Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

Buckshot Enterprises Presents a site for posting and reading Alias Smith and Jones Stories
 
HomePortalFAQSearchRegisterLog in

Share | 
 

 Luck of the Draw by Lana Coombe and Grace R. Williams

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
royannahuggins
Moderator
avatar

Posts : 419
Join date : 2013-10-13

20131101
PostLuck of the Draw by Lana Coombe and Grace R. Williams

Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy


Rex King   Powers Boothe


Solomon     Heath Ledger


Leah     Anne Hathaway


Deke Winters     Gene Hackman


Lester Pickett     Pete Postlethwaite


Coogan     W. Earl Brown


Peterson     Harvey Keitel


Amos Riley     Slim Pickens


Jack Diamond     Timothy Olaphant


 Mik Johnson     Gregg Rainwater


Mervyn Wayland     Lee Marvin


Sean Ryder     Sean Bean


Dr. Grey      Milburn Stone



The town of Kingdom was a welcome sight for the two weary riders, who now approached. For the last couple of months, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry eked a meager living delivering supplies for a mining company.

They came across Kingdom more by luck than judgment but, as they rode in, they felt that fortune may be smiling on them for once. They rode down the main street, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the town appeared prosperous, well maintained and with enough bustle of activity to ensure that two strangers wouldn’t draw too much attention. There were two hotels, one a little more luxurious than the other and two saloons, one that advertised a gambling room with regular poker. There was a well stocked mercantile and a large livery. What pleased Heyes and Curry, more than anything else, was the lack of a sheriff’s office.

Giving his partner a cheerful, dimpled grin, Heyes commented, “Looks like we’ve found ourselves a real nice little town!”

Curry returned the smile, his eyes creasing under his brown hat. “Think I’m gonna like it here, just fine,” he said, riding to the hitching post outside the nearest saloon, The Palace.

The saloon didn’t quite live up to its name but, although basic, offered a modicum of comfort, in its wooden chairs and worn tables, to what they had been used to in the last couple of months. It was quiet, save for a couple of men who lurked in the dark corner recesses.

Strolling to the bar, they were met by the bartender, Amos Riley, a soft faced man with a languid demeanor which contrasted sharply with the slyness in his eyes. “What’ll it be?” he asked gruffly.

“Whiskey, two,” replied Heyes, holding up appropriate number of fingers on his gloved, right hand. He and Curry eased themselves forward to lean on the bar. They watched with eager anticipation as Riley placed a pair of shot glasses in front of them and poured the golden liquid, before snapping the cork back into the neck of the bottle with a purposeful smack. In unison, they took the glasses and raised them in salutation to one another, then downed the whiskey in one swift movement. The bartender shuffled forward and proffered the bottle. “Looks like you needed that,” he remarked.

Still savoring the taste from the first, Heyes indicated that a second was required, by tilting his glass in the bottle’s direction. One look at the other man’s intent blue eyes told Riley he needed a refill also and the bartender readily obliged.

Heyes straightened up, intending to savor the second drink a little more. He turned to look about the room, resting his elbow on the bar and sipping from the glass in his other hand. Curry remained where he was but wrapped his fingers about his own glass, taking small mouthfuls.

Sitting alone at a corner table, dark eyes watched from beneath a wide brimmed hat, pulled low. The owner of these eyes listened intently as the two strangers made conversation with the bartender.

“Which of the hotels do you recommend?” asked Heyes, twisting his head towards the bartender.

“Either. They’re both owned by the same man, makes no real difference apart from the one has better food and softer beds.”

“Which one would that be?” was Heyes’ next question.

“That’d be The Jewel. You planning on staying in town a while then?” enquired the thin-faced man.

“Could be. Seems this town has quite a bit to offer. The poker here, is it straight?” Heyes turned to face the bartender now so that he could read his expression to see if he was being truthful.

“Sure is,” the man replied defensively, “and at The Crown. Both saloons are owned by the same man, so I should know. Same man as owns the hotels.”

Curry shot his partner a sideways glance, raising his eyebrows, at this new information.

“Seems this man must be mighty important around here,” Heyes commented.

“He sure is. Mr. King’s the Mayor too.”

Curry gave a snort, shook his head and standing up straight, and finished his drink. He slapped the glass on the bar.

“Think I’m about ready to get me a bath and somethin’ to eat now,” he stated.

Heyes nodded his head in agreement and drained his own glass. Just as they were about to head off to book into a hotel, Riley asked, “You here for the contest then?”

Heyes and Curry looked at one another and then turned back to the bar.

“Contest?” Curry asked. “What contest?”

Riley looked slightly nervous. “It’s just the way you wear your guns tied down, I reckoned you were here for the quick draw contest.”

Another look passed between Heyes and Curry and both men’s shoulders visibly sank.

“No, we’re not here for the contest,” Heyes growled.

Curry’s natural curiosity prompted him ask, “What sort of quick draw we talkin’ about?”

Getting somewhat animated, the bartender enthusiastically replied, “Fast draw, one to one, man against man, last man standing sort!”

Curry instantly spun on his heel and walked towards the door, closely followed by his partner. Wordlessly they crossed the street, back towards their horses, unhitched them and reluctantly pulled themselves back into their saddles. With one last regretful look over their shoulders, they rode out of town.

The dark-eyed man, who had watched them so intently, slipped quietly out of the back door of the saloon and walked quickly up the boardwalk, towards a large and impressive house at the end of the street.


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


“Can you believe that,” Heyes said angrily as they rode back along the trail. “Of all the bad luck. Sometimes I think if it weren’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

Curry rode patiently along, as Heyes complained long and loudly.

Eventually Heyes’ verbal rambling ran out and he lapsed into a sulky silence, alongside his equally reticent partner. The audible click of the hammer of a gun drawn back broke the silence. Heyes and Curry instantly reined their horses to a stop and peered about them in the gloom of the waning light of the dusk.

“Hold it right there,” commanded a voice from the cover of a nearby group of trees.

“What’s this all about?” Heyes called out, keeping his voice calm and friendly, turning to the direction from which the voice had come.

“Just take your guns from their holsters, by your fingertips and toss them on the ground and I’ll tell ya,’” came the reply.

“Now hold on a minute …” Heyes began.

“Just do it!”

A quick look passed between the partners as Curry sighed and drew his gun carefully from its holster, pausing for a second, as it dangled from his fingertips, before resentfully tossing it to the ground. Heyes mirrored his action and then sat patiently waiting to see what would happen next.

There was a crashing in the surrounding area and five riders appeared from the undergrowth, all holding guns, pointed at Curry and Heyes.

“So, what’s this all about?” Heyes asked again.

One man edged his horse a little closer. “You’re to come back to town with us,” he commanded.

“But we just left town and haven’t got a reason to go back,” Heyes stated.

More guns were cocked.

“There’s your reason,” came the voice again.

“Look fellas,” Heyes said amiably, “I don’t know who you think we are but there seems to have been some sort of mistake. I don’t know why you think you need us to go back to town but …”

“I’ve just got my orders to bring you back.”

“And just who gives the orders?” Heyes questioned.

“Mr. King. Told me to bring you and your partner back to town. He wants to have a little chat with you, that’s all. So, if you don’t mind …” and he swung the barrel of his rifle in the general direction of the town, suggesting that they should comply.


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


Heyes and Curry gazed about them, at the lavish surroundings they found themselves in. They had been escorted to the large house at the end of the street. It was not the most elegant building but it reeked of opulence, with its carved pillars and gilded metalwork. The two were then led under the high vaulted hallway and up an ornately carved staircase to a door on the next floor.

The man with them, the voice from the trail, knocked on the door and waited.

“Show them in,” came from within.

The door was opened and they could see, a well dressed man in a dark suit, with an elaborately embroidered waistcoat, across the room. He was sitting in a large, high backed, leather chair, a cigar in his mouth, reading a newspaper. Warily Heyes and Curry entered, the latter surreptitiously checking out the room, while Heyes studied the man before them.

Seeing his ‘guests’ the man put down his paper and got to his feet, smiled genially at them, and held out his left hand in greeting, without removing the cigar.

“Gentleman, so glad you could join me,” he said cheerfully.

“Didn’t really have much of a choice,” replied Heyes dryly, without offering his own hand. Curry too remained stoic and expressionless.

Removing the cigar from his mouth, the man said, “I’m sorry about that, boys, I truly am. I was just so keen to speak to you: perhaps I was a little over zealous. I trust my men treated you well?” Again he gave them an affable smile, but there was no warmth in the expression.

“If you can call having a gun pointed at you, ‘well’, then I guess they did,” came Heyes’ satirical response.

The man let out a soft laugh and shook his head before saying, “I’ve not been the best of hosts have I? Please, gentlemen, let me introduce myself ….”

“I think we’ve probably worked out who you are, Mr. King. What we don’t know is what you want from us.”

Ignoring Heyes, King simply turned to a side table and after placing the cigar on the edge, picked up a cut glass decanter.

Both Heyes and Curry noted the man’s slightly awkward movements and how he did each task single-handedly, favoring his left hand. A querying look passed between them.

“Drink, gentlemen? I have a fine French brandy I think you’ll enjoy,” he said, pouring three generous glassfuls, without waiting for a response. He proffered them the drinks, and when they took the glasses, gestured towards a sofa. “Please, gentlemen, take a seat so we can talk more comfortably.”

Taking a cursory glance at his partner, Curry waited for Heyes’ reaction so that he could follow his lead.

Heyes sat in a relaxed stance, reclining back, stretching his arm across the back of the sofa and Curry perched on the edge of the sofa in readiness.

“So, what was it you wanted to discuss with us, Mr. King?” Heyes asked politely, just a little intrigued now.

“Well, I have to admit, my business is really more with your friend here,” he said, looking across at Curry.

“Me?” Curry replied in surprise, raising his eyebrows and pointing at his own chest.

Shooting a sideways glance at his partner, equally taken by surprise, Heyes asked, “What do you want from him?”

“You might have heard we’re holding a shooting contest in this little town of mine and I’d like him to participate,” King replied, fixing Curry with hard, grey eyes.

“Now hold on, I ain’t interested in enterin’ no shootin’ contest,” Curry told him indignantly. “Don’t know why you’d ask me to enter. I ain’t much of a shot,” he continued, placing an amiable smile on his face.

“On the contrary, Mr. Curry. I hear you’re the best shot in these parts. You would be a real asset to our contest.”

There was stunned silence for a moment.

“I think there’s been some sort of mistake, Mr. King. My partner is not who you think he is. His name is Thaddeus Jones and I’m Joshua Smith.

We’ve just finished a job with the Billings Mining Company and were looking for a little bit of peace and quiet. When we heard about the contest we decided that this probably wasn’t the best town to find it.”

Curry nodded his head, in support of Heyes.

“Mr. Heyes, it’s no good trying to hide your identities. You see, holding a contest of this nature, shall we say, attracts a certain caliber of person, the sort that you and your partner here used to fraternize with on a regular basis. Unfortunately for you, one of those associates of yours, a Lester Pickett, was in The Palace Saloon earlier. He saw the potential value of having someone of your standing in the contest, Mr. Curry and came to tell me you were in town. I was a bit disappointed to hear that you had decided to leave so soon but thought I might be able to persuade you to enter. It would be a privilege to have you participate.”

King eased himself back in his chair, resting his elbows on the arms.

“Lester Pickett?” inquired Heyes with a slight scowl. “We’ve met him. Remember him, partner? Lester Pickett, a liar and a cheat…”

“…and a no good snake,” added Curry, nodding.

“He’s so low we even heard tell he was thrown out of Devil’s Hole for stealing from the other gang members. He tried to cheat us at cards and we called him on it,” continued Heyes. “He must be trying to get back at us.”

Curry nodded again.

“Lester Pickett does indeed have many undesirable qualities, but he is not a liar, Mister Heyes. And if you do not mind, this discussion is with Mr. Curry.”

“Look, Mr. King, I appreciate your confidence in my abilities but I’m not interested.”

“Would, say five thousand dollars make you interested?” King’s replied.

The Kid shook his head.

“Plus the prize money of five thousand dollars, of course,” he added.

“I told you, I’m not interested, not at any price. I don‘t hire out my gun.” Curry’s eyes darkened, and his jaw was set, lips drawn in a hard line.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Curry. I find the thought of the two of you spending the next twenty years in the penitentiary a shame and a waste of your considerable talents. However, if that is what you prefer, I can arrange it.

I aim to have you in the contest, Mr. Curry.” King smiled, swirling his brandy about the bowl of the glass.

“I’m beginning to get the picture,” Curry replied resignedly.

“Shall we start again?” King said placidly. “I’m sure your partner thinks you should enter, isn’t that right, Mr. Heyes? I’d hate to think that Mr. Curry’s reluctance to participate would result in your incarceration.” He glanced significantly at his guards. “That is, providing you both reach Wyoming. I have heard the roads there are terribly treacherous at any time of the year.” He turned and stared hard at Heyes.

“Could I talk to my friend about this?” Heyes asked mildly.

King gave a slight nod, and pushed himself out of his chair and stood, smiling down engagingly at the two men on his sofa.

“Of course, gentlemen. I have some business to attend to but I’ll leave you in Mr. Coogan’s capable hands.” he said. Heyes and Curry turned their heads to look behind them, as the taller of the two guards, a broad shouldered, hard faced man, stepped forward, twirling his revolver before slipping it back into its holster and folding his arms. When the display finished both turned forwards grimly, once again.

“That’ll be fine,” Heyes said cordially. Curry remained stony faced, glaring at King.

When King had left the room, they lowered their heads and their voices.

“What we gonna do, Heyes?”

“Well I think this one is up to you, Kid. I can’t ask you to go out there and shoot people. Then again, if you don’t do it we’ll be looking at twenty years in prison.”

“If we make it, you mean, and somehow I don’t think he means for us to make it there, or at least you.”

“What do you mean, ‘at least me’?”

“Well, he wants me alive for his contest. He don’t need you, except to threaten me with.”

Heyes ran his hands over his face. “Look, maybe you can get away without hurtin’ anyone too bad, just shoot their guns away.”

“Heyes, Have I ever told you, you are crazy? This is a shoot to kill contest. I mean, I know I probably am better than anyone else in the contest…”

Heyes shot a look at the Kid.

“…but I’m not sure I like the odds on taking that kind of a chance, partner.”

“Kid, you aren’t thinking clearly. If you shoot to kill and word gets out, you’ll be wanted for murder.” Heyes paused, and did a second take. “And maybe I’ll be wanted as accessory to murder. What happens to our amnesty then?”

“You’re right, Heyes but I don’t think there’s nothin’ we can do about that.” Curry replied, somberly.

Heyes stood up and started to pace. This action instantly alerted the guard, who had been silently standing at the door, seemingly disinterested, galvanizing him to step forward and point his gun at Heyes.

Curry stood and walked slowly towards the guard.

His face stern and his eyes intent, he looked the guard squarely in the eye, saying, “Easy now, we don’t want misunderstandings here. My partner just needs a little time to think and he does that much better when he’s standin’, is all!”

The guard returned Curry’s look before stepping back into position and relaxing a little. Heyes continued to pace, while his partner remained facing the guard, feet firmly planted on the ground and arms folded across his chest.

As Heyes was about to complete his fourth circuit of the rug on the floor, the door opened and King entered. Heyes came to stand alongside his partner, both men facing their host.

“I trust you’ve had time to think through my proposal?” King smiled at them, fingering the smoldering cigar he held in his hand, before drawing languidly on it and exhaling the smoke in a deliberate fashion.

Placing his hands on his hips, Heyes looked thoughtfully at the man before him and then glanced at the man standing beside him. He looked at the floor for a few moments, picking his words carefully, before looking King squarely in the eye.

“We don’t seem to have much choice in the situation but, if you agree to a few terms then my partner here will put on a good show on your behalf.”

Curry’s eyes flicked nervously at Heyes, but it was almost undetectable.

“Go on, Mr. Heyes. You’ve piqued my interest,” King replied, raising his eyebrows a little.

“First, I want you to agree that if he does this, we will both be free to leave at the end.”

“Certainly, if you’re both still alive,” King answered dispassionately.

“Secondly, my partner will not be expected to shoot to kill. He will be relying on the fact that he will be able to out draw his opponent and will only shoot if there is no other choice.”

“Seems a bit of an unrealistic expectation in such a contest, Mr. Heyes but I admire your faith in Mr. Curry’s ability. If he can beat them to the draw and they concede, I am happy to go along with that. Anything else?”

“Yes. You may have noticed that we have kept quiet lately, and we’d like to keep it that way. What I’m saying is, he’ll be in the contest but under an alias, not as Kid Curry.” Heyes straightened up and gazed unwaveringly at King, with dark, hard eyes.

Walking thoughtfully across the room, King poured himself another drink but did not offer seconds to his ‘guests’.

“Would you like him to wear a mask too? A man of mystery, so to speak,” King smirked sarcastically, raising his glass to them.

Curry’s temper suddenly flared and he took a step forward, gritting his teeth. “I ain’t no ….”

Heyes interjected and placed a placating hand on his arm to steady him, as Coogan cocked his pistol.

“That won’t be necessary,” Heyes replied flatly. The Kid stood his ground for few seconds and then, with one last glare at King and Coogan, stepped back and let his partner handle the situation.

“The point is, Mr. King, if it gets out that Kid Curry is in town then you can be pretty sure that every lawman, bounty hunter and down on his luck risk takerwill come to try and collect the reward on him … and me. Now, I think we can agree that isn’t going to be good for the contest, business or the town,” Heyes finished, confidently.

King clenched his teeth about the stub of the fat cigar in his mouth. Then he removed the cigar, and looked from Heyes to Curry.

“Alright gentlemen. I’ll agree to your terms but in return I expect you to fulfill your role to my specifications or there will be a penalty to pay. Do I make myself understood?” King asked meaningfully. A quick look passed between Heyes and Curry, and they nodded.

King stubbed out his cigar, turned to them and cheerfully said, “Now that is settled I propose a drink to seal our deal.”


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


It was dark as they left the house and began to walk down the street. King took the lead, followed by Curry and Heyes, with Coogan and another man, Peterson, in the rear, cradling rifles in their arms. Curry wore his gun, to look the gunfighter at King’s insistence, although Coogan removed the bullets.

The townsfolk moved nervously out of their path, in fear of King and his men. It was obvious Rex King was a powerful and ruthless man.

King led Heyes and Curry to The Palace Saloon. He approached the bat-wing doors, and a man scurried forward and held it open for him, tipping his hat as he did. King ignored him and strode assertively to the center of the room. There was a flurry of activity as the employees and clientele cleared a table for him and his guests.

The Palace was now busy with every table occupied, and a crowd of men at the bar. Saloon girls dotted the crowd, draped purposefully over patrons, in their gaudy silk dresses and feathers. From the back of the saloon came the clunking of a slightly off-key piano, as a plump, bald man bashed out a tuneless rendition of what might have been “Oh Susanna.”

Voices hushed as King entered, except for the general chatter from the more inebriated who had not noticed his arrival. Amos Riley scuttled forward and wiped down ‘King’s’ table, placing three glasses on it and a bottle of good whiskey.

“Evening, Mr. King, sir,” he said, bobbing his head. “Nice to see you here this evening. We’re all ready,” he continued, indicating a large chalkboard positioned on the back wall of the saloon. King nodded his approval as he sat, indicating for Heyes and Curry to sit as well.

“What’s going on, King?” Heyes asked, not masking the irritation in his voice.

“I’m sorry, how neglectful of me. Did I forget to mention that we’ll be taking the entrants for the contest tonight and drawing participants for the first round?” King smiled as he single-handedly uncorked the whiskey and poured it into the glasses.

Curry looked around the room, studying individuals, trying to ascertain and evaluate them as gunslingers. There were a couple of obviously experienced gunfighters, complete with fancy guns, tied down and a certain look of arrogance and assurance that came with the profession.

“Under what name would you prefer to be entered?” asked King, slightly smirking.

“Jones, Thaddeus Jones,” Curry replied.

King snorted a laugh. “That isn’t very imaginative. Wouldn’t you prefer something a little more flamboyant?” he queried.

“Jones is just fine.”

Across the room, Lester Pickett watched the group with a pair of dark, beady, envious eyes.

A gunshot rang out, followed by a scream from one of the saloon girls. Amos Riley stood in the middle of the room, gun in hand, a small wisp of smoke curling from the barrel.

“Time to start the proceedings!” he shouted. “Anyone wanting to enter this here contest step forward and give me your name.”

For a few moments no one spoke, then, a figure broke through the crowd and stepped into the empty space in the middle of the room.

“I’ll sign up. Name’s Jack Diamond,” the man called out self assuredly. From the top of his black, silver trimmed hat to the toes of his silver tipped boots, Jack Diamond looked every inch a gunslinger. He was dressed almost entirely in black, save for his vest embroidered with silver threads. Even his gun belt had a large silver buckle and the handle of his Colt 45 was made of silver, with pearl inlay. Standing confidently, smoothing his black, leather gloves on his hands, Diamond surveyed the room with a well-groomed air of arrogance, as if daring others to enter.

“Thank you, Mr. Diamond,” said Riley dramatically, enjoying his central role, as he scrawled Diamond’s name on the board. “Come on, gentlemen. Don’t be shy. A five thousand dollar prize is there for the taking; just add your name to the list.”

“Sean Ryder,” called another, with more than a hint of an Irish accent. Sean Ryder was a powerfully built man, with strong arms that looked used to heavy work and a face that looked as if it had seen more of life than it should at his age. Riley wrote Ryder’s name on the board.

“Mervyn Wayland.” A tall, slim man stood up from one of the tables. His eyes were cold and hard in his unshaven face and his clothes scruffy. Across his left cheek was a long scar, a reminder to all present of why guns were preferable to knives in a fight.

No sooner had Wayland sat down, than an older man stepped from behind a group of men, quietly giving his name to Riley, who wrote it on the board, alongside the other names.

“Well, I’ll be,”said a surprised King, but in the general noise of the saloon, only Heyes and Curry heard him.

They looked at King and then at each other. The Kid tensed almost imperceptibly.

This man called himself Deke Winters. He appeared to be well dressed, in a well cut suit, made of good quality fabric, but closer inspection revealedit was a little frayed and had been repaired and wearing a little thin. The gun, an older but more than serviceable model was in a holster that had seen better days too.

Winters watched attentively as Riley scratched his name onto the board.

“Deke, you old dog!” King was on his feet and extending his hand across the table towards the man, who responded with a slight nod of the head.

“Come and join us,” King called over, and raised his hand to for another glass, which one of the girls supplied, smiling broadly at Curry and Heyes. Heyes smiled back half-heartedly.

Deke Winters strolled over and took the whiskey King held out to him, downing it in one swift movement. Placing the empty glass on the table, he nodded again and turned to walk away.

“Aren’t you going to join us, Deke?” King asked.

“I don’t think so. Got my mind on other things right now, if it’s all the same to you. Wouldn’t want folks to think I had some unfair advantage in this contest, or something,” he answered coolly, glancing at Curry, who remained passive.

“If that’s the way you feel, Deke.” King replied, linking his fingers together in front of him, in contemplation of a man who was evidently an old, but apparently not a friendly, acquaintance.

“I do,” Winters said simply and tipped his hat and walked away.

While they had been talking, Mik Johnson, half-Cherokee, and a formidable opponent, added his name to the list.

Lester Pickett watched keenly as the five men stepped forward, and entered the contest, a fine film of perspiration appearing on his forehead. He removed his hat, wiped his sleeve across his brow, and then stood up decisively.

“Lester Pickett!” he shouted loudly. Heads turned to look in his direction and he stood up straight, puffing out his chest and setting his jaw. Curry had locked eyes with Pickett, not hiding his contempt.

King looked on with smug satisfaction. He observed the looks that had passed between Pickett and Curry. Animosity always added extra interest when two armed men faced each other.

There were now six names on the board. The room waited to see if any others would step forward, murmuring and clinking glasses.

After moments of relative quiet, King abruptly called out, “Add Jones to that list.” He slappedCurry a couple of times on the shoulder. Curry bristled visibly at his touch.

Pickett leaned towards the man sitting beside him and whispered something in his ear. The man jerked his head to look at Curry, and Pickett nodded his head.

Soon the name ‘Kid Curry’ was audible. Heyes groaned under his breath.

Riley had started to write ‘Jones’ on the board when he overheard the conversation behind him. He paused and turned towards King in puzzlement. “Begging your pardon, Mr. King, but what was that name again?”

King smiled enigmatically at those gathered about him and then looked knowingly at Curry and Heyes. “I said Jones, Riley.”

Curry poured himself another whiskey, which he drank straight down. Heyes stared grimly at King who seemed to be reveling in the upset he was causing.

“Well, gentlemen, if that’s all, then I guess we can get on with the draw for round one,” Riley said enthusiastically.

“It’s not quite all,” a voice from the doorway said distinctly.

The room turned in unison to stare at the man who had made this last minute entrance. He was young, more of a boy really, about mid twenties, fair-haired and good-looking. Dressed in an understated cord jacket and jeans, essentially, he looked like a cowhand, but he wore his gun low and tied down.

The boy stared at King with unwavering intent. King looked decidedly uneasy and, if possible, a little afraid. Heyes sat back thoughtfully.

“What’s your name, boy?” Riley called over.

“Solomon,” the boy responded.

“Solomon what?”

“Just Solomon!”

Having given his answer, the boy turned on his heel and walked out.

King still looked shaken but quickly composed himself, resuming his usual, arrogant posture as Riley approached with an upturned hat in his hand, containing eight folded pieces of paper. He shook the hat before offering it towards King.

“Could you do the honors, Mr. King, sir, of drawing for the first round?” he scraped.

“Of course,” King replied, dipping his hand into the hat, pulling out one of the slips and handing it to Riley.

“Diamond!” Riley shouted out. King reached in again, pulling out the second name.

“Wayland!”

The process was repeated six more times until the hat was empty and the names listed on the board.

The first pair to duel would be Jack Diamond and Mervyn Wayland, who were already trying to size one another up, eyeing each other from the corners of their eyes. Lester Pickett was to face Sean Ryder, Solomon drew against Mik Johnson, leaving Curry with Deke Winters.

"Well, gentlemen, the scene is set and our youngest contender certainly adds a new dimension to our arrangement, doesn't he?" King smiled at his two captive guests, unable to disguise entirely his unease.

King raised his glass to the assembled mass of would-be spectators. "First round, tomorrow! High noon!" he declared, throwing back the final glass of whiskey before he rose to leave. With his eyes, he signaled Coogan, who motioned for Heyes and Curry to follow King.


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


In a near-by alley, leaning against a wall, Solomon bent forward, hands resting on his knees. He sucked in a lungful of cold, night air, pushed it out and took in another deep breath. He watched as King strutted back to his mansion, guarded by the group of hired guns.


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


"Mr. King, we've done everything you wanted. You've taken our weapons; Kid has entered your contest, so I guess we'll just be saying good night and see you at noon tomorrow."

Heyes made a motion to walk toward the nearest hotel, but Coogan stopped him.

"I'm afraid our business isn't finished yet, Mr. Heyes." King never stopped walking, continuing to lead the way toward his home. Heyes followed, after Coogan gave him a resounding shove. They entered King's mansion, but this time Heyes and Curry weren't invited to King's office. They stood instead, in the large entry.

"Leah! Get in here!" King boomed.

A woman dressed in elegant style appeared. At first glance she looked to be no more than a girl, but a deep sadness in her eyes made her look old and tired.

"Leah, Mr. Smith will be staying with us a while. Show him to the guest quarters. In addition, Mr. Jones will be joining us for dinner. Set an extra place."

Leah looked from the man she assumed must be Mr. Jones to the other stranger then, questioningly at King. "Shall I set two extra places?"

"I said one."

The woman's head dropped immediately. "Yes, sir." She turned to do as bidden.

Heyes followed the woman, after sending a brief, 'I trust you partner' look toward the Kid.

They climbed a staircase to the upper floor of the mansion where she opened the door to a finely furnished room, conspicuously lacking any windows. Coogan placed a chair next to the door and took up his post.

"I'll be back in a few minutes with some water and towels. You'll want to wash before dinner."

"I thought I wasn't invited to dinner."

The woman never raised her eyes. "I know, I mean,” she rubbed her hands nervously against her gown, “I'll bring you something here.”

When the door shut behind her, Heyes angrily raked his hands through his hair and began pacing.

Leah returned several moments later with the promised towels, and she also carried the saddlebags from Heyes' horse, obviously already searched through by King's men.

She set the items on a nightstand. "I'll give you a few minutes to wash before I return with your dinner. Is there anything else I can bring you?"

Heyes began roughly repacking the contents of his bags. "My gun, for starters!” he snapped, “and maybe my lock pick?" He stood, hands on hips, giving the woman a frustrated look.

“I thought you might like a book to read, to pass the time,” she answered softly, seemingly unaffected by his outburst.

Coogan popped his head around the doorframe. “Better hurry, Mrs. King. Mr. King’ll be right angry if ya make him wait.”

Heyes stared nonplussed.

“Mrs. King?” he questioned.

The woman briefly raised defiant eyes to meet Heyes', before quickly lowering them again. She nodded. "Mr. King. He's my... husband," she replied bitterly.

He sighed. "Sure. A book would be fine." Puzzled, he watched her leave.


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


Dinner was served in the formal dining room of King's mansion. King's wife sat mutely at one far end of the table, speaking only when spoken to, and even then, answering with only a word or two. Curry thought she looked far too young for King. Innocent. Not the kind of woman he would have expected to marry an arrogant swine like King. The one time she had dared to look directly at him, Curry felt she was trying to convey a message to him.

When dinner was finished, King rose from the table and lifted a humidor filled with expensive cigars from the mantel. He offered one to Curry, who refused. King slammed the lid shut and returned the box to its place. As he lit his Cuban, puffs of smoke encircling his head, King sat back down at the table and waved his hand in his wife's direction. "Leave us, Leah." The woman immediately rose and obeyed.

"Our agreement has changed, Mr. Curry."

Hard eyes fixed on King. "What are you talking about?"

"Our agreement regarding your participation in my contest." He exhaled another breath of smoke. "There has been a slight adjustment to our," King paused searching for the right word, "contract."

"What adjustment would that be, Mr. King?"

"You'll need to kill Solomon. The rules remain the same for the rest of the contestants, but Solomon must die."

"I'm not killin' a man for you, King!"

"Certainly you will, Mr. Curry." King smiled conspiratorially and leaned closer, emphasizing his words.

"Let me make myself perfectly clear. Mr. Heyes will remain a 'guest' in my home. You will participate in my contest. You'll face each contestant according to the draw, but when you face Solomon," he gave a sardonic laugh, "and, Mr. Curry, I'm sure it will come down to you and Solomon - you will kill him!"

Curry's cold glare met King's amused, evil grin.

"If you fail to shoot, choose only to injure Solomon, or lose, Coogan and his men escort Heyes to Wyoming. I believe I already made myself clear that the route is treacherous.” He sighed. “Coogan and his men are so unreliable.”


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

Running. Out of breath. Branches slapping at his face, thorns cutting through his flesh. They needed to keep moving, get as far away as they could.

"Solomon! I know you're out there!"

One foot continued in front of the other. They struggled on.

"Only a matter of time, till I find you!"

His own lungs were on fire. How much longer could she keep moving?

"Keep runnin', Lance! I can't keep up!"

"I'm not leavin' you!"

At the snap of a twig, his head jerked up, his gun instantly in his hand. Solomon let out a deep breath. Only a squirrel.

Solomon banked his campfire, and wrapped a thin blanket around his shoulders. He shivered and poured himself a cup of coffee. Solomon rose and walked to the edge of the woods. Light glowed from the windows of the distant mansion.

“I’ll get you out of there, Leah. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll get you out!” he swore his oath aloud.


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

Heyes stretched out on the large, soft bed. A book lay open, but unread, upon his chest. A dinner tray sat, mostly untouched on the nightstand beside him.

“King and Solomon,” he muttered.

A soft knock at the door disturbed his thinking. “Come in,” he answered.

Mrs. King opened the door. "I'm glad I didn't wake you, Mr. Smith."

"No. I'm a light sleeper," he stated sarcastically, "especially when my life's been threatened and I'm being held against my will."

"I've just come for your dinner dishes. I'll take them and leave you alone."

He touched her arm lightly as she turned to leave. "Please! Don't go."

He gave her his best smile. "Thank you for the dinner and the book, Mrs. King."

"Don't call me that!" There was a spark of fire in her words, but then she hung her head.

"I'm sorry. What would you like me to call you?"

"Leah. Just call me Leah.”

“Unless my…unless Mr. King's around, then you'll have to call me Mrs." She nervously smoothed her skirt with a shaky hand. “I better go, before he wonders where I am.”

Heyes nodded and smiled. “OK…Leah.”

Again, he stared after her as she left.


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


The first rays of sun crept up on Kingdom. Curry sat by the window of his room, looking out into the street, where he would face Deke Winters, in a few hours time.

He had spent the night cleaning his Scofield, and it lay ready for use on a nearby table. He stared at it for a few minutes, displaying no emotion, and then turned back to the window.

He watched as a couple of people appeared on the street and began going about their daily duties, sweeping the boardwalk, opening shutters and the like. It was a scene of perfect domesticity, in a few hours that would all change.

He heard movement in the rest of the house. A short while later, the door to his room was unlocked and Peterson appeared with a breakfast tray.

“Mr. King said to make sure you get a good breakfast as you’ll need your strength. Personally, I think you should eat it as it might be your last,” he sneered, sliding the tray on the table next to Curry’s gun. Peterson picked up the gun and straightened his arm in aim. Spinning it in his hand, he nodded in appreciation of its delicate and perfect balance.

“That there’s a real nice gun. Might ask Mr. King if I can have it when all this is over.” Placing the weapon back on the table, Peterson left the room but not before smirking over his shoulder at Curry, locking the door again on his way out. Curry heard the man’s laughter as he walked down the hallway.

The sun was rising to its highest point before Curry saw anyone else. Once again, he heard the lock turn and this time Coogan stood in the doorway, cradling his rifle in his arms.

“You’re to come with me,” the burly man said gruffly, “and bring your gun.”

Reluctantly Curry did as Coogan asked. He walked before Coogan, along the hallway and down the stairs to the lobby, where King stood, a look of eager anticipation on his face.

“Good day, Mr. Curry. I trust you slept well?”

Curry did not bother to respond but stood stony faced. King merely smiled as one would when indulging a child.

“Thought you might like to watch the other contestants, to size them up, so to speak!”

“What I’d like, is to see my partner,” Curry replied pointedly.

“All in good time,” King answered cheerily, before turning on his heel and walking smartly to the door. A nudge in the back from Coogan’s rifle told Curry to follow.

The boardwalks were beginning to fill with spectators now. Curry was led to The Palace through the growing throng, hearing the whispers, averting his eyes from the stares and pointing fingers, while all the time scanning for the familiar face of his partner. On reaching the saloon, he was ushered inside where King turned to face him.

“You will wait here. You will not leave. You will speak to no one. You’ll have a good view of the other rounds from the doorway. When it is your turn Coogan will give you your ammunition. I wish you good luck. Don’t disappoint me, Mr. Curry.”

With that veiled threat, King left. Curry shot a look at Coogan, who merely glowered back at him. Letting out a deep sigh, Curry turned his attention back to the street, where King was strolling nonchalantly across, tipping his hat at various ladies and nodding at some of the men, holding court. Then Curry noticed a group of people gathering outside one of the hotels. He saw Heyes, and nodded to himself.

At five minutes before noon, Rex King took his place, seating himself in a throne-like chair on the porch of The Jewel Hotel. The Jewel, being located at the center of town, would provide optimal viewing pleasure for his contest’s first round. He had Heyes stand beside him, appearing to the townsfolk as one of his hired men.

Leah King, looking every bit the part of a rich, dutiful wife, placed herself humbly behind her husband, standing with her chin proudly lifted – just as King had schooled her.

Groups of people cluttered the boardwalks as the last few stragglers cleared the street, leaving it bare. A hush fell over the street and people peered nervously about, in anticipation of the event to take place. In the midst of this tense quiet, King rose, looking every inch the sovereign of all that he surveyed. A wry smile creased his lips at the sight of the anxious faces that surrounded him.

With a smooth, deft movement, he hooked a gold pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket and flicked it open. Both hands were nearing the top of the face. Two figures emerged from the crowd, from opposite ends of the street and strode into its cleared center.

Jack Diamond stood at one end, while Merv Wayland stood at the other. The former of the two looked calm and confident. Wayland had a more nervous air about him and his cheek seemed to twitch slightly as he faced his opponent.

Amos Riley moved to the steps at the front of The Jewel Hotel and looked to King for endorsement. A small nod of the head from King signaled his approval and Riley turned to face the crowd.

“At the sound of the first strike of the bell, contestants are free to fire at will. May the best man win!” he added, with an exuberant flourish.

Diamond stretched his neck and then fixed his eyes on Wayland, his hands hanging loosely by his side. Small beads of perspiration were forming on Wayland’s forehead and he licked his lips as he flexed his fingers.

The sharp peel of the school bell jolted the crowd, some of whom gasped in surprise. Two sharp cracks of gunfire echoed about the street before the spectators recovered.

Diamond stood, smoking gun in hand looking at Mervyn Wayland’s crumpled body, lying on the ground. With a sharp in take of air through his nose, Diamond twirled his gun and slipped it back into its holster, before heading towards The Palace Saloon.

A lone figure had walked across to the body on the ground. Dr. Grey verified Wayland’s death in a disapproving and disgusted tone.

Curry watched as Diamond sauntered towards him across the street, people moving to the side to let him through. There was not a trace of regret in the man’s face as to what he had just done, acceptance. As Diamond pushed his way through the saloon doors, his and Curry’s eyes met briefly, before he went to the bar and ordered a whiskey.

Heyes had watched as the doctor bent over Wayland’s body and looked over his shoulder at King, with a look of repugnance and shook his head slowly. He continued to watch as two men approached the body, and lifted and carried it away. King was sitting but a foot in front of him. Heyes made a slight movement forward reflexively. He stopped when he felt a hard object pressed against his back, and reclined back into position. The object was removed.

Leah had caught the movement and risked a quick look in his direction. The young girl looked with loathing at King.

“First match to Jack Diamond!” Riley announced. “Next two contenders; you are up!”

Lester Pickett snaked his way out from the crowd and took his place on the street. Sean Ryder did likewise. At the sound of the bell, they both drew their guns and fired at almost the exact same time. Pickett proved to be the more accurate shot and his bullet caused Ryder to spin sideways, clasping a hand to his side, gripping his gun in his other hand. He struggled to raise and aim it on Pickett’s chest, but his blood was flowing too quickly and his hand shook. He conceded defeat, letting the gun fall to the ground and sank to his knees.

When he was sure it was safe to do so, Dr. Grey stepped forward once again. After examining Ryder he instructed the men to take him to his surgery to see what could be done.

The next round was called, and King shifted uncomfortably in his seat, craning his neck, searching for the contestants - Mik and Solomon. The two young men appeared from the crowd, murmurs spread through the crowd, but above their whispers, Heyes heard a small gasp from Leah.

“Lance!”

Heyes turned and saw her emotion and observed the grin that played at one corner of King’s mouth.

Almost imperceptibly, Heyes touched Leah’s arm, offering some small measure of comfort and support.

She moved her head only slightly and Heyes caught her fearful glance. Her eyes then returned to Solomon before they closed in apparent silent prayer.

Both of the young men on the street had looks of deep concentration, totally focused on each other. Solomon saw the quiet exchange between Leah and Heyes before turning back to focus on his opponent.

The bell rang out, and both men instantly went for their guns, but no shots were fired. The Colt 45 was in Solomon’s hand before Mik barely touched the handle of his own gun. A stunned silence fell on the crowd at the sheer speed of the fair-haired man’s draw.

For a few moments Solomon remained where he stood, staring at the other man who stared back at him in total bewilderment. Seeing that his opponent still held his gun leveled at him, Mik raised his hands in surrender.

With a small nod of his head, Solomon began to re-holster his gun but halted as a voice cried out, “No shots have been fired - so both contestants are disqualified!”

All heads turned in the direction of the shout. King had risen to his feet and stood at the edge of the porch, his face like thunder. His eyes were narrowed, his jaw set and his fists clenched.

“It’s a rule that a shot must be fired to show the round is completed,” he spewed, angrily. Many of the crowd exchanged perplexed looks, indicating that this rule was news to them.

Solomon’s eyes flicked to Leah who stood anxiously behind King. He noticed that the dark-haired man had a hand on her elbow, in what appeared to be a supportive, rather than a restraining gesture. He took a breath, and turned his attention back to Mik, who was still standing in the street with him. The fear the man felt was evident in his face.

Wrapping his fingers more firmly about the butt of his gun, he straightened his arm and brought it up level, aiming at Mik’s chest. His trigger finger moved into position and slowly he began to squeeze. A small cry came from the other man and gasps about the crowd. At the last moment, he jerked his hand upwards, sending the bullet harmlessly into the sky and then looked defiantly at King. The look of fury was all too clear on King’s face but before he could say another word, Riley stepped forward and announced Solomon the winner.

Solomon nonchalantly slipped his gun back into its holster and, with one last mutinous look in King’s direction, began to walk away. Mik Johnson had stood the whole time, with mouth gaping in disbelief at his lucky break and, as the crowd’s attention followed Solomon’s dignified exit, he took the opportunity to scurry away and slip out of town, before King changed the rules again.

Heyes had watched this series of events, keenly. His thoughts were interrupted by Riley declaring the next round - Jones versus Winters.
Inside The Palace Saloon, Coogan approached Curry, a single bullet held between his thumb and index finger, which he tossed to him. With appropriately quick reactions, Curry caught it and looked at Coogan questioningly.

“You’re going to have to shoot so you’ll be needin’ that!” Coogan explained, sarcastically.

“Just the one, huh?” Curry queried.

“Iffin’ you’re as good as they say you are, that’s all it’ll take,” Coogan sneered back.

Curry let out a snort and then loaded the first chamber of his gun, and spun it back into his holster. Taking one last deep breath, he pushed his way out of the saloon doors.

The crowd hushed once more and Heyes scanned the area for his partner. Movement of the crowd drew his eye towards the saloon across the street. He saw Curry emerge, and noted that Coogan was a few paces behind, his rifle still cradled in his arms.

Curry calmly moved into the street but never once took his eyes from the group gathered in front of the hotel, until his gaze met Heyes’, who gave an only just perceivable twitch of a smile. Curry returned the greeting by questioningly narrowing his eyes.

Heyes was about to give a nod of reassurance when Peterson moved closer behind him and he caught the glint of a knife blade out of the corner of his eye. Curry saw the knife too and his expression instantly hardened.

A self-satisfied look on his face, King reclined further into his seat.

Winters joined Curry on the street, and a stillness of anticipation fell over the crowd. Heyes could hear the name ‘Curry’ whispered in the quietness. Winters acted every inch the professional gunfighter he had apparently once been, standing in a relaxed and composed posture. Curry took up his usual stance, feet slightly apart, arms hanging loosely by his sides, his full attention focused on the man in front of him.

Without warning, the school bell suddenly rang out and a single shot rang out.

Deke Winters remained standing, a look of complete astonishment on his face. His gun remained in its holster but was now lying two feet away on the ground.

Curry coolly re-holstered his own gun and hooked his thumbs in his gun belt and looked across at King with unconcealed rancor.

“Nicely done, Mr. ….. Jones,” King commented, as he rose out of his seat and came across to shake Curry’s hand in a show of solidarity. Curry reluctantly he took the man’s hand and shook it unenthusiastically.

“Time to celebrate a successful first round!” King commanded, raising his hand in the air and slapping Curry on the back, before ushering his group towards the hotel, leaving Curry on his own.

Taking the opportunity of this solitary moment, Curry lowered his head and closed his eyes, struggling to keep his temper in check. When he opened them again, he found Deke Winters standing in front of him, with a congenial smile on his face.

“Wanted to thank you for what you did back there. You had every right to kill me flat. Have to say, I’ve never witnessed shooting like that before and it was a real pleasure to see!” Winters held out his hand and Curry took it gladly.

“I’m sorry if I damaged your gun. Looks a real fine piece,” Curry said quietly, pressing his lips together.

Winters laughed and held up the holster and gun for inspection. “Well, it was! Ain’t no more but I reckon my shooting days are over! Guess it’s time to hang this up anyways. Don’t know why I bothered to come up here for this dang contest, truth be known.”

Curry let out a soft laugh. “Yeah,” he agreed, noncommittally, looking for his partner.

“Look,” Winters continued, “this may be none of my business, but I’ve known King a long time. It seems to me you’re not in this contest of your own choice. Am I right? King has a way of getting people to do what he wants and I reckon he wouldn’t be able to get someone, who can shoot like you, to act for him unless he had some hold over him. I’m guessing that dark-haired fella, that his heavies were keeping such a close eye on, is your partner.”

Curry looked at Winters with renewed interest now. “Go on.”

“What I’m trying to say is, I’m mighty obliged to you for today and if there’s anything I can do in return you just let me know!” Winters tipped his hat and began to move away. Curry was about to call out to him when Coogan appeared on the top step of the hotel.

“Mr. King wants to buy you a drink and he don’t like to be kept waiting,” he snarled. Grudgingly, Curry made his way over to the hotel.

It was a somber crowd that greeted him - apart from an animated King, who had evidently participated in a number of whiskeys before his arrival. Heyes was pinned in a corner between Coogan and Peterson, languidly sipping his own drink.

Mrs. King sat close by at a table, hands in lap, head down, clearly wishing she were somewhere else. As Curry entered, King strode towards him, arms spread wide with an inane grin on his face.

“Aah - the man of the hour,” he said cheerily, raising his glass into the air in appreciative salutation. Curry had a glass thrust into his hand and Riley appeared, filling it to near overflowing.

“A toast to Mr. Jones!” called King, as he waved his own glass in the air, spilling some of the contents onto his wife, who immediately jumped to her feet, attempting to brush the spillage from her dress. King, who by now was getting fairly inebriated, spun around on her.

“And where d’you think you’re going?” he yelled.

Leah froze and the color drained from her face. “N… nowhere! I was just …”

“Sit down and have a drink!” he commanded.

“But my dress … it’s wet and I …” Leah started to say. Without warning King struck out with the back of his hand, catching her on the cheek.

Instantly Heyes got to his feet, only to find himself restrained by Coogan’s firm grip and Peterson leveled his rifle at him. Curry too took a step forward.

King regarded them confrontationally, daring them to make a move. The disdain both his ‘guests’ felt for him was evident, by the look on their faces.
Sneering contemptuously, King grabbed Leah by the wrist, holding her firmly.

“Think it’s time to go home - I’ve had enough of this party,” he said.

A look of consternation crossed Heyes’ face. He felt Coogan’s ever-present rifle pressed against his back, pushing him towards the door. He chanced a glance at his partner and a few words.

“Good shooting out there, Mr. Jones, although I thought your aim was a little off!” he quipped, making a gesture with his eyes towards King.

Curry smirked his response but then the serious expression returned and he replied, “Next time I’ll try to be a little more accurate.”

King glared at both men uneasily, not fully understanding the content of their conversation.

“You will be staying here at the hotel tonight, Mr. Jones. Wouldn’t want your partner here distracting you from preparing for tomorrow’s round now, would we?” he asked, with more than a hint of sarcasm and intimidation.

“Mr. Smith, will continue to be my guest at my home. I’m sure you’ll be comfortable and will want to ensure his comfort also. You will remember that you have entered this contest on my behalf and will act accordingly. There will always be someone close by to guarantee your …. cooperation, shall we say.” King’s veiled threat was evident.

Curry merely nodded his understanding of King’s words and gave his partner one last reassuring, tight-lipped smile before Heyes was ushered out the door, followed closely by Coogan. King went next, still firmly gripping Leah’s wrist, while she shot a quick look of pleading in Curry’s direction.
Curry gave an apologetic look in reply.

After the group had left, Curry sank down into the nearest chair and closed his eyes in frustration. The sound of someone approaching made him open his eyes instantly and he looked up to see Deke Winters.

“Mind if I join you?” the man asked.

Curry shook his head and gestured towards a nearby chair.

“Mind if I ask you something?” Winters prompted.

“No, go ahead,” Curry replied wearily.

“You really who they’re saying you are?”

“Depends who they say I am, don’t it?” Curry eyed Winters warily.

Winters chuckled softly, “Guess it does, ‘Kid’,” he tested.

It was Curry’s turn to smile now. “Well, I’m not sayin’ I am and I’m not sayin’ I ain’t. It makes no difference in how this contest turns out, does it?”

“So, was I right about your not being in this contest by your own choice?” Winters queried. “I mean, a man of your caliber has nothing to prove, unless it’s the money you’re after, which is something I can understand only too well,” he said resignedly. “You took away my chance of that, you know.”

Curry pasted on his best poker face, aware that King’s men were probably watching. Easing himself forward he reached out for a bottle on a nearby table and began to pour two large glasses of whiskey. He spoke in a low voice, “What you said earlier about if there was anything you could do for me, does that still stand?”

Taking the drink from Curry, he replied in an equally low voice, “Sure. Would be good to get one over on old Rex!”

“Do you think you could find out where they’re holding my friend?” Curry asked.

“I can try but you do know that even if I found out, the likelihood of you being able to get to him with all the men King has working for him, is doubtful.”
“I know, but I gotta do something.” Curry ran his hand through his hair and then, remembering he was being watched forced an amiable smile on his face, trying to make it look like he and Winters were just passing the time of day.

“There may be another way,” Winters said thoughtfully. “Who you up against tomorrow?”

“Lester Pickett!” Curry spat.

“Hmmm! He shouldn’t give you any trouble. That man’s all talk and not a lot else! That’ll give me a little more time to work something out. If I don’t get a chance to see you before, look out for me in the last round. Should be able to come up with something by then.” Winters drained his drink and glanced over Curry’s shoulder, warning him with his eyes that one of King’s men was approaching.

“I appreciate that,” Curry quickly replied, taking Winter’s hand.

“Yep, it was a real pleasure to be out drawn by someone who can shoot as good as you!” Winters said, disguising the content of their conversation.

Tipping his hat at King’s man, who now stood closely behind Curry, he made a discreet exit.

“Want to tell me what you were talking about?” the man asked gruffly.

“Nope!” Curry said cheerily and raised his glass to the man, before taking a large swig.


***************
Back to top Go down

 Similar topics

-
» Where's that Story?
» I want to make designs, but i can't draw?
» Bad luck with first HO meal
» Need help with parasitic draw
» Dark Gaia/Lightning Golem - Needs more draw power?
Share this post on: Excite BookmarksDiggRedditDel.icio.usGoogleLiveSlashdotNetscapeTechnoratiStumbleUponNewsvineFurlYahooSmarking

Luck of the Draw by Lana Coombe and Grace R. Williams :: Comments

avatar
Re: Luck of the Draw by Lana Coombe and Grace R. Williams
Post on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 12:54 am by royannahuggins


“Could you open the door, Mr. Coogan? My hands are rather full right now.” Heyes heard Leah’s voice in the hall before the key turned in the lock.

He sat up and smiled in anticipation.

Leah shyly smiled back. "Mr. Coogan, there's a plate set for you in the kitchen. And blueberry pie for dessert."

"I don't know if Mr. King would like my leavin' you here with him alone, Mrs. King." Coogan looked doubtful, but hungry.

"Nonsense. You're a working man. You need your supper. Besides, "she whispered, "Mr. King doesn't need to know. Just lock the door after I'm inside and everything will be fine."

"I'm pretty hungry. You sure you'll be alright here by yourself, Mrs. King?"

"Certain," Leah answered before pushing the door shut with her foot.

"We'll need to talk quickly...Mr. Heyes." Leah studied the man before her, waiting for his reaction to her use of his real name.

Heyes dropped his eyes then, nodded. "No use denying it, Leah. Yes. I'm Hannibal Heyes."

"That would make your partner...Kid Curry," she almost shuddered as she spoke the name. "Is he here to kill Solomon?"

"Solomon? You know this Solomon?"

Leah paused, uncertainty on her face.

“Leah, unless I miss my guess you want out of here, away from King?” Leah unconsciously touched the bruise on her cheek then, nodded.

“What’s Solomon got to do with all this?”

Leah found her courage and her voice, "You didn't answer my question, Mr. Heyes. Did King hire your partner to kill Solomon?"

"My partner doesn't hire out his gun," Heyes answered with a measure of pride. "But I wouldn't doubt it's what King expects of him."

She sank down on a nearby chair. "King has a way of getting what he wants from people, Mr. Heyes," her voice was fearful, "and he wants Solomon dead."

“Solomon’s just a boy. What could he have done to make King hate him that much?”

“King hates him, I’m sure of that, but it’s revenge he’s after.”

Heyes was quiet and waited for the young woman to continue.

“King uses people to get what he wants,” her voice was no more than a whisper, but filled with rage. “You’ve seen that! He’s using you to get your friend to participate in his contest!” She raised her eyes and held Heyes’ with a long, meaningful look. “Keeping me here is King’s revenge. Revenge against my brother. My brother took King’s arm. King took me!”

“Solomon’s your brother?” Heyes was pacing now.

Heyes’ pacing stopped so suddenly, Leah almost jumped in surprise. “Leah, we all want the same thing, right? Seems to me if we work together…” he never finished his sentence, but Leah saw the light of a plan dawning in the man’s dark eyes.

“We’ll have to trust each other, Leah. Can you do that?”

Leah looked unsure. She briefly considered then, agreed.

“I’m going to need your help, Leah. King’s men will kill both your brother and my partner if WE don’t do something about it! I’ll need my gun. And something to write with. You’ll need to get a note to my friend.”

There was fear on her face, but Heyes saw determination as well. Leah simply nodded.

They heard Coogan's heavy footfall on the stairs, so Leah quickly collected the dishes before he could open the door.

“I’ll bring you another book later, Mr. Heyes,” she spoke louder as she neared the door.

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

Curry had stayed in the hotel bar for a while, nursing the same drink, but eventually made his way to his allocated room. Curry climbed the stairs, and another of King’s men was behind him, not attempting to hide the fact that he was following. When Curry reached the door of his room, the man positioned himself in a chair across the hallway. Curry merely gave him a withering look and went into the solitude of his room.

Shutting the door behind him, Curry wedged a chair beneath the handle of the door, as protection from any unwanted intruders, and dropped on the bed.

The rattle of the door handle being turned, followed by a sharp rapping, interrupted his thoughts.

“Who is it?” he called out tiredly.

“Coogan,” was the gruff reply. “Mr. King asked me to check on you.”

“Well, you’ve done that!” Curry called back, through the closed door.

“‘Fraid I need to see that everything’s alright, so I’ll be glad if you’ll open the door so as I don’t have to kick it in. Mr. King sure would be disappointed if you caused any damage in his hotel.”

With a deep sigh, Curry pushed himself off the bed and removed the chair from the door, which instantly flew open. Three men entered the room rapidly, pushing Curry in front of them. Before he had time to realize what was happening, two of them held him firmly by the arms while another stood before him, calmly pushing his shirtsleeves up his strong arms. Curry could see Coogan standing in the doorway with a look of eager anticipation on his face.

“What’s this all about, fellas?” he asked, trying to sound unconcerned.

“We’ve got a little wager on a friend of ours tomorrow and we sure would be disappointed if he lost,” the man in front of him answered.

“Who’s to say he ain’t gonna win?” Curry replied.

“That don’t seem likely iffen' he’s gonna face you, so we thought we’d give him a little help!”

A wicked grin flicked across the man’s face and, before Curry could respond, the man thrust a firm fist into his belly. The punch drove the air out of his body; Curry doubled over, the grip of the man’s associates preventing him from falling to the ground.


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

Hannibal Heyes checked his pocket watch again before shoving it back into his vest. “Three minutes,” he muttered, “7:03AM. Only three minutes have passed. The sun has to be up by now.” He paced across his windowless prison like a trapped bear.

He stopped and looked at the chair. This is where the Kid should be, cleaning his gun. “Darn it, Kid. We need to talk. I need you to help figure a plan out.” He smiled wryly to himself at the admission. “Well, I am the thinker,” he amended, “I need your input; you know, Kid, a grunt or two, maybe a nod.” He leaned on the wall. “Sheesh, now I’m talking to myself.”

He looked at the chair again. He decided if he stared long enough he could just make out the Kid’s outline. “OK, you’re facing Lester Pickett today. Pickett’ll be lucky if you don’t kill him. I know you’re mad at him Kid, for getting us into this mess, but if you kill him and word gets out, what’s the governor of Wyoming gonna think?” He glared at the chair. “Stay calm and think, Kid. Don’t do that to us.”

He resumed his pacing. “Solomon is facing Jack Diamond,” he said to himself deciding talking to the chair was getting him nowhere. “Diamond will kill him. He’s ruthless.” He sighed. “And King will force Leah to watch.”

Heyes checked his watch again. 7:15AM. He scowled, and frowned as if his head hurt from thinking so hard. “I could really use some coffee.” He slumped into the chair.

Right on cue, there was a soft knock at the door. “Mr. Heyes. I have your breakfast, may I come in?” Leah said as Coogan shoved the door open without waiting for any response.

Coogan watched as Leah set the tray on a small table. “Better enjoy the meal, Heyes. Could be your last.”

There was a smug grin on the man’s face and an evil spark in his eye, like a schoolyard bully. A bully who knew the teacher was about to nail you to the wall for something he’d done himself. “I wonder how Kid Curry, I mean Jones,” he said with sarcastic emphasis, “is enjoying his.” He gave a harsh laugh.

“What does that mean?” asked Heyes.

“It’s only a thought,” responded Coogan with a self-satisfied smile.

Heyes looked at him. He opened his mouth to ask another question, but halted, as if he was pushing any distracting thoughts aside.

“Thank you,” he stated simply, turning his full attention to Leah and brushing her hand with his fingers.

Leah moved closer, “You’re welcome, Mr. Heyes.”

Quickly, quietly, and undetected by Coogan, Heyes’ skilled fingers slipped the small, folded note into the pocket of Leah’s apron.

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

Shortly after 11:00, Coogan pushed open the door of Heyes’ room again. “Time to go, Heyes.” The smug grin was still evident on Coogan’s unpleasant face.

They descended the stairs and joined Leah in the entrance hall, as the rest of King’s entourage assembled.

“COOGAN!” King’s voice bellowed.

The office door opened and Dr. Grey emerged, nodding toward Leah before he made his way past her toward the front door.

Seizing the small window of opportunity, Leah spoke up quickly. “Dr. Grey, so nice to see you.” She took the older man’s arm joining him outside as she closed the front door behind her. Her look changed to one of desperation. Whispering to him quickly, she shoved the note into the doctor’s hand. “You have to help us! Get this note to Mr. Jones!”

On his way to the office, Coogan’s smug look had disappeared and was replaced by a look Heyes could only describe as sheer terror. The burly man cringed and swallowed hard before the heavy door banged shut behind him.

King’s muffled voice could be heard, but it was not loud or clear enough to be heard by anyone outside the office.

Inside there was no need for King to raise his voice, as Coogan cowered with King’s softly spoken threats. “…had Curry beaten?! Who gives the orders here? You? Pickett? Or ME? This is my town, and my contest, or have you forgotten that? I say who shoots, and I even determine who wins. Let’s not forget that. If you and Pickett continue to spoil my plans, I’ll decide your future or lack of it as well. Don’t you ever have a man beaten again in this town without my say so. I need Curry, so you had better hope he can stand and shoot today.” His voice was low and cool, indicating an anger so overwhelming it was beyond reason.

Coogan gulped.

“You didn’t answer my question, Coogan. Who gives the orders in Kingdom?”

“You Mr. King. Only you!” whimpered Coogan, pathetically.

“You’d do well to remember that next time, Coogan.” King’s voice was silky and deathly smooth. “You can go now.”

Coogan, relieved to discover that he would live to see a ‘next time’, exited the office, sweat beading his forehead.

King joined the group, straightening his tie. “Ahhh, Mr. Heyes.” He moved closer, inches from Heyes’ face now and whispered, “By the way, just how good is that partner of yours?”

Heyes’ eyes darted from Coogan to King, questioningly.

“Well, never mind. We’ll find that out soon enough.” He put his good hand on Heyes’ shoulder. Heyes shook it off.

Heyes cast a quick glance toward Leah, who had rejoined them in the entry.

King roughly grabbed her wrist. “Let’s go. We have a contest to attend,” he said, dragging her.

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

Curry squinted up at the sky as he came out of the hotel. He could not do much more, as he could barely open his left eye, due to the black and blue swelling that creased it closed. At the top of the steps, he paused, as if bracing himself in preparation for the pain that would come with each downward step. His boot awkwardly hit the first step and he clenched his lips together tightly. When he moved, he gasped air audibly between his teeth, an act he apparently could not repress. Sucking in his breath, he recomposed himself and carefully took the next two steps down to the street.With stiff, deliberate movements, he made his way to the center of the street to take up his position. He focused his eyes directly in front of him, looking neither left nor right.

Heyes saw the bruised and battered figure emerge from the hotel and his expression clouded in fury.

“What is this, King?” he hissed through gritted teeth, to the man sitting in front of him.

King turned his head slightly towards Heyes. “This is none of my doing, I can assure you. I’m as unhappy about Mr. Jones’ condition as you are.”

“He can’t fight like that! Call it off!” Heyes demanded.

“Afraid I can’t do that as he’d have to withdraw from the contest and if he loses, then you lose too,” King responded flatly.

“Well, he can’t fight in that state!” Heyes voice rose in anger, immediately provoking Peterson to press the barrel of his rifle into his side.

“If he’s as good as they say he is, then it shouldn’t be a problem. You ought to have a little more faith in your partner, Mr. Smith,” King stated, before turning his back on Heyes once more.

A low murmur went through the gathered crowd as Lester Pickett emerged from The Crown Saloon, smirking conceitedly. Hooking his thumbs in his gun belt, he walked towards Curry with an arrogant swagger and took up his position about twenty feet away.

“You’re not looking so good this morning, Mr. Jones,” Pickett jeered.

Curry did not respond. He remained steady and stared directly at his opponent, lids swollen but eyes cool.

King gave a nod to Riley indicating that the bell could be rung.

Heyes body subtly tensed as he watched his injured friend. His lips were set firmly as the proceedings evolved masking any emotion. Only his eyelids flickered nervously.

Curry stood stiffly, relaxing his arms at his sides, flexing his right hand. His left eye swollen, he turned his head marginally to make up for the disadvantage, lining up his sights. He looked at Pickett’s mean, pinched face and his countenance blackened. For all his injuries, he exuded a steely presence that impressed the crowd.

Pickett stretched his neck, flexed his fingers and grinned at Curry, overconfidence radiating from him.

Curry remained impassive.

Suddenly, the sharp clang of the bell echoed through the air. There was a crescendo of gunshots and then all fell silent.

Both men remained standing in the street; Curry’s gun still pointed at Pickett. The man, who only moments before was all cockiness, stared blankly his gun arm, which hung limply at his side dripping blood, gun hanging from his fingertips. Instinctively he covered the wound with his left hand. He looked up in disbelief at Curry.

“How can you be that fast? No one’s that fast, not hurt like you are,” he whined. “You were supposed to die; this ain’t right. It ain’t fair.”

“You’re lucky, Pickett,” Curry said quietly, “I decided to hit your arm before firing. I aimed for your chest first.”

Curry’s hand started to tremble, as the exertion of his effort caught up with him and he let his gun hand fall to his side. Seeing his opportunity, Pickett tentatively raised his own gun and aimed at Curry.

“We ain’t finished yet! It’s the rules!” he called out. He raised his right arm supporting it with his left hand and aimed it at Curry’s stomach.
Curry looked at Pickett tiredly. “Pickett, I’m done fighting for the day.”

Heyes jumped up and surged forward, intending to aid his partner in any way he could. King snapped his fingers and Peterson ran in front of him.

The bulky man pushed Heyes back and pinned him against the wall. Heyes looked around desperately. His eyes met Leah’s but she seemed frozen with fear and she averted her face from his glare.

Curry sighed. “You really make me wish I hadn’t changed my mind, Lester. I’m really beginning to think you’re so stupid you deserve to die. I can’t fight you any more. I ain’t got no more bullets!” Curry said pointedly, glancing over in King’s direction.

Lester Pickett laughed. “Well that’s too bad. I’ve got plenty.”

King spun round in his chair and grabbed Coogan’s jacket sleeve, pulling the man towards him. “Kill him!” he growled.

Coogan looked puzzled for a second and then replied, “Jones?”

“No, you idiot - Pickett! Shoot him before he shoots Jones!” cried King.

Pickett was beginning to relish being the center of attention and his moment of glory when a shot rang out. With a look of total surprise, he looked down at his chest, only to see an expanding patch of red. He looked up at Curry in bewilderment before falling to the ground.

“First round to Jones!” Riley shouted out. The crowd was in stunned silence but not one person would dare to speak out against King and his methods.

Curry looked over at the group on the hotel porch, and shrugged, remaining calm outwardly. He nodded at Heyes.

Curry re-holstered his gun and, with one last, parting look at his partner, made his way back to the hotel, albeit rather slowly and stiffly. Entering the saloon, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, slowly releasing the breath. Then, with feigned nonchalance, he leaned against the doorpost, to watch the round between Solomon and Diamond.

King remained sitting in his chair, gripping the arms, with a self-satisfied smile on his face. “Coogan, I commend you for following my orders. You may have redeemed yourself for your little mistake.

Doctor Grey, please verify that Pickett is no longer with us so that my men may ‘tidy’ the street in preparation for the next round.”

The doctor grimly walked out to perform his duty, and the street was soon empty.

Jack Diamond took to the street, closely followed by Solomon. To the observer it looked a total mismatch. Diamond appeared to be the epitome of gunfighter, with his black, austere manner of dress, highlighted by flashes of ostentatious shiny silver. Solomon, on the other hand, was dressed in a shabby cord jacket, fraying at the cuffs, with worn and scuffed boots. Whereas Diamond took to the street with a narcissistic swagger, Solomon strode with a modesty, which belied his skill with a gun.

Leah, who was standing next to Heyes, let out a small cry like a tiny cat’s meow, but managed to check herself before King heard. Heyes felt her hand grip his arm for support. Discretely and gently, he covered her hand with his own, and gave it a slight squeeze.

“Come on! Let’s get on with it!” King called out impatiently, strumming the fingers of his left hand on the armrest of his chair.

“You both ready?” Riley shouted to both men, who nodded their answer. He gave the signal to the bell ringer and the crowd hushed in anticipation.The seconds passed in long silence. The bell clanged, and Diamond and Solomon instantaneously drew their guns. There appeared to be only one shot, as they fired in unison.

Leah, unable to withstand the tension, cried out more loudly. She stifled herself by placing her hand over her mouth. Her grip tightened on Heyes’ arm, as Solomon staggered, a bullet ripping into his shoulder.

Diamond also stumbled before collapsing on the ground, staring blindly at the sky, with a clean shot through his heart. He was dead before Dr. Grey reached his side.

Grey, seeing his services were of no use to Diamond, turned his attentions to the boy. Solomon brushed him aside. He strode purposefully towards King and his group, directing his attention to his sister, giving her a small placating smile. King stood up, placing himself between Solomon and Leah.

“I see you’ve been practicing,” the older man said.

“Some,” Solomon replied flatly.

“We’ll see how good you really are tomorrow, when you face Jones,” King scornfully answered.

“I guess we will,” the boy assured him, looking at King’s right arm, with derision.

King’s expression hardened. “You won’t win, no matter what,” he told Solomon.

“We’ll see,” he retorted, calmly. “It ain’t over yet.” Solomon looked towards his sister once more before pivoting and walking away.
Solomon showed no fear in his eyes, just solid determination. Heyes gave her hand another slight squeeze.

It was not over yet.

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

“I am here at the request of Mr. King. He has requested that I see Mr. Jones is fit for tomorrow’s round,” Dr. Grey told the hired man who stood guard outside Curry’s room.
“Well, OK then, I reckon it’ll be alright if I let you in.”
The guard unlocked the door, and ushered the older man into the room, and returned to the hallway, locking the door after him.

As Dr. Grey entered the darkened room, he heard a pistol cock.

“Mr. Jones, it’s me, Dr. Grey. You can put your weapon away. Mister King has sent me to see how your injuries are mending.”
Curry slid his gun back into the holster hanging from the bedpost, and shrugged. “It ain’t loaded anyway,” he said sheepishly.
The doctor, who had finished lighting the lamp, turned and raised his eyebrows.
“They only give me one bullet a draw,” explained Curry.

“I see. Knowing Mister King as I do, that doesn’t surprise me.” The doctor moved toward his patient who lay quietly on the bed.

He examined the bandages he had placed earlier on Curry’s ribs, and then turned his attention to the Kid’s bruised face. Finally he checked the eyes, especially Curry’s swollen left eye. “Is your vision blurred, or are you seeing double at all?”
“I can see fine, Doc. Just don’t move too good.”
“You moved fine enough today, son.”

The doctor paused, and looked deeply into the gunslinger’s face as if trying to gauge the make of this man.

“There are rumors about who you really are. As a doctor that makes no difference to me, I have my Hippocratic Oath to uphold. As it concerns the people in this town I care about…” His voice trailed off.

“I suppose I have no choice.”

Curry had no idea what the man was rambling on about, and stared at him uncomprehendingly.

“Here.” The doctor held out a folded, crumpled piece of paper toward him.

The Kid accepted it cautiously.

“Mrs. King slipped it to me this morning. Asked me to give it to you. This is the first chance I’ve had to get in here and see you. And I’m putting my neck out to do it.”

“Much obliged, Doctor. For the note and the doctorin’.”


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

Curry waited until the town was quiet for the night then, slipped from the hotel’s window. Instead of going down, he crawled up over the roof. He made his way to a tall tree at the back of the hotel. He leaned out and grasped the nearest branch, gritting his teeth and letting out an involuntary gasp. Carefully, he made his way down the tree, and swung himself to the ground from the lowest branch. He stopped, doubled over, clutching his ribs, after hitting the ground. Crouched low, he scanned his surroundings for signs of movement. Not seeing anyone, he slowly straightened up.
Carefully, note in his pocket, he made his way out of town, toward Solomon’s camp. As he drew closer, he saw the young man, crouched beside the fire, knife in hand, preparing to remove a bullet from his own shoulder.

Curry crept up to the young man cautiously. When he was close enough he whispered to him.

"Solomon, it's me, Jones. We need to talk." He raised his hands, hoping the gunman would know he posed no immediate threat.

“Does this look like the time for talkin’, Jones?” Solomon continued cleaning his knife, then, took a swig from a small flask before pouring some of the whiskey over his wound, closing his eyes and wincing with pain.He opened his eyes at a light touch on his hand. “Give me the knife, Solomon.”

Solomon studied his opponent. “Why are you here? And why should I trust you?”

“Leah sent me.”

Solomon stared hard at Curry. Finally, he handed the knife to the older man.

Curry poured a little more of the whiskey over the knife’s blade before quickly and efficiently digging the bullet from Solomon’s shoulder.

“Not deep at all. Barely more’n a flesh wound,” he stated, taking a swallow from the flask himself before handing it back to Solomon who did likewise.

Curry cleaned and bandaged the wound. He sat back and waited, observing Solomon watching the fire in silence, eyes hard and cold.

Solomon turned and asked harshly, "You gonna stare at me all night, or get on with what you gotta say?"

"I got no reason to kill you, Solomon.”

"Leah didn’t send you to tell me that. Why are you here?”

Curry sighed. "I’m here because neither of us can win. You gotta know that. King isn’t plannin’ on lettin’ either one of us leave that street alive tomorrow," Curry explained patiently as if talking to a child.

"You think I don't know that?" Solomon was on his feet now and spat the words at Curry, grabbing the front of the Kid's shirt. "Both of us are gonna die tomorrow. But I plan to take King with me."

Solomon released his grip on Curry's shirt. "You don't wanna draw? Leave,” he said contemptuously. “Ride outta here tonight."

"It's not that simple, Solomon. Look, I can’t leave because King is holding my partner prisoner. He claims he’ll kill him if I don’t do as he says, and I believe him.”

”So why didn’t you kill me earlier? I didn’t hear you creep up.”

"That wouldn’t exactly fulfill my bargain with King, would it? And anyway, I don’t wanna kill you. You wanna die?"

Solomon was quiet for a long time. "No, I don't wanna die. But, I'm gonna anyway. Tomorrow. Right after I kill King."

”You’re gonna shoot King instead of me?”

“That’s the plan.”

"Look Solomon, I can see you’re angry at him, but what’ll killin’ him get you? It can't be worth losin' your life!"

"I already lost it!" Solomon looked away from the house for a moment and Curry caught another glimpse of the boy’s pain. "King took it from me a long time ago." He paused, sadness, pain and anger on his face.

Then he turned to Curry. “If Leah really sent you, you’d know.”

Curry looked seriously at the boy’s features and then it hit him. “You’re her brother.”

Solomon nodded.

Curry waited for Solomon to go on.

"My sister," Solomon’s voice filled with anger, “he took her!"

"Me and Leah were no more than a couple of kids. Our parents took sick, died. I was older so I tried to look out for both of us. Didn't do a very good job of it. It was tougher than I thought."

Solomon closed his eyes and let the memories pour through him.

"I was good with a gun. King took us in. Gave me a job of sorts, fetchin’ and carryin’. Got Leah to do his cookin' and cleanin'. That was it at first. Later, he wanted more." Solomon hung his head. "I was supposed to protect her. I promised our parents." His voice broke.

"What happened?" the Kid asked quietly.

The boy composed himself and continued. "I tried to get her out. We left one night. King found out and stopped us. Said I was free to go, but Leah was stayin'. I drew on him. Gave him that useless arm he's carryin' now. Got us both outta there that night. I swore I'd kill King if he ever laid a hand on her again. I should'a killed him when I had the chance!"

"A few days later, King found us. We didn't have a chance. Told us we were fools for runnin'. That he woulda got tired of Leah soon enough and let her go, but now he thought he'd just keep her. His men beat me half to death. King held a gun to my head, told Leah unless she wanted him to kill me right there, she'd go back with him for good. Of course she did. What else was she gonna do? So ever since, I been practicin', gettin' ready for the day when I'd make good on my promise."

Solomon's cold, hard gaze held Curry's eyes. "Tomorrow's the day. I kill King tomorrow. I got nothin' against you, Jones, but if I gotta kill you to get to him, so be it."

”Look Solomon, even if you do kill King, you’ll die. What happens to Leah then? She’d be alone. Is that what you want?” Curry put a hand gently on the younger man's shoulder. "King took somethin' from both of us. My partner, your sister. Seems to me we got us a choice. Either we both die tomorrow makin' King pay, or we can work together. I got an idea that just might get us both what we want."

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

Leah quietly turned the knob to King’s master bedroom, and slowly opened the door. King’s even breathing told her he was asleep. She released a sigh of relief and crept in the moonlit room to his chest of drawers. She began to open the top drawer and flinched at the low sound it made. King rustled in the bed. She stopped and bit her lip in fear, heart pounding. Her ‘husband’ settled down again, and his snores became regular. She closed her eyes, and opened them again turning back to the drawer. She put her hand in it and fumbled noiselessly for the box. Finally, she found it. Quietly, she opened it and removed a key. Her hand shaking, she placed it into the pocket of her robe. She went out into the hall, and walked softly down the stairs to her husband’s study. She crept to the desk, took the key from her pocket and unlocked it. Still shaking, she quickly clutched the Colt in the desk, closed the desk and relocked it. Then she hurried back up the stairs, into King’s room and replaced the key.

She went to her own, much smaller room, put the gun in her top dresser drawer beneath her undergarments, and shut it. She collapsed on the bed and cried.

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

The next day dawned bright and clear. Kid Curry stared at the bare ceiling of his hotel room. His face was less swollen, and his left eye opened wider than on the prior day.

He sat up stiffly and slowly turned, placing his legs off the bed onto the floor. He gave an involuntary grunt of pain as he stood. He tried to stretch to loosen his limbs, and quickly gave up the effort.

Curry limped to the washstand and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He shook his head. He poured the contents from the jug into the bowl and splashed the cold water on his face. Eyes closed, he felt blindly for the towel.

He dried his face on the worn, rough towel, and then he struggled into his shirt and pants. He pulled on his leather vest, eased himself into the chair and pulled his gun from the holster hanging on the chair’s back. He examined the gun carefully.

The sun on the horizon indicated it was still early morning. He sat and waited.


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

“Open the door, please, Mr. Coogan.”

Heyes stopped pacing to listen to the conversation on the other side of the door.

“Can’t do that Mrs. King.”

“Of course you can. I need to deliver Mr. Heyes’ breakfast tray and my hands are full.” Her voice remained pleasant, but it shook slightly.

“Nope. Mr. King’s orders.”

“What do you mean, orders? Mr. Heyes needs to eat!”

“He’ll eat alright, but I’ll deliver the tray.” He drew close to Leah, and whispered in her ear, “Mr. King thinks Mr. Heyes is gettin’ a might too attached to you,” he chucked, “and he don’t like it.”

Leah pulled away in revulsion and cringed.

Coogan took the tray and Leah watched him enter the room, hands on her hips, disappointment on her face.

Leah went back the kitchen. She picked up an empty glass and wiped it repeatedly and uselessly. She put it down and felt her skirt pocket beneath her apron. She raised the apron, and pulled the gun out by its barrel and quickly dropped it in again. She straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath, and left the kitchen.

Without knocking, Leah boldly pushed open the door to King's office, where he sat working, as if nothing of consequence would be happening within the hour.

"Let them go, Rex," she begged.

King glanced up at his presumptuous young wife, surprised at her unusual display of courage, and smiled patronizingly.

"My dear? Let who go? Oh, you must mean Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Now why ever should I let them go? This is such a lovely day and that would only spoil it. I am looking forward to seeing that brother of yours shoot against Jones, aren’t you? He picked up his pen and resumed working on his papers, seemingly uninterested in this discussion.

"But Rex, Smith and Jones have done nothing to you. They're innocent. Why take your hatred of Solomon out on them?”

"I beg to differ, Leah. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are hardly innocent. Surely you've figured out by now, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are not who they claim to be.” He smiled at Leah.

Leah sighed. "Yes, I know they are Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. But you are still using them against their will to kill Solomon, to hurt me. What you are doing is wrong, can’t you see that?”

King laughed quietly. “Oh my darling Leah, haven’t you learned anything since I brought you here? I judge what is right and what is wrong. You have no say in the matter.”

Leah ignored this insulting question and pressed forward. "Rex, let me talk to Mr. Smith. I can convince him to leave town with his friend and no one will be the wiser. No one will know what you have tried to do. That you are trying to use another man to commit murder for you. I give you my word; they won’t make trouble for you.”

"Commit murder? Leah, Solomon entered the contest of his own free will. It’s his choice.”

Leah took a deep breath, steeling her nerves, "I'll talk to Solomon too. I'll tell him I've decided to stay with you. My choice. And I'll convince him to leave us alone. He’ll withdraw from the contest."

"And be considered a coward? Oh no my dear, your brother won’t do that." King smiled, but his eyes had no warmth in them. "And Mr. Curry will kill your brother today. He has no choice. He'll do it to save his friend." King stood, crossing the room toward Leah. Placing his hand beneath her chin, he tilted it up. "Only, I have no plans to let the two of them live either." He ran his fingers down her chin and throat. “Tell me my dearest wife, with the three of them gone; whatever shall I do with you?" He traced a line across the base of her throat.


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


Curry turned as he heard the door to his room unlock. He stood and reached for his hat as Coogan entered.

“Glad to see you’re on your own this time,” Curry commented sourly.

Coogan sniffed and then leered at him, “Don’t make no difference now ‘cos you and that smart mouthed partner of yours will both be dead soon enough.”

Curry’s only reaction to the harsh comment was a raised eyebrow. Placing his hat on his head, he made his way out of the room.

“You’ll be needin’ this,” Coogan said as the Kid passed, tossing him a single bullet. The Kid deftly caught it.

They reached the lobby, and Deke Winters rose from a chair and approached. Coogan raised his rifle.

“No need for that, Coogan,” Winters told him. “Just wanted to wish Jones here ‘good luck’.”

The older gunslinger held out his hand, and grasped Curry’s firmly. He pressed his other hand to the back of it, and shook it vigorously.

“Thanks, Deke.” Curry tipped his hat with one finger. He nodded at Deke with a look of understanding. He put his hand in his pocket.

As Curry and Coogan left, Winters smiled to himself.

The street was as packed as it had been on previous days with people hanging over the balconies straining to see. It was unnervingly quiet, save for the low murmur of voices. It was eerily still with not a breath of wind.

Curry glanced to his right. He saw that King’s entourage, including Heyes, were assembled in the usual place. His eyes met his partner’s. Heyes pursed his lips, and shook his head in a negative manner so subtly it was unreadable to anyone else. “Not good,” Curry muttered under his breath. He walked to his position in the street.

The volume of the murmuring rose as Solomon appeared on the street. He gave Curry a cursory nod before looking towards his sister.

“I have to give you credit, boy!” King boomed at him. “You’re showing real nerve coming here. You must know who you’re really up against today.”

Solomon ignored King, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on Leah. “You OK?” he asked gently. Leah nodded in response but her eyes filled with tears.
“You’ve got to know you can’t win?” King continued to taunt the youth. “And you won’t free your sister. She’ll stay with me until I’ve no further use for her. By that time no one else will want her,” he said maliciously.

While this altercation took place, Curry put his hand in his pocket and then removed it. He took his gun out of his holster and checked it. When he finished this, with a neat twirl, he returned it to his holster and patiently crossed his arms over his chest. He turned to Heyes and caught his eyes, smiling at the puzzled look on Heyes’ countenance.

King turned from Solomon to Riley and shouted, “Let’s get this over with so I can celebrate.”

Solomon took his position on the street, opposite Curry. Both men studied each other for a moment, as if trying to decide whether each could trust the other.

Leah saw the look on Heyes face. “What?” she mouthed. He turned to her and whispered in her ear, “I dunno. My friend would have checked his gun before coming out here. He’s up to something.”

King turned. Heyes smiled and said, “I was wishing her luck, I was wishing us both luck.”

The bell sounded, and King turned back.

Time passed and nothing happened. Then Curry turned and faced in the direction of King. Solomon turned as well. Neither man fired. Both stood resolute, Solomon trained his gun on King. Curry fixed his aim on the hired man, Peterson.

Seeing ‘Kid Curry’s’ weapon aimed at him, Peterson panicked. His trembling hands fired off an errant shot.

Curry’s aim held true. Peterson fell to the ground, blood oozing from his injured side.

Nearby onlookers began to scatter, some ducking back into buildings, others running away to a safer distance. The group on the porch remained motionless.

An evil smile contorted Coogan’s face. “Now that was foolish, Curry, using up your bullet like that!” he jeered.

“What makes you so sure that was my only bullet,” Curry said evenly, now pointing his gun at Coogan.

Coogan wavered, uncertainly.

“I wouldn’t shoot if I were you Coogan.” Deke Winters walked to the end of the porch. “When you two walked through the hotel lobby I evened things up a little.”

Coogan turned to look at Deke and sucked in his breath.

“Just how good a shot do you think you are Coogan?” Deke raised his gun and pointed it at Coogan.

Coogan looked at King for assistance.

“What the devil do you mean by this, Deke? I thought you and I were friends,” King protested.

“Nope, don’t ever think we were that,” was Deke’s response.

King deliberately pulled a gun out of his pocket and aimed it at Deke. “Deke, this isn’t any of your business. Why don’t you put your gun away? That way you won’t get hurt.”

“Maybe you’re the one who’s going to get hurt,” said Heyes in a reasonable voice. King glanced sideways at him. “Look, as it is right now it’s stalemate. You’re pointing at Deke, Solomon’s pointing at you, Deke’s pointing at Coogan, and my friend, well he’s pointing at Coogan who’s pointing at him, but he’s fast enough to hit both of you before Coogan gets off a shot. Maybe everyone should put their guns away and we should talk this over.”

Coogan, who had been turning red with anger as Deke Winters and then Heyes spoke, burst out, “You’re bluffing, and your friend’s bluffing.” He pivoted from the Kid to Winters, and cocked his pistol, but before he got a shot off, he stumbled to his knees with a bullet in his arm and another in his shoulder.

Deke shook his head sadly, “You should never underestimate a man ‘cause of his age, Coogan.”

Solomon strode in the direction of King, arm raised forward. In response, King grabbed Leah and tried to place her between him and the boy.

Heyes stepped between the two to protect Leah, but this motion also blocked the Kid’s clear shot at King. King shrugged his shoulders and simply changed his choice of victim. He pointed his gun directly at Heyes’ chest. Curry swore under his breath.

Solomon too came to a halt. He looked from Heyes to King to Leah, and moved his arm, hesitating.

Curry spoke, “Take it easy, Solomon. That’s my partner standing there, with a gun pointing at him and, at the moment, he’s the only thing between King and your sister. If you try and shoot King now then he’s liable to shoot my friend, and maybe her as well.

Solomon swallowed hard. He kept his gaze on the group in front of him.

“What if we shot together? You shoot the gun from his hand and I’ll shoot him? Nothing would give me greater pleasure.”

“Could work but we’d still be risking my partner or your sister being hurt - or worse.”

“Think it’s time to give up, Rex.” Deke Winters stood at King’s back.

“Thought you knew me better than that, Deke. That boy has given me nothing but trouble since the day I met him. This is my game and I intend to win.” King stood firm, keeping constant eye contact with Heyes, who returned the stare.

Heyes spoke lowly. “King, be reasonable. You’re out gunned and I know for a fact that my partner isn’t going to let you walk away from this if anything happens to me. Is this really worth all this trouble? Solomon is just a kid.”

“Oh yes it’s worth it. That ‘kid’ took my arm and ruined my life. Well, now I’m going to ruin his. Step out of the way Heyes. That little tramp isn’t worth losing your life over.”

“Can’t do that, King. So what’ll it be? You want my friend to shoot you?”

King smiled at Heyes. “At this range no matter how fast your partner is, his bullet can’t reach me before mine goes through you. And Leah’s right behind you.”

However, here King was wrong. Leah had edged herself to Heyes’ and King’s side. She raised her hand to King’s temple, and a shot rang out. King fell to the ground without a cry. He lay flat, eyes wide open.

A small whimper beside him drew Heyes’ attention and he turned to see Leah, her face ashen white in shock at what she had just done, Heyes’ gun held aloft in her trembling hand. Slowly and carefully, Heyes wrapped his fingers around her hand and pried the gun from her grip.

Solomon rushed to his sister’s side, and wrapped his arms around her protectively. He looked around, daring anyone to approach or arrest her.
Deke neared them. Seeing the look on the boy’s face he said, “I don’t think I’d worry son. No one’s gonna hurt her, now. They’re all probably grateful.”

Dr. Grey bent over King’s body.

“Is he really dead, Doc?” someone asked as the people of the town gathered.

“He’s really dead.”

“Praise God for that!” a woman said loudly, “we’re free!”

The Kid walked over to Heyes and put a hand on his shoulder. Heyes looked back at him. “We’re free,” he repeated, softly.

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


Curry pulled the cinch on his saddle tight and unhooked the stirrup from the saddle horn, bringing it back down into place. Next, he firmly secured his bedroll. Heyes mirrored his actions. Both men were tight-lipped, keen to be away from this town as soon as possible.

Solomon and Leah stood watching them from the hotel porch, the boy’s arm draped protectively across the girl’s shoulders.

“You ready?” Heyes asked his partner.

“Yep,” replied Curry.

As they were about to mount their horses, Deke Winters crossed the street.

“Glad I caught you,” he said. “I wanted to wish you well and say ‘thanks’ again.” He smiled at them.

“It’s us who should be thankin’ you, Deke,” Curry told him somberly.

“Let’s just say it was a pleasure to fight alongside you and leave it at that,” the older man replied.

The sunlight hit something metal on Winter’s vest, and although partly covered by his jacket that ‘something’ flashed.

“What’s that?” Heyes inquired warily.

“Oh, that? Townsfolk asked me to be sheriff. Ain’t got nowhere else to go so I thought I’d take the job.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged an uncertain look.

“Well boys, I’d better be getting’ along; I suppose there must be some real criminals out there to capture somewheres.” Sheriff Winters touched the brim of his hat, a playful grin on his face. Heyes and Curry smirked back and watched the man walk away. Heyes let out a low laugh and shook his head.

Gathering their reins, they pulled themselves into their saddles in unison.

“Do you really have to go?” Leah asked, plaintively.

“I think it’s for the best,” Heyes told her. “Too many people know who we really are around here.”

Solomon met Curry’s gaze, and gave him an almost unperceivable nod of thanks before he could wheel his horse about and ride down the street. With one last dimpled smile and a touch of his hat brim, Heyes followed.

On the outskirts of the town, they came across two men, dismantling the sign that read ‘Kingdom’. Lying on the ground nearby was a newly painted sign - ‘Freedom’.


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

They rode a good ways, in relative silence, each lost in their own thoughts, both thankful to be alive. After a while, as the sun was touching the horizon, Curry pulled up his horse and twisted in his saddle towards his partner.

"Heyes?"

"Hmmm?"

"Exactly which part of what just happened back there was part of your plan?"

Heyes gave his partner an injured look. "I'm surprised at you, Kid. Thought you had more faith in me."

"Oh, I got faith in your alright, but I didn't see nothin’ that looked like a great Hannibal Heyes plan to me."

"I had faith in you, Kid." Heyes turned his head away from Curry, to hide a sheepish grin. "And a good partner has got to let the other partner stand on his own every now and then, right?"

Kid was almost yelling now, "Heyes, you're tellin' me, the plan was - there wasn't no plan!?"

Heyes gave a wink, "'Course there was, Kid. My plan was to have a little faith in my partner. Worked out pretty good, didn't it?
 

Luck of the Draw by Lana Coombe and Grace R. Williams

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 

Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Stories: Alias Smith and Jones  :: Virtual Season :: Virtual Season 2008/2009-
Jump to: