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 January 2012 Wise Men

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BeeJay
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PostSubject: January 2012 Wise Men   Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:36 pm

Once again a very Happy New Year to you all...


Time to push aside some of the piles of chocolate, tinsel, cake, cracker debris, torn wrapping paper and dropped pine needles...

Why?

Because - you diligent ones - somewhere under all that festive detritus is your keyboard and you need to find it to keep your New Year Resolution number one:

1) In 2012 I will challenge my favourite two ex-outlaws with even more: bracing (winds), chasing (villains), facing (down bullies), gracing (our virtual screens), lacing (of boots), pacing (HH only), racing (generic), spacing (of cliffhangers) and tracing (of long lost secrets)

2) To show willing I will enter the January 2012 challenge whose topic is...

Wait for it, wait for it...

Wise Men

(Still seasonal - huh??? - Happy Twelfth Night, erudite ones!!

Let the plotting, scheming and lip wobbling manipulation of our heartstrings begin!! )
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Ghislaine Emrys
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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:22 pm

When I transferred the stories from the old board to here, all the paragraph formatting was lost from most of the stories. I restored it by comparing both versions but if I missed something, please let me know so I can correct it. Thanks!

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

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Last edited by Ghislaine Emrys on Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:52 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:35 pm

From Silverkelpie:


The Hole The Ground Gang

A pair of lambent blue eyes solemnly surveyed the devastation, drinking in the splinters of shattered glass and the charred remains of the smashed furniture, while the damaged door creaked wearily on the only hinge still attached to the frame. “This is a tragedy,” muttered Kid. “Fifteen years old. But they’re all gone - and for what?”

“Religious differences,” Heyes bent over and picked up a broken bottle and wiped away the soot before he read from the label. “Powers Gold Label Whiskey, aged in the cask for fifteen years,” he sighed heavily. “Why would anyone want to destroy such a beautiful thing?”

Beer still oozed from split casks, darkening the dirty floorboards with a foaming, deliquescent soup which carried the remains of chewing tobacco, ash and grime through the cracks in the floorboards.

“I just don’t get these temperance folks. If they don’t like alcohol, don’t drink it. Why smash the imported hoard?” Heyes shook his head. “It survived for at least fifteen years in Ireland, a journey over the Atlantic Ocean, and then all the way to Kansas; and they smash it up!”

Nancy Rowe fumed; her little, peroxide curls trembling in concert to the anger burning through her make-up; which was no mean feat. She had the cosmetic fortitude to wear powder, paint and perfume in a way which was rarely seen outside of circus folk. A long, lacquered fingernail tapped out a syncopated rhythm of fury as she intermittently sipped at a glass from her hidden stash. “They ain’t gettin’ away with this!” she barked.

“Nancy! The state’s been dry since 1881. We got away with it because nobody bothered in a one-horse town like this.”

She flashed angry eyes at the barman. “Not until Eve Montgomery moved into town. Damn her, and damn her rockin’ horse teeth! What difference does it make to her how I make my livin’? I tell you, if I’d been here...”

“Her brother’s the mayor. He didn't care until she came to live here after their father died.”

“I saw Matt Bailey, the lawyer. It’s legal to sell alcohol for medicinal purposes. We’re gonna do the same as the rich folks. We’re gonna start a private health club and provide it for medicinal purposes.” She tipped her glass towards Heyes and Curry. “I’m gonna need security to keep out non-members. You fancy the job, Boys?”

Heyes gave Kid a long look. “It sounds like it’s bordering on the illegal, and we play it strictly straight down the line. We really came here looking for work in the mines.”

Kid shook his head doubtfully. “And what if the women came back? I ain't gonna fight with them.”

“I’m askin’ for security,” Nancy gave a discrete smirk. “If the temperance league come back, let me know. You might not touch ‘em, but with me and my girls meetin’ ‘em, it’ll be a fair fight.”

Kid gave her a sympathetic look. “Nancy, the place is nearly burnt to the ground. We need a job now, not sometime in the future. I’m sorry, but we’re headin’ to the mines tomorrow.”

“Boys, we’ll be open tomorrow night. Do you want the job or not? My Bill’s got a mine on the edge of town. I store stock there. I want you here first thing in the mornin’ to load a wagon with anythin’ we need to turn it into a health club.”

“A health club in a mine?” asked Heyes, incredulously.

“Sure! Watchin’ girls dance and relaxin’ in good company is the best treatment for melancholia I can think of, and I ain't even a Doc! By the time I've finished with it, Four Forks will be a drinkin’ town where they have a minin’ problem.”


**********


The stiff woman, who strode down the main street of Four Forks, had lived a pious life, keeping the fine name of Montgomery as unsullied as the day it found her. By the time she reached forty five she was not a happy person. Nobody had ever taken the time to look deeply enough into her slate colored eyes to notice the lightness of spirit dancing in ever decreasing spirals of desperation, and no one seemed to have any real interest in spending time with her beyond prescribed social convention. Her need to nurse her strict, overbearing father in his final years had squashed down the inner child, until the little voice was stilled; leaving her unappreciated and alone in a society which only allowed women to flourish within the convention of marriage. The pinched face and the prominent teeth did nothing to soften the harshness of the craggy face confronting Kid Curry.
 


“Just what do you think you are doing, Young Man?”

He looked down at the duck-head handle of the umbrella prodding his chest. “Can I help you, Ma’am?”

“I do hope that you are not stealing from this place!”

He tossed the chair onto the back of the wagon. “No, Ma’am. The owner wants us to take anythin’ not ruined to her.”

“Why?”

“I guess, because it’s her property, Ma’am.”

She was not about to be put off that easily. “But why would she need it? She’s closed down.”

He handed Heyes another chair. “I guess folks don’t need a reason to use what’s theirs , Ma’am.”

He turned away to lift a barrel, rolling his eyes in exasperation as he felt the now familiar tapping on his shoulder blade.

“I am Miss Montgomery, the Mayor’s sister. I demand that you tell me why these are required.”

Kid gave an impatient sigh and leaned on the tailgate. “Why don’t you ask her, she’s real keen to see you. You were handin’ out the axes.”

“I do not mix with the likes of her!”

Kid shook his head. “Then I don’t know what to tell you, Ma’am. She wants her stuff. If you have any more questions, take it up with her.”

She stomped and snorted behind him for a few minutes before she tapped again, stopping suddenly as Kid stiffened and slowly stood upright.

He turned, fixing her with glacial eyes as icy as his voice. “Ma’am. Let me give you some advice. Folks don’t like to be told what to do, especially by those that don’t seem to do much themselves. It seems to me like you’d be a lot happier if you spent your time doin’ what you really want to do, instead of tellin’ folks what you hate.”

She sucked in a breath. “Well, I never...!”

“I don’t doubt that for a moment, Ma’am.”
 
“What do you mean by that!?”

Kid shrugged, a smile playing around his lips. “I don’t doubt that you never found your passion in life and that’s a cryin’ shame, Ma’am. Stop botherin’ me and go and find it.”

“When I need your homespun wisdom, I’ll ask for it!” She turned on her heel and strode out into the middle of the road.

There was a screech of wooden brakes, mingled with yells and horses whinnying. A wagon careened across the road trying to avoid the inevitable collision, dragging ruts into the dirt road and spraying dust into the air. Heyes leapt, catching the woman around the waist, before throwing her back to the edge of the sidewalk in an undignified heap.

The driver’s face was a picture of twisted fury. “YOU STUPID IDIOT!! WHY DON’T YOU LOOK WHERE YOUR’RE GOIN’!?”
 
Eve Montgomery moaned as Heyes looked at her with concerned, brown eyes. “Are you hurt?”

“I've hurt my wrist,” she held up a stick-thin arm, waving it in his direction.

“Wrist!” snapped the driver. “I feel like breakin’ your neck.”

Kid stepped forward. “Leave her alone! It was an accident.”

“Accident! I got four cases of eggs in the back. Who’s gonna pay for that?

Nobody wants to buy a giant omelette full of straw.”

“Go and see her brother, he’s the mayor.”

The driver gave the reins an irritated twitch, driving the horses into action and trundled indignantly off down the street.



A short, square middle-aged man appeared at their side. “Can I help? I’m Doctor Sheppard.”

Eve’s eyes flickered up at him gratefully. “Oh! Please help me. I’m in such pain.”

His hands felt their way over the injury, carefully manipulating the hand. “There ain't nothin’ broken, Ma’am. It’s just a bad sprain. Let me just give you somethin’ for the pain, then we’ll get you some privacy.”

He opened his bag and poured a generous dose of an amber liquid into a glass measuring cup.

“Blech!” she exclaimed, with a grimace. “It’s positively horrible.”

“Finish it up. The worse it tastes, the more good it does you,” twinkled the doctor, scooping her up and assisting her towards the mercantile.

“Ooh! It’s burning all the way down,” her eyes startled to sparkle as her knees gave way with a giggle. “Oh, I do feel… Well - just lovely.”

The partners watched the pair disappear into the store for bandaging.

“That was lucky, a doc bein’ right on the scene like that,” Kid remarked, casually.

“Doctor?” Heyes grinned. “I saw him with Nancy this morning. He’s her quack for the ‘Health Club.’”

A grin spread over Kid’s face. “You don’t think...?”

“I sure do, Kid. A teetotaler’s just gulped down a huge glass of whiskey. It’ll hit her like a brick wall.”

Kid started to laugh, his deep chortle rolling around his chest. “She’s gonna feel terrible in the mornin’. Do you think that was her choppin’ arm she injured?”

“We can only hope so, because if she hated drink before, she’s gonna be a lot worse after a hangover.” 


**********

“Miss Montgomery? Missin’?” demanded Kid.

“She ain't been seen since she left with the doc to go home,” the sheriff stared at Nancy before glancing around the converted mine. “I need men. Postpone your ‘health club’ until she’s found. We gotta send out a search party.”

Nancy gave a growl. “That woman’s a nightmare! If she ain't ruinin’ my life one way, she’s doin’ it another,” she threw her hands up in exasperation. “Fine. I’ll give you my two security men. If you find that doc, bring him here. I’ll skin him alive for you.”

The sheriff hooked his thumbs in his belt. “What do you know about him, Nancy?"



“He treats all the girls at Maggie’s place. He’s harmless. Ain't much of a doctor, but he’s real good as a painless dentist.”

The sheriff’s eyes glistened with worry. “So? He’s worked at a brothel and he’s real good at knockin’ folk out?”

Nancy’s face tensed. “I guess so, yes.”

“Let’s go, boys. We ain't got no time to lose.”

Nancy stood. “Ben. Take them all. If there’s a man in this place that don’t help, I’ll remove his teeth for him, and it won’t be the painless way.”


**********


A lone figure stood by the road out of town, waving in the moonlight.

“That’s a woman,” gasped Kid, taking off in her direction.

“Help me, please!” Eve Montgomery sobbed, as they leapt down from their horses. Her torn dress hung from the shoulder and her straight hair tumbled down around her shoulders in messy tendrils.

Kid sucked in a breath of anger. “Ma’am! You’re safe now.”

She burst into tears. “Thank God! I thought no one would ever come.”
 


“Come with us,” Heyes murmured softly, placing a comforting arm on her shoulder. “No one can hurt you now.”

She leapt back as though burnt. “Come with you? No. You must come with me! Cyril’s hurt.”

“Cyril?”

“Doctor Sheppard. He was bringing me home when something spooked the horses,” she pointed down the rocky incline. “He’s down there. He’s hurt.”

She took off, as athletically as a goat, dodging down the hill on bent knees, rapidly followed by Heyes and Curry.

The moonlight shone weakly down on a scene of devastation. The wagon lay in bits, pieces cascading down the hillside.
 
“Where are the horses?” asked Kid.

“I let them loose. It seemed cruel to keep them in harness,” Eve croaked emotionally and pointed out to the night. “They’re out there, somewhere. Cyril! Are you there?”

A weak voice drifted out of the darkness. “I’m over here. Did you find someone?”

They stumbled towards the sound, quickly finding the stout man draped across the remains of the axle.
 
“My leg’s broken. I can’t move it.”

Heyes fished around in the broken wagon. “Don’t move, Doc. Is there anything in your bag we can give you for the pain?”

“Yes. There’s laudanum.”

Kid glanced at Heyes doubtfully. “Are you sure, Doc. We know who hired you and why.”

“He’s a doctor! How dare you question him?”

Heyes sighed. “He’s a quack, hired by Nancy Rowe to keep her ‘Health Club’ open.”

The woman’s eyes widened with disbelief. “Is this true, Cyril?”

The man closed his eyes and pursed his lips. “Just give me the laudanum. I know how to administer painkillers.”

Heyes dug about until he brought out a bottle. “Thaddeus, can you light a fire so I can see what I’m giving him? I don’t want to give you the wrong thing, do I?”

“The ribbed bottles are poison. DON’T give me anything from those.”

Heyes nodded while Kid pulled together some tinder and struck a small flame, feeding in sticks until a fledgling fire gave them enough light to read by.

“Found it. Do you need anything for pain, Miss Montgomery?”

She shook her head. “No. The painkiller that Cyril gave me earlier sent me into a deep sleep. I seemed to just bounce. I was dead to the world for ages. I just have a headache.”

“Yeah? Dead drunk, more like,” muttered Kid, under his breath.

The partners exchanged a wry smile. They both knew about the strange ability of the inebriated to survive falls that would cripple a more sober victim. Somehow, not bracing, added more elasticity and resilience than their terrified, more sentient, counterparts.


“We’ll need men and a wagon to get you out of here. Miss, can you ride?” asked Heyes.

“I’ll wait here. Cyril’s been so brave.”

“You've been marvellous, Eve. You really kept me going with your stories. How do you know so much about the sea?”

“My grandfather was a sailor. He told us tales his whole life. I wrote them all down and then I started adding to them,” she sighed. “It was my escape. I could only dream of a life like that,” she paused, staring straight at Kid as though something had just hit her between the eyes. “Writing was my passion! You were right. Who’d have thought you could be so wise?”

The drugs started to filter into the man’s blood stream, as he slurred his next request. “Tell me more about Amalthea’s trials amongst the savages.”

She crouched down beside him, and took his head in her lap. “Well, as you remember, Amalthea was shipwrecked right after being captured by the pirates. It was very timely, and protected her virtue, but then...”

Kid grasped Heyes by the arm. “I’ll go to town.”

“No. I said I’d go. We agreed.”

“Yeah? Well, I changed my mind. I ain't sittin’ here listenin to this!” he hissed.

Heyes firmly removed Kid’s hand. “I’m going. Just ignore them.”

“Ignore them? This story’s are so sweet, my teeth are startin’ to rot.”

Heyes chuckled. “He’s a dentist. You’ll be fine.”

“And then she stopped and stared at the savage, struck by his rippling muscles and the nobility in his eyes...”

Kid dropped his head into his hands. “For cryin’ out loud, Joshua! How long are you gonna be?”


**********


Twelve months later, in a railway waiting room -

“What are you reading?”

Kid shrugged. “Just somethin’ I found in the waitin’ room.”

Heyes narrowed his eyes. “Why’ve you got the cover bent all back like that? What are you trying to hide?”

A pair of guilty blue eyes flicked up. “Nothin’.”

Heyes reached out an arm as Kid dodged back. “Let me see.”

“Just leave me alone, will ya?”

They stopped scuffling, looking up innocently, as a young blonde woman walked in. “Aah! Thank heavens, you found it.”

Heyes snatched the book, reading from the cover. “’Amalthea and the Pirate.’ Were you looking for this, Miss?”

“Yes! It’s a signed copy. I just couldn't bear to lose it. I heard the author speak. She’s SO inspirational.”

“Eve Montgomery,” mused Heyes with a smile. “Thaddeus, wasn't that woman’s story after that accident about someone called, ‘Amalthea?’”

Kid said nothing, his eyes glittering with embarrassment at being caught reading a woman’s dime novel. 
 
“The accident!? You were there? That was her epiphany. That was when she realised what her passion was in life. In one short year she has published three best sellers and has embarked on a speaking tour. Apparently a drunken tramp told her to find her passion; she talks of the pearls of wisdom amongst the swine.”

“Drunken tramp?” Heyes suppressed a snicker.

“Yes,” the woman continued, misreading his reaction as interest. “A reprobate who was looting a burnt-out bar. I would never have the courage to confront a ruffian like that.”

“Lootin’? Ruffian?” Kid’s mouth firmed into a line. “She sure can tell a story.”

“She certainly can,” she stepped forward, taking the book. “She really does give women hope that they can do something respectable, other than get married. She was never able to marry because she had to nurse her father, you know?”

“I can’t say I did,” grumbled Kid.

“Well, thank you. It’s been lovely meeting someone who was at the scene of the accident with Miss Montgomery.”

Heyes sat with folded arms, laughter dancing in his eyes. “Don’t worry. We’ll be able to get you another. It’s a best seller.”

“Don’t bother,” snapped Kid. “I’ll get one when I’m lootin’, after my next drunken rampage. I wasn’t really readin’ it. I just picked it up.”

“Sure you did, Thaddeus. And Nancy runs a health club in Kansas.”
 




(Message edited by silverkelpie On 01/01/2012 6:47 PM)

Date Posted:01/01/2012 10:35 AM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:36 pm

From Riders57:

I swear that this is under 3,000 -- barely. 




Heyes lay on his bunk, engrossed in the book he was reading, ignoring the clamor throughout the bunkhouse. He’d joined Big Jim about eight months ago, and had to admit Big Jim seemed to run a gang better than the others he had experienced in his short life, but still these were not men who lived calm, sedate lives, and their leisure time reflected this. Over the last year or so, he'd become accustomed to the noise of gangs and did his best to fit in, but sometimes he was so lonely he could scream.

The door to the bunkhouse swung open and Big Jim strode in. The men quieted to allow Big Jim to speak. Heyes sat up.

“Men, enough time has passed since our last job, it’s time to go to town.” Big Jim proclaimed. Hurrahs arose after this announcement. “Alright, alright, enough. You men clear out of here; I need to talk to Wheat and Hannibal.” He watched them leave, then closed the door and turned to face Wheat and Heyes.

“Wheat, Hannibal, I need your assistance when we go to town,” Big Jim began. Wheat puffed up at the knowledge that Big Jim still relied on him, even if he did have to share the relationship with that…, with Heyes. Heyes looked from Big Jim to Wheat, waiting to hear what Big Jim wanted. “As you know we are short men at the moment, so we need to keep an eye out for likely candidates.”

“Well shoot, Jim, any of the boys can help with that,” said Wheat visibly deflated.

“Yes, normally,” replied Big Jim impatiently, “but this time I’m looking for something special -- a gunnie. Now hold on …” he stated, holding up a hand as the two appeared to be about to speak. “You know I don’t hold with shooting during a job, just riles people up against us, but we lost two good men on that last train job, when the guards fired on us. If we had us a gunnie who could hold his own, the guards wouldn’t dare fire. But we need to choose wisely; most of those men are too hot to handle, and I want one that will listen to directions and not shoot first – and definitely not shoot to kill.”

“Well how we gonna find someone like that?” asked Wheat.

Heyes still said nothing.

“That’s why I’m raising it with you two now, before we get to town.” Big Jim looked around clearly ready to change the subject. His eyes lighted on the book on the bed beside Heyes. “Hannibal, you’re reading dime novels now? Beneath you isn’t it?” He picked up the book, as Heyes made a grab for it.

Wheat took the book from Big Jim and smirked, glad to have something to torment Heyes about. “Kid Curry and the Valley of Vengeance,” he read aloud, looking at it. It was a paperback, illustrated with a drawing of a long-haired, handsome giant holding a scantily clad saloon girl in one arm while brandishing a gun at a horde of desperados. “Hoowee, boy, this what you’re spending your time reading? And here we all thought you was so smart an’ all.” Heyes turned red and glared, reaching for the book.

Big Jim gave a short laugh, “Kid Curry, huh. I’ve heard of him; if he’s anything like his reputation, maybe that’s who we should be looking for.”

“He’s a cold-blooded killer,” said Wheat.

“No he ain’t!” shouted Heyes.

Big Jim looked at the two of them. “You two know him or you just fighting over nothing, as usual?”

“I met him once; don’t look much like that cover,” Wheat said.

“When?” both Big Jim and Heyes asked together.

Wheat looked a little embarrassed. “Back about six months ago, in Texas.”

Big Jim and Heyes knew this must have been while Wheat had left the gang, his nose out of joint because Big Jim had brought in Heyes and was listening to “that upstart” over Wheat, who had been second-in-command. Wheat had returned, but he hadn’t spoken much about his time away.

“I was riding from a town -- I’d had a bit of trouble there.” He coughed, “Anyway, I came upon a wagon being attacked by raiders. As they came into sight, I could see a couple of men, the father and son I learned later, down. I watched this blonde boy shooting it out with the raiders and saw him down two of them and injure another. The raiders pulled out and took off.” Wheat paused for a moment. “I was too far away to help, but I came up after.” Heyes looked at him, knowing that Wheat had probably held back until he saw the danger was over; Wheat wasn’t one to risk his skin over strangers.

“Well dang if that kid didn’t swing his gun on me, till I convinced him I wasn’t one of them raiders. He was young, didn’t look more’n’ fifteen.”

“He’s seventeen, no just turned eighteen,” Heyes blurted out, then stopped short.

Eyebrows raised, Big Jim indicated to Wheat to continue his story.

“As I said the father and son were dead. So were two of the raiders – shot by this kid. The woman was hysterical, weeping and wailing. This boy just looked real mad, eyes like chips of ice, then pulled her up and told her to get together what she could take on a horse; they were getting out of there. She wanted to bury her family. Coldest voice I ever heard -- that boy telling her that burying them wouldn’t make no difference, they’d be just as dead, and we had to go, the raiders would be back, in bigger numbers, and he didn’t intend to stick around so she could either come with him to a town where she’d be safe or he’d shoot her on the spot, ‘cause that would be kinder than what the raiders would do to her when they came back.”

Wheat shook his head. “What he said was true, but it was cold, inhuman even. Didn’t give her no time to grieve, just grabbed her and threw her up on the saddle of one of the dead men’s horses. Then he looked at me and asked me did I have anything to say, or was I planning to hold off the raiders all by myself. I decided to go with them – to see what I could do to comfort that poor woman and maybe protect her from this kid. During the ride to town, I learned he was Kid Curry. When we reached a town, he stopped at the outskirts, said it wasn’t safe for him in that town but that there was a railhead there and the woman could take a train back east where she’d come from; then he left.” Wheat stared at the far wall, remembering. “That boy was cold and grim the whole way, barely spoke the entire time, and no comfort at all to this woman -- seemed real angry with her and her family for traveling alone like that. Course it was pretty stupid; just the sort of thing greenhorns do, likely to get them killed and this time it did. But I’m telling you, that boy is a killer. We don’t want him in the gang.”

Big Jim thought for a moment, then turned to Heyes. “Hannibal, you said he was seventeen or eighteen, not fifteen; how would you know that? And why don’t you think he’s a killer like Wheat says?”

Heyes thought hard, then answered carefully. “We rode together when we were kids, first out on our own; he’s a couple of years younger’n me. He was good with a gun even then, but didn’t have a reputation. We tried droving and hated it. So we traveled together making money as best we could; he’d win some in shooting contests and I’d make some playing poker. He’s pretty good at poker too – he can read a man better than anyone I’ve ever met. But eventually we parted ways. I joined the Plummer gang, then here, and I haven’t heard from him since. The Kid Curry I know is no killer. I don’t believe he’s changed that much. He may have killed, but he’s no killer. From what Wheat says he was alone and trying to protect a family against a number of armed men – that don’t sound like a stone-cold killer to me. Maybe he sounded angry because he was upset with the killing.”

“Why did you separate?”

“Don’t know; we were teenagers, kids really; these things happen.”

Big Jim turned at the door. “It doesn’t matter, we’re not likely to see him around and it doesn’t sound like someone we want to go looking for. Keep an eye out in town next week and let me know if you find any candidates for the gang.” Wheat looked at Heyes then stalked out after Jim. Heyes sighed sadly and lay back on his bed with his hands behind his head, remembering Kid Curry, wondering what had made him so angry the day Wheat met him, and wondering what Wheat would do if he found out they were cousins.

********



The gang rode in to Harlan’s Folly then separated to spend their money in their own ways. Harlan’s Folly was a “safe” town, making its money catering to the various gangs and outlaws in the area. Bounty hunters knew to avoid the town; they weren’t welcome. It could be downright dangerous for them and not just from the outlaws; the townsfolk didn’t take kindly to them, either. It was a rowdy town with a plentiful supply of gambling halls, brothels, and saloons. The gang loved it – here they could kick back, relax, and take care of their bodily needs.

Most of the gang headed straight for the sporting houses. Big Jim, Wheat, and Heyes checked in to one of the nicer hotels. Wheat offered to stand Big Jim to a steak dinner, clearly not including Heyes in the invitation. Heyes bathed, changed, and then headed out to find a game of poker away from any of the gang members.

Heyes had been playing for several hours and was winning. At first he’d played it safe, winning but not so much that the others would resent it. As he got involved in the game though, he forgot to be cautious. One man called Heyes a cheat, but when no one else at the table backed him, he swept up his remaining funds and left to go drown his sorrows at the bar. Heyes bought the table a round and settled back into the game, though he was more cautious now and made sure to lose occasionally.

Finally, Heyes stood up to take a break. As he headed to the door, the man who had called him a cheat grabbed his arm and swung him around. “Think you’re so smart do you?” he growled. “Well me and my friends have ways of dealing with cheats like you.” With that three men joined him and helped hustle Heyes out the door and down the street to a convenient alley.
Heyes knew he was in trouble; he looked desperately around for someone from the gang, but saw no one. “Look, I wasn’t cheating, I was just lucky, but tell you what, I’ll give you back the fifty dollars you lost and we’re even.”
“No, we’re not even till we teach you not to try to play a man’s game, boy.” With that, two of the men held Heyes while the other two started swinging at him. He was getting weaker, not sure how much more he could take, when he heard a voice, “Four on one don’t seem like very good odds to me. Why don’t we even it up some?”

Heyes tried to see who had spoken but couldn’t focus through the blood running in his eyes. A form stood at the end of the alley, looking in at the five of them. The voice was familiar but in his groggy-state Heyes couldn’t tell which of the gang it was.

The men holding him laughed. “Well look’a here, we got another boy don’t know to mind his own business and not mess with men. Four to two don’t seem like much better odds to me boy, so get going.”

“I count the odds differently. There’s the two of us and my six bullets against the four of you. NOW let him go and get out of here.” The men looked at the interloper, and dropped Heyes, who sank to the ground. They laughed and started to pull their guns, when suddenly two shots rang out and two of them dropped their guns, their hands stinging, while the other two found themselves staring into the business end of the same pistol before they could even draw. Heyes, who had regained his breath and stood up, drew his gun. “You heard the man, leave, and maybe we’ll let you live. Leave the guns where they are,” he added as the men bent to retrieve their weapons. The four men hastened out of the alley.

Just then, Wheat and Big Jim, walked up. They had caught the end of the confrontation and now looked at the two boys, who were staring at each other, grinning like idiots, Heyes with blood running down his face, a split lip, and rapidly blackening eye. Big Jim looked at Wheat – “He who I think he is?”

“Yeah, that’s Kid Curry.”

“Hannibal, get cleaned up, then you and Mr. Curry can join us at the Golconda Saloon,” Big Jim ordered.

“Come on, Heyes, you never could keep out of trouble. You gotta stop winnin’ so much, it’s plum annoyin’ to folks,” the Kid commented, swinging Heyes’s arm over his shoulder and helping him walk.

“Sure is good to see you Kid.”

******



The Kid sat on the bed, watching Heyes clean up, noting how he’d changed over the past year or so. Heyes was a boy no more. He had filled out some, though still lean, and hardened.

“… so, after Plummer disappeared, I headed out and eventually met Big Jim. He’s a good leader and a friend.” Heyes had been talking non-stop since they entered the room. He knew he had to handle this wisely. There was so much he wanted to say to the Kid, but somehow couldn’t, so he talked about anything, everything, to delay the inevitable. Finally, he straightened up and looked at the Kid. The Kid still looked young, but his eyes showed that he, too, had done a lot of growing up since Heyes had last seen him. If even half the stories he’d heard were true … but was Kid a killer now? Heyes didn’t think so; he hadn’t hurt any of the men beating Heyes. Of course, that could’ve been because he was still mad at Heyes. He had to find out.

“Kid, I’ve sure missed you. I don’t remember why we split, but if it was something I did, I’m sorry.”

The Kid stood up and leaned against the wall. “Heyes, I missed you too. Ran into your buddy there, Wheat”

“He’s not exactly my buddy.”

The Kid smiled. “Made that real clear while we were riding. Anyway through Wheat, I learned you were riding for Devil’s Hole, so I worked my way up here to see how you were doing.”

“I’m doing great Kid.”

“Yeah, I could see that.”

“No really, that was, that was … an exception.” Heyes couldn’t stop grinning, even though it hurt. Then he sobered and looked at the Kid. “Guess we should go join Big Jim and Wheat. You’ll like Jim, I think. Big Jim’s a good leader, and he listens to me. We’re getting quite the name up here. I got a $300 price on my head. Guess that’s nothing to be proud of but… Look Big Jim is looking for someone special, maybe you could ... That is if you want to? If you don’t, I understand.”

“What’s he looking for Heyes? I don’t hire out my gun.”

“We lost some men in the last job and Big Jim thinks if we had someone who was good with a gun and the guards knew it, we wouldn’t have problems with them anymore. But Big Jim don’t hold with killing, so he don’t want a killer.” Heyes paused and glanced sideways at Kid.

“You wonderin’ if I’m a killer?” The Kid asked sadly.

“No! Honest, I’m not. It’s just, Wheat told us how you met, said you killed two men and left them and the others lying there. And there’s all those stories about you.” He grinned for a moment, “I can’t believe there’s a dime novel about you.” Then he sobered. “Anyway, I said you weren’t a killer, but I know things’ve been hard. If you don’t want to try, I understand. If you’d rather, I’ll leave with you instead.” He paused a moment and looked away, not meeting Kid’s eyes. “I don’t want to lose you again.”

“Heyes…” the Kid began, stopped, and started again. “Heyes, I have killed. Those two weren’t the first, probably won’t be the last. If I can, I avoid shootin’, and I avoid killin’ when I have to shoot, but there were six of them and just me. I didn’t have time to be that precise. As to leavin’ them lyin’ there, we didn’t have time to bury them. I’ve learned to do what has to be done and move on. I don’t think about it.” 



Heyes could tell that last sentence was a lie.

“Anyway, yeah I’d consider joinin’ if no one expects me to kill. I,” he looked away from Heyes, “I don’t want to be apart anymore, Heyes.”

“Aw, Kid,” Heyes began, “Kid, let’s go talk to Big Jim and Wheat. At least it’s a start.”



(Message edited by Riders57 On 01/02/2012 4:22 PM)

Date Posted:01/02/2012 4:19 PM

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

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:40 pm

From Riders57:

Okay -- someone needs to post a story.


“A word to the wise ain’t necessary… it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.”  Bill Cosby
“And the truly stupid won’t take it.”  Riders57


The increasingly loud argument at the counter disturbed Kid Curry’s contemplation of the bullet selection.  Ignoring it, he chose and walked up to the counter to pay, winking at the embarrassed eleven or twelve-year old boy standing beside his arguing parents.

“Could this man be right?  Maybe we should wait for more wagons, but I want to get to our new home,” the woman shrilled.

“Eulalie, we are not staying in this one-horse town for a week!” shouted the man, turning red.  “This is just another attempt to take our money.  We’ll be fine; we have plenty of supplies and know the route out to the ranch.  Why in three days we can be there.”

“Mister,” the store-keeper tried again, “it ain’t like Ohio out here.  You don’t want to be traipsin’ around the country-side all by yourself.  There’s raiders here.  At least hire a guard to go with you.”

“Man’s right, you need a guard,” Kid Curry agreed as he slapped the boxes of bullets on the counter.  “How much I owe you?” he asked the store-keeper.

“That’ll be one dollar.”  Kid Curry placed a dollar on the counter.

The husband and wife looked him up and down, noting how young he was and how he carried his gun tied down.

“And I suppose you think we should hire a boy like you to guard us?” The man asked.  “Just how big a fool do you take me for?  You and this man are in it together, trying to con money by scaring the easterners.  No thank you.  I can take care of my own.  Come on Eulalie, Joe, let’s pack up.” 

The Kid’s eyes narrowed and turned cold, “Mister, you couldn’t pay me enough to work for you.”

The husband looked into a pair of icy eyes and shivered.  For the first time, he doubted the wisdom of traveling alone to their new home.  Then he hefted the sack of flour he’d bought, handed the other purchases to the boy and woman with him, and headed out the door to their wagon.  The boy looked back, then turned and followed his parents.

“Greenhorns,” the store-keeper sighed, watching them leave.  “Can’t tell such fools a darned thing, going to get themselves killed.”

“Yeah,” agreed Kid Curry, his eyes following the boy.

*****

Kid Curry stood at the bar.  Money was low so he drank slowly to make the beer last as long as possible.  As he drank, he watched four men walk in, order whiskey, and then join two others already sitting at a table.  His mouth turned down as he realized they were joining Ringo Larkin and that they, like Larkin, exuded the arrogance of men happy to use the guns they carried on their hips.  The Kid walked over and took a seat at a table nearby, but with his back to them.

“Hey Ringo, you wouldn’t believe what’s out there -- a nice little family heading out of town to their new home in a wagon all by their lonesome.  Wagon’s all piled high; woman’s pretty enough too.  Heck she’s a woman, ain’t she,” laughed one of the newcomers, as he pulled out a chair and straddled it.

“Yeah?” asked Ringo, “they got anything worth having?”

“Well I couldn’t get a good look, but they seemed plenty prosperous, and the woman would fetch a fair price across the border.”

“Might be worth investigating.”

The others murmured agreement.

“Drink up boys, sounds like we got work to do.  We can catch them at that dry creek bed about a day’s wagon drive from here.  Maybe they’ll be willing to share their good fortune with us,” he laughed.

Kid Curry turned his head, watching them leave.  He thought about the odds – six to one.  Larkin and his gang were rumored to be vicious killers, and there were more than those six available if Larkin needed them.  He didn’t need Larkin’s gang gunning for him, not while he was on his own that was sure.  He remembered how rude the father had been.  He didn’t owe that family anything; they had made it clear they didn’t want any help from him.  Still, that boy wasn’t much older than he and Heyes had been when they lost their families.  Maybe if someone had helped their families… 

Once again he wished Heyes were here to talk things over with.  Heyes would’ve come up with a plan.  But he hadn’t seen Heyes in a long time.  That parting had sure seemed necessary at the time, but now the reasons were beginning to seem pretty unimportant, and he missed having Heyes beside him.  Still, they’d parted company and nothing could change that.

 The bartender brought him a second beer.  He drank it slowly, thinking about Heyes, wondering where he was, and deciding what he should do now.  Finally, he decided.  He took the last swallow of beer and headed out.

****

At first he followed their tracks, but once he was certain of the spot where the raiders planned to attack, he took off cross country, angling towards the spot, hoping to get there in time.

*****

The wagon had stopped and the father and son were trying to fix a wheel that had come off.  They hadn’t reached the creek bed.  The Kid hoped he could make them turn back before the raiders came looking.  There wasn’t much time.

He raced towards them.

The man straightened up and stared incredulously at the boy racing into his camp.  “You!” he exclaimed angrily, “You probably did this, loosened the wheel, just so we’d hire you!”

“Mister,” snapped the Kid, “you have no time; you have to turn back.  Raiders followed you; they’re plannin’ to ambush you a little ways up ahead.  Just take the animals and get back to town.  You can get what’s left of your wagon later.”

The man reddened, glared at the Kid, then marched to the back of the wagon, and pulled out a shotgun.  The Kid relaxed slightly; the man was finally beginning to see sense.  The man turned and pointed the shotgun at the Kid.

“I am telling you for the last time, to leave my family alone.  We are not going to be taken in by your tricks.  There are no raiders.  We …”

A shot rang out and the man fell to his knees.  There was yelling and cursing and the raiders were upon them.  The young boy ran to his father’s side and snatched up the shotgun, and then he too fell as bullets began flying from the men riding up to them.

The Kid grabbed the woman and flung her under the wagon, then used the team hauling the wagon to protect his position.  He was firing as quickly as he could.  He dropped one raider, then another, ducked down and reloaded, then jumped up and managed to injure one of the raiders who was trying to get in close to the wagon to snatch the woman.  The raider screamed and fell from his horse, clutching his shoulder.  The other three men spun around and took off towards town.  The Kid fired a few more shots after them to ensure they kept going before moving from his position.

The woman ran over to her husband and son, screaming her son’s name and cradling his body.  Crying and shrieking, she sank to the ground, ignoring Kid Curry.

Kid Curry checked the men he’d shot.  His face tightened -- mouth in a grim line, eyes shadowed -- when he realized two were dead.  The third man, though wounded would probably live, so the Kid moved the man’s gun out of reach and left him some water.  He glanced at the family, then turned to the wagon and began to hunt through the contents…

“Leave that alone,” the woman screamed, “My husband died for us, you have no right to take anything.”

The Kid stared at her then resumed rummaging.  Suddenly he heard a noise.  Whirling around, he saw a rider come up.  He whipped out his own gun again and pointed it at the stranger, who stopped and put up his hands.

“Easy, boy.  I mean you no harm.  I saw the fighting from a distance and came to see if I could help.”

The Kid looked closely at the man, who seemed to be in his late twenties.  He was tall, mustached, and there was an air about him that made the Kid think this was not the most honest man he’d ever met – probably had a price on his head, somewhere – nevertheless, he did not appear threatening.  The Kid lowered his gun, and nodded.  The stranger dismounted and went over to the woman.  The Kid continued packing up all they could carry.

“Ma’am,” the Kid said, walking back to her, “Ma’am we can’t stay here.  The raiders will be back.  We need to leave right now.”

“No!” She screamed.  “No.  I can’t leave them.”

The stranger gently raised her from her position, putting her dead son back down.  “Ma’am, he’s right.  We’ll just bury your kin here, then …”

“No,” the Kid interrupted.  “There’s no time.  The raiders will be back, in bigger numbers; we have to go now.  Just get what you can carry, and I’ll get you to a safe town where you can catch a train home.”

The woman continued crying, making no move to leave.

Finally, the Kid picked her up; she began beating her fists against him.  He ignored her efforts and placed her on a raider’s horse.  When she tried to jump down, he grabbed her firmly and held her in place.  “I said the raiders will be back and they will be back soon.  We have to go,” he enunciated, at the end of his patience.  His head throbbed and he didn’t want to look at, or think about, the men he’d killed.  “I told you; we are leavin’ now.  We don’t have time to bury your men folk, who are dead through your husband’s own fool stubbornness – refusin’ to listen to good advice.  I’m tellin’ you, it won’t matter to your husband or son if they’re buried; they’ll still be dead.” 

He pulled out his gun and pointed it at her, “Now you come with me right now, or I will kill you where you sit.  You do not want those raiders to get you; you’re better off comin’ with me or dyin’ right here.”

His outburst stunned her into submission.  He let go and swung up onto his own horse.

“Hey,” the stranger said, “no cause to be like that, boy.  The woman just lost her family for pity’s sake.”

The Kid turned and pointed his gun at him.  “You got two choices, Mister.  You can come with me or you can stay here and hold off the raiders for as long as possible.  We are leavin’.”  He holstered his gun again, grabbed the reins of the woman’s horse, and headed off.

The stranger gulped, looked after them and around the wagon, and then swung up on his horse and joined them.

*****

They rode for several hours.  Throughout the ride the woman occasionally wept, but never said a word.  The stranger rode between the two looking as if he’d like to say something, but thought better of it.  The Kid was grateful for the silence and confined his talking to the minimum – giving directions as he and the stranger muddled their trail to confuse anyone following them.  He wished the woman would stop crying; he hated the sound; it reminded him of how he’d failed the son.  Finally, the stranger looked at the Kid and said, “Boy, I’m pretty sure we have lost them by now.  Let’s find a place to make camp.  I don’t think she can ride any farther tonight.”

The Kid looked over.  In the light of the setting sun, he saw that the woman looked spent and was swaying in the saddle, clinging to the horn to stay on.  He nodded and pointed to a small grove of trees.  “There’s water over there; we’ll stop there for the night, then move out at the first light.  No fire and you and I will split the watches.”

Soon they had reached the grove and set up camp.  The three sat down and the Kid handed around some jerky. 

“Maybe we should introduce ourselves,” the stranger said, “I’m Wheat Carlson, and Ma’am you are?”

“What?  Oh.  Mrs… Mrs… I’m Eulalie Berenson,” the woman said then began to cry quietly again.  She turned away from the two men.

“Name’s Curry.”

Wheat’s eyes widened. “I heard of you.  You got some reputation with that gun.  After today, I believe it.”  He looked at the Kid more closely, seeing just how young he appeared.  “No wonder they call you Kid,” he muttered.

He glanced up quickly, “No offense meant.”

“None taken.”

*****

After Eulalie had cried herself to sleep, Wheat turned to the Kid.

“I got some whiskey.  You want a drink?”

“Thanks.”

“Here.  That was some fancy shooting back there.”  Wheat took a big gulp then poured himself another.   

The Kid stared in the distance and sipped his.

“I’ve seen shooting before, but that was something special.”  He took another large gulp, and one more. 

“You any good with that gun you’re wearing?”

“Oh sure, back in Wyoming, I ride with a gang – or I used to.”

Wheat glanced at the Kid to see his reaction to this news, but couldn’t tell from his face.

“Why’d you leave?”

“Oh, Big Jim brought in this upstart – Heyes -- just Heyes.  Supposedly rode with another outfit before.  Always mouthing off, thinks he knows everything, and Big Jim’s thinking he doesn’t need me anymore.  I saw which way the wind was blowing.”

He took another gulp.   “Yeah this Heyes thinks he knows everything, always making “suggestions” on how to do stuff better.  Shoot, I got better ideas than him, but Big Jim don’t ask my opinion hardly ever anymore.  So I figured I’d head on out, do better elsewhere.”

The Kid shot him a quick glance then looked down at his cup.  “Said you rode in Wyoming.  Guess you’ve killed men too?” the Kid probed.

“No.  I can handle a gun just fine, so don’t be thinking of trying anything.  In the gang we don’t shoot ‘less we have to.  Shooting makes the posses real determined.  We do okay though.  Big Jim’s a good leader.  Funny, the Hole – that’s our hide-out, Devil’s Hole – ain’t much, but it kind’a seems like home.”  Wheat looked off.  “Well if we’re going to take turns standing watch, I’ll take first watch.”

The Kid walked over to his bedroll.  “Wake me in two hours.”  But when Wheat went to wake him, he was already awake, lying there staring at the sky.

*****

It was mid-day before they could see the outskirts of a town.  The Kid halted the three of them.

“That’s Santiago,” he pointed.  “They have a train there.  I won’t go with you.  Some folks there’re lookin’ for me.  Wheat, you take Mrs. Berenson on in.  She can report what happened to the sheriff and he’ll see she gets back to family.”  He handed Eulalie the money he had found hidden in the wagon, minus a ten-dollar fee, turned, and rode off.

*****

Four months later …

“… eighty, one-hundred, one-twenty -- that’s your share Curry.  You sure you won’t stay?  We’d be happy to have you permanent like.”

“Thanks, Red, but no,” the Kid responded.  “I’ve got to go look up an old friend.”

“Old friend, huh?  Must be important to leave this.”

“He is.”

“Where you heading?”

“Wyoming.”

“Watch your back up there.  If it gets too cold, you’re welcome here anytime.”

“Thanks, Red.  Bye men, good luck.”

The Kid tucked away his share of the loot, cinched his horse’s girth, mounted, and headed north.
 



(Message edited by Riders57 On 01/26/2012 1:11 PM)

Date Posted:01/26/2012 11:44 AM

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

http://commentaryasaj.blogspot.com/
http://asjmoviewesternsetc.blogspot.com/


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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:49 pm

From Penski:


Fools Rush In

Heyes and Kid slowly rode down the street of Buffalo Springs taking in the buildings and people of the small town.

Passing the jail, Kid rolled his eyes and said under his breath, “Don’t ya hate that – their sheriff don’t have his name posted outside.  That ain’t very helpful.”

Heyes heard and chuckled.  “Guess the town’s folks know who the sheriff is and most folks going through don’t care.”

“Well, I care!”

“And you ain’t like most folks, either.”

“Just hafta be careful til we know.”  Kid got off his horse near the livery.

“That goes without saying.”  Heyes stretched, once his feet hit the ground, and handed his reins to his partner.  “How about you taking care of the horses and I’ll go to the bank and make change from that $20 gold piece we got from the last job?”

“Sure.  Meet in the saloon?”  Kid removed his saddlebags and took the reins.

“Yeah, a drink sounds good.”

Heyes strolled across the street and entered the small bank.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Earlier, in the saloon, two men sighed as they walked away from the poker table.

The gambler laughed, “Maybe next time you won’t lose everything, boys!”

“Joe, that was the money from my two chickens!  You said you was gonna win and get me double!  Now what am I gonna tell the missus?”

“Sorry, Fred, I shouldn’t have gambled it all, but I had a good hand.  How was I to know he’d beat three queens?” Joe grumbled as they made their way to the bar.  “Frank, can you get me and Fred a beer?”

Frank, the bartender, handed both dejected men beers.  “It’s on the house this time, boys.”  He shook his head as he walked away to the other side of the counter.  “Dang gamblers,” he muttered.

Fred and Joe took their beer and sat at a corner table.

“Now what am I gonna do?”  Fred sighed.

“We’ll think of something.”  Joe said as he sipped his beer.

“The missus will wring my neck, that’s for sure.  And I deserve it.”  Fred shook his head forlorn.  “Should never have let you talk me into givin’ you money.”

“Maybe… Maybe we can rob the bank.”

“Rob the bank!?  Why?”

“That’s where the money is.”  Joe finished his beer.  “Well, it was just a thought.  I got enough change – I’m buyin’ this round.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Heyes patiently waited in line for the teller as the customer informed her friend about the upcoming bake sale at the church.

“Gladys, I really should get back to work.”  She nodded behind her friend.  “There’s a customer waiting.”

Gladys turned around to face Heyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry!  I didn’t hear you come in.”

Heyes tipped his hat.  “No harm done.  Sounds like a successful bake sale being planned there.  He made it up to the counter when…

The door flew open.  “DON’T NOBODY MOVE – THIS HERE IS A ROBBERY!”

Two armed men, one with a red and one with a blue bandana hiding their faces, rushed into the bank brandishing their guns.

Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head.  Slowly turning around to face them, he held up his hands.

“Mr. Jackson, put all the money the bank’s money in… in my hat!” demanded the red bandana robber.

Mr. Jackson, the bank’s manager, hesitantly took the hat.  “In the hat?” 

“In the hat… Didn’t come prepared with a bag,” Heyes muttered.

“You heard me – in my hat – or I’ll shoot…”

BANG!

The blue bandana’s gun smoked as the folks got down on the floor – all but Heyes and the robbers.

“Now why’d you do that for, Fred?”

“I thought you said to shoot.”

Heyes shook his head.  “Now the sheriff’ll know the bank’s being robbed.  And you shouldn’t use your names, either.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kid was about to enter the saloon when he heard the gunshot.  Hand hovering over his gun, he glanced around.  “Sheesh, Heyes, turn my back for a moment and you’re in trouble.”  Pulling out his gun, he furtively ran into a dark alley toward the bank.

Watching the bank from a corner, Kid waited until the sheriff and his deputies came running.  After giving each of them a quick look and determining he had never seen any of them, he waited impatiently to see what would unfold.

“This is Sheriff Daniels and we have the bank surrounded.  Come out with your hands up!”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

“Joe, it’s the sheriff.  Now what do we do?”  The blue bandana robber looked out the window.

Joe looked around.  “Well, we could use Gladys here for a hostage and get out.”

Gladys began to wail and her friend hugged her.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Kid made his way to the bank near a window and pressed his back against the side.

“Now what in tarnation do you think you’re doing, young man?” the sheriff yelled out.

Kid motioned for the man to be quiet and stole a look into the bank.  He hurried over to the sheriff. 

“Who do you think you are?  You could’ve gotten killed!” the sheriff reprimanded.

Curry ignored the comment.  “There’s two of ‘em in there with guns.  Two women, a banker, and my partner.”

“Anyone appear to be hurt?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“What’s your plan?” Kid asked.

“Wait to see what they do.”

“Wait!?”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Heyes put his arms down.  “This your first robbery, fellas?”

Fred nodded.  “How could you te…”

“No!” Joe brandished his weapon.  “And I didn’t say you could put your hands down.  Get ‘em back up.”

“Quit waving that gun around.  Someone is likely to get killed.”  Heyes put his arms up half way.  “And it don’t help to threaten the women folks – gets them all upset like that.”

“Mr. Jackson, is it?” Heyes questioned.  “Might you know these two outlaws?  They seem to know you and Gladys.”

Mr. Jackson stared at the robbers.  “Is that you, Joe Grady and Fred Turner?”

“Robbing your own bank.”  Heyes put his arms down again.  “What were you thinking?”

Fred pulled down his blue bandana.  “Joe here gambled away all the money I got for my chickens.  I couldn’t go home empty-handed.  The missus would’ve killed me.”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Joe pulled down his bandana.  “Besides, that gambler was a crook.  He was cheatin’!  I just know he was!”

 “And now you’re in bigger trouble.  Do you know what the sentence is for robbing a bank?” Heyes asked them.

Fred put his gun away and walked up to the women.  “We wouldn’t have hurt ya none, Gladys.  Sorry to scare ya so.”

Gladys nodded an acceptance to the apology as she continued to sniffle.

“We’re sorry, Mr. Jackson, we really are!” Joe said, still waving the gun around.

“Would you put that way before you hurt someone?”  Heyes said in his outlaw leader voice.

Joe immediately holstered his gun.

“Well, I guess no harm done.”  Heyes handed the money to the banker and the hat to Joe.  “Money is still safe.  Desperation will make a man do just about anything.”

“Alotta truth in that,” Mr. Jackson agreed.  “But there is still the sheriff outside.”

Heyes put on a charming smile.  “How about we all forget about this and give Fred and Joe a second chance?”

Fred and Joe looked at each other.

Heyes walked over to the ladies, who were frowning.  “Maybe Joe and Fred could talk their wives into making a few items for the bake sale.”

Gladys and the teller turned to each other.

“Well, Mrs. Turner does make a delicious chocolate cake,” Gladys pointed out.
Fred nodded.  “It’s her ma’s recipe.”

“And I do love Mrs. Grady’s sugar cookies.  They about melt in your mouth.”  The teller was now smiling.

“They sure do.  It’s a secret how she does it.”  Joe smiled hopefully.

Heyes smiled and walked over to Mr. Jackson.  “What do you say?  Give the fellas here a second chance?”

The banker tilted his head as he pondered.  “Well, as long as they promise not to do anything so foolhardy again.”

Joe nodded.  “Oh, I promise!”

“Never again!” Fred cheerfully added and then he sighed.  “But, there’s still me havin’ to face the missus ‘bout the money from the chickens.  She might be so mad she’ll refuse to bake that cake.”

Heyes furrowed his brow.  “Now that is a problem.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

“Sheriff, how long you figurin’ on waitin’?” an impatient Curry asked.  “We haven’t heard a word from inside.”

“As long as it takes.  Can’t rush these things when there’s hostages involved.  You just stay put!”

“But…”

“Just be ready to shoot, men, when they do appear.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *
“Exactly how much money did you lose, Fred?”  Heyes asked.

“Eight dollars.”

Heyes looked dumbfounded.  “Eight dollars?!  You robbed a bank because of eight dollars?”

“Hey, like you said, I was desperate!  You don’t know the missus!” Fred defended himself.  “Besides, it was Joe’s idea.”

Mr. Jackson smiled.  “I’ll tell you what; Mrs. Jackson volunteered me to set-up for the bake sale and then clean up the church.  I’d be willing to hire you, Joe and Fred, to do that work and a few other things around my house.  I have a shed that needs painting.”

“You’d pay us eight dollars to do that?” Joe asked incredulously.

“Well worth it to me to have an enjoyable Sunday to myself reading a book.”

“Well, seems like everyone is happy, right?”  Heyes looked around the room and saw the people agreeing.

“And Gladys, me and Fred would be willin’ to work in that kissin’ booth you always have for the bake sale, if it’d help.”

Gladys raised an eyebrow.  “Thank you, Joe, but I don’t think that’d be proper since you are married.  However, if you’re not married…” She smiled at Heyes.

“As much as I would love to be part of a kissing booth, my partner and I will be having to leave soon.”  Heyes walked over to the door.  “I’ll go explain to the sheriff that about the misunderstanding .”  He opened the door, raised his hands, and walked out of the bank.

"Wise man, that fella.  Made everyone happy,” said the banker. 

“Sure is,” agreed Joe.  “Could'a been facin' a long sentence in jail.”

Fred nodded an agreement.  “Missus would'a killed me for sure if I had come home locked up.”

Mr. Jackson rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  “Seemed to know about robbing banks, though.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

The door to the bank slowly opened and all guns pointed towards the man walking out with his hands up.

“Don’t shoot!  That’s my partner!” Curry shouted.

“Put your guns down, men!” the sheriff ordered.

Heyes smiled and made his way from the bank towards the sheriff walking to him. 

"It was all a misunderstanding,” Heyes insisted as the others emerged from the bank.  “Joe here was showing me his gun and it went off; scared the ladies some...Jackson here too...but we're all fine!”

The sheriff looked over to the banker.  “Mr. Jackson?”

“Happened just like he said, Sheriff.  In fact, we were busy talking about the bake sale coming up on Sunday and didn’t realize you had the building surrounded until this customer saw the guns aimed at the bank when he was leaving.”

The sheriff scowled.  “Well, if you’re sure.”

The banker smiled.  “I assure you everything is fine.”

Kid met Heyes in front of the bank.  “You okay?”

“Yeah; thirsty.  How about that drink?”  Heyes patted Kid on the arm.

They walked into the saloon and Heyes ordered whiskeys.  After quickly downing those, they ordered another round and sat at a table in the corner.
Joe and Fred came up to their table.

“We just wanted to thank you, again,” Joe shook Heyes’ hand.  “We’d buy you a drink, but…”

“Yeah, thank you so much for everything you done.”  Fred faced Curry.  “You sure have a wise partner, there.”

Kid smiled.  “I know, but don’t tell him – liable to get a big head about it.”

As the men left, Heyes shook his head.

“Wanna tell me what really happened in there?” Curry asked before taking a sip of whiskey.

“Amateurs!”  Heyes leaned forward.  “They were fools rushing in like that… Robbing a bank takes planning; it takes finesse.” 

“And the banker is looking over here,” Kid interrupted.  “Maybe you better finish that story later.”

“Sounds like a wise plan to me.  Hey, me being wise is rubbing off on you, Thaddeus.”

“Right.”  Kid rolled his eyes as he stood up.  “Let’s go.”

“Right behind ya, partner.”  Heyes grabbed his hat, nodded to the banker, and followed Kid out of the saloon.


Date Posted:01/27/2012 7:15 PM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:51 pm

From Frisgogirl:


 
The Beautiful Town of Beaufort

Beaufort.  A nice looking town.  As Heyes and Curry rode down the main street late in the afternoon, they were struck by how tidy things were.  Well swept boardwalks;  a nice little park bursting with flowers.  Fresh paint on the storefronts.

“Someone has things under control,” Heyes commented as they pulled up in front of the town’s only hotel.  “Wonder if there’s work to be found.”

Curry yawned.  “Mebbe.  First, a beer.  Then…”

Heyes chuckled.  “Then a steak….”

The partners grinned at each other.

The hotel clerk snapped to attention as they wearily signed for a room.  

“Any chance for a bath?” Heyes asked hopefully.

“Yes sir!” the clerk replied.  “I’ll have it brought right up.”

Heyes nodded gratefully and took the key.

“And you need to look at this,” the clerk said hesitantly, handing them a piece of paper. 

“What’s this?” asked Curry, surpressing a yawn.  It had been a hard day’s ride.  He was looking forward to a soft mattress and a good night’s sleep.

“Rules.”

“Rules?” Heyes asked skeptically.

“We like to keep things peaceable,” the clerk said vaguely.  “Just so’s you know.”

“We’re peaceable kind of folks,” Heyes said with a grin, and they repaired to their room.


They’d no sooner sat down for supper when a man with a star strode toward them, accompanied by two stern looking deputies.  Heyes brought the fork down from his mouth and eyed the men warily.

“Get to your feet,” the man with the badge snapped.  The two deputies pulled their guns and looked like they were ready to use them.

Heyes and Curry looked at each other dumbfounded, and slowly obeyed.

“What’s wrong, Sheriff? “ Heyes asked.  “We’re just having a meal here.”

Swiftly, the two deputies took their guns from their holsters.

“I’m afraid you’ve broken some of the town regulations,” the sheriff said with an unfriendly smile.  “You were given the list when you checked in, were you not?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged puzzled looks.  “”Yeah,” Heyes said.  “We haven’t had a chance to read it over yet.  We were real hungry.”

“Too bad,” the sheriff said with an ill-disguised smirk.   He nodded to his two companions.  “Take them.”

Heyes and Curry had little choice but to obey.


Next thing they knew they were standing in what looked like a courtroom, before three stern-looking men sitting at a table. 

“Names?” the one in the middle demanded.

“Joshua Smith.”

“Thaddeus Jones.”

“I doubt that very much.”   He stared down at some papers before him.  
     
Heyes tried to be conciliatory.  “Lots of folks named Smith and Jones, sir.”

The man shrugged and began to read from the paper he was holding. 

“Improper stabling of horses.  Wearing sidearms.  Speaking back to town officials.”
He glanced up.  “Gentlemen, we are the town elders of Beaufort.  We’re called The Wise Men.  We are what stands for a court system here, and it’s our responsibility to keep this town peaceful, clean and prosperous.  Visitors who fail to obey our rules must pay back the community.”    The other two men nodded in agreement as he put the paper down onto the table.   

“Four days town service.”

Curry and Heyes exchanged astounded looks.  

“What?” Heyes protested.  “What have we done?”

“FIVE  days town service.”   The elder glared at them, daring them to protest. Heyes and Curry exchanged a baffled look, but decided to keep their mouths shut. The town elder got to his feet.   “Starting tomorrow.”

The marshall took the stunned ex-outlaws back to the jail.  He opened up a cell and motioned them inside.  “Take off your clothes,” he ordered.

“What?”  Curry protested.

“Another day’s service for questioning authority,” the sheriff snapped, and the two deputies nodded. “Make note of that,” he ordered them.

Heyes and Curry stared, and then slowly unbuttoned their shirts and dropped them to the floor.   Their boots and trousers came next, leaving them standing only in their long johns.

The sheriff nodded.  “That’ll do.”    One of the deputies handed over bright orange shirts and trousers with “Beaufort” stenciled on the back.

“Put these on, “ he snapped.

Heyes and Curry exchanged horrified looks but hesitated to say anything that would add a day to their “service.” 
     
“You will not wear shoes,” the sheriff continued. “Bare feet make it harder to try to make a run for it.  The only thing I want to hear out of your mouths are “yes sir” , “I am too stupid to know, sir,” and “permission to speak, sir.”    Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” they both muttered.

“Good.  Six days service, gentleman.  Obey the rules, and you’ll be on your way. ”

“See you in the morning, boys,” he chuckled.  The key locking the cell had never sounded more final.

After he left, a man they hadn’t noticed before straightened up in the far cell. Like them, he was clad in orange clothing. “Am I ever glad to see you boys,” he said wryly.

“Who are you?” asked Curry.

“Don’t matter who I am.  I’ve been here a spell.  Kinda lost track of time.  They locked me up for spitting on the sidewalk.  Got one day.  Then they kept finding things to add time for.  Thinks it’s been a few weeks now.”

“A few WEEKS!” Heyes exclaimed.  “For spitting?””

The man nodded.  “The way I figure it, the town has figured out a cheap way for free labor.  They haul in strangers and keep them for awhile until they can replenish the stock.”

“Huh?”  Curry was baffled.

“When they locked me up, they freed another fellow who was here.  Now that you two have arrived, I’m hopin’ it’s my turn to go.  They only want who’s needed to do the work.  And there’s only so many they can keep an eye on.”

“That makes no sense,” Heyes said.

“Makes a lot of sense, if you see it through their eyes,” the man said patiently.  “You notice how neat and tidy the town is?” The partners nodded.  “Their ‘guests’ keep it that way.  People in town who need a hand with repairs and things get free work.  And trust me, they’ll keep you busy.”

“What if we decide not to go along?” asked Curry.

The man grimaced.  “Friendly word of advice.  They ain’t gonna treat you bad. You’ll get fed and they won’t push you around.  But the more you act stubborn, the more days they keep piling on.”

“Seems like they’ll pile on days anyway until they find us a replacement,” Heyes muttered.

“That they will,” the stranger snorted.  “So mark my advice and suck it up until another poor stranger finds his way to this beautiful town.”


The next morning Heyes and Kid were aroused by an unpleasant clanging against the cell bars.

“You men sleep well?”   One of the deputies was standing outside the cells.

Three muttered “yes sirs” responded.

“Good.”   He pulled a key from the desk and walked over to the man in the other cell.  “Your salvation has come, Emory,” he said with a smile.  “Time reduced for good behavior.”

“Thank you, sir!”   Emory wasted no time and quickly changed into his own clothes the deputy handed him.  He nodded briefly to Heyes and Curry and hurried out the door.   

The deputy surveyed his new prisoners keenly.  “Ok, fellas, here’s how it works.  In a few minutes,  breakfast arrives.  I’ll bring you soap and water to clean up.  Then you’re going to work.  Hard work is honored in Beaufort.  Slack work is punished. Are you willing to work?”

Heyes sighed.  “Yes sir.”

Curry sighed.  “Yes sir.”

The deputy preened.  “Good.”

He re-emerged a few minutes later with a bucket of water and soap.  The partners exchanged resigned glances and did as they were told.  Breakfast, brought  by a young woman who smiled shyly at them as she passed the tray through the cell door opening.  It  was surprisingly good.  Hot oatmeal with bread and coffee.  Even a side of bacon.

At least they wouldn’t starve, Curry reflected gratefully.

When they had finished the deputy was back with the key. “This morning we need to clean out the town stable.”

The man kept his gun in hand and watched them with a no-nonsense eye as he led them to the livery, where they were handed shovels and rakes and told to clean out the half dozen stalls.   It was sweaty work as the summer sun strengthened in the sky.  While the deputy lazed under a shaded overhang,  Heyes and Curry swept out the stalls, then brushed and curried the horses, including their own,  under the exacting orders of the stable manager, a wizened man of indefinable age with a stubbled beard and cloudy brown eyes.   “Glad you could come, boys,” he said generously.  “My man was sick this morning.  Don’t know how I’d a dun the work without ya.”

Heyes stared at the man uncomprehendingly.  Didn’t anyone in this town figure there was something wrong with slave labor?
       
The sun was almost setting before the man grunted that the work was done.

As they were marched back to their cells, Heyes’ mouth was so dry he could barely swallow.  Curry felt like someone had dug a pit in his stomach; they hadn’t been fed anything at mid day. 

The cool darkness of the cell came as a relief.  Heyes sat on his bunk and rubbed his sore feet while Curry leaned against the bars lost in thought.  Soon the girl from the café arrived with plates of fried chicken, corn and two tin cups of water.   After they ate the deputy appeared with another bucket of water and soap.

“Get your feet clean, and then it’s lights out,” he ordered.

They’re killing us with kindness,  Heyes thought bitterly, but relished the cool water relief. 

The next morning came just as the day before.  The same pretty girl carrying   breakfast of eggs and bread with an apple.

“Feeling ready for work this morning?“ the deputy asked jovially as he took the tray.

“Yes, sir,” Heyes muttered.  

Curry glared.  “Yes, sir.”

The deputy returned the glare.  “Watch that attitude, boy, or you’ll get some added time.  For now this is just a warning.  Do you get my meaning?”

Curry put on a neutral face as he saw Heyes’ silent message to take it easy.  “Yes, sir.”

“Good!  We have some fences to mend.  Honest day’s work.”

The sheriff came in and inspected his two prisoners. “I hear you did good work, yesterday.  Keep it up and you’ll be out on schedule.  Five more days,” he reminded them, and walked over to his desk to pour himself some coffee.   The deputy fastened a handcuff to Heyes’ left hand and Curry’s right, and then they were nudged out the back door where they found a wagon and driver waiting.   

“Get aboard,” the deputy ordered.  The partners awkwardly obeyed.  Once they settled in the deputy attached another cuff to Heyes right hand and fastened it to the side of the wagon.

“Can’t have you jumping off,” he said.

They rode for what seemed to be at least five miles over a rutted road before pulling up to a farmhouse.  Heyes eyed the tidy barn and sturdy paddocks, and wondered sourly how much forced labor kept it that way.

“Get down.  Lively now!” the deputy snapped after unlocking cuff from the wagon, and Heyes and Curry jumped to the ground.  

A man came out of the shadows of the barn and shook hands with the deputy.  “Thanks for the workers, Sam,” he said, completely ignoring the two orange-clad prisoners.

“Any time,” the deputy said and unlucked the handcuffs.  Heyes rubbed his wrists,  trying to keep sour thoughts from his eyes.

The farmer tossed Heyes and Curry some well worn gloves.  “If you’re smart, you’ll wear these.  Barbed wire ain’t friendly to hands.”

The two men nodded, but dared not say anything.  Five days seemed like an eternity, and they didn’t want to do anything to add on time to their sentence.

The farmer ordered them to load up to large bales of barbed wire and the tools needed to do the work.  


Ten sweaty hours later they pulled back up to the jailhouse.  Curry sighed in relief as he collapsed onto the bunk.  Another day without breaking one of the stupid rules.  Maybe they’d get through this after all.

Suddenly the office door banged open and one of the deputies was pushing in two teenagers who seemed a bit worse for the drink.  They were squirming and protesting under his firm grip.  “We didn’t do nothin’!  We was just havin’ a party!”

“Well the party’s over, boys.  You’re gonna be our guests for awhile.”

Curry and Heyes exchanged hopeful looks, and weren’t disappointed when the deputy pulled a different key off a hook behind the desk and opened their cell.

“You’re in luck, boys.  Your replacements have arrived.”  


The partners wasted no time in getting reclaiming their horses.   They rode for several miles before pulling over under some shade trees and wearily dismounting.

“What a god awful place,”  Curry said and took a swig from his canteen.

Heyes slapped his hat against his leg and scowled.  “We got lucky, Kid.  They could have found a way to keep us there for a long, long time.”

Curry raised an eyebrow.  “So I shouldn’t be glad they didn’t?”

“No! We should feel mad!  I want to give those so-called “Wise Men” a taste of their own medicine.”

Curry reached out and grabbed his partner’s arm.  “I don’t like what you’re thinkin’, Heyes.  No way do I want to go back in there and risk getting hauled in again.”

Heyes’ eyes were dark as coal dust, and Curry knew he wasn’t going to talk him out of this.  He sighed.  “So, what’s the plan?”


They waited until midnight to ride back into Beaufort, taking the back alley behind a deserted residential street. Heyes reined in behind what looked like the grandest house on the block.  “I’m bettin’ he lives here,” he whispered.

They tiptoed quietly to the back door, which Heyes deftly opened with his lock pick. At the top of the stairs they found the bedroom.   Heyes saw the chief Wise Man snoring peacefully into his pillow.  Heyes carefully removed the case from an unused pillow, and pulled it over the elder’s head, knotting it tightly under his chin. The man started up with a yelp.

“Shut up!” Heyes whispered.  “Or you’re gonna start feelin’ a lot worse real soon.”

The man froze.  “Who are you?”  he stammered.

“Shut up!  The only words I want to hear from you are ‘yes sir, no sir, or I’m too stupid to know sir.”

Curry had found the man’s longjohns in the cabinet by the bed, and put them in the elder’s hands.  “Put these on,” he hissed.  “You’re comin’ with us.”

The man was almost whimpering as he undid his nightshirt and pulled on the garments.  Curry and Heyes pushed him none too gently down the stairs, and then tied him over Curry’s horse. Curry mounted behind Heyes, and they walked their mounts quietly out of town.

When they reached their campsite they dumped the elder unceremoniously to the ground.  He lay there shaking while Heyes efficiently bound his hands behind him and tied his ankles together.  

“You lie there and shut up,” he hissed.  “In the morning we’re going to put you to work.”


With the first light of dawn, Heyes roused their prisoner, untied him and pulled off the pillowcase.   He blinked around him with frightened eyes as Heyes hauled him to his feet.  “Me and my partner are hungry,”  he said.  “Your job is to cut up some kindling and make a nice fire.  Then get the coffee going.  My partner is out hunting up breakfast….”   A shot interrupted him and Heyes grunted in satisfaction.  “Then you’re gonna skin whatever he caught and fix the food.  Got it?”

The man nodded his head jerkily, and scurried to obey.  Heyes bit back a smile as he watched the overweight man gather up kindling and with shaking fingers managed to get the match lit.  He glanced up as Curry walked back into the campsite carrying a rabbit.   Curry tossed the animal to their “guest”.   

“Skin it and gut it,” he ordered.  “Let’s hope you know how.”

The partners spent the morning finding things for their unwilling guest to perform.  He  fried the rabbit and ground the coffee,  fed and watered the horses and then curried them.  He gathered more kindling for later in the day.  Heyes gave him a cloth and ordered him to clean up the saddles and the rest of their gear.

The man was sweating by the time the sun was high in the sky, and his puffy cheeks were red from exertion.  He stood before Heyes and Curry panting, waiting bleakly for more orders.

The partners exchanged another look and Heyes nodded.  “You sit down on that log there,” he ordered, while Curry gathered up their gear and proceded to saddle their mounts.   Before long they were packed up and ready to go.  Heyes turned to the elder, who was slumped over his knees.

“We’re leavin’ now,” he said flatly.  The man looked at him warily, and Heyes took hold of his reins.  “You’re not goin’ with us.  You’re gonna walk back into town.  And while you’re walkin’ I want you to think over this morning, and how it feels to be forced to do other peoples’ work without any say in the matter.”

Heyes carefully mounted, and stretched his back.  “And in case you haven’t learned your lesson, we’re going to wire a sheriff we know.  He’ll send someone to Beaufort to make sure you don’t get away with mistreating any more visitors passing through your miserable town.” Heyes’ eyes were cold as they bored into the elder’s frightened ones.      

The man nodded jerkily, and the two ex-outlaws spurred their horses and rode away. 



(Message edited by Frisgogirl On 01/28/2012 11:37 AM)

Date Posted:01/28/2012 11:36 AM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:24 pm

From Silverkelpie:


I couldn't make one wiser than the other so I've written this simple tale of two ex-outlaws, an old couple, a big bag of cash and a kangaroo.  At 2,998 it just fits the word count.

Old Age and Treachery

“Old Matthews is dead.”  Charles Clutterbuck put down his newspaper and stared at his wife over the table.  “There’s an announcement in the paper.”

“Eric?” she asked.

“Yes.  His funeral’s next week, Beryl.”

“How sad,” the man’s wife replied.  “You never really got on with him, did you?”

The sunlight glistened off thick, white hair as the old man shook his head.  “He wanted you Beryl.  He never got over you.”

Heyes smiled sympathetically at the old man.  “We’re happy to take you both in the wagon.  I know that neither of you ride anymore.”

“If I could mount a horse I wouldn’t need to have you two here to fix the place up.  I could have kept on top of the jobs myself.  The most I can manage is my morning stroll into town.”

His wife clasped his wrinkled hand, her hair as grey as the ashes of a neglected fire.  “Yes.  We have a routine.  First, we go past the school, where we first met.  Then we go to the store and have a chat with Betty Hall.  She gets lonely since her husband died,” she gave them a conspiratorial wink.  “Although, one look at her and you can guess what from.”

Kid shot a look of confusion at Heyes, who simply grinned.  They were still getting used to their employers’ peculiarities.  Mr. Clutterbuck was given to periods of senile confusion, while his wife was eccentrically simple.  But nature has a way of balancing things out.  Her portrait on the wall showed that she had been a stunning redhead, with burning, green eyes and perfect bone structure.  He clearly hadn’t married her for her conversational skills.
  


She lifted away the cups.  “Charles tries to keep his mind active.   He reads the newspaper, books, just about anything.  He’s reading Shakespeare at the moment.”

“Shakespeare?  Really?” Heyes gave them a look of real interest.  “I like to read.  Which one?”

“William,” she replied.  “Are you finished with that plate?”

**********

“We’ll be social piranhas.”

Kid stared blankly at his etymologically challenged employer.  “Huh?”

“Nobody will believe all that money just fell out of the hay loft,” the old lady shook her grey head, causing her round spectacles to drop to the end of her pert, little nose.  “It nearly hit my Charles on the head.  He might have got percussion.”

Heyes looked down at the leather bag stuffed with banknotes.  “It’s obviously stolen.  Someone stashed it here.”

“But who?” fluttered Mrs. Clutterbuck.  “They’ll think it was us! Charles and I branded as felons at our age.  I’ll never survive in prison.”

The outlaws exchanged a meaningful look.  “I doubt if you’ll be the prime suspects,” Heyes ran a hand distractedly through his hair.  “We need to hand this in to the authorities.  They’ll know it was hidden here.  Nobody would suspect you for a second.”

“But we’ll be incinerated!”

Charles Clutterbuck grinned fondly at his batty, little wife.  “Beryl, the word is incarcerated and nobody is going to believe that you and I stole that money.  We can hardly make it into town, let alone hold anybody up.”  He frowned, the furrowed brow echoing his crinkly, white hair.  “I’ve got no idea where it might have come from.  There must be at least a thousand dollars here.”

“Has there been a robbery around here?” asked Kid.

“Not for at least fifteen years,” replied Charles.  “Around the time I retired.  It can’t be from that.  There isn’t enough.”

“It could be someone’s share of the loot,” Heyes glanced at the hayloft.  “When were you last up there?”

“Oooh, ten years or so.  I haven’t been fit enough for a long time.”

The partners exchanged a glance, both understanding the same unspoken thought.  These old folks lived hand to mouth.  There was no way that they would live in such straightened circumstances if they knew they had access to this kind of money.  They couldn’t even afford to pay them, but bed and board on a quiet, little homestead was a good way for two ex-outlaws to lie low for the winter while they did odd jobs.

“So it could have been up there for a very long time,” murmured Heyes, reflectively.

“Ages,” agreed Mrs. Clutterbuck. 
 


“Or, it could have been put there a few hours ago.  We have no way of knowing,” Heyes gave the elderly couple a smile of reassurance.  “In which case, we’d better get it to the local sheriff and make sure that everyone knows that we did, in case they come back for it.”

“They’ll come back?” gasped the elderly woman.  “But we’ll be sitting ducks.”

Kid gave the woman a determined look.  “Not with us around, you won’t.”


“I’m guessing it’s been there for a while, judging by the dust.”  Heyes snapped the bag shut.  “We’re always here when you two go for your walk every morning.  It’s the only time you go out.  Nobody’s had the opportunity recently.”

Mrs. Clutterbuck nodded.  “Yes, the doctor says that Charles needs routine.  We always go out at the same time and go to the same places.  We watch the children playing in the schoolyard, then the store to see Mrs. Hall.”

“Well, we’d best get this to the sheriff,” Heyes paused, thoughts clearly running behind his dark eyes.  “On second thoughts, why don’t I go to the sheriff and bring him here.  That way he’s responsible for it.  We don’t want it to be stolen on the way there.  Thaddeus, can you make sure that the money’s kept safe?”

Kid gave a curt little nod to accompany the secret smile.

“Good idea,” announced Mrs. Clutterbuck.  “But I don’t like Tommy Flanagan.  He might be sheriff, but he has a face like a big toe, just like his father.”

“Huh?” snorted Kid. 

Heyes folded his arms and chuckled.  “You’ve been saying that a lot recently,
Thaddeus.”

Kid scratched his head.  “Yup, and I guess I’ll be sayin’ it a lot more before we leave here.”

**********

Heyes’ opened the door to the sheriff’s office, trying to ignore the fluttering trepidation in his belly while Mrs. Clutterbuck’s words rang in his ears, ‘He has a face like a big toe.’  Some descriptions could force a man to gawp like a form of hypnosis.  It reminded him of that time Kid warned him not to stare at a man’s bad wig.  He instantly found he could look at nothing else. 
 

He pulled himself together and dressed his face with his most innocent smile.  “Sheriff Flanagan?”

“Can I help you?”

Heyes gave him a dimpled smile.  “My name is Joshua Smith and I’m doing some work for the Clutterbucks.  They have a place on the edge of town?”

The man nodded.  “I know the Clutterbucks.”


“Well, he found a bag this morning.  It’s full of money.”

The lawman gave an echoing laugh.  “Really?”

“Yes,” Heyes replied.  “It fell out of the hayloft.  We thought we’d better report it, but I didn’t want to be responsible for carrying that much money around.”

“Maybe a kangaroo kicked it out?”

Heyes shook his head in confusion.  “Sorry?”

The sheriff gave Heyes and apologetic grin.  “I take it you haven’t known Charles Clutterbuck very long.”

“No.  Only about two weeks.  We’re fixing up his place for him.”

“Well, you need to know a few things about old man Clutterbuck.  He’s kinda loco,” he pointed at his temple and rolled his eyes.  “Mixed up, like.  It was only a month ago he was in here reportin’ a kangaroo runnin’ wild on his place.  I had to look it up in the library.  They’re big animals from Australia that jump about on two legs and have pouches.  Do you know how far away Australia is?”

Heyes arched his eyebrows.  “I’m guessing a few thousand miles.”

“Nearly eight thousand miles.  What do you think one of them would be doin’; leapin’ about the Clutterbuck place?”

“Did anyone else see it?”

The sheriff stood and approached the stove before raising his eyebrows questioningly as he held up a coffee pot.  “What do you think?  Coffee?”

Heyes nodded.  “Please.  Has he done anything else strange?”

“Too many to mention.  Last summer he walked down the street wearin’ nothin' but a smile.  He thought he was a little kid again and was headin’ for the swimmin’ hole.  It sure took the shine off old Matthews’ birthday party.  Walked straight through it.”

“But I saw the money, Sheriff.  My friend’s looking after it.”

“He has a habit of hidin’ things about the place to keep them safe. He buried all his wife’s jewellery once and Beryl had half the town diggin’ up their place, lookin’ for it.  About two years ago he took out every penny he had in the bank, sayin’ the staff would steal it.  That’s probably the bag of money that you found.”  
 


“But there’s about a thousand dollars in there!”

The sheriff shrugged.  “He worked as a bank manager all his life.  He used to be real smart.  He could have easily that much money as his life’s savin’s,” he drained his coffee cup and put it down on the desk.  “I’ll come over and look into it, but I don’t want to take the man’s own money from him.  It wouldn’t be right.”

Heyes scratched his chin thoughtfully.  “It’s not as simple as I first thought.  Can you come by so that I know it’s all above board?  Maybe I can persuade him to put it in the bank again?”

Tommy Flanagan proffered a handshake.  “I’ll be glad to.  I’m real glad to see Clutterbuck’s dealin’ with honest men.  Do you know what a lot of people would do, meetin’ folks that vulnerable with a big bag of money?  You’re a welcome addition to Greenville, Mr. Smith.”  They shook hands and the sheriff ushered Heyes towards the door.  “I’ll be there later.  I need to go to the bank first and find out how much he drew out so we can compare the amounts.”

********** 

Night was cloaking the little homestead in dusky, ashen tones, when the sheriff finally arrived and hammered at the door.  The amber light from the windows seemed especially cheerful, viewed though the driving rain and the howling, February wind. 

Mrs. Clutterbuck pulled the door open.  “Sheriff Flanagan, welcome to our little commode.”

One of the sheriff’s little eyebrows curled upwards at the bizarre welcome.  “I understand that you’ve found some money?  I thought I’d drop by on my way home.”

“This is it sheriff,” Charles Clutterbuck pulled open the bag.  “It has one thousand two hundred and twenty three dollars in it.  I counted.”

The sheriff pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket.  “The same amount as you drew out from the bank?”

“It’s not that money.  I know it’s not!”

“Really!  Tell me what happened today.  Start right at the very beginning.”

Charles sat down, staring off into the middle distance.  “Well, I got up.  I had breakfast as normal.  Then Beryl and I went to school...”

The lawman’s impatient voice cut him off.  “I’ve heard enough!  It’s your own money.  Keep it, but if you’ve any sense you’ll put it back in the bank.”

“But..?”

“Mr. Clutterbuck, I’m a busy man.  There hasn’t been a significant theft around here for years and it’s the same amount you took out from the bank.  Keep it.  I’ll file a report to say that you found your own money.”

“Are you sure?” demanded the old man.

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life!”

A grin spread over the old man’s face.  “Well, if you’re sure – you two boys might have a lot more work to do.  I can afford a lot more raw materials now.”

“Fine by us,” grinned Kid.  “We’re lookin’ for honest work.”

“And we’re happy that the Clutterbucks have good folks about them,” smiled the sheriff, before he dropped his voice conspiratorially.  “We ain’t had no ‘episodes’, as the doc calls them, since this.”

**********

“The Circus?  You’re going to work with the Circus?” demanded Mr. Clutterbuck.
  


Heyes nodded.  “Well, it’s May and the place is looking great.  It’s about time we were moving on.  They’re offering us jobs and we’re done here.”

“I’ll miss you.  You’ve certainly made a difference around here.”

Heyes gave a wry smile.  “Yup.  Some might think a whole lot more than a thousand dollars has been spent.”

The old man’s blue eyes darted up to meet Heyes’ scrutiny.  “You think?”

“I know so.  We had to go into town to fetch the supplies and pay your debts, remember?”

“Well, I had a few savings of my own.  I added to it.”

Heyes watched the man squirm uncomfortably under his gaze.  “Hmm, enough to practically rebuild the place and pay off the mortgage?  Your health seems to have improved too.”

A pair of shrewd blue eyes fixed on the ex-outlaw.  “What’s your point, Young Man?”
Heyes casually played with the frayed end of a rope.  “I got talking to some locals in town over a few poker games.  You were the local bank manager and the man who died; Matthews, wasn’t it?  Matthews, was the head of security.”

“So?”

“You two never got on and he put the word out that you robbed your own bank just before you retired.  Folks thought it was jealousy, because of Beryl.  They saw you were poor, and quickly got poorer.” 

“I never stole anything.  Until I found that bag of money I was poor as a church mouse.  He had a grudge because of Beryl.”

“Yes, it would be hard to spend it, especially after Matthews repeatedly threatened to ruin you if he so much as saw you living well.  The last time was publicly, in the street – right before you ruined his birthday party.”  Heyes smiled gently, “and Beryl wouldn’t move.  Your son’s grave is here.”

Clutterbuck rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  “That’s quite the imagination, you got there.  Maybe it’s best you move on?”

“I agree.  Just about everyone else around here has forgotten old Matthews’ accusations.  I expect it’s all coincidence.  Especially since Matthews had a heart attack the time you took all your money out of the bank.  He survived.  If he hadn’t, you would have had a big bag of money to spend two years ago and nobody would have been able to say exactly how much you were spending.  Not even the bank.  Just like this time.” 
  

“Why would I fake being weak in the head?”

“Oh, Sir.  You’re not faking.  You do have periods of forgetfulness, but you’re not as bad as people think.  You found out quite quickly that you could do just about anything you wanted to by acting a bit strangely.  It’s just that Matthews lived a lot longer than you thought he would and you had to wait before you could ‘find’ the bag and spend the money.  It was a long plan, but it all took a lot longer than you anticipated.  He had a bad heart, after all.”

“Young man, if you repeat any of that to anyone else, I’ll...”

Heyes arched his eyebrows.  “You’ll what?  Cause a fuss?  Remind everyone of the theft of ten thousand dollars when you retired?  Is that really a good idea?  The statute of limitations ran out on that theft a long time ago.  Nobody’s looking for whoever did it and you made sure that the sheriff would testify that the bag of money was yours.  You’re in the clear.  You even had the town thinking your mind had gone in case anyone found out what you were up to.  They’d never lock you up.”

Clutterbuck sucked in a breath. “What do you want?  Money?”

Heyes gave a little chuckle.  “Of course not.  I’ve haven’t even mentioned this to my partner.  We’ll be going, but be a bit more careful about how you spend the money.  If I’ve noticed, then you can be sure that someone else might.  I’d hate to think how Mrs. Clutterbuck could manage without you.  I just wanted to warn you.  I like you.”

“Beryl always had expensive tastes, and I love her so much.  I prayed for more money, but God doesn’t work that way, so I stole it and prayed for forgiveness.  How’d you know?”

“I suspected something was wrong when you suddenly found money somewhere you hadn’t been able to get to for ten years.  The sheriff made me wonder why you’d take all the money out of the bank, but when I spoke to the folks in the bar all the old rumours came together.”

“I’m glad it’s out.  It’s a relief.  I think that I faked the senility so long that it started to affect me.   I’ve started seeing things”

Heyes laughed.  “A kangaroo?”

The white head nodded solemnly.

“I think I can help you with that.  I spoke to the circus folks.” 
  


“Circus folks?”

Heyes grinned.  “Yeah.  They’ve got a boxing kangaroo. They were touring on the other side of those hills when it escaped in January.  Did you know that they can cover tremendous distances and can reach speeds of about fifteen miles an hour?  It took them two days to get it back.” 
 


“I knew I’d seen one!” declared Clutterbuck, triumphantly.  “I was beginning to think I had gone soft in the head.  It was right there in my barn.”

“You?  Soft in the head?  Dumb as a fox, more like.  You remind me of something an old friend of mine from San Francisco used to say.”

“Yeah?  What was that?”

“Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.  Apparently some wise, old Greek used to say it.” 
  


The old man grinned.  “And a wise, young man in Wyoming too.  I’d have to get up real early in the morning to get one over on you, Mr. Smith,” cornflower blue eyes gleamed with intelligence as they held Heyes’ gaze.  “Or whatever your name really is?”
 


(Message edited by silverkelpie On 01/30/2012 6:40 PM)

Date Posted:01/29/2012 1:07 PM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:33 pm

From RosieAnnie:


Hannibal Heyes can't eat his breakfast.

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

 

Hannibal Heyes stared at the remains of breakfast. He wasn’t hungry anymore. Funny how his appetite could disappear, no matter how hungry he was, when he and Kid had words.  Kid hadn’t finished his food, either, and the sight of his abandoned plate seemed like an accusation. Heyes’ stomach and chest felt kind of hollow and empty, but he didn’t want food. He took a tentative sip of his coffee and nearly choked. It was cold and weak. How did people drink this stuff?

Even warm, it tasted like brown water. No character at all. He put the half-empty cup back down.

Heyes leaned back in his chair and looked around the dining room. While he’d been lost in his thoughts, the hotel’s restaurant had gotten busier.

Church services must be over. No other reason so many families would show up all at once, on a Sunday morning. He watched them enter and sit down together, laughing and talking, the old caution mixing with some odd feeling of regret. He didn’t recognize anyone, and no one seemed to be paying him any special attention.

He knew he should feel relieved, but he only felt out of sorts and lonely. Although the room was quickly filling up with people, there was only one person he wanted to see, and that person had stomped out in anger twenty minutes ago.

He recognized the beginnings of a dark mood. Life was too short to waste on that sort of thing. He needed to get up and move around, go for a walk or something, away from all those cheerful people, and clear his aching head. He placed his napkin on the table and stood up to leave.

“Why Mr. Smith! Are you leaving already? You haven’t finished your breakfast!”

“Mrs. Nelson! Good morning!” He gave her his best dimpled grin, the one that always worked on women. It didn’t seem to impress her. She was still frowning.

“You didn’t eat half your breakfast. And Mr. Jones didn’t either. Is something wrong with the food?”

“Oh no, ma’am, no, everything’s fine. Guess we just weren’t very hungry.”

She crossed her arms and stared at him without speaking. He felt his face get hot. How did this woman make him feel like a little child caught with his hand in the cookie jar? She wasn’t much older than him, but he couldn’t meet her eyes. What was the matter with him today?

Mrs. Nelson noticed his pale complexion and the dark shadows under his eyes. “Late night, Mr. Smith?”

“Afraid so, ma’am. I’m a little the worse for wear this morning.” It was true. He’d hoped a good breakfast would take care of his hangover, but he was feeling worse than when he’d got up. The argument with Kid hadn’t helped any.

She put a gentle hand on his arm. The touch surprised him. “Oh, Mr. Smith. You young men. Can’t you find something better to do with your evenings than play cards and drink too much whiskey?”

“Sorry, ma’am.” She just looked at him, kind of sad-like, as if he’d disappointed her somehow.

“Mr. Smith. Why don’t you go sit out front on the porch for a bit? I’ll have Mrs. Freeman bring out some fresh coffee for you, good and strong. Would you like that?”

“Strong coffee?” He dredged up a grin.

She laughed. “Strong enough to melt paint. Maybe I could even get Mr. Nelson to add a little hair of the dog. Would that suit you?”

“That’d suit me real well, ma’am, if it’s not too much trouble. I see you’re getting busy here.”

“No trouble at all. You’re a fine young man, Mr. Smith, if a bit misguided. We’ll see what we can do about that. Now shoo!”

Fifteen minutes later, Heyes was settled in a wicker rocker on the hotel’s broad front porch, holding a hot mug of dark coffee in his gloved hands. The warmth of the cup felt good. Mornings were cool in these high Colorado towns. He glanced at the distant range that hung suspended over the wooden buildings.

Even this late in August, the peaks were still covered in snow. The air smelled fresh and clean. He took it in, breathing slow and deep, letting it sweep away the cobwebs in his head. The view was pretty, real pretty. Before long, though, it’d be snow in the town, too. Winter would be upon them. They’d have to move on soon, someplace warm, someplace safe, if there was such a place anymore. If the Kid wasn’t so pissed off that he decided he’d be better off on his own.

It didn’t seem like he could shake off these dark thoughts today. Everyone and everything he encountered only seemed to pull his mood down farther.

He stared into the coffee. That looked pretty dark, too, but that might be okay. He sniffed the liquid cautiously. Oh yeah . . . this might be good. The bitter coffee taste mixed with a heavy dollop of whiskey was just what he needed right now. A lot better than that weak-ass garbage served in the restaurant. He took a long, appreciative swallow, letting the steaming liquid soothe his raw throat and settle warmth into his chest. Even his head was starting to feel better. Maybe he and Kid should lighten up their drinking in the evenings. Last night, like so many other nights, had been fun, but the hangovers that followed in the mornings were getting harder and harder to tolerate. If they hadn’t been so hung over this morning, maybe that argument wouldn’t have happened. Maybe.

“Mind if I join you?”

Heyes looked up towards the voice. The man’s face was friendly and unfamiliar. That part was alright. The clerical collar he wore, now that might not be so alright. But he always tried to be polite, when he could. People tended to remember rudeness.

Heyes waved at the empty rocker next to him. “’Course not, Reverend. Make yourself comfortable.”  The man smiled his thanks and settled in, stretching out his long legs.

“Thanks,” he said. “Feels good to sit down and relax for a minute or two. I’m fond of my parishioners, but I don’t mind telling you, I appreciate a few minutes to relax. Sunday’s my busy day, you see.”

“I imagine it would be, Reverend. . . ?”

“Bielecki. Francis Bielecki.” He grinned at Heyes’ expression. “Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to spell it. It’s Polish. Most people just call me Father Frank.”

“How’d a Polish man make it way out west?”

“It wasn’t me; it was my father. He came out to California to find gold and make his fortune. He ended up not doing either, but he liked the weather, and so he stayed. I was born in California, so actually, coming to Colorado, this Polish man came east.”

Heyes felt himself beginning to like this man. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Father Frank. I’m Joshua Smith.”

“I know,” he said. Heyes looked at him. “Full disclosure, Mr. Smith. Mrs. Nelson asked me to talk to you.”

“Oh. She did, did she.”

“Don’t get your hackles up, Mr. Smith. Her and me, we’re pretty harmless. She seems to like you, you and your friend both, and being a motherly sort, she feels it’s her God-given duty to interfere in other people’s lives. And being a busybody is part of my job description.”

“Is that so?” Heyes said. He took another long swallow of coffee.

“Yes, it is.” Bielecki could smell the whiskey. He saw Heyes wince as he drank. The man must have a terrific hangover.

“So, anything you want to talk about? Or need help with?” Sometimes the direct approach worked best.

Heyes occasionally took the direct approach, too.

“Look, Father Frank, I appreciate the interest and all, but unless you got a cure for a hangover, no, I got nothing to talk about, and I don’t need nothing. Mrs. Nelson is a nice lady and all, but she probably can find lots of people who need your help more’n me.”

“I’m glad to hear it, Mr. Smith. Just don’t hold it against Mrs. Nelson, will you? She’s a kind woman, and she has a good opinion of you. She’s concerned about some of your choices.”

Heyes’ voice sounded harder. “That’s very nice and all, Father Frank, but you tell her for me, I’m just fine with my choices. I made them, and I’m living with them. She shouldn’t let herself get all upset when a man has a late Saturday night at the saloon. Judging by how crowded that place was last night, I think you and she got plenty of locals who need your attention more’n me. Some of them were probably sleeping it off in your church this morning. You got enough to keep you busy without worrying about some drifter who ain’t gonna be around more’n a few days.”

Bielecki noticed at the man’s narrowed eyes and tight jaw. “I take your point, Mr. Smith, about the congregants. But I don’t agree that a drifter isn’t worthy of attention, or of God’s love. Jesus took special interest in the sinners, remember? He could have chosen to minister only to the rich and powerful. Instead, he chose to spend his time with prostitutes and thieves. He knew that even a thief, who had maybe made bad choices that ended up hurting people, could choose another way, and find redemption.”

Heyes shook his head slowly. “Sorry, Father, I don’t buy what you’re selling.” He glanced up and down the street. No sign of Kid. Where was he? Had he really gone? He had that hollow feeling in his chest again. A drink might fix that. He sipped, cautiously. The coffee was only lukewarm, but the whiskey made it palatable.

Bielecki watched Smith’s dark eyes scan the street. He’d seen Smith around town over the last few days, had even exchanged a few friendly nods and casual smiles as they passed on the street. The gun he wore tied down, in a scuffed holster, contradicted the friendly manner. This genial stranger could be dangerous. A wiser man than he would probably change the subject right about now, to some safer topic. But he hadn’t gone into the ministry to play it safe.

“What don’t you buy? Part of it, or all of it?”

“The redemption part.”

Bielecki leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Redemption as a general concept? Or as something particular that applies to you?”

Heyes chose to ignore the second question. “Making better choices don’t wipe away what a man’s done in the past. He’s still got to live with what he’s done. That thief you mentioned, he could decide to be the holiest man in the territory, but if he’d been thieving, the law would still be after him. The law wouldn’t care if he was right with the Lord or not.”

Bielecki thought for a moment before replying. “I suppose that’s true, as far as man’s law goes. But according to God’s law, living a righteous life, and true repentance, would clear the slate.”

“So there’s no penalty? Once a man’s fine with the Lord, everything’s rosy from then on out?”

“If there’s true repentance, and by that I mean he lives an honest life going forth, then yes. Don’t you think so?”

Heyes shifted in his seat. The rocker wasn’t feeling so comfortable any more. “It don’t matter what I think. I’m not close with the Lord like you are. I just wonder what good it is to have God’s law on your side, if you don’t have man’s law as well.”

Bielecki laughed. “You know what, Mr. Smith? I like you. I can see why Mrs. Nelson takes an interest in your well-being. And I don’t have a good answer to your question, other than I truly believe that having the Lord on your side is always a good thing. That’s all. Sometimes, you just got to have faith. You never know when making better choices will make a difference in man’s law as well.”

Heyes stood. “Well, that’s fine and good for you, being a man of the cloth and all. The rest of us, though, we got to live in a place where being righteous don’t make much difference. Man may promise, but he don’t deliver. Nice talking to you, Father. And tell Mrs. Nelson I’m grateful for her concern, but I’m doing just fine with my choices.”

Bielecki watched him walk down the dusty sidewalk with regret. The gun Smith wore looked like a natural part of his leg, like it’d always been there, and always would be. Too bad.

Heyes walked the wooden sidewalk mindlessly, not really watching where he was going. Usually he liked to talk with someone intelligent, but the discussion with Father Frank hadn’t made him feel better, that’s for sure. Best to think about something else.

Lost in his thoughts, he was a little surprised when the wooden sidewalk ended, and he was across from the livery stable at the end of town. He looked across the street and saw a man sitting by himself on a bench. Kid. He was leaning back, looking at the mountains, almost like he was hypnotized. But he must have felt Heyes’ presence, because he turned and looked right at him. Heyes caught his breath, waiting for. . . something? An invitation? A hello? A curse? But Kid only looked back to the distant mountains.

Heyes crossed the rutted street to sit down next to Kid. Neither man spoke for a few minutes. Finally, Kid said, “you alright?”

Heyes looked at him sharply but didn’t answer.

Kid turned toward Heyes. He saw Heyes was wringing his hands and staring at the ground

“Heyes. You alright?”

“I’m sorry, Kid.”

Kid put a hand on Heyes’ shoulder and squeezed.

“It’s okay. We always knew it was a long shot.”

“It’s my fault.”

“Heyes. How is it your fault? We’re partners, remember?”

Heyes rubbed his eyes. “I should have known better. I’m an odds player. I knew the odds weren’t good. But I wanted that amnesty so bad.” He took a deep breath and blew it out. “People think I’m supposed to be smart. Well, guess this proves them all wrong. I really thought the governor would come through this time. I really did. Now, I just don’t know anymore.”

“Ain’t you the one always saying, have a little faith?”

“Am I? No wonder you wanted to clout me this morning. A wise man would know better than to say that.”

Kid laughed. “Hell, Heyes. A wise man wouldn’t have taken that amnesty deal in the first place. And I’ve wanted to clout you a lot more times than just this morning.”

Heyes didn’t laugh in return. “The governor said we hadn’t redeemed ourselves yet. But I don’t know what else we can do, Kid. I really don’t.”

“Heyes.” Kid’s voice was serious. “It’s a setback. That’s all. We just got to keep going like we been going. Like I told you at breakfast, I ain’t ready to give up, and I ain’t letting you give up, either. You got to learn to roll with the punches, and not take things so much to heart. We keep on keeping on. And have a little more of that faith you’re always talking about. That’s all.”

Heyes looked at the mountains. The pressure of Kid’s hand resting on his shoulder felt good.

“Man’s law, not God’s law,” Heyes said to himself.

Kid frowned. “What do you mean by that?”

Heyes shook his head. “Nothing, Kid. I don’t mean nothing.” He leaned back against the hard bench. He needed a minute to think. Kid, understanding as always, was patient.

“Do you really think a couple ex-crooks like us can find redemption, Kid?”

“Yeah, Heyes. I do. I’m not ready to give up on the amnesty. At least, not yet. And I still think we made the right choice to go after it. Even if the Governor doesn’t think we’ve redeemed ourselves yet, I think we have. And I’m good with that.”

“So, Kid, what do we do next?”

Kid grinned at his partner. It was good to see Heyes starting to sound like himself again. “You know me, Heyes. I’m a simple man, unlike you. How about we start this day all over again, beginning with breakfast? And you’re buying.”

“Breakfast, huh? I guess that sounds good. But if breakfast is on me, then you’ve got dinner.”

Kid stood up, then took Heyes’ arm to pull him to his feet.“Maybe, Heyes, maybe. One thing at a time. Food now, and maybe redemption over dinner.”

“Okay, partner,” Heyes said. “Okay.”
 

Date Posted:01/29/2012 8:10 PM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:36 pm

From Riders57:


Just a brief snippet.




Wise Men Say Only Fools Fall in Love

Oh I knew, I knew it was dangerous to fall in love.  Drifters like us can’t afford to be tied down.  What if a bounty hunter found us when she was with us; she could get killed – so could we.  But when I saw her, it was love at first sight, and it was mutual.



We were headin' to the Romor ranch.  Seth and Joanna were friends of Big Mac and he asked us to help them out after Seth broke his leg.  Well Big Mac throws enough work our way that we were willin’ to oblige him, even though we’re not too fond of ranch work – it’s hard on the back.  Besides the pay was not bad and the distance from town made it unlikely Heyes and me would be recognized.   So it was a good deal all around.



Just before we got to the ranch, there was Bella by the side of the road; her leg was injured and she couldn’t walk.  She was beggin’ for help.  I tell you I took one look into her deep brown eyes and I was lost.  I rode double with her until we got to the ranch, and she just leaned against me, trustin' me completely.  When we got to the ranch, Joanna fixed her up and wrapped her leg.  We never did find her family so she just stayed at the ranch with us.



We spent six wonderful weeks at the ranch.  Seth and Joanna were good folks, but what really made it special was the time I spent with Bella.  Once her leg was better, after the days chores were done, Bella and I would take a walk.  She was a natural listener, and I found myself tellin’ her things even Heyes didn’t know about me.  I never talked so much in my life.



Sometimes Heyes came with us, and sometimes it was just the two of us.  I think Heyes was kinda jealous about our love.  But he’s a good friend and didn’t complain.  He did remind me that I shouldn’t get too involved, that it couldn’t last, but I didn’t want to listen this time. 



All too soon the six weeks were up and Seth’s leg was healed.  It was time to move on.  Seth and Joanna agreed that Bella could stay and she let me know that if she couldn’t come with us, stayin' with the Romors would be the next best option.  That was the hardest parting I’ve ever experienced.



I’ve heard the sayin’ “Wise men say only fools fall in love.”  Well I guess I’m a fool because I sure fell hard for that girl.  She was a great dog, no other will ever compare with her.



(Message edited by Riders57 On 01/31/2012 5:34 AM)

Date Posted:01/30/2012 10:34 PM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:40 pm

From Keays:

January monthly challenge; Wise Men.


The Babysitter.
 
“I don’t know Jed; it really doesn’t look good at this point.”

“Yeah.”  Jed agreed.  “It’s that same leg too.  I don’t know what’s goin’ on with him.”

“How old is he?”  Jesse asked.  “Do you have any idea?”

“Nothing definite.”  Jed admitted.  “He wasn’t a youngster when I first bought him that’s for sure.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Oh, well.”  Jed rubbed his chin, thinking back to that day.  “Gee, must be at least ten years now.”

“And he wasn’t young then?”

“Oh no.  At least ten.”

“So.”  Jesse reflected.  “Into his twenties probably.  And a lot of rough riding and missed meals in there too, no doubt.  Not to mention cold nights out in the open.”

“Well, yeah.”  Jed admitted.  “He’s been a good solid horse though.  I always tried to look after him.”

“I don’t doubt that.”  Jesse appeased his friend.  “But still, that kind of life sort of catches up with a fellow after a while.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

Jesse gave the big seal brown gelding an affectionate pat on the neck.

“I don’t know Jed.”  He ventured.  “I think it’s time you thought about retiring him.”

Jed’s face fell. He just couldn’t imagine riding any other horse but ole’ Buck.  They had been together for so long.  Buck was an old friend whom Jed had come to rely on and that solid gelding had got him out of more than one tight spot that was for sure.  He just couldn’t count on any other horse to get him out of trouble when he really needed it—not the way Buck could.

“I’d give him a good home.”  Jesse assured his friend.  “I could really use a wise old gelding like him.”

“Yeah, but—I need a riding horse Jesse.”  Jed insisted, not willing to relinquish his buddy that quickly.  “I can’t really afford to buy another horse, especially one of Buck’s qualities.”

“Tell you what.”  Jesse ventured.  “I have about twelve long two year olds that Sam will be breaking out this spring.  Why don’t you take a ride up to the north pasture and have a look at them.  You pick out any one you want.  Sam can break him out for you and we’ll make it an even trade.”

“That don’t seem too fair to me Jesse.”  Jed felt obligated to point out.  “You givin’ me a young broke three year old in exchange for a worn out old gelding.  You got some real fine horses up there, it just wouldn’t seem right. ”

“You’re right.”  Jesse agreed.  “I’d be coming out ahead on the deal, that’s for sure.”

Jed looked confused.  “What do you mean; ahead?”  He asked.  “You just said it was time to retire him.  How does that put you ahead?”

“Well, I’ve been watching him out in the field there with Karma’s new filly.”  Jesse explained.  “He’s really good with her and little Daisy just takes to him like he was made of molasses.  Having a wise old gelding like that, who has the patience to be with the babies, well that’s invaluable to me.”
 

"It is?' 

“Sure.”  Jesse explained.  “There’s only so much these babies can learn from their mothers’, but if you can put an old gelding in with the mix, and he likes the youngsters, well—he can teach them a whole lot more about horse etiquette than any wrangler I’ve ever met.”


"And you think Buck would be good for that?" 

“Oh!  For sure!”  Jesse emphasized and then he smiled.  “Good ole’ Uncle Buck.  He’s got the wisdom and the patience to be able to teach those colts everything they need to know to be good horses.  Especially when it comes to weaning time!  Those babies take it pretty hard when mom’s not around anymore, but if they know Uncle Buck, and he’s still with them—well, things aren’t so bad after all.  Like I said Jed; a wise old gelding like him would be invaluable to me.”

Jed gave his old horse a rubbing on the neck, still hesitant to give him up that easily.

“It’s not like you would be saying goodbye to him.”  Jesse pressed his case.  “He’ll be here for the rest of his days and he’ll be well looked after.  You can see him anytime you like.”

“Yeah.”  Jed mumbled.  “But ridin’ another horse?  Just don’t seem right.”

“I know.”  Jesse emphasized.  “But I bet once you pick out a youngster that you like, you’ll see the wisdom of it.  Buck just isn’t up to being a riding horse anymore.  Let him retire, and take life easy from now on.  He’s put in his years.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right Jesse.”  Kid had to admit.  “And he does keep coming up lame on that leg, so….”

“Right.”  Jesse agreed.  “Let me put back out in the field with Karma and little Daisy.  He’s as happy as a clam out there with them, you’ll see.  It’s the right thing to do.”

“Yeah.”  Jed agreed, still a little reluctant.

Jesse took Buck’s lead shank and led the limping gelding over to the pasture gate.  Instantly his head came up and his ears perked and he nickered out to his friends in the field.

Karma raised her head from grazing and whinnied  back at which point, sweet little Daisy perked up her fine head and sent forth her own high pitched baby whinny and with tail flapping came running over to greet her favorite Uncle Buck.


Date Posted:01/31/2012 9:46 PM

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PostSubject: Re: January 2012 Wise Men   Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:42 pm

From Remuda:


Wise Men


“I’ll see your ten and raise ya another ten.”

Hannibal Heyes kept a poker face as he pushed his bet to the center of the table.

“I don’t know.  It’s getting too rich for me.”

“Ah, Doc, we’re just getting started.”  A brown eye twinkled.

“No, Mr. Smith, ‘you’re’ just getting started.  About time for me to quit anyway – early rounds tomorrow.”  The kindly looking doctor pushed his chair away from the table and rose.  “Just remember, Gentlemen, a wise man turns chance into good fortune, and he knows as well when to quit.  Good luck, and good night.”

Heyes watched momentarily as the doctor approached the bar.

One of the men at Heyes’ table spoke, “Oh, Mr. Smith, don’t mind Doc none.  He’s an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type.  Never sticks around for the end of a game.”

Heyes glanced at the speaker.  “Healthy, wealthy, and wise, huh?”

A nod.  “Something like that.”

The dark-haired man smiled.  “Nothing wrong with any of that.  Admirable traits, really.”

***

“Young man, no need to sleep on your feet.  That’s what beds are for.”

Jed “Kid” Curry raised his head and looked at the kindly face of the man beside him.  He gulped, tightly shut his eyes, but in the end was unable to stifle the yawn looking for escape.  “Sorry.”  Another, smaller yawn found release.  “Guess I’m more tired than I thought.”

“Perhaps I can help you with that, especially if you insist on staying until closing hour, which I presume you will.”  The older man waved the bartender over.  “Sarsparilla for me, Jim, and coffee here for my friend.”

Kid regarded the man.  He spoke, quietly, “Thanks, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“It’s my pleasure, Mr….?”  He extended a hand.

“Jones.  Thaddeus Jones.”  He likewise offered his, and they shook.

“A pleasure, Mr. Jones.  I’m Dr. Thornton, but everyone just calls me ‘Doc.’  So what brings you to our fair town?  I’ve certainly not seen you before today.”

Kid took in the pleasant voice, the kindly countenance.  The man was sixty if he was a day.  “Just a break from the trail.  My partner and I…”  He yawned again.  “Sorry.  We’re on our way to Denver.”  

The doctor nodded.  “You still have quite a ways to go.  Certainly, rest is the best medicine for a long journey.  One must never forget to get adequate rest, you know.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And, of course, eat well and in moderation, and get enough sunshine and exercise.  ‘That’s’ the prescription for a good life, certainly the best for a long one.  And a good attitude will supply the happiness.”

The bartender brought the order.

“Thanks, Jim.  Put it on my tab.”

“Sure thing, Doc.”

Doc Thornton lifted his glass to sip his sarsaparilla before replacing the vessel on the bar.  “That’s refreshing, but not too strong as to stave off sleep so close to bedtime. “  He paused, a thoughtful expression overtaking his visage.  “Now, as I was saying, Mr. Jones, we mustn’t forget gratitude.  Gratitude for all the good things the Lord sees fit to bless us with, as well as the unpleasantries.  They’re what builds character, after all.”

Kid sipped from the mug.  He cleared his throat, before wincing a bit.  “Ah, that’s hot…And strong.”  He blew on the dark brown liquid to try to cool it.  “Yup…”  He swallowed.  “This should go a long way…At keeping me awake for a while.”  He managed to stifle the next yawn, followed by a small grunt.  “What your’re sayin’, Doc, my ma used to say.  Made a lotta sense then; makes a lotta sense now.”

“Now, Mr. Jones, what you mustn’t do is stifle a yawn.  You must let it out.  It’s part of a natural process.”

One eyebrow raised.  “Doc, I was just tryin’ to be polite and not yawn in your face again.”

Another kindly smile.  “I appreciate the ‘try’ at politeness, Mr. Jones, but it hardly seems necessary.  If your demeanor now is any indication, you’re already polite enough.”  

Kid cradled his chin and cheek in his left hand, elbow propped on the bar.  “Thanks, Doc.  I try.”

The Doc grinned, knowingly.  “Another of your mother’s teachings?”

“Um hmm.”

“She must have been a wise woman.”

“I guess she was.”  Kid’s eyes wandered to a picture behind the bar, not really seeing it, but a focus perhaps for contemplation.  

Doc Thornton took a longer sip from his glass and replaced it on the bar.  “Well, I must take my leave.  It was very nice meeting you, Mr. Jones.”  Realization.  “Hmm, and to think I just met another gentleman this evening who goes by Mr. Smith.”  A smile.  “Now wouldn’t it be interesting if one of you had an alias?”

His reverie broken, Kid turned toward the doc.  “Alias?  Why, Doc?  There’s plenty of people in the world named Smith and Jones.  Coincidence is more like it, I think.”

“I don’t know about that, Mr. Jones.  I’m pretty fair at reading people.  It wouldn’t surprise me if one of you, or even both of you, used another name.  Men do, for all sorts of reasons.”  He rubbed his face.  “But that’s neither here nor there, at least right now.  My bed awaits.  I wish you a pleasant evening, Sir – whatever is left of it, that is.”

Kid tipped his hat.  “Night, Doc, and thanks for the coffee.”

The physician nodded in acknowledgment and strode through the bat-wing doors into the night.

***

Three hours later, the crowd had thinned out.  The game at Heyes’ table was the only one still going.  He had a large pile of coins and bills in front of him.  

Kid sat splayed in a chair facing the poker table, arms crossed, hat pulled low over his forehead, and chin resting on his chest.  He snored softly – contentedly even – every once in a while waking and picking his head up long enough to look around.  His partner seeming in no danger, he resumed his rest.  After a while, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Softly, “Come on, Thaddeus.  Time to get to bed.”

Kid slowly became more aware of his surroundings.  He stretched, started to yawn.

“Aw, Thaddeus, you know better than to yawn in polite company.”

Blue eyes rolled lazily.  “Yeah, but this is a saloon, not polite society.  Besides, I was told it wasn’t healthy to stifle a yawn.”

Heyes smiled knowingly.  “Ah, the good doctor.  I saw you two talking at the bar.”

“Wise man.”

Heyes chuckled.  “He sure thinks so.”

***

Late the next morning, the partners sat in companionable silence at a table in the café, two empty plates in front of them.  Both alternately sipped at steaming mugs of coffee and glanced at a newspaper.  

“Ah, Messrs. Smith AND Jones, together!  No surprise.”  He winked.  

The boys looked up to see Doc Thornton’s pleasant expression.  “Doc.”  Both smiled and motioned for him to sit.

He did so, simultaneously signalling the server for coffee.  “Good morning , Gentlemen.  Or, shall I say, ‘Afternoon?’”

Heyes smiled.  “We’re normally early risers, Doc, but…”

The physician interrupted, “But when one retires late, it is reasonable that one sleep in if one is to get adequate rest.”

The brown-haired man raised an eyebrow.  “True, and just what I was going to say.”

“Were you lucky last night, Mr. Smith?”

Heyes and Kid glanced at each other.  Where was this going?

Heyes replied, “As a matter of fact, yes, I was – very much so.”

The doctor nodded.  “As I thought.  That’s good.  So much for the early to bed and wealthy part.”  He smiled.  “I suppose all good ‘rules’ were meant to be broken.”

Brown eyes twinkled.  “I suppose so.”

Doc leaned in closer to the table.  “I suppose I was correct about the aliases, too, huh?”

Kid pressed his lips together.

Heyes answered, matter-of-factly, “Doc, there are a lot of people in the world named Smith and Jones.  Just coincidence that you found two together.”

Dr. Thornton raised an eyebrow.  “Interesting, Mr. Smith, you both have such pat answers.  Mr. Jones said as much last night.  But then, men in your circumstance – it’s no surprise, really.”

Heyes and Kid tensed slightly.

The dark-haired man asked, “In our circumstance?  What are you getting at, Doc?”

The physician smiled pleasantly.  “Oh, no need for ruffled feathers, Mr. Smith.  I was just pointing out, a successful gambler and a friend to watch his back, drifting as it was from town to town – aliases would come in very handy, indeed.  Stay one step ahead of the law, perhaps?”

Kid sighed.  “Doc, you have it all wrong.”

“Do I, Mr. Jones?  The evidence points otherwise.”

Heyes eyed the man.  “So, again, what are you getting at, Doc?  We had a nice, peaceful game, in a nice, peaceful town.  This morning we had a nice, peaceful breakfast, perhaps late, and we aim to have a nice, peaceful day.  Wouldn’t a wise man say that’s preferable to unpleasantness, or worse?  And our names just happen to be Smith and Jones, although you’re free, of course, to think as you please.”  Heyes picked up his coffee.  It was cold.

Just then, the door opened, and a man with a badge entered.  He looked around and nodded pleasantly at Doc and a few other customers, and took a seat on the other side of the room, not seeming otherwise particularly alarmed.  

Imperceptibly, as usual, Kid’s hand dropped below the table.

Doc lowered his tone.  “No need for such alertness, Mr. Jones.  The sheriff keeps a rigid schedule when he can, and at this time every day, he eats lunch.”

Blues eyes sought brown.  A second later, Kid had both hands on the table, but was no less alert.

Heyes reached into his pocket and pulled out some cash.  Leaving several bills on the table, he and Kid rose.   The doctor did as well.  The partners eyed each other again, questioningly.  The physician moved with them toward the door and outside.

Heyes spoke, trying his best to keep his tone light, “Well, Doc, you have a nice day.”

The physician nodded.  “You do as well, Gentlemen.”

Kid tipped his hat, “Doc.”

They shared one last look, and parted company.

The partners started down the boardwalk, and stopped.

Kid sighed, “So what was that all about?”

Heyes shook his head, “I don’t know.  But I think the good doctor would have one more bit of advice for us.”

The blond sighed.  “We just got here, but I think I know what’s comin’.”

Heyes watched Doc Thornton walk down the street in the other direction.  “I’m afraid so, Kid.  A wise man knows when to take his leave.”  He glanced at the blond.  “So, let’s go pack.”


Date Posted:02/01/2012 1:53 AM

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