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 May 2014 - Nemesis

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Calico

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PostSubject: May 2014 - Nemesis   Thu May 01, 2014 6:46 am

Welcome One Welcome All to the Seventy Seventh Monthly Challenge.

Are we all oozing creative juice?

Would we all like a J-Cloth to mop it up? There you go.

Now, you must by this time of the afternoon be on tenterhooks for your May Topic.

Yes you are.

Yes you ARE. Do not argue with the Cat! egcat 

It's a suggestion from one of you gals...

Let your imaginations wander with the daughter of Night as you muse on:


NEMESIS
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Sat May 10, 2014 8:40 am

Nemesis
By Maz McCoy

Standing beside the window, Kid Curry looked down at the street below and sighed.
Sitting on the bed, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle, Hannibal Heyes looked up from his book but said nothing. He returned his attention to the page.
Kid gave another sigh.
“What’s wrong?” his friend asked.
“Nothin’.”
Heyes placed the book on the bedcover. “If nothing’s wrong why d’you keep sighing?”
Turning his back on the window Kid drew his gun from its holster and gave it a casual twirl. “It’s too quiet. I don’t like all this sitting around.”
“You were standing.” Heyes got ‘the look’. “How many times have you wished for a quiet day? No running from posses? No hiding from the law? No one shooting at us? Well, now we’ve got it.”
“A quiet day, Heyes! I didn’t ask to sit around for a month.”
“Maz is busy. She has to work hard now to pay the bills when her income stops in summer.”
“I know.”
“She hasn’t forgotten us.”
“You sure?”
“Trust me Kid, there isn’t a day goes by without her thinking about you.”
“How do you know?”
“I see the way she looks at you. She does a lot of sighing too.”
Kid brightened. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.”
“Before you know it, she’ll be writing us into all sorts of scrapes. Maybe you’ll even be reunited with your nemesis, Brady.”
“He’s dead.”
“Maybe he has a brother?”
Blue eyes sparkled. “You think so?”
“I’ve heard Maz mumbling stuff.”
“I could really show my gun skills in a story like that.”
“You could.”
“Could be dangerous.”
“Yep but since when have we ever run from danger?”
“We haven’t.”
“Exactly.”
“Aw, Heyes, I’d even have her write Elizabeth Darkly turning up if it meant getting out of this room. Talk about a nemesis!”
Heyes smiled. He liked that idea too. Another thought came to him. “Kid, I have an idea. I know how we can help, Maz.”
“You do?”
“I do.” Heyes got up and headed for the writing desk. After rummaging around for a moment he found what he wanted and sat at the table notepaper before him, pen in hand.
“You got a plan, Heyes?”
“I think so.”
“We’re robbin’ a bank, right?”
“What?” Heyes looked stunned.
“To get more money for Maz.”
“No!”
“So what are we doing?”
Heyes smiled. “We’re writing a story for her.”

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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: May Challenge nemesis: Saloon Scuttlebutt   Wed May 14, 2014 6:34 am

Saloon Scuttlebut by Wichita Red

****Spoiler Alert**** If you have not read my tale, Better than Farmington, this will give some details of Heyes’ foolproof plan away. WR

“That’s not the way, I heard it.”

“What’d you hear?”

“I heard only the first train was robbed by the Devil’s Hole.”
Kid dipped his head, elbowing Heyes; he turned his back to the group of men heating up into a good gossip session.

Heyes’ eyes sparkled, above the beer mug he was drinking from.

Kid angled his eyes toward the door.

Heyes shook his head.

Kid frowned.

The bartender, set two foaming mugs before the outlaws, barely noting their existence as he hurried down the bar to join in on the debate.

“That can’t be.” The second man, a pot bellied city gent with white hair and an ornately groomed handle bar mustache, said, “I was running the telegraph when Detective Campbell had me wire Keystone. He said, and I quote, “they were captured by Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes.”

With his back to them, Kid pointed at himself mouthing the word “Kyle” with a shake of his head.
Heyes shrugged, drinking down a snicker.

A weather bent, aged man thin as a scarecrow, coughed, “This be the same ones, who were trussed up a week before?”

“It was.”

“Then who’d, he tells you tied them up that first time?” the scarecrow asked.

“He didn’t know.” The telegraph operator replied, taking a swig from his beer. “Said, he thought they looked like a pair of range hands who’d sold their horse for ticket fares. Next he knew they were holding him and his partner up.”

Kid smirked swapping out his empty mug for the one sitting by him.

A young man with eyebrows, as wild as the range, elbowed in next to Kid, mumbling, “Pardon.” And, that was all the attention he paid to the two men on his left as he leaned closer to the chatter, “So if’n it were Heyes and Curry who hog-tied ’em. How’d they know it was them?” The telegraph operator opened his mouth but the young man held up his hand. “And, if ‘n it were them on board than how can any of you say it weren’t them who done held up that gold train.”

The bartender set the mug he was drying down on the bar with a loud thump. “Several reasons James.” He held up his fist. “One” an index finger emerged. “Heyes, Curry and the Devil’s Hole gang is known for being courteous and civil. When was the last time you heard of anyone being injured during one of their robberies?”

The men all nodded.

Heyes grinned, a full flush of dimples, which Kid mirrored back with his own boyish smile.

The bartender surveyed his audience, even nodding to the smiling pair of cowboys who apparently also agreed with him. “The engineer suffered a split skull and the fireman will be sporting a broken nose for weeks to come.”

The men nodded again taking swigs from their drinks. Kid turned, bracing his arms on the bar, beginning to enjoy the conversation.

A second finger emerged from the bartender’s fist, “Two . . . that second train had the living hell blown out of it. Plenty of good people injured, too. They didn’t bother to move any of them out of way. I hear a lot serving up drinks, one thing I’ve done heard over and over is how the Devil’s Hole always moves people a safe distance off whenever they use dynamite. Besides, we all know, Hannibal Heyes rarely blows up a safe, anyways.” He set his rag down, “That man is just too clever for such a simple approach.”

Heyes nudged kid, waggling his eyebrows at him and Curry rolled his eyes finishing off the beer.

A third finger emerged from the bartender’s fist, “Those boys also introduce themselves, apologize for the inconvenience, and thank people for their patience. You hear of any introductions on that third robbery.”

All of them shook their heads.

“Hell that first robbery, Heyes sent Charles back here with a gold-double eagle to buy drinks for the house.” He picked up a few empty mugs, including Kid’s, taking them to the barrel. “So those are my three reasons for knowing it wasn’t Heyes and Curry.”

James’ mouth twisted to the side, one wild eyebrow arching, “Still Campbell says it were them.”

The old scarecrow picked up his refilled mug, “I’d bet he were guessing. Sides he’s probably still all-twisted up over them robbing the train on his shift the week before.”

“That do make sense, I suppose.” James conceded.

“It rightly does.” Heyes said backing the young man up.

Kid turned with a look of astonishment, just barely shaking his head at his partner, hoping beyond hope that he would stay quiet.

But, Heyes went on, “It sure does, 'cause we just rode in from Big Horn, and I heard the second robbery was done by John Murdock’s crew.”

Setting his mug down, Curry looked directly at his partner, “Who’d you hear that from?”

Hannibal Heyes passed an incredulous look to Kid, hoping he understood he was interrupting his chance to spin a good tale.

The corner of Kid’s mouth quirked up, “Ah, I see from one of them ceiling experts; I tell you Harold, ya got to refrain sharing news you pick up in them brothel houses.”

Heyes’ eyes squinted, a large flat smile appeared slowly, seeing it, Kid swung round to the townies, “See what really happened, Hannibal Heyes. . .” he took a drink allowing a strained pregnant pause to fill the room. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, he at last went on, “and this ‘other fella’ was on the train. Seems Heyes was there for the express purposes of robbing it and being, Hannibal Heyes, I’m sure he had a foolproof plan.”

The scarecrow plucked at Kid’s sleeve, “Where’d ya hear that, sonny?”

“Yeah, where’d you hear that?” Heyes asked coolly.

“Like he said over in Big Horn and it just so happens, while he,” Kid jacked a thumb at Heyes, “was spending his spare time with various calico queens. I spent mine with a good pal, who just happens to be a Deputy Marshall. Thing is, he gets a few drinks in him, he becomes quite the talker; especially if he ain’t the one buying the drinks.” At, which point, Kid looked directly at his empty mug.

The bartender following his gaze, snagged it up, refilled it, and handed back to Kid, saying, “Go on.”

“You see, he told me Curry didn’t have no part in that gold train robbery at all.”

James tilted his head to the side, like the words were hard to understand, “Well, how’d he know that?”

“Yeah, how’d he know that?” Heyes asked flatly.

“Apparently there was a witness. This witness saw Heyes and this ‘other fella’ have their firearms relieved of them by one of the outlaws from the Murdock gang.”

Heyes sucked on his front teeth, making a low whistle, “Is that right?”

“You’re saying, Hannibal Heyes, was held up by another outlaw?” The bartender asked, leaning his weight on the bar.

“By golly,” James all but shouted, “Heyes un-gunned, by golly!”

“Suppose it could have happened, if Heyes were with that other fella and not Kid Curry.” The bartender said.

“Must have been, because, I’ve never heard of anything of the sort happening to Heyes or Curry.” The telegraph operator said.

“Darn right.” James said, leaning into Kid, “Bet it wouldn’t have happened if Kid Curry had been there. Ain’t no one fool enough to mess with Kid Curry.”

A round of nodded approval went around from everyone but Heyes.

“Why sure your right; it’s too bad ol’ Kid wasn’t there to watch over him.” Curry said.

“Yeah, too bad,” Heyes mumbled, taking a gulp of his beer.

“Ain’t it though,” Kid replied completely deadpan.

The scarecrow of an old man, scratched at his baldhead, “You would’ve thought Heyes would’ve outsmarted that other man. I mean, I’ve always done heard how Hannibal Heyes could talk a man into doing anything he wanted.”

“Oh, I’ve heard that, too.” Kid replied jovially.

“Maybe he was having a bad day.” Heyes said, tapping his empty beer mug.

The bartender hearing him set a half-filled fresh one in front of him, focusing his attention on Curry.
“Did your friend tell you anything else?”

Kid looked at his cousin from the slant of his eye, “Well, there was another witness.”

Slapping Kid on the back, Heyes mockingly said, “You don’t say? There was another witness.”

“Oh yeah, and she said, Hannibal Heyes and this “other fella” got right back on the train like they were told and sat down nice as school boys.”

Heyes leaned closer to his partner, muttering, “You realize I am armed?”

Grinning like the proverbial fox in the hen house, Curry went right on talking, “Hard to imagine such a notorious outlaw leader taking orders from someone else, ain’t it?”

A low growl emitted from Heyes.

“Course, this lady also told my Deputy Marshal friend, she believed Heyes and that “other fella” saved plenty of people’s lives by warning them to hit the floor right before the dynamite blew.”

Heyes turned on Kid, “Now, there is a witness who had her facts straight because they at least match up to what we all know of the leader of the Devil’s Hole.”

“Well that might be, but the next witness he talked to.”

The bridge of Heyes’ nose wrinkled, “Not another witness.”

Kid grinned, so big his cheeks rounded out like apples, “Yup, another one. You see my pal is really through at his job.”

“I’d say. He must’ve talked to everyone on the train.” Heyes replied, finishing off his beer.

“Might have, anyway, he said, this witness told him, he saw Hannibal Heyes and that “other fella” crawl up on the roof of the last car.”

Heyes looked disgustedly at the clear, empty bottom of his mug and shoved it toward the bartender.

“Now holds on cotton picking second,” the scrawny old timer bawled. “Why didn’t he tell anyone on the train what he’d seen?”

Kid shrugged.

“I’m starting to think ya might ‘en bought your pal a few too many drinks, Mister.” James said his bushy brows burrowing together. “That sure don’t sound nothing like the Heyes we’ve all heard of.”

Heyes turned cocking an elbow on the bar, “You know what? I agree with you. Doesn’t much sound like him at all? What I’ve read he’s a heroic sort of fella.”

In a complete flat-tone, Kid replied, “Naw, that’s Kid Curry.” Heyes pursed his lips but before he could speak, Kid loudly said, “Anyways this witness, he decided not to mention it for his own reasons that is until the train was stopped again. At, which point, he saw Hannibal Heyes and the “other fella” jump off the roof. He said they headed for the hills, taking the rest of the Devil’s Hole Gang with them.”

Heyes tapped Kid on the shoulder, “Are you sure that’s what happened?”

“Must be, they was reliable witnesses.”

“Sure they were.”

The telegraph operator cleared his throat, “I’d say they were, too.” He patted Kid on the shoulder,

“What you’ve told us really links the facts together.”

James shook his head woefully, “That’s a cryin’ shame, I always kind of believed Heyes were better than all that.”

“Don’t take it too hard.” Kid replied. “Maybe he just ain’t that good without Curry along.”

James nodded, “Ain’t that a sad truth.”

Having enough, Heyes pulled out two-bits laying them on the bar. “Come on, Wagoner, we best be hitting the trail if we’re going to make it to Spotted Horse to meet up with our friends.”

The bartender shook his head, laying a chummy hand on Curry’s shoulder, “Money’s no good. I’m just plum happy you two were able to set the facts straight.”

“Happy to do so,” Curry finished off his beer.” Thanks for the drinks”


        ASJ*~*~*~*next scene~*~*~*~*~*ASJ


Kid Curry looked over at his cousin, his smile was brighter than the sun on Mojave Desert and seeing Heyes’ tight expression, he broke into full-barreled laughter.

“Go ahead laugh it up.”

“Ah, Heyes, it was all in fun.”

Heyes shifted in his saddle to stare at Curry, after a full minute, he spit on the ground, “Sometimes, I believe you’re more my nemesis than my partner.”

“Why? Because, my plan was foolproof?”

One dark eyebrow arched.

“It was . . . we got free drinks, and nobody got disarmed, or was forced on the roof, or mistaken for Kyle.”

Heyes shook his head and kicking his horse, trotted on ahead of Curry.

“Foolproof I tell you.” Kid hollered laughing again as he watched, his partner lay his reins across his horses rump, sending the bay into a run.

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LittleBluestem



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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Wed May 14, 2014 6:38 pm

It was after one in the a.m. and only the truly dedicated drunks and several hard-core poker players yet remained in the Star of the West. The former were sprawled here and there, a few of them still semi-conscious. Maggie lounged at the edge of the bar, her steel-grey gaze directed at the corner table, where the latter group still played away amidst the blue-ish haze of cigar smoke. She was the last of the saloon girls in the place, the others having trickled off to their rooms one by one, each leading a cowboy or a drummer up the stairs behind her.

“Yer wastin’ yer time, Maggie my gal,” offered the tall, rangy bartender as he wiped out a beer glass with a somewhat soiled rag, nodding toward the players, “Nothin’s gonna tear them boys away from that game.”

Maggie turned to face him, forcing her features into an innocent, blank look.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Slim,” she protested, and turned back to the table as Slim placed the clean glass on the rack, then turned and picked up the next glass to be washed, shaking his head and chuckling softly to himself.

Maggie had been watching the two strangers since they first pushed their way through the swinging saloon doors earlier that evening, even as she went about her work, taking orders, serving drinks, and flirting with customers. She had turned down two real good offers to go upstairs and managed to visit the poker table several times through the course of the night, to deliver a tray of beers or empty an ashtray. They were the two best-looking men she’d ever laid eyes on, each in his own way. And such fine figures, too. Broad shoulders, flat bellies, long legs…

Now the dark-haired one, speculated Maggie, he ain’t about to quit the game. The pile of chips in front of him had been growing steadily all night. More often than not, it was he who leaned across the table to sweep in the winnings with both hands. This was a man who took his poker seriously. Maggie could see how he reveled in the sport: the give and take, the dealing of the cards, the betting and the raising, the calling or the folding, and finally the laying down of cards to reveal what he seemed to already have known in advance every single time. His handsome face gave away nothing, but his intelligent brown eyes didn’t miss a trick. And whenever he won a pot, he would flash a little grin, raising up a dimple in one cheek.

Naw, that man was not going to be distracted… But the other one, his partner, Maggie could tell that he was getting tired of the game. She knew the signs. He’d been playing respectably most of the time, winning more than losing, but nothing compared to his partner’s track record. Now he was looking a tad bit restless, and folding more often than staying in the game.

Maggie’d reckoned the two men were partners when they first showed up hours earlier, dusty and thirsty from the trail. It was evident in their easy camaraderie, and in the way they seemed to communicate to each other without having to speak. They had stood leaning with their backs against the bar, shoulder to shoulder, sipping their beers, until two seats in the game opened up. More than once, they’d raised their glasses to their lips almost simultaneously.

Her suspicion was confirmed much later in the evening, when there’d been a bit of a ruckus. Seems a sore-losing city slicker had accused Dimples, as she had begun to think of him, of cheating at cards. A drunken cowpoke also in the game took the accusation as his cue to push things even further, standing up fast enough to knock his chair over, and calling him out.

But Dimples stayed in his seat with a half-smile on his face while the other one, the younger-looking one, slowly rose to his feet in answer, taking that all-too-familiar wide-legged stance, right hand dangling near the butt of his gun. Chairs scraped along the wooden floor as folks scrambled to get out of the line of fire. The whole place seemed to hold its collective breath. But not Dimples, he just sat there looking calm as you please. And the gunman, he tried to talk that drunk down. Said to him in a soft steady voice,

“My partner don’t have to cheat.”

But the drunk went for his shooter anyway and the next thing you know, the blue-eyed gunslinger had drawn down on him so fast that the entire saloon was pole-axed. Gasps and whistles rippled around the crowded room. More than one patron was heard to whisper that nobody was that fast – exceptin’ maybe Kid Curry -- and say, maybe this fella was Kid Curry hisself, in the flesh, right there in the Star of the West.

But then Dimples, he hushed everyone up by buying a round of drinks for the house. The drunk, he high-tailed it out of the Star, face red with embarrassment, and the slicker suddenly remembered an important engagement and cut stick too. Pretty soon everybody in the place had mostly forgotten about the incident, until a little while later when they completely forgot about it after a rip-roaring tussle erupted over in another corner of the saloon. Slim had to pull his sawed-off shotgun from under the bar and fire it into the ceiling just to break it up. Throughout all this commotion, the poker game went on, and the men kept on playing, and Maggie kept on watching. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from them, but now she found it lingering longer on the blue-eyed gunman.

Maggie wasn’t one for violence, but there was something compelling about the way the young man had stood there so still and so calm, facing off against the irate drunk. And then when he drew that Colt faster than lightning and held it so steady and straight, it made her feel kinda swoony. After he put the cowboy in his place, he casually twirled his gun around a few times before returning it to his holster, slung low across his slim hips. Dimples’ face was a mixture of pride and relief – and something else, too – like maybe a mute warning to stop showin’ off.

When Maggie started working at the Star, she’d just turned 19. Her very first night on the job, one of the older gals had counseled her against falling for any of the customers.

“They’re only johns, Mags,” she’d said, “and that’s all they’ll ever be. You’ll just break your own heart if you let yourself feel anything for ‘em at all.”

Now Maggie was a veteran saloon girl herself, at the ripe old age of 24, and she was proud of the fact that she never let her work get to her, like it did some of the gals – the ones that fantasized about a dashing young cowboy sweeping her up on his horse and carrying her away from this life. The ones that got their hopes up only to have them dashed to smithereens. But Maggie Sue Murphy was nobody’s fool. She was earning good hard cash in the only way she knew how and she was saving it up until she could get away somewhere and start her real life, maybe California even. Her customers were just a means to an end. Oh, she could bat her eyes and switch her hips and pout her pretty mouth with the best of ‘em, but it was all an act. A financial transaction and that’s that.

As she watched the poker game continue, the gunslingin’ cowboy threw in another bad hand – his second in a row. He pushed his chair back a mite and stretched his back, then settled in to watch the game play out with a slightly bored look on his face. Maggie’s eyes followed his arm as he reached up and pulled his hat off his head, then ran his fingers through his hair.

Lordy, those golden curls, all tousled around his face like that. As if he somehow could sense that she was staring at him, his gaze shifted over toward her and the next thing she knew she was staring straight into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Startled, it took her a second to regain her composure and grin saucily at him. A dazzling smile creased his handsome, even features. And then a barely perceptible wink.

Oh God, Maggie thought to herself. This is one cowboy I better steer clear of. But somehow she couldn’t manage to tear her eyes from his. Just a john. A means to an end. No feelings. No hopes. She was repeating the phrases to herself like a mantra as he gathered up his winnings and stood, remarking to the table that he was calling it a night. He and his partner shared another one of those wordless conversations. The curly blond head jerked ever-so-slightly in her direction and his dark-eyed friend looked over at her appreciatively, smiled knowingly, and nodded his head just barely.

The blue eyes turned back to her, expressive eyebrows raised in subtle invitation. A slight glance toward the stairs, then back to rest on her face once again. Maggie felt her cheeks turn warm, along with another, curious sensation, like she was falling in slow motion.

She took a deep, deliberate breath and straightened her shoulders, then pushed away from the bar and sauntered lazily across the saloon, toward the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, fast-drawing stranger she now knew would be her nemesis.
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Ghislaine Emrys
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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Mon May 26, 2014 8:52 am

Nemesis


I took a certain delight in being tricky.  Some might even say I was devious.  But I preferred to think of it as just being clever, being better than the others who, although they tried hard, always seemed to succumb and fail to do their job effectively.

I knew what it was like: Standing alone for hours on end, silently waiting, watching, whiling away the minutes, hours, sometimes even days.  It got downright depressing at times.  But I knew what was expected of me and I did not complain.

But then, when least expected, I would hear a voice, soft and whispery, and I would know it was time to do my job.  I cringed when things began to move and I strived mightily to resist the urge to moan when it seemed I was close or to groan when it took a long time.  I never knew how easy it would be—it was always a surprise and not always a welcome one.  

Some people admired me; others hated me.  I accepted that and stoically did my duty when called upon.  No one could say I was not reliable.

Until one day; one day that I will never forget…

It started like any other work day.  As always, I did my job as best I could, which meant ingratiating myself with the people I worked with.  Their hearty slaps were annoying but I knew I had to put up with it because I was the newest member of the team.  They meant well, and I knew it was their way of showing their appreciation of my talents, but it did get tiresome when it happened so often.  I tried to focus on the fact it meant they liked me.

I did not have to do much that morning and around noontime, we all took our usual break.  This was the best part of the day for me because I could sit by myself without being bothered by nonsensical chatter.  I liked the solitude and was always happy when the others left me alone for a while.  It was hard to always be at the ready and I welcomed the respite, brief though it was.

Soon, too soon, it was back to work.  But apparently there was not much to do and I was alone with my thoughts for a number of hours.

I must have dozed off because a sudden movement alerted me to the fact that I was no longer in my comfortable, familiar environment.  I was tied down, I suppose to prevent me from rolling around because there was a swaying movement that pitched everything back and forth, again and again.  Maybe I should have been grateful but I was more concerned about why I was on this moving contraption, all alone in the dark.

I do not know how long I was there.  I realized that solitude, when unwanted, was not so enjoyable after all.  I missed the familiar faces I was used to.  I did not know where I was going and, in any case, had no way to get back to where I had come from.  Something I had never felt before started deep inside me and tried its best to force itself out: fear.  I tamped it down, holding on to the thought that I was the best there was at my particular job.

No one came to see me, to talk to me.  No more friendly pats, no chatter about how I was a valuable member of the team.  I finally realized that my life as I knew it was over.

I lost track of the time.

Eventually I was glad I was confined by the straps around my body.  The swaying never let up and if I had been free, I would have been bruised many times over by now.  Still, if I were given the choice, I would choose freedom.  No one likes being held against his will.

Another sudden movement.  Or, to be more precise, a sudden lack of movement.  Was this better or worse for me?  I had no idea.  The only thing I could do was be patient.  I had plenty of practice with patience; it was one of the things I did well.  So I waited.

But it was not for long.  A loud, grating noise accompanied by a blinding flash of light jolted my senses.  It was too much to handle and I cowered in place, hoping I would not be noticed.

No such luck.  The voices came closer and closer and I realized it was me they were after.  I did not know whether to be pleased and relieved or nervous and wary.  So I did not do anything that would give a hint of my uncertainty.

A hand, rough and calloused, wrapped something around me.  Something heavy was attached to me and it did not smell good.  I had a bad feeling about it.  I felt dirty and...misused.  Then the hand stopped touching me and it and the voices went away.

All was quiet again.  But it was preternaturally quiet, as if something was supposed to happen and everyone was waiting for it.  I waited, along with everyone else.

Nothing happened.  After a while, I could hear voices again.  As they approached me, I could tell they were angry.  I got the impression they were angry with me.  But I had not done anything—how could I, in my position?--so how could that be?  Now I was more confused than angry or frightened.

Another hand touched me.  This one was not like the other.  It reminded me of my old friends.  The flesh was smooth but firm, and the hand caressed me, gently and carefully.  I began to relax, hoping this time I would be treated with the respect I was used to and deserved.  

I must have let my guard down, lulled by the kind treatment I was getting.  Even his voice was different.  It was low and thoughtful, admiring, playful even.  It was a voice I could listen to for a long time without getting bored.

So I was shocked when I heard a click.  I knew what that meant.

Immediately, my complacency disappeared, replaced by a keen sense of self-preservation.  I had almost given in and if I had, I would have been the laughing-stock of everyone I knew.  My reputation would be gone in a flash.  My embarrassment would be known far and wide.  I could never, would never, let that happen!  

I resolved right then and there to do all I could to avoid disgrace.

My new lack of cooperation annoyed my erstwhile friend.  His voice was not so kind anymore and his pats began to hurt.  I was satisfied.  I was doing my job and I was doing it well.  I was, after all, a professional.

I do not know how long we played this game but then I heard more voices, taunting and kind of angry.  I received a kick this time but it did not bother me.  I had prevailed and all would be well.

Little did I know.  What had already occurred was just my introduction to this team.  A conversation, whispered out of my hearing, led to me finally being untied.  But my freedom was short-lived.  Ropes, thicker than before, were strapped around me again and I was unceremoniously pulled from the dark space where I had been confined.  I landed on my side and then was dragged at a furious rate over hard rocky ground, with no control of my movements and no exception made for the state I was in.

It hurt.

I do not know how long I was treated like this.

Finally, after far too long, I was given a rest.  The voices were arguing again.  I was too tired and sore to pay any attention.

I should have.

Without any warning, I felt myself falling.  I plummeted from what seemed a great height, bouncing frequently against uneven and scratchy surfaces, but I was falling too rapidly to stop.  I accumulated many more bruises on my way down but I already hurt so much I barely noticed.  Certainly I did not look so fine anymore; that, I was sure of.  

That was my last thought before the shock of the water hit me.  Cold, so cold.  Not at all like the warm baths I used to have that felt so good.  

I was still descending.  The force of impact had loosened my bonds but now gravity was against me.  I struggled mightily but could sense I was losing the battle.

At least my secrets would be safe.

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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Tue May 27, 2014 4:25 pm

Missing scene from "Wrong Train to Brimstone." What happened in Bramberg after the train left?

-----

“This better be good, Barnes.”

The young man swallowed hard, his adam’s apple bobbing, but he didn’t back down.

“It is, Deputy. You need to come and talk to these two.”

The imposing older man restrained a sigh. So much for dinner.

“Alright, boy. You better tell me”.

Fifteen minutes later, they entered the sheriff’s office. Two middle-aged men jumped up from their chairs.

“These are the two the janitor found tied up in the men’s necessary at the train station, sir.”

“I kind of figured that, Barnes,” he responded drily. He shook hands with both men.

“Gentlemen, I’m Deputy Wade Sawyer. I’m the Acting Sheriff here in Bramberg. Deputy Barnes already told me a bit on the way over here, but why don’t one of you give me your story.”

“Deputy, there ain’t time for a story. I’m Carl Grant, and this here is my partner Fred Gaines. We’re detectives with the George Bannerman Detective Agency. You got to get that telegraph office open again so we can send a telegram to Harry Briscoe in Brimstone. He’s running the Bannerman operation on the gold train. We got to tell him there’s two men pretending to be us on that train.”

“Slow down, Grant. I don’t got to do anything until you convince me you’re really Bannerman men.”

“Here’s our identification Deputy Sawyer,” Gaines said. “This proves we’re certified agents from the Fort Worth office. George Bannerman himself had us come here to Bramberg to help protect the gold train. If we can’t reach Mr. Briscoe when the train stops at Brimstone, the whole gold shipment could be in danger.”

“I know about the gold train,” Sawyer said, casually sitting down on one corner of his desk, giving the identifications cards only a quick look before returning them. “Everybody seems to. Poor security, I’d say. That don’t sound like the way Bannerman operates.”

“It is in this case, Deputy,” Gaines insisted. “We made sure the word got out. Me and Grant here, along with other top agents, we set a trap for the Devil’s Hole Gang. We want them to attack the train. When they do, we’ll be ready.”

“The Devil’s Hole Gang,” Sawyer said, thoughtfully.

“No doubt you’re familiar with them, Deputy.”

“More than you know, Mr. Gaines.”  Sawyer held up one hand in a stop gesture when Grant started to talk again. “Give me a minute here, Mr. Grant.”

Sawyer turned abruptly to the young man waiting nervously behind him. “Barnes. You’re so good at getting people over here. Find Homer Thatcher and Al Farrington and bring them here. Thatcher first. He’s probably bending his elbow at the saloon.” Barnes nodded and almost ran out the door, slamming it loudly behind him. Sawyer winced at the noise and turned his attention back to the two anxious men before him.

“Thatcher’s the railroad ticket agent. He’ll verify whether or not you were on the list Bannerman provided.”

“I appreciate your caution, Deputy,” Gaines said, “but we’re awful short on time. We need that telegram sent.”

“Farrington’s the telegraph office manager. If I believe your story, which I don’t yet, I’ll have him send the telegraph to Brimstone.”

“What don’t you believe, Deputy Sawyer?” Grant asked. “We gave you our identification.”

“Identification can be forged or stolen,” Sawyer replied. “Especially when the Devil’s Hole Gang may be involved. And frankly, the way you were found, all hog-tied nice and neat in the men’s necessary, isn’t exactly the way I normally meet Bannerman agents.”

Grant’s and Gaines’ expressions shifted between embarrassment and anger.

“I’ll admit that tonight’s not our finest moment as Bannerman agents,” Grant said. “We were completely surprised by those two.”

“Not completely,” Gaines argued. “I had my gun pointed at ‘em.”

“You were holding a gun on them?” Sawyer asked, his voice full of doubt. “And they still got the drop on you? Gentlemen, gentlemen. And you want me to believe that you’re not only Bannerman agents, but so good that George Bannerman wanted you special.” Sawyer shook his head, as if he were sad. A deep red flush grew on the faces of both agents.

“Not our best day for sure,” Gaines admitted. “But it doesn’t alter the facts, Deputy Sawyer. There’s two men on the gold train, pretending to be us.”

“How is that a problem? A train full of Bannerman detectives, two strangers will be spotted right away. Unless they look just like you.”

“They don’t look like us, but this job’s pulling agents from all the major offices. We’ve never met any of them.”

“So even if I let you send a telegram to Briscoe, he won’t be able to verify who you are, or who they are?”

The deep red flush on the agents’ faces got deeper. “Afraid so, Deputy.”

“You two are in a world of hurt, aren’t you?”

“Deputy Sawyer,” Grant said, “You’ve got to believe us. This is our best chance to get the Devil’s Hole Gang, and especially Heyes and Curry. Don’t you want them out of your hair, once and for all?”

“More than you know,” Sawyer told them. “I had a run-in with Heyes and Curry in Kingsburg not too long ago. My wife’s heard me go on so much about them two, she laughs at me and calls me their nemesis.” He noticed the confusion on the agents’ faces. “Nemesis was one of them old Greek gods. The agent of justice or vengeance. My wife’s a reader.”

“Now you  got me curious, Deputy,” Grant said. “Sounds like you know them well.”

“Too well. If I ever see them two again, I’ll put them in the ground myself.”

Both Gaines and Grant stood up a little straighter.

“You’d know them on sight, Deputy?” Gaines asked.

“Sure would. I’ve been as close to them as I am to you right now.” The agents exchanged glances.

“What?” Sawyer asked.

“I wish we’d known that beforehand. One of our agents, Jeremiah Daly, he found a girl who says she knows Heyes and Curry. She’s the ace up our sleeve.”

“You mean she’s on the train?” The two agents nodded.

“When the gang attacks, she’s supposed to point out Heyes and Curry, so we can be sure to aim the gatling gun direct at them.”

“This train’s got a gatling gun?” Sawyer was impressed in spite of himself.

“Sure does. The Bannerman organization’s going to put every one of the Devil’s Hole Gang down. Especially Heyes and Curry.”

Sawyer whistled a slow, long whistle. “Well. That’s something.” He looked at his reluctant guests with more respect. “I sure hope your story pans out, gentlemen. Because nothing’d please me more to see Heyes and Curry in pine boxes.”

The door burst open suddenly. A dishevelled man in a railroad conductor’s suit stumbled over the threshold. He was pushed into the room none too gently by Barnes.

“I found Homer at the saloon, Deputy, just like you said.”

“Good job, Barnes. Now go get Farrington. Homer, sit down before you fall down.” The railroad agent fell heavily into a chair. He wiped his face with a crumpled handkerchief. The other mens’ noses wrinkled at the strong smell of beer that emanated from Thatcher.

“How much you had to drink tonight, Homer?” Sawyer asked.

“What do you care? I’m off duty, and I paid for my own drinks.”

“In case you ain’t noticed, Homer, I got two guests here besides you.” Thatcher looked up reluctantly into two familiar faces.

“How come you two ain’t on the train?” Thatcher asked.

“There you go, Sheriff! That confirms our story,” Grant said.

“Homer. You recognize these two?”

“Sure do, Deputy.”

“Where’d you see ‘em last?”

“At the ticket office tonight. They had reservations for the special train. I gave them their tickets.”

“You see anybody else who didn’t have reservations?”

Thatcher shrugged dismissively and tried to rise. Sawyer leaned forward and put a firm hand on Thatcher’s shoulder, shoving him hard back into the chair.

“Be real clear, Homer. Leastways, clear as you can be when you get off-duty. Did anyone else try to buy tickets for the special train tonight?”

Thatcher looked resentfully at the firm hand pinning. “My memory ain’t so good when someone’s tryin’ to push me around.”

“You ever hear of obstruction of justice, Homer?” Sawyer asked. “That’s a criminal offense. That’s when an officer of the law, like me, is trying to do an investigation, and some damn fool, like you, tries to be a pain in the ass. That railroad you work for ain’t gonna be too happy when it finds out you didn’t do your closing rounds like you should have done anyway. ‘Cause if you had, you’d’ve found these two Bannerman detectives right quick.”

“I didn’t know they was Bannermans,” Thatcher whined.

“You weren’t supposed to,” Grant said. “Answer Deputy Sawyer’s question.”

“Yeah. There was two young fellers. They wanted tickets real bad. I told ‘em, the train was full up. That’s when these two, Grant and Gaines, they come in, and I checked the reservation list. They was on the list, so I sold them tickets. Soon as they left, them other two came back, wanting to know why they got tickets. I said, ‘cause they had reservations. The dark-haired one, he was doing all the talking, he says, ‘fine, sell us a reservation.’ I told him, sorry, the train’s all sold out. I turned away just for a minute, and they was gone. I figured they left.”

“That’s better, Homer. Now tell me what these two looked like. You saw ‘em real close-up.”

“I sure did. Both maybe late 20’s. Clean-cut. Both of them maybe just under six foot tall.”

“Keep going, Homer,” Sawyer urged. He glanced over at the Bannerman agents and noticed both looked grim.

“This description sound familiar to you men?”

“Sure does.”

“Go on, Homer. Hair color. Eye color. What they wore. Were they heeled?”

“I’ll remember better if you unhand me, Deputy.” Sawyer released the man’s shoulder.

“The dark-haired one, brown hair, brown eyes. Black hat with silver studs on the hat band, brown corduroy jacket. The other one, he never said a word. Brown hat, leather jacket. Curly blonde hair, I think, but hard to say with his hat on. Blue eyes. And yeah, now that you mention it, both of them wore guns.”

“Gaines, Grant, you got any more questions for this man?”

“I do,” Gaines said. “What did you do after the train left the station?”

“I locked up and walked over to the saloon. That’s where I been since.”

“Alright, Homer, you can go now,” Sawyer told him.

“I can?”

“Yep. In fact, if you ain’t out of here in about 30 seconds, I might kick you out.”

“I’m goin.” He paused at the door. “Deputy, you ain’t gonna tell the railroad about me not checking the washroom before I left are you?”

“I’ll think about it. Now skedaddle.”

After the door closed, Sawyer turned to the unhappy agents.

“Boys, I’m starting to believe you.”

“All that man did was confirm we gave him names that were on the list,” Grant said. “How come you believe us now?”

“Because of that description.” Grant and Gaines looked puzzled. “You don’t get it, do you? It’d be funny if it weren’t so tragic. That description fits Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry a hundred percent.” Disbelief and shock showed on the agents’ faces.

“That’s the tragic part. Here you are, all fired-up to get on that gold train to catch Heyes and Curry, and you could’ve caught them in the washroom. Gaines, you even had them at gunpoint. Twenty thousand dollars in the washroom with you, and you never knew it.”

The door slammed open again. This time, Barnes escorted an elderly man, who stepped carefully over the threshold. Sawyer got up and shook his hand.

“Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Farrington, but it looks like I’m going need you to reopen the telegraph office right now and send an emergency message to Brimstone.”

“You know I’m always willing to help out, Deputy Sawyer. Least as much as these old bones let me.”

Sawyer opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pad of paper. “Mr. Farrington, one of these gentlemen is going to dictate a message for you to send to the railroad office in Brimstone. Why don’t you sit down in my chair so it’s easier for you to write?”

“I’ll dictate,” Grant said. He waited until the old man was settled in the chair, pen poised above the paper. “To Mr. Harry Briscoe. Men claiming to be Grant and Gaines are impostors. Arrest them immediately. And sign that Fred Gaines and Carl Grant, Bannerman Agency.” The old man wrote quickly and read the message back to make sure it was right.

“You satisfied, gentlemen? Barnes,” Sawyer said, “you escort Mr. Farrington to the telegraph office. Make sure you wait for a reply. Then bring it back here right away.”

“Will do, Deputy. This way, if you please, Mr. Farrington.” Barnes offered his arm to Farrington, who gratefully took it to pull himself out of the chair.

“Don’t worry, Deputy,” Farrington said. “I know the operator in Bramberg. He’s a good man. He’ll make sure the conductor on that train gets the telegram.”

“Good. Do it.” No one spoke until the two left.

“Why didn’t you mention Heyes or Curry in that message?” Sawyer asked.

“Not necessary,” Grant replied. “All that matters now is that they’re taken into custody.”

“Besides,” Gaines added, “all hell might break loose if a lot of people knew $20,000 was walking around in front of them. Even that responsible telegrapher in Bramberg could decide to take it upon himself to arrest them and claim the money for himself. No, it’s safer for everyone if they don’t know they’re facing Heyes and Curry.”

“I see your point, but I don’t agree with you. Those two are smart and dangerous. Better to have everyone alerted. Else they’ll get the jump on folks the same way they did on you.”

“No, they won’t, Deputy. They had the advantage of surprise. They won’t get that again.”

Sawyer only grunted. “Have it your way.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “Shouldn’t be too long a wait. You might as well sit down and get comfortable. I’ll make us some coffee.”

The minutes passed slowly. Gaines and Grant sat tensely in their chairs, sipping the bitter coffee and checking their pocket watches almost minute to minute. Rather than watch the clock, Sawyer decided to do a little paperwork. He was thumbing through a file drawer when some sixth sense made him look up. Barnes was outside, looking at him through the window. Sawyer’s mouth opened to say something, but Barnes shook his head. Sawyer pushed the file drawer closed carefully.

The two agents were staring off into space, ignoring him. Slowly, Sawyer reached for his gun. He unhooked the safety on his holster and patted the gun for reassurance. Looking at Barnes again, Sawyer flicked his eyes towards the agents and pointed to his own gun. He mouthed silently “come in.”

Barnes came in quietly. Grant and Gaines almost jumped out of their seats. Standing behind them, Sawyer drew his gun and pointed it at their backs.

“Did you get a reply, boy?” Gaines asked. Barnes’ eyes drifted past him towards Sawyer.

“Easy now, Grant, Gaines. If those are your names.” Their jaws dropped comically when they saw Sawyer’s Colt pointed steadily at them.

“Take your guns out, gentlemen. Slow, one finger, and put them careful-like on my desk.”

“Deputy Sawyer, what are you doing?” Grant demanded. “I thought you said you were starting to believe us.”

“Starting to,” Sawyer replied, “but not there yet. Guns on the desk, then you sit down again. Hands on the arms of your chairs, where I can see them.” The men complied, reluctantly.

“Now what?” Gaines said. Sawyer crossed over to his desk, his Colt steady in  his hand.

“I believe we do have a reply, gentlemen. Why don’t you read it, Barnes?” There was no sound in the room except the crinkling of paper as Barnes unfolded the telegram. He read out loud:

Men claiming to be Grant and Gaines are fugitives. Hold for my return. All my best, Harry Briscoe.

“That settles it. You’re going to be my guests here until Mr. Briscoe gets back.”

“There’s got to be a mistake,” Grant insisted. He was almost sputtering.

“No mistake,” Sawyer said. “Unless it was yours, trying to pass yourselves off as Bannermans. Barnes, you take one of their guns. We’re going to escort these two into the first cell, where they can settle in. You’ll stay here tonight with them, and I’ll relieve you in the morning.” The two demoralized agents wearily entered the first cell, shoulders sagging. They looked utterly defeated.

“Bannerman men. Huh. Nice try, fellas.” He tipped his hat to them and left quickly. If he got home soon, maybe Maggie would heat up some dinner for him.

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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Sat May 31, 2014 10:12 pm

For this month, a friend suggested I continue the Hopping Trains story, which has had six prior installments as monthly challenges.  Hope this makes sense to those not familiar with it.


Hopping Trains: Faces


"A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces." -- Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.

"When's the last ya ate, Jed?"

Green, brown, grey scenery sped by. Trees, woods, grasslands flat, stretching horizon-ward as far as blue eyes could see.   Reveries of home-cooked meals played in the boy's thoughts.  

"Jed?"

Startled, he turned toward the voice.  

"In yer own world there, huh?  Thinkin' of food?  Maybe yer ma's?"

A young brow furrowed.  "How'd ya know?"

A laugh.  "Yer stomach's rumblin'.  Not hard to figure."

He felt his face flush.  A grumble inside.  Only then did mind and gut connect.  A too brief picture of home-baked bread, cookies --olfactory overload.  His ma's gentle but unnecessary prod to her youngest son to eat ... gone.

"No sad faces, then.  Wayfarers are boon sorts.  Gotta watch out fer each other."  He reached into his rucksack, brought forth jerky, held one out.  

Jed was on the offering faster than ... anything.

Cager Bruce chuckled.  "Good reflexes there, better'n a jack rabbit."  He watched the lad chomp, offered another.  

The same.

"So I'll ask again, when's the last time ya ate?"

The boy used sleeve as napkin.  Brows knit.  "Um, not since we run away, about two days ago.  Seems longer."

"Bet it does.  Mighty long fer a man to be without sustenance."

Sad blues eyes stared at the side of the box car, as if trying to will something.  "Han had the victuals."

A canteen held out.  "And the water?"

Jed grabbed the vessel, perhaps too eagerily.  "Uh, huh."  He drank, not as greedily as the first time.  Handed it back.

Cager took a swig.  "Gonna hafta scrounge up provisions.  Barely have enough for one, never mind two."

"Two?"

"Sure.  We's together, ain't we?  Companions have to look out for each other."

"But ..."

"I know.  Ya need to find this Hannibal."

A nod.

"Like I said, that needle in the haystack's hard to find, but until ya do, we's travelin' the same way, so, how's 'bout it?  I've only a kid sister, so ya can be the little brother I never had.  We're both runnin'."

Blue eyes met hazel.  Why did this one remind him of Han?  The hat jauntily placed?  The devil may care in the light of danger?  The protective posture?

"Well?  What've ya got to lose?"

Hesitation.  Finally, "Okay."

"Good."  A pause.  "One thing, though.  They catch up to me, you run, and keep runnin'.  And don't look back."

"But ..."

Sternly, "No buts.  Ya get the hell out of there if'n that happens."

A grave nod.  A look, away, out the door.  Scenery rushed by, like too many faces from yesterday.  Away.  

***

"Cat got your tongue?  You're awfully quiet."  Polly Brewster glanced at the youngster beside her.

Han glanced back, looked into the distance.  "Just thinking."

"About what?"

"I don't know."

She smiled.  "If it's about Pa, I told you there's nothing to worry about.  He's a good man and wouldn't want anybody out there by themselves if he could help it.  My brother got lost once when he was little, and Pa hoped somebody'd find him, and they did and brought him home.  Pa was thankful, but tanned his hide after the people left."    

"Why'd he get a licking if he got lost?"

She smiled.  "Well, it was more he got lost after running off.  Couldn't find his way home."  Blue eyes clouded.  "Still can't, sort of.  Not for long anyway"

"Why not?"

"Long story."

Brown eyes reassured.  "That's okay."

"I just worry about him, like you're worried about finding your cousin."

A nod.

"Pa says what keeps him away is his nemesis, too; not just Will's."

"Nemesis?  What's that?"

Pert nose scrunched beneath flaxen curls.  "Um, something after you; like an enemy, I guess.  Pa could explain it better."  

"Nemesis?  Guess me and Jed have that, too."

"You run away?"

"Uh huh."

"Where from?"

Han looked down.  "I'd rather not say."

"Long story?"

"Uh huh."

"I understand."

Save for clops along the road, silence.  Young minds wandered, contemplated blue sky, puffy clouds, warmth.  Laughter, good times, smiles.  Shattered.

"Whoa!"

Axles screeched.

Blue uniforms, a short column, rode past.  Two youngsters stared, hard.  Locked eyes with a beribboned soldier.  A tip of hat.  "Ma'am."

Harsh gazes, silence, returned the greeting.

Squad past, Polly whipped the reins.  Startled horses galloped, frenzied.  The boy held tight to the bench.  A mile flashed by.  Han's thoughts took him back.  Grey that day:  Weather.  Uniforms.

Farmhouse, outbuildings, came into view.  The horses charged into the yard.  Polly jumped down, looked up at a man standing on the porch.

"Pa?"

"It's all right, girl.  They're still looking for him.  Thought they'd catch him visiting."  The elder William Brewster sighed, relieved.  "Two days earlier ..."  He shook his head.  "That was close.  Too close."

Polly flew up the porch stairs, into her father's embrace.  

Han watched, tried to remember loved ones' faces, faded now with time, like a clouded window.  But washing it would not bring back the past.

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PostSubject: Re: May 2014 - Nemesis   Sat May 31, 2014 11:48 pm

Two trail weary and filthy former outlaws cautiously rode into Goldfield, Arizona, their eyes taking in the buildings, the townsfolk, and glanced for a name on the sheriff’s office.

“Matt Carson,” Curry muttered so only his partner would hear. “I don’t think we know Sheriff Carson, do we?”

Heyes smiled, his teeth seeming whiter than usual with the dirt on his face.  “I don’t believe we do know a Sheriff Carson.”

The two reined their horses towards the livery.

“I sure can use a drink – feel like I swallowed a pint of dust on this trip.”  The Kid looked longingly at the saloon as they passed it.  “And a bath.  I have dirt where dirt don’t belong.”

“Me, too, partner.  Me, too,” Heyes agreed.  “So what’s first?”

“Drink and then a bath?”

“And then a meal and a bed?”

“No poker for you?”

“Not this evening.  I’m plumb tuckered out.”

“Me, too.”  Curry yawned.  “Sounds like a plan.”

Staring at the two town visitors from inside the jail, the sheriff scowled.  “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry… I’m going to get you this time!”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


An elderly Oriental man poured more hot water in Heyes’ tub.

“Ahhh… That feels so good!”  Heyes sank deeper into the water, relaxing his sore muscles.  

The Kid scrubbed his hair with soap and went under to rinse off.  He came up and shook his wet head.

“Hey, cut it out!” Heyes growled.

Blue eyes blinked.  “What?  Am I gonna get you more wet?”

“Yes… No… That’s not the point.”

Curry rubbed soap on a cloth and proceeded to scrub any remaining dirt from his body.  “What is the point?”

“It’s just plain annoying, that’s what!”

“I’m gettin’ hungry.  Are you about done?”

“Uh huh.  I’m about to fall asleep in here.”

The Kid looked around.  “Where did he say he put the towels?”

“Over there.”  Heyes pointed nonchalantly towards a bench without looking.  “The one with our saddlebags on it.”

“Which bench?  I don’t see our saddlebags.”

“Right over…”  Heyes sat up and turned towards the back of the room.  “Where’d they go?”

“I have them.”  The sheriff walked into the bathhouse room with his gun pulled and aimed at them.  “Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, you’re under arrest!”

“Curt Clitterhouse!” both cried out in unison.

“But you were…” Curry started.

“Jailed for taking a bribe?  Got out a few months ago.”  Clitterhouse walked in front of the tubs.  “Couldn’t go back to being a sheriff under my old name so took on an alias.  An alias like you boys had.”  He smirked at the men in the tubs.

“How did you get outta jail so fast,” Heyes pondered aloud.

“Never you mind how.”  Clitterhouse, agitated, waved his gun back and forth between the men.  “Both of you stand up, nice and easy, with your hands holding the sides of the tubs.”

Heyes and Curry glanced at each other before gripping the edges of the tubs and slowly standing up.  The water ran down their bodies and they placed their hands in front of themselves as a show of modesty.

“Step outta the tubs,” the sheriff ordered them.

“Where’s our clothes?” the Kid asked.

“You’re not getting them until I check them over at the jail.”

“And how are we getting to the jail?” Heyes asked agitated.

“You’re walking.”

“Nekkid?!”  Curry glared at the sheriff.  “How’d that look?”

“Not exactly naked.”  Clitterhouse called out, “Wang Tao, bring me two blankets.”

“You want us to parade through the street with nothing on but a blanket?  Are you crazy?!”  Heyes stepped out of the tub, water pooling on the floor by his feet.

“Not crazy, just cautious.”

The owner of the bath house looked apologetic towards his two customers as he handed each of them a blanket.  “Sheriff make me.”

“You can cover yourself with those until I give you clothes.  Wang Tao, I want you to follow, at a distance, with these men’s saddle bags and guns.”

Heyes and Curry grumbled as they wrapped themselves in a blanket.  “Of all the low-down, humiliating…”

Clitterhouse waved his gun towards the door.  “Let’s go!”

The prisoners led the way to the jail, embarrassed at the stares from the townsfolk.  Wang Tao followed behind, laden with saddle bags, boots, hats, and gun holsters.

Once inside his office, the sheriff ordered, “Heyes, you get into the cell on the right and Curry, you get into the cell on the left.  Wang Tao, leave their things on my desk.”

“My blankets?”

“You’ll get your blankets back when I’m done with them.”  Clitterhouse gave both men a shove into cells and locked the doors as the bath house owner left.  “I learned a few things from last time – one is to keep prisoners across from each other, if at all possible.  Cuts down on the planning.”  He put the ring of keys in a desk drawer.  “See, while in prison I figured out it was you, Heyes, that put that plan into Ribs Johnson’s head.  He was too dumb to think of that.  Must have whispered through the bars.”

Heyes grabbed a bar with one hand while holding to the blanket with the other.  “What are you planning to do with us?”  

“Turn you in for the reward, of course.  Imagine what I can do with $20,000!”

“Imagine…” the Kid grumbled.

“You can’t turn us in for the reward – you’re the sheriff and sheriffs don’t get reward money,” Heyes spat.  “It’s your job to arrest crooks.”

“Which we’re not anymore,” Curry added.

“And wouldn’t the good people of Goldfield be interested to hear that their sheriff’s real name is Curt Clitterhouse and what he did in Junction City.”

“You have a good point there, Heyes.”  The sheriff locked the door.  “We’ll just make sure no one comes near you to hear.”

“You can’t be in here 24 hours a day.”

“No, Heyes.  I guess I’ll have to gag you both when I leave or know someone’s coming in here.”

“Great… Thanks a lot, Heyes.”  Curry turned from the bars and sat down on the cot and sighed.  “Gagged.”

“So when are we getting our clothes?”  Heyes drew the blanket close.

The sheriff opened a saddle bag.  “Who’s does this one belong to?”

Curry glanced over.  “That’s Heyes’.”

Clitterhouse looked smug and opened the other bag.  “You can wait, Heyes.  You and your big mouth.”  He pulled out a pair of clean long johns and inspected them before throwing them into the Kid’s cell.

Heyes scowled and paced as Curry got up and picked up his underwear, turned, and put them on.

The sheriff inspected a pair of pants and a shirt for anything that might aid in an escape before tossing them in Kid Curry’s cell.

“Thanks,” mumbled the Kid.

The door handle turned and then there was loud knocking at the door.  “Sheriff Carson!”  Banging on the door.  “I need to talk to you!”

Now Heyes looked smug as the sheriff furrowed his brow.

“Sheriff!”

“Just a minute!” Clitterhouse shouted back and then smiled as he held up a two bandanas.  He threw one to each of his prisoners.  “Put that in your mouth.”

“You gotta be kidding!”

The sheriff pulled out his gun.  “You’re wanted dead or alive – don’t’ make trouble and do as I say!”

“It better be clean,” Heyes grumbled.

Heyes and Curry both glared as they put a bandana in their mouths.

“If you remove them before I say, you’re a dead man.  Understand?”

Both prisoners nodded.

Clitterhouse holstered his gun and unlocked the door.  “Mayor Wilson, how can I help you?”

A rotund red-faced man came into the office.  “Sheriff Carson, what is the idea of parading men naked through our streets?  My wife and daughter saw them.”  He glanced over at the quiet prisoners in the cells.

“They are dangerous men, Mayor, and I captured them while their guard was down in the bath house.  I wanted to wait until they were in cells before inspecting and giving them clothes to wear.”

“Dangerous men… Who are they?”

“Why that’s… Carlson and Murtry from the Devil’s Hole gang!”

Heyes’ and Curry’s eyes got big and they glanced at each other.

“Devil’s Hole gang?  Are you sure?”  Mayor Wilson backed away from the cell towards the door.

“Of course I’m sure!  Saw them once while in Wyoming.  Taking extra precautions with them.”

“Strange how they don’t talk.”

“I got the fear in them – told them not to talk while visitors were here.”

“Well, good job, Sheriff Carson.  Keep up the good work.”  The mayor quickly left the office and slammed the door shut.

Clitterhouse chuckled as he locked the door again.  “You can remove the bandanas.”

“Carlson and Murtry!” the Kid choked out as he removed his gag.  “I can’t believe you told him we were Wheat and Kyle.”

“I can.  He can’t tell the mayor who we really are.  Not if he wants the reward on us.”  Heyes threw the damp bandana on his cot.  “So what are you planning on doing with us, Clitterhouse?”

“Well, I didn’t expect to see you here in Goldfield so didn’t give it much thought.”  The sheriff poured a cup of coffee and began rummaging through Heyes’ saddle bags.  “You’re gonna pay for Junction City, that’s for sure!  Had a good name and reputation before you showed up.”

“We didn’t tell you to go back on your deal with us or take the bribe!” Heyes argued.

“Keep talking, Heyes, and you can keep that bandana in your mouth while I get your clothes to you real slow.”  The sheriff glanced at his watch.  “Dinner time.  In fact, think you can wait for your clothes until I get back.  Since you’ve been cooperating, I bring you something back to eat.”  He grabbed the cell keys from the drawer, threw them in the air and caught them with a smile.  “I’ll be taking these with me.  See you in about an hour, boys.”

The sheriff unlocked the door, stepped out and the prisoners could hear the door being locked again.

“How come you get your clothes and I don’t,” protested Heyes.

“Because of your mouth, Heyes.”

“I didn’t say nothing that was wrong.”

“No, but you should’ve waited to say them things after you had your clothes on.”  Curry lay down on the cot.  “Well, we got the drink and bath already and will soon have the dinner and bed.”

Heyes rolled his eyes and continued to pace.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Clitterhouse watched as the prisoners ate their stew and bread.  “Judge Hanley knew you were Heyes and Curry and yet he let you go.  He knew something about you two to do that.  What was it?”

Curry glanced at his partner still wrapped in a blanket.  “Can’t say.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“You heard the Kid – we can’t say.”

“Hmm,” the sheriff pondered.  “I heard rumors about the governor making a deal with you.  Offered you amnesty.”  He looked pointed at both men, but got no reaction from them, except a scowl from Heyes.  “But as far as I know, you’re still wanted.  Turning you in will be such a joy!  Twenty years in prison.  They’ll separate you two – you’ll be lucky to see each other.  And there’s no talking in there.  That’ll be a problem for you, Heyes.”

“And you won’t be any richer, Clitterhouse.”

“Sure I will.  You see, I’ve decided to resign as sheriff of Goldfield this evening and take on a new profession – that of a bounty hunter.  And with $20,000, I won’t have to work again for a very long time.”  Clitterhouse took out a paper and pen.  “Eat up and rest, boys.  We’re going on a trip in a few hours and go visit a sheriff friend of mine about 20 miles away.  I can turn you in there and he won’t ask any questions.  Has a reputation of not questioning the condition of prisoners, either.”  The sheriff began writing.  “Think I’ll tell folks about your unlawful dealings, too.”

“What unlawful dealin’s,” asked the Kid.

“The one that will insure you to lose any chance at that amnesty.”  Sheriff Clitterhouse laughed.

Heyes and Curry moaned.

_________________
h
"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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