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 June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?

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Calico

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Age : 52
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:52 am

Pip pip pip

Late again, but here I am...

Since some us appreciation ladies have a big (inter) national decision to make during this month...

[C'mon Brits - you know you love listening to those politicians on the radio Sleep Sleep Sleep ]


I though a timely - and ASJ thoroughly bunny bounceable - topic would be:


"Do we stay or do we go?"


Let the agonising, apologising, or apathy-ising - begin!!


mush brb train stage

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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: Challenge: June 2016: Wichita Red   Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:23 pm

Blood on the Road: part one
This is a follow up to my Feb. 2016 Challenge Story, Blood in the Sun.


He stood on the edge of the boardwalk, his once fine suit showing signs of a man who had ridden far and hard with covering distance on his mind. Peering up and down the Main Street of Cassoday and rolling the well-chewed cigar in his mouth, he thought, 'they must of skipped this hole.' A block further and across the way, he read 'Dodd's Store' painted in large yellow letters across a larger display window. "Might 'en as well, get supplies," he grunted and turning he stomped down the sun-warped boards of the walk as if the townsfolk did not exist. When a pure moment of revelry swept over him and spitting out the cigar, he leapt to the muddy street below, "Hannibal Heyes!"

Hannibal and Jed's mouths dropped open, their eyes darting in unison to a voice they well recognized. It was Frank Rucker, the man they had double-crossed. Well, not really a man, but a monster, as Hannibal had labeled him, after the blood baths they had witnessed Rucker and his gang perform. Looking back to each other, their frozen state broke, and they bolted for their horses.

The first shot flew from Rucker's Remington before it had scarcely cleared the holster.

Grabbing his reins while clutching the burlap sack of goods in his off hand, Jed swung aboard his gelding before the second shot was fired. The bullet missed him, thwacking into the hitch rail and shooting splinters into the muzzle of Heyes' long-legged mare; whinnying sharply, she reared, twisting her head.

"Easy, girl, easy..." Hannibal rushed forward with his hands held out to her.

Her eyes rolled white, she snorted at him with her backside slinging about like a knot on the end of a rope.

Another crack from Rucker's pistol reverberated off the building's tall, false fronts and with a final plunge the mare snapped the reins. A fourth shot followed rapidly on the heels of the others and Hannibal stumbled backwards. His brown eyes became a stark contrast to his pale face as he watched his horse run away while not even realizing he had crumpled to his knees.

"Han?" Jed yelped, flinging down an arm while removing his foot from the stirrup, "Han!"

Hannibal shoved off the ground, lunging for the swaying stirrup. His toe hit the mark and he knew all would be fine, despite the undiluted pain expanding with molten heat across his chest. Because, it had to be, he and Jed were together and that always made everything alright. But, then his muscles seized, his hand slipping, and he was falling. But, true to course, Jed was faster. He had him and was hauling him on when the buzz of a hornet breezed them and Dodd's display window erupted; jagged shards crashing both inside and across the general store's wide-covered porch.  

"Grab hold," Jed barked, kicking his horse so hard, the gelding flung mud a good eight-feet in the air as it raced along Cassoday's Main Street.

Firing until his pistol answered back with a click, Frank's voice rose to a pitch bordering lunacy as he hollered after them, "Go on and run, I'll still get you...you hear me RUN, I enjoy the hunt."

The businesses bled into fine Victorian homes, little ornate boxes one after another lining the road, all with their perfectly tended gardens separated by even more intricate iron fences.

Turning in the saddle, to get a look at his cousin, Jed asked, "were you hit?"

Through gritted teeth, Hannibal replied, "just grazed me, keep going." Truth was, he could feel blood soaking his shirtfront and each hoot beat was like being slammed by a hammer.

The residential district slipped away, the homesteads becoming larger farms and the road began a slow curve, angling away from the banks of the Neosho. Reining the big bay in, Jed's adolescent voice cracked, squeaking, "should I go all the way down to the bridge or cross here?" .

"Cross...just cross, no time to waste." Hannibal gasped, clinging tight with  his good arm.

Jed veered his horse from the road and his gelding snorted, eyeing the steep bank and water beyond. "Nate, I ain't got the time for you to look at it, 'till you figure out it ain't gonna bite you." Jed scolded, kicking the horse over and over until it plunged into the swirling current.

The river was deeper and stronger than expected and weighed down double, Nate was struggling to keep his head above water. Without discussion they slid from his back, each latching hold of a stirrup.

Hannibal sighed, as the water incased him, the coolness easing the fire building in his chest. But not the pain. It hurt worse than anything he had experienced and their escape was sapping his strength. Slipping his forearm deeper through the stirrup, he gritted his teeth, still a throaty groan escaped him.  

"We're almost there, hang on." Jed pleaded, "Hang on. You hear me? We're close, don't let go."

Then Nate's stout legs were striking ground and when Hannibal felt his own legs drag bottom, he did let go, and fell to the muddy bank with a plop. Rolling on his side, he saw Jed was heading toward him in a stumbling run before he was even fully on his feet. "No! Catch up, Nate."

Spinning, Jed tore out after the gelding, deftly sweeping up a trailing rein. Nate looked irritably at the boy before shaking for all he was worth. The rigging flapped, jouncing about noisily, and the water spraying from him became flashing gemstones in the golden, evening light.

Climbing up the bank with one hand clasped to the bullet hole, Hannibal was biting so deep into his lower lip that a vivid white line had appeared. Though the rushing current had cooled him, his now wet shirt was rapidly refilling with blood that streaked ghastly patterns down his front.

"Sweet Jesus..." Jed cried, dragging Nate after him as he tried to run for his cousin, "what can I do?"  

Growling and shaking his head, Hannibal went to Nate's off-side, hauling himself into the saddle, he slid behind the cantle, to once more ride atop the saddlebags.

Jed stood staring cow-eyed up at him, twisting the reins round and round in his hands.

"Kid, I'm fine," Hannibal cajoled, releasing one of his bright, dimpled smiles, "really I am, come on."

Back in the saddle, the dirt road once more became a blur and the constant rocking, rhythm created spasms of pain for Hannibal. It rolled brilliantly through him, over him, until he gave in slumping against Jed's back.

"You ain't passing out one me, are you?" Jed warbled, sounding every bit as young as he was. "I won't be able to catch you this time. Han?" Getting no response, he whipped the tail of his reins, one, two, three times across his cousin's thigh. Their sudden sting worked for he felt Hannibal sit up straighter, "stay with me. All right?"

"Tryin'." Hannibal answered and worried he peered back across his shoulder, hoping to not see a trace of Rucker, What he did see made the weak portion of hope he was holding onto crumble to dust. "Uh, Kid, you best take a gander at our back trail."

Doing just that, Jed saw a perfect, solid-line of hoof prints. His eyes squinted and he shook his head. All around them tall, undulating grass bent toward the road. The grass would leave just as strong of a trail, but at least, here on the road, Nate was not likely to lose his footing. 'What am I to do?' Jed thought, and feeling his cousin turn again, he asked, "You see 'em?"

"If I did, wouldn't I say so!" Came the quick retort.

"Don't be getting proddy with me." Jed snapped off just as quickly, realizing this had become pretty much an established reply for him. Well, at least, since they had run out on the Rucker gang several weeks back. For some reason, he could not seem to do or say much of anything that did not give Hannibal cause to bawl him out. Thinking this over more, a notion came to Jed, "Hey, I thought you read in the paper, the Sheriff's posse from Paulsville rounded up the Rucker gang?"

Squeezing his eyes tight, Hannibal swallowed, thinking, 'yeah, just not Frank.'  

"You knew he was out there. You knew, didn't you!? That's why you've been keepin' us on the move." Jed exclaimed, not slowing Nate as he turned him down the embankment toward a thick, spreading line of trees.

It was all Hannibal could do to keep from crying out, as the gelding's jagged hops, jerked him about. He was afraid if he let himself holler even once, he might never be able to stop.

"And, it's why you been lookin' over your shoulder so much, it's like you've developed a twitch." Jed snarled, his anger starting to rise Damn it, we're supposed to be partners. That's what you said, ain't it Hannibal. And, here you knew and said nothing to me."

Clinging tighter to Jed as bright sparks dazzled his eyes, Hannibal grunted, "could we possibly have this argument later?"

At the trees, Jed saw right away there was no clear trail, "why can't we ever get a break?" He asked, half under his breath.

Only to hear his cousin mutter, "this won't work."

Wanting nothing more than to curse the world, his life, and especially his cousin, Jed ducked a thick limb, "I'll find a way." Unfortunately, he did not think to warn Hannibal of the limb and it struck him mid-chest to sweep him with a raspy shriek from Nate's back. Leaving him curled in a ball, both hands clutching his wound, keening and gasping all at the same time.  

Jed jumped from the saddle, sputtering and squawking, "Ah hell, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...I'll pay better attention." Wrapping an arm about Hannibal's shoulders, he tried to get him to sit up, "I really am sorry, Han. Come on, let's get you back up on Nate. I'll be more careful, swear I will."

"Leave me be."

Jed sat back on his heels, "what?"

Hannibal's nostrils were flared wide as he hissed, "I want you to get on Nate and leave."

"Without you?"

"You'll be able to get clear without me...for Christ's sake, GO!"

"This ain't headmaster Milton back at Valparaiso I'd be leaving you for. It's Frank and Han, he plans on killing you."

Snagging Jed's sleeve, Hannibal hauled himself up, twisting the shirt's fabric as he did, until it cut into Jed's skin. "Kid..." They were nose to nose and it came to Jed there were tears on his elder cousin's face. He could not recall the last time he'd seen Hannibal cry, not even when Milton had whipped him like he was no more than a mongrel dog. But, beyond the tears the dark eyes were hard, serious "...Someone from our family has to survive." Then shoving Jed from him, his voice became so authoritative, it was obvious he expected to be obeyed, "now get the hell out of here!"  

Jed looked to Nate huffing for air, his cousin breathing harshly in front of him, then to the trees surrounding them. A gleam came to his blue eyes as he studied a fat stand of red cedars, "All right...all right, but not till we get you hidden first."

"There ain't time."

"Then I ain't leavin'."

Despair appeared in Hannibal's eyes, "if I agree, do you promise to leave?"

Licking his lower lip, Jed nodded.

"Say it."

"I promise."

Shoving his legs under himself with a loud grunt, he let Jed haul him to his feet.  

"I want you to walk light, try not to leave a trail straight to you." Jed advised, pulling most of his cousin's weight on himself. But, considering how skinny Hannibal was, it did not feel like much at all. Once he had him in the cedars, Jed reached for Hannibal's hand that was clamped across the upper-right part of his chest, "let me see."

Hannibal shook his head, "Nope, you promised to leave."

"I did." A corner of Jed's mouth curled up, "I just didn't say when."

"Kid, I ain't playing games. Get on Nate and ride out."

Ignoring the look of sheer rage aimed at him, Jed removed his bandana and then Hannibal's, tying them together, he fashioned a sling for the limp right arm. "How's that?"

Hannibal hissed through gritted teeth, "it's time for you to fulfill your promise."

Jed's jaw flexed.

"You dang well know what Grandpa Curry said about promise welchers."

Jed's chin dropped to his chest, after a few seconds, he peeked up with a slight grin, "I'd say, Grandpa would understand."

Hannibal exhaled, his dark eyes slanting toward Nate, "How about this? Once you lose Frank..." He pointed at Jed, "and, I mean lose 'em! You come on back for me."

Jed's lips became a flat line.

Recognizing the mule coming out, Hannibal rubbed his hand across his face and then peeked at Jed with a slight smile, "Think of it this way, you aren't really leaving me. Your leading that monster away from me. Come on, Kid, it's a good plan. Hell, I'd even slap my name on it."

Folding his arms across his chest, Jed stated, "I ain't so sure this one has the high-standards required for a 'Hannibal Heyes plan'."

"Why do you always have to argue with me?" Sighing out his frustration, Hannibal dropped his head back against the tree trunk, "Without me holding you back, I know you can lose him." Raising his head, he gave his cousin, his best smile, "Kid, don't you know I have faith in you."

In his chest, Jed could feel the heavy thudding of his heart, but more powerful was the suffocating sensation that seemed to be saying, 'you ain't never going to speak with him again.' Taking off his hat, he scrubbed at his scalp, his blond curls falling across his forehead, "Han--" he swallowed, his throat too tight to speak, he swallowed again, and squeaked out, "Hannibal...I--"

Nodding, Hannibal patted him on the leg, "I feel the same, always have. Now go."

Jed tilted his head to the side, biting on the inside of his cheek as he studied the one person he had in the entire world.

"Please, Kid, do it for me."

Running a hand back through his hair, Jed shoved his hat on, and rose to his feet, "I ain't leaving you, I will return."

Pointing at the ground he sat on, Hannibal quipped, "and, I'll be right here."

Jed Curry stared at his cousin when without a word he walked off, catching his horse, he climbed aboard and spun the animal until the area was thoroughly trampled. Glancing at the cedars, he frowned then left at a fast trot.

Hannibal sighed, feeling the burning lump of pain in his throat drop into his heart, "best of luck, Kid."

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Wichita Red, "I'm not really a rebel, but I take chances. I have a good time, and I live life the way I want to live it."  
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LittleBluestem



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PostSubject: Monthly Challenge: June 2016    Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:49 pm

Okay, so this is probably too obvious, but I just couldn't help myself.


The Conversation
or, Do we stay or do we go?

Two heads, one fair and one dark, were pushed close together, their whispered words inaudible.

"Whack!"

The boys jumped as the headmaster rapped on their shared desk sharply with his ruler.


“Hannibal! Jedediah!” barked the ill-tempered man. “Stop your whispering and get back to work.”

Han and Jed reluctantly drew apart, picked up their slates and resumed their respective arithmetic lessons. Han gave his younger cousin a look that clearly meant, “We’ll continue this discussion later.”

Later didn’t come until much later, well after lights out. The headmaster had kept them occupied until the school bell rang. Then each boy reported to his respective station to preform his assigned chores. Supper that night was eaten in silence, apparently at the whim of the cafeteria monitor, who had decided the boys deserved a punishment, for what, no one seemed to know.

After the joyless meal, Jed was on kitchen duty until bedtime while Hannibal was sent with several of the older boys to clean and organize one of the outbuildings. Now, physically exhausted, but mentally and emotionally restless, they lay in their narrow cots, just two among the many lined up in neat rows in the dormitory. They waited in the darkness, listening for the steady, relaxed breathing of the other boys, indicating they were at last asleep.

It was only then that Jed finally dared to whisper to his older cousin and best friend the same question they’d been discussing on and off for days now: “Should we stay or should we go, Han?”

“I think it’s too soon,” the reply emanated from across the gap between their beds. It was hard to talk when they couldn’t see each other’s faces, but they did the best they could.

“How much longer?” asked Jed. “It feels like we’ll be here ‘til the end of time!”

“Jed, it ain’t that bad. At least we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.”

“Han, the people here are horrible. They’re only happy when we’re on our knees.”

“Some days are fine,” insisted Hannibal.

“But most are black,” argued Jed.

“Yeah, but if we go there’ll be trouble. Where would we go? How will we live?”

“If we stay, it will be double! Work all day, beatings for steppin’ outta line. Punishments for no reason – like tonight. And the other boys ain’t very nice either. It’s always tease, tease, tease!”

“I say we wait.”

“How long?”

“I dunno. “Til we’re a little older and can join a cattle drive, like we always planned.”

“But how much older? This indecision’s buggin’ me!”

“I’m not sure. I’m almost 15. Maybe I should go and you should stay, and then I’ll send for you after I get settled somewhere.”

“Oh, I get it. You just want me off your back.” Even in the darkness, Han could tell his cousin’s feelings were hurt. He tried to reassure him, “It’s not that at all, Jed. It’s just that you’re only 13. A cattle drive ain’t gonna hire you on.”

“But I’m tall for my age. And strong. Heck, I’m growin’ so fast I don’t know which clothes even fit me no more.”

There was no answer. After a long pause, Jed finally broke the silence, “Han? What? C’mon and let me know! If you don’t want me -- ”

“No, it’s not that, I swear!” the other boy interrupted. “I just don’t even know who I’m s’posed to be anymore! They treat us like little kids in the schoolroom, but then make us do a man’s work. And now, I just don’t know what the right answer is.  Do we stay? Or do we go?”

“Well, if it was up to me we’d just go.”

There was another long pause. Jed waited, just barely able to make out the shape of his cousin in the darkness. He realized Hannibal was no longer lying down, but instead sitting straight up in his cot. Jed held his breath, a feeling of anticipation rising in his chest.

Finally, Han spoke. His voice sounded determined, confident, much older than his almost 15 years as he pronounced the three words that would prove to be life-changing for both of them: “Then let’s go.”

“What?!”

“Let’s do it. Let’s blow this place.”

“When?”

“Now!”

Although no one could see them in the darkened dormitory, both boys were grinning from ear to ear as they slipped out of their beds and began to pull on their clothing.
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Cal

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PostSubject: Do we stay or do we Go   Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:15 am

Yey! I finally wrote to the prompt .... (smug pat on back) ...a departure for me in that this is early outlaw days too ....well early Gang Leader days.  I wanted to explore why the gang seemed so terrified of Kid Curry in the pilot... so I went back a few years....

my take on Do we Stay or Do we Go....



---oooOOOooo---

Way I heard it …
By Cal

---oooOOOooo---

Leaders Cabin

“We normally pipe a new job together.  Why ain’t we both going this time Heyes?  If only one of us is going I’m surprised, you don’t keep something like that for yourself.”

Kid was never the less putting on his coat and gloves and readying himself for the long trek to Red Fort.

“Like I said Kid, I want the gang to see I trust your judgement. You’re our security expert now, not just my fast gun, lieutenant.“

Heyes smacked the back of the sheepskin coat heavily, raising dust.

“I don’t know.  I still think we should go together…”

Kid stuffed extra ammunition into his saddlebags.

“Or at least, I should stay for a bit, till you straighten the guys out on some discipline problems.  They was getting’ real gun happy on that last job …and Wheat needs takin’ down a peg or two, questioning your decisions like that.  I should be here in case you need back up… Then we can both go pipe the Red Fort bank together.”

Heyes’ hands dropped to his hips.

“You don’t think I can handle the men without you Kid? You got to have a little more faith in me…”

Heyes smiled at his younger cousin, seeing the keenness to have a few days in town …and a bit of feminine company …whilst he argued not to go.  

“Anyway, I think I was through there when I rode with Plumbers Gang.  I could easily be recognised.  Safer if just you go.”

“Well if you’re sure Heyes …”

Kid was setting his hat on his head, picking up his shotgun.

“Yes… Now go,” Heyes was practically pushing him out through the door.  

“And tell Preacher I need to see him…”  

Heyes stood on the porch watching Kid cross to the corral where his horse stood patiently.  

“And remember to bring me back a bottle of the good stuff …Oh and Kid …”

Kid now aboard, brought the horse to a stop in front of the leader’s cabin.

“What now Heyes? …Second thoughts?  You want to come?”

“No, it’s not that.  If anyone starts getting nosey …remember you’re just there waiting on a letter… It’ll be addressed to Horace Hogslaughter…. “

“Horace Hogslaughter! Why did you saddle me with a moniker like that!?!”

“What did you think I’d use …Smith? …or Jones maybe? …No! No one would think you’d make up a name like Horace Hogslaughter …it’ll keep you safe Kid you’ll see!” laughed Heyes.

Kid pursed his lips, eying his older cousin shrewdly.  Trust Heyes to come up with a way to put a crimp in his chances with the ladies.  He turned his horse to the trail without another word.

Heyes watched Kids departure, smirking then turned to the bunkhouse with a scowl.

“Preacher!” he barked.

Back in the cabin, he lifted his pen and scrawled Horace Hogslaughter on the outside of the letter on the table as Preacher came in.

“I need you to go put this letter in the post down in Harris town, and when you get back, I got another job for you…”

---oooOOOooo---

Bunk House a week later


“Kids sure been gone a long time,” Lobo sighed as he strode to the table at the centre of the bunk house.

“Heyes sent him to pipe a job over at Red Fort.” Wheat didn’t look up from his cards.  He selected two and passed them to the dealer.

“Might surprised …Heyes would let the Kid …go on his own like that...” Said Preacher absentmindedly, dealing Wheat two new cards. “…He’s got to be real worried…”

The others looked at Preacher, each wondering if he knew more than they did. Preacher had spent more time with Heyes, since The Kid had been away, than any of them had.

Preacher saw the looks.  “Oh …I didn’t mean nothing by it…” he covered looking a bit embarrassed to have made a slip.

“I sure hope the Kid hasn’t gotten hisself into a gunfight…” started Kyle, but stopped to …spit.

“Ain’t no one faster than The Kid, Kyle. You know that…” came Hank’s reassuring voice from over by the bunks.

“Way I heard it…” said Lobo conspiratorially. “Why this one time, Kid was in a saloon, and this hollering from the street called him out. When he got out there …there was two of ‘em.  One on each side.  Kid had to fast draw …and turn real quick …to get ‘em both …‘fore one of ‘em got him …in the back.”

Lobo helpfully mimed all the action.

Kyle’s eyes went wide as saucers.

“Way I heard it…” came Hank’s voice from over by the bunks, not wanting to be out done. “This one time, Kid was jus’ riding into a town. Not looking for no trouble …but a deputy recognised him and hollered over to the sheriff.  Kid leapt off his horse and holed up behind a stone water trough.  He had to hold off both law, and some other punks trying to sneak up behind him.  Way I heard it …when he left that town …there was six on the ground bleeding …He’d got one …with …every …bullet!”

Kyle swallowed, instead of spitting this time.

“Well, way I heard it, this one time …Kid was bushwhacked, and he done killed…” Came another voice from over by the stove.

“Now boys,” interrupted Preacher. “You know Heyes don’t hold with no killing. He don’t let ‘The Kid’ do that …no more.  Why …only the other night, he was telling me….”

Preacher stopped himself, frowning at his glass, as though he could see his loose tongue flapping around in there.  He pressed his lips firmly together into a flat line.

“Well …it don’t matter much what he was tellin’ me … ‘cause we’re here to play us some poker…”

He dealt more cards.

The boys had leaned in, anxious to hear what Heyes had been saying, and were a little put out that Preacher had stopped himself.  Wheat picked up the bottle and poured Preacher a very generous measure, hoping to re-animate his loose tongue. The others, seeing the play, picked up their glasses in a conspiratorial toast and quickly drained them.

---oooOOOooo---

“Well I don’t like …to break a confidence…” Lisps a more than slightly inebriated sounding Preacher. “But …Way I heard it was…”

“Yeah…“ The whole gang were gathered round the table now, sensing that Preacher was well-soused enough to forgo discretion.

“Well Heyes …he done told me …that …way back when they was young’uns …He and ‘The Kid’ lived on neighbouring farms ... ‘The Kid’ …well he had six older brothers …villains all …and his daddy was a real tyrant …bad vicious temper …an’ real handy with a gun …jus’ like ‘The Kid’ hisself…”

You could have heard a pin drop.

“Well Heyes …now he didn’t like to go over to the Curry place …on account of all the drinkin’ …profanities …and the violence …Heyes’ kin being educated folks …But Kid …he sure liked the Heyes’ …cause …he didn’t git whupped there …. nor shot at …nor worse, him bein’ the youngest …o’ all the brothers …see…”

Preacher’s eyelids were heavy and he looked like he might fall asleep.  Lobo propped him back up on one elbow, and tapped his glass on the table.

“So what happened?”

He was gonna pour Preacher another drink, but the others shook their heads and waited. They knew Preacher wouldn’t be able to resist a ‘congregation’.

“Well …’The Kid’ …he got hisself a gun ….and he got hisself real good with it…”

Nodding all round from the crowd.  This was something they’d all witnessed, first hand.

“Then this one-time …mus’ o’ been …when they was near full grown …’The Kid’ …he didn’t show up at the Heyes’ farm …’nd Heyes …he got to worryin’ … maybe The Kid hadn’t dodged the bullets …this time…”

Preacher looked funereal, shaking his head.

“Terrible thing …”

Preacher’s head hit the table.  He seemed to be sleeping again.  Lobo gave him a small shake. Preachers eyes shot open and he continued in his best ‘Hellfire and Brimstone’ preaching voice.

“In the bible …Joseph …now he was loved by his daddy…. But his brothers didn’t take to him much of course…”

“What happened to the Kid?” squealed Kyle, fearing Preacher would veer off into a bible story.  

Preacher looked confused for just a second, then seemed to recall his original train of thought.

“Well …Heyes went to look for ‘The Kid’ …he was intendin’ to stand up against Kid’s kin … all by hisself …all them brothers …and the old monster hisself  …’Cause he knew …he was all ‘The Kid’ had.”

“They’s always been that way.  They’s the same now … always watchin’ each other’s back.” agreed Kyle.

Sage nods all round.

“Heyes went up against seven guns?” questioned Wheat with a sneer to show he wasn’t buying that.

Preacher got a faraway look in his eyes like he was seeing terrible things up in the rafters.  The gang’s eyes followed.

“Well …when Heyes got to the Curry farm …what he saw there froze the blood in his veins …Told me the sight would haunt him …to his dying day …”

Preacher fixed each one with a wide eyed stare.

“The Kid …was all covered in his kin’s blood …had madness in his eyes … he was keening like a coyote …Heyes was sore afraid …thought The Kid might try tear him apart too …but …you know he’s got that silver tongue o’ his … and he’s always been the only one …could ever talk ’The Kid’ ‘round … keep him from…”

A distant coyote howled mournfully.

More than one of the outlaws jumped. Kyle screamed, quickly covering his mouth and looking shamefaced.  

Preacher covered his mouth, looking terrified, eyeballing all the other outlaws.

“I swore to Heyes …I’d never tell another living soul … He begged me… said if anyone ever knew …if they told what ‘The Kid’ had done that day…”

“We won’t…”

“We wouldn’t…”

“Never…”

“Ner ..err…”

Kyle had gone white.  

Preacher looked around the bunk house like he was looking for the devil himself, staring into all the dark shadows.

“It took Heyes a powerful long time to make ‘The Kid’ see …that there might be another way.  That he didn’t always need to t’ kill … But they knew they’d be damned!
  …cast out!
     …outlawed!”

Preacher looks to the ceiling again and every eye follows, though many don’t know what he’s looking for up there.

“Heyes watches him …keeps him close …where he can  …talk to him” Preacher shouts suddenly angry, as if looking for justification for breaking his word to Heyes.  “ ’Cause sometimes …Kid still gets that look in his eyes …. “

Preacher’s eyes are wild and far away again.  

“Heyes …he don’t ever sleep right …He’s always awake …pacing …worrying …if ever ‘The Kid’s’ killing blood were to get all riled up again …”

Preacher looked at the bunk house door, like he was expecting to see a blood crazed Curry come rushing through it at any moment to tear them all apart with his bare hands.  

“That’s why Heyes …He don’t hold with no killing on the rob …he can’t risk ‘The Kid’ getting too riled….”

There was a jangle of harness outside in the yard.

“It’s ‘The Kid!’” squealed Kyle.

---oooOOOooo---

Leaders cabin

“Everything go as planned?” asks Heyes.

“Yeah…” Kid fished in his pocket. “Here’s that letter you had me waiting on.  I sure hope that’s gonna be worth it, ‘cause I didn’t like the way that deputy in Red Fort was starting to look at me. Oh, and here’s your whiskey.”

Heyes perused the label appreciatively.  “Oh …it’ll be worth it Kid.” He smiled, pocketing the letter.

Kid went to the bit of glass they used for shaving and stroked his chin, looking confused.

“What?” asked Heyes.

“When I came in just now, the boys were all looking at me funny.  Thought I might ‘ve wiped lipsti… er …dirt across my face or somethin’…”

“Aw …They was probably just wondering about the next job …I didn’t tell them you’d be waiting on my letter.”  Heyes smiled.  He strolled to the cabin door. “Think I’ll just go stretch my legs …have a smoke while I read.” He patted the letter in his pocket.

Heyes walked off around the Leaders hut to his favourite smoking rock, down beside the canyon wall, up behind the bunkhouse.  After several minutes he was joined by an almost sober sounding Preacher.

“Well?” asked Heyes, setting fire to the letter and using it to re-light his cigar.

“Worked like a dream …Said it just like you told me.  You won’t be having any more discipline problems, Heyes.” Preacher grinned ruefully. “If ‘The Kid’ tells them to jump off a cliff, into a river of stampeding buffalo, on the next job …You just watch ‘em fly!”

Heyes beamed, puffing on the cigar. “And the guns?”

“They won’t be firing their guns, round any of the passengers, no more neither.  They wouldn’t dare risk rilin’ up Kids …. killing blood! …Hehehehe… Heyes, when you howled like a coyote …Kyle’s face…”

Heyes made a small bowing motion with his cigar, dark eyes twinkling with mirth. He handed over the bottle.

Preacher saluted Heyes with his bottle of the good stuff.  He straightened his hat but didn’t manage to much improve his appearance of drunken dishevelment.

“Now …if you’ll excuse me Heyes …purely for the sake of authenticity of course … I fear I must continue my apparent drunkenness …in yonder ditch…”

---oooOOOooo---
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Cornelia May

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PostSubject: Re: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:59 pm

Sorry for not having posted a challenge for such a long time, life got in the way of my being here for the last few years, but now I'm back and will hopefully be a little more active.


Should I Stay or Should I Go




Lom sat in his office reading the paper. Not much had been happening in the last few weeks in the way of having to round up the usual suspects in town for disturbing the peace and public drunkenness charges; life was peaceful for the sheriff and he was getting board, almost to the point of begging for someone to rob the bank in Porterville.

As he skimmed the stories in his paper he came across the headline:

Bank Robbed in Sheridan




As he read the story under this headline it was becoming clear that the bank president was convinced that the Devil's Hole Gang had robbed his bank. He sighed knowing that Governor Warren had likely already heard this and was certainly going to revoke the amnesty deal he had with the two former leaders of the gang.

About that time Harker came in the office with an envelope in his hand. "Sheriff, Ted down at the telegraph office said this was an urgent message from the Territorial Governor down there in Cheyenne," the deputy said.

"Thanks Harker, I think it has something to do with what I just read in the paper this morning; think you can handle things here if I take a few days to go to the capitol to straighten things out?" Lom asked.

"That shouldn't be too much of a problem for me," Harker assured him.

Lom nodded, thankful he could depend on Harker in these kinds of situations.


~<>~<>~<>~<>~




Lom stepped off the train and on to the plattform in Cheyenne. He let out a breath of frustration at Heyes and Curry's current situation. He knew that it just wasn't possible that they had been the ones to rob that bank. He sighed again as he made a B line for the capitol building.

As he entered the waiting parlor the receptionist looked up from her desk and smiled. "Maybe we should add you to our payroll Sheriff Trevors."

"I don't think that will be needed Ma'am," Lom replied, "is Governor Warren in?" he asked, gesturing to the governor's office door.

"Do you have an appointment, or is this an urgent matter, Sheriff?" the receptionist countered.

"This is an urgent matter, Ma'am, and I don't think it can wait any longer."

She nodded. "Alright, I'll let him know you're here."


~<>~<>~<>~<>~




Warren looked up from his desk to see his receptionist standing by the door. "Helen, I thought I said I wanted no interruptions."

"Sorry Sir, but Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville is here to see you; he says it's an urgent matter and cannot wait," Helen explained.

"Alright, send him in."


~<>~<>~<>~<>~




Lom entered the office with a somewhat nervous expression on his face.

"Well, don't just stand there, have a seat," Governor Warren said, not looking up from the same paper Lom had read two days before.

"Governor, I think there's been a mistake, Heyes and the Kid couldn't have robbed the bank up in Sheridan," Lom said, sitting down and getting straight to the point of his visit.

"Says here in black and white that the safe was manipulated and not dynamited, and last I checked that was signature of the Devil's Hole Gang, and Hannibal Heyes," Warren replied, lazily.

"Is it possible there are other people that can manipulate safe tumblers just as well as, and if not better than Heyes did, and said person could have only recently joined up with the Devil's Hole Gang?" Lom asked.

"Possible, yes," Warren answered looking up from the paper, "likely, not so much."

"Listen, I have a telegram here from Heyes that was sent from Red Rock, Texas the day of the robbery, allegedly committed by Heyes and the Kid," the Sheriff of Porterville fishe in his pockets until the small, yellow piece of paper was found; he placed it on the desk. "How could they have gotten from southern Texas to north centeral Wyoming in just a matter of a few hours, especially when it takes two days for me to get here from Porterville?"

"Look, Sheriff Trevors, it took you two days to get here because there was some maintenance work being done to the tracks between Porterville and here, and yes, you are right it would take a few days to get from southern Texas to Sheridan, but how do I know they didn't pay someone to send that message to you while they were setting up the bank there?" Warren countered.

"Heyes and the Kid have made good on their word for more than two years, speaking from personal experiance they always have been men of their word," Lom stated.
Warren sighed. "They are still wanted men, Sheriff Trevors."

"Your original promise was to make them free men in a years time," Lom countered, knowing he was loosing his argument for his friends.

The Governor was quiet for a moment as he lit a cigar and took a few puffs. He eyed Lom with a critical eye, ignoring that the original amnesty deal had been brought up by the small town sheriff.

Lom could feel the Governor's eyes boring a hole into him. He sighed, carefully trying to come up with his next statement. Failing to find the right words he sighed again before asking, "Should I stay and try to convince you further Heyes and the Kid didn't rob the bank in Sheridan, or should I go tell them the deal is off and to learn some Spanish?"

Warren finally looked at the telegram, ignoring, for the moment, what Lom just asked. "Well it seems to me they were indeed in Red Rock, Texas at the time of the robbery; I had no idea Heyes and the Kid had connections to Patrick J. McCreedy," the Governor chuckled, "this alibi would hold up in any court, Sheriff Trevors, the amnesty deal still stands. Thank you for taking the time to straighten this up with me before I made a grave error."

Lom nodded. "Thank you for taking the time to listen."

With that the small town sheriff left to return home, glad to have once again saved his friends' amnesty deal.

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"The only thing in life you have to earn is love, everything else you can steal." ~Hannibal Heyes
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EleanorW

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PostSubject: Re: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Thu Jun 09, 2016 3:42 pm

It's been quite a while since I've had the time, or inspiration, to write anything, but this month's topic finally sparked an idea for a tale, so, here goes:



Do we stay or do we go?

Hannibal Heyes sat astride his horse on a rocky outcrop a couple of miles outside the town of Spanish Fork. From his vantage point he had a good view over the surrounding landscape to the imposing Wasatach mountains on the horizon.
The sun was dipping towards the horizon, the purpley-blue sky streaked with orange.

Heyes watched the colours deepen for several moments before pulling out his pocket watch and looking at it, his brow creasing in apprehension before putting it back into his pocket. With a sudden shiver of cold, he pulled the collar of his jacket up higher around his neck against the chill wind that blew up with the onset of evening, while his eyes scanned the horizon. It was almost six o’clock, the time he’d told the Kid to meet him here, well, not told so much as issued an ultimatum, and it was beginning to look as though he might not be going to comply.

It had been almost a week since they’d arrived in this small town in Utah after fleeing the town of Mount Pleasant where their identities had been exposed by a retired sheriff who’s town had been the victim of the Hole in the Wall Gang several years earlier. He had persuaded Mount Pleasant’s sheriff to get up a posse to try and run down Heyes and Curry and it was only by utilising every trick they knew that they had managed to shake them off their trail before coming across the small Icelandic community of Spanish Fork.

Heyes cast his mind back to the evening they’d arrived, tired, hungry and fractious following their arduous escape. After checking in at the hotel, the Kid had vented his feelings about their ongoing amnesty appeal.

“How many more times do we have to keep doing this before the Governor decides whether to give us amnesty?” he growled as he hurled his hat angrily onto the bed.

“Look, Kid...” Heyes began but the Kid spoke over him.

“No, Heyes” he snapped, holding his hand up “don’t start with all that ‘we have to be patient’ rubbish. We’ve been patient, for way longer than the original deal stated and still the Governor keeps finding excuses not to honour his promise.” He shook his head disgustedly. “Let’s face it, Heyes, we aint never gonna get that amnesty, they’re just stringing us along in the hope that we’ll stay out of trouble and they won’t have to give us anything.”

“I know it seems like that sometimes” Heyes cut in “and I confess I have had those same feelings myself, and if it was just the Governor we were relying on, I’d probably agree with you, but I don’t believe that Lom would support it if he didn’t believe the Governor would honour his promise, and I have faith in Lom’s judgement.


“Lom can’t know for sure any more than we can.” snapped the Kid “He’s supporting it because he doesn’t want to believe that a man in the Governor’s position would renege on such an offer, or that he could be gullible enough to be taken by him if he did such a thing.”

Heyes didn’t reply. He couldn’t , because those same thoughts had occurred to him on more than one occasion but he’d forced them from his mind not wanting to contemplate the implications of the Governor refusing to honour his promise.

“And” the Kid continued venomously “ if we do slide back into a life of crime, they’ll just take away the offer and lock us away for 20 years. It’s a win-win situation for them, and a no-win situation for us.”

Heyes sighed. “Look, Kid, I know where you’re coming from, I’ve had the same thoughts myself, but what choice do we have? If we quit trying eventually we’re gonna end up in jail, or dead.”

“Dead’s not looking like too bad an option when you compare it to a life lived like this.” growled the Kid.

“You don’t mean that.” said Heyes “You’re just tired. Let’s get a good night’s sleep. Things’ll seem better in the morning.”

“You’re right, I am tired," snapped the Kid “and getting more tired by the day. I’ve had it, Heyes. I’m sick of running. I’m sick of never being able to put down roots, have a family. I’m sick of living in fear. I quit.”

“What do you mean ‘quit’?” Heyes asked, his eyes wide with dismay at the Kid’s words.

“What I said. I’m sick of running. I don’t want to do it anymore. I quit.”

“And what do you plan to do instead?” asked Heyes “Turn yourself in? Go back to outlawin’?

“I’m gonna stay right here, find myself a job, somewhere to live, put down some roots and try and live a normal life.”

Heyes grunted. “And how long do you think it’s gonna be before someone happens by and recognizes you? Are you just going to give yourself up and let them send you to jail for 20 years?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Heyes shook his head. “You’re kidding yourself. We can’t have a ‘normal’ life. Not unless we get that amnesty. Maybe we won’t get it in the end, but we can’t give up trying for it until that day comes. We don’t have a choice, we have to keep going.”

“You can if you want,” retorted the Kid “but I’m not going anywhere.”

Heyes studied him momentarily. His face was set and Heyes recognized the look. It was no use trying to reason with him in this mood.

“Get some sleep” he told him “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“I won’t feel any different in the morning.” replied the Kid, as he climbed into bed.



Coming back to the present, Heyes gave a deep sigh. The Kid had been as good as his word and despite Heyes employing his formidable persuasion skills, the Kid was resolute.

After two days of arguing over it, the Kid had all but stopped speaking to Heyes, cutting him off whenever he tried to bring up the topic and heading off to the saloon on his own. During his time there he had become friendly with a local farmer who, on hearing that the Kid was looking for work, had offered him a job at his farm.

When the Kid informed Heyes that he was going to work for Sylvester Hughes, Heyes had finally lost patience.

“You’re crazy!” he told him “You might think you’ll be safe here, and that nobody will find you, but that’s a slim chance, and you know it. And what are you going to do when somebody does recognize you? Huh? Are you just gonna go quietly and serve your jail sentence? You’d be an old man when you get out, assuming you survived that long. I know you, Kid, and I know it would kill you being locked up like that, the same as it would me.” He shook his head “If you think you could do that, you might just as well put a gun to your head right now and pull the trigger, ‘cause it sure as hell would be a better option than stagnating in a jail cell for 20 years.”

The Kid didn’t reply.

Heyes studied him. His look was defiant, but Heyes couldn’t believe that his words hadn’t had any impact on him.

The next morning, as the Kid washed and shaved ready to go and meet Sylvester Hughes at his farm, Heyes said “I’m leaving. You might think this is what you want, but I’m not prepared to give up on the amnesty yet, and deep down I don’t think you are either.” He put the last of his things into his carpet bag, stood up and turned towards the Kid who eyed him through the mirror, his razor poised halfway to his neck.

“There’s an outcrop of rock about two miles out of town, on the road to Springville. I’ll be waiting there for you at six o’clock tonight. If you don’t show up... well I guess we’re each on our own.” Heyes’ eyes bored into the Kid’s reflected gaze, pleading with him to see reason.

After a moment, the Kid lowered his gaze and began rinsing his razor in the bowl of water in front of him.

Heyes’ heart sank. With a minute shake of his head, he hefted his saddlebag onto his shoulder and put his hat on his head before moving towards the door.
Pausing in the doorway he turned and towards the Kid’s back said “Don’t throw away all that we’ve achieved, Kid.” When the Kid didn’t answer, Heyes left the room and closed the door behind him.



Heyes pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it. Ten past six. With a sigh he put it back in his pocket and looked up at the rapidly darkening sky with a heavy heart.
Obviously his words had failed to impact on the Kid and he was going to stay.

Heyes pondered briefly on whether he should go back into town and try again to reason with him before deciding he would be wasting his time. He was either going to have to go back to town and go along with the Kid’s plan, which he knew he couldn’t do, or, do what he’d threatened and leave.

With a deep sigh, he pushed his hat further down onto his head and headed off the rocky outcrop down onto the trail, intending to head for Springville and a train to Porterville.

He’d only ridden maybe half a mile when his sharp ears picked up the faint sound of horses hooves behind him. Slowing his horse to a stop he turned to look, one hand on the butt of his gun, in case the rider was a robber or lawman.

A few moments later, the rider came into view. Heyes’ eyes widened when he saw the Kid in the saddle.

He slowed his horse and pulled up a few feet in front of Heyes. Heyes eyed him, not sure what to say. The Kid eyed him back, obviously feeling the same way.

Presently, the Kid said “You’re right.”

Heyes moved his head in an almost imperceptible nod. “Am I?”

The Kid nodded. “A home, roots, family... it’s what I want... what I dream of...” He paused, shaking his head “I guess the dream took over for a while.” he finished, giving a sheepish shrug.

Heyes nodded, slowly. “I know.” he said softly. It was his dream too. One day, soon, hopefully. But not yet.

They eyed each other momentarily, each understanding more deeply the other’s feelings and the reasons behind them, before exchanging a small smile.

“So,” Heyes said presently “do we stay, or do we go?”

The Kid turned to look back over his shoulder towards the town, obviously torn between his dream and the reality of their ongoing struggle for amnesty, before turning back to face him.

“Let’s go.” he said, beginning to walk his horse forwards, towards Springville.

Heyes moved his horse alongside and they broke into a trot, heading northwards into the night. What the future held, only time would tell.

























_________________
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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:35 am

Something a little different from me this month







Do we stay or do we go?


 



“Hannibal! Jedidiah!”




Both boys stopped in their tracks and winced. They had so nearly made it around the side of the barn and out of sight.




Han opened one eye and looked at his younger cousin. He looked back with resignation in his eyes and a little shamefully, that they had been caught. Han sighed. As one, he and Jed turned.




Susan Heyes stood at the door of the house. She had a knowing look on her face. A slender finger raised and twitched a beckon. Shoulders slumped and heads down the pair trudged back towards her, struggling to maintain hold of fishing rods, nets and bags. She waited until they were right in front of her before she spoke.




“Hannibal have you done your chores?” Her Northern Irish twang made the question seem harder than was intended.




“No Ma,” he mumbled.




Her hand went under his chin and forced his head up. “Why not?” She looked at him hard.




“Well Jed wanted to go fishing so him and me ….”




“Don’t you blame your cousin young man,” she said, sharply and prodded his shoulder. She gave him a stern look that would freeze ice and turned her attention to the younger boy. “Jedidiah?”




“Han said it would be alright,” he mumbled.




Han winced and shot Jed a look.




Susan Heyes gave a deep sigh and folded her arms. “Do your chores like good boys. When you’re done, I want you to stay round the house. There’s a lot of soldiers about today.” She looked around nervously, sucking air through her teeth. “Your Pa says there was fighting over Kirby way yesterday. He’s gone to find out more.”




The boys nodded. “Okay Ma, Yes Aunt Sue.”




“Get on with you now.”




Susan watched them walk away and she smiled. They were good friends these two. Her only child and young Jed. He was orphaned when alleged soldiers had killed her brother and his wife. Susan shook her head and sighed. The atrocities the boy must have seen. It didn’t bear thinking about. No wonder the poor child was traumatised. For weeks, he spoke little more than please and thank you, no and yes. Susan was pleased that Hannibal had taken him under his wing. He seemed to be the only person that could get any response out of Jed. Hannibal would sit quietly by his side for ages, letting him talk when he wanted but never pushing and finally making him laugh.




Gradually Jed came out of his shell. Smiling again and joining in with the conversation at mealtimes. Now he and her son got up to mischief whenever they could. After everything Jed had been through, Susan hoped there would be no more in store for him.




That had been three months ago and the soldiers were back. Or were they just raiders this time? It was hard to tell these days. Either way these were nervous times. Their farm had mercifully escaped last time; most of their neighbours and her brother had not. The odds were short that they wouldn’t be so lucky this time.



 





____________________________________________________________________________________ 





 



“I don’t want you going out Hannibal.”




“But Pa said ….”




“Your Pa’s not here. I am,” Susan said, firmly. She pulled the back of his overalls, tugging the boy away from the window. “You too, Jed. Get down please.”




Both boys slumped into chairs at the table. They were bored. Having to stay in the house was hard but Mathew had insisted the boys stay until he got back. He should be back soon with news.



In the meantime, she was trying to amuse two lively young boys who were used to running wild. She had tried giving them paper and crayons but neither had any real talent for drawing, although Hannibal had the better eye for objects it seemed. Bribing them with homemade cookies and milk still warm from the cow, she had asked them to sit still while she drew them. The only clean paper she could find was thick, buff wrapping paper but it would have to do. The bribery had only worked for a few minutes but in that time, she managed to sketch a reasonable likeness of her son and his cousin.




It was the first time she had persuaded her son to sit for her and Susan should have known the boys wouldn’t make it easy for her. They fidgeted and pinched each other, poked their tongues out at each other and her. Messed their hair and pulled grotesque faces. But they had laughed and had fun. Despite their attempts to sabotage her drawing, she had laughed along with them, the two dimples either side of her mouth mirroring those on her son’s face. Susan held the drawing at arm’s length and perused it, twitching her head and nose from left to right in unison.




The boys were on their third cookie each when they heard the sound of a horse pulling up into the yard. Susan got up in alarm but failed to stop the boys rushing to the window. She was relieved to see it was her husband.




Mathew Heyes entered the house in a hurry.




“Hey Pa.”




“Hey Uncle Mathew”




There was no disguising that he looked worried. He touched Susan’s arm for a long moment and a look passed between them that was lost on the boys. Susan swallowed, her eyes watered but she nodded. Then

Mathew was crouching down in front of his son and making him look at him.




“Heyes,” he said softly. Then he smiled as if reminded of a private joke. He know something that nobody else in the room knew and it always amused him. That his son had been baptised Joshua Hannibal and not Hannibal Joshua as his mother wanted. She had been unable to be at the baptism, still resting up from her confinement. He’d promised her but at the last minute he had switched the names rounds, banking that she would never know. “Son … I want you to take your cousin up to Folly’s Bluff and stay there.”




“Pa …”




“Don’t argue Heyes just do it.” Hannibal frowned. Pa was unusually sharp. Then Mathew looked round at his wife. “Susan, pack ‘em some vittles to take with ‘em.”




Susan set about packing food for the boys to take.




“What’s wrong Pa?”




Mathew looked at his son’s concerned face. He smiled and stirred the dark straight hair, so like his own.

“Thought you and Jed might like a little adventure.” He tried but failed to hide the anxiety in his voice. “Me and Ma will join you after we’ve seen to the animals.”




“Pa …?” Han looked into his father’s face and what he saw there would haunt him for the rest of his life. At the time, he didn’t know what it was exactly but later, when he was grown, he knew. Realisation that he wouldn’t live out the day, resignation that he would sacrifice his life to give his son the chance to live.






______________________________________________________________________________________ 





 



Susan gave the food to Jed as Mathew pressed his old handgun into his son’s hands. “Remember how I taught you Heyes. I ain’t got any spare bullets, just what’s in the chamber. So use ‘em sparingly.



Han nodded and looked at the gun in his hands.




“We’ll see you soon boys.” Susan smiled and kissed Jed. Then she took Han’s face in her hands. Instinct told him for once he should let her kiss him without complaining. “Be strong, my darling.”




Han nodded slowly. Before they knew it, the boys were pushed out of the door. Mathew stood with his arm around Susan and watched them go, encouraging them to move faster. At the same time, he was glancing nervously in the direction he had just come from.




“Will they be alright?” Susan asked.




“I don’t know Sue.” Mathew ran a hand through his straight brown hair. “Heyes is a smart boy. If he can keep Jed calm then they’ve got a chance.” He took a deep breath. “We ain’t got long Sue. They were right behind me. Let’s get inside. The longer we can delay ‘em the better chance the boys’ll have of making it.”




With a nervous lick of his lips and another glance at the trail, he ushered her inside.





 





______________________________________________________________________________________
 



Han and Jed barely made it to the tree line before they heard the shots. A cacophony of revolver bangs echoed round the natural bowl of the farmyard, making it impossible to tell how many there were. In answer, the distinctive cracks of a rifle but pitifully few.




“It’s happening again ain’t it?” Jed sobbed, as he ran, pushed up the hill by Han.




Han glanced over his shoulder and saw a band of ten men entering the yard, holding their revolvers high and firing wildly in the air and at the house. He knew there was nothing he could do. Going back would get them both killed. All he could do was get Jed and him to safety.




“Get! ‘Afore they see us!” He pushed Jed harder, tears welling up in his own eyes at his helplessness. As they ran deeper into the trees, an eerie silence fell. Hannibal knew. He daren’t look back. Gasping out a sob, he pushed Jed harder. They had to get away from the scene below. He also wanted to get away from his own thoughts.





 





______________________________________________________________________________________
 



Resourceful boys that they were, they made it to Folly’s Bluff without a hitch. Making a small fire in silence, they screened it as best as they could.




Han sat by the side of it, hugging his knees, forehead resting on the top of them. He had seen the smoke rising behind them as they ran. At twelve, he was old enough to know what it meant and he knew that his parents hadn’t escaped in time. He wanted to cry but couldn’t.




“It gets easier y’know Han. If you don’t think ‘bout it too much,” Jed said, in a small voice.




Han swallowed the lump and blinked hard. “Don’t call me that!” he said, harshly. Then realising he had spoken too sharply, looked up and round at his cousin.




This was the second time Jed had gone through this. The God his father had believed so passionately in hadn’t saved him. Now that God had taken his uncle and aunt as well. What was there left for Jed to believe in? Only him. Despite his own pain, Han shook Jed by the shoulder, reassuringly.




“Jed,” he said, in a more gentle voice. “Ma called me Hannibal. Never call me that again. Or Han. Do you understand?”




Jed nodded, a little unsure.




“My name’s Heyes from now on huh? Like Pa ….” He swallowed the lump. Grandpa Heyes, a man Han had never known, had called all eight of his sons Heyes so that he didn’t have to remember all the first names. Even though Mathew had only had the one son, he had carried on the family tradition.




Jed nodded. “Okay Heyes. Whatever you say.”




Heyes nodded. “Give me a moment huh? Then we’ll talk about what we’re gonna do. Where we’re gonna go …”




Heyes returned to his former position.




Jed wisely left him to himself. He turned to the bag Aunt Susan had given him and rummaged around inside it. He didn’t feel much like eating but it was suppertime and he felt he should. His hand closed on something that wasn’t food and he brought it out.




It was a hurriedly folded buff paper and there was scribbled writing on the outside. There wasn’t enough light to see properly. In any case, he avoided reading when he could as he struggled so much with it. He unfolded it slowly to reveal the pencil drawing Aunt Susan had done of them earlier. Him and Han – no he must remember. Him and Heyes.




Jed nudged Heyes’ elbow.




“What?” Heyes was muffled.




“You oughta see this. There’s something written and y’know I don’t read too good.” Jed held out the paper.




Heyes slowly emerged from his arms, wiping his face and looked round. He frowned at the paper Jed held.




“What’s this?”




He took it and looked at the picture. His bottom lip trembled and now his eyes did water. Tears flowed unstoppably down his cheeks. He sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand.




“There’s something written on the back.”




Heyes turned it over and read:




“Hannibal, when you look at this remember the laughter and know your Pa and me love you very, very much. Look after Jed. He needs you. You need him. Try and stay strong for one another. Get yourselves to Jonathan if you can. Here is his address. Love Ma.”




Heyes stared at it fighting the tears now. It was several minutes before he was under control enough to speak.




“What’s it say?” Jed wanted to see but Heyes moved it away. He shook his head.




“It’s for me Jed. Jus’ … for me.” He quickly folded the paper. As he did so he saw something else written there. Frowning, he held it closer to the light. It looked like an address … in Utah. He flashed a weak smile at
Jed. “Jed?”




“Yeah Ha … Heyes.”




“I must never lose this.” He waved the now folded paper. “It’s real important. Will you help me make sure I don’t lose it?”




Jed nodded. He wasn’t sure he understood but if Heyes thought it was important then he’d do his best.




“Thanks.”




Heyes tucked it away in the top pocket of his overalls. He held his hand there for a moment then looked around at his cousin.




Heyes was smiling again. He was feeling better. He had the beginnings of a plan. “First thing we gotta do is get away from here.”




“We ain’t staying?” Jed looked unsure.




Heyes shook his head. “No Jed we can’t.” He swallowed the lump. “There’s nothing to stay for,” he choked out, tears threatening again. He took a deep breath and fought them back.




“But what ‘bout … Grandpa Curry? We can go there.” Jed looked hopeful and eager.




Heyes paused. It was only natural that Jed would think of Grandpa Curry. He was a big presence in Jed’s life, visiting regularly. Unlike his family. When Susan Curry had eloped to marry Mathew Heyes, an Englishman no less, relations with her father became polite but strained. Grandpa Curry refused to visit the Heyes household. In fact, Heyes only remembered meeting him once. Slowly Heyes shook his head. “No Jed, we’ve gotta get well away from here. It jus’ ain’t safe.”




Jed pouted. He looked like he was going to cry. “Then if we can’t stay ‘round here where we gonna go?”




Heyes hesitated. “Uncle Jonathan lives in Utah. We’ll be safe there.”




“But that’s miles an’ miles!”




Heyes smiled faintly. “Yep. First thing in the morning, we’d best get walking.”




“But how will we find out way?”




Heyes sniffed and hugged his knees, this time in contemplation. “We know Utah is west of here, right?” Jed nodded, slowly. “So the sun sets in the west right?” Another nod from Jed. “So, we go in the direction the sun sets. We’ll get there. Might take a while though.”




Jed still look unconvinced. “But Grandpa Curry …”




“He can’t look after us, Jed. Two young boys … with his leg an’ all.” Heyes sighed. “No I’m responsible for ya now an’ we need to go find Uncle Jonathan.”




“But I don’t know Uncle Jonathan,” Jed wailed. Jed was right. He didn’t know Jonathan Curry. To him, he was just a man spoken about in hushed whispers, this elder brother of the Curry siblings. However, Jonathan had often visited his sister, bringing treats for her and Heyes. The kindly, jovial man Heyes knew, was nothing like the wrong’un, Jed had heard he was. “I want Grandpa Curry,” Jed said, plaintively.




“No.” Heyes was low but hard.




Jed blinked in surprise at the authoritarian tone. So did Heyes and he swallowed. Later in life, both would recognise it but for now, it was just a precursor of the man he would become. A man who would expect to be obeyed.




As for the note, that had been for him and him alone. It was personal and as long as he lived, he would never show that to anyone else. Not even Jed. Heyes swallowed a lump again, pressed his lips tightly together and made a silent vow. The note was a secret between him and his Ma, an enduring link that would keep her alive. That thought was both reassuring and comforting. He knew what he had to do.




It was his Ma’s last request and he knew he must try. They were going to Utah. To Uncle Jonathan.




Heyes put a hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “I’ll look after you Jed. Don’t worry. We’ll stick together. Always.”
He smiled weakly.




“I’d like that.” Jed returned his smile and hesitated. The he nodded. “Okay Heyes. I guess ya better at thinking ‘bout things than I am. Let’s go to Utah.”
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PostSubject: Re: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Mon Jun 27, 2016 12:55 pm

June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?


“This sure is beautiful country, isn’t it, Heyes?”  Kid Curry admired the red cliffs in the high sun as they traveled in southwestern Utah.  “Look at how steep the cliffs are!  How do you think this valley came to be?”  The Kid’s attention changed focus from the nature around them to his partner ahead of him.  “Heyes?”

“Hmm…”  Heyes rocked back and forth in his saddle, one hand tightly gripping the saddle horn and the other the reins.

Curry kicked his gelding forward to walk beside the mare.  “What’s wrong?   You don’t look too good.”

“I don’t feel too good.”

“What’s ailin’ you?”  The Kid noticed a sheen of perspiration beading on Heyes’ forehead.

“It’s my…”  Heyes held his breath for a moment as he squeezed his eyes closed.  “It’s my stomach.  Hurting.”

“Don’t look like you can ride much further.”  Curry stood up in his stirrups and looked around.  “There’s some trees at the next river bend.  Think you can ride that far?”

“You worry about staying…” he gasped in pain, “on your horse and I’ll…”

“Worry about stayin’ on mine,” Curry finished the line and held out his hand.  “How about lettin’ me have those reins so you can focus stayin’ on your horse.”

Heyes released the reins and put his free arm around his mid-section.

“Now I know you’re feelin’ mighty poorly!”  Curry led his partner’s horse along the river going as fast as he dared.  “Hang in there, Heyes.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


A half an hour later, Kid Curry jumped down from his gelding and hurried to Heyes’ side.  “Just slide down and I’ll get you.”

Heyes sat doubled over the saddle horn barely looking over to the outstretched arms of his partner.  He scarcely nodded and let go of the horn, leaning over to the Kid.

Curry took his weight and helped him over to a fallen log.  “Sit here for a spell and I’ll get your bedroll ready for you.”

“My saddle…”

“Yeah, I’ll get your saddle down so you can lean against it.”

The Kid quickly loosened the cinch and pulled the saddle off the mare.  He carried it to a shaded area under some trees where the ground was smooth.  As he made a bed with the saddle blanket and bedroll, he heard Heyes begin to retch.  “Oh, Heyes,” he sighed.  “You really are sick.”

He walked over to the log and put a hand on his partner’s back as the heaving continued.

“Go… away!” Heyes whispered.

“Okay, but I’m right here if you need me.”

Heyes nodded and began throwing up more as he rocked.

Kid Curry busied himself making camp and collecting wood for a fire.  He took the horses to the nearby river so they could drink their fill, rubbed them down, and hobbled them in a grassy area.  All the while, he kept an eye on his sick cousin.

“Kid?”

Curry hurried over.  “Yeah?”

“Water?”

“Sure, Heyes.”  He retrieved the full canteen and handed it to him.  “Just filled it with the cold river water.”

Trembling hands took the canteen and the Kid noticed Heyes was sweating and shivering at the same time.  He removed his bandana and wet it with the other canteen.  “Here, let me wipe you down some.”

“No.”

“You’ll feel better.”

“I can do it.”  Heyes took the cloth and wiped his face.

“Better?”

“No…”  Heyes bent over.  “AARGH!  AAARGH!!”  Cough.  Cough.

“Dang, Heyes, you can’t even keep water in you.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


A while later, Heyes sat leaning against the log with his legs bent tight to his chest moving restlessly.

Curry sat on his haunches near the logs coaxing a fire to start.  “How are you feelin’?”

“How does it look like I’m feeling?” Heyes mumbled.

“Can I do somethin’ for you?”

“No.  Stay away.”

“Fine.”  Kid left his attempt at a fire and swaggered out of camp while checking his gun for bullets.  “Think I’ll go shoot me some dinner.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


The sun began to set behind the red cliffs when Kid Curry quietly walked back into the camp.  He noticed Heyes hadn’t moved and was still gripping his stomach.

“Where’ve you been?” came a pained murmur.

“I killed a rabbit and cooked it up on the other side of the bend.  Didn’t figure you’d want to smell it.”

“Thanks.”

“Came back to camp while you were restin’ and got the pot.  Made some broth, too.  Want some?”

“Later.”

“Feelin’ any better?”

“It hurts, Kid.  It hurts bad.”

“Wish there was somethin’ I could do for you.”

Pained eyes looked around.  “Help me over to the bed roll?  Looks more comfortable…. over there.”

“Sure.”  Curry stood in front of his cousin, leaned over and lifted Heyes so he stood.  “Okay.”

Heyes gritted his teeth and nodded, leaning heavily on the Kid as they slowly made their way over to the bed.  Heyes knelt down, leaning over his saddle.

“You’re comfortable that way?” the Kid questioned as he wet the bandana.

“Uh huh.”

Curry sat on his haunches and wiped Heyes’ face and neck.

“So cold.”  Heyes shivered.

“Here.”  Curry placed a bedroll over his shoulders.  “Sure you’re good that way?”

“Helps to put pressure on it.”

“Exactly where’s it hurt?”

“Just under my ribs.”

“Wish I knew what was wrong.  Wish we were closer to a town and a doctor.”

“Me too,” Heyes mumbled as he fell into a fitful sleep.

Curry got up and went back to building a fire and putting a pot on for coffee.  “Have a feelin’ it’s gonna be a long night.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


“Argh… aargh… aaargh!”

Kid Curry woke up with a start.  He had been dozing by the fire with an empty cup still in his hands.  “Heyes?”

“Argh…”

Kid took a canteen over to him.  “Have a drink.”

“No.  Go away.”

“I’m stayin’.  You need somebody lookin' out for ya and I'm it.  Now drink."  He knelt down and held out the canteen.

“It’ll make me sick.”

“You’re already sick.”

“It’ll make me more sick.”

“Yeah, you’ll be more sick if you get dehydrated.  Got to at least keep sippin’ water.  Here.”

Heyes rolled off the saddle and sat leaning against it.  Weary eyes and a flush face looked up.  “Leave me be.”

“Nope.  Not until you take some water.”

Heyes took the proffered canteen and took a few sips before handing it back.  He shivered and tried to cover himself up.

The Kid set the canteen down and arranged the blankets around Heyes.

Heyes burped a few times and began retching.  “Told you.”

“Still have to stay hydrated, Heyes.”

“Go away.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Before sunrise Kid heard a faint voice.

“Tell Wheat to go north.”

“What about Wheat?”

“Tell him…”  Heyes looked around confused.  “Kid?”

“Yeah.”

“Can you come here?”

“Sure.”  Curry sat beside him and began rubbing his back.”

“Ohh… That feels good.”

“Feel any better?”

“Not really.”

“Think it was somethin’ you ate?”

“Didn’t eat anything you didn’t eat too.”

Curry continued to rub his partner’s back.  “That’s true.  Think you can sip some more water?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Nope.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


An hour later, Heyes was kicking off the covers.  “It’s so hot!”

Kid shivered in the early morning.  “Not really.  It’s pretty chilly this mornin’.”  He wet the bandana.  “Let me wipe you down some after you have a few sips of water.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


“Aargh!  Kid?”

“Over here.”

“Just shoot me, will ya?”

“Your gun or mine?”

“Yours.  It’s cleaner.”

“Both are cleaned.”

“You cleaned my gun?”

“Yep.  I worked on yours last night while I tried to stay awake.”

“I didn’t shoot it.  Didn’t need it.”

“All the more reason to clean it, especially with the dust around here.”

“Thanks.”  Heyes turned and leaning over his saddle fell asleep.



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


“Oh…”  Heyes woke with a moan.  “I hurt.  You still here, Kid?”

“Where else would I be?”

“Seems everything hurts.”

“Wish there was somethin’ I could do.”

“A hot bath would be good.”

“Can’t get you a hot bath, but I can rub your back some more, if you want.”  

“You don’t have…”

Curry came over, sat beside his partner and began rubbing his back.

Heyes sighed.  “That feels good.”

The Kid smiled.  “Glad I can do somethin’ to make you more comfortable.”

“How long?”

“It’s been just over a day.”

“’Kay…”  Heyes shivered and drifted back to sleep.

Curry arranged the blankets over his cousin and continued to rub his back for several more minutes.



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


“Heyes, Heyes, wake up!”  The Kid gently shook his partner.

Brown, dull eyes slowly opened.  “Posse?”

“No, but you haven’t had water for a while.”

“Don’t want any.”

“I don’t care if you don’t want any.  You need some.”

“No, I’ll get sick.”

“At least rinse out your mouth and spit it out.  Somethin’ is better than nothin’.”

Heyes tried to glare.  “No!  Leave me alone.”

“Just a sip.”

Heyes sighed.  “Will you leave me alone if I do.”

“Yep!”  Curry handed the canteen over.

Shaky hands took the container and Heyes took a few sips.  He burped a few times.”

“You gonna get sick?”

Heyes closed his eyes and burrowed under the blankets.



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


At dusk, Curry checked on his partner.  He was still curled up in a ball occasionally letting out a low groan.

“Gonna be another long night.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Early in the morning the Kid checked on Heyes who was still nestled in the blankets.  “Heyes?”

No answer.

“Heyes?”  Curry gently shook him.

“Hmm…”

“You need to get some more water in you.”

Brown eyes blinked.  “Do I hafta?”

“Yep.  Need to keep water in you so you don’t get sicker.”

Heyes uncurled and leaned against the saddle.  He took a few sips from the canteen Curry handed him.

“How do you feel?”

Heyes pondered a moment.  “Better.”  He took a few more sips.

“How’s the pain?”

“About gone.”

“Really?  Think you could get some of that broth in you?”

Heyes yawned as he snuggled back under the covers.  “Let me sleep a few more hours and then I’ll have some.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Long hours later, Heyes yawned and rolled out of his cocoon of covers.  He sat on his elbows and looked around camp.  The smell of broth made his stomach growl.  Kid Curry was dosing nearby.  “Kid?” he whispered.

Curry’s blue eyes opened and his hand rested on his gun butt.

Heyes smiled.

The Kid wiped the sleep from his eyes.  “How are you feelin’?”

“Like having some of that broth over there.  Is there any rabbit meat to go with it?”

“You’re feelin’ that good that fast?”

“How long did I sleep?”  Heyes found the canteen nearby and took a few sips.

Curry looked over to the setting sun.  “All day.”

“And you didn’t wake me up for more water?  Don’t you know I could’ve gotten dehydrated?”

“You got mad…”  The Kid stopped when he saw a big smile from his partner, knowing he was joking with him.  “Let me dish us up some food.  You get broth until I see you won’t get sick again.”

“Had you worried, huh?”

“No… well, maybe a little.  I didn’t know if I should stay or go.  You wanted me one minute and was tellin’ me to leave in the next.  I was gettin’ pretty frustrated with you.”  

“Glad you stuck around.  I haven’t been that sick… forever.”

"What do you think was wrong?"

"I don't have any idea but it stopped about as fast as it started up."

Kid Curry sighed with relief.  “I’m just glad you’re feelin’ better, Heyes.  Don’t ever get that sick again!”

“You can be sure I don’t wanna be that sick again.”  Heyes sat up straight.  “So how about passing over some broth so I can show you I’m not sick and can have meat.”




Had a really sick hubby recently and came up with this idea.  He wanted me around, but he didn’t.  Funny… Heyes’ symptoms seem mighty close to what the hubby had.

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PostSubject: Re: June 2016 - Do we stay or do we go?   Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:04 pm

Solitaire

This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by,
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup, and ride that highway in the sky.

~from Lonely People, Dan and Catherine Peek, 1974

Shadows dripped from every corner of the room. Light diffused around the edges of the drawn shade, hinting at a still wondrous late afternoon sun. The open window let in the heat of the day but did nothing to warm the coolness within. She faced him.

“I don’t invite just anyone up here, you know.”

“So why me?”

“You seemed like you could use some company.”

Jed “Kid” Curry’s eyes narrowed. “Because I was drinkin’ alone?”

Her lids half sagged, the weight of yet another explanation already taking its toll before she could close the deal. “I’ll treat you real good. Lord knows I have the experience.”

The blue eyes sipped a glance, rather than drink a longer view. “What’re you doin’ this for? Better to be bakin’ cookies for your grandkids.”

She drew close. Too close. Her hand found his cheek. He stepped back.

“What’s the matter? Only some young looker will do?” She approached again.

He grabbed her arm. “Look, really, don’t you have somewhere else to be?” His back now at the dresser, he stood looking at her, the stare the opposite of what his adversaries feared. His voice dropped. “I didn’t come up here to do what you’re thinkin’.”

Eyes of a sudden wide with rage, she stepped back. “Then why?”

His voice remained steady. “Because you said you wanted to talk.” He smiled. “I’m a good listener and have nothin’ better to do right now.”

“So you can mock an old floozie who’s seen better days?” She turned toward the window, gesturing to the street below. “All those supposedly good people of this town judge enough. I don’t need it from customers.”

He remained where he stood. “I’m not judgin’. But I’m not a customer, either.”

Her eyes burned courses his way. “Save your petty talk for the young, pretty ones. I suppose they’d appreciate it more, if they understood what it meant.” She paused, her mind churning.

“Look, like I said, I thought you wanted to talk, and I had the time.” He looked away a moment before facing her again. “I’ve seen what somebody judgin’ somebody else can do, and it’s not pretty.” He withdrew his billfold from his pocket.

Light replaced the suppressed rage on her countenance. “That’s more like it. You won’t regret it.”

“I ain’t changed my mind.” Curry placed a twenty-dollar note on the dresser. “You need money? I can spare some.” He replaced the wallet in his pocket and turned toward the door. “I gotta go.”

“Wait!” The plaintiveness of her voice stopped him. “I am not a charity case. I work for my pay.”

He half looked over his shoulder. “Fine. But, why this? You speak too good to be in a saloon.”

Her eyes dropped to the floor. “I was a teacher back East but lost my job when the school burned down.” She looked up. “Then I took a position as a private tutor and companion for a girl whose mother died and came West with the family when they settled in San Francisco. When my charge turned 16, her father arranged a grand tour of Europe for her with her aunt as chaperone, and I was dismissed.”

Curry’s gaze stayed with her.

She continued. “Since then, I have had the misfortune of not finding suitable employment. Small town school boards will hire local girls to teach around farming cycles, and larger towns and cities want male tutors. Occasionally, a doting school board member will champion an accomplished young woman for hire, more with an eye toward a future daughter-in-law, and looks matter in those cases. No one wants a dried-up old prune.” Realization hit. She straightened, her head high. “But, there I go again, sounding pitiful and feeling sorry for myself. Please forgive me.” She sighed. “So, I do what I have to do to eat and keep a roof over my head. The boardinghouse is modest but clean. The lady who runs it feels sorry for me, I suppose, but pity is the last thing I want, or need. Until I can procure a position somewhere, I have no other options.”

Curry shrugged. “Cookin’? Cleanin’?”

She laughed a mean streak, startling him. “Young man, my nose was always in my books. I did not learn to keep a house like other girls. First and foremost, I sought to educate – myself and others. I know how do to very little else.”

He thought a moment. “I have a friend in San Francisco who might know families needin’ a teacher for their daughters. I could get in touch …”

“No, that won’t do!”

He blinked at her sudden outburst. She took a deep breath, smoothing her bar-room attire.

“I am sorry. I am jumpy at times.” She paused, resolute. “Thank you for your kind consideration, but I shall not return to San Francisco. The experience was … well, I would rather not get into that.”

“Ma’am?”

She waved him off. “Never mind.”

Perspiration rising on his neck, he grabbed at his collar, only to find it unbuttoned. Tension hung like a heavy curtain. He wore a wry smile. With his knife he would cut through it if he thought it would open her eyes, but that was a losing battle and he needed to stem his losses. He turned once more, his hand on the door knob. “Sorry for your troubles, ma’am. I gotta go.”

“Wait. Please?”

He sighed, dropped his head in resignation. “Ma’am?”

She slinked the few steps to him, wrapped an arm sinuously around him, and pressed into his back. “Let me …” she breathed.

He stiffened. Her hands wandered over his person, played at the gloves hanging on his gun belt. A lightning quick hand grasped hers, plying it away. He turned. “Look, ma’am. I told you, I’m sorry for your troubles. This isn’t right.”

Opening the door, he disappeared without a backward glance.

She hurtled herself to the dresser and grabbed the twenty-dollar note, throwing it after him.

-***-

Curry descended the stairs, in no hurry, lost in thought. He wiped at the beads of sweat on his brow, expected for indoors in Arizona in June, or maybe an uncomfortable reminder of an encounter he would rather forget. Heading straight to the bar, he signalled for a beer. Sippus interruptus, he spit out the brew as a blow hit his back.

“Nice to know you’re choked up to see me!”

A dimpled grin caught Curry’s bleary-eyed glance. “Hey …”

Hannibal Heyes raised a brow and lowered his voice. “Joshua!”

“I know.” Kid rested an elbow on the bar, sinking his head into a raised hand. “Sorry.”

“S’okay.” Brown eyes twinkled, the voice still quiet. “Saw you come down. You look exhausted.” Heyes winked. “Didn’t have to leave on my account.”

Curry side-eyed his partner. “You don’t know the half of it.” He paused. “How’d the delivery go?”

“Good. Don’t change the subject.”

Kid sighed and shook his head.

Heyes leaned in close. “That good?”

Curry bored a look into him. “We just talked.”

“Talked? Do tell.”

“I did.” Kid grabbed his beer. “Don’t you have poker to play?”

Heyes grabbed at his own mug. “There you go changing the subject again. Talked, huh?”

“Yeah. You’d get along real good,” Curry deadpanned.

Heyes smiled. “More like you and the needy.”

The steps creaked. Heyes looked up to see a wizened blonde tinged with grey descend the staircase. The spangled dress looked odd on her, as did the proud smile she wore with it. Shouldn’t she be …?

Another creak. She stared at Kid. He focused on his beer. Heyes caught a reluctance from his partner and looked at her again. She caught his eye and winked. The brown eyes went wide.

The partners’ eyes met. Heyes opened his mouth. Nothing came out.

Curry stared hard, daring the silver tongue. “Joshua …”

Heyes grabbed his beer. “Time for poker.”

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