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 Delivery Troubles Part 2 by Skykomish

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Join date : 2013-10-13

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PostDelivery Troubles Part 2 by Skykomish

Tessa Bishop fussed with the pearl encrusted head piece nestling amid her abundant curls.

Behind her a dapper man with waxed mustachios and immaculate tailoring, adjusted a silken rosebud with deft fingers. Two black-clad women, needles in hands, stitched rapidly at tiny seed pearls trimming the floating gauze.

The man stepped back and threw up his hands in admiration. “Comme Mam'zelle est chic!”

“Superbe!” chimed in Assistant-One with a French-via-New-Jersey accent.

“Chouette!” agreed Assistant-Two, with hints of a southern twang.

“Extraordinaire!” In unison.

“It is so long,” observed Tessa with a hint of worry.

“Ees a la mode, Mam’zelle. Eet will add—'ow do you say—a magical layer to the back view of your ensemble. C’est chouette!”

“Tres Chic!” “Superbe!” “Extraordinaire!” chorused the assistants, on cue.

“Well…” Tessa hesitated.

“When Mam’zelle sees the veil with the dress—she will be—enraptured!” enthused Marcel. “’Ortense! ‘Ermione! La robe!” His fluttering hands clapped imperiously.

Assistants One and Two—presumably ‘Ortense and ‘Ermione, I mean, Hortense and Hermione—scurried off to fetch the dress.
__________

Meanwhile outside, Heyes and Curry gawked at the pink facade and Marcel's lace-and-ribbon-bedecked windows. They engaged in a silent conversation. One brown eye squinted while a blond head slowly shook.

“You'd best get in there and get the letter,” Heyes encouraged his partner with elevated eyebrows and a flick of his hand.

“Why me?”

“I talked to her last time, Kid. Besides, she thinks you're sweet on her. She'll be nicer to you.”

A snort. “It hasn't made workin' with her any easier, so far as I can tell.”

As they argued, Hortense (or possibly Hermione) opened the door. “Can I help either of you gentlemen?”

“My friend here,” Heyes indicated the Kid as he doffed his hat, “needs to speak with Miss Bishop. It's a matter of some urgency regarding her wedding plans.”

“I'm afraid you will have to wait until she is finished. Marcel does not allow MEN…” The amount of disapproval Hermione (or possibly Hortense) put into that monosyllable was impressive. “…into his fitting rooms.”

Curry drew back. “Isn’t Marcel a man? He’s in there.”

“Marcel is not merely a man. He is le couturier! An artiste! A genius! Are either of you a genius?”

Heyes opened his mouth, caught his partner’s warning glare and shut it again. “No, ma’am,” he modestly demurred, “but, the thing is, it's real important that my friend here talk to Miss Bishop. She's about to make a terrible mistake. You see, she agreed to get married after she thought he had lost interest in her. But the truth is, Thaddeus was protecting Miss Bishop from her father—a mean and angry man. Things have settled down now back at the ranch, so he trailed her all the way from the plains of Montana, looking for that priceless pearl of a woman he can't live without. He's just gotta talk to her before Tessa makes the biggest mistake of her life. He's got the house built for her, like they always dreamed it could be. Please ma'am, if ya have a heart, if you've ever been in love—I mean truly in love—or if you ever hope to be, let my friend talk to her. You don't want to stand in the way of true love, do ya?”

Her face softened. “All right,” she relented. “But just him,” she pointed at Curry. To Heyes, “You can wait just inside the door.”

“Thank you so much, ma'am. The angels of love are singing your praises.”

Curry rolled his eyes, before they both slipped inside.
__________

Outside on the boardwalk, Josiah Trapper's paid henchmen, Jack and his shadow, slunk around the corner. Jack's eyes flicked from side to side, checking the street. He casually leaned against a streetlamp and peered through the window.
__________

Next to the door, Heyes perched on a dainty wicker chair. The sales assistant led Curry to the back of the shop. The Kid's movements were controlled and precise as he avoided the stacks of buttons, lace, fabrics, and accessories cluttering Marcel's shop. Moving carefully, with the athletic grace of a predator, he resembled a leashed tiger negotiating the frilly and overly feminine environment.

“There she is,” she murmured, with a motherly pat to his arm. “Good luck!”

Tessa Bishop stood in an ivory wedding gown with sheer fabric and ribbons encasing her shoulders and buttoned to just under her pointed chin. A lacy veil started at the crown of her head and cascaded down her back covering an enormous bustle and train.

Curry stopped in his tracks.

“Miss Bishop, you look lovely,” he said with a tip of his hat.

“Of course Mam’zelle looks lovely!” snapped the circling Frenchmen. “ALL women dressed by Marcel look lovely! Elle est tres chic!”

“Superbe!” “Chouette!!” “Extraordinaire!!!” chimed the faithful acolytes.

“What are you doing here?” Tessa hissed to Curry.

“Que fait-il ici?" echoed Marcel. "Ez ’e the groom? Zat is bad luck!”

“No!” Curry’s fervent denial verged on uncivil.

“No, of course he isn’t the groom,” snapped Tessa. “He just wishes he were!”

“I don’t!” Spotting the duped sales assistant’s suspicious frown, he amended. “That is, I do… I mean…”

“This has gone on long enough,” said Tessa. “How many ways do I have to tell you, I'm getting married tomorrow?”

“Ma'am, I just—” Curry tried, but Tessa cut him off with a raised hand.

“I'm sorry. I really am. You are a very handsome—and I must say—a very determined man. I respect that. I really do, but Josiah is not always as nice and reasonable as he was this morning. When he gets jealous, he can actually be dangerous. If you keep pursuing me, I can't speak for your safety. For your own sake, you've got to let me go.” She turned away melodramatically and came face to face with a large mirror. “Oh no!” she whispered. “Too late!!”

“Huh?”

“My fiancé has had us followed. That’s his gunman, Jack, outside. He’ll kill you! This is bad. Very bad.”

“I cannot ‘ave zis man keeled ‘ere!” squeaked Marcel.

“Won’t find me arguin’,” concurred Curry.

“Bien sur, za scandal would ruin my reputation. My boutique! My seelks!!”

Kid Curry blinked, then returned to the main point. “Where is this Jack?”

“He's coming inside!”

Marcel grabbed both the ex-outlaw and the bride-to-be, thrusting them behind a fitting room curtain. “Vite! ‘Ide!”

From behind the heavy drapery, Tessa and Kid Curry heard raised voices at the front of the shop.

“M’sieur, you aren't allowed in ‘ere.”

“I just gotta check on my boss' fiancée, then I'll leave.”

“Get under my dress,” Tessa ordered.

“Are ya outta your mind?” protested Curry.

“Listen, Josiah goes crazy when he's jealous. If Jack finds you in here, Sy will have you killed. He doesn't wear a gun strapped to his leg for show like you…”

The fastest gun in the West opened his mouth to protest, but Tessa's loquacity rolled on.

“…He keeps his hidden and knows how to use it. Now get under my dress, and I'll get us out of here.”

“I ain't hidin' behind some lady's skirt!”

“I said underneath, not behind. Do it! Now!!”

“Miss Bishop,” called Jack from the other side of the curtain.

“Who's there?” she chirped, innocently.

“It's Jack, ma'am.”

“Jack? Jack who?”

“Jack Druckle, ma'am. Mr. Trapper's—uh—assistant.”

“Oh. Hello, Jack. What brings you here?”

“I'm real sorry to bother you, Miss Bishop, but I gotta know who’s in there with ya.”

“In here, Jack? No one. All the assistants are out there with you.”

Silently, but emphatically, she pointed at her cascading train and indicated that Curry must get underneath. “Now!” she whispered.

With a disgruntled glare, the Kid squatted down and duck-walked underneath the voluminous fabric of the bustled wedding dress.

“Who are you talkin' to, ma'am?” Jack called.

“Why you, of course, Jack. Who else would I be talking to?”

“Ma'am, are you sure that you're alone in there?”

“Absolutely sure!”

Curry pulled the heavy fabric over him.

“I'm powerful sorry, ma'am, but I'm gonna have to ask ya to come out so I can check. I don't wanna, but you know how the boss gets when he's jealous.”

Tessa poked her head out from behind the curtain. “If you must, I suppose you must,” she said with resignation.

She pulled the curtain aside, patted her bustle, and twitched the long lace veil into place. Moving with mincing steps, she exited the curtained alcove and inched toward the front of the store. Jack quickly inspected the dressing room and found nothing suspicious. He popped out from behind the curtain and watched Tessa move away with an ungainly waddle. His expression soured.

“What’s that bulge?” he asked, pointing.

“Bulge??!!” exploded Marcel. “BULGE??!! ‘Ow dare you! Nozzing cut by Marcel bulges! Le bustle—c’est le dernier cri! Mam’zelle looks superbe!!”

“Really, Jack!” Tessa managed a carefree laugh. “I hardly think you are an expert on the latest styles!”

She recommenced her mincing journey to the door. As she turned a corner, the tip of a cowboy boot peeked from beneath the ivory satin as the bustle switched directions.

Jack’s brows snapped together. His head shook, sadly. “The boss is really gonna get mad about this!”
_________
Heyes smiled and tipped his hat as Tessa listed past him and out the door, navigating her dress through an ungainly turn. Using two fingers, he pushed his hat to the back of his head and frowned at the strangely independent mound of fabric trailing her small frame.

The brawny thug who worked for Trapper nodded to Heyes as he also exited and hurried in the opposite direction. Heyes touched the brim of his hat and nodded at Hortense (or possibly Hermione) before following Miss Bishop.

“Do ya really think you're hidden under there, Thaddeus?”

Tessa's head snapped around, and she glared at Heyes.

“Your fiancé's watchdogs took off in the other direction, ma'am,” he told her. “You coming out from under there?” he asked the satin-and-lace mountain.

Kid Curry's matted curls emerged from under the hem. He fought his way free of the fabric and clamped his hat back on his head.

“If he's caught with me, my fiancé is going to kill him,” announced Tessa.

“Apparently Trapper is real violent when he's jealous,” added the Kid. “He sent Jack to follow us.”

“Jack?”

“Trapper's hired muscle. Do ya think that he noticed me under the dress?”

Heyes covered his mouth and rolled his eyes before he snarled, “Of course he noticed ya!! Folk across town coulda noticed ya!! What the Sam Hill were you thinking?”

“It was my idea,” piped in Tessa. “Sy has had me followed before. He's threatened men just for dancing with me. I wanted to protect your friend.”

“So—dancing is out, but he’s fine with men burrowing under your skirts??!!”

Tessa drew herself up. “There’s no need to be sarcastic. If Jack reported that I was alone, your friend would be safe.”

“But instead, Jack's running back to tell Trapper that you got something more under your wedding dress than silk stockings and a bridal garter.”

“I suppose when you put it that way, it does sound…"

“There's no other way to put it! But we can clear this mess up and take care of ourselves. How about you?” asked Heyes.

“I beg your pardon?” Tessa asked, bewildered by his question.

“Are you safe, ma'am?” the Kid asked quietly.

“Of course I am! Josiah loves me. He would never hurt me.” Her tone started out indignant, but turned more doubtful as she faltered to a stop.

“Are you sure, ma'am?”

She smiled into his sincere blue eyes. “Yes. I'm sure, Mr....” she hesitated. “I don't even know your name.”

“It's Jones, ma'am. Thaddeus Jones. And this here's my partner, Joshua Smith.”

“Well, Messrs. Smith and Jones, let's leave the area before Josiah has a chance to get here.”

“Don't you need to change clothes first, ma'am?” asked the Kid.

She gathered the voluminous satin in her hands and eyed her wedding dress wistfully. A sad smile played with the corners of her mouth. “I was planning to take it back to the hotel anyway. I don't want to waste time changing when Josiah's coming back here to threaten you. I'll change at the hotel.”

All three piled into her hired carriage. The heads of the two ex-outlaws emerged from a nest of lace and chiffon.

“Palace Hotel,” Tessa told the driver.

The Kid studied the fragile-seeming creature seated next to him. “Don't ya have family ya could stay with?”

She studied her lap and picked at the beading on her dress. “My parents aren't in the country just now. A misunderstanding involving taxes and government contracts. They decided it was best to spend some time abroad. They'll be back before long, I'm sure. As soon as it all gets cleared up.”

Heyes smiled. “So that's how the rich run from a warrant, huh?”

A ready smile covered Tessa’s brief wince. “Mr. Smith, you seem certain you can convince Josiah nothing is going on between me and Thaddeus. How?”

“We'll give him the invitation we've been trying to deliver. It's addressed to him, and we need his signature.”

The Kid added, “Could ya give it to me?”

She frowned. “You aren't going to start that again, are you?”

Before she could continue, Curry covered her lips with three fingers.

“Miss Bishop,” said Heyes, “You wrote Marcel’s address on an envelope. That's the one we need. When we deliver it to Trapper, it’ll prove that was all we were ever trying to do.”

Tessa rummaged through her bag, drew out the scuffed invitation and handed it to the Kid.

Before he could pocket it, Heyes plucked it out of his grasp. “I'll keep it this time, Thaddeus.” He placed the invitation inside an interior vest pocket and patted it possessively.

Curry rolled his eyes. “Miss Bishop, how'd a nice girl from a rich family get mixed up with a man like Josiah Trapper?”

“Sy's not all bad. Our families have been friends for years. I resisted any talk of marriage at first. After all, I'm not some possession my family can trade in for a profit.” She smoothed down the billowing clouds of wedding satin. “But once I met Josiah, what my family had arranged didn't matter anymore. He was so much fun, and with just a hint of danger. I had never been around someone like that. You and your partner are such nice, dependable, and respectable people; you probably wouldn't understand what I'm talking about.”

A mute conversation.

“You know Miss Bishop is right, Thaddeus,” interjected Heyes in an earnest tone. “You and me are just regular, hard-working, church-going fellas. That world of high rollers and risky money that Mr. Trapper is involved in would just be bewildering to the likes of me and you.”

Curry shot him a sour glare, but Tessa nodded wisely. Heyes met the lady's look with sincere puppy-brown eyes.

The carriage came to a halt. “We're here,” said Tessa.

“Are ya sure that you'll be safe here alone, Miss Bishop?” asked Curry.

“I'm sure, Mr. Jones. Sy is after you, not me.” She pointed to the hotel. “See that window up there on the corner? Second story? That's my suite. No one's going to hurt me once I'm up there. You deliver the invitation and explain things to Josiah, and I'll get married tomorrow evening.”

“I'll walk you up to your room. To make sure that you're safe, ma'am,” the Kid said as he bounded out of the carriage and offered his hand to help her down.
___________

The second floor hallway in the luxurious hotel was hushed and deserted as Curry escorted Tessa Bishop to her suite. Tessa was strangely quiet. When they reached her door, she inserted the key, turned the heavy glass knob, and pushed open the door.

“I can't say it's been a pleasure, ma'am, but it's been somethin' unique,” he said, while removing his hat. “If ya don't mind, I'll take a quick look, just to make sure yer safe.” He stepped inside the suite, quickly scanning for threats. “Best wishes for your weddin' tomorrow,” he added as he backed toward the door.

A sharp rapping on the window nabbed their attention. A familiar black hat and brown-haired head hovered in view. Curry threw open the window. Heyes stood on a fire escape.

“Trapper's on his way. He's carrying a shotgun, and he's got gunmen with him. Let's go!”

A loud banging was followed by a shout. “Tessa! I know you got that cowboy in there. I saw him walking you up to your room. Now stop lying, and tell me what's really going on between you two! Open this door, Tessa!”

“I'm not opening it, until you calm down, Josiah! I have done NOTHING wrong. I just met Mr. Jones yesterday morning. I've told you everything. This crazy jealousy has got to stop!”

“Open the door, Tessa. NOW!”

“No!”

The Kid reacted to the cocking of a weapon. He shoved Tessa to the ground and jumped on top of her. The blast from a shotgun ripped into the wood of the door. Curry scooped Tessa up and carried her to the window. Heyes crouched on the fire escape.

“She's comin' with us,” the Kid declared.

The two ex-outlaws and the bride-to-be scurried down the steps to the street and pulled away in the hired carriage.
___________

“Still think that Josiah won't hurt you?” asked Heyes, as he steered the horses around a corner.

“He'll listen once he calms down.” Her voice was unsteady.

“What now?” asked the Kid. “We can't outrun them in this thing,” he indicated the carriage with a gesture, “and we can't leave Miss Bishop to face this alone.”

“I'm thinking,” replied his partner. “Are they following us?”

Curry peered out the back. “Yep. I see at least three of them on horses. What happened to the driver?”

Heyes waited until after he negotiated another corner before answering. “He decided things were getting a little too exciting. When he saw Trapper and his men, he ran off and left the carriage.”

“Now what?”

Heyes didn't reply. He pulled hard on the reins to avoid an enclosed wagon that was slipping down a side street. “That's it,” he crowed. “Get out! Both of you. Jump in the back of that wagon. I'll lead Trapper and company away and then meet you at Soapy's place.”

Curry stared silently.

“Hurry!” yelled Heyes. “Ya hafta get moving before they round the corner and see what we're doing. Go on! I'll be fine. He doesn't have a problem with me.”

“All right,” the Kid agreed reluctantly.

He helped Tessa down, and they hurried after the wagon. Curry leaped on board and then offered his hand to Tessa. She gathered the fabric of her dress around her waist and reached for his gloved hand. He pulled her into the wagon.

“It's a trash collector!” she whined, while gathering the cascading satin around her waist. “Could this night get any worse?”

“Yup, it could,” Curry nodded towards Trapper and his men chasing after his partner.

The wagon slowly bumped through the alleys and backstreets of downtown San Francisco.

The silhouette of a horseman caught Curry's attention, and he shoved Tessa flat into the bed of the wagon and held her there.

“What are you doing? I thought we had moved beyond the point where you tackle me. My dress is probably ruined already, but do you have to make absolutely certain that it is destroyed beyond all repair?”

“I think I saw someone lookin' for us.”

The hard edge to his voice silenced her. “I thought that your partner was leading Josiah away,” she offered meekly.

“That's the plan, ma'am. But you tell me, is Trapper easy to fool? Or is he smart and checks things out for himself?”

“Sy is no fool.”

“I was afraid of that.”

Curry drew his Colt and shimmied down onto his belly. His blue eyes watched the rider, on alert for pursuit.

“Eeheww, do you realize the kind of filth that's carried in this wagon?” she asked with a sniff.

“I'd rather not think about it, ma'am.”

Just as the horse and rider stepped out of view, the wagon shuddered to a stop. A jostling at the front was followed by slow footsteps. Curry signaled for Tessa's silence and stayed on his stomach beside her. The business end of a double-barreled shotgun peeked over the tailgate of the wagon.

“Who's hidin' back 'ere?” grated a low and deliberate voice. “I ain't kindly disposed to drifters hitchin' a lift.”

“We don't mean no—" Curry began, but was cut off by Tessa.

“Oh sir, thank you so much for the ride. We've been so frightened.” Tessa wriggled free of Curry and her bronze curls popped above the tailgate. Blue eyes wide and guileless, she smiled shyly at the driver.

He lowered his weapon at the sight of the elfin face and the smudged and disheveled wedding finery.

“Ma'am, you shouldn't be back there. It's full of folks' garbage.”

“But, sir, my fiancé has gone crazy. He's wild with jealousy. This kind stranger was helping me by fixing a broken carriage wheel outside of my dressmakers', when Josiah came by and went berserk. He accused me of all kinds—"

“Ma'am, did you say Josiah?”

Tessa's vigorous nodding sent her curls bouncing. She sniffed back tears. “That's right. Josiah Trapper. He's my fiancé.”

Curry carefully sat up and inspected the driver in scruffy overalls. The shotgun had been lowered, but a finger still twitched near the trigger.

“Josiah Trapper's got a real hard reputation among us teamsters, ma'am. That's one mean cuss—'scuse my language—yer keepin' time with.”

“He and some other fellas are lookin' for the lady,” Curry added. “So it'd be best if we kept movin'.”

“I ain't tusslin' with Trapper or his men. I'm right sorry, ma'am, but that wouldn't be healthy. You two just crawl on outta there, and I'll be on my way.”

“Look,” Curry said, pinning the man with a cold glare. “I need to get the lady to a house up on Nob Hill. Just take us there.”

“No, sir. I ain't takin' that chance.”

Curry holstered his weapon and climbed out of the wagon before helping Tessa. Her dress was wadded in her fists, and the train was tangled at her waist. The driver hurried around his wagon and up onto the bench. With a snap of the reins, the rig pulled forward.

“Now what?” she grumbled and slammed her fists against her legs.

The sharp crack of a shotgun cocking broke the silence.

“Now we wait for the boss,” announced an unfamiliar voice. A large slab of a man stepped out of the shadows. His shotgun was pointed at Curry. “Jack,” he called, “get over here and help me cover these two.”

“Comin', Ollie.” Jack was still stuffed into the same suit and had a six-gun aimed at the Kid's heart. “What about Nate?”

“Nate needs to go tell the boss we have these two covered and bring 'im here.”

“Ya hear that, Nate?” asked Jack.

“Sure did.”

The sound of booted feet jogging away echoed through the alley.

“Now, you—cowboy—unbuckle that gun belt, real slow, and let it drop to your feet,” commanded Ollie.

Curry untied the knot at his thigh and then complied.

“That's real good. Now just kick the belt on over here.”

A shove from the Kid's foot sent the holster skidding in Ollie's direction.

“Good job.” Trapper's henchman bent to pick up the weapon without lowering his shotgun.
__________

Heyes slowed the carriage and checked behind him again. No sign of pursuit.

“Where are they?”

He parked the carriage at the side of the road and waited. Listening. No one followed.

“You just wait here, fella. I'll be back,” he told the horse as he secured it to a hitching post. Heyes drew his gun and checked the chambers before moving cautiously back along the way he had come.

He had backtracked several blocks when the hammer of a six-shooter clicked behind him.

“Raise 'em!” barked a harsh voice.

Heyes lifted his hands above his head, and the Schofield was jerked from his grasp.

“Keep your hands up and turn around. Slowly.”

Heyes turned around. Josiah Trapper's lanky frame leaned against the wall. His sandy hair hung around his face, and Heyes' revolver was shoved in the waistband of his expensive suit. He held a six-shooter aimed steadily at Heyes' eyes.

“Where's your friend and my fiancée?”

“I don't know what ya mean, Mr. Trapper. My friend's back at our...”

Heyes' lie was cut short by a backhanded blow across his face. Gloved fingers dabbed at the blood trickling from his mouth before raising his hands again.

“Don't lie to me!” bellowed Trapper. “I have no reason to hurt you, but I don't have any reason to keep you alive either.”

“If you'll just listen, I have the invitation we've been trying to deliver to you in my inner vest pocket.”

“But that doesn't explain why your friend has been chasing my girl for two days.”

“Yes it does, Mr. Trapper. We gave it to your fiancée by accident. We've been trying to get the invitation back, so we can deliver it to you. We only get paid if we hand it to you personally and get your signature.”

Trapper lowered his weapon. “Where's the invitation?”

Heyes started to reach for it. Trapper pointed his gun at his throat.

“It's inside my vest in a pocket on the right side,” Heyes answered carefully.

Trapper reached into Heyes' vest and retrieved the letter. He read the address and uncocked his gun. “So there really is an invitation for me,” he chuckled. He met Heyes' brown-eyed stare directly. “My apologies, Mr...”

“Joshua Smith,” Heyes answered and offered his hand.

At that moment, Nate came charging around the corner. “Mr. Trapper, Ollie and Jack's got Miss Bishop and that cowboy in the alley back by Montgomery Street.”

The barrel of the revolver snapped back to Heyes' face.

“Well, now we know where the partner is.”

Heyes opened his mouth to explain, but shut it when Trapper cocked his gun.

“Save it, Smith. Let's wait and talk about this when we're all together.”
__________

The Kid saw Heyes round the corner on the wrong side of a revolver. A sharp shove between his shoulder blades sent the dark-haired outlaw stumbling into his partner. Both men had their hands tied securely behind their backs. Tessa Bishop stood near the Kid with her hands tied in front. Flanked by Nate and Ollie, Josiah Trapper scowled at his fiancée, who glared back from a cocoon of rumpled ivory satin. Jack stayed to the right of the outlaws with his gun aimed squarely at the Kid.

“So nothing's going on?” sneered Trapper. “You took him to your hotel suite! What am I supposed to think? You hid him under your wedding dress. YOUR WEDDING DRESS!! Look at yourself, Tessa. Look at it through my eyes.”

Trapper took a couple of shuddering breaths and then continued in a quieter voice. “I love you. You make me crazy, you know that. I'm afraid that I'm going to end up killing you as well as this cowboy after the way you carried on. You make me crazy!”

Tessa took several steps toward him and raised her bound hands. “You love me? I'm tied up in an alley! You say you love me and threaten my life in the same sentence. That's not love, Sy. That's obsession!”

She lowered her hands and stood next to Curry. “Mr. Jones has been nothing but a gentleman. I was prepared to marry you, Sy! I haven't done anything wrong, but you went crazy anyway. I can't prove to you that nothing has happened. You either believe in my virtue, or you don't. You take my word, or you don't. It's up to you. But this jealousy is not love.”

“All right,” he shouted back. “I'm sorry! Did you hear that? I'm sorry. Did you ever hear me say I was sorry before, Jack? Ollie? Have I ever said I was sorry?”

“No, boss,” murmured Ollie.

“No, never,” said Jack at the same time.

“See, Tessa,” Trapper continued. “I've never said I was sorry before. But for you I will say it. I'm sorry. Now, let's forget all about these cowboys and their invitation. I'll take you back to the hotel, and we'll get your dress fixed.”

“That's very nice, Josiah, but no. You see, I've come to realize that I don't love you. So, I'm not going to marry you after all.”

“Oh, Miss Bishop,” Heyes interjected. “You don't want to make a decision like that..."

“If that's the way you want it, Tessa,” Trapper interrupted and raised his revolver. “I pour out my heart to you. I apologize, and you decide you don't love me. I can dispose of three bodies as easily as two.”

Heyes shot the Kid a beseeching look, but Curry shook his head, glancing at the four armed men surrounding them.

At that moment, five men wearing dark blue uniforms, complete with tall derby hats and police badges, stepped into the alley pointing weapons at each of Trapper's men.

“Drop 'em, boys. We've heard enough, and we got ya surrounded,” announced the police leader in a booming baritone.

As the officers disarmed the thugs, Josiah Trapper spun and aimed his gun directly at the disheveled woman in soiled satin. Using his shoulder, Curry knocked Tessa to the ground and fell on top of her. The revolver fired, but an errant bullet whizzed harmlessly past. Before Trapper could fire again, Heyes lowered his head and rammed it into his gut. Josiah crumpled into a heap with Heyes straddling him. The gun skittered across the cobbled alley. A San Francisco police officer stomped on the moving weapon and aimed his gun at the jilted businessman.

As the police secured Josiah and his thugs and untied Heyes, Curry, and Tessa, the garbage driver poked his head around the corner.

Seeing that Trapper and his men were in custody and being led away, the driver sidled up to Curry. “I couldn't face Trapper for ya, but I went down to the police station and told 'em where the trouble was startin'.” He turned to Tessa, “I hope that yer all right, ma'am. I tried to get help here as soon as I could.”

Tessa's face was lit by a brilliant smile. “Thank you,” she answered and kissed him on the cheek. “Comme vous etes superbe!”

“Extraordinaire!” murmured Kid Curry.
_________

Multicolored lanterns decorated the terrace of a mansion overlooking the moon lit bay where the high society of San Francisco danced. Carriages and buggies lined a wide parking area attended by two men in ill-fitting and dated suits.

Curry leaned against a wall and shot a sideways glare at his dark-haired partner. “Tell me again, Heyes, why we're parkin' buggies and totin' and carryin' for Clarence Lowery, Attorney at Law, and his highfalutin' party?”

“Because we need the money, seeing as how we didn't get paid for delivering the subpoena since Trapper never signed the receipt.”

“Yeah, but we got him arrested for attempted murder. What do they need that subpoena for now? We did better than he asked, but we still didn't get paid.”

“I know. Maybe we should refuse all jobs offered by lawyers on principle.”

A carriage pulled in front of the mansion. Heyes directed the driver to a parking spot, while Curry opened the door for the single occupant, whose blue eyes shone with mischief.

“I figured that Josiah wouldn't be using the invitation, so why shouldn't I enjoy the party,” said a familiar voice. “Could a lady get the nice doorman to escort her in a dance or two?”

“I'm supposed to be openin' the door for the guests,” he answered with a lopsided grin.

“Come on, Mr. Jones, you don't always have to be so dependable. Try doing something a little risky. You might even enjoy it.”

Heyes pulled the Kid aside and whispered, "Careful. Remember the perils of helping the needy."

The Kid laughed, but turned and offered Tessa his arm. “It would be my pleasure, ma'am,” he answered, ignoring his partner.

Heyes watched him escort Tessa Bishop inside. “I knew he noticed that she was pretty.”



Author's note: A huge thank you to Calico for her invaluable help with the comedy.


(Writers love feedback! You can let Skykomish know how you enjoyed the story with a quick comment. Just Post Reply - bottom right corner - to the Comments for Delivery Troubles thread below the story.)

_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.
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