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 October 16 - Ghost(s)

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Calico

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PostSubject: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:33 am

Autumn draws on a pace but the rhythm of the monthly challenge is as constant as the tides.

Ah me.

For this month, my creative ones cudgel your agile brains on the subject of:


GHOST (S)


Now, clearly this offers the chance of a nicely seasonal Hallow'een tale should you so wish.

But, I know you lateral thinking ones will have plenty of leeway if you don't fancy the night of black cats and tubs of quality street.

Let the tippy tapping begin.
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LittleBluestem



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PostSubject: Ghosts   Mon Oct 03, 2016 12:03 pm

Here's my take on an old chestnut...

Ghosts
by Little Bluestem

“Go on in,” the dark-haired ex-outlaw encouraged, holding wide the door with his right hand.

“After you, Heyes,” his fair-haired partner replied grandly.

The two men stood on the sagging porch of a dilapidated wood-frame building, laden with saddle bags and bedrolls. Despite peeling paint and broken windows, the old hotel’s grand proportions and curlicued gingerbread trim bore mute testimony to its former glory.

“C’mon, Kid,” teased Heyes. “You don’t believe those stories, do you?”

“I don’t see you goin’ in.”

“I was just trying to be polite, seeing as you’re carrying more of the gear than me.”

“Since when are you polite?” demanded Curry.

“Since when are you afraid of ghosts?” rejoined Heyes.

“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Curry claimed, his tone one of bravado, but his right hand resting tellingly on the butt of his gun.

Heyes sighed impatiently and strode through the entrance. Curry hesitated briefly, then followed, both stepping warily into the gloomy interior.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The steady patter of raindrops fell heavily on the roof above, but the two men were warm, dry, and snug in their makeshift camp in front of a roaring fire, laid in a once-grand marble fireplace. The marble was now cracked and stained, but the flue was in working order. Seated on their bedrolls, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were just finishing up their dinner of beans, bacon, and biscuits, with some tinned peaches for dessert. They had scouted out all the rooms in the old abandoned hotel, and this one seemed to be the driest, plus it had the advantage of an operating fireplace.

“So much for this place being haunted,” commented Curry, sopping up the last of his beans with a piece of biscuit.

“Yeah, I expect those locals at the saloon were just trying to poke fun at us, this being Halloween and all,” replied Heyes. “But how much better is it to be sleeping in here, warm and dry, then camped out in the rain? Plus that old stable didn’t seem too leaky, so our horses are having a warm, dry night as well.”

“Ironic, ain’t it?” commented Curry. "For once we’re flush, what with me just gettin’ paid for that delivery job and you winnin’ big at poker, and there ain’t even a workin’ hotel or a restaurant in this so-called town for us to spend our money in!”  He yawned as he stacked his dish in the pile near the hearth along with the pots and pans. “I’m beat,” he said. “Let’s wash up in the morning.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two sleeping figures huddled on the floor in front of the glowing embers of the fire. The rain continued to plink steadily against the slate roof tiles, the only sound save for the men’s steady, deep breathing.

Until… a soft, low wail permeated the room.

Both men sat bolt upright, each reaching for his gun.

“You hear that?” whispered the Kid.

“Probably just the wind,” answered his partner. “Go back to sleep,” he suggested, returning his gun to its holster and lying back down.

Suddenly, more wails erupted. Heyes sat up again while Curry leapt to his feet. Soon the two men, guns drawn, were creeping stealthily through the corridors, pushing open the doors of of one room after another and peering inside warily.

“Thought you weren’t afraid of ghosts,” teased Heyes, noting the tense expression on his partner’s face.

“Speak for yourself, Heyes. I don’t see you puttin’ away your gun.”

After searching the building room to room, finding each as empty, dusty, and cob-webbed as they had the first time they’d toured the old hotel, they had one last place to check: the kitchen.

Cautiously, they pushed open the door. They almost missed her at first glance, but then she whimpered again. There, huddled in the corner by the big black stove, was a small girl. She was thin and dressed in a faded, lightweight muslin shift. She was hugging her knees to her chest, crying softly and shivering piteously.

Immediately, the hearts of the most successful outlaws in the west began to melt. Two guns were put away simultaneously. Heyes cleared his throat softly, then said gently, “Uh, excuse us, miss. But are you in trouble?”

The girl’s head shot up, her face startled. She scrambled to her feet and looked as if she would have run, but the two large men blocked her exit.

“There, there,” soothed Curry, holding up his hands. “We ain’t gonna hurt ya, sweetheart. We just wanna help ya.”

“I’m Joshua and this is Thaddeus,” Heyes said, also with a gentle, avuncular tone. “What’s your name?”

“M-m-m-mary,” she murmured.

“Well, Mary, nice to meet you. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” Heyes offered kindly.

Mary shook her head and scrubbed at her dirty, tear-stained cheeks with thin fingers. She was older than she had first appeared, but she had seemed younger because she was so small and so very thin. Her collarbones stood out like sharp knives, her wrists and knees knobby, but her face was beginning to show the beauty of a young woman, despite the dark circles beneath her green eyes and her lank, uncombed hair. In almost a whisper she said, “I’m c-c-cold.”

The Kid immediately slipped off his sheepskin jacket and draped it around the girl’s narrow shoulders.

“Come back with us to the fire,” he said. “We’ve got extra blankets.”

He and his partner exchanged glances. They both knew without any discussion that in the morning they would try to find out where Mary belonged and return her to her home.

Soon, three figures were slumbering in front of the fire, Mary curled up like a puppy near Heyes’ and Curry’s feet, still wrapped in the Kid’s sheepskin jacket along with two warm blankets.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dust motes danced in the beams of morning light streaming through the smudged and cracked window panes. Heyes and Curry were slowly stirring – stretching, yawning, maybe even scratching a bit.

Heyes whispered to his partner, “Time to find out where our little miss Mary belongs.”

But when they looked for her, they found only an empty pile of blankets where she had lain, no little girl.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was one of those glorious mornings often experienced after a heavy rain, where everything seems washed clean. The sky was a clear, crisp, cloudless blue, reflected in puddles here and there on the muddy ground. The Kid and Heyes were conversing as they finished tacking up their mounts.

“Where could she have gone?” Heyes speculated.

“I dunno, I looked everywhere,” replied Curry with obvious worry. “She’s clearly in some kind of trouble. Maybe a runaway. Maybe she gets beat…”

“There’s not a whole lot we can do…” said Heyes, trailing off helplessly. Then he went on, “What say we stop back in town and tell the folks there we saw her. Maybe they know who she is. Maybe they can be on the look-out for her and give her some help. That sound good?”

Curry nodded, somewhat appeased.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A short while later, back in the saloon at the foot of the hill where the abandoned old hotel perched, Heyes and Kid stood among a gathering of townspeople with incredulous looks on their faces.

“Mary, ya say?” demanded a stout, middle-aged fellow sporting a goatee.

Another man quickly made the sign of the cross. Two others in the group exchanged meaningful glances.

“Yeah,” replied Curry. “Skinny little thing. She needs help.”

“I’d say Mary’s beyond help,” pronounced Goatee dramatically.

“We toldja that old hotel is haunted!” said a younger man with reddish hair and a bit of peach fuzz on his still-smooth cheeks. “Rain or not, ya never shoulda stayed the night there!”

The others agreed emphatically.

When the two strangers responded with blank looks, Goatee explained in a solemn voice, “Mary Adams worked in the kitchen in that place back in the 60s.”

“Well this couldn’t have been the same Mary,’ reasoned Heyes sensibly. “This Mary was far too young. She was only 13 or 14 years old at the very most.”

“You don’t get it, friend,” said Peach Fuzz. “Mary Adams is dead. She and everyone else in that place died back in ’68. It was the cholera. In the well, they say.”

“That’s why it’s haunted,” added the man who had crossed himself.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You believe them folks?” asked Curry, as the partners rode side by side out of the small town.

“Naw, Kid, I still say they were just taking the mickey out of a couple of strangers.”

“But what about Mary?” asked Kid, genuinely concerned. “Do you think they’ll help her?”

They were now at the outskirts of the town, passing a forlorn-looking cemetery, surrounded by a sun-bleached and rickety picket fence, a scattering of wooden crosses sticking out of the earth at various angles.

Heyes squinted thoughtfully at the cemetery, then asked, “Hey, Kid? What happened to your jacket?”

Curry looked behind him, where his bedroll was tied to the cantle of his saddle. “Oh, darn. I must’ve left it back at the hotel. Look, why don’t ya wait here and I’ll ride back for it.”

Heyes still stared at the cemetery. Finally he said, with a slightly strange tone in his voice, “I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”

Curry followed his partner’s gaze. Draped over one of the crosses was a familiar looking buff-brown garment.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pair of ex-outlaws stood uneasily beside their horses in the small cemetery. Curry reached down to retrieve his jacket from the grave marker where it hung, revealing the worn inscription carved into the weather-beaten wood.

Heyes read aloud, “Mary Adams. A.D. 1854-1868. R.I.P.”

The partners looked at each other wordlessly. Then, as one, they turned, leapt onto their horses, jumped them over the picket fence, and galloped as fast as they coul, leaving only a cloud of dust in their wake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back in the saloon of the nameless town they had just vacated, the same group of men sat around a round table, laughing with glee. Amidst them was a young woman in her early 20s, small of stature and so thin that her sharp collarbones stood out delicately above the modest décolletage revealed by her plunging neckline. Her hair was combed and swept up on her head fashionably. Her lovely face was accented by ruby-red lip rouge and dark make-up played up her green eyes, complemented by her emerald satin dress and the sparkling baubles dangling from her lobes. She was grinning mischievously while counting out bills into a small pile on the table.

“Well, ‘Mary,’” said Goatee. “You’ve done it again, my girl!”

She smiled at him happily and said, “Can’t take all the credit! After all, it was your idea, Pa.”

“How much we get this time?” asked Peach Fuzz.

“Plenty,” said the girl. “I'm not done counting yet, but so far there's over a thousand dollars here!”

END


Last edited by LittleBluestem on Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Mon Oct 03, 2016 3:43 pm

“Are we there yet?”

The old man turned around in his saddle.

“Are we there yet? You still askin’ me that question, now that you’re all of sixteen?”

The teen-ager grinned.

“’Course I am. You might not recognize me if I didn’t.”

“That’s true.” He pulled up his reins and pointed at the rocky cliffs ahead.

“The entrance is up there. Just a little farther.”

“I don’t see anything.”

“You shouldn’t. The way in and out had to be hidden.”

“Didn’t do them outlaws much good in the end, though, did it?” The old man didn’t answer for a minute.

“No,” he said finally, “I guess it didn’t.” He clucked his tongue at his horse and it started moving forward again. The two men rode slowly over the rocky ground, gaining elevation as they got closer to their destination.

“Grandpa.”

“Hmm?”

“How come you know the secret way into Devil’s Hole?”

“It wasn’t secret after the raid.”

“Oh. Right.”

As they rode, the silence of the high country was underscored by a low rumbling.

“Grandpa. I hear something.”

“Do you. What do you think it is?”

“I ain’t sure, but it’s getting louder the higher we get.”

“You got good hearing, Tadpole. There’s a waterfall at the clearing. Means we’re getting close.”

“Sheesh. Must be a big one to hear it way out here.”

“Oh, it’ll do. ‘Course, early in summer like now, there’s a lot of run-off from the melt, and sound travels far in these mountains.”

“Can’t wait to see it.”

He smiled fondly at the youthful enthusiasm. “You haven’t changed since you were a little tyke. Still impatient.”

“I know. And I know who I get it from, too. Are we almost there?”

The old man’s attention returned to the cliff face. “Matter of fact, we are. Do you see it?”

The boy frowned in concentration.

“It don’t matter none. Just follow me.” He guided his horse towards what looked like a tumble-down of boulders, picking his way carefully while his grandson rode close behind. Suddenly a gap appeared, barely wide enough for the horses to pass through single file.

“Stay sharp, Tadpole. There might be some outlaw guarding this pass. We don’t want to get shot.”

“Don’t tease me, Grandpa. The last member of the Devil’s Hole Gang died in prison. Ain’t nobody here but ghosts.”

“Then we got to be extra careful. Outlaw ghosts can be more dangerous than a normal ghost.”

“Reverend Griswold says there’s no such thing as ghosts. He says believing in spirits is blasphemous.”

“Maybe I should have a talk with him, remind him of all his talk about holy spirit. Though the spirits you see here would be anything but holy.”

The boy looked doubtful. “I don’t think Mama would like that, Grandpa. You know she’s a Christian woman.”

“Yes, she is. My own child. Where did I go wrong with her?” he mused. “Maybe I should have a talk with her, too.”

The trail twisted between rocky outcroppings that blocked the sunlight. The boy rode as close to his grandfather as he dared, not looking at the sheer cliffs that boxed them in. After a few long moments, he heard the old man laugh out loud.

“Grandpa! What is it?”

“Ride up, boy. We’re here. This is Devil’s Hole, in all its glory.”

He pulled up next to his grandfather and stopped, his gaze taking in everything.

“What a dump!”

The old man wheeled on the boy so quickly, he flinched. “A dump! Christ almighty! What’d you expect to see here after the Army cleaned this place out?”

“I’m sorry, Grandpa. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it. It’s just . . . all I heard about Devil’s Hole, all the stories you told me, I just thought it’d be . . .”

“Be what? The Brown Palace? This was an outlaw hideout.”

The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I guess I just thought there’d be . . . more. You know. I mean, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry lived here. They were famous. I figured they’d have some fancy place.”

“Well. . .” his grandfather said, looking around as if seeing the ruins of burnt and broken buildings for the first time. “Like I told you, Heyes and Curry ran a pretty tight ship here. Things went to hell in a handbasket once they were gone. After the hard winter of ’87-’88, the gang was in bad shape. When the governor called the Army in to clean out Devil’s Hole, what was left of the Devil’s Hole Gang didn’t even bother to post guards anymore. Like taking candy from a baby for the soldiers.”

He pointed at the ruins of what once was a large cabin, where two walls still stood about shoulder height. “That’s where we’ll camp. We’ll get some protection from the wind there. It can get chilly at night, even in summer.”

They settled their horses and organized their camp, nestled against the charred logs of the burned-out cabin. The boy gathered firewood while the old man organized their gear. The sun was setting behind the jagged mountain peaks, and the air was cooling. They huddled near the campfire, and the scent of beans and bacon cooking made their stomachs growl. They dug into their dinners with satisfaction.

“Eat a little slower, Tadpole. You want to actually taste your food before it hits your stomach.”

“Yes sir.” The movement of his fork slowed down for a few bites before it picked up speed again. When his plate was empty, he placed it reverently on the ground in front of him.

“Full already?”

“Yes sir.” He laced his fingers behind his head and rested against the blackened logs of the cabin’s wall.

“This is the life, Grandpa. Riding all day. Camping and sleeping out in nature. Cooking over an open fire. I wish we could do this all the time.”

“You’d miss that nice bed of yours. Sleeping on the ground gets old real fast. I should know. I done it often enough.”

“Not lately, though.”

The old man laughed. “You better believe it. Not lately. A bed’s better than sleeping on the ground any day of the week.”

“I think I could learn to like sleeping on the ground, if I had to do it here.”

“Maybe in high summer, like this. If you were here when the first snow came, you’d be stuck here till the thaw. That’d take months. Most of the outlaws spent their winters someplace warm, like Texas.”

“Was that what Heyes and Curry would do?”

“Sometimes.” He put his plate down and, like his grandson, leaned back, stretching out his legs. “They liked the warmer weather same as the others, but they were more likely to be recognized. It was safer to stay at Devil’s Hole, and they did do that a couple winters.”

“Must’ve been kind of boring.”

“Oh yeah, but sometimes, they liked boring. Their lives were pretty exciting the rest of the year. They were safe here. They found out that being famous wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”

The boy thought about that for a moment. “I’d like to be famous.”

The old man’s fond expression could barely be seen in the dim light cast by the glowing logs of their fire.

“Famous like Heyes and Curry? Your mother and the Reverend might not life that.”

“Why not? People are still writing stories and talking about them. I’d like to be known for something, too.”

“Be famous for reasons other than being a crook, okay? Because being famous for them meant being hunted. They were wanted dead or alive. That meant anyone could shoot ‘em dead, and be rewarded for murdering them.”

“But nobody did, did they? Heyes and Curry, they weren’t here when the Army came, because the Army would’ve bragged about it.”

“You got that right.”

“So where’d they go?”

“Good question.”

The boy peered closely at his grandfather, but saw no hints about what he was thinking.
“What do you think about that, Grandpa?”

“About what?”

“About what happened to Heyes and Curry.”

“Maybe they went to South America like Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid did.”

“No,” the boy insisted, “they were too smart to do a fool thing like that. They probably didn’t even speak South American.”

The old man hid his smile behind his coffee cup.

“No, I don’t think that they did.”

“So what then?” the boy wanted to know. “You must’ve heard all sorts of stories. Mama said you met an awful lot of people, from tramping all over the west with your partner when you were young.”

“She’s right about that. The tramping around the west, I mean. I been pretty much everywhere west of the Mississippi.”

“You been east of the Mississippi, haven’t you?”

“New Orleans, but that’s it. I like the west,” he said, waving one arm at the dark sky filled with the fires of the Milky Way. “Always have. I couldn’t breathe in cities.”

“I like the west, too.” The old man patted the boy’s knee.

“You and me both.”

“So did you hear what happened to Heyes and Curry?” The boy saw the old man hesitate. “You can tell me, Grandpa. I can keep a secret.”

“You think I know where them two ended up?”

“Maybe you do.” The boy poked the smoldering logs with a stick, making the logs crackle and send embers float upwards. “You know what Mr. Peterson says about you?”

“Why would I care about anything Mr. Peterson says? That man’s numb as a box of rocks.”

The boy ignored the interruption. “He says, even though you talk all the time, you don’t really say anything. He says you’re the most close-mouthed talker he ever knew.”

“Mr. Peterson needs to get a hobby to occupy his mind.”

“Grandpa, if you knew what happened to Heyes and Curry, would you tell me?”

“If I knew for sure, don’t you think I’d go for that reward?”

The boy actually snorted in disbelief. The old man looked at him with mild surprise. “Oh come on! Even I know about statute of limitations. They couldn’t get arrested today.”

“They could in Wyoming. There’s no statute of limitations here. If Hannibal Heyes showed up tomorrow on the streets of Laramie, he’d be put in prison for 20 years to life.”

The boy’s mouth hung open. “Really?”

“Really. So yeah,” he went on, “if I knew, wouldn’t I collect that reward? Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money, even today.”

The boy whistled slowly. “Sure is. We could buy us one of them motor cars from Detroit.”

“I guess we could.”

“So what happened to them?”

The man took off his hat and ran his fingers through his thick white hair before settling his hat snugly on his head.

“Hard to say. Once they realized that the governor – I should say, governors, because there was a regular parade of them in the 80’s – was conning them about the amnesty, there was two things they could do. One,” and he held up one finger, “was go back to robbing banks and trains. But they both knew the glory days of gentlemen robbers was over. Or, two,” and he held up two fingers, “they could just take new names and find some quiet place to live, where nobody knew them, and live out their lives peaceful-like. Since no one’s ever heard of them robbing anyone ever again, I’d say they took choice number two.”

“Wow.” The boy looked down, thinking hard. “You mean they could be living nearby us, running a store or hotel, or working in a bank. You could be going in to get a mortgage, and Hannibal Heyes might be the bank manager. You wouldn’t ever know he was a famous bank robber.”

“I guess not. Though it’s hard for me to figure Hannibal Heyes working in a bank without putting a few of those greenbacks in his pocket.”

“And what about the Kid? I don’t see him working a regular job.”

“Don’t be too sure. He might be a running a school for boys in Philadelphia, where his people came from.”

“Kid Curry back east? I don’t see that either, Grandpa. I don’t see that at all.”

“He’d be nigh as old as me. People change when they get older. You start getting old when you turn sixteen.”

“If you say so.” He yawned hugely, covering his mouth with one gloved hand. “All this fresh air is making me sleepy. Think I’ll turn in.”

“Go ahead, Tadpole. I might stretch my legs a bit before I hit the hay.”

“Okay.” He lay down on his bedroll and pulled the rough blankets over him. He watched as his grandfather placed more logs on the fire, and the flames rose and crackled in the night air.

“Grandpa.”

“Uh huh.”

“Thanks for bringing me here. This trip might be the best birthday present ever. But there is one thing. . . Grandpa, now that I’m sixteen, can you stop calling me Tadpole? That’s what you call a boy, and I’m a man now.”

“I’m awful used to calling you Tadpole, but I guess even an old dog like me can learn a few new tricks. What should I call you, now that you’ve entered manhood?”

The boy was oblivious to the teasing. “By my Christian name. That should be easy for you to remember, Grandpa, since Ma always said they gave me the name you suggested.”

“Alright. From now on, I’ll call you Thaddeus. Now go to sleep, Thaddeus.”

He shut his eyes tightly. “Yes sir!”

It wasn’t long before a few gentle snores emanated from underneath the blankets. The old man bent forward and pulled the blankets up, tucking them under Thaddeus’ chin. He stroked the downy cheek with gentle fingers.

“Don’t be in such a hurry to be a man,” he whispered. “It won’t hurt you none to be my Tadpole a while longer.”

He pushed himself up to a standing position, grimacing at the pain in his knees and hips. He wasn’t used to long hours in the saddle anymore, and the arthritis seemed to be worse in the evenings. He stood still until he felt steady enough to walk.

He felt his way around the charred timbers until he came out into the meadow. He let his feet guide him, without thinking about where he was going, around the remains of cabins, bunkhouse, stables, never stumbling. Sometimes he stopped and leaned one hand against a broken wall, looking for . . . what? A sign? A memory? A ghost? After all the deaths the Army inflicted here, the place should be full of ghosts, but none appeared for him. As much as he strained to see them, they remained hidden.

How long had he been walking? Must be over an hour, he thought. He was getting cold, and his pace had slowed. Close by the waterfall were some huge boulders that had crashed down from the heights long ago. He remembered how they absorbed the sunlight on warm summer days. Maybe he’d feel better if he sat on one of them for a while.

The long slab of rock didn’t feel warm. In fact, it felt downright cold. Even so, it seemed to soothe his aching joints. He lay back and looked at the ruins of what was once a lively, bustling place. Now it was broken into pieces, so shattered that even he could barely tell where the buildings had once stood. He felt like the place reflected him. Between the arthritis and the lingering aches and pains from all the injuries he’d suffered in his reckless youth, he and Devil’s Hole were two peas in a pod. We’re both broken by age and assaults, but somehow, we’re still around.

He was lost in his thoughts and memories, when he became aware of a shape moving towards him. It looked like a man, moving around the abandoned buildings, going here and there, glistening under the glow of millions of stars. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, wishing he still wore his gun, and then silently cursing at himself. What use was a gun against a ghost? As he stared, the shape became more familiar, and a voice emerged over the roar of the crashing waterfall.

“Grandpa! Grandpa! Where are you?”

He struggled to get to his feet but failed, falling painfully back.

“By the waterfall!”

The boy ran over to him.

“Are you okay, Grandpa? You been gone an awful long time.”

“Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.” He heard his own voice, and felt bad. It wasn’t right to be sharp with the boy; he probably got scared when he woke up and didn’t know where his grandfather was.

“What were you doing out here all this time?”

“I’ve been looking for ghosts.”

Thaddeus nodded, as if that made perfect sense to him. “Find any?”

“No,” he sighed. “The only ghost here is me.”

He looked up at his grandson, taking in his height, his broad shoulders, his solid presence.

“I was wrong about you, Tadpole.”

“How so?”

“Maybe sixteen is a man after all. Maybe.”

The boy laughed a little. “Thanks for that.” He looked down at his grandfather, still laying on the flat boulder.

“Want some help getting up?”

“Guess I do.” He let the strong young arms reach under his and pull him up. He couldn’t help groaning in pain.

“Why don’t you let me help you, Grandpa? We’ll get you back by the fire. The warmth will feel good.”

He let himself lean into the boy’s strength. “Alright, Thaddeus. There’s nothing to see here anyway.”


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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Wed Oct 05, 2016 11:05 am

Destiny's Cycle: Part Two (part one is in last month's challenge)
Challenge: Ghosts  tombstone




The room turned toward Billie’s barked command.

The boy’s expression, coupled with the way his Adam’s apple was struggling to  move in his dry throat, let all watching know exactly how close fear or, maybe his brashness had him to pulling his pistol.

Kid Curry though, remained impassive as the march of time. He was waiting for the moment, when he would be required to put this boy down, just as he had so many before him. The big dog, little dog game always ended the same, it ended with blood. Blood and, usually, screams.

It was the screams that disturbed Kid. They reminded him of when the raiders had come to their farms, so long ago, when he was a boy. The blast of the Colt and even the spewed blood felt perfectly natural to him. But, it was the screams, he loathed. They wrung to the surface a tainted shame, which made him wish, more than anything else, he could halt this relentless circle of cordite and blood. But, he had made his choices and his choices had led him to be the gunslinger legend, this boy was now challenging.

Behind Kid, Hannibal Heyes uncoiled from the chair, he had been so contentedly enjoying, and rose to his feet. Any sound he made, was lost to the racket of saloon patron’s hustling from what looked like, too close a proximity, to harm’s way.

Heyes’ jaw canted a bit to the side, his brows lowering, and he took a step closer to the action. He was trying to understand where the fog surrounding Billie Boy had come from. Another step and his brows were furrowing so deep, the ridge of his nose had picked up a definite wrinkle. The odd mist was boiling thicker from Billie, trailing out across the filthy, scuffed, wood floor and a line from Macbeth nattered through Heyes’ thoughts, ‘…double, double toil and trouble…’

Beside him, Kid exhaled, his nostrils flared, and in a low, detached voice, he stated, “walk away.”

Not only was the rising, swirling vapor bewildering, but Heyes also felt positive, he could smell the bitter, irony tang of blood. Slanting his eyes toward his cousin, he could see without asking, that Kid was not experiencing anything out of the ordinary. With this simple realization, a flash of heat raced across Heyes’ skin, leaving behind a prickling trail of cold sweat. Taking a breath, he closed his eyes, pulling his lower lip through his teeth and when he reopened them, the gray fog was coalescing, becoming . . . becoming. . .  He swallowed hard. Becoming forms, no, men.

Men swathed in blood drenched clothing, and their eyes, their cold, haunted, soulless eyes were boring accusingly into his cousin.  

Heyes’ mouth went dry. His hands rolling into fists, except not quite, because his right tightened around the smooth, hard butt of his Schofield, that had been hanging utterly forgotten in his hand. With a spastic jerk, his arm came up; the Schofield coming to bore on the advancing specters.

Billie’s eyes bolted wide open and his hands rose in the air. “Mister, I ain’t got any beef with you.”

Kid’s blue eyes, slowly shifted to his partner and saw there was sweat trickling along the angled lines of Heyes’ face. But what bothered him most, was the stunned countenance his pal was wearing. Because, even though Hannibal was staring right at Billie, Kid knew in his gut, it was not the boy that held his cousin’s attention.

Then Heyes took a step forward.

The step put him amidst the broken men of their past, the men of Kid’s past. Some of their names he could not recall, others only where they had been, when they were shot down. The ones closest raised their arms toward him, their grasping hands clutching at empty air. They shambled forward, their disjointed movements causing ragged skin to flap apart, revealing gruesome twisted, splintered bones. But the ones closer to Billie, these ghosts were worse. For their gunshot bodies oozed, a black cream that reeked of rot while their lax faces and gaping mouths, brought to mind the graves they lay in. ‘They are not real,’ a frantic corner of Heyes’ mind shouted, over and over, like the clattering clang of a fire brigade’s brass bell.

Unfolding his arms, Kid reached out, the fingers of his left hand brushing across Heyes’ shirt sleeve, “partner?”

Shying from the light touch, the corner of Heyes’ mouth tugged down, his nose scrunching tighter, the rest of his face, smoothing out like silk, till not a line or wrinkle existed in his hard mask. Without a word, he tipped back the hammer of the Schofield.  

“Mister…” Billie gulped, shuffling back.

“Partner!?”

Heyes eyes flicked briefly to his cousin, his soft brown eyes were black and hard as a chunk of coal in a forge. And, he took another step forward, followed by another; his long strides carrying him straight through the accursed apparitions, which he had come to realize; only he could see. Still, their touch chilled him to the bone, twisting his guts till he felt he wanted to spill out all he had drunk.

Billie’s glossy, wet, blue-eyes kept darting from Heyes’ face to the .45 caliber Schofield’s barrel aimed at him, until he could no longer see it, because it was digging into his chest. “Please, Mister, please, I didn’t mean---.”

The look Heyes laid on the boy stifled his words. With an inaudible snarl, he snatched the Colt from Billie’s holster skid. He could hear Kid coming up behind him, and stepping off Billie, Hannibal Heyes threw a hard look at his partner that flowed right back around to the boy. “What kind of ingrate invites death to stand beside ‘em?”  He asked, frowning severely at both blue-eyed gunmen.

The batwing doors were still flapping behind him as Heyes stepped down from the boardwalk. He opened the Colt’s cylinder; the six brass cartridges tumbling out, bouncing off the toes of his boots to thud softly in the dirt. With a grunt, he threw the revolver from him and inhaled deeply. Exhaling, he inhaled again, hoping the fresh air would wash the stench of decay from his nostrils.


.....till next month

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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Wed Oct 05, 2016 11:11 am

Halloween Night- Devil's Hole

The lamps were all turned low around the bunk house as all the men sat around the worn wooden table in the center of the main room. No one would be sleeping tonight, instead they would all tell ghostly tails they'd grown up hearing or ones they'd heard from the folks living in Benton Pass.

In the center of the table stood a well used coffee pot. Everyone filled his mug with a measure of the strong brown liquid, thankful Heyes had not made the coffee tonight.

Once everyone was settled, Heyes cleared his throat before speaking. "I'm glad we do this every year," he began, "reminds me of when Kid and me were kids...staying up all night and listening to the ghost stories everyone told before all us kids went into town and soaped the storefront windows. Now, I find myself telling those same stories, year after year...this year I want to tell a new one, one I heard in town a couple days go actually."

Wheat scoffed. "If'n it's the one I'm thinkin' of, all us men have heard it at one time or anothern. I don’t set much stock in it; heck, I ain't even seen the grave they say is here in Devil's Hole."

All eyes were now on Wheat, everyone wondering what he'd meant.

"Well, you are right Wheat, I'd heard several different versions of it myself," Heyes admitted, "but I think I may have stumbled upon her grave a few days ago while I was out hunting."

"Who's grave?" the Kid asked. "And I think I'd know if there was a woman buried here."

"What brings this on all of a sudden, Heyes? You don't seem to be the sort that goes 'round believin' in ghosts and such," Lobo commented.

"Shore never thought you'd be the type, since yer always tellin' us that there's always a logical explanation for every thing," Kyle added.

"Everyone just calm down for a second and let me tell the story," Heyes interjected, silencing everyone.

"Well, hurry up, Heyes, it'll be mornin' 'fore we know it," Hank prompted, eager to hear this story.

There was a collective nod from everyone around the table.

Heyes sighed and gathered his thoughts. “It is said that a woman called Devil’s Hole home before outlaws came here. It is also said that she was buried in the clearing surrounded by lodge-poles, and that her spirit haunts this place.

“The story goes…” he took a moment to collect his thoughts. “Back a number of years ago, when folks first started to come west, a pair settled here in Devil’s Hole in hopes of ranching on this God forsaken piece of scrub ground. People in Benton pass seem to agree on one particular fact, the woman’s name was Sarah Parker.

“The ranch was a failure the first year. Sarah took sick that winter with pneumonia and died a few days later, her body was taken to town and stored on ice until she could be buried in the spring. Her husband buried her in a clearing surrounded on all sides by lodge poles, on the bluff overlooking the waterfall.

"I found the gravesite just a few days ago. The marker is in need of repair. Might be nice if we all tried to keep it well kept for her, after all, we do live on her land."

“The ranch was abandon soon after Sarah’s death. Her husband claimed to hear her humming in the kitchen, and see shadows moving in the corners of his eyes. The man moved into the boarding house in Benton Pass and died there several years later.”

“Is that the scariest thing you could come up with?” Wheat asked.

“You try being alone in that cabin for a week once, both Kid and I have seen and heard things we can’t explain. I’ve heard humming late at night,” Heyes replied.

“I was in the cabin once while you and Kid was casing a bank in Montana, came out of one of the room with, I forget what now, and saw a woman sitting on the sofa there in the sitting area,” Hank said. “I don’t like being alone in there, feel like I’m being watched.”

“There’s no such things as ghosts,” Kid muttered.

“Heyes, Kid, did one of you leave a lamp burning in front the window of your cabin?” Kyle asked, looking out the bunkhouse window."

Everyone got up from the table and flocked outside. Sure enough in the in the window a lamp was left burning with the shade pulled down behind it. A shadow of a woman passed behind the shade.

Everyone glanced around at everyone. For the first time since coming to the Hole, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry stayed in the bunk house with the rest of the gang. This was a Halloween night to remember.

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Cal

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PostSubject: Ghost October Challenge   Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:08 am

My story this month is shamelessly inspired by RosieAnnie's story....Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery remember x


Ghost…


“What’s got you so all fired up Baby Jane? I could rest my cup on that bottom lip of yours.”

“It’s not fair Nana” the teen sulked. “Not fair at all.”

“Come give your old Nana a cwtch child.  Tell me what’s eating at yer”

“That’s it! That’s what’s eating at me.  I’m not a child!”

“You’ll always be Baby Jane to me and your Gran’pa, so no use fightin it.  What’s wrong? What’s HE said now.”

“Nana? …Can you you remember what it felt like the first time you fell in love?”

“Well …yes” Nana chuckled.  “I ain’t senile yet! I wasn’t much older than you.”

“Well then you know I’m old enough to know what love is …. It’s not fair.”

“Oh …you’ve fallen HARD have you?  That can be a mighty terrifying feeling... “

“I knew you’d understand! Is that what it was like for you …terrifying.”

“Oh Lord yes! But what was a girl to do?”

“Tell me Nana.  Tell me what it was like when you first met Gran’pa….”

“Gran’pa? oh…er….well yes. Of course Gran’pa…”

“Was he handsome?”

Nana’s eyes lifted from Jane’s angelic face, as she sat next to her on the porch, to the far horizon.

“Yes child …he was handsome. I remember that first time I saw him like it was yesterday.  I was living in Wyoming then. My Pa was the Mayor of a little town called Benton. Like I said … I wasn’t much  older than you …but I was already set on being a school teacher.  I had a head full of books and arms full of supplies.  Your great Grandma was already sick by then and I was doing all the housekeeping for my Pa and the little ones.  I was just …doing everyday things… Just walking along the street… and there he was… I saw him.”

Nana sighed deeply and tears sprang to her eyes.  She blinked them away quickly and smiled at Jane who was watching the transformation of her old Nana’s face with awe.  Nana almost looked young there for a second.

“Herm… Yes …like I said.  There he was … stood out on the boardwalk …right in front of a SALOON!” laughed Nana. “Just stood there … hitching up his hat and taking in the view.  It was the way he stood there got me.  Like he owned the town.  He was tall …broad shouldered. He had on a white shirt and a leather vest.  In those days a man travelled with a pistol strapped around his waist, but he wore his low on slim hips.  I didn’t need to see his face I was already sunk.  I couldn’t move …thank goodness he wasn’t looking my way … or all he would have seen was a cod fish gawping at him…”

“Gran’pa!?” asked Jane incredulously.

“Gran’pa? Well yes …of course Gran’pa.  Oh he was a real looker in those days.  I came to my senses and realised I could be making a spectacle of myself …so I walked on a bit and looked in the window of the next store …so I could get another peek.” Nana chuckled. “Lord knows what he would have thought of me if he’d realised I was stood there looking at traps and fishing line!”

“Did he see you?”

“Not then. I got my look in first. Oh …and what a look.  He had the bluest eyes and he wore his hair long and in curls… golden curls… curled my stomach up to see them and set my heart a thumpin.  He had the sweetest smile …that set those eyes to twinkling.  When he turned that smile on me… I near melted to my toes…”

Another huge sigh escaped Nana’s lips.

“Did he ask you to marry him Nana?”

“What? Lord child …in those days you didn’t speak to a man less you’d been properly introduced! …No …we just looked at each other.   I looked.   And he looked.   But we both knew.   I saw it straight off …that jump in his eyes …he saw plain as day how it was for me …he saw clear through to my soul … and I knew …Lord did I know …I didn’t even want to know and I knew!”

“What did you know Nana?”

“I knew.  There wasn’t another man on God’s Earth better suited for me to spend the rest of my days with than this man here stood in front of me.  I knew for darn certain.  So certain it took my breath away. Terrified me …like nothing had ever done …. before or since.  I was so God’m sure before that moment that I was the master of my own fate.  I wasn’t no willowy maid looking for a husband, I had plans for myself …and a whole World to see!  And here he was… smiling… My whole World … just came out of a Saloon and knocked all my planning into a cocked hat!”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Nana looked down at her hands for a second and blinked hard.  “Nothing.  I saw that look in his eyes too though.  I saw it plain as day like it was written on stone and handed down from a mountain.  He felt it too.  That jolt…” Nana looked off to the horizon again.  “I wonder if he was terrified too?”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

“What? …Oh Gran’pa… Well yes I … I should …but you know how he’s getting forgetful …best not to mention it to him… we don’t want to go getting him all riled up now do we…”

“What happened?  How did he ask you to marry him then?”

“Oh we looked some more.  I could see he wanted to come over and introduce himself… but his friend arrived … come to think on it … he was handsome too… He came out and saw…er… ‘Gran’pa’ looking… and he smiled this crooked, dimpled smile at me… and tipped his hat… funny… I can still see that hat… you know it had a bullet hole right in the crown!  Why would a smartly dressed man wear an old hat like that?  Well he tapped his friend on the shoulder and pulled him ‘round.  They talked some and his friend dragged him towards the livery stables.  Your …erm …’Gran’pa’…. hum…. He gave me one last look… that near broke my heart… it was an apology… a plea for forgiveness… a promise …”

Nana put her hand to her face and this time she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.  She lowered her hand to her beating heart.

‘How could it still hurt so much after all these years?’ she thought.

“Maybe they needed to be somewhere in a hurry” suggested Jane.  “It was alright though Nana… wasn’t it? He came back and asked you to marry him didn’t he!”

“Yes… yes of course he did.  Of course he did.  That was just the first time I met him …and he had to leave… just like you said.  He left riding up Main Street …next to his friend …and I like to think that the reason he didn’t look over to me …was because he was a little upset himself …that he didn’t have …the time …to come and introduce himself properly.”

Nana’s old eyes followed the ghost of her past as he rode past her and on out of town.

“I saw the way he carried himself in that saddle… I could see it was hard for him to leave like that…”

She whispered more to herself than to Jane.

“When did you see him again?”

“Oh…” Nana shook herself and plonked her hands into her lap, fixing Jane with a teary eyed blue twinkled smile.  “How did we get started on this silly story Baby Jane? Weren’t we talking about your new Beau?”

“Nana! When did you see him again?”

“Not errrr …not for a long time after that… I met your Gran’pa at a Halloween Party in Denver… He was all decked out in a ghostly mask…. Can you believe that? All I could see of him were his broad shoulders and his long golden curls…”

“And it was him! How romantic.  You must have been thrilled…”

“My papa sure was… your Gran’pappy was a fine catch for a Mayors daughter from Benton!”

---oooOOOooo---
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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:20 pm

Heyes is sleepin’.  His steady breathin’ assures me it’s true.  And that’s good, ‘cause it’s the first good night’s sleep he’s gotten since we left Matherville.
 
As for me, I haven’t slept a wink.  Not since Seth died back in the desert.  Wanderin’ out there, day after day, night after night, it was Seth who kept me goin’.  Kept both me and Heyes goin’.  At first, to keep all three of us alive, and later, well, gettin’ justice for what Danny’d done became my motivatin’ factor.
 
By now, Danny’s six feet under for sure, rotting in his grave where he belongs.  The sting of death wiped that smug smile off his face for good.  And Seth, now maybe Seth can rest in peace, knowin’ his murderer paid the price.

Yep, I’m glad Danny Bilson’s dead.  Truth be told, I’d be gladder still if I could get some sleep.

At least Heyes is sleepin’, though Lord only knows how with his pocket watch tickin’ so loud. Somethin’s gotta be wrong with that thing.  I wrapped it in his bandana, then shoved it deep inside his saddlebags.  Still, I can hear it.  Can’t you?
 
I thought a bottle’d help me get some rest, but it’s empty now.  Didn’t do no good.  I’m still sittin’ here, wide awake, listenin’ to that cursed watch.  Tick, tick, tick.  

And pullin’ back the hammer of my Colt.  Click, click, click.
 
There’s a bad taste in the back of my throat, and it ain’t cheap whiskey.  Maybe somethin’ I ate.  Only come to think of it, I haven’t eaten anything at all since the gun fight.  There’s been this gnawin’ in the pit of my stomach.  What’s that sayin’ about grudges and bad stomachs?  Good thing I’m not the kind of man to hold a grudge, though I suppose this mustache I’m sportin’ might say different.
 
Sittin’ here in the dark gives a man time to think.  Thinkin’ about choices I’ve made.  Truth.  Lies.  It was justice I was lookin’ for, wasn’t it, when I went after Bilson?  Ha!  A flimsy lie like that don’t hold water for long.  Not even for the person tellin’ it.  It was revenge I was lookin' for all along.  Revenge in the form of money or blood.  Bilson chose blood, and I obliged him.  Gladly.
 
Danny Bilson is dead because that’s exactly how I wanted him.

I been sittin’ here thinkin’ about people too, most of ‘em gone.  My mother in particular.  My mother didn’t know Danny, but if she had, even that sainted woman would agree he deserved to die.  Didn’t he?  Wouldn’t she?

Confession’s good for the soul*, she used to tell me.  The truth will set you free**, she said.  But Ma ain’t here to tell my truths to.
 
There’s only darkness and the infernal tickin’ of Heyes’ watch.



*Psalm 119:26
**John 8:32
A grateful nod to Edgar Allan Poe's Tell-tale Heart for the inspiration.

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Alias Alice



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PostSubject: Ghost   Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:34 am

It would be completely dark before the boys arrived in town on this late October evening.  Already it was becoming difficult to see in the shadowy half-light and the darkness that was increasing every minute. Amongst the trees and under the rocks, groups of shadows gathered and shifted.  The horses had to pick their way warily along the dark and rutted path.

Kid was reflecting to himself that if they weren't so near their journey's end, it was dark enough to make camp now.

Suddenly, and without warning, his horse reared.  Taken completely by surprise, Kid had no chance to save himself, but fell from the horse, striking his head on a rock as he hit the ground.  He lay unmoving.

“Kid!”  Heyes  leapt down from his horse and was by his partner's side in an instant.

“Kid!  Are you all right?”

No response from the unmoving form. For a few more frightening moments, the Kid continued to lie completely still, but then his eyelashes fluttered and the blue eyes opened and looked straight into his cousin's face.

Heyes heaved a huge sigh of relief.  He was amazed at quite how relieved he felt.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Just what I was going to ask you,” said his partner faintly.

Heyes gave a tremulous smile.  His cousin was all right.

“How do you feel?”

“Not brilliant.  Think I must have hit my head on something.”

“You did.  But you were only out for a minute or so.”

“Oh.  Everything's still fading in and out a bit.”

The Kid put the back of his hand to his forehead and closed his eyes.  Then he opened them again, looked around and said, “Where's that woman?”

“What woman?”

“The one that was standing by the side of the path.  I only glimpsed her for a split second.  I remember now.  I think it must have been her that spooked my horse.  We didn't see her until the last minute.  We were practially on top of her before we realised that she was there.”

“I didn't see any woman, Kid”.

“You must have done.  She was standing right by the cross-roads.  It was only a  second, but I saw her really clearly.  And the horse must have done too.  That's why he reared up.  She startled him.”

Heyes stared at the Kid.

“I was in front of you, Kid, remember.  I'd have seen her first if she'd been there.  There was no-one by the road.  No-one at all.”

It was Kid's turn to stare at his partner.

“She was there, definitely.  I saw her.  Her coat wasn't fastened, and I could see she was wearing a white apron over her skirt.  In fact, I think it was the white apron's suddenly being blown by the wind that startled the horse.”

“It isn't windy.  It isn't even a bit breezy.  There's nothing to blow at an apron. There was no-one there.”

“I saw her.”

“You're imagining things,”  Heyes said firmly.

“Must have hit his head even harder than I thought,” he thought to himself.  Then he said aloud,  “Well if she was here, where is she now?  What was she doing out here alone, anyway, at this time of night?”

He looked at the Kid's pale face.

“Come on.  Let's get you into town and get a doctor to look at you.  Think you can ride?”


* * *


“No bones broken,” said Doctor Jensen cheerfully.  “You'll feel a bit bruised and shaken up but there's no real harm done.  Knock on the head was a bit nasty.  Probably best to stay in bed for a day or so.  I'll give you something to take.”

He took a sachet of willow-bark from the cupboard.

“How did you come to fall off your horse?”

“A woman at the side of the road startled it.  It was so sudden, the way she seemed to appear out of nowhere.  I certainly didn't see her the moment before.  It was so dark.”

“I didn't see her at all,” said Heyes frowning, and glancing meaningfully at the Doctor.  Had the blow on the head caused his partner to hallucinate, or something?

Doctor Jensen looked from one of the boys to the other.  

“Where was this?”

“At the cross-roads by the group of about five rocks just outside of town.”

The doctor had an odd expression on his face.

“I'm a man of science,” he said.  “I don't believe in ghosts.”

“Neither do I,” said Kid.  “But what do ghosts have to do with it?”

“Nothing,” said Doctor Jensen. “That is ” - he hesitated for a moment - “You may hear a rather strange tale if you mention in the town what happened to you.”

“Strange tale?” said Heyes.

“Yes.  There's a bit of a similar story does the rounds sometimes.”

“Similar story?  What is it?”

“Well,” -  the doctor hesitated again - “it's just that some years ago, a young woman ran away from that big house you see as you come into town.  She was supposed to be going to elope with her employer's son from that house.  He was going to meet her at the Five Rocks crossroads, but he never came.  She waited and waited for him, but he'd changed his mind and didn't bother to tell her.  He'd realised that his father would cut him off without a penny if  he married her.  She was only the maidservant.”

“What happened to her?”

“It was a very blustery, wet night.  She stayed out practically all night, waiting.  When she made her way back to the house, they wouldn't take her in.  She stayed out, and not surprisingly, she'd got pneumonia.  She died.”

The boys were silent for a few moments.

“What a terrible story.”

“Yes.”

“What happened to the young man?”

“Oh, he's still here.  Not young any more.  But he inherited the Bank when his father died, and now he owns the saloon as well, the store, the two hotels, the - ”

“But - what's this got to do with ghosts?”  interrupted Heyes.

“Well, I know it sounds stupid, but some people reckon she still waits for him sometimes at the crossroads.  People claim to have seen her.  You're not the first young man, Thaddeus, to be injured on an October evening out at Five Rocks.  They all say they saw a young woman in a white apron before it happened.  It was October when they were supposed to elope.”

“White apron!” said Kid.  “The girl I saw was wearing a white apron. She hadn't fastened her coat and the apron was blowing in the wind.”

“There was no wind,” said Heyes.

“There was the night she ran away,” said the doctor slowly.  “ But she was in such a hurry to get away that she didn't even take off her apron or button her coat.  She just snatched up her bag and left. That's the story.”

He looked at the Kid.  “I've been here for a few years now.  And I've seen some of the young men who claim to have seen her.  Every single one was tall and blond like you.  That's what her lover looked like – tall and blond.  They say it's him she wants to get.  It's him she's waiting for on October nights.  He never goes out that way after dark in October.  Never.”

The Kid and Heyes looked at each other.  All three men were silent.

“But I'm not superstitious,” said the Doctor uneasily.  “It's all just coincidence.  I don't believe in ghosts.”

“Neither do I,” said Kid, also uneasily, after remaining silent for a few moments longer.

“Neither do I, said Heyes.  “But we've leaving this town the moment you feel a bit better, Thaddeus.  I don't want that girl making any more mistakes about who you are!”


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MoulinP

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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:34 am

Real life is interfering with me at the moment so I haven't had time to write anything original for the prompt. This is just an extract from my ASJ universe that I've tweaked to fit the prompt - I think!


Ghosts

 

Mary knocked on the open study door.

Heyes was sitting on the chaise lounge, facing the door. He looked up from the papers he was working on, frowning.

“What can I do for you, Mary?” he asked with a sigh and put his papers down by the side of him. He took off his glasses and threw them and his pencil down on top of the papers, rubbing his eyes.

As Mary started in, he kicked out the pouffe from the side of the chaise longue. When Mary shut the door, he raised an eyebrow, intrigued. He smiled at her in amusement as she plopped down on the pouffe. She was up to something. She had that look.

She smiled back.

“Well?”

“It’s Susan’s birthday next week.”

“I know.”

“She’s going to be thirteen.”

“I know this too.” He widened his eyes.

“Thirteen is an important age. It should be special.”

Heyes nodded, pursing his lips. “What do you have in mind?”

Mary shook her head. “I don’t know. I was hoping you might come up with something.”

Heyes laughed. “What do I know about thirteen year old girls? You were one once. What happened on your thirteenth birthday?”

“I can’t remember. Which tells me that it was nothing special. But Josh. I want it to be special for Susan,” she pleaded.

“Well.” Heyes considered, licking his lips. “Why don’t we go ask her? I expect she’s been thinking about it.”

Mary grinned, pleased. “Yes.” She looked hopeful. “Now?”

Heyes glanced down at his papers and then back at Mary. “Yes.”

He threw his legs to the floor as Mary moved back. “I wasn’t getting very far anyway,” he muttered.


 


 

Susan was just finishing her homework when Heyes and Mary came into the dining room. She looked up when Heyes shut the door. They both looked serious.

“What’s going on?” she asked, suspiciously.

Mary was smiling. “Nothing darling. We just want to talk to you for a moment that’s all.” She sat down next to Susan.

Heyes pulled out a chair from the side of the table and turned it so he could face her. He sat down and crossed his legs. He sniffed.

“So young lady.” He picked up a pencil and played with it. “Thirteen, huh?”

“Yes.” Susan was unsure what this was about. She glanced at her mother.

“Your Mama and me have been wondering what to get you for your birthday. But we’re plum out of ideas.” He finger combed his hair back and frowned. “So I figgered the best thing to do is ask you what you want,” he sighed. He paused. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it?” He looked at her knowingly.

“I have thought about it,” she admitted, quietly.

“Well,” said Mary, excitedly. “Don’t keep us in suspense!”

Susan looked at Heyes. “I would like…” She hesitated. “A grown up new dress. And I’d like Mama to do my hair like a grown up lady. She glanced at Mary. “And I’d like Pappy to take me to dinner at a restuarant.”

Heyes took a deep breath and looked at Mary. Neither of them had expected that! “I see. You want just ME to take you to dinner? No Mama as well?”

“No, just you,” Susan confirmed.

Heyes nodded. He licked his lips. Yep he had heard right.

Mary looked hurt. “Oh!”

“You can take me shopping Mama. I want to be grown up so I would value your advice as a grown up lady.”

Heyes pulled a face, scratching his cheek. “Oh,” he said. He sounded sad. “And so er where would you like to go? On this grown up dinner. With just me.”

Susan grinned, Heyesian dimples blazing. “Franco’s. I’ve heard it’s very good. My friend Lesley went there for her brother’s engagement.”

Heyes nodded in understanding. “Franco’s? The new Italian restaurant on Main Street?”

Susan nodded excitedly.

“The very EXPENSIVE Italian restaurant on Main Street?” Heyes smacked his lips and swung his crossed leg.

Susan nodded, looking apprehensive.

Heyes rolled his eyes. “I haven’t taken your mother there yet.”

“No you haven’t have you?” Mary looked at him meaningfully.

Heyes looked back, and then turned to Susan.

“So for your birthday…. for your thirteenth birthday, you want me, just me, to take you, dressed as a grown up lady, in a grown up dress and with grown up hair, to dinner at Franco’s?”

“Yes please.” Susan was excited.

“I see.” Heyes nodded slowly and looked at Mary. “You can do grown up hair?” he asked sharply.

“Yes,” Mary said, indignantly.

“And you can take her to get a grown up dress?”

“Yes I can.”

Heyes sniffed, nodding again. He licked his lips. “Well if you’re going to all THAT trouble the least I can do is take my grown up thirteen year old daughter, to dinner at Franco’s.” He smiled slowly.

Susan squealed with delight and threw her arms round Heyes’ neck. He hugged her back, amused. “Thank you Pappy.” She hugged Mary. “Thanks, Mama, This is going to be the best birthday ever!”

Heyes chuckled and checked his pocket watch. “Why don’t I see if I can book a table for Saturday night, right not?” He uncrossed his legs and got up. “And if not, I’ll see if I can’t pull some strings. Being mayor has got to have SOME advantages now and then.” He rolled his eyes. “And Mama can take you to Cheyenne on Saturday morning to get you a grown up dress. How’s that?”

Susan’s grinning face told him the answer.


 


 

 

Saturday evening saw Heyes pacing up and down in the hall in his best lounge suit.

“Like mother, like daughter,” he muttered, looking at the time on his pocket watch. As he tucked it away, he turned as Mary and Susan started downstairs. He smiled fondly.

Susan looked beautiful and very grown up. She wore a powder blue dress with a square neckline in the latest fashion. From Mary she had borrowed a necklace and earrings. There was the barest hint of rouge and lipstick. Mary had done her hair, piling it up and weaving it in a modern way.

Heyes watched hands on hips as Susan came down, Mary right behind her.

“Sweetheart! You look wonderful!” he said, taking her hands. He kissed her cheek, gently so as not to smudge her makeup. “I shall be the envy of everyman in the restaurant tonight.”

Susan giggled, excitedly. “I feel really grown up.”

“Mama’s done a good job, especially with your hair.”

Mary rolled her eyes. “Told you I could do grown up hair,” she said, smugly.

Susan’s brothers came along and sat on the stairs. At eleven and ten, seeing their older sister dressed up like a grown up, was a novelty.

“Is that really our sister?” Billy asked, in his older brother’s ear.

Harry frowned. “Yeah I think so.” He seemed doubtful.

“It doesn’t look much like her.”

“Girls go through some sorta transformation when they get to a certain age,” Harry said, knowledgeably.

“Does it hurt?”

Harry shook his head. “Don’t think so. She looks happy enough.”

“Do WE have to go through a transformation?” Billy was wide-eyed at the thought.

“No,” Harry frowned and looked at his brother. “We just get taller,” he nodded, reassuringly.

Mary shuddered at the boys’ conversation. They looked back at her innocently.

Heyes was looking at his watch again. “Well we ought to be going,” he said tucking his watch away. He touched Mary on the arm and kissed her cheek. “We won’t be late.”

Then he looked at Susan and offered his arm. “Ma’am, I believe your carriage awaits.” He smiled, hearing the buggy draw up outside.

Outside, John, their liveryman/gardener had brought the buggy to a stop in line with the steps. He tipped his hat as Heyes and Susan appeared. Heyes helped Susan in, before winking at John as he climbed in after her.  

Mary and the boys waved them off. As the buggy disappeared up the drive, Mary dabbed her eyes and hurried in.


 


 

At the restaurant Susan was thrilled with everything. Her chair was held out for her. Her napkin was placed over her lap. She was given her own menu to choose from.

After a whispered debate on the merits of various dishes, finally, Heyes ordered for her. He had already consulted the wine menu and chose a light red.

Sometime later, the waiter brought it for Heyes to try. Heyes tasted it and nodded. The waiter hesitated. Normally he would pour the lady’s first. Heyes nodded. “Half a glass.”

Susan gasped in amazement as the waiter poured.

“Pappy!” she whispered after the waiter had gone.

“It’s a special occasion. Just don’t tell your mother. ” Heyes held up his glass. “Happy birthday, Susan.”


 


 

“Your mother tells me I’ve been neglecting you a bit. I don’t mean to,” Heyes said, as they finished their main course.

“The boys are more your thing.” Susan shrugged. “I get it.”

“That’s not the point.” He used his napkin and reached for his glass. “I have three children. I should remember that.”

“It must be difficult for you,” Susan said, suddenly.

Heyes had taken a big slug of wine, kept it in his mouth and swallowed it slowly.

“Why? What do you mean?” He frowned.

“Well you’re so busy. Being mayor, running a business and writing books. I know you don’t have a lot of time for us. So I guess it’s easier for you to spend time with the boys. Y’know boy’s things. That you like doing as well. With me, ‘cos I’m a girl, it’s different. We don’t have the same interests.”

Heyes blinked and took a deep breath. “You’re right. You are absolutely right. But you shouldn’t be and I’m mortified that you know that. I feel very ashamed.”

“There is one thing you could do for me, Pappy,” she said, slowly.

“What’s that?”

“Let me draw you.” She looked up eagerly. “You know I can. I did Mama and you said it was good.”

“It is good. Real good.” Heyes attended to his cheese.

“So? Will you let me?”

Heyes reached for his glass, finished his mouthful and washed it down with a large glug of wine.

“No,” he said, quietly.

Susan looked disappointed. Heyes glanced at her and sighed.

“I’m sorry Susan but no.”

“Why?”

Heyes swallowed hard, hesitating, the muscle in his cheek twitching. He stared at his plate, thumb and forefinger, rubbing up and down the stem of his glass. Finally, he sighed.

“My mother drew. She was real good too.” His mouth was tight and his voice caught a little. “Your grandmother. Susan. Who you’re named for.” He rubbed his chin and Susan noticed his hand was shaking a little. “The day she was killed ….” He took a deep breath. “She … drew me and Uncle Kid. It was the only time, she ever did. That I remember anyway.” Heyes smiled faintly. “I wouldn’t sit for her before. Had no choice that day.” He licked his lips. “And she finally got me. It’s … the last happy memory I have of her.” He swallowed hard. He didn’t want Susan to see how close his eyes were to watering. “She … died not long after so I don’t want to muddle that memory with the one I’d have for sitting for you.” He hoped she was old enough to understand.

“Pappy,” Susan said in a small voice that told him she did.

“I’ve never told anyone that. Not your Mama. Not even the Kid and he was there.” He looked at her. “Just you.” He smiled at her and picked up his knife again. “That’s why I’d rather not.”

Susan nodded, her eyes watering. “I understand.”

Heyes nodded. A moment later, he changed the subject slightly.

“Have you asked your brothers?”

Susan rolled her eyes. “Who’d want a picture of them?” she asked.

Heyes smiled. “Well your Mama and me might. If it was by you. If, of course, they’d stay still long enough for you to do it.”

“That sounds like a challenge, Pappy.”

Heyes raised an eyebrow. “It does rather.” He paused, wine glass at his lips. “Up for it?” He was grinning broadly now.


 


 

Heyes put his hand on the dial. He smiled as he turned it. This was one safe he didn’t have to crack. Unlocking the safe, he drew out a metal box and carried it to his desk. He sat down and rummaged around inside until he found what he was looking for.

In his hand, he held a folded piece of thick, buff paper. It was old and heavily marked. The edges were torn and turned back. He flicked it over and looked at the now faded message on the outside. He didn’t have to read it. He knew it off by heart.

“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 to stay strong for one another. Get yourselves to Jonathan if you can. Here is his address. Love Ma.”

Heyes licked his lips, feeling the tears welling up. Swallowing the lump, he slowly unfolded the paper. He smiled as he looked through tear-glazed eyes at the pencil sketch in front of him.

“I do remember, Ma. That’s the trouble,” he said, nodding quietly.

Ma had insisted that he and Jed stay in the house that day until his father returned from town with news. Heyes and Jed had planned to go fishing and were frustrated at having to stay put even though they knew the reasons. Did two impetuous boys twelve and ten really understand? Heyes shook his head. Probably not entirely. Would things have been different if they HAD gone fishing? No. Things may even have been worse. This picture was a reminder of that day, bringing good and bad memories.

Ma had always ask to draw him but he had invariably found an excuse to skip off before she could get her drawing pad and pencil. That day he had no choice but to let her. Not that he and Jed made it easy for her. Oh no! They had played up, pulling grotesque faces and all three of them had laughed. Despite that, Ma had achieved a miracle. The picture was a very lifelike and happy drawing of a young Hannibal Heyes and his cousin Jedidiah Curry.

Heyes smiled at his younger self. He could see his children in this ghost from his own childhood. Harry was there with the grin that hinted at great mischief, Billy had the intelligent, alert eyes and Susan had his dimples.

With a soft chuckle, he dropped the drawing onto his desk. Yes, there was a bit of him in all three children.

“Have you done security?”

Doing security was the name Harry gave to Heyes’ night time ritual of making sure that all the downstairs windows and doors were locked.

He looked up and smiled at Mary, standing in the doorway.

“No,” he sighed. “I needed a few moments first.”

“What are you looking at?” she asked coming in.

He hesitated. He had never shown her this. Yet he had confided to Susan earlier why he wouldn’t sit for her. Perhaps Mary should see this now. Heyes sat back, licking his lips as she approached. He pulled her onto his lap. He looked at her profile as she studied the drawing, trying to understand what she was seeing.

“Susan Heyes?” she frowned, pointing at the scrawled signature.

Heyes nodded.

“Susan hasn’t done this?” Mary looked at him in confusion. “Has she?”

Heyes shook her head. “No. Not OUR Susan.” He paused. “Ma did it.” His voice was a whisper.

Mary turned on his lap in surprise, making him grunt. “Josh! You’ve never shown me this before!” He juggled her to a more comfortable position.

“No,” he said, quietly and he took a deep breath. “Susan asked why I wouldn’t let her draw me. This is why.” He looked at the drawing. “Ma did it on her last day.” He sighed. “Less than two hours later … she was dead.” His voice broke up a little and he found his eyes were watering again.

“Oh, Josh!” Mary hugged him and he clung to her tightly for several long moments.

When he let her go, she smiled and gave him a reassuring pat. “We should frame this.”

Heyes shook his head, sighing heavily. “No, I would prefer to leave it where it is. I don’t wanna keep looking at it. Reminding me.” He looked at her and smiled when Mary nodded in understanding.

“Will you show her?”

“Nope. Somethings have to be private, Mary.” He looked at the drawing again. “And this is one of ‘em.”

“You showed me?”

He gave her a squeeze. “You’re my wife and I keep far too many secrets from you as it is.”

“Oh do you!” She was indignant and he smiled at her reaction.

“Yeah but we have fun when you’re trying to get them outta me don’t we?” he chuckled, his eyes sparkling mischievously at her.

“Hmm,” she grunted, then smiled and touched his face drawing it closer. “Are you ready for bed? I’ll help you do security.”

He laughed gently and kissed her forehead. “That’s sweet, Mary but you know I have to do it myself. You go up. I won’t be long.”
Mary got up from his lap, her hand lingering over his. As she walked away, Heyes looked again at the drawing, seeing the ghosts of his childhood. Not for the first time did he wonder what those boys would have become if things had been different. With a sigh, he folded the picture carefully and returned it to the box. He was determined that HIS children would have the happy, loving and carefree childhood that had been denied him. And so far, they were.
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Tcalleen



Posts : 4
Join date : 2016-08-20
Age : 50
Location : SW Louisiana, USA

PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Mon Oct 31, 2016 4:04 pm

Hi all,

I'm squeaking in at the last minute again.  

Tracy (tcalleen)


Revenge of the Slingshot

Tommy Jenkins glanced around the schoolroom from his seat in the back. Miss Wilson had her back to him, leaning over a second-grader struggling to sound out a word in the reader. Everyone else was concentrating on the work just assigned.

Well, almost everyone... Jedidiah Curry was gazing out the window and fingering his slingshot under his desk.  It was just about time for school to let out, and he was having trouble getting his mind to focus on work and not on the fish he could almost hear biting in the stream on the way home.

Tommy pulled his ammunition out of his pocket - a dried pea he had been saving - and let fly with his own slingshot, aiming carefully but quickly for Miss Wilson's posterior. After the deed was done, he hid his slingshot.

As the pea found its target, Miss Wilson squeaked and glared around the room.  Twelve pairs of eyes of varying ages looked up.

"Who did that?" Miss Wilson angrily asked.

Tommy had prepared for this. "I saw Jed shoot his slingshot. See, he still gots it out."

Jed, who had still been more focused on the sun shining out the window than the events in the room, turned in confusion.

"Jedidiah, your slingshot!" Miss Wilson demanded, holding out her hand.

"But..." Jed spluttered.

"Now!" Miss Wilson insisted, clearly in no mood for any argument.

Jed reluctantly handed the slingshot over to Miss Wilson, who turned back to her desk and plunked the slingshot into the top drawer. She took out a piece of chalk.

"You will write a hundred times 'I will not cause trouble with my slingshot in class' on the blackboard."

Hannibal Heyes, who as an older student sat behind Jed, mumbled under his breath, "Well, he ain't likely to do that now, since you've got his slingshot."  Matthew Anderson, sitting next to Han, heard the comment and snorted in response.

Jed hadn't heard the comment from Han, as he dragged his feet slowly to Miss Wilson's desk to collect the chalk.

"And," Miss Wilson concluded, "you will stay after school until you finish."

"But me and Han was going fishing after school," Jed objected.

"Han and I were going fishing," Miss Wilson corrected.

"You was coming with us?" Jed questioned. Multiple giggles and one loud groan erupted from the class.

"Write, Jedidiah!" Miss Wilson said, frustration clear in her voice.

Jed started writing in tiny letters across the blackboard. "Large enough for me to read," Miss Wilson added, her back to Jed.

Jed looked at her back in amazement. "How does she do that?" he mumbled under his breath.



A weary and chalk-covered Jed plopped down next to Han on the schoolhouse steps.  Han looked up from the book he was reading.

"Thanks for waiting on me, Han," Jed sighed.

"Hey, what are partners for?" Han replied.

"Do ya know what happened? Who did it? I didn't do nothing with my slingshot, honest!" Jed frowned miserably.

"I know ya didn't," Han replied. "The way I got it figured, Tommy popped Miss Wilson a good one when he saw you had your slingshot out. Else why would he say you did it."

"What do I do now, Han?" Jed asked.

"The way I see it, we got two things to do. First, we've got to get your slingshot back. Then, we've got to teach Tommy Jenkins a lesson?" Han replied.

"How're we gonna do that?"

Han frowned in thought. "I'm still working on that. But don't worry, I'll come up with something."



The next day, Han caught Jed before he started home from school.

"I think I got a plan to get your slingshot back. You just follow along with me, and put on your best 'I didn't do nothing wrong, Ma' face," Han told Jed.

Jed looked up at Han, his face the picture of innocence.  The only thing lacking was the halo.

"Yeah, that's the one," Han nodded in approval.

The two boys filed back into the schoolhouse, Han looking serious and Jed looking angelic.

Miss Wilson looked up from her desk on the boys' arrival.  She had a small stack of papers to grade in front of her. "What do you need, Han, Jed?"

"Miss Wilson," Han began, "we have a matter of utmost urgency." Han smiled at how good that had sounded. Jed gave Han a sideways glance then quickly continued the innocent gaze.

Miss Wilson stifled a smile. "And what is this matter?" she asked.

"Jed's slingshot, ma'am," Han answered.

"And how is Jedidiah's slingshot an urgent matter, Hannibal?" Miss Wilson questioned.

"Well, ma'am, it's like the Bible story of David and Goliath.  David was just a little fella, and he defeated the big ole giant Goliath with a slingshot and saved the whole town."

"And how does that apply to Jedidiah, Hannibal?" Miss Wilson asked obliviously. She could see where this was going, but she found the boys' performance too amusing to interrupt.

"Well, ya see, Miss Wilson, Jed's the closest thing we have to a little guy with a slingshot around here, only now he ain't got the slingshot."  Blue eyes glared at Han having been referred to as a 'little guy,' but Han elbowed him in the ribs, and Jed redoubled his 'innocent face' efforts.  None of this was lost on Miss Wilson, who hid an amused grin behind one hand.

"Why, Miss Wilson, you might be endangering the whole town!" Han was ready for the big sell now. "What'd happen if we had a giant like Goliath come on the town, and Jed without his slingshot! Why, there'd be nobody to protect us! No David! We can't have Jed wandering around without his slingshot, it ain't safe!"

Miss Wilson appeared to consider Han's argument while she tried to contain a giggle. "Very well, Jedidiah. Far be it from me to put the whole town at risk." She opened the drawer and removed the slingshot in question. "But," she added sternly, "I don't want to see it in school again."

"Don't worry, ma'am," Jed replied, "you won't see it again." He placed special emphasis on the word 'see', but Miss Wilson pretended not to notice.

"Thank you, Miss Wilson," Han said quickly, "you won't regret this. You're a hero!" Han grabbed Jed's arm and dragged him out of the schoolhouse before Miss Wilson had a chance to change her mind.

Han and Jed quickly slid out of the schoolhouse and down the stairs.  Jed let out the breath he had been holding.  Han looked pleased with himself.  The boys started walking towards home.

“Well, that’s one plan down.  That went better than even I expected.  Now for my second plan – teaching Tommy Jenkins a lesson.”  Han had a gleam in his eye.

“How’re we gonna do that, Han?” Jed asked.

“You remember that Christmas story I read, the one with the ghosts.  Well, that mean ole Scrooge got taught a lesson ‘cause those ghosts came to visit him.  It plum scared the mean right outta him.  I think that’s what we gotta do to Tommy!”

Jed bent over and picked up a small rock.  He shot the pebble at a small knot in a nearby tree.

“Cut that out, Jed,” Han complained, “I’m trying to explain my plan.”

Jed bent down and scooped up another rock.  “If I’m gonna save the town, I gotta keep my hand in it.  ‘Sides, how’re we gonna find a ghost?”

“We don’t actually have to find a ghost, Jed.  We just gotta make sure Tommy thinks there’s a ghost.  I got an idea for that, but we gotta go over to Tommy’s tonight late.  Meet me in your barn after everyone’s in bed.  We’ll do it then.”

Jed looked doubtful.  “Are you gonna let me in on the plan?”

Han shook his head.  “I’ll tell you tonight, we gotta get home now.  We’re already late.  I don’t wanna get stuck with extra chores for the next month!”  At that, Han turned and started running home.



Jed lay awake in his bed in his loft room.  He had been afraid that he would fall asleep and miss meeting with Han.  At last, his Ma and Pa finally went to bed.  He waited what seemed like hours, until he was pretty sure they had to have been asleep.  He quietly slid out of bed and dressed.  He started down the ladder from the loft.

“Jedidiah, what are you doing up?” Jed’s Pa bellowed from his own bed.

Jed had a moment of panic. “I gotta go to the outhouse, Pa.”

“Use the chamber pot.  It’s too late to be running around outside,” Pa growled.

“But Pa, I gotta go real bad,” Jed whined.  He just couldn’t let Han down.  They were partners, and partners stuck by each other.

“I said no, Jed. Now get back on up to bed.”  Pa didn’t sound like he was in the mood for arguing, but Jed just couldn’t leave it there.

“Please, Pa, it’s important.”

“Jedidiah, what do you and Hannibal have cooked up?”  Pa was suspicious of the pleading and was well aware of the scheming of the older boy and the loyalty of his son.

“Um, nothing, Pa,” Jed squeaked.

“Then get yourself back up to bed, now!”  

Jed knew he couldn’t push his father any farther at that point.  “Yes, sir,” Jed replied desultorily.  He dragged his feet back up the ladder.  He tried to peer out of the loft window to see if he could see Han, but when his Pa coughed loudly, he got back into bed.



Han stopped at Jed’s house on his way to school the next morning.  Jed stood in the yard throwing feed to the chickens.  At the site of his cousin, he frowned guiltily.

“Sorry, Han, but Pa caught me sneaking out.  He made me go back to bed.  I don’t know how he knew, I was really really quiet.”

Han nodded knowingly.  “It’s okay, Jed.  My Pa caught me too.  I couldn’t get here either.  We’ll just have to change the plan some.  A good plan always makes room for adapting.”

Jed looked relieved.  “I was real worried that I let you down.  So what are we gonna do now?”

Han grinned.  “You know that old burnt down cabin down past the Perkins’ place?  The one that’s supposed to be haunted?”

Jed nodded that he knew where Han was talking about.

Han continued, “If we can get Tommy to go down there, we can make a ghost there.  We can use that old well to make a spooky echo that’ll be the ghost voice.”

Jed smiled.  “That sounds like a good plan, Han.  When’re we gonna do it?”

“We gotta get some stuff ready.  I’ll let you know.  For now, we better get to school.  You done with them chickens yet?”  Han shifted his school supplies in his arms.

“Yeah, let me put up the feed bucket and get my stuff.  I’ll be right back.”  Jed rushed off swinging the feed bucket in good spirits.



Friday evening was crisp and clear.  There was going to be a full moon this night, and Han had planned to take full advantage of it.  He and Jed were at the deserted burnt-out cabin preparing for revenge against Tommy Jenkins.

Jed had climbed a tree that hung near the well.  He hauled up an old white piece of cloth that Han thought would look like a ghost when reflected in the moonlight.  The area was particularly wooded here, and shadows were already beginning to stretch long on the ground with the fading evening sun.  Jed tied the cloth hanging high in the tree where it should flap in the wind.  After finishing his task, he shimmied back down the tree trunk to land on the ground.

Han leaned over the well and shouted down into it.  A ghostly ‘hello’ echoed back up to Han.  He pulled some large tree limbs over to the well and stacked them to one side.

“Okay, Jed,” Han got his cousin’s attention, “Jenny told Tommy in school today that she wanted to meet him down here.  Everyone knows that Tommy likes Jenny, so he won’t miss meeting her.  You’ll be hiding in the top of the tree.  Pull that line attached to our ghost to make it move some, just in case the wind don’t.  Then with your slingshot, hit him a few times to make him think someone’s touching him.  You got enough ammunition?”

Jed nodded and pulled out a handful of tiny pebbles from his pocket.  “I reckon I got enough to scare him good.”  He shoved his hand back into his pocket.  “What’re you gonna do, Han?”

Han nodded towards the brush he had gathered next to the well.  “I’m gonna hide under that brush there so I can shout down the well.  I’ll tell him he needs to repent and stuff like that.  He should be so scared that he’ll never mess with anyone again!”

“I hope so, Han, ‘cause if he don’t, it won’t be worth the whipping we’re gonna get for being out after dark.”  Jed rubbed his backside as if already feeling the pain from the imagined punishment.

“It will be, Jed, you’ll see,” Han affirmed confidently.  “We’d better get ready.  Go on back up the tree – it won’t be long now.”

The boys took their hiding places to wait for Tommy’s arrival.  The woods by the old cabin began to darken quickly and took on an eerie appearance.  Skeletal hands of trees stretched across the darkening skies.  In the distance, an owl hooted.  Something startled a bird that flew out of a nearby tree.

Jed shivered at the sudden noise.  Without Han, he had to admit to himself he was starting to get a little nervous.  He had never realized how spooky this area was at night.

Han also was having a few doubts about the wisdom of his plan in the creepy evening.  He began to think back to the stories he had heard about the old cabin being haunted.  Supposedly, the whole family had died in the fire, and the spirits would attack anyone who disrupted their rest.

As the boys sat in their hiding places, a moan came from cabin.  Then suddenly, the rattle of chains was heard.  The low moaning became louder and a ghostly “Hannibal Heyes and Jedidiah Curry” floated through the air.

Han jumped up from his hiding place and yelled up at Jed.  “We gotta get outta here.  This place really is haunted!”

Jed quickly scrambled down the tree.  He didn’t need any additional encouragement.  The two boys ran back down the road to take them home.

Grandpa Curry came out of his hiding place in the old cabin.  “Well, now, me boyos.  That’ll teach ya to get into mischief after dark.”  He picked up a length of chain and followed the boys back to their homes.
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Remuda

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Join date : 2013-10-27
Age : 41

PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:10 pm

This is a reworked oldie with a whole new beginning and some edits throughout.  The ASJ bunnies aren't hopping for me these days, but wanted to play.  Poll if allowed, or not.

The Pugilist

Jed “Kid” Curry gave a wistful look at the hotel.  The small town he and his partner had just arrived in seemed grander than most, and a room at this establishment probably cost a pretty penny.  Their meager funds would not accommodate it.

Hannibal Heyes shared the same thought.  “This seems to be the only place in town to stay.  Strange there’s no boardinghouse.”

Curry sighed.  “My back can’t take another night on hard ground.  I dreamed of a soft bed last night.”

Heyes quipped, “We’ll just have to find softer ground for tonight, then.  Let’s get a beer.  Maybe the saloon will have some free eats.”

“Or a penny ante poker game where you can increase our stake.”

Heyes took in his surroundings.  “At that rate it’ll take two days playing all day to get enough to get a room and meal.  Where would we stay in the meantime?”

The partners walked their horses to the nearest watering hole.  As they tied the reins to the hitching post, they heard a loud voice coming from behind the saloon.  Curiosity getting the better of them, they strode around to see what was going on.

A man stood on a bench in front of a boxing ring.  He barked, “Throw your hat in the ring, gents.  All comers welcome.  Win two hundred fifty dollars if you finish the fight.  You don’t have to win to collect.”

People looked on.  There did not seem to be any takers.

“Now, gents, I don’t have to tell you – two hundred fifty dollars is more than most of you will see in a year or more.  Here’s your chance to get it in short order.”

Curry mused, “That’s a nice payday, Heyes.  If only …”

“’If only’ being the operative phrase here, meaning don’t bother.”

The blue eyes flashed.  “With that kind of money we could have the best room in that hotel for a month and feast like there’s no tomorrow.”

“If there is a tomorrow,” Heyes quipped.  “Seriously, Kid, it’s too dangerous.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  It’s a fight.  How bad could it be?”  

Before he realized what was happening, Hannibal Heyes watched in amazement as Curry tossed his hat into the air.  It landed on a corner pole of the ring as a breeze caught it.

“Have you lost your mind?”  Heyes was incredulous.  “Take that as a sign, Thaddeus. You’re not supposed to do this!  You have a ghost of a chance at best.”

“I can do it.”  Determined blue eyes met Heyes’ skeptical brown ones.  

The barker addressed Curry.  “You there!  Cowboy!  Is your hat in the ring or not?”

Kid noted the position of his hat.  Striding to the pole, he grabbed it, leaned over the ropes, and placed it in the ring. “It is now.”

The barker, a tall, thin fellow who appeared to be ten years older than Curry, extended his hand. “Fergus McGee.”

Kid shook.  “Thaddeus Jones.”

McGee regarded Kid.  “A little scrawny, eh? But you think you have what it takes to fight the champ?”

Looking beyond McGee to a muscular specimen about his height, standing stock-still with hands on his hips in the middle of the ring, the ex-outlaw’s eyes widened. “Su-sure …” Then, letting out a breath, he confirmed, “That’s two hundred fifty dollars just for fightin’ him, right?”

McGee raised his voice, so the growing crowd would hear. “That’s right, cowboy.  Two hundred and fifty big ones for getting in the ring and staying the distance – until the fight’s over!”

Bending to pick up his hat, the blond man asked, “When do we fight?”

“Be here by 2:00 p.m., sharp.  You’re allowed one second for tardiness.  You got gloves?”

“Gloves?” Kid raised an eyebrow and showed his gloved hands in an obvious gesture.

McGee rolled his eyes, and chuckles emanated from the crowd.  “Not riding gloves, son. Boxing gloves.”

Kid turned momentarily to Heyes, who shrugged. Then, he asked McGee, “What do ya need gloves for? Ya fight bare knuckle.”

“No bare knuckles here, son,” McGee crowed. “The champ fights under Queensberry rules. We’ll supply the gloves, don’t worry.”

“Queensberry rules?" Curry was confused. "What’re those.”

McGee sighed. “Rules for fighting, son. They’re posted over there – read them. You can read, can’t you?”

Kid nodded.

“Then, if you’re still interested, be here at two o’clock. If not, I'll presume you’ll be on your horse riding out of town!”

The crowd laughed.  

Kid Curry turned once more to meet the concerned countenance of his partner.  Doubt surfaced in his mind for a moment.  Shaking it off, he faced McGee.  “I’ll be here.”

*****

Seated at a table in the rear of the saloon, their nursed beers lukewarm, the partners leaned in close, keeping their voices low.  

“We should’ve stayed out on the trail. Then we wouldn’t be dealing with this nonsense. You’re gonna make a spectacle of yourself!”  Heyes rolled his eyes.  “And what if somebody recognizes us?”

“Heyes, listen to me. We don’t know the sheriff, and we gotta eat – well, I gotta.”

Heyes frowned.  “There’s beans in the saddlebags.”

Kid sighed. “Yeah, enough for maybe two more meals. And we’re out of flour and coffee. And never mind us, what about the horses?”

“We’ll pick up a few supplies and be fine foraging on the trail for a while.  Darn sight better than getting your brains bashed in, or worse, your shooting hand broken!” Heyes regarded his partner. “Ya know, Kid, sometimes your common sense flies out the window!”

“I can take him, Heyes. He’s not much bigger than me.”  Curry paused.  “I want a hot bath and soft bed so bad I can taste it.  You wanted it too.”

“I changed my mind.  He’s your height maybe, but he takes a bigger shirt size than you!  He’s the champ!  Do ya think he got that way by being able to be took by just anybody off the street?!”

Kid gave his partner his best earnest look. “Heyes, you’re good about keepin’ us fed and the horses watered, but four dollars and twenty-two cents ain’t goin’ far.  This is my chance to keep us goin’ for a while.”

Heyes sighed.  “Kid, I don’t like it.  You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. And I don’t either.”  Curry’s face for a moment held a twinge of doubt, which disappeared quickly.  “But I don’t see anybody throwin’ two hundred fifty dollars our way.”

“Let’s be patient and go out on the trail. Something’ll turn up.”

“This turned up.  It’s done.  I’m gonna do it!” Kid’s adamancy turned to a sheepish grin. “Will ya back me up?”

Heyes rolled his eyes. “Don’t I always?”

*****

At 1:45, the partners found themselves back at the ring.

McGee worked the crowd. “Come one, come all, ladies and gentlemen! See the Boston Strongboy take on a couple of cowboys! Can they floor the champ? First fight at two p.m.”

After his spiel, McGee approached the pair. “Okay, Jones, strip to the waist. Jack over there’ll fit your gloves. Good luck!” He walked away at a brisk clip.  

Kid smirked. “He’s all business.”

Heyes eyed his partner. “Because it is a business. That’s what they do.” He paused. “You can still back out, ya know.”

The blond man set his jaw. “No. I’m gonna do this.”

Heyes let out a breath.  “Okay, let’s have your shirts, then.”

Before Curry could do more than remove his hat, a man of short stature approached.  He carried several sets of padded gloves. “I’m Jack.  Over here.”

The partners followed him to just outside one part of the ring. Jack continued, “This’ll be your corner. Did ya read the rules?”

The two nodded.

“Good.” He turned to Heyes. “Then you know the second is allowed in the ring only during breaks. You can water him down and do what you have to do then." Then, to Kid. “Otherwise, you’re on your own. Any questions?”

Heyes spoke. “Yeah. The fight’s over …”

“When it’s over. You read the rules. It’s all there.” Jack regarded the pair, who glanced at each other. “Okay, now strip and let’s get this started. The champ likes to be prompt.”

As he watched his opponent in the opposite corner, Kid Curry stripped to the waist and handed his hat and shirts to Heyes. He then held his hands out to Jack, who hesitated.

Confused, Kid looked at the shorter man, then at his partner.

Heyes said, “Umm, Thaddeus … Your gunbelt …”

“Oh. Right.” The blond ex-outlaw locked eyes with Heyes, his breathing quickening a bit.

Heyes put a hand on Curry’s shoulder. The blond man slowly unbuckled the belt and untied the rawhide from around his thigh.  Hesitating a moment, he handed it to Heyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep it safe.”

Kid replied, “I know.  Just feel naked without it.”

Heyes smiled.  “I’m happy to give it right back to you.”

Curry shook his head.  “When I’m done here.”  

Jack fitted Kid with boxing gloves and laced them up.  “Good luck to you, friend.  You’ll need it.”

The partners shared a look.  Heyes saw doubt for a brief moment in Curry’s eyes, before the more familiar stubborn determination returned.    

Both boxers were called to the center of the ring to review the rules with the referee and shake hands. Sent back to his corner, Kid sat on a stool. Heyes gave him one last word of encouragement before exiting through the ropes.

The bell rang.

*****

Hannibal Heyes grimaced and closed his eyes too many times during the next fourteen minutes. For sixty seconds after each three-minute round, he tried his best to staunch the bleeding on the increasing number of cuts on his partner’s face and torso. He held a cup to Curry’s lips to get water down his throat, lightly slapped his cheeks to get him to focus, and otherwise cheered him on.

He had to smile, though, at his partner’s bullheaded resolve.  Kid landed almost as many punches as his opponent, giving as good as he got for a while. But, by the third round, with each jab or hook he threw less intense, Curry could barely stand.

At the beginning of the fourth round, both fighters emerged from their corners.  Kid seemed renewed, but halfway through the round, he hit the dirt. After a ten count, the referee held up the champ’s hand and declared him the winner by knockout.

*****

“Mr. Smith?”

His alias sounding foreign to him in his light doze, Heyes startled at a tap on his arm.  The doctor answered Heyes’ queries before he could voice them.  

“He’s bruised and in pain, but you already know that. Nothing is broken as far as I can tell.  All the cuts are stitched up and bandaged. The eye looks bad but should be fine. He’s groggy now because of the medicine I gave him. He should rest for a few days and take it easy after that, and he’ll be good as new in a week or so – unless he gets some fool notion in his head again!” The older man shook his head. “I’ll never understand what gets into you young’uns sometimes.”

The sleepiness past, Heyes rose. “Can I see him now?”

The doctor nodded down the hall. “You know where he is. Keep an eye on him. I have to make rounds.”

Heyes grabbed his partner’s belongings, strode to the room, and peeked in. Kid lay on an examining table, covered to the chest by a sheet. He waved weakly to Heyes to enter.

Heyes’s breath caught at the sight of Curry’s bruised left eye.  His voice low, he remarked, “I hope you feel better than you look, but somehow I doubt it.”

Kid grimaced as he tried to re-position himself. “Probably the worse for wear.” A momentary chuckle became a moan.

“Just take it easy there, partner.” Pulling a chair close and sitting down, Heyes reached a hand to Kid’s shoulder, then lifted the sheet to survey the damage. “Looks like the doc cleaned you up pretty good,  That bath will probably have to wait until the stitches are out.  But are you ready for a light meal and that soft bed?”

Curry regarded Heyes with his one good eye.  He was weary.  “I’ll pass on the meal.  Got no money for a hotel.  Have to pay the livery and supplies …”

Heyes laughed. “And why’re you here?  In case you forgot, you did fight the champ, you know.”

“I know.  But I only stayed a few rounds.”

Heyes smiled. “That medicine must really be clouding your mind, Kid.  You forget already you finished the fight?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out and waved a thick wad of bills. “Don’t tell me you forgot about this?”

Kid’s good eye widened.

“McGee came by a bit ago and delivered this. Said the champ was hurting a bit after you.  He had a harder time of it in his second fight.  You gave as good as you got, Kid – for a while, anyway. So, I’ll get us a hotel room and get you settled. We’ll rest good for the next few days.” Heyes paused, grew somber. “It’s nice to have, but you didn’t have to do it, you know.”

The blond man yawned, losing his struggle to stay awake, “I know, Heyes.  Like I said … You have to play … and I have to eat.  Just did … what I had … to do …”


Note: According to Wikipedia, in 1883 and 1884, boxing champ John L. Sullivan, nicknamed "The Boston Strongboy," went on a coast-to-coast tour by train with five other boxers. It was scheduled to comprise 195 performances in 136 different cities and towns over 238 days. To help promote the tour, Sullivan announced that he would box anyone at any time during the tour under the Queensberry Rules for $250. He knocked out eleven men during the tour.

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PostSubject: Re: October 16 - Ghost(s)   Tue Nov 08, 2016 12:14 pm

Better late than never, right?  Busy month with Heyes and Curry around.  They’ve been telling me some stories and we’ve just had fun hanging out.  They started me writing one story for this challenge, but then we decided it’d be a better VS story for next season.


October 2016 – Ghost(s)


The clock chimed ten as Kid Curry wiped the fevered brow of his partner with a damp cloth.  “Come on, Heyes,” he coaxed.  “You gotta get better.”

Was it only twenty-four hours ago when they robbed the train?  They stopped it and got the passengers out, but everything went wrong afterwards.  A large posse seemed to come out of nowhere and began shooting.  

Curry sensed when Heyes was hit.  He took the reins that fell from his cousin’s hands.  “Hang on, Heyes!”

Nodding as he grimaced in pain, Heyes held on tight to the saddle horn and mane.

By the time Kid Curry lost the posse, Heyes was pale and barely clinging on.

The Kid removed his hat and ran his fingers through his matted hair.  “Where are we?” he muttered as he looked around.  “Where can I take you for help?”

“King City,” came a faint voice.

“If you can hold on that long,” Curry said with doubt.

“Have to… posse too close.”

By the time they reached King City, Heyes was unconscious.

“He’s lost a lot of blood.  I’ll be back in the morning to see if he… to check on him.”  The doctor wiped his hands on a towel.  “Keep him warm and put a wet cloth on his forehead for the fever.”

The Kid nodded, staring at his partner and hoping against hope all would be okay.

After midnight, Heyes opened his eyes and looked over Curry’s shoulder.  He smiled.  “Grandpa…”  

The Kid turned and looked towards where Heyes’ eyes were fixated.

“I know… you’re not… proud.”  Heyes whispered.  “Now?”  He took one last breath and his body went limp.

“No!  No!”  The Kid shook his partner.  “You can’t go!”

The sheriff walked into the cell area.  “He gone?”

Silence.

“Want me to move you to another cell ‘til morning?”

Curry shook his head.

The sheriff walked from the cells back to his office and sat down.

A deputy walked in yawning.  “Want some relief, Sheriff?”

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to go home now.  Just Kid Curry now.”

“Hannibal Heyes died?”

“Yep, a few minutes ago from what I could hear Curry saying in the other room.”

“If the other sheriff hadn’t warned the area about those two, we might’ve not of caught 'em.”  The deputy poured a cup of coffee.

“Yep, the telegraph is definitely going to help us capture more outlaws.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Heyes woke with a start.  His pulse was racing and he was sweating.  Looking around, he took in the inside of the leader’s cabin.  Taking a few deep breaths, he sat up and ran his fingers through his hair.  “What a dream!” he muttered.  “Grandpa coming for Jed.”

He quietly walked over to Curry’s bed for assurance that he was okay and watched his restless sleep for a moment.  “Looks like you’re having a dream, too.”



~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Early the next morning, Heyes and the Kid prepared to leave for their next job.

“More coffee?”  Heyes held up the pot.

“Yeah.”  Curry yawned as he offered his cup.

“Bad dream?”

“How’d you know?

“Had one myself and when I woke up I noticed you were stirring.”  Heyes packed the map and his notes in the saddle bag.  

“Heyes, do you remember Grandpa?”

“Grandpa Curry?  Well, yeah.  Why do you ask?”

“Just thinkin’ about him.”  Curry drank some coffee.  “He smoked a pipe.”

“Yep, a corn cob pipe.”

“I dreamt about him last night.”

Heyes furrowed his brow.  “So did I.”  He finished his coffee and rinsed out the cup.  “Ready to go?” he said, half-heartedly.

Curry added another box of bullets into his bag and buckled it shut.  He sighed.  “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

They walked out of their cabin to their waiting horses.  The Devil’s Hole Gang were preparing their animals for the trip by tightening the cinches or tying on their bags, rifles, and canteens.

“Boys, we have a train to catch.”  Heyes mounted his horse and the others followed suit.

Kid Curry waited until the last of the gang passed when he abruptly turned towards the cabin.  “I swear I smell… But it can’t be.”  He heaved a sigh and reined his horse to trail after the others.  


An elderly man leaned against the leader’s cabin and puffed on a corn cob pipe while watching the Devil’s Hole Gang leave.  “Ah boyos, I hope I gave you somethin’ to think about last night.”

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