I stood in front of the locked door, fingering my fine clothes, staring through the window at the goods on display and marvelled, not for the first time, how I, coming from good Kansas farm stock, had ended up here.

Nervously, I played with the hat I held in my hands. Me and my friend weren’t used to a such a nice place as this, being newly on our own and all, and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing, spending so much of our money. Not that it mattered, I thought. I wasn’t gonna turn tail and run away now. We’d decided and now we had to go through with it.

It had taken us a long time to get here. For a long while, too long, things were real hard but I was, if not exactly happy, then satisfied. I worked hard; oh yes, I earned my pay! It was too hard on the back but now I was free and I could sometimes enjoy the finer things in life. I had a taste for cider and for berry pies, and I made a point of enjoying both as often as I could. Maybe too often. Least ways, that’s what my best friend said and who knows—maybe my friend was right. Maybe that’s where it all began. But I suppose once we’d started on that path, there was no stopping, no way to get off and nowhere to go but west. Always west.

Until we ended up here. This town was booming and we’d done well by it. A few weeks of easy work and we had enough funds to enjoy us a night on the town. We chose carefully, walking up and down Front Street and Myers Avenue until we’d passed all the establishments twice. Even with the money we had, we couldn’t afford a parlor house, nor even a high-end sporting house. But we both wanted a good meal as well as a good time, so we finally made a decision and agreed on this place.

I knew a common house wouldn’t have the best but it would be clean and that was good enough for us. The piano player was singing “Sweet Lillie My Darling” when we entered and I guess that was a good choice, considering. I looked around and grinned. The sofa and chairs were covered in, velvet I think it was, and there was a bird cage in the corner that had a little yellow bird in it. I’d never seen a cabinet with so many bottles inside! And I couldn’t keep my eyes off the painting on the wall. Oh yes, I was sure gonna have a mighty fine time tonight!

I’d heard enough talk in the camp to know that we’d eat after. Maybe they’d ask us what we wanted, as I didn’t see no food laid out on the table in the other room. I went through the open doorway for a closer look. There was silver knives and forks, and real glasses, and real pretty white plates with a flower design in the middle laid out on the polished tabletop. I wasn’t sure if I should be in there with no one else around so I quickly went back to my friend in the other room. He was standing near the piano player, who’d moved on to something I didn’t recognize.

Soon enough, a lady came and after inspecting us, she must’ve decided we would do ‘cos she took our money and led us up to the landing. I’d never seen a window shaped like a heart before but I guess it made sense, seeing as what was behind it. I tried not to stare but all them soiled doves on the other side were only wearing their…their…unmentionables. I could see my friend blushing, too.

The madam laughed and I started to get angry. Who was she to make fun of us? We’d paid our money so we were customers now and could do whatever our hearts desired. I decided, then and there, to take a real good look. I wanted my money’s worth.

I nudged my friend and he dragged his eyes back to me. He grinned like the schoolboy he wasn’t and without saying anything, nodded towards the whore standing near the front, off to the right. She was blonde; her long hair was pulled behind her ears and twisted so it hung down her back in ringlets. She had blue ribbons in her hair and they fell from the top of her head to her shoulders. She had a good figure; her thin waist contrasted well with her other assets. She’d do my friend very well.

I grinned back and then nodded to the prairie nymph I’d chosen. His eyes widened as he saw the older whore in the back corner, the one who looked sad and mean at the same time, the one whose dark hair was coming down and whose clothes weren’t as fashionable as the others’ and who stared straight at us defiantly. I don’t know why she was even there; she certainly didn’t look like she belonged in a brothel of this class.

Shaking my head, I indicated another lady of the evening nearby. Another blonde, young and buxom and smiling even though she didn’t know who was on the other side of the door. I had a feeling she’d be fun. My feeling got stronger the more I stared at her. And then she turned and it seemed like she looked right at me. She smiled some more and slowly ran a finger down the middle of her unmentionables. Yep, I definitely wanted her!

We pointed to our selections and the madam took a key from the belt around her waist and unlocked the door. She made some sort of signal and our two nymphs came to us. Somehow, they knew which of us wanted them and mine wrapped her arm around me. And then I wasn’t paying attention to my friend no more.

I heard the door being locked and as I walked arm in arm to the room where I expected to spend the next very enjoyable few hours, I snuck a glance back through the heart-shaped window. The other whore was still standing there, but now she just looked old and worn out.

I quickly turned away and walked faster down the hallway to the bed that was waiting for me. I wasn’t going to let anything spoil this special night.


Author’s Notes:
a) Front Street is where brothels in Laramie, Wyoming, were located; Myers Avenue is where they were located in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
b) This story is based on a visit to The Old Homestead in Cripple Creek, Colorado, in July 2011, and information derived from the following sources:
* Enss, Chris. (2006). How the West Was Worn: Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild Frontier. Guilford, CT: Twodot.
* Feitz, Leland. (1967). Myers Avenue: A Quick History of Cripple Creek’s Red-Light District. Colorado Springs, CO: Little London Press.
* Godey, Louis Antoine and Hale, Sarah Joespha Buell, eds. (1876). Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, Volume 92. Philadelphia: Louis A. Godey. Retrieved 2/10/13 at <http://books.google.com/books?id=ovRNAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA100&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
* Rutter, Michael. (2005). Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West. Helena, MT: Farcountry Press.

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:47 am

The… with a heart of gold

The sun shone down on Forgiven, Montana. The sky was blue with only a few wispy clouds, and a slight breeze kept the day cool. Heyes and the Kid strolled amiably down the sidewalk, tipping their hats and smiling at passersby.

“You know, Kid, life is good.”

“Sure is. We have money in our pocket, a quiet town where no one knows us. What could be better?”

Suddenly, a golden-haired woman erupted from the millinery shop they were passing and hugged the Kid fiercely.

“It’s so good to see you again,” she exclaimed loudly.

The Kid rooted in place and Heyes stared, his eyebrows raised as he watched, a rueful grin on his face.

“Quick, which of you is Thaddeus Jones?” the woman whispered as she continued to hug the Kid.

“Uh, um, I am.”

“Oh, Thaddeus, it’s been so long since I last saw you. You, too, Mr. Smith,” the woman exclaimed, once again raising her voice several decibels.

She released the Kid from her hold but tugged on his arm, whispering again “Come in, come in. We only have a few seconds.”

She pulled the Kid into the shop. The Kid looked over his shoulder at Heyes as he was tugged along. Heyes shook his head and followed, closing the door behind them as they entered the shop.

The woman released the Kid. “I’m so sorry, but I haven’t time to explain. They’re waiting to ambush you at the next alley. They’ll come looking any second. Just remember, I’m Alice, Alice Jones, your widowed sister-in-law. My son is Johnny, Johnny Jones. He’s seven and the last time you saw him was at my husband’s funeral five years ago. We’re all from Little Rock, and John and I moved to Wyoming to farm before he died.”

“Ma’am…” Heyes began, but before he could finish the door was flung open by three men brandishing guns.

“Hands up you two! Get their guns, Sol. The blond first; that one’s Kid Curry.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other and resignedly raised their hands. Sol reached over carefully and relieved them of their weapons.

Alice Jones exclaimed, “Hank! Sol! Jim! What are you doing? This is my brother-in-law Thaddeus Jones. He’s John’s younger brother. That’s his partner, Joshua Smith.”

Heyes spoke up. “I know we must resemble those two despicable outlaws, but I’m Joshua Smith and he’s Thaddeus Jones. Lots of folks can vouch for us. Alice here, Sheriff Lom Trevors in Wyoming…”

Hank looked at the two men with him doubtfully. Jim’s face reddened. “I tell you that’s Hannibal Heyes, and the other one is Kid Curry. I rode in a posse after them seven years ago. I saw them; I can’t be mistaken,” he stated stubbornly

“Look, we’ve had this problem before. Every time we’ve been cleared, but it takes a long time. I’m telling you, I’m Joshua Smith and he’s Thaddeus Jones. We were just coming by to see how Alice here was doing and to give her Thaddeus’ news. We’re on our way back to Little Rock. Thaddeus here is getting married…”

“Do you always talk so much?”

“He does,” the Kid confirmed, lowering his arms and smiling brightly at their captors.

Before anyone could speak again, the door burst open and a young, blond, blue-eyed dynamo burst in. “Mom, mom!” he shouted, dropping his book bag. He stopped suddenly and hastened to his mother’s side, staring wide-eyed at the men standing before her.

“Johnny,” she cried, stooping to hug him. “Johnny, your Uncle Thaddeus came to say hello. You won’t remember him, but you met him at your father’s funeral. Say hello.”

Johnny stared at the Kid. “Hello,” he said shyly. “Are you my father’s brother? I don’t remember him either.”

The Kid shrugged uncomfortably. “I am. Your father was a good man. We miss him.”

“Yeah,” Johnny sighed.

Their captors watched this interchange then looked back and forth at each other and at Heyes and the Kid.

“Johnny, you look just like your father,” Heyes contributed.

“Yeah, that’s what my mom says. Mom, mom, I’m gonna go to Frankie’s, okay?”

Alice smiled and gave him a hug, which he shrugged off, embarrassed. “That’s fine Johnny. I’ll come get you when I close the shop and we can have a special supper tonight.”

Johnny smiled and headed out the door. He stopped and came back, holding out his hand to the Kid. “Pleased to meet you, sir. Will you be staying long?”

The Kid smiled. “No, we have to be headin’ to Little Rock. I’m gettin’ married,” he added dryly.

The adults watched Johnny race back out the door.

Hank, Sol, and Jim stared at each other. Jim shrugged, his brow furrowing. “I could’ve sworn they were Heyes and Curry.”

“Just how well did you see them on that posse, Jim?”

“We got within a few hundred yards, I guess. I thought I got a good look, but now… Well, now I just don’t know.”

Hank pondered for a few minutes.

“Alice, how long have you known these two?”

“Hank Smathers, I told you, Thaddeus here is my brother-in-law. I’ve known him for more than ten years. He’s no more Kid Curry than you are Billy-the-Kid. And I’ve met Mr. Smith here several times over the years as well.” Alice stood hands on her hips, glaring at Hank and his companions.

Hank pursed his lips and pondered some more. Finally, “Sorry, gentlemen. You understand, I hope. No offense meant.”

“None taken,” Heyes assured them. The Kid smiled and reached to take back his gun, settling it in its holster and then handing Heyes his.

Heyes, the Kid, and Alice watched the men leave.

As the door shut behind them and they watched the men turn down the sidewalk, Heyes and the Kid let out a big breath and their backs relaxed.

As one they turned back to Alice, puzzlement now showing in their faces.

“Ma’am, Mrs. Jones, thank you,” Heyes started. “I have no idea why you did that, but we surely do appreciate it.”

“Yes, thank you, ma’am,” the Kid echoed.

Alice smiled at them. “You don’t remember me.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other. “Uh, no, ma’am,” the Kid admitted.

“I wouldn’t expect you to. My name wasn’t Jones back then, and I wasn’t a widow.” She sighed and looked at them her chin lifting slightly. “It still isn’t Jones and I’m not a widow. I never was married.”

Heyes and the Kid exchanged uncomfortable glances. “Uh, ma’am, miss?”

“I met you when you were hoorahing a town a few years ago.” She blushed. “I spent several hours with you that night, Mr. Curry.”

She watched the implication of what she had said sink in, and nodded. “Yes, I was a working girl in those days.” She stopped smiling. “No one here knows about that. They think I’m a respectable widow.” She glared at them.

“You don’t need to worry, we won’t be tellin’ anyone anythin’ different,” the Kid assured her. He paused, his eyes widened and he turned and looked out the door, then frowned and turned back to her. “Your son, Johnny…”

“Yeah, there is a resemblance…,” Heyes confirmed slowly.

Alice looked at the two of them puzzled. Suddenly she laughed. “No, no. Johnny’s not yours.” She looked embarrassed. “Of course, his father’s not John Jones either. I made him up, along with the farm and the funeral. It helps that in my old line of work you learn to lie convincingly. Anyway, Johnny’s too young to remember his life before we came here, which makes this easier.”

“Ma’am?”

She sighed, folding and refolding pleats in her skirt. “I really was a respectable woman once – a school teacher if you can believe that. I was young, foolish, and alone; I made the mistake of falling in love with the wrong man. When I told him I was expecting, he not only refused to marry me, but he refused to acknowledge that Johnny was his. I was ruined but didn’t have enough money to get very far, just to the next town.” She turned away from them and paced slowly as she spoke.

Heyes and the Kid made indeterminate sounds, which she ignored, caught up in her tale.

“Well, I grew up fast. I had to provide for Johnny and me, so I did what I had to do. One day, the Devil’s Hole Gang hoorahed in our town, in my gaming house.”

She turned back and looked at them, tears in her eyes. “You have no idea what despair I was in by then. The only thing that kept me going was Johnny. It was bad enough that he would grow up the son of a fallen woman, I couldn’t let him grow up an orphan, could I?”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other then away. Finally, the Kid spoke gently. “No, Alice. No one should grow up an orphan.”

She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. “Anyway, as I said the Devil’s Hole Gang hoorahed us. That’s when I met you, both of you.”

“Both of us?” Heyes asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yes, although I never spoke to you, Mr. Heyes.”

“You spent some time with me, Mr. Curry.” She flushed and looked away again. “Paid me very well, too, better than I had hoped. Then, as you were getting dressed, you noticed a drawing on my table, a drawing Johnny had made for me.”

She turned back and smiled at the Kid, who looked back at her uncomfortably. “Well, you saw that and turned back and gave me ten dollars more, told me to buy a toy for my boy.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other, uncertain what to say.

“You treated me with dignity and kindness, Mr. Curry – something that hadn’t happened in a long time. It gave me hope. It heartened me, and that very night I began to save money and to plan. It took more than a year, but finally I had enough money, and we moved. Moved here to where no one knew us, where I could be a widow with a little boy. The name of the town seemed to be a good omen. I was able to start this shop… I never thought I’d see you again.”

She smiled ruefully at them, “Actually, I hoped I’d never see any of my customers again. But when I heard those men talking about ambushing a Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones and that they were really Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry… Well, I just had to do something.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes.

Heyes took a deep breath. “Well, we’re grateful you did come forward Alice and we wish you the best of luck. We have to be going, before those men reconsider… Kid, you coming?”

“Uh, yeah, comin’.” The Kid turned to follow Heyes who was hustling out the front door, then paused and turned back. “Alice… Alice, I’m glad we met, and I understand that you never want to see me again. I’ll try to make sure that happens.” He smiled briefly then walked out to join Heyes.

Alice watched them leave then turned, walked behind the counter, sat deliberately, and dropped her head into her hands and sobbed.

~~~000~~~

Heyes was uncharacteristically quiet as they checked out of the hotel, saddled the horses, and headed out of town. The Kid kept looking at him, opening his mouth, then closing it and shaking his head without saying anything.

After riding for an hour the Kid finally had had enough. “Heyes, what?”

“What do you mean what?”

“You ain’t been quiet this long since you got sick at the Hole that time and lost your voice. If you got somethin’ to say, just say it.”

Heyes looked over at him for some time, finally his eyes lit and a smile tugged on the corners of his mouth. “I was just wondering, Kid.”

The Kid looked at him warily. “Yeah, about what?”

“I just learned your secret. So, tell me, just how much do you have to pay to get women to spend time with you?” Heyes spurred his horse and rode ahead laughing.

The Kid growled and raced after him.
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:00 pm

Hearts
By Maz McCoy
“What the heck is that?” Kid pointed.

“Right ventricle,” Maz replied as she made the next incision.

“And that does what?” the blond haired ex-outlaw asked as his nose wrinkled although he couldn’t seem to pull himself away.

“Pumps blood to the lungs.”

“You don’t have those here too do you?”

“Nope.” Snip, pull.

“What’s that white thing?”

“Atrioventricular valve.”

“Thought so.” Maz looked up sceptically and Kid smiled. “What are you…? Oh yuck, that is disgusting!”

“It’s the easiest way to check I have the right vessel,” Maz explained as she inserted her finger into…(Look away now if you are having your lunch ‘cos Maz is a biologist and they can be pretty disgusting people at times.) “There, one aorta cut open. See how much thicker the left ventricle is when compared to the right?”

“You’re odd sometimes, Maz, d’you know that?”

“Just practicing a little dissection. I want to get it right for Valentine’s Day.”

“Yeah, about that. Most women would be thinkin’ of flowers and cards and that chocolate you like. How come you’re dissecting a heart?”

“I just thought it was a good day to do it. You have to admit the kids will remember it.”

The door behind them opened and Heyes entered the room.

“Calico sure kept me busy last month. I am worn out!” he complained as he sank into a cosy chair. Then he noticed what they were studying on the table. “What the heck is that?” He was swiftly on his feet. “Oh my God!”

“It’s a heart,” Kid explained knowledgeably.

“Ya don’t say.” He looked directly at Maz. “What the heck are you doing with that?”

“She’s dissecting,” Kid explained helpfully.

“What the heck for?”

“For Valentine’s Day,” his partner informed him.

Heyes looked from Kid to Maz, then down at the heart, then back at Maz. “Is this some weird British tradition?”

“No.”

“She’s taking one in for the kids.” Kid smiled proudly.

Heyes looked at Maz. “Is that some sort of punishment?”

Maz stood up and waved her bloody fingers at him spookily. “It’s educational.”

“It’s weird, is what it is.” Heyes shook his head.

The men watched as Maz cleared away her dissecting instruments and carried the heart into the next room.

Heyes leaned towards his partner. “You know it’s not too late to get the heck outta here!”

From the kitchen a voice called,”Oh yes it is!”

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Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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Penski
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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:17 pm

Splintered Hearts

The fiery sun descended from view, painting the sky with shades of reds, pinks, and purple. The Kid walked near the ridge’s edge and glanced appreciatively at nature’s show before frowning down at his friend. “Heyes,” he said quietly, hating to disturb his partner. “It’s gettin’ late. We have to go.”

Heyes barely nodded, but did not move from his position, leaning against a rock, staring down into the valley and the town of Taylor.

The Kid sighed and sat down next to his partner. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“Hmpft,” came the hushed response.

“He called you out, accusin’ you of cheatin’. Even the sheriff said it was self-defense.”

The two men sat in silence as the first stars of the evening began to twinkle in the sky.

Curry remembered being in a room with an armful of a cute blonde when he heard the shouting downstairs. By the time he dressed and made his way down, it was over. He watched as Heyes galloped out of town. He heard the sheriff say that it was self-defense, but knew his partner wouldn’t want to come back. He went to the hotel, packed up their things, and tracked down Heyes to the ridge’s edge. “It’s my fault! I should’ve been watchin’ your back and not upstairs with that gal. I should’ve known and been there so you wouldn’t have had to defend yourself.”

Heyes glanced at his partner before looking back down at Taylor as the lights in the windows lit the darkening valley. “It ain’t your fault, Kid. We agreed the men were good losers and you could go up. I shouldn’t have been so greedy and won so much… I should have read him better and known he was getting angry.”

For several long minutes the only sound was the crickets beginning their evening symphony.

“Kid…”

Curry waited for a moment. “Yeah?”

“How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“How do you deal with knowing you killed someone?”

The Kid shrugged his shoulders. “I try not to think about it. Otherwise, it’d drive me crazy, like it’s doin’ to you now.”

“It just feels like…”

“Like a part of you died with him?” the Kid continued Heyes’ thought.

“You know.”

“Yep.” Curry rubbed his face as he looked down at the peaceful valley. “Have I ever told you ‘bout the first time?”

Heyes shook his head. “Don’t believe you have. Happened when we were separated, didn’t it?”

“On my nineteenth birthday.”

“On your birthday?”

The Kid slid down a little, stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. “A drunk accused me of makin’ a pass at his woman in Elk Grove. Don’t even remember her name, but she worked in the saloon. He called me out. The bartender told him and his friends to leave. Later, when I left to get me a steak dinner, his friends grabbed me and forced me into the middle of the street.”

Heyes shook his head. “Sounds like you didn’t have a choice.”

“Nope. I aimed for his hand – you know how I always do that.”

Heyes nodded.

“But he moved to the right as he shot. Hit him square in the heart. Remember gettin’ real sick afterwards. The sheriff, Sheriff Johnson, he talked to me for a long while, even took me to dinner later. He kept tellin’ me it was self-defense, but that I should settle down and not tie down my gun.”

“He was right.”

The Kid looked over at his troubled friend. “This wasn’t your first time, was it.”

Heyes sighed. “No.”

“I didn’t think so.”

After several minutes, Heyes told the story. “Was when I was in the Plummer gang. Norm Cotter… Have you heard of him?”

The Kid shook his head. “Should I have?”

“Norm was part of the gang. A vile and evil man, if ever one did live. We were robbing a train. I heard a woman screaming. Went to see why and saw him on top of her, ripping her dress. I yelled at him to stop. He did and pulled out his gun, aimed it at me and told me to git – wasn’t none of my business. Told him I was making it my business. He started to pull his trigger. Guess I was faster. She had his blood all over her.” Heyes barely snorted. “Like you, I ran off behind a tree and got sick.”

“Was she okay?”

“I guess. She was alive. Plummer made sure she got back on the train and folks were caring for her.” Heyes exhaled loudly. “Even though Cotter was evil, it still haunts me.”

“Same as Bilson.”

Heyes quickly looked over. “Bilson’s still haunting you?”

“They all do, Heyes, but then I realize that I’m the one that could be dead.”

The partners sat in silence for a long time as the crickets were joined by coyotes howling in the background.

“It’s… It’s like it splinters the heart, piece by piece, huh?” Heyes tried to put the feeling in words.

“Yep.”

“You think it heals with time?”

“Nope. Just have to deal with it and move on.” The Kid stood. “And speakin’ of movin’ on…” He held a hand out for his partner.

Heyes looked up and took the hand of his friend. “So where are we going?”

Curry looked up at a three-quarter moon hanging in the sky. “Anywhere; just not here. Just enough light for the horses to go a few miles away.”

“What about our stuff at the hotel?”

“I got ‘em – packed them up before findin’ you.”

“Good.” Heyes nodded and mounted his mare, following his comrade who knew exactly how he felt.



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Yope1995

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Sun Feb 17, 2013 6:17 pm

Hearts;
or, One Heartbeat Away

oooOOOooo

“Kid! C’mon, Kid, don’t give up on me now,” Hannibal Heyes’ voice was a desperate plea in the lonesome wilderness. The heavy rain pouring from the dreary, black sky outside didn’t help lift the dismal mood. A meager campfire cast eerie, strange shadows on the cave walls.

Heyes was distraught. He had done his best for the Kid, but his friend needed a doctor. And soon.

The posse had chased them relentlessly; always picking up their tracks again no matter how much they tried to lose them. Finally they did lose them, though not before leaving a bullet in Kid Curry.

A sheen of sweat covered Kid’s pale face, marking the start of a fever. Kid’s breath sounded ragged and harsh to Heyes’ ears. Kid moved restlessly beneath the blankets. One minute he felt cold and the next, he was burning up again. “Heyes…”

“I’m here, Kid. I’m here.” Heyes knelt beside his friend.

“Don’t...don’t think I’m gonna make it...this time ‘round,” Kid panted. Every word seemed to sap the strength out of him.

“We’ll get you a doctor, Kid. Just be patient and hang in there for me.”

“Doctor…,” Kid let out a weak chuckle. “Closest doc...in Leaning Tree...with that posse.”

Heyes said nothing to that. They both knew what that meant. But neither had the heart to tell the other it was over. “I’m gonna make some coffee,” Heyes muttered. He stood and prepared the battered coffeepot. He glanced out of the corner of his eye and saw the Kid shiver beneath the blankets. He silently prayed for a miracle. A miracle. That’s what it would have to be to save Kid at this stage. Heyes felt helpless; more helpless and overwhelmed than he had since they’d lost their folks.

When the coffee was done, Heyes poured himself a cup. “You think you can down a cup?” No answer. Fear gripped Heyes. “Kid?” He set down the coffee and rushed over to where his partner lay. Relief swept over him when he saw the Kid’s chest still rising and falling. He sat beside him and sighed, leaning back against the cave wall.

Heyes hadn’t been able to remove the bullet from the Kid. It was lodged between two ribs, terribly close to the heart. He’d tried to get it out but they both knew Kid needed a doctor. He’d cleaned and bandaged the wound as best he could. The bleeding had stopped; but it was the amount of blood the Kid had lost beforehand and the bullet that worried Heyes. The poison from the lead was being pumped throughout Kid’s veins. His partner looked as though he were one heartbeat away from eternity.

Several hours after midnight, the rain had relented some but Kid’s fever was raging. Heyes could do nothing but watch his friend suffer and try to make him as comfortable as possible. Maybe if he turned himself in, he could get help for his cousin...

Heyes glanced down at Kid. Yes. Yes, that’s what he would do. He hated to leave him alone but it was the Kid’s only chance.

He was setting a full canteen next to Kid when his cousin stirred. Kid blinked a couple of times, trying to clear the cobwebs of his feverish state. “Heyes? Where’re you goin’?” he asked, seeing Heyes with a saddlebag slung over his shoulder. His words were slurred and he couldn’t see straight. Everything was a blur.

“I’m gonna go get help.”

Kid struggled for breath again, the bullet in him causing him excruciating pain. “Heyes, don’t leave me,” he whimpered.

Heyes’ eyebrows knit together in worry. Kid must really be hurting. It wasn’t like him to go on so. For an instant, Heyes saw the Kid as a frightened child again.

A sharp pain shot through Kid. He couldn’t stop the muffled scream from escaping his clenched teeth this time. His breath quickened and his face screwed up in a grimace. “It hurts!” he whispered. Kid’s eyes locked onto Heyes’ brown ones. Then he squeezed his eyes shut in pain, his breath labored.

“Kid?”

“Get...get that amnesty...for us,” he strained for the words.

“But, Kid, we’re gonna get it together. We’ll walk right into the governor’s office together when we get it.”

“Heyes, make it stop!” He let out a terrible groan and clutched his chest. Then he shuddered...and lay still.

“Kid!” Heyes bent over him and tried to find a pulse. He tried to listen for a heartbeat. None. Desperation quickened his movements even more. He felt the neck, the wrist. Nothing. Heyes felt as though he’d been kicked. “Kid? Say somethin’!” No, he couldn’t be! Not after all they’d been through. Not after trying so hard to earn amnesty. Not after all the posses and bounty hunters they’d dodged. Heyes slapped Kid’s face gently, trying to wake his silent partner. He didn’t know how long he tried.

He couldn’t - no, wouldn’t - admit his partner was dead. It just couldn’t be! But deep down inside, he knew it was true. Heyes looked at his sleeping partner’s face.

“You don’t care what happens! You don’t even exist!” Heyes yelled to the heavens, his voice ringing off the rock walls of the empty cave. His vision began to blur and he brushed harshly at his eyes with his sleeve. He couldn’t stop them, though, once they started. Tears streamed freely down his face as he sat there. Just watching. And waiting. For what, he didn’t know. Maybe for death to reach out and take him too.

Heyes woke with a start. He must’ve dozed off for a few seconds. It was still dark outside and their campfire was still lit. The storm had worsened; the rain was, once again, pouring from the sky and now, an occasional rumble of thunder was heard. Then he remembered. The Kid was…he was gone. “Why did you leave me, Jed?” he asked in a quiet voice.

“Hello the camp!” A voice from outside called.

Heyes stiffened and pulled out his gun.

“Is anyone there?”

“What do you want?” Heyes called back. He glanced down at the Kid’s body then back at the cave entrance.

“I’m just a pilgrim looking for a place to rest; I mean you no harm.”

It could be someone from the posse that had chased them or even a bounty hunter. Another roll of thunder grumbled and a flash of lightning lit the sky. Against his better judgment, he decided to allow the stranger to share his camp. No one deserved to be out in that storm. “Alright, come on in.” Heyes kept his gun at his side, ready for anything.

Footsteps approached and soon, a shabby-looking cowboy entered. He smiled at Heyes and didn’t seem to notice the gun in his hand. “I’m much obliged. That‘s quite a storm we‘re having.”

Heyes just nodded and sat down protectively beside the Kid‘s body. “Got some coffee in the pot over there.” He put away his gun, but kept his hand on the butt of the revolver. If this man was out for the reward, Heyes would be ready for any false move the stranger made.

“Thank you kindly.” The stranger poured himself a cup. He nodded his head toward Kid. “Hope I didn’t wake your friend.”

Hot tears threatened Heyes’ eyes again. “You didn’t.”

“By the way, my name’s Gabe,” he smiled.

“A pleasure, Gabe. I’m Joshua. Joshua Smith.”

“I surely do thank you for letting me share camp with you.”

Heyes nodded, but watched the stranger warily. He studied the man behind suspicious eyes. He seemed to be a jovial enough sort of fellow. The clothes he wore were wet from the heavy rain and there was mud covering his boots. Heyes was confused when he noted that the man wore neither holster nor gun. He could have one hidden in his coat though; or he might be concealing some other type of weapon.

“Sure was a pure blessing that I noticed the light from your campfire,” the stranger went on. “I was pretty near soaked to the bone when you invited me in. What with no horse and all, I‘m not sure I would‘ve made it to the next town.”

Heyes struggled to keep his eyes open. The stranger’s voice seemed to be lulling him to sleep. No, he couldn’t fall asleep. Not with a possible bounty hunter in their camp. He fought hard but within a short time, a deep sleep overcame him and he neither saw nor heard anything.

oooOOOooo

“Heyes?” Heyes sat up at the sound of his name being called. He could’ve sworn he’d heard Kid calling him. But, no, the Kid was dead. He’d watched his cousin die last night, he remembered. Had it really happened? Had he really watched the only family he had left die right before his very eyes? A shudder went through him, recalling the distressing and horrifying experience. “Heyes?” There it was again. “Get me out of these darn blankets; I’m suffocating here!”

“Kid?” Heyes scrambled out of his blanket. “Kid, you’re alive!” Heyes let out a whoop that caused Kid to cringe.

“Yeah, I’m alive. Where else would I be?” Kid struggled to remove the blankets that were piled on top of him.

“But I thought...last night--”

A confused look passed over Kid’s face as he sat up. “Funny thing...I can’t remember last night. Last thing I remember is findin’ this cave.”

“Kid, you died last night!”

“I WHAT!” Kid cried in astonishment.

“Yeah that’s right! You died. I felt like dyin’ myself seein’ you lay there...Then that drifter--Hey where’s he at?”

“Who?”

“Gabe. The man who wandered in here last night.”

“I didn’t see no one...wait a minute.”

“Yeah?”

“I remember. I remember this fella standin’ over me, smilin’ and sayin’--”

“Yeah? Yeah?! What’d he say, Kid? C’mon spit it out!”

“Well hold your horses! He said somethin’ funny...like, it wasn’t my time yet and that your prayers were being heard and answered. You don’t pray...do you, Heyes?”

“I did. Last night, I did. First time in years.” Kid noted the emotion in those dark brown eyes. “I thought I’d lost you. You were dead, for cryin’ out loud!” Suddenly, he grabbed Kid and pulled him into a hug. “He did hear, Kid! Thank God; He heard.”

“Yeah...yeah, Heyes.” Kid smiled.

Heyes was positively beaming. “How’s the bullet wound?” Heyes checked for the wound. There was nothing there. Not even a scratch.

“What is it?” Kid asked when he saw Heyes’ bewildered face.

“It’s not there. There ain’t even a scratch on you.”

“I sure don’t feel like I’ve been shot. I feel pretty good. Matter of fact, I’m kinda hungry.” He looked around the cave. “We got anything to eat?”

oooOOOooo

After breaking camp, and of course eating breakfast, two men left the shelter of the cave. The rain had stopped and the horses’ hooves squished in the mud it had created. A brilliant rainbow was painted across the sky.

“Did it really happen, Kid?”

“What? You mean me dyin’ and all?”

“Yeah.”

“I remember bein’ shot. I remember hurtin’ bad in between blacking out. So it couldn’t all have been just a dream...or a nightmare.”

“But there’s no scar or anything to prove you’ve been shot.”

“I oughta know when I’ve been shot! Now unless we had the same dream,” -- Kid shrugged -- “I’d say there’s a good chance it did happen.”

“And Gabriel?”

“You saw him and heard him.”

“But was he real?”

“Remember, I told you what he said to me. I saw him too.” He paused. “You reckon he might’ve been that angel that our folks told us about from the Good Book?”

He didn’t answer the Kid’s question. Heyes felt uncomfortable. He was used to being able to think things out, to be able to find a reasonable explanation for any puzzle or circumstance. There was only one explanation he could possibly come up with this time; that there really was a God hearing, listening and watching over His creatures.

They rode for awhile saying nothing. Then Heyes spoke. “You know what, Kid?”

“What’s that?”

“Our folks were right, I guess. There really is Someone out there lookin’ out for us.”


A special thanks to those who helped me out with this challenge! You ladies are awesome! ^.^

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Happy 70th, John!


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sistergrace

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:18 pm

Nuttal & Mann's Saloon - Deadwood
August 2, 1876


It was raining as I recall, a deluge of Biblical proportion. The streets leading in and out of Deadwood were a muddy wash, dictating our longer than anticipated stay. A week sitting tight is bound to make any outlaw jumpy, so it was no surprise when I felt the muscle in my partner's jaw tense, just before I heard the creak of the saloon's batwing door.

A stranger stepped in, quietly, without drawing the attention of anyone else in the crowded saloon, that is to say, without drawing the attention of anyone else in the crowded saloon, except Kid Curry.

I watched as each of them regarded the other, the Kid from his place at the poker table - corner of the room, back to the wall, the newcomer, from just inside the swinging door, where he stood, dripping a puddle onto the dirty wooden floor.

To the casual observer, their shared glance would have appeared no more than cursory, but I saw it pass between them, the recognition, the acknowledgment, each of the other.

My heartbeat quickened.

The stranger shouldered his way across the crowded room, making his way to the bar. Bottle of whiskey in hand, along with a glass, he appeared at the Kid's shoulder just as I raked in a sizable pot.

"Room for one more?" the stranger asked.

The Kid nodded, inviting the stranger to the single open chair, across the table, opposite his.

The stranger nudged the player on Curry's left. "What's your name?" he asked, placing his hand on the back of the man's chair.

"Name's Rich."

"Rich? Judgin' by your winnin's, you ain't that rich," the stranger chuckled. "You take that seat down there," he gestured with his bottle.

"Change your seat, change your luck," quipped Rich, pleasantly, if not nervously.

"Your luck looks like it could use a change." He indicated the dwindling stack of coins in front of Rich, then nodded a second time toward the open seat.

"If it's all the same to you, I'm stayin' put," Rich insisted.

I saw the stranger's upper lip curl, in an almost indiscernible grimace. Only two things I know cause a man to grimace like that. Anger and fear - two deadly cousins.

"Captain's deal," Curry addressed the stranger, tossing his cards to an older man seated at my right side. Then he glanced at the stranger still standing at his left. "You in or out?"

A tighter clenching of the stump of cigar between the Kid's teeth, told me he'd seen the grimace too.

"Deal me in," the stranger said, and he moved toward the open chair. As he did, I heard Rich exhale. The stranger tossed his drenched slicker over a peg on the wall, then sat.

The Captain dealt. "What your name, son?"

"Jim," the stranger answered, then filled his glass. He tipped it toward Curry in salute.

The Kid followed suit, lifting his glass to the other man, and their eyes locked.

I heard, no, felt, a silent conversation taking place between them. Not words, but a secret communion, to which I alone was privy. They knew each other, Jim and Curry. Not the "who" but the "what." A mutual respect, exchanged between gunman, each cognizant that the other was deadly, yet posed no threat, not here. Not now.

***

To the best of my recollection, it was Jim who dealt that final hand, the hand we never finished, before the saloon door creaked open again.

Curry lifted his eyes. My eyes followed the Kid's, and suddenly, I realized that my hand was moving toward my holster, and Curry had already drawn.

I heard someone yelling, though I can't be certain what was said. A name, Hickok! Then a shot rang out, just one.

Fear and panic gripped me. My heart raced. A man behind Jim faced our way, a smoking gun in his hand.

"No!" I yelled, and spun to my left, but the Kid stood, safely, gun trained on the man who had just shot Jim.

"Got no quarrel with you, mister," the shooter said, backing toward the door.

Looking to my right, where the Captain sat, I saw blood spurting from his wrist, then, I looked to Jim.

He was slumped forward bleeding out, his cards spread before him, splattered with Jim's blood. Two clubs, two spades. Aces and eights.

I placed my trembling hand on my partner's shoulder, for his support, or mine. His gaze dropped to the table, taking in Jim's unplayed cards. I watched as the Kid's eyes moved to his own hand, now scattered on the floor. Two diamonds. Two hearts. Aces and eights.

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

James Butler Hickok, known as "Wild Bill" Hickok, met his Maker on August 2, 1976, in the Nuttal & Mann's Saloon in Deadwood. It is said Hickok always sat with his back to the wall, and his eye on the door, ever vigilant against approaching danger. On August 2nd, Hickok was forced to break his own rule when Charles Rich twice refused his request to change seats.

Jack McCall burst in, catching Hickok at the poker table, with his back to the door. He fired, his bullet passing through Hickok's head, killing him instantly, and striking another poker player, Captain Massie.

At the time of his death, Hickok held two black Aces and two black eights -- The Dead Man's Hand.

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Cornelia May

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:28 am

I came over the rise above our farm with a brace of fish slung over my shoulder. Ma would be proud of my catch and would be happy to fry it with onions, pepper, and a dash of salt.... the smell of smoke filled my lungs, I could tell something was wrong. I quickened my pace, dropping the fish as I ran down the hill. The house and barn were both piles of charred wood on the ground, the livestock was gone. Not too far away from what used to be a house I saw the bodies of my parents. Pa was still holding his old hunting rifle and Ma still wore her favorite apron, the one she always wore to make cornbread. Tears clouded my vision. My heart broke when I realized that it was the Confederate raiders that had done it. Once a care free ten year old boy, I now was a ten year old orphan regretting my decision to skip out on my chores and go fishing. For the first time in my short life I questioned God's existence. After saying a final farewell to the life I once knew, I started for Jed's home to see if his family had fared any better than my own.

oooOOOooo

I came out of the corn field a few yards from our small farm house. Ma would be glad that I was able to catch enough fish to feed the whole family. I imagined the smell of the fish frying in butter.... the smell of smoke filled my lungs, I knew something was wrong. I quickened my pace, dropping the brace of fish in the dirt. Panic gripped my mind as I saw that the house and the barn had been burnt to the ground and that the horses and the milk cow were gone. A few feet away from what used to be our home I saw the bodies of my family. I was blinded by the tears that began to fall. I knew that the Rebels had done this. My heart stopped as I wandered if Han's had been killed and if their farm had been burned. Once a care free eight year old boy, I was now an eight year old orphan regretting my decision to skip doing my chores and go fishing with Han. For the first time I wandered if God really existed and if He had ever really loved me and my family. After saying a final good bye to the life I once knew, I started down the road towards Han's home to see if he and his had fared any better.

oooOOOooo

They met half way between the two farms. Blue eyes that threatened more tears met with the distant looking brown ones of his friend. They both got the answer that was all too present in their eyes.

"You okay Jed?" Han asked.

"Why'd it happen Han, don't God love us anymore?" Jed whimpered.

"I can't answer that Jed, let's just go into town so the folks there know that, at least, we're still among the living."

They started down the road towards town, each of them growing beyond their years in the matter of a few hours.

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:39 pm

The next installment in the "Hopping Trains" story, the sixth so far. Many thanks to Riders for her thoughts.


Hearts

Han stirred. Must have dozed off again.

Shut his eyes, tight. Too-bright rays of the golden orb fully over the horizon in the east cast away the darkness of the night, lit a path for the new day, shone in hopes of finding the lost.

He stretched, mightily. Rose. Looked around in every direction.

The glint off the rails blinding, he turned away. Beyond: Bushes, grassland, prairie. Kansas.

What to do? Wait?

Thirst. Been a long time since a drink. Reached into his sack for a canteen – their only one. Hoped Jed found refreshment.

He drank, long; emptied the vessel in one gulp. Would have to refill it soon.

Hunger. Had not eaten since they had left – thirty-six, forty-eight hours? A long time.

Once more into the bag. Jerky! Had bought it with the last of their pennies. But, as with the canteen, Han had all of it. Hoped Jed had eaten by now.

Jed. Must find him. Long shot, perhaps, but had to hope for the best.

Han set out. Walked. Followed the brilliant gleaming of the sun off the iron ribbon.

Traversed, on.

Peregrinated, miles.

Journeyed, endlessly.

Stopped; rested.

“Hey there!”

Han looked up. Squinted. Indicated, himself?

“Yes, you there!” A female voice.

Han stood, waited as a buckboard approached. A girl – perhaps his age? – held the reins.

“Whoa, girl!

Flaxen hair aflutter in a soft breeze, her bonnet carelessly tied around her neck, she reached Han.

“What’re you doing out here all by yourself?” blue eyes queried.

Han squinted at her. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” She laughed.

“Uh huh.”

“Well, surely you’re doing something.”

Han shrugged. “Just walking.”

“To where?”

“East.”

Her brow furrowed. “What’s east?”

“Missouri.”

She smiled. “Silly, I know Missouri’s east, but where else?”

“Nowhere else. Just, Missouri.”

“What’s in Missouri?”

“Who.”

“Who?”

“Uh huh.”

She chuckled. “So ‘who’ is it?”

“Oh.” A sheepish smile. “Jed.”

She nodded, inquisitively. “Who’s Jed?”

“My cousin.”

“Oh.” She looked in the distance. “It’s a long walk.”

“I reckon.”

“You don’t have to reckon. It just is.”

Another shrug. “I know. But, it’s the only way I have to get there.”

Another nod, a knowing one. “Unless you hop a train.”

A smile. “If one comes by.”

“One’ll be by.”

Han contemplated. “Hope so. Before too long would be nice.”

“So, how’d you get here?”

A sigh. “Fell off a train last night. Walked all day today.”

“Oh. Are ya hurt? Looks like you might have fought a bramble bush.”

Han regarded his tattered shirt, smirked, looked up at her. “Nettles.”

“Ah. That explains it.”

“Suppose.” The toe of his boot played at the dirt. “Well, I’d better get going – long walk. Nice meeting ya.” He turned.

“Wait.”

An about face. He regarded her.

“It’s getting on, be dark in a couple hours. Then what?”

A shrug. “Dunno. Just camp and head out again in the morning, I guess.”

“And what’ll you eat?”

Han indicated the sack on his shoulder. “I have some jerky.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah.” Suddenly, his stomach growled, loudly. He flushed.

She smiled, knowingly. “I heard that. You’re hungry.”

Another shrug. “S’okay. Gotta get on.”

“You shouldn’t without a decent meal. And you could probably use a good night’s sleep, too. You probably wouldn’t find your friend tonight anyway.”

Han sighed. “Probably not.”

“So, hop up.” She scooted over, patted the seat next to her.

The boy looked at her. “Where ya going?”

“Home.”

“Bet your folks wouldn’t appreciate you bringing home a stray.”

“It’s just pa and me. He might question it some, but he wouldn’t have ya out here by yourself, neither.”

“Ya sure?”

“Sure.” She patted the seat again. “Come on.”

He pressed lips together, in deep thought. Finally, “I don’t know. Just slow me up.”

“Won’t slow ya that much. You’d have to stop when it’s dark, and ya have to eat. Pa’ll have the beans on, and I’ll put on biscuits and greens. Not a special occasion, but it’s good and filling.”

“Well…”

She waved a “come on.”

Torn. Should he continue on, not lose time? Partake of offered comforts when Jed was without, perhaps bereft at being alone? And, what of her pa?

She noted the indecision. “It’ll be okay. ‘He’ll’ be okay.”

“Hope so.”

“Your heart’s in the right place. That’ll go a long way toward making it right.”

Han regarded her, skeptically. “Will it?”

“Um hmm. Keep him in your heart, and you’ll find each other again.”

“Sounds too easy.”

Her eyes twinkled. “Trust me. Come on.”

He looked east. Their shadows, long, greeted him. Perhaps one night…

“Okay.” Tossing the sack onto the vehicle, he jumped up. Sheepishly, “Thanks.”

“Sure. I’m Polly.”

“Han.”

"Oh, Brewster."

"Heyes."

She held out a hand. “Nice to meet ya, Han Heyes.”

They shook.

Tautly, he smiled. Sad-eyed, he looked to his right as they headed north, beholding the vastness, the distance, the breadth of it all. But, he’d get there.
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:47 am

He sat for a moment, breathing heavily and trying to calm his stomach when his eyes fell upon the stack of letters that had been sitting there now for over a week. He sat back down and continued to stare at them as though it were the first time he'd been aware of them.
Once more he stood up and grabbing hold of the sheets of paper, he sat back down and began to shuffle through them until he came to one in particular. Once he found the one he was looking for he absently allowed the others to slide to the floor while he focused his attention completely onto this one. He sat for a moment and ran his fingers gently over the hand writing that he knew so well and he felt both fear and anticipation at opening this letter.
He was afraid of it, afraid of what words she would have to say to him. He knew how sharp her tongue could be a times and he just didn't feel up to dealing with a reprimand. It was just so much easier to stay inside his self-made world of exile and destruction and he was afraid that she might present him with an undeniable reason to keep on holding on.
But finally curiosity got the best of him and he pulled open the re-sealed envelope and slid out the folded pages of her letter. Then to his surprise another oblong piece of paper slid out from the sheets and fluttered heavily to the floor. Heyes sat and stared at it for a moment, almost afraid to pick it up. It was a photograph, he knew that, but it had fallen face down and he found himself hesitant to turn it over to see the image.
But again, curiosity finally won out and he slid down to his knees and leaning over he awkwardly picked up the card stock and then pushed himself back up onto the cot again. With a knot in his throat that he thought was going to choke him he flipped the photo over and his heart nearly broke in two when he saw his own dimples smiling back at him.
He gently caressed his thumb over her soft face and along her thick, dark hair. He stared into a pair of smouldering dark orbs that he knew without a doubt were the same rich chocolate brown as his own and he felt such an overwhelming rush of paternal pride that he was sure it was going to choke him. He couldn't take his eyes off of her image.

“Oh, sweetheart. You're so beautiful.” He whispered. “You're so beautiful—my daughter.”

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Bison1

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:27 pm

She tripped.

He caught her.

It was that simple and that complicated. Tripping is a simple matter, just a toe catching on a projection, a foot not getting quite where it needed to go, or a knee inexplicably buckling. Catching is simple, too; an arm, sometimes two, extending to support the falling weight. Equilibrium is regained and the external support is withdrawn. It is all completed in a fraction of a second. Earth continues its spin through space, the sun and moon continue to rise and set, the tides continue to ebb and flow. A simple trip and catch doesn't change the universe. That is it doesn't unless it is a respectable lady that happens to trip and a notorious former outlaw is on hand to do the catching. If this is the case, then yes, the whole world changes.

She was certain of a few things and uncertain of many more. Starting with the things of which she was certain, first was that she had been caught staring. She had seen them many times before. On several occasions she had even prevented her head from turning to follow their movement. Both the men were attractive, that point was conceded, and attractive things catch one's eye. It is just that she saw no point in being as obvious about it as some, no, most of the women in town were. She would not force her company upon them, she would not spew forth a continuous stream of compliments while in their presence, she would not hang on their every word, she would not oh and ah at stories of their former life, and she would not longingly stare at them when they chanced to pass by.

Unfortunately today had been an exception to her usual behavior. She had allowed her gaze to linger on first the hat, then the hair, then the profile, then the eyes. Why she had done this was one of the things about which she was uncertain, but linger she had so when the face she watched moved slightly his eyes connected with hers. A finger touched the brim of his hat, his head gave a slight nod, a smile pulled at one corner of his mouth. She should have looked away, that's another thing of which she was certain. A greater uncertainty is why she didn't. His partner said something and he turned. She had almost summoned the power to look away when he looked back in her direction and their eyes met again. This time she did look away as she felt herself blushing.

The next thing she was certain about is that she entered the mercantile and wandered the store until she regained some degree of self control. She purchased a bit of penny candy and arranged for something, cloth, flour, or sugar, to be delivered. She paid for her items and chatted with the storekeeper while keeping an eye on the street for any indication of which direction the two former outlaws had gone. She saw the president of the Amnesty Admiration Society hurry past the store, heading north.

“That woman aught to be ashamed of herself,” she had said under her breath as she stood by the mercantile door. Madam President latched on to them so tightly at the last social, she continued thinking to herself, that their arms must have borne imprints of her hands for hours. Someone should lash a shaft to those eyes of hers and put her to use pumping water. Of course it would only work if one of the partners were there to generate the batting eyelashes and that would suit the president just fine.

I, she thought, would certainly never have allowed myself to act that way. In all honesty, though, she then admitted to herself, her own behavior at another social was less than all that was expected of a morally upright, respectable, single lady. When, having found herself alone with him, had she suggested going back inside or moving someplace where they could have been properly chaperoned? No, she had walked and talked with him of trivial matters; of local and national happenings; of the relative merits of sunrises versus sunsets; of everything and nothing. For minutes or hours, another thing for the uncertain list, they talked until they found their way to the door of the house where she kept her room.

It was all respectable, she assured herself, he had opened the door for her, tipped his hat, smiled that smile, and thanked her for taking time to walk with him, then he had faded into the night. Since then, however, she had been unable to do more than exchange the briefest of greetings with either him or his partner before members of the Amnesty Appreciation Society had invariably shown up within minutes whenever either of the partners came into town.

Having received confirmation that the two former outlaws were definitely north of her, she stepped out of the store and turned her feet south. Her head, however, had followed the president's northward movement. Why was another thing she was uncertain about, but desperately tried to convince herself that it wasn't the chance of catching sight of the former outlaws again. It was only a few steps later that she tripped.

There is a moment in every trip when you believe you have the physical prowess to pull yourself back upright, regain your feet and be able to continue on your way. This is sometimes followed by the realization that that is not what is going to happen, instead you will fall with all the grace of a dead fish, as time moves onward at an infinitesimal pace, as you continue all the way down to the ground, and it will hurt when you do get down there.

She was certain she dropped the bag of candy when she felt herself falling. Spice gumdrops were a weakness, she knew, but all the same she regretted the waste as she watched the bag tumbling through the air toward the mud. The same mud that she was heading for and would certainly ruin her clothes. The same mud in which a pair of boots were already standing. So she would, in addition to her own embarrassment, splash mud on some innocent passerby.

For the briefest moment she felt as if she were flying, not falling. Then she felt the arm around her waist and back that pulled her up and away from the mud quick enough to cause her breathing to catch and the other arm braced along her spine with it's hand between her shoulder blades. Both arms contracted to support her weight and she found herself upright and propelled into the chest of her rescuer.

Looking up, she found her eyes level with the same pair of eyes that had caught her staring only a few minutes ago. Certainly at this point any respectable lady would have thanked her rescuer and graciously extracted herself from his arms. Unfortunately, being a woman with only the appearance of respectability she continued to gaze into the eyes that she had found so attractive from across the street. Again the arms tighten around her. Now she felt his breath on her cheeks and lips.

Determined to act like the lady she wasn't sure she wanted to be she intended to explain that she was no longer in danger of falling and to thank him for his assistance. “I,” she started, but got no further.

So closely was she held now that their lips nearly brushed with each word, each breath. Lips finally did more than brush and they lost all connection with the world around them. There were only the lips that refuse to be separated from each other, the arms that grasped the other, the hands which cradled the back of the head.

“Have supper with me,” he whispered, taking a breath at the same time so it sounded nearly anxious.

“Yes,” she replied with her heart before her head could stop it. His arms loosened and their bodies separate slightly. She leaned back into him and stole a kiss. “When?”

“Tonight and every other night for the rest of our lives.”

She heard a cough behind her. The arms released her and the world intruded on them.

“Admiration Society coming in from the north, partner.”

“They track better than some posses we've met.”


She tripped, he caught her, and they still have supper together every evening.
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missyblu



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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:24 pm

A/N: I haven’t written anything in a very long time and this story definitely could have used more attention, but the idea came to me only a few days ago and I had to rush to get it done in time. I hope you enjoy and I hope that the muse will come back so that I can pick up where I left off on the other fics I’ve started.

Hearts


The late afternoon sun slanted through the trees as Hannibal Heyes guided his chestnut down the trail and onto the road leading to Silver Creek. He straightened in the saddle; massaging his back with one hand for a moment.

“Sure will be glad to sleep in a real bed tonight,” he murmured and his horse flicked back an ear at the sound of the familiar voice.

When he reached the first of the town’s buildings, a shaft of sunlight illuminated the stained glass window of the church just ahead and he remembered fleetingly of the Sundays he and his best friend had spent on those hard pews.

Deciding to go to the hotel before stabling his horse, Heyes pulled off his saddlebacks and walked into the lobby. “Has a Mr. Jones checked in yet?” he asked the clerk at the registration desk.

“Don’t think so, but I just got here for the evening.” He pushed the ledger over to Heyes. “I’ll be right back to give you your key,” he said as an elderly women came into the lobby struggling with several packages. “Mrs. Moore,” the clerk said hurriedly as he went over to her. “Let me help you with those.”

As Heyes watched, he thought about his plans for the evening and was trying to decide if he wanted to get a drink at the saloon first or a hot bath before he went over to the café for dinner. As the clerk disappeared up the stairs with Mrs. Moore, Heyes pulled the ledger closer and glanced at the page to see if the Kid had arrived before him and was waiting for him in their room.

The name he saw wasn’t the Kid’s familiar scrawl.

It was a name he didn’t think he’d ever see again and the signatures seemed to dance in front of his eyes as he stared at the yellowed paper.

Morgan Monroe, Moro Coyo, California.

Wiping a shaking hand over his face, Heyes quickly composed himself as the clerk came back. “Ready to check in, sir?” he asked.

His voice seemed to be coming from very far away and Heyes forced himself to concentrate on the matter at hand. He pulled out a few bills from his vest pocket and handed them to the clerk. “Can you have someone stable my horse for me? It’s the chestnut with the two white feet tied up out front.”

“Certainly, sir, that won’t be any trouble at all.” The clerk watched as Heyes signed his name and asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, not right now.” Heyes replied and began walking towards the stairs. Then he turned back to add, “It doesn’t look as if my friend has checked in yet – he should be here tomorrow; if for some reason I’m not in my room you can give him a key.”

“Of course, I’ll be glad to.”

Once in his room, Heyes took off his jacket, gun belt and sat down on the bed to remove his boots. All thoughts of the relaxing evening had been wiped away when he had seen that name in the register.

Morgan.

The one person in the world who had really and truly understood his partner as no one else ever had. And the one person who had broken the Kid’s heart.

Lying back on the bed, Heyes closed his eyes; remembering how they had met.

A year ago he and Curry had found work on a wagon train that was shorthanded. Morgan was traveling along because a friend of hers knew the wagon master. She and the Kid had struck up a friendship and it wasn’t long before they realized they were in love with each other. To further complicate things, she knew their real identity. Traveling West after her parents’ death at the age of 16, she had been on a train that was held up by the Devil’s Hole gang. The Kid had stopped one of the new members from assaulting her and it was a memory she had buried long ago…

Until she realized that the handsome man who was becoming much more than a friend to her was the same man who had come to her rescue on that train in Wyoming.

But she also knew that traveling with them once they left the wagon train wasn’t a very good idea. They had talked about trying to pass her off as Heyes’ sister, but neither Heyes nor the Kid thought that was a solution, either.

His mind took him back to a conversation they had shared as they sat around their campfire a few days before they going to leave the wagon train.

“Have you ever thought about moving to Mexico?” she asked, poking at the fire with a stick. “You’d be able to disappear down there.”

“We don’t exactly speak the language,” Heyes told her ruefully.

Morgan shrugged. “But I do and I could teach you.”

Curry shook his head. “How would we make a livin’?”

“Buy a small ranch. You could raise horses. I know where I can get a palomino stud and some mares to get started.”

Staring at her, Heyes snorted. “With what? In case you haven’t noticed, except for what we’ve earned on the wagon train, we’re about two meals from being broke.”

Undeterred, Morgan shook her head. “I’m not.”

The Kid shook his head as he said wryly, “You expect us to leave the United States for a foreign country, to live on a ranch that YOU bought and raise horses?”

“Why not? At least we’d be together.”

“But we’d never be able to leave,” Heyes told her. “At least if we stay there’s a chance we’ll be granted that amnesty. Once we leave the country…” his voice trailed off as he threw his partner a look.

“Will you at least think about it?” Morgan asked earnestly. They both nodded and she smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Over the next two days she waited for them to bring up the subject of her idea, but they seemed to be avoiding her. When the wagon train made camp in the late afternoon, she watched as Heyes and the Kid went down to the creek with buckets to fill and bring back to the cook. Walking quietly through the woods, she paused when she heard the Kid’s voice.

“You don’t think it’s a good idea, do you?”

It was a few moments before she heard Heyes answer, “Look, Kid, I know you love her,” his voice was heavy with concern as he continued, “but do you really think running off to Mexico is the answer?”

Curry gave a sigh. “No, but I want her to come with us. Maybe we could try it for a few months?”

“And draw even more attention to ourselves?” Heyes asked incredulously.

The silence stretched out as seconds became a minute before the Kid said quietly, “She and I could go to Mexico.”

Morgan drew in a sharp breath; conscious of how easy it would be for one of them to look over and see her. Suddenly she knew what she had to do.

Waiting until everyone in the wagon train was asleep, she went to the wagon master who was taking the first watch. She explained that she’d be riding out – the moon would be up soon and the next town wasn’t far away. He tried to talk her into waiting until morning, but she shook her head. “I need to leave now. Thanks for everything.”

She swung into the saddle and guided Ghost out of the camp and onto the trail. She hadn’t gotten further than a few yards when a figure stepped out from the shadows. “Leaving without saying goodbye?” Heyes asked quietly.

Morgan gave him a sad smile. “I don’t want him to have to choose,” she said sadly. “Take care of him, Heyes.”

Pulling himself back to the present, Heyes realized that a drink was what he needed. The sun was just setting as he made his way down the boardwalk to the saloon, completely unaware that he was being watched.

Morgan was coming out of the stable after checking on Ghost before she went to the café for dinner when her eyes caught sight of a man going into the saloon. “No,” she whispered to herself, “It can’t be...” But there was no mistaking that distinctive hat band and she quickly made her way back to the hotel.

Once in her room, she thought about her options. Leaving now was out of the question – she was tired as they had been riding steadily for the last few days. Ghost needed a rest too and she decided that as long as she was careful and left by the back door and kept to the alleys she should be able to avoid Heyes.

It was a long time before she was able to sleep and then she began to dream. Images of the Kid and Heyes as they rode together in what seemed to be a never-ending prairie, where the wild grasses sometimes concealed the two men and she lost sight of them from time to time. And then they were gone, lost in a swirling mist as she called their names, over and over.

Suddenly she was awake, her breathing harsh in the quiet room. Her face was stiff with dried tears and she sat up, pushing her damp hair back. Moonlight flooded the room, but she didn’t need the illumination to confirm what she had realized as soon as she had recovered from the dream…

She wasn’t alone.

Heyes stepped away from the door and regarded her soberly. “He’ll be here tomorrow. You need to ride out in the morning.”

Morgan took a deep breath and nodded. “I’m sorry, Heyes. I know I hurt him by leaving like that.”

Without another word, he opened the door and left as quietly as he had come. Shivering in the cool air, Morgan pulled up her blankets and settled back down. She knew she’d never be able to go back to sleep so she watched the moon slowly move across the night sky to be replaced by the first few streaks of light as dawn approached.

The livery stable owner was just coming out of his room at the back of the barn as she walked in and she explained that she needed to be on her way. Ghost nickered a greeting and she gave him a pat as she brought him out of his stall. “Sorry, I thought we were staying longer, but we need to head out.”

Once she was clear of the town’s buildings, she chose a less traveled trail that wound up the ridge where she could see the road below her. Dismounting, she pulled off Ghost’s bridle so he could graze while she settled herself against some rocks.

It wasn’t long before she saw a lone rider approaching from the north. The sun was beginning to rise and it she caught the glint of blond hair beneath the rider’s brown hat. Burying her head in her hands, she began to cry, her tears flowing freely as her heart ached for a love that was lost to her forever.
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Feb 2013 - Hearts...   Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:04 pm



YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART

The roar of his own breathing echoed in his ears as the willow branches whipped about his face; splitting his lip, and momentarily blinding him. He drew a sleeve across his eyes and turned his head slightly. They were still there, no more than a half-mile back; they’d have him soon. Would it be dead or alive? It was just his luck that they would all choose to stay on him. The Kid and he had parted company early yesterday evening in the hopes of dividing the posse; only it hadn’t work. At least it hadn’t worked for him, he thought ruefully. All four riders had followed his trail. The Kid ought to be in Green River by now, dining on a juicy steak or soaking up a hot bath.

He’d had a brief reprieve when night fell, and he had continued to ride on in the dark putting a few more miles between him and his pursuers. His mare was canny and careful; and he had trusted her to pick her way daintily down the rocky slopes of the Book Cliffs. It had been a desperate plan, but it had paid off. He had reached the bottom of the arroyo just before midnight and found a small trickle of water from a recent thunderstorm in the normally dry stream bed that cut its way through the cottonwoods and willows thirstily gathered on the canyon floor to leach up the life-giving liquid. He had half-fallen out of the saddle as his mare had dropped her head to drink greedily. He had only allowed her enough water to moisten her lips before he had tugged her forcefully away and walked her quietly about the sandy bank, allowing her further brief sips, until her breathing returned to normal. Once she was cooled, he had fallen onto the water himself not caring about cleanliness or quality, too parched to do more than gulp frantically. His mare, as though giving him a taste of his own medicine, had butted him with her head until he checked his thirst and sat up. He had stood and lifted his canteen off the saddle, refilling it as best he could in the shallow water; getting more sand than water. He had been totally exhausted, but he hadn’t taken the risk of setting up camp. He hadn’t been sure he wasn’t still being followed and he might’ve had to leave at a moment’s notice. Instead, he had tied his mare’s reins securely to a willow branch and, moving a few yards away so that she couldn’t trample him; he had dropped onto the still warm sand and fallen into a deep sleep.

He had awakened to the sound of a small rockslide and had known immediately that the posse was on the move. It had been mostly dark when he brushed the sand from his clothing and untied his horse. Heyes had taken a few handfuls of oats from the small bag he carried, and had hand fed his mare as he listened to the clattering hoof beats coming down the hillside. With a deep sigh, he had pulled himself into his saddle and taken a look at the glow of the dawn peeking above the cliffs to the east knowing that it might well be his last.

By mid-day, the posse had changed tactics. Unable to run his tough little mare to ground, they had pulled up and two of the riders had dismounted. The remaining two, now had remounts; albeit nearly exhausted ones. Heyes had noticed that the cloud of dust indicating the posse’s whereabouts had settled to earth and, he too, had pulled up. His mare was covered in foam and her reins were gummy with her sweat. Pulling his binoculars out of his saddlebags, he had watched grimly as the two posse members dismounted and handed the reins to the others.

He had tucked away his gear and stroked his mare’s neck whispering softly to her, “This is it, sweetheart. We’ve come a long way, you and I, and there’s not much further to go. I’m not giving up, are you?” She had turned her head and one soft, brown eye looked back at him. “That’s my girl. Let’s make them work for that bounty.” With a roar, Heyes had flapped the reins and dug in his spurs as his mare leapt forward.

Now the posse was gaining on him. His mare galloped gamely through the heavy undergrowth, her ears pinned back, and the bit grasped firmly in her jaw. She swerved through the sage, jumping and leaping wildly. He didn’t need to drive her on, he felt her muscles straining with all her remaining strength, determined to give him everything she had. He felt tears spring to his eyes at the thought. Her heart was so big, so generous, that she was running willingly to her death. For him.

He heard the sound of gunshots behind them. Eager to capture their prey, the posse had begun shooting before they were within range. Dead it was. They weren’t going to waste the effort to bring him in alive. His mare shook her neck in fury at the sound and stretched out even further eating up the ground beneath her. Her nostrils flared as she heaved beneath him. She was nearly spent and he knew it. Why should she die for his sins? He didn’t have the heart to allow that to happen. Wrestling the reins, he pulled the bit from her teeth and roughly slid her to a stop. She fought wildly, leaping and struggling underneath of him, but he held her firm until she settled. He dismounted quickly and waved his arms at her to scare her away, but she looked at him, confused. He yelled, and ran at her, but she stood her ground lowering her head in submission. Panting, Heyes dropped his arms knowing that she wouldn’t leave him. He held her soft muzzle in his arms and buried his face in her neck, gasping for his breath as she did for hers.

A fusillade of bullets rang out from above and to his left. Looking up, he saw a familiar figure perched behind a large boulder; the Kid. Exhausted, Heyes slid to his knees and onto his back. His mare blew hot breaths at his face and nuzzled his hair. He lost track of time until a shadow fell over him and he squinted at the back lit figure.

“Funny time to take a nap, Heyes.”

“Kid, how?”

“When you didn’t show up this morning, I came looking for you.”

“But how’d you know where to look?”

“I just figured the craziest, most dangerous way into town and started there.” The Kid reached down and grasped Heyes’s forearm, hauling him to his unsteady feet. The mare snorted at the sudden movement and pinned her ears.

“Thank you. She saved my life, Kid.”

“Yeah, I saw. She’s got a lot of heart, Heyes. Why the hell did you pull up?”

“I couldn’t run her to death, Kid. I just couldn’t do it.”

“So, she’s got a big heart and you’ve got a soft one?” the Kid pulled his partner into a bear hug. "I'm just glad your soft head didn't get you both killed."
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