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 October 17 - Halloween

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Calico

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Posts : 597
Join date : 2012-04-22
Age : 53
Location : Birmingham

PostSubject: October 17 - Halloween   Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:14 am

Huzzah

First try this morning I was getting all kind of 'server problem' messages.

But a judicious amount of switching the internet box thingy off and on again with a talking to seems to have worked.


Getting the next challenge up before it goes again.


On checking my records, I see we have never had the most obvious October title... we've had hints, but never plain old:



HALLOWEEN catbroom



Don your costumes, rattle your pumpkins and... type.

(Obviously my cats are already in costume.)







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Nebraska Wildfire

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Join date : 2016-10-31
Location : The Sonoran Desert

PostSubject: Fog for Halloween   Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:51 pm

I had an idea for a much more Halloween type tale, but it's still wandering around my brain.   (Anyone know who Zac Bagans is?)

I liked the crisp, fall atmosphere of this little tale though, and decided to post it.  I hope you enjoy it.


Fog

The train emerged from the rolling fog like a passageway between times, a conduit between past and future, between choices taken, and those not realized.

Annie was used to the fog in the morning off the cornfields.  In the summer, it hung in the humid sky over the low spots, and danced like wisps of cotton over entire fields at sunrise.  Its presence always portended a horribly sticky day.

Now that summer was past, and Halloween would soon be on its way, and she was starting her morning trips before the sun was rising on these shortening days.

She was also used to the lonesome whistles of the freights going through late at night, as she lay in her quiet bed.  It was not usual though for her to see a freight on her way to work in the mornings.  Luckily, she had not been in a big hurry that day, and train had started to slow with the approach through town.

She waited patiently as the railcars rolled mysteriously out of the fog, barely visible for a few feet before the crossing, and disappearing again into the mist directly after.  Even with the train slowly rocking across her path, she should still be on time for work.

Her mind wandered as she sat in the car, listening to the oldies.  A Kansas song came on her XM radio, and she smiled, but then went back to wondering why she had never been stopped by a train at this time of the morning before.

Suddenly she saw more movement off to her right.  In the fog she was not certain, but it looked like someone had jumped off one of the train.  Did people still ride freights in these days of Uber?  As a railcar came across the track, she noticed that the door was open.  She noticed something else.  This train contained several old cattle cars.  She hadn’t seen those in years.  Normally all that went by were container beds or maybe a steel grain car.

Again, there was movement to the right.  Two.  Did she just see two people dodge into the trees?  In cowboy hats?  No, she had not had her caffeine yet for the day, and the fog must be playing tricks on her eyes.    

Her eyes flicked back to the end of the train.  Did a caboose just go by?  With a signal man waving a lantern?  Union Pacific, like all railroads, had discontinued the use of cabooses long ago.  She knew she shouldn’t have stayed up late last night, watching that western.

She rubbed her tired eyes, and peered into the fog.  No men in cowboy hats appeared.  No ghost cabooses.  She put her car into gear and cautiously crossed the tracks.


It had been a long day at work, and crisis after crisis appeared.  By the time she was able to make it through all the paperwork that she had to complete, it was dark.

As she approached the railroad tracks, she slowed.  With the upgrade to high speed rail on this line, you never knew when a train was coming and how fast.  Luckily the state had been required to upgrade the crossings too, and the massive crossing gates would drop as the trains approached.

Wait a minute.  This morning she didn’t remember seeing the bright lights and crossing gates descend as the train approached.  She didn’t even remember the mechanical arms that had been at that crossing since she had been a child.

She laughed softly to herself.  Too much caffeine and too little sleep can play tricks on your memory.  She needed to get to bed early tonight, if she was going to have to get up earlier in the morning, to avoid the freight.

The mysteries of the train had left her mind, by the time she had traveled several miles down the road.  As tired as she was, she did not even want to think about what to fix for supper.  She had just crested the top of the hill before the turn that led to her place, when her headlights suddenly picked out two figures in the dark.  As she went by she saw one turn suddenly, lose his footing, and tumble into the ditch and the other moved to follow.  She had not heard the sound of an impact, but at the very least she had startled these men.  

She sighed, but knew what she had to do.  In this day and age, it really was not safe for a woman alone to stop and offer help to two unknown men walking down a deserted road in the middle of nowhere.  As a nurse though, she could not help but stop to see that they were okay.  

She slowed her car, and then reversed slowly to where she thought the men had been, but careful to not park too close to the top of the hill.  Few folks came out this way, but the Shermann teenagers liked to fly over this hill at high speed sometimes, so it was better to be safe.

She pulled out the bright beam flashlight her mother had given her for Christmas.  It was long and heavy.  Mom had said a girl alone could never be too safe.

She then checked that her handgun was loaded.  Her father had said the flashlight was all well and good if she need to stop and help folks, but he had insisted that she kept her firearms permit current and had taken her to apply for the concealed carry permit.  His gift last Christmas had been this gun, as well as the rifle in the trunk.  Helping folks was expected in this part of the country, especially with her training, but a girl could never be too cautious.

She also pulled out her emergency kit.  She had taken the test the county required and was an officially licensed EMT.  The hospital had insisted, when they found out how often she was called upon to render emergency services in the remote area where she lived.

She swept the grasses that grew along the road with the flashlight, looking for signs of the two men.  One had to be hurt, bruised at the very least.  She had started to wonder again if she was imagining things, when she had walked almost to the crest of the hill, and had not found them.

She turned back towards her car, and listened.  It was silent.  The normal sounds of the night were not there.  She started to sweep the side of the road again, until she saw where the weeds had been disturbed by something passing through them.  She stood in front of that spot, but still could not see them.

They had to be purposely hiding.  In another place, in a big city, or even the local town, she would have wondered if they were up to no good.  There, they might have been thieves looking to steal a car, or break into a house.  Here where the places were miles apart, they would have had a car, to transport themselves and any stolen goods.

It had been a couple years, since the Shermann boys had taken old man Morrison’s ’58 pickup for a joy ride, let alone since an actual theft had occurred.  Mr. Morrison’s yard had been mowed to perfection all summer by the Shermann boys and the money they had made detasseling corn had gone to fix the dent they had put in the truck.  

Unless they had car trouble, there was no logical reason for them to be walking down this road.  Besides the Shermanns five miles back, it was another ten miles to the Morrisons, and further to any other place.  She had not noticed any cars on the side of the road, all the way from the hospital.  Again, she normally stopped, if she saw one, because she knew it was a good chance no one else would be passing to help.  Cell phones were wonderful, but service out here was sketchy.  She had a satellite phone, so the hospital could always reach her.

“Boys, it’s dark and late, and I have a feelin’ one of you is hurt.”  Her fatigue had finally got the best of her.  If it ended up being one of the Shermanns or one of their football team buddies, there’d be hell to pay tomorrow.  She needed her sleep, and had handled enough emergencies at their place, with their houseful of boys, that their parents would brook no mischief involving her.

Suddenly, the memory of exactly what she had seen as she came up over the hill hit her.  There had been two men in cowboy hats, like this morning.  She also remembered what she had not consciously noticed this morning.  They were wearing gun belts, like old time gunslingers.

There were two possible explanations for what she saw.  One, she was facing two unknown men who had two guns to her one.  Second, she was going crazy.  She wasn’t certain which option she wanted to be true.

Just as she had started to think the bugs were quiet only because she was there, she saw movement in the grass in front of her.  She set down her emergency kit and took a stance with the hand gun, like they had taught her in the self-defense class in which her father had enrolled her for her birthday.

Two hands encased in worn leather gloves were the first thing that became visible.  Then a battered black hat circled by a band with silver conchos reflected in the flashlight beam.  It looked like it had been an expensive hat at one point.

Dark eyes then appeared in a face with sharp planes in the shadows of the night.  His eyes kept her gaze locked, as he stood.  She saw that his gun was still in the holster.

The most brilliant smile appeared on his face, with, she couldn’t quite see in the dark, but she swore he had the deepest dimples she had ever seen on a man.

“Our apologies, ma’am.  Sorry to startle you, but you rather startled us when you came roaring over the hill.”  His voice had the soft cadence she associated with some of the rodeo riders she had known, who had traveled all over the west.  He had nodded down at his side, where she could now see the other man sitting up.  The silver band on his brown hat flickered in the light.  His hat looked in better shape.

She noticed their clothes.  They were distinctly western, and dusty, but were in decent shape.  They were a bit travel worn, but not threadbare.  A thought occurred to her.  Maybe they were summer workers at the tourist place over to Brownville.  If their car had broken down, and they got lost walking across the fields to the light of a place, hers was the closest.

Then she remembered an image from this morning.  One of the men jumping from the train had the distinctive silver conchos on his hat, and the other had light reflecting off the silver on the brown hat right in front of her.  The memory was so sharp, it was almost like an old photographic negative.

The man seated on the ground slowly raised his arms too, but then winced slightly as he shifted his leg.  He had not made a move to stand.

She took a deep breath, and continued, trepidation in her heart, but with the same resolve that had gotten her through worse situations like the aftermath that had arrived at the hospital when the semi driver had fallen asleep and broadsided the minivan.

“Are you hurt?”  She locked gazes with the seated man.  His eyes were washed out in the flashlight beam, but he offered a tentative smile, one that looked like it could melt a lot of women’s hearts, with the blonde curls that showed under his hat.

He nodded slightly.  “Twisted my ankle when I turned to see what sort of vehicle was barreling down on us.”  He looked down into the grass.  “I got my gun here ma’am.  If I’m real careful can I put it back in my holster, so it don’t take the damp?”

“Or we could hand them to you.”  The standing man continued to smile, while the blonde man seated on the ground scowled.

She still had her gun steady, pointed directly at them.  “If you holster them, I guess I don’t have enough hands for all of them.”

The blonde calmly nodded and efficiently stowed his gun.

She released the trigger, and shoved it in the back waistband of her scrubs, then waited a beat to see if they were going to draw.  All she saw was smiles trying to win her confidence, and another wince from the blonde on the ground.

It was their attitude that finally made her trust them.  They were on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, with one of them injured, and obviously out of their element somehow.  All she felt from them was curiosity and a bit of confusion, overlaying an innate sense of confidence, even in the face of the unknown.

She bent down to pick up the emergency kit, which admittedly was heavy and bulky.  It was designed for a muscular six foot one-hundred-and-eighty-pound ex-Navy seal, not a rather gangly woman.

“Ma’am, if you promise not to shoot me, I’d be glad to fetch that case closer to my partner for you.”  Again, he graced her with a brilliant smile.  She nodded and he cautiously approached.

She decided either the blonde was really hurt, or she’d never hear the end of getting into this situation from her father.  She approached him and knelt down.

“I don’t think it’s broke, ma’am, but it surely hurts like the dickens.”

“Let me look.”  

The other man had set the case down, so she had him hold the flashlight.  He seemed bemused with it, but quickly enough grasped exactly how he needed to hold it to maximize the light at the right angle to examine his friend’s ankle.

She manipulated his ankle slightly before she removed the boot, wanting to make certain it wouldn’t cause any more harm.  It had already started to swell.

“You have any medical training, mister …”  She figured she should get their names, or at least what names they would give.

“It’s Jones, ma’am.  Thaddeus Jones.” He winced again as moved it once more.  “No ma’am, I don’t.”

“Well, your diagnosis is probably correct.  You’ll need some x-rays to verify that it’s not broken, but it appears to be just a sprain.”

She turned to open the kit, searching for gauze to wrap his ankle, and met the brown eyes of his partner.  “And you are?”

Something she couldn’t identify passed through his eyes, but he plastered that smile of his on his face again.  “It’s Smith ma’am.  Joshua Smith.”

She started to wrap his friend’s ankle.  “Smith and Jones?  Seriously?”  She was more curious than worried at that point.  If they were not really Smith and Jones, why would they had not come up with more unique last names, if they were using such singular first names like Joshua and Thaddeus?

“There are lots of folks named Smith and Jones.”  Joshua Smith had a serious look on his face, but his eyes looked like they were dancing, even behind the flashlight beam.  “If it’s not too forward of me to ask, who should we thank for such kind care of Thaddeus here?”

Working emergency and regular hospital care, she often saw the not so pleasant side of people.  It had been years since she had been treated with such gentlemanly respect as these two naturally seemed to give.

“Annie.  Annie Morgan.”  She looked down to finish the bandaging, and to wrest her eyes away from the charm coming from Joshua.  “I’m a nurse at the local hospital.  And trained as a county EMT.”

She glanced up at Joshua.  His look seemed to indicate that he was very familiar with nurses, but something in his eyes stumbled over EMT.  He let it wash away and resumed his smile.

“Well, we’re mighty grateful to you, Miss Morgan.”

She packed up the kit, and looked up to meet his eyes again, wanting to see his reaction to the next question.  “Where did you boys come from, that is before you arrived here on my lane?  Ain’t from around here, are you.”  It came out as a statement, and Joshua seemed well aware of that.

“No, Miss Morgan.  We ain’t.”  His gaze encompassed the fields and trees in the dark.  “We…um came from the train, and then got turned around.”

She was still.  “The train?”  Visions of the eerie mist this morning swirled through her brain.  It had been a freight that had slowly rumbled through.  She knew a couple passenger trains roared through during the day, but they were high speed rail, and did not stop anywhere close.

“The freight?” Annie asked tentatively.

He simply nodded.  She could tell he was not quite comfortable his story, but when his brown eyes met hers, it was obvious he was telling the truth.

“This morning?”

“Yes.”  His eyes were questioning, trying to decipher a puzzle he did not know how to solve.  “Were you in the … vehicle … that was stopped there, when we jumped?”

She nodded, and her face showed she was equally searching for answers.
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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: Halloween   Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:45 pm

Destiny's Cycle #14, boy this one almost got me Calico. Or, it could be the distraction of having the guys here... but luckily, the ideas started forming while I was out working today. So, without further adieu...on with chapter 14 and best of luck to all the storytellers viaing for the bandana this month.


Wheat stepped up to the dark walnut bar braced to the side wall and plucking a piece of paper, from the cubby above it, he made a show of filling it out; while softly conversing with Curry standing beside him.

When the only other customer present appeared done with her business, Curry smiled and with a tip of his hat stepped through the front door, holding it open for her.

“Why thank you young men, what delightful manners your Mother has trained into you.”

Bowing his head, he stated clearly, “You’re welcome and thank you, Ma ‘am.”

As her black heels clicked off her departure, Heyes walked through the still open door with Preacher in his shadow.

Looking left and right, Curry stepped in, flipping the sign to 'closed' and followed his partner to the wide, hip high counter. Before he reached his partner’s side, Heyes laid a partially filled Treasury Department Certificate on the polished counter.

The lanky, thin clerk behind it barely looked up, his eyes remaining hidden beneath the green visor he wore, “Are you wishing to add stamps to your certificate?”

“In a way,” Heyes replied, there was a mirth in his voice which caught the clerk’s attention for his head tilted a touch and setting his pen down, he looked up. His narrowed eyes widened, darting to the ratcheting of Preacher’s repeater rifle, the double-click of Wheat’s six-shooter and back to the very, close, very large bore of Curry’s Peacemaker; looking anything but peaceful.

Leaning in, Heyes passed him a wink, “No sudden moves.”

Hopping up on the counter, Wheat slid across with Heyes right behind him, ordering, “Clear the drawers.”

Clawing into the first drawer, Wheat shoved currency in his saddle bag.

“Wheat!” Heyes barked from within the open safe, even as he stacked bundles of notes and certificates into his own bags. “Don’t forget the stamps this time.”

“How was I to know we needed them, thought they were for mailing letters.”

Curry smiled, softly saying, “Look like a post office to you?”

“No,” was Wheate’s muttered response as he snagged the box full of square, faded orange and blue stamps.

Before he could dump them in his bag, Curry said, “Might want to put ‘em in an envelope.”

Wheat’s mouth pursed tight, but jerking open a lower drawer, he rummaged about removing a large brown envelope and tumbled the stamps inside.

“You men have made a grievous mistake. Do you not know, the reason, no one ever thinks of robbing Lone Gulch is because we are surrounded by miles and miles of flat land with nowhere to hide from a posse.”

Bumping the man to the side, Wheat smiled at him, emptying his drawer, “May be so, but, we feel pretty right certain ‘bout ourselves.”

Raising his chin, the clerk flared his nostrils, “Well, I for one shall laugh in your face when they drag each of you back here.”

“I would invite you to do so…” Heyes stated buckling his saddle bags and slinging them over his shoulder, “however…” he gestured to a chair, “it will not be happening.”

Stiffly the clerk walked to the chair and sat down, studying the man securing him with rawhide from his intelligent dark eyes, to the thick black, nearly touching his shoulders, hair, to his gray ranch coat and the pistol tied down to his butternut colored pant leg.

“Get a good solid look?” Heyes asked, flashing his boyish smile. “Let me make it easier for you… you tell them it was the Devil’s Hole Gang who visited you.”

The man swallowed, his eyes drifting to Curry, “that means the pair of you are….”

Tipping his hat back with the barrel of his Colt before holstering it, Curry replied, “Kid Curry.”

Having pulled the trussed up clerk’s kerchief from his jacket pocket, Heyes flipped and twisted it into a gag, “Hannibal Heyes, any last words?”

Looking a shade or two paler, the clerk shook his head.

“Good ‘cause I got a schedule to keep.” Heyes replied, tying the gag about the man’s mouth and snagging the keys dangling from his vest before leaping across the wide counter.

“As ya can see we ain’t the brutes they make us out to be in the papers, we’re gentlemen bandits.” Wheat stated as boastfully as the winner of a prize fight and tweaking one end of his mustache, he grinned, “Ya can tell ‘em Wheat Carlson told you so.”

Rolling his eyes, Heyes tossed the keys in the air, catching them and slipped out the door after Preacher. Once they were all out, he paused to lock the bank’s front door and pocketed the keys.

Disappearing into the alley, they slid across and down the way to the backside of the General Store, where they casually swung up on their horses, Lobo was holding.

“Others have instructions to leave town by twos, at a nice, easy-going pace, after they see you and Lobo leave.” Curry stated, nodding to his partner. “Wheat and I will follow, once I know all of you are out.”

From the alley, Curry watched the Devil’s Hole Gang abandon Lone Gulch, kicking up so little dust not even the dogs sunning themselves bothered to raise their heads to watch. When he and Wheat started down the main drag, Wheat twisted in his saddle looking back.

Low in his throat, Curry snarled, “Don’t do that!”

“What?”

“Look about like you're expecting a reaction.”

Slumping down in his saddle, Wheat took on the appearance of the cowhand, saddle tramp he had been before his outlaw days, “better.”

“Much.” Curry passed him a grin, hanging loose and easy on his own horse, “want us looking like nothing more than drifters.”

“Can’t we move any faster?”

“Yep, if we wanted to draw attention, which, I’m not.”

A large sigh escaped in a puff of warm breath from Wheat and fiddling with his reins he glanced at Curry, “Uhm, Kid…uh, Heyes has never said a word ‘bout the prank I pulled on him.”

Looking over, his face as blank as freshly fallen snow, Curry stated, “prank.”

“At Lottie’s.”

“Oh, that…” there was a smile sparkling about the corners of the crisp, blue eyes, “wouldn’t want to be you.”

Swallowing, Wheat reached up, rubbing at the back of his neck, “was he pretty sore?”

“Would you be?”

The bushy mustache dipped down, the tips making the frown look even deeper, “he say anything to you?”

“Why would he?”

“We all know, Heyes confides in you.”

Tugging his hat lower, Curry replied, “not as much as I’d like some days and if you’re hemming about trying to find out what he’s planning against you.” The smile slipped, coming free, “he’s keeping it closer to him than he did his clothes.”

Any other time, Wheat would have laughed, but he knew Heyes well enough to know this was not a laughing matter and another sigh escaped.

“Like I said, wouldn’t want to be you.”

Beyond town, they rounded a bend, coming head on into a line of drawn pistols that were immediately lowered.

“Golly, thought y’all might’en’ been caught.”

“Riding casual takes time, Kyle.” Wheat replied and tipping his head toward Curry, went on, “specially, when you’re ridin’ with him.”

There were several chortled laughs, as the men knew how serious Curry could be, when it came to caution. Feeling someone watching him, Wheat turned to find Heyes’ black eyes boring into him and his jocularity dried up.

The tension could be felt and all eyes went to Heyes, shifting his eyes to meet them, he adjusted his hat before saying, “All right boys, we have fifty miles to cover tonight then we’ll trade horses at the Villanova Ranch, and cover another fifty, but by then we will be on home ground… so to say.”

“I don’t know.” Lobo stated flatly, shifting in his saddle. “Each of’n us knows makin’ thirty miles in that time is doin’ damn good on any hoss.”

“Lobo’s right. What if’n we don’t make it?” Kyle asked, spitting on the ground between him and Hank. “Our horses will be done in and we’ll be caught for sure.”

“It’ll work.” Curry said firmly. “Learned how during a poker game with some of those yellow stripes wearing soldier boys.” Leaning forward on his saddle horn, he held up a finger, “first we walk, then trot, then gallop… each time only for fifteen minutes. They bragged how a horse can go all day and night like that, if you stop and give ‘em a hat full of water every few hours.”

John sucked in his lower lip, looking twice as doleful and pathetic as normal, “sure hope it works.”

“It will.”

Scratching at his reddish beard, Lobo shook his head, “If ‘n it wasn’t ‘gainst my best interest, I’d put money down, we’re going to kill more than one of these broomtails for were done.”

Buttoning his coat against the nights chill, Curry said, “go on, Heyes, tell ‘em what you always tell me.”

The well-known, brash smile appeared, “come on boys, have a little faith.”

The pocket watch chain was clacking against the saddle horn, as the watch bobbed along nestled in Heyes’ hand, until he called, for probably the fifth time, “Walk!”

Before them, the moon hung heavy above the tall, brittle grass leading them ever deeper into the west. And, when the night dimmed, becoming purplish, there was nothing on the horizon they had left behind, other than the soft blush of impending dawn.

Curry whoa’ed his horse alongside the gate the ‘rocking V’ brand hung above, wearing a full gloating smile as each member of his gang passed by. Their horses fur stood out ragged and curly from sweat and steam rose from them, but not a single one was baked or gimping. At the corral, he leapt down, feeling proud of himself.

“Knew you were right.” Heyes bragged, popping Curry on the back, a puff of dust rising from the sheepskin coat.

The wide, toothy smile which often led people to believe Curry was younger than he was, appeared.

Exiting the house, a short, thin man with stooped shoulders and suspenders crossed over a faded, red, flannel undershirt, called, “Buenos días, Señor Heyes. Did not think ya would make it in before the sun, but ya did.”

“Like I tell my men, you need to have a little faith, Hector.”

“Me, I got plenty of faith, but I not spread it out beyond me own familia.” Hitching his thumbs in his suspender braces, he looked Heyes in the eye. “But, I should know to have faith in ya, Señor Heyes. Your regular mounts be fed, watered, and rested.” Hector Villanova pointed to the large corral of milling horses, before holding out his weathered, calloused palm. “We shook on $2,000 for keepin’ yours and rentin’ mine.”

Heyes smiled like a cat licking cream and with a shake of his head, he unbuckled one saddle bag, “you sure ‘bout that price, Hector?”

“Sí. I always sure when it comes to dinero.” Hector replied, passing amongst his horses as the gang pulled their saddles transferring them to their own mounts. “Charged you so much, because, I figured I would be needin’ to shoot a few of these cayuses when ya returned ‘em. But, they look quite buena, need resto, but buena.”

Walking over with his hands jammed in the deep pockets of his gray coat, Heyes asked, “Mean, I get a discount??”

“Ha!” Hector’s thin shoulders rattled with his bolted laugh and he punched Heyes in the bicep, “always admire your hopeful spirit, amigo.”

Heyes nodded, holding on to his closed-lip smile.

“No discount. Ya can afford it, is what I consider.”

“That we can,” Heyes replied, pulling a bundle of hundred dollar bank notes from his pocket. “In fact, Hector,” Heyes tossed him the entire bundle, “I added a bonus if you never saw us.”

“Me, I no see a one of you.” Hector rifled the bills like a deck of cards, “Especialmente you, Señor Hannibal Heyes.” His smile drifted to Curry and “you too Señor, would not want people to say, I consort with the wrong sort. It be hard being different around, so many….shall we say…who are not Catholic. But, ah, Señors to be known for harborin’ bad men, that would be my undoin’.”

Heyes laughed, “Hector, far as bad men go, I’d say we’re pretty good, bad men.”

The bushy walrus mustache adorning Hector’s face vibrated and through his robust laughter, he asked, “You want me to inform ‘em of that, when they come askin’ about you and Señor Curry?”

Heyes’ notorious smile broke free, “best not.”

One by one the Devil’s Hole Gang drug themselves back into their saddles, grousing every inch it took to get there.

“Come on Boys, one more ride and there is hot food, drinks, and beds awaiting us at Lottie’s.” Waving good-bye to Hector, Heyes called out, “Ride.”

Their fresh horses snorted, a few kicking up their heels in the crisp morning light, but the fifteen minute gallop reminded them they were tame ponies and not the mustangs they had thought themselves to be upon leaving the Villanova Ranch.

They were walking and the men rode loose, slumped in their saddles. Exhaling long and hard, Heyes closed his eyes, letting his body sway with the steady rhythm of his horse. Feeling himself drifting, he enjoyed the half-doze, when with a snap his head came up. Looking to his battered watch, he saw nearly fifteen minutes had passed. Rolling his neck side to side, he looped his reins about his saddle horn, and rising in his stirrups, arched his back. Settling back in, he found Wheat had fallen in alongside him.

“Better.”

Heyes nodded

“Kid sure was right.”

Heyes nodded, again.

“You planned it all just right, too.”

His tone holding just enough bite to rankle the older man, Heyes said, “You wanting something?”

“No! Just making conversation.”

Glancing at the watch, its long hand reaching for the six, Heyes replied, “Don’t recall requesting any. Trot!” With the increase in speed the two fell apart, allowing Heyes to grin; a malicious grin that his partner saw clearly.

When the next call came to walk, Curry moved in close to his cousin, “you got Wheat all on edge.”

“Serves him right.” Heyes said, “But, I won’t be happy ‘till he’s tiptoeing by me.”

Taking off his hat, Curry scrubbed at his matted curls, “Keep telling you, it’d be best if you just let this go.”

Heyes’ mouth quirked, his nose wrinkling.

“No harm was done.”

An eyebrow arched Curry’s direction.

“You weren’t injured.”

“You tell me how you feel when it’s you using your Colt for cover.”

“I do that all the time.” Curry answered, almost getting it out without snorting.

Heyes’ jaw tightened and glancing at his watch, he saw they still had a few minutes.

“Come on, Heyes, you gotta admit it was funny.”

Throwing a baleful look at his life-long pal, Heyes wheeled his sorrel about, walking down the line of his gang members. “We got about another hour and we’ll be in town. We’re going to ride up to Lottie’s like it was any other night, eat dinner, and crawl into bed.”

“Ain’t gonna be like any other night,” Merkle called, “Cause most nights, I’m asleepin’ alone and tonight I’m plannin’ to nest up with Lilly.”

A chorus of grunts of agreement and similar comments rolled forth, and when they quieted, Heyes called, “Trot.”

Dusk was smothering the land when they swung sedately into Lottie’s corral, riding straight into the barn. A couple of gang members stripped their saddles, tossing them over a rail and heading straight for the barn doors.

“Halt!” Curry called from the off side of his big bay, not wanting to see who it was, he continued checking and cleaning the horse’s hooves, “see properly to your horse, it served you well and what if you need it later.”

After that, every man, took his time, and groomed their mount until the entire herd shone like award winning racers.

Setting his hat back on his head, Kyle beamed, “Don’t think I ever seen our stock look so fine.”

Dropping an arm across Kyle’s shoulder, Curry leaned on him, saying, “No one is going to consider they traveled fifty miles today either.”

“That be for sure.”

“But, I sure as hell feel like I did.” Lobo complained, rolling his shoulders. “…and more.”

Hank put in, “don’t recall, last time I was so bone tired, worn down.”

“I do.” Lobo answered, looking to Heyes, who was walking up with his saddle bags hanging over his shoulder. “It was the reason, I gave up drivin’ steers up the Chisholm Trail.”

“Driving steers never paid like this,” Heyes replied, handing a stack of bank notes to each gang member.

Despite how tired they were the jubilation of pay day from such a smooth, effortless heist perked up their moods and they joshed each other, all the way to Lottie’s front porch.

Ringing the bell, the door was answered by a lumpy, short man in the brightest, gaudiest, cowboy regalia they had seen since a Wild West Show passed through Denver. Heyes brows shot up and immediately, dropped down low, “Is Lottie here?”

A tittering laugh erupted, “costumes that good, is it, Hun?” and the large brimmed hat was pushed up revealing Lottie’s pale but still, elaborately charcoaled eyes. “Come on in, each of yuse is welcome as always.”

“Why you decked out so?” Curry asked, following after her.

“Why, Sugah, it's Halloween and we’re havin’ a….” she waved her hand to the gaily attired and wildly costumed crowd. “… Masquerade.”

All the gang members grinned, the party goers washing away some of their tiredness, when with a boisterous laugh Curry bumped against Heyes, roaring, “And, you without your bloomers.”

At that, the entire gang broke into snorting, guffawing laughter.

Heyes flamed red, turning on Wheat.

Wheat slapped a hand across his mouth.

But then a smile erupted on Heyes’ face that brought to mind the evil that Halloween hinted of and pointing a finger at Wheat, he turned away walking into the party.

“Like I said, before---”

“I know, Kid, you wouldn’t want to be me.”

















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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:51 pm

This is the abridged (to just sneak under the word limit) middle section of a story that is in development.

Curried Curry and Heyes


A warm but fierce October wind howled along narrow valley where two riders rode alert in their saddles, peering up the sparsely wooded slopes of a narrow valley. A turban topped man drove a team of solid-looking draft horses that pulled a faded painted caravan along the valley floor. The brunet rider in front rose up in the saddle and peered intently towards the right in the fading light of the day. He raised an arm and called a halt. The blond, stationed at the back of the small group, came swiftly riding to the front and conferred with the leader. The horses stamped uneasily amid the red and gold leaves swirling around their legs as the two men talked.

A small panel on the front of the caravan slid open and a black-haired young woman pushed her head through the opening. “ਪਿਤਾ ਜੀ ਕਿਉਂ ਅਸੀਂ ਰੋਕ ਰਹੇ ਹਾਂ? ਕੀ ਖਲਨਾਇਕ ਆਏ ਸਨ?”

Hannibal Heyes heard the inquiry, although, he couldn’t understand the language, he surmised the intent and offered information. “There appears to be an abandoned homestead just up ahead. It doesn’t look to be in too bad of shape and we can stop there for the night. My partner and I think we should be safe there. I doubt we’ll see those bandits again, after the display Thaddeus put on. Plus, they’ll need to see to their injured. Ma’am, don’t you worry, we’ll get you town safe.”

The Punjabi Mr. Bhatt nodded his agreement with the partner’s plan, while speaking over his shoulder, “
ਧੀ ਦੀ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਨਾ ਕਰੋ, ਇਹ ਲੋਕ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਸਾਨ ਫਰਾਂਸਿਸਕੋ ਲਈ ਸੁਰੱਖਿਅਤ ਦੇਖਣਗੇ.” Switching to British Indian accented English, Manjot Bhatt replied, “I am no longer worried, I know that you will see us safely to San Francisco. Yes, we must set up camp for the night. The women are very fine cooks. They will cook for you in thanks for your timely rescue. You will like butter chicken curry, rice and chapaatis.”

Curry’s stomach rumbled at the thought of food and he encouraged his mount back into motion. Heyes remained where he was and corrected Mr. Bhatt’s understanding of the situation. “We’d appreciate the dinner and we will make sure you get to town without any further trouble. But we agreed to take you to the next town with a railroad where you can sell the caravan and horses and buy tickets to San Francisco. We’re not going to San Francisco with you. You’ll be perfectly safe on the train.”

Bhatt senior smiled and shook his head. “No, it is you that are mistaken, Mr. Smith. Mr. Jones agreed to go all the way to the big city where my brother is waiting for us to join his jewelry business. My daughter Jasleen spoke with him and he said this was so. This is the Wild West, yes? You said yourself that traveling by caravan from town to town, selling our wares along the way is not safe because of bandits. You advised us to go by train, which is much faster. But there are train robbers in this part of the country, yes?”

Heyes shifted uncomfortably in his saddle and had to nod affirmably, admitting that there were indeed train robbers in this part of the country, even if Manjot Bhatt did not know how close some train robbers, or rather ex-train robbers actually were. He started to walk the horse while continuing the conversation as the caravan rumbled slowly after Kid’s black gelding in the direction of the cabin and rundown barn.

The Punjabi continued confidently, “Mr. Jones was kind enough to offer your services as guards. My wife Chandra, my daughters Jasleen and Jayanit, my son Amandeep, and I are very grateful. We will negotiate a satisfactory fee for your services. Mr. Jones is most excellent with his gun. You are a good guard as well. I am very good with my dagger and my British friends back in the Punjab have taught me to use their English guns but I do not own one. My brother when he wrote from London and then your San Francisco did not say to bring one on our journey to America.”

“You will not need a gun once you get there, Mr. Bhatt.”

“Please call me Manjot”

“Manjot, the odds of the being robbed on your journey are low. But if you ever met a train robber you will be safer without a gun. Your lives are worth more than the materials of your craft.”

The Jeweler smiled, confident in his belief that they would be well protected. He had watched the young gunman as the Bhatt’s told their story. The Bhatts were most excellent salesman- hard negotiators all - they knew how to target a potential customer and close the sale, and Thaddeus Jones seemed very susceptible to his eldest daughter’s charms. Mr. Smith was somewhat a harder sell but Manjot liked a challenge, he was sure it only remained a question of the price.

“Yes, yes, I know we will be very safe. Very safe with you so we don’t need a gun. My family and my precious stock will not be stolen with Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones as guards.”

Heyes took a deep breath and shook his head in mild annoyance at the Punjabi’s dismissal of Heyes’ words. He’d talk to Kid and the both of them united would get the point across. Brown eyes traced the blond gunman’s movements as Kid dismounted in front of the shabby deserted homestead. A moment of doubt rose up as Heyes recalled Curry’s stubborn adherence to his code of honorable behavior, that going straight had only reinforced.

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

Kid was bending over a sack, sniffing, the telltale trail of grain spilling from a mouse chewed hole in the bottom across the floor giving proof of the contents. He looked up at the sound of footsteps.

“Smells okay, I think it’s safe to feed it to the horses,” Curry informed his partner. “The homestead doesn’t appear to have been abandoned for too long. See if you can find a pail or some sort of container while I take care of groomin’ the horses.”

Heyes nodded and slowly turned around, sweeping his eyes over the surroundings.

Kid pointed and asked, “Hand me that curry brush from over there.”

Heyes picked up a brush from atop a half-opened bale of hay, turned it over in his hand, inspecting it, then knocked the brush a few times against a barn post, loosening some dirt and debris, before handing it over. He remarked matter-of-factly, “You do know that Jasleen is currying favor by cooking a curry for Kid Curry, don’t ya.”

“They don’t know I’m Kid Curry and you’re Hannibal Heyes.” The blond started brushing down Heyes’ bay, which was closest to him.

“No but she’s lookin’ at you as her Lancelot.”

“Lancelot?”

“You know, Sir Lancelot, a knight in shining armor from King Arthur’s round table. Jousting and all that. Remember the stories about Camelot.”

Curry straightened up and looked his partner in the eyes. “I know who Lancelot is, Heyes. I do remember you reading those stories. I liked them. Lancelot is the knight who was carrin’ on with Guinevere. I’m not like Lancelot, I would never two-time my best friend and the King by sleepin’ with his wife behind his back. I’d be one of the other knights.”

“Yeah, probably Sir Galahad, without the purity part,” muttered Heyes under his breath before raising his voice. “Glad to hear it Kid, but we’re getting off track here. The fact is that once again Kid Curry went riding to help damsels in distress and their family, shooting the villains with exceptional skill. The point is that just because we rescued them once doesn’t mean we have to act as guards all the way to San Francisco. We’re not obligated.”

Curry finished with the bay and squeezed past Heyes to start on his black.

“I guess we don’t but I think we should. They’re traveling with their life savings, not to mention all the gold, stones and jewelry.”

Heyes appeared unmoved about the Indian’s predicament as he found a stool to sit on while he talked some sense into the impulsive one of the duo.

“So are we, minus the gold, and jewels, which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Unless they want to part with a some of that gold they’re on their own no matter how pretty the women are or how well they can cook. It’s less than a week’s ride by train to the coast. They’ll be perfectly safe. You know they could even hire guards in town, as long as it’s not us. We have other jobs lined up.”

“Heyes, you can negotiate our fee but I’m gonna make sure they get there safe. They’re new to the west and have no idea of the problems they could find. Plus, what happens if they get mistaken for Indians, I mean our Indians. You know American Indians not Indian Indians. We thought they were natives when we was far away, although with funny clothes.”

Heyes objected, “I knew they weren’t no American Indians. How many braves do you see wearing a turban and with a caravan. Sheesh!”

Curry chuckled as he moved to the other side of the horse. He leaned over the black’s back and looked his partner in the eye. “Sure, you did, once we got close enough. But admit it, at first you weren’t sure on who was attacking who or why or if anyone was going to be friendly.”

“Well, they are from India, the Punjab in the north, says Manjot, so no one should harass them or kick them off the train or try to steal their trunk of gold, jewels and jeweler’s tools.” Heyes stood up and changed positions to the other side of the horses as Kid moved on to the first horse of the draft team.

“You’re sure ‘bout that, ‘cause I ain’t. Besides, the job waitin’ for us is a ranch job. We hate ranch work and sittin’ on a train for a few days guardin’ the Bhatts sounds like a better proposition. Speaking of food, you planin’ on findin’ something to put the grain in for the horses. I’ll bet they’re hungry and I know I sure am. Whatever the women are cookin’, it smells like nothing I ever ate before, strange but good.”

“It’s that chicken curry.”

“We’ll stick around so I can try some of those kebab things and tandoori, Jasleen mentioned those as her specialties, since we’re apparently having butter chicken curry, whatever that is tonight. The bucket, Heyes?”

Heyes grumbled to himself, something about a hungry Kid Curry thinking with parts of his anatomy other than his brain. But he did find a bucket and fed the horses while admitting that Kid might have a point about the relative merits of ranch work versus bodyguarding a family of Punjabi jewelers.

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

The little group rode into a typically dusty growing plains town. Heyes and Curry unobtrusively scoping out the usual landmarks such as the sheriff’s office, which obligingly posted the name of an unknown sheriff, a hospitable hotel, the choice of two saloons, and the railroad station at the end of the main street.

Groups of small children, dressed in colorful costumes, carrying half-filled sacks darted in and out of the normal hustle and bustle of small town life. The newcomers noticed and Heyes found himself trying to explain the customs of celebrating Halloween to the curious Bhatts.

Curry was left with the women, young son, and the unloaded contents of the caravan at the train station while Heyes and the Bhatt patriarch proceeded to the livery to sell the horses, gear and caravan. Kid went inside to purchase tickets and make arrangements for crating the household goods for shipment to San Francisco. The blond shook his head in amusement as he took stock of the two piles of what was being shipped and what they would be toting with them. The back and forth between Heyes and Manjot was entertaining but Heyes had the edge in that negotiation.

Heyes was impressed in spite of himself. He considered Kid and him, well him, at least, as pretty good horse traders. Kid had a gift for quickly sizing up and picking mounts to meet their immediate needs and Heyes almost always achieved an advantageous bargain. But Manjot Bhatt, Heyes was coming to realize, was a master negotiator, not to be underestimated due to unusual clothing in the West. The Punjabi jeweler managed to obtain a very good price for the draft team and caravan.

The two groups met back up in front of the train station and discussed the plans for the intervening time until the westbound train left later that evening. It was decided that they would rent a hotel room for the Bhatts to rest, while the partners checked out the saloon.
Heyes grabbed the saddle bags and Mr. Bhatt had a solid hold on the two valises containing the precious metals and jewels as the two men started towards the hotel. The rest struggled to keep up. Amandeep toted the tools, Chandra, Jasleen and Jayanti carried a bag of clothes and essentials, while Kid once again wondered why he turned into a human pack mule ladened down with everything else.

A small tow-head boy in a buckskin outfit, a ragged feathered pseudo headdress, and streaks of red painted across his flushed cheeks shuffled bravely up to Manjot Bhatt and Heyes as his three friends watched from a safe distance down a small side street. He looked curiously at the Punjabi in his richly hued cotton churidaar pajama suit and turban.

“What are you supposed to be?”

Heyes interpreted, “Halloween. He thinks you’re wearing a Halloween costume.”

Manjot nodded his understanding and smiled kindly at the young boy, “I’m a Punjabi Indian, a Sikh.”

“I’m an Indian too, an Apache brave. I ain’t heard of Punjabi Indians. Where you from? I didn’t know Indians grew long beards, is it real? Where’s the feathers in your hat?”

Curry smirked knowingly at Heyes from behind the women.

With a smile in his voice and in Punjab British accented English Manjot leaned down to answer his curious new acquaintance, “My family and I are from the area of Punjab in Northern India across oceans and seas. We have traveled very far to make a new life in your American West. My kind of Indians grow long beards and my hair on my head is very long under this turban. Alas, we do not have feathers for our hats. I can see you are a very brave brave. Here is a treat, as your custom, for bravery and some for your friends, who are not so brave but still did not desert you.” Manjot pulled a few shiny copper pennies from his pocket and held out his hand for the wide-eyed tow-head. A grubby hand reached out to pick up the pennies and as he ran off towards his waiting friends shouted, “Thanks mister, happy Halloween.”

Suddenly Heyes turned and bounded up the stairs into the hotel without explanation, leaving Kid to glance around apprehensively. Sharp blue eyes honed in on a tall, black-haired, man in his 40’s, wearing a large U.S. Marshalls star. Kid hustled the Bhatts inside, trying to keep them between him and the marshal, who was walking towards the saloon.

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

Curry and Heyes huddled together at the lobby window while the family was busy repacking their belongings more efficiently upstairs in the rented room, the partners talked through their predicament and tried to come up with a plan.

“We’ve got to get out of this town without anyone noticin’.”

“I know Kid. The question is how. The train is probably safer than trying to buy back our horses and gear. The livery owner is sure to remember us then.”

“As long as I go to the livery alone, I should be alright. You sold the horses, not me and the marshal on that posse run never got a good look at me. You, he’s sure to recognize. As long as we’re not together it should be alright.”

“I don’t want to take those odds. Nah, we’ll stick with the train. The trick will be to get from the hotel to the train. Wait, I got an idea. We’ll dress you up in Manjot’s spare clothes so you can escort the Bhatts and I’ll wait to the last minute and catch the train.”

“I’ll never pass for an Indian. I’m too fair, my hair, eyes are the wrong color, and I certainly can’t grow a beard in a few hours. I don’t even get 5 o’clock shadow.”

“It’s Halloween, you don’t have to look a real Bhatt.”

“Adults don’t wear costumes to walk around the streets, Heyes.”

“Well your name is Kid, Kid.” Heyes was immune to the blue-eyes gunslinger’s glare. “Let’s go up and see what we can get you to wear.

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

Later that evening, with just enough time to stroll sedately to the train station, the Bhatt family of Mr. and Mrs. Bhatt, their young son, three dark-haired daughters, and the blond gunman checked out of the hotel. The Punjabi males were wearing traditional Punjabi Churidaar suits and the women brightly colored cotton salwar kameez tunics and pants with silk dupattas draped tightly around their heads and artfully around their upper bodies. Everyone was wearing western style cowboy boots, although, suspiciously five of the Indian’s boots appeared very new. They boarded the last passenger car.

Unknown to the group, the marshal had spent a profitable afternoon in the saloon before boarding the first car of train. He had stowed his carpet bag of belongings and the heavy case of federal marshal service shackles and handcuffs on the overhead rack. Marshall Ricker looked forward to relaxing on the journey home after the tense mission of delivering a ruthless bank robber to meet justice in the town.


Notes:

Punjab: A geographical and cultural region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, comprising areas of eastern Pakistan and northern India. The boundaries of the region are ill-defined and focus on historical accounts. Until the Partition of Punjab in 1947, the British Punjab Province encompassed the present-day Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, and Delhi, and the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory. It bordered the Balochistan and Pashtunistan regions to the west, Kashmir to the north, the Hindi Belt to the east, and Rajasthan and Sindh to the south.

The people of the Punjab today are called Punjabis, and their principal language is Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region are Islam, Sikhism, and Hinduism.

Names:
The surname Bhatt is based on the name of a subgroup of goldsmiths in Punjab. It means ‘the learned one’. The first names were taken from a list of common Punjabi names. Male Sikhs have "Singh" (Lion), and female Sikhs have "Kaur" (princess) as their middle or last name.

Culture:
Language - The major language spoken in the Punjab is Punjabi. In the Indian Punjab this is written in the Gurmukhi script. Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi script, that is closer to Urdu script. Hindi, written in the Devanagri script, is used widely in the Indian states of Himanchal Pradesh and Haryana. Several dialects of Punjabi are spoken in the different regions. The Majhi dialect is considered to be textbook Punjabi and is shared by both countries.

Religion:
About 60% of the population of Punjab state is Sikh, 37% is Hindu, and the rest are Muslims, Christians, and Jains.

Clothing:
Salwar is a generic description of the lower garment incorporating the Punjabi salwar, Sindhi suthan, Dogri pajamma (also called suthan) and the Kashmiri suthan.
The salwar kameez is the traditional wear of women in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The Punjabi suit which is most common in the northwestern part of India (Punjab region) is worn by males. The Punjabi suit also includes the "churidaar" and "kurta (Knee length tunic)" ensemble which is also popular in Southern India where it is known as the "churidaar".[32]
The salwar kameez has become the most popular dress for females. It consists of loose trousers (the salwar) narrow at the ankles, topped by a tunic top (the kameez).[33] Women generally wear a dupatta or odani (Veil) with salwar kameez to cover their head and shoulders.[33] It is always worn with a scarf called a dupatta, which is used to cover the head and drawn over the bosom.

Food:
There are many styles of cooking in Punjab. In the villages many people still employ the traditional infrastructure for cooking purposes. This includes wood-fired and masonry ovens. Tandoori style of cooking commonly known as tandoor. Tandoori cooking is Biryani, lamb and chicken
• Kebab: braised minced lamb meat, commonly served with naan.
• Keema : Braised minced lamb meat, commonly served with naan.
• Lamb : including Rogan Josh, Bhuna Gosht, Kadhai Gosht, Raan Gosht, Dal Gosht, Saag Gosht, Nihari, Rara Gosht, Paye da Shorba
• Shami Kebab, Chicken karahi, Amritsari Tandoori Chicken, Punjabi Karhi (The Chicken yogurt curry of Punjab), Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Paye.
Along with all types of main dishes chutney is also served.
Dishes called 'curry' may contain fish, meat, poultry, or shellfish, either alone or in combination with vegetables. Additionally, many instead are entirely vegetarian, eaten especially among those who hold ethical or religious proscriptions against eating meat or seafood. Curries may be either 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry curries are cooked with very little liquid which is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients coated with the spice mixture. Wet curries contain significant amounts of sauce or gravy based on yoghurt, cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, legume purée, or broth. x combinations of spices or herbs, usually including fresh or dried hot chillies, The main spices found in most curry powders of the Indian subcontinent are coriander, cumin, and turmeric;
Most Punjabi dishes are prepared using Tadka, which is made with the frying of a "masala", which is a mix of ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes with some dried spices. This is followed by the addition of other ingredients, water, and occasionally milk. Normally spicy, spice levels vary greatly depending on the household itself. Ghee and Mustard oil are the most commonly used cooking fats. Many popular Punjabi dishes such as Butter Chicken and Rajma are curry-based. These dishes are usually served with steamed rice and Chapaatis.
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Alias Alice



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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:57 am

HALLOWEEN

" 'The Woman in Blue', to be held in the new Town Hall." Heyes was reading aloud from a highly-coloured poster advertising the performance of a play. "What date is it today?”

“Don’t know, “ said Kid.  “The 31st, I think.  It must be Halloween."

"If it’s the 31st today, the first performance of that play is tonight.”

The two boys, travel-stained and weary, had been riding up the Main Street of the small town of Freshwater when their attention had been caught by the poster.

*

“Your room’s number 4,” said the desk-clerk at the hotel, where the boys were booking themselves in. “And would you like two tickets for the play tonight?   It’s about a woman in blue.”

The boys both spoke at the same time.

“Yes, please.”

“No, thanks.”

“Wouldn’t you like to go?” asked Heyes.

“Joshua, at the moment all I want is a bath, a hot meal and a night’s sleep.”

“Let me know if you decide to go,” said the clerk.  “I could get you tickets for two good seats. It’s a ghost story.  I’ve got a part in it.  I’ve got two lines to speak!”

“Hope you remember them,” said Heyes.  “How come you’ve got a part?  It says on the posters that it's a touring company."

“One of the travelling theatricals broke his ankle yesterday.  The manager of the company asked for a volunteer from the town to take his part.  That’s me!”

“Very good,” said Heyes, smiling.  “I would say ‘Break a leg’, but it doesn’t sound quite right under the circumstances.”

“What did you mean, Heyes, ‘Break a leg’?” said Kid a few minutes later when they were unpacking their bags in their hotel-room.

“It’s what you’re supposed to say to actors to bring them good luck before a play goes on.  It’s a tradition or a superstition, or something.  Are you sure you wouldn’t like to go?”

“Positive.  Definitely not.”

*

“What did you think of it?” Heyes asked his partner a few hours later, as they strolled away from the Town Hall after the performance.

“It was great!  Really good.  And so scary.  I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight!”

“Thought you were exhausted!  But I know what you mean.  It was very good.  How did they make the ghost seem so real?  When she appeared at the end, in that dark-blue cloak, you would have sworn you were really seeing a ghost.”

“I know.  How did they do it?  The way she was there one minute, and then just seemed to be not there the next.  And she was sort of misty.  I almost thought I could see through her.  How could they do that?”

“I don’t know.   Very clever.  Must be something to do with the lighting. And I thought the way the actors all acted so terrified was brilliant.  They all acted scared out of their wits.  But I wonder why they had her all dressed up in that thick blue cloak with the hood pulled right up over her head. They should have kept her in the blue dress she wore the rest of the time.  She looked a bit too different in that cloak.  She almost seemed to be another ghost entirely.  It  looked wrong.”

The boys had reached their hotel, and were surprised to see the hotel-clerk, still in costume, standing by the desk.

“Hello,” said Heyes.  “Didn’t expect to see you here.  Thought you’d still be back at the Town Hall, celebrating.  You were very good, by the way.”

“Nobody's celebrating anything.  The actors say they’re leaving straight away.  First thing in the morning,” the clerk stammered.  He was very pale and shaking.

“Leaving straightaway?  Why?  What about the other performances?”

“They say they’re never putting that play on again.  And they’re getting away from this town.”

“Why?”

“Because of the ghost.  The one at the end, just before the curtain fell.  She wasn’t part of the play.  She just appeared. It was horrible.”

“It wasn’t part of the play?  What was going on then?  Someone playing a joke?”

“No. No-one was playing a joke.  The ghost - she wasn’t – she didn’t – she didn’t seem to be, well, - real.   I was on stage with her.  You could sort of see through her.  She was there and not there at the same time.  No-one had ever seen her before. – The theatricals all think she was a ghost.”

“She can’t have been.”

“She was!  I was on stage with her!  I can’t tell you what it felt like.  Horrible.  Cold and strange and . . .  I can’t explain.  I’ve never been so afraid  in my life.  The leading lady said she thought she’d seen something in the shadows in the wings before the play started.  She thought she saw someone standing there one minute and gone the next.  She said that was what was on stage with us.”

“It was a stunt by the theatre company.”

“It wasn’t.  If you could have seen them afterwards!  They were all beside themselves with fear.  One of the girls fainted.  Good thing the ghost only appeared right  at the end of the play.  The actors couldn’t have kept going.”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other.

“I’ve got a bottle of whisky in our room,” said Curry.  “I’m going to get this young man a drink.  I think I could do with one too.”

*
The boys were leaving town next day. But before they left they had heard that the site of new Town Hall was said to have been haunted, years ago, when the town was first settled.  And three weeks later, they heard that the new Town Hall burned to the ground.  Coincidence?  Or the outcome of the grim appearance from the mysterious woman in blue?

Either way, the citizens of Freshwater are saving up to build a new Town Hall.  To be built right at the other end of town.


Last edited by Alias Alice on Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:38 am; edited 15 times in total
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Calico

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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:19 am

Do not faint – I have actually written a challenge.  First one since the 100 special.   This story is – sort of – not really, but sort of – a follow on to my December 2012 challenge ‘Five Years Earlier…’  


GHOSTS

“I might, to-day, have been a better, and thus a happier man…” from the short story, William Wilson, by Edgar Allen Poe, 1839.

---oooOOOooo---

“…As he hurried through the dark streets, Bill Wilson knew he was being followed.   Just knew it.   He knew it as the hairs rose prickling the back of his neck.  He knew it as his heart pounded in his chest.  He knew it as his breath caught in the tightness of his throat before freezing to fog in the icy night air.  He knew it in the very marrow of his bones.  Someone dogged his step.  And, the blood ran cold in his veins as he guessed – who.”

“Who?” piped up five year old Alex.

“Shush!” This from seven year old, Nate.

“Who? You ask me – who?”  The silver-tongued story-teller, met the wide-eyes of his audience of two.  “Who was the grim spectre in his path?”

“What’s a spec’er?”

“It’s another word for ghost,” snapped Nate.  “Shush.”

“He’s bein’ followed by a ghost?”

“Not an ordinary ghost.  If Bill Wilson thought the ghost behind him was merely a ghastly phantom, a formless shifting miasma, with eyes of burning hell fire...  A swirling mist from which would suddenly shoot forth bony fingers sharp as vultures’ talons to drag him to his doom.” Nate jumped and Alex yelped as a swift, clutching hand landed on each of their shoulders.  

“Hannibal,” warned Mary Curry, gently, from the fireside rocker.  “You’re scaring the boys.”

“It’s Halloween.” Her husband tapped his pipe on the grate and grinned at his childhood friend.  “He’s trying to scare ‘em.”

“I’m not scared!” protested Nate.  “’Course, Alex is only little...”

“Not little!  Not scared neither.”  Alex saw his Pa raise an eyebrow.  “Not much.”

“Course you’re not scared,” agreed Hannibal Heyes.  “You’re tough, like Bill Wilson.  If he’d thought it was nothing but a mist-ghost behind him, he would have turned to face it.  Same if he’d thought it was a skeleton type ghost – its rotting flesh hanging from its chalky bones, its hollow eye sockets the home to writhing grave worms, its mouth a gaping, cavernous maw issuing forth a hooowwwlll of despaaaaaaair…”

Two small bottoms wriggled back further in their chairs as the ghostly sound echoed in the darkened room.  Sure, Nate and Alex knew it was only a story, but – still.

“Like I say, if Bill Wilson had an ordinary ghost following him – he’d have turned around.  After all, there’s nothing so scary as what you only imagine might be there.  But, Bill knew he couldn’t turn around.  He must never - never - see the face of what followed him.  No, sir - never.  In case…”  

Pause.

“In case – what?” urged Nate.

“In case he was right.  In case the face was the one he most dreaded.  In case the face was…”

Hannibal pressed his lips together and shook his head.  Pause.   A smothered crack of laughter from the boys’ father.

“Was – what?” Alex’s turn.

“Was – his own face.”

The boys looked confused.

“Bill Wilson knew you must never, never see your doppelganger.  That’s the ghost with your own face.  If you let yourself see that…”  Again, Hannibal shook his head.  “It’s the worst thing possible.”

“Why?” said Nate.

“Because – your doppelganger is the ghost of what might have been.  The bad things that might have been.  The mistakes you leave unmade.  The mean things you want to do – and don’t.   Bill knew if his doppelganger caught him – or if he let himself turn around and met his own eyes staring back – he’d be miserable for ever.  His wife wouldn’t love him anymore.  His own children wouldn’t know him.   Sheesh, even his dog would whimper at the sight of him.  He’d be lonely, friendless, always a stranger.  Worse than that, he’d be a thief and a liar and…”

“Ma!”

Hannibal broke off as young Alex squealed and pointed at the window.  His blue eyes squeezed shut, tight as tight could be.  

“I saw it!  I saw doppelgan’ers!   Starin’ in.”

“Your own face, Alex?  That’ll be your reflection,” reassured Hannibal.  “Don’t worry.  That’s not a…”

“Not MY face.  Your’n.  Your’n and Pa’s.  Starin’!”

Hannibal turned to the window.  “There’s nothing th…”   He broke off.  Leaning forward he peered into the darkness, brow furrowing.   The shadows cast by the flames flickered on the inky glass.  

“What is it, Han?” asked Jed.  He too, turned to the window.  

“I’ll tell you what it is, it’s enough,” decided Mary Curry.  She turned up both oil lamps on the mantle and the big one in the centre of the table.  “The boys will have nightmares.  Warm milk, then time for bed.”

“No!” protested Nate.

“Yes,” insisted his mother.  “Alexander Curry, open your eyes.”

“No. Doppelgan’er.”

“There’s nothing here.  Open your eyes and see.  Come on.”  

Slowly, cautiously, Alex opened one eye.  The room was much lighter.  His mother stood by the window.  She passed her hand over the glass.  

“See, nothing there.  Nothing except reflections.”

Jed’s other eye opened.  “I did see Pa’s face.”  

“No wonder you were scared,” smiled Hannibal. “That moustache sure makes me shudder.”

“An’ you.  I saw you lookin’ all sad.”

“It was a trick of the light – and too many ghost stories,” said Mary Curry.  

“Or a reflection,” suggested her husband.

“Not from where you’re sat, Pa,” objected Nate.

“A reflection of a reflection in the mirror, maybe?” said Hannibal.  His brow furrowed again, brown eyes glancing from his friend’s position to the looking glass above the mantle to the window.  “Maybe,” he repeated.

“It was nothing.  Say goodnight to Doctor Heyes, then, bed.”  

The boys sighed but yielded to the voice of maternal authority.  

“Goodnight, Doctor Heyes.”

“Goodnight Mis… I mean, Doctor Heyes.”

Mary followed her sons up the stairs.  

Left alone with his friend, Jed Curry indicated a cupboard and raised a questioning eyebrow.   An answering smile and nod.  A bottle and two glasses were produced.   Pouring.  

“Goodnight, Doctor Heyes,” echoed Jed.  “Doctor.  D’you think you’ll ever get used to hearing it?”

“Times were, I thought I’d never have the chance to get used to it.”

“I never had no doubts.  Knew you’d get that scholarship.”

“Modesty aside, I knew that too…”

“With you, Han.  There’s never no modesty aside.”

Hannibal Heyes gave his friend ‘the look’.

“What I didn’t know – was whether I could stick to the books all those years and stick behind that counter every evening and weekend earning my keep at the same time.”

“Well, you did – Doctor.”  A sip of whiskey.  “Was it worth it?”

“It was now.  Sometimes watching other fellas enjoying themselves, while I counted pennies and sat up till the small hours memorising text books – not so much.”

Companionable silence.  A coal on the fire popped.  

Hannibal Heyes started, glancing over his shoulder at the window as if something outside rather the sudden noise had disturbed him, then sat musing.   He stirred in his chair.  “Jed, d’you ever wonder whether we played it too safe?”

“Safe?”

“I mean look at us.  Not thirty yet and here we sit – pipes, slippers, armchairs by the fire.  D’you ever think – is this what I really want?”

“Being a Doctor is what you really want.  Sheesh, I remember you telling me that back when you used to follow Doc Wallace around trying to see in his bag.”

“Okay.  Point taken.  But what about you?”

“I dunno.   Hauling lumber in a Chicago timber yard day after day… It wasn’t what I’d have chosen, but…No.  No regrets.”  A pause.  Then, quietly, “It’s fine.   Steady work and - no one was ever gonna offer me a scholarship, Han.”

Hannibal, catching the slight ruefulness in the tone, smiled at his friend.  “Mister Larsen made you up to supervisor quick enough.  And, I reckon it’ll be a partnership one day.”

“I’m not complaining.  Sheesh.  He’s a good boss –- plenty worse than him.  Don’t I know it?   I like the folks I work with.  They like me.  Counts for a lot.  Besides, I’ve got Mary and the boys and – this place may not be a palace, but it’s plenty for us.   I know what you mean though.  Sometimes a man gets to thinking – where’d the last ten years go?”

The glasses were refilled.    

Once again, Hannibal Heyes turned, suddenly, to the window, brown eyes frowning into the night.  Then; “D’you ever think about that evening back in Valparaiso?”

“Which?”

“You know which.  We were all set to run off.  We’d promised we’d never be split up.  So, there we were – we’d made it all the way to the station – planning to hop a train, and… I talked you out of it.”

“Way I recall it – we talked each other out of it.”

“C’mon.”

“Okay – maybe you did most of the talking.  What’s new?”  Jed sipped his drink.  “You were right – we weren’t exactly split up.  We just lived in different places for a while.   Temporarily.  Not for long.”

“Not long?!   You didn’t think that at the time.”

“Two years seems forever when you’re thirteen.  It’s not though.  You were right.  Two years passed quick enough.  And like you said – we could write.  We wrote every week.”

I wrote every week, Jed.”

“Okay, I missed a few – more’n a few.  And I never wrote as much as you.  Sheesh, who could?”

“‘Hi Han, Got your letter.  I’m fine.  Things are fine here.  Write soon, Jed’” smiled Hannibal.

Quietly; “Okay.  I might not have wrote much – but I read yours.  Every week.   Pages and pages it seemed.” Blue eyes met brown.  “You never missed.  Not once.  And… I knew.  All the stuff you’d said about not being really split up – it kinda made it true.”

“Kinda – but not really.  Truth is, when push came to shove – I couldn’t give up my chance.  Even if it meant leaving you behind.”

“When push came to shove – I hope I wouldn’ta let you.”

“I reckon you might, Jed.”

“I was thirteen.  Face it – thirteen is dumb.  Good job you had some sense.”

“I guess.”   Again the brown eyes strayed, briefly, to the window.    “If we had run off – where d’you reckon we’d be now?”

“From what I recall, the plan was, get good jobs, get a stake together, head out to the gold fields, get real rich.  Oh, and never eat no more greens.  And we’d have candy every day.”

“I reckon that last one was just you, Jed.”

“I never told you, ‘cos it was kinda mushy – but I hoped I might meet a real nice girl.”

“I DID tell you, I hoped I might meet a real bad one – or two.  Or ten.   No, really, where d’you reckon we’d be?”

“Further west, I guess.   I dunno.  With you doing the talking and figuring, I’m guessing we’d be doing okay. ”   Jed poked the fire.  Sparks flew into the dark hollow of the chimney.  “Maybe some of those writers you and Mary like so much are right about fate and destiny and stuff.  Maybe we’d both be right here doing the same as…  For Pete’s sake, Han!  What is with you and that window?   It’s like talking to a dang spinning top.  If you think something’s out there – say so.  We’ll go outside, have a proper look.”

“NO!”

Jed blinked at the force of his friend’s tone.  

“I mean, no – there’s nothing there,” Hannibal repeated more gently.  “It’s just the wind.”  He topped up both glasses and, keeping his eyes steadfastly on first the bottle, then on Jed, he turned the angle of his chair a touch so its back was even more firmly toward the window.    “I’ve decided I’m going to take the hospital post at Rush after all.”

“I thought you’d go for that offer from Doctor Waterford – better hours and general practice being more the kinda doctoring you’d always seen yourself doing?”

“It was a great offer, sure.  But, when push came to shove – seems I like the research side better.  The stakes are higher, it’s more of a gamble whether I’ll succeed, but… You see, Jed, if we can just figure out what causes a particular disease – and like, I always say, there’s a formula for everything…”

By the cosy fireside the two friends talked on.

Outside, two bleak figures, one huddled in an inadequate grey coat, the other in a much begrimed sheepskin turned away from the window.    Hunching their shoulders against the chill of the night, they rode away into the darkness.

They had no wives to love them.  No children to know them. Lonely.  Living in each new place along the road as strangers.    

They were thieves.  They were liars.  

They were outcasts and outlaws.  

And, they had seen one of the worst things possible.  They had seen their doppelgangers – ghosts with their own faces.  The ghosts of what might have been.


END


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Cornelia May

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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:47 pm

Amber was in the library doing some research for her next paranormal investigation. She planned on her and the rest of the Southern Wyoming Paranormal Society to investigate in the old Devil's Hole hideout, due to the claims of active spirits, especially that of Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes.

Research was yielding much information about the location and the manner in which the gang had met its end.

She was stunned to find out the Calvary had, for lack of a better term, massacred the gang after a supply run in the early fall of 1879. Violent death always bread hauntings, even the residual sort.

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

Amber sighed as she pulled up to the rusty gate. Why had she let her friends talk her and Dave into spending Halloween night in the old Devil's Hole hideout...alone? Okay, not entirely alone...she had her German Shepard and Huskey mix, Bear... And of course, Dave would arrive later to help set up the cameras and such.

She was a paranormal investigator as a hobby, but it usually just involved watching Ghost Hunters reruns on the SciFi channel and spending nights in haunted hotel rooms with a camera aimed at the bed while she slept.

She never really caught anything groundbreaking in the paranormal world, just shadow figures here and there, orbs...lots of orbs, dust, and bugs..., one time she caught a voice...but later found out it was just someone down the hall with the TV turned up...loud infomercial voice gave that away..., and a few unexplainable light anomalies.

She got out of the truck finally after contemplating all the evidence she had caught over the last few years and decided that this wasn't such a bad idea. She undid the bailing wire tie that held the gate closed and opened it wide enough for the three quarter ton pickup to go through without scratching against anything.

After engaging four wheel drive she slowly drove the narrow path into the Hole. She suspected the path had been created by years of teenagers from the local town riding their four-wheelers and other ATVs through to see if the legend about Dead Line Point was true. When she reached the weather worn sign marking the location of the dead line she stopped, contemplating if she wanted to see if her truck would be chased down by ghostly senturies. Deciding not to tempt fate, she honked the horn in three long blasts, hoping whatever spirits there would accept it, instead of the customary gunfire.

Amber parked the truck out in front of the dilapidated cabin, where she would set up the monitor for the stationary cameras she had brought with her.

Bear jumped out the driver side window and started trotting around and sniffing the new scents. He brayed, much like a beagle, when he caught the scent of a rabbit, which he followed all the way to the rundown barn. After a few moments of sniffing around the outside he found a way in and sniffed around inside for only a few moments before coming out, yelping all the way to the truck.

"Bear..." Amber sighed, thinking he had poked his nose on some old barbed wire or splintering wood. She checked the spooked dog over for injury before giving him a loving pat on the head. "Stay close by."

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

Later, after her friend arrived and help set up the generator and the equipment, she headed to the barn; seemed with only a night vision camera, a flash light, and her phone with the voice recording app open.

Though it was the middle of summer and the sun had only began to set, the interior of the barn was nearly pitch black. She sat down on an old crate at the far end of the rundown outbuilding, started her phone's recorder, and started asking questions.

Off to her left she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. "Is that you I just saw?" she asked. After asking unexplainable noises were heard, noises that coincided with taking care of horses.

Suddenly the space changed around her to show a scene of a group of men riding into the barn, then seeing to their horses after dismounting. There were several whoops and hollers from the group as the two lead men stared dividing money amongst the others. The dark haired man turned toward Amber and smiled largely before the scene faded.

She got up and ran back to the cabin where everything was setup. "Dave, did you see anything on the still cam in the barn just now?"

"No one other than you, Am. Why, what happened?" Dave countered.

"Whatever ghosts are here aren't going to be intelligent. I think Devil's Hole has a residual haunting." Amber stated.

Just as Dave was getting ready to answer a far away sounding, female voice is heard. "Think again..."

Both Dave and Amber hurry to pack things up and get out of the cabin and Devil's Hole, never to return to find out who the disembodied voice belonged to.

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

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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:42 pm

Halloween
By Maz McCoy
“You sure about this?” Heyes asked. He sat on a chair in the corner of the hotel room watching as his partner strapped on his gun belt.
“What choice do I have?” Kid asked as he fastened the buckle.
“You could stay here,” Heyes suggested.
Kid gave him a look before bending to tie the holster string around his thigh. “And wait for him to find me? Maybe get shot in the back? I don’t think so.”
“We’re supposed to stay out of trouble,” Heyes reminded him unnecessarily.
Kid met his friend’s steely gaze. “And yet it still finds us.” He picked up his hat from the bed post and settled it on his head.
Heyes rose and walked to the door.
“You’re not gonna try and stop me are you?” Kid asked as his friend placed his hand on the door knob.
Heyes scoffed. “I’m not that brave.”

***
The street was empty when they stepped from the hotel onto the boardwalk. Lanterns illuminated the store fronts; casting dancing shadows in the dust.
“Who calls a man out at midnight?” Heyes asked rhetorically as he scanned the street in both directions. “Whatever happened to the traditional high noon?”
“Are you gonna keep jabbering on?” Kid asked, his eyes also taking in every movement of every shadow.
“Am I making you nervous?” Heyes asked.
“No, but I might forget which man I came here to shoot.”
Heyes feigned hurt and looked pointedly in both directions. “Don’t seem like much of a choice at the moment. You sure you got the right day?”
Kid gave him a look refusing to dignify the comment with an answer.
The sound of footsteps on the boardwalk put an end to any further conversation. The heavy thud of boots on the wooden planks reverberated in the still night air. Heyes saw the subtle changes in his friend’s stance as he prepared to face whatever danger lay ahead.
Kid saw Heyes move to stand beside him and then frowned as his partner’s expression changed to one of surprise.
“You gentlemen are out late,” an unfamiliar voice observed.
Kid turned and saw what Heyes had. The light glinted off a metal star pinned to the man’s buttoned jacket.
“Sheriff,” Kid said in greeting.
“What you boys doing out here this time of night?” the lawman asked.
“Just taking the air,” Heyes informed him before Kid felt the need to reveal the truth.
The sheriff’s eyes took in the gun strapped to Kid’s thigh.
“You wouldn’t be waiting for Owen would you?” The surprised look on the blond man’s face was answer enough. The sheriff chuckled. “Thought that might be the case when I saw you boys step outside.” Kid and Heyes exchanged a glance. “You wouldn’t be the first. Doubt you’ll be the last. Met you at the livery did he?”
“Yes,” Kid admitted, somewhat confused.
“Accused you of stealing his horse?”
“Yeah. Said the horse I rode in on was his.” Kid shot Heyes another look. What’s going on?
Heyes did not know either.
“Called you out over the horse I bet?” The lawman stated.
Kid nodded.
“Sheriff, is there something we should know?” Heyes asked.
The sheriff smiled. “What you should know is you have nothing to worry about. Hal won’t be turning up. Happens the same time each year. Must be going on ten years now. Hal shows up, accuses a stranger of stealing his horse and calls him out.”
“If he does this so often how come…”
The sheriff held up a hand interrupting Kid.
“He won’t show, son. We won’t see him again until the same time next year. You got nothing to worry about.” He touched the brim of his hat. “Good night, gents.”
Kid stood opened mouthed watching as the sheriff strolled off along the boardwalk. “What was that all about? Who calls someone out and doesn’t turn up?” When his friend did not reply Kid turned to face him. “Heyes?”
Hannibal Heyes watched the sheriff disappear into the dark. “Did you hear what the sheriff said the man’s name was?”
“Yeah, Owen, but I knew that.”
“I mean his full name.”
Heyes looked Kid directly in the eyes and waited. Kid thought back to what the sheriff had said.
“He said it was Hal. Hal…” Kid stopped.
Heyes nodded. “And you know what today is.”
“You don’t think..?”
“I have no idea what I think but I’m going back inside and in the morning we’re riding out of this town.”
Kid was not about to argue with his partner this time.

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Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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Cal

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PostSubject: Halloween   Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:44 pm

I can’t Write about Halloween

Hannibal Heyes tried to open his eyes. The heavy lids refused to move more than the smallest fraction, but he could see there was liquor left in the bottle Preacher had given him. He smirked, and put the bottle back to his lips.  He’d abandoned the glass after the third pour. The crude Red Eye burnt into his throat but he swallowed with a shudder and didn’t spill a drop.

‘Would it be enough? …. Enough?’

He gurgled a laugh out with the gasp of shock as the Gut Rot hit his stomach.

‘Must be getting there…’ he thought, but there was no denying the pain in his thigh, fuzzier, but still hot and insistent.

Another swallow and the bottle was empty.  He swore loudly and launched the bottle at his bedroom door. It smashed very gratifyingly and he noted with satisfaction that his eyes now refused to open at all.

Oblivion was within his grasp. He seemed to be flat on his back.

“Guess that means … you’re about ready for us now… Did you put the gun down?” Kid put just his nose into the room.  

When it wasn’t shot off, he followed it into the bedroom.  

The place smelt like a brewery and Heyes was lying back on his bed, unmoving.  He’d removed his gun belt and his vest and shirt.  One boot was half off.  The one that wasn’t full of blood.

“Preacher… Lobo…. I think he’s out…” Kid called back over his shoulder.

“I ain’t out…” groaned Heyes, without opening his eyes.  

“Need… ‘nother bo’’le….”

“Don’t think so partner… Preacher… Get in here will you… He’s still bleeding… We need to get that bullet out now!”

---oooOOOooo---

Imagine Heyes’ surprise when his eyes opened on a wood. Thin rays of weak sun peeked through a green canopy. His lids didn’t even feel heavy.  He wiped at his face with bloody hands and they came away covered in dark mud.  He’d covered his face in mud to help him evade the posse.  

He sat up and wiped his hands down the front of his grubby Henley. He was in a green wood in a state of some undress, one boot hanging off his foot the other squelching with…

‘What was that?.....EEEEW….. BLOOD!’

He traced the hole high on the back of his thigh.  Felt the wet of his own blood soaking down the back of his pants and long johns.  Strangely there was no pain, and no fresh bleeding, even though the stains on his hands looked bright and fresh.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a white rabbit run between two trees.  He spun to follow its path with his eyes, and noticed another bunny over to his left.

Then another.

“What the … ? What’s going on here?”

Shakily he got to his feet, pulling the offending boot back on, and wiping his grimy hands down the back of his pants. He ran his only slightly cleaner fingers back through his unruly hair, and gingerly turned on the spot to get his bearings.

“AHHHHHGGGGGG!”

Behind him stood two people.  They weren’t there a second ago.  Heyes’ heart had leapt to his mouth.

They were wearing strange clothes and each was holding a writhing white bunny. The only thing that looked vaguely normal about them were their hats, one black and battered, the other brown and floppy.  These two looked vaguely familiar to him, like he’d met them before somewhere.

“AHHHHGGGGG!” screamed the first one.  

“Calico! Don’t do that.  I know its Halloween but I thought he was a ghost!”

The one called Calico looked Heyes up and down, taking in his condition, and then eyed her companion ruefully.

“He’s not with me Maz! He’s been shot…. He’s gotta be with you! …. You decided to shoot both of them for Halloween… huh? I suppose Kid’s around here somewhere with a big hole in him.”

Heyes’ eyes went large as saucers.  He was pulling the edges of his Henley together at his neck for modesty’s sake.  He’d worked out that these two, were women.  Unarmed women, clutching big white bunnies, and they were talking about shooting his partner, and he himself had already been shot, even if he couldn’t feel it at the moment.  

‘Had they shot him?’

“I did not!” protested Maz.

She squeezed the bunny to her chest and closed her eyes for just a second.

“I’ve got me a live Kid Curry… preparing for a gunfight …and a very un-shot Heyes… ready to stand at his side…. I didn’t shoot him…. Not this time…. anyway….”

Calico squeezed the cuddly white bunny to her chest and looked serenely happy as her eyes briefly closed.

“Well …. I’ve got them facing up to … what might have beens…. with not even a mention of shootings… And Heyes is a well-dressed …. well educated doctor! So… HE….has to be with you!”

Maz looked confused briefly, then fascinated.

“OOOOh ….that’s really interesting…. A doctor… and no one gets shot…. Not even Kid… Not even a little bit?”

“No… It’s a bit of a stretch but … being a Halloween bunny… I thought I’d investigate their alternative fates….”
Calico started to explain.

Heyes’ eyes closed.  He’d been trying to follow this. He shook his head and stretched the silver tongue.

“Would one of you…. Ladies …. care to tell me…. Where I am… Who shot me… and why I’m surrounded by bunnies?”

He looked from one to the other.  Their faces seemed very familiar.  He was beginning to feel less panicky.  These gals weren’t the law.  Weren’t bounty hunters.  He just knew, somehow, he could trust them.

“And…. how do you know who I am?” he smiled at Calico.

“I was a doctor ….Huh?” he added happily.

“And Maz hasn’t shot Kid this time…..yet….. huh?” he beamed at Maz.

”Well that’s good…”

Memories were starting to come back.

“This is not good.” said Maz flatly to Calico.  “Not good at all…He looks like outlaw years Heyes to me and he’s hurt…. And …he shouldn’t be here … not yet.  We haven’t rounded up all the spare bunnies …or got all the caught ones corralled up on the story site together.  He must have …. leaked …. here somehow….”

Heyes looked shocked.

“Hey…. I didn’t leak from nowhere” he said, rather annoyed again “…. I’m not even bleeding… My legs fine … see…. Got a hole in it…. Sure …. But if you need help with a round up….”

From behind a nearby tree came a small cough.

“Erm…. Sorry…. My bad…. He’s with me….”

A shady figure emerged from behind the tree.

“I very nearly caught a bunny …. But it wriggled away from me…. It’s Halloween…. I’ve never been any good at the ghostly ghoulish stuff…. I was trying to introduce a little blood and pain…. And… And I just couldn’t sustain it….”

Maz and Calico looked around sadly.  

Calico’s eyes closed in resignation.

“Cal… You’re going to have to take him back…. And quick… before he remembers who we all are …. He’s never going to be able to really live the stories… if he knows after we choose our favourite every month he gets to go around getting adoring cuddles off everyone, and gets to live the life of Reilly for the rest of the month with the winner!”

“Now Cal!” added Maz.

Cal walked over and took Heyes’ hand.  She reached down and picked up a very small bunny with her other hand.

“I’m really sorry about this” she said to him quietly, “The good news is… all the gory stuff is over….”

---oooOOOooo---

“How you doin’ Partner…. Had us all worried there for a while.”

Kid tried to get Heyes to swallow a little more water. Luckily with the continuous mumbling from the silver tongued one, it meant he was able to keep pouring drops of water into Heyes’ parched throat.

“Even small bunnies are worth saving…” mumbled Heyes.

Kid smiled.  

‘Heyes was dreaming ….Gals dressed as bunnies…. Whatever next?’

Preacher said Heyes’ fever had broken, and the delirium dreams should be coming to an end soon.

Now he knew his cousin was on the mend, Kid could enjoy some of Heyes’ wilder ramblings.  The one about a gal called Maz not shooting him, was his particular favourite to date.  Heyes was sure enjoying some wild dreams.

“Don’t wake anytime soon Heyes… That leg is going to hurt like crazy… You stay with your Bunny girls just as long as you can.”

---oooOOOooo---
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cac



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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:59 pm

Halloween

Jed had told them all about “Mischief Night” from his trip to Philadelphia, back when they all had families. Tipping over outhouses, unhinging farmer’s gates, throwing eggs, smearing rotten veggies…nothing seemed off-limits! It hadn’t been October 31st when he was there, but he had soaked up every detail and shared them with relish late one night when some of the boys had snuck out to share some stolen cigarettes.

Now here it was, Halloween, but at the Home for Waywards. Nick and Robert were disgusted. They hated the headmaster, they hated math, they hated the damn Yankees, they hated paddlings, and most of all they hated being told what to do and not do. Robert in particular had an edge of almost desperate wildness. He’d never gotten over the beatings he’d received from his father or the cringing embarrassment when he realized his mother was a prostitute. He’d been found sucking his thumb (even though he was 12) in the corner of the small home they’d lived in at the far edge of town, covered in tears and dirt, after the raiders had done their evil and left. Nick was his only friend and the planner of all their mischief, but he made sure that Robert was always the one left holding the bag of stolen items, telling Robert it was because he knew he was the fastest one.

Nick had run away when he was 13, tired of being the oldest son and in charge of all the younger kids as well as the farming since his dad had disappeared one night, leaving his mom to manage by herself. He’d been found hiding in a farmer’s barn the morning after the raid, and he’d found the Home for Waywards a good-enough place to stay with at least some reliability of food (although he felt the cook, Mr. Rodriguez, sometimes shorted him on purpose) and the other boys generally easy enough to boss around. All but Heyes and Jed.

Heyes was a planner too, and Jed often ended up holding the bag of small-time stolen stuff too, but there the similarities ended. Nick had been trying for months to get Heyes to join him in pulling a really big job, like breaking into the headmaster’s office to pee on the books or to open the henhouse and see if the foxes got in, but Heyes always refused. And Jed did what Heyes said. Tonight, though, Nick had the best idea, and he knew Heyes couldn’t refuse the temptation.

Heyes loved poker. He was good at it. And Nick had heard that the ranch down the road was hosting a big poker game. All the men would be in the ranch house, playing, leaving their fancy horses and gear in the barn. Nick was betting that the ranch hands wouldn’t be too concerned with actually guarding the horses once they were rubbed down. Nick’s plan was to convince Heyes and Jed to sneak over with him and Robert to watch the game from the windows. Then he and Robert would sneak off on some excuse, go through the saddlebags, and once they all got back to the Home, hide the loot in a hole he’d dug in the back of the cook’s chicken coop. And he’d put one piece of loot in the cook’s saddlebag. Just in case. Annnnnnd he just might drop that pack of cards that Heyes always had near the ranch window. Just in case. It wasn’t the same kind of mischief he was used to doing, but in another way, it was better.

All went according to plan. Heyes couldn’t resist the game, Nick and Robert got so much loot from the saddlebags that they had to dig a bigger hole than the one they’d prepared late that night after Heyes and Jed were back asleep, and they were able to stash a silver belt buckle in the cook’s saddlebag. Mischief Night indeed.

The next day at lunchtime, the boys heard a commotion from the kitchen. The sheriff appeared with the headmaster behind him and the cook firmly in his grasp. The cook spotted Nick and cried, “Him! Him! He hates me! He’s always sneaking around, trying to steal food! He put the buckle in my saddlebag!”

The sheriff turned to Nick. “Son, is this true?”

Nick scoffed. “Why would I care about putting a buckle in a saddlebag? And I don’t steal food. That fat old cook eats it all and just wants to blame me!”

The headmaster stepped in. “Nick, someone stole quite a bit from the saddlebags of some men at the Rocking R ranch last night. The sheriff followed some foot tracks back to here and found a silver buckle in the cook’s saddlebags. I tend to believe the cook, and I know you’ve snuck out plenty, boy.”

Nick said, “Well, I’m not the only who sneaks out. Did you find anything else in your search, sheriff?”

The sheriff looked startled, then pulled out Heyes’ deck of cards. “I did find this outside the ranch in the dust, but I figured it for belonging to one of the ranch hands or even one of the players.” The headmaster leaned over to look at it and recognized it as a deck he’d confiscated one too many times from young Mr. Heyes.

Jed lunged toward Nick, fist pulled back, but the headmaster was quick and blocked him. Heyes lifted his chin defiantly. “Those are my cards, but I didn’t steal anything. I just went to watch the poker game from the window.”

The sheriff said, “Oh, and who else went with you?”

“No one,” said Heyes.

“No one else?” asked the sheriff.

There was dead silence. “Nope,” said Heyes. He was grim, but he wasn’t about to break the code of no snitching. Nick snickered. Robert kept glancing at Nick, at the cook, and at the floor.

The sheriff sighed. “All right, I’ll have to take you both in. Come on, Mr. Heyes and Mr. Rodriguez. Evidence puts you both at the scene, and until I recover the rest of the loot and figure out which one of you did it [looking at Nick], I’ll have to keep you locked up.” He handcuffed both the teen and the man and took them away.

~~~~~~~~

That night, Jed snuck over to Nick’s bed. “Get up. You and I are going to break Heyes out of the sheriff’s office. This is all your fault, and you’re going to fix it.”

Nick leaned back on his elbows and inspected the angry kid. He’d never seen Jed like this, blue eyes blazing but controlled. Jed never dropped his gaze, and Nick knew that meant a real challenge. Robert was snoring three bunks away and no help. So he shrugged and said, “It’s all part of the plan. We’ll break him out, steal some horses, and get out of town. You in? We can’t come back here.”

Jed nodded. He knew that, but he also knew he couldn’t take a chance on Heyes staying in trouble.

So Nick woke up Robert, they stole some food from the kitchen, and on their way out the door, Nick sent Robert to dig up some of the loot. It wouldn’t matter in the morning when the rest of it was discovered; it would be clear who the real thieves were since the four boys would all be missing. And they would need to sell it for money somewhere farther down the line.

When they got to the sheriff’s office, Nick pulled out a gun. “Whoa! Where did you get that?” Jed was horrified. “You can’t hold up the sheriff! We’ll get in real trouble!”

Nick said patiently, “Jed, once we break Heyes out of jail, we’re real outlaws. Real outlaws carry guns. It’s the cook’s gun-I’ve seen it hidden in the bread box, and I like it. He tried to get me in trouble, so it’s mine now. And we need it-you want to get Heyes out, right?”

Jed hesitated, feeling like he was on the brink of something bad, but he couldn’t see another way. “OK.”

Jed looked at Robert. “Robert, are you OK with this?” Robert’s voice quavered, but he tried to cover it up and said, “Oh hell yeah!” Nick handed Robert the gun and said, “I’ll knock, and you point the gun at the sheriff when he opens the door. Keep pointing it at him until he unlocks the cell with Heyes and we put him in it with the cook. Got it?” Robert nodded, his hand somewhat shakily holding the gun.

And it all went down as you’d expect. The sheriff answered, the cell was opened, the cook lunged for freedom, and a nervous teenager shot the gun. The sheriff tried to save the dying man as the boys ran. Two boys ran for the livery stable, one practically dragging the other, hysterical one, while two others ran toward a passing train, dodging under some barbed wire to get there just in time.

Later, Heyes broke the silence which had sat heavily in the train car after a brief but strong few minutes of cursing. “Jed, what the hell was that?”

Jed miserably lifted his face. “Heyes, I didn’t know what else to do. I had to get you out, and Nick’s the only one that I thought could do it, and I knew I could make him. I never dreamed he’d have a gun.” He looked down at himself, splattered with blood from the cook. “I never want to see a gun again.”

Heyes regarded his friend. He knew Jed’s skill with the weapon, and he knew they’d need it to hunt for food. That’s why he’d grabbed the sheriff’s Peacemaker on his way out the door.

He pulled it out of his pocket and laid it on the floor. Jed looked at him, speechless. Heyes said, “Jed, you’re not only gonna see a gun, you’re going to have to wear it and shoot it. It’s the only way we can eat. We’re on the run, and nothing can change that.” Jed didn’t move. “Jed, what you can decide right now is what kind of outlaws we’re gonna be.” He leaned back against the side of the train, and fell asleep.

When he woke the next morning, the gun was gone. The door was open, and Jed was leaning against the side, looking out over the beautiful fall fields of gold. Heyes scratched his belly and walked over. He wondered briefly if the gun had been thrown out the door, but he looked at the peaceful face of his friend and knew it hadn’t been. Jed said, “I’m never shooting anyone, never.”

Heyes said, “Of course not.”

Some time later as the train slowed for a hard bend, Jed said it was time to find some breakfast, and they jumped.
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: October 17 - Halloween   Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:12 pm

Bethought

Kid Curry stared into the still glowing embers of the dwindling campfire. The chill of the autumn morning might bow to the warm sun of yesterday, or it might not. It was hard to predict an afternoon’s temperature with the recent cool, crisp, clear mornings so common to mid-altitudes in October.

He wrapped his arms around his torso to stretch cramped back muscles and rub warmth into his body. Sleeping on hard ground at any time of year was never comfortable, and pretty as the days could be during a fall afternoon, once the sun set, the temperatures dropped like the proverbial rock. A campfire emitted so much heat, but not enough to offset a chilled ground. As well, he and Heyes slept further from the fire this time of year, having to extend its perimeter lest falling leaves or detritus from a squirrel’s dinner or winter preparation landed in the flames and caused sparks to alight on one’s blanket.

A good-paying ranch job had extended a month longer than planned when a bonus for staying on enticed them to linger, despite the sometimes back-breaking work they tried to avoid. Now flush for winter, warmer climes beckoned, although a decision on a destination had yet to be made.

All possibilities had their drawbacks. The foster uncle in Texas offered a respite from the trail but he had a knack for drawing them into some hair-brained scheme they would prefer to stay clear of. The colonel in New Mexico would likely have a few delivery jobs just when they would prefer to take it easy after the ranch, so perhaps was best saved as a fallback for when funds ran low. That left the wealthy friend in San Francisco with the luxe accommodations and the finer things in life. A body could get used to that, but their savings would last but a short time in such surroundings.

So, for now, they had the trail. Feeling a bit under the weather, Curry let Heyes take the initiative to go hunting to have meat for a broth. It was a role reversal, but they had always taken care of each other. Nothing serious, really – a few sniffles and small cold. After Heyes left, he had dozed off again, only to waken at the sound of a gunshot.

Shaking the cobwebs from his brain, he rose and looked around for dry branches to throw on the fire. The task was easier said than done, though, as most were still green. Grabbing an axe, he ventured a little ways from camp and spied a fallen pine. Small as it was, he imagined its jagged trunk spoke to the lightning strike that had likely felled it some time back. Yawning into the breeze, he chopped a couple of pieces to lug back and add to the fire, taking note of its location for when they needed more wood.

With the fire ablaze, he partook of the coffee his partner had made. Its bitter taste went down good and warmed him. Not hungry and sated for the moment, he regarded the place where they had spent the night.

The campsite was located in an opening in a pine forest with a mix of new growth and older trees that had stood sentinel to the ages. It was not dense, and the sun’s rays filtered through like points of a star. It evoked a magical quality, lighter and brighter than the advancing twilight of yesterday when they had stopped. Rushing daylight, they had set up camp without time to spare, with jerky a meagre supper just as the first shadows of nightfall overtook them.

With that thought, a sudden chill sent tingles down his spine. Grandpa Curry had related to them it was on such nights as those as a boy in Ireland he would spend time with his family in the local church yard on All Hallows’ Eve before lighting candles at home to guide the souls of the faithfully departed ancestors home. There were other, more lighthearted customs for the children, but that one stuck with him. It had all seemed so serious to him as a youngster, and he reasoned later it was the sight of the solemn, wide-eyed stares of his grandchildren that kept Grandpa Curry telling the stories year after year. Serious stories, indeed, but told with a sly grin! Yes, Jed Curry might not be a philosopher, but the thrall in which the older man had kept the young-uns, well, that was another story unto itself.

His partner’s arrival brought Kid back to the present. He sneezed.

“It’s cold out here and we don’t need you getting worse.” Heyes laid his rifle and prey on the ground and neared the campfire in an attempt to shake off the chill. “Better get this stewing so we can warm up.”

Curry regarded his cousin with one of those wistful looks that begged a response.

“What?”

He shrugged. “Nothin’. Just rememberin’.” A pause. “I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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