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 Delivery Troubles Part1 by Skykomish

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20140223
PostDelivery Troubles Part1 by Skykomish




Ben Murphy as Kid Curry and Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes


Guest Starring

Laura San Giacomo as Tessa Bishop


Keith Carradine as Josiah Trapper


Michael Jeter as Postal Clerk


Booth Colman as Marriage License Clerk


Severn Darden as Clarence Lowery, Attorney at Law


Monty Laird as Garbage Collector


Vaughn Taylor as Bob Wilkins, the street vendor


Mills Watson as Jack Druckle



Special Guest Star
Johnny Depp as Marcel, le Couturier Extraordinaire





Well-manicured fingers counted out a stack of small bills and handed them to the dark-haired man. Brown eyes measured the amount before peeling off half and handing it to his partner.

“Thank you, Mr. Lowery. If you have another job, let us know,” beamed Hannibal Heyes as he stowed the money in a pocket and put on his black hat.

“Thank you,” murmured Kid Curry, donning his own hat.

“Mr. Smith, if you and your partner are available, I do have one quick delivery here in San Francisco for which I could use your help.”

Both hats came off in unison and two sets of eyes, one blue and one brown, riveted on the stout lawyer.

“How can we help?” asked the blond with a smile.

The attorney slid a thick envelope from the top drawer of his desk. He handed it to the Kid, who inspected both sides before showing it to Heyes.

“It’s a party invitation that needs to be hand delivered.” He paused and rummaged around in his desk before handing Curry a piece of paper. “I need a signature acknowledging receipt.” Lowery indicated a blank line at the bottom of the document.

Brown eyes slid sideways with an unspoken question for his partner. “You want us to hand deliver a party invitation to …” he peeked at the envelope still in Curry’s gloved hand, “Josiah Trapper, and you want a signed receipt.” He met the lawyer’s gaze. “You’re real cautious ‘bout getting the numbers right for the caterers?”

No response from Lowery, though a plump finger tugged nervously at his collar.

Curry cut to the chase. “What’s the catch?”

“Catch, Mr. Jones?”

“What else is in that envelope?” Heyes asked with a penetrating stare.

Lowery slumped into the leather chair behind his desk. “A subpoena,” he admitted with a frown. “Trapper’s on the shady side of the local transport business. He doesn’t want to see that subpoena. I’ll pay you an additional fifty dollars to simply deliver the envelope and get a signature.”

“How shady are his businesses?” asked Heyes suspiciously.

“And is he violent?” added the Kid.

“Getting the answers to those questions is what that subpoena is about. Will you help?”

“We’ll deliver your—invitation—for one hundred dollars,” countered Heyes.

“Apiece,” appended Curry.

Lowery drew himself up with an indrawn breath. “That’s ridiculous for one delivery,” he barked.

“That’s the deal,” Heyes replied smoothly. He met the lawyer's gaze with apparent indifference.

“Very well,” the attorney relented, “but I want the signed receipt back by the end of the day tomorrow.”

“You’ll have it,” the Kid assured him.
__________

The morning streets of San Francisco bustled with wagons, horses, carts, and carriages. Mud and litter lined the edges of the cobbled road outside Lowery’s office. A petite woman, whose gold-burnished, brown ringlets were escaping from a thick twist of hair pinned to the back of her head, strolled down the boardwalk with her blue eyes fixed on an open book. She wore a stylish lilac dress and a small flowered hat perched atop her curls. A light spray of freckles scattered across rosy cheeks, and gleamed starkly on creamy skin. Several wrapped packages nestled in the crook of one arm, and the hand that held the book also clutched a stack of envelopes. She chattered to herself as she walked briskly down the street.

“Comment allez-vous? How are you? Comment allez-vous? Je m’appelle Tessa. My name is Tessa. Je m’appelle Tessa." She bumped into a street vendor, and her look of surprised indignation quickly transformed into a bright smile.

“Bonjour—I mean, Hello. Could you give me directions to the post office, please?"

“The post office, ma’am? Sure. You go along here…”

Tessa’s attention had returned to her book. “Comment vous appelez-vous? What is your name?”

“Along here, till ya come to… Huh? It’s Wilkins, ma’am. Bo…”

“Comment vous appelez-vous? What is your name?”

“I’m tellin’ ya, ma’am, Bob Wilkins.”

The blue eyes came up, surprised at the uncalled for introduction. “Hello, Mr. Wilkins. The post office?”

“You go along here, till ya come to…”

“Quelle temp fait-il? What is the weather like?”

“At the post office, ma’am? It’ll be pretty much like here—it ain’t THAT far! You come to the general store…”

“Quelle temp fait-il? What is the weather like?”

Wilkins scratched his head, shrugged, and gazed at the sky. “I’d say it’s set fair, ma’am.”

She looked up, blinked. “What is?”

“What is—what?”

“What is set fair?”

“The weather, ma’am.”

“What has that to do with the post office?” Her brow puckered. Eager flicking of pages. “How would I say that? Qu’est ce que c’est que… No!”

“At the store, you turn along…”

“Tchah! Je ne comprends pas!”

“Huh?”

“Je ne comprends pas—I don’t understand.”

“It’s simple, ma’am; at the store you turn along…”

“Oh, never mind. I’ll find it myself. Merci beaucoup, M’sieur.”

Her attention still fixed on the French book, she stepped off the boardwalk directly into the busy street. People, horses, and carts, stopping and swerving to avoid her, did not penetrate her unwavering concentration on the French lesson.

On the far side of the street, Curry clasped the invitation in one hand and adjusted his hat with the other. Scanning the street, he saw a milk wagon bearing down on Tessa, her nose still buried in her book. He sprinted forward and tackled the petite linguist out of harm's way. They rolled to the far boardwalk and slid to a stop with the woman sprawled on top. Her packages and mail were scattered in the dirt.

Two pairs of blue eyes locked. The moment passed when her eyebrows lowered, and she scowled at the Kid. Delicately gloved hands slammed against his shoulders, and she clambered to her feet. After disentangling herself from the ex-outlaw, her solid kick connected with his shin.

“I don’t know what you think you are doing. I can assure you that I am not that kind of woman! And in broad daylight on a public street. I suppose you think you can do whatever you please..."

Curry pushed himself to his elbows and retrieved his hat. “Ma’am, I was just..." he interrupted.

“...well I have news for you—you—COWBOY—you tackled the wrong woman.”

The Kid stood up and brushed the dust off his clothes. “Ma’am, you don’t understand. I was..."

“Now, that’s rich. You accuse ME of not understanding. I suppose that being a woman, I’m too rash, too emotional, not at all capable of understanding what a man has to say, or why a man might behave in a beastly fashion. I assure you, SIR, that one day we rash, emotional creatures will be able to vote and hold public office just like any man…” She drew breath.

“Ya finished?” the Kid asked with an edge to his voice.

“No! I am certainly NOT finished. Pas de tout! Though women have been silenced for centuries, the tide is turning. We will no longer be the voiceless half of society! I am a rational person. I have a voice…”

“Not disputin’ THAT.”

“...When I want something, I ask. When someone answers, I listen. I don’t throw people to the ground while they are trying to learn French, and if I were to do so, I would at least apologize." She paused and huffed out a breath into the resulting silence.

“Ya finished, now?”

She pushed stray curls out of her face and straightened her shoulders. Her mouth opened. She took a deep breath, preparatory to more speech. Nothing. Her brow furrowed. Crossly, she shut her mouth. A pause. “Yes,” she admitted, reluctantly. “What, if anything, have you got to say for yourself?”

“You were gonna be hit by a milk wagon.”

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide in alarm. She locked gazes with him again. “Oh.” The sound was small. A confused look vanished as she adjusted her hat. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place? I’m not a mind-reader, you know.”

While she talked, Curry retrieved her parcels and letters.

She arranged the packages, and then nodded. “Thank you,” she said stiffly and swirled away down the boardwalk.

The Kid stepped into the street only to peer directly into the twinkling, brown eyes of his partner.

“Helping the needy again?”

“She’s a lunatic, and she talks more'n you do!”

“Pretty though.” Mock puzzlement in the brown eyes. “Hey, isn’t that your favorite kind of needy?"

“Just let it go, will ya?” Curry glanced at the dirt-smeared letter in his hand. His eyes widened. “Heyes, we gotta find that girl!”

Heyes pushed back his hat. “However pretty she was, we got a job to do, Kid.”

“We can’t. She’s got the invitation we’re supposed to deliver.”

The envelope was grabbed from Curry’s hand. Brown eyes inspected it. Heyes frowned at his partner. “Great job. One eyelash flutter and you switch letters!” He pointed down the street to their left. “She went that way!”
__________

Heyes and Curry trailed the tiny dynamo in lavender silk as she slipped into the post office. Heavy doors opened into a large room with high ceilings and numerous wooden columns. Long lines snaked from two counters where clerks methodically slammed rubber stamps onto ink pads and envelopes while helping the customers. Tessa was working her way rapidly up the line on the right.

“Excuse me,” she cooed to the man in front of her. “I’m getting married the day after tomorrow, and I’m in a dreadful hurry. Would you mind if I went ahead of you?... Oh, merci beaucoup.” She moved to the next place in line and displayed an endearing smile. “Excuse me, I know it’s a lot to ask, but I have so much to do. You see, I’m getting married in two days. May I please step ahead of you?... Oh, comme vous etes gentil.”

Heyes’ smile grew both broader and warmer as he observed the woman work the crowd on her way to the front of the line. “Are you going to get the letter back,” he quietly asked the Kid.

“Me?”

“It’s only fair. You’re the one who lost it.”

“But she’s already kicked me, and all I did was save her from gettin’ run over.”

“That should teach you the perils of helping the needy.”

Curry shot him a look before striding purposefully toward the young woman.

“You have my letter,” he said when he reached her.

“No. These are mine. You remember, you helped me gather them off the street after you tackled me.” She smiled sweetly and moved ahead of the next person.

“I had one, too,” Curry replied patiently. “It didn’t have a stamp on it.”

“Then you’re in the wrong line. They sell stamps over there.” She pointed to the long line on the left. “Excuse me, may I..."

“Go on ahead, ma’am,” replied the next gentleman before she finished her question.

Curry started to follow, but was blocked by an extended arm. “Wait your turn,” the man snapped.

Tessa shook her curls at him. “You’re upsetting them. They were kind enough to let me pass, because I’m getting married in two days, but you are making people angry.”

“I just want my letter.”

She snatched the envelope out of his hand. “I’ll mail it for you.”

“That’s thoughtful of ya, ma’am, but I need MY letter back.”

“But you just gave it to me! Wait a minute, this is MY letter!” she exclaimed, examining the envelope.

“Yup. It is,” Curry agreed emphatically.

“What are you doing with my letter?” She studied his face and then smiled knowingly. “Oh. You’re following me,” she said warmly. They had reached the front of the line, and she handed all the letters and packages to the clerk behind the counter.

“Uh-huh,” answered the Kid.

“That’s flattering, but I’m getting married, and my fiancé is very jealous.”

With a quick “Merci beaucoup,” to the clerk, and a final dazzling smile for the ex-outlaw, Tessa spun away and whisked out the double doors.

A moment passed before Kid Curry brought his lower jaw back to the closed position. “Hey,” he objected to the clerk. “I need my letter.”

The small man behind the counter challenged the tall ex-outlaw with a bureaucratic scowl. “Once a letter has been mailed, it becomes the responsibility of the United States government. I cannot return any mailed letter, even to the one who mailed it. I certainly can’t give it to you after that young lady entrusted it to the care of the United States Postal Service.”

“But it don’t have a stamp,” complained the Kid.

“Then you will get it back in a day or two when it’s returned to the sending address.”

“But it don't have a return address. I’m supposed to hand deliver it by tomorrow.”

“Then why ever did you mail it? I’m afraid that it will end up in the dead letter file.” He dismissed the Kid with a snort. “Next,” he bellowed.

Curry plodded back to Heyes.

“So where is it?” asked the dark-haired man.

Curry pointed to the officious clerk. “She mailed it, and he won’t give it back. Says that it’s under the protection of the U.S. Postal Service, but that they’re gonna put it in a dead letter file because it don’t have a stamp.”

“Huh?”

Curry’s voice rose as he flung his arm in the direction of the conscientious bureaucrat, “They won’t give it back!”

Heads turned to look at the two men arguing near the door.

“Shh. Keep your voice down. I’ll talk to him and get our letter back.” Heyes strode confidently to the front of the line followed by a silently fuming Curry.

“Sir, we—my friend and I—" he waggled a finger between himself and the Kid, “need to deliver that letter. The young woman had no right to mail it, and we need it back so that we can fulfill our obligations to Clarence Lowery, Attorney at Law.” Heyes used his silkiest voice.

“It’s now the responsibility of the United States Postal Service. We’ll make sure it gets where it needs to go.”

“But you told my friend that it will sit in the dead letter box because it has no stamp or return address.”

“That’s right. You can’t pull one over on Uncle Sam by leaving off the return address. No stamp. No delivery.”

“But it was never meant to be mailed. He’s paying us to hand deliver it.”

“Then what were you thinking when you gave it to the United States Postal Service? I’m sorry, but we can’t return your letter.” The clerk dismissed Heyes with a disdainful look. “Next,” he called to the waiting line.

“Just a minute,” Heyes tried again, sliding a silver piece toward the clerk.

Catching sight of the money, the short man spluttered, “Sir, you will remove that—that—bribe from my sight, or I will be forced to report you to the authorities. The United States Postal Service is above reproach. You will not circumvent the proper delivery of the mail by tossing around coinage. Please, leave.”

Curry grabbed Heyes’ bicep and gently towed him away from the window. “We don’t want any trouble,” he soothed the offended clerk as he hauled his partner outside.
__________

Fog swirled through the late night streets of San Francisco, obscuring the stealthy movements of two ex-outlaws lurking behind the post office. The flames of the streetlamps were mirrored in Curry’s polished Colt, glinting and blinking with the drifting mists. Heyes slunk silently to a back door. The lock soon opened. Beckoning Curry with a gloved hand, he slipped inside the government office.

Curry-blue eyes slid right and then left to ensure that the pair went unobserved as they stole inside. He spied his partner crouched over a hooded lamp. A quick flare of light splashed lurid shadows on Heyes' face before resolving into the soft glow of a shuttered flame.

“Where do you think it is?” Heyes whispered.

“He said it would land in the dead letter file. I guess we should look there.”

The dark head nodded before he prowled over to an empty counter to check the files beneath. Curry stood sentry near a window that allowed him to watch both of the streets that passed by the building. Soon Heyes left the counter. He scanned the labels on a wall filled with wooden boxes and baskets of letters. After only a few seconds, he placed the lamp on a table and scooped out the contents of one of the boxes. Moving closer to the light, he quickly flipped through the mail. After plucking out the envelope he wanted, he secured it in an inside pocket. Gathering up the other letters, he placed them back in the box attached to the wall.

“I got it. Let’s go,” he whispered to the Kid.

Flowing away from the window, Curry joined Heyes. He slipped in front of his partner and cracked open the back door. Placing an eye to the opening, he inspected the alley before following his Colt into the cold. Heyes slipped out after him, re-locking the door before melding into the fog.
__________

Heyes and Curry strode briskly down the morning streets of downtown San Francisco. They halted at a sign marking the Trapper Transport and Supply Company.

“Looks like the right place,” remarked Curry.

“Lowery said Trapper lives over the offices—we go 'round back,” said Heyes.

Around the corner, a covered stairway climbed the side of the building. Taking the steps two at a time, Curry knocked briskly at a pristine, white-painted door and straightened his tan leather jacket.

A familiar bright smile, freckled nose, and full head of bronzed curls popped into view as the door swung open. Her smile wilted upon seeing the blond man and his dark-haired shadow.

“What are you doing here?”

“I'm as surprised as you are, ma'am.”

“Please, you have to go away.”

“Let me explain. I have a letter,” Curry stated.

“The one you accused me of taking?”

“Yes,” he replied evenly.

Heyes chuckled in the background.

Curry shot him a look.

“See you had it all along. Let's just say you apologized and leave it at that. Au revoir.” She tried to shut the door.

A brown boot attached to the foot of a blond ex-outlaw stopped her.

“We have to deliver it into the hand...”

“You want to give it to me! No! Non – C’est impossible!” Her eyes flew open wide, and her hands moved to her stray curls as she interrupted him. “We've been through that already. I'm not going to take it again. You were unreasonable about it the first time.” She took a deep breath and nodded to Heyes, lurking at the back of the porch. “Listen, we both know why you're doing this. You even brought your friend for moral support. If I were available, I might be intrigued. But I'm not, so you'll just have to leave. I'm sorry if I've wounded your feelings. You're an attractive man—in a rough and ready sort of way—but I'm getting married tomorrow!”

Curry radiated sincerity. “Honest, ma'am, I didn't know that this was your address.”

“Don't be ridiculous! It's written right there on the envelope. But I'm not living here yet. I need to get married tomorrow.”

“I just want to deliver this letter,” he ground out through clenched teeth.

“All right, I'll take it! But no matter how sweetly you ask, or how well it's written, I'm not going to change my mind. I'm getting married tomorrow.” She plucked the envelope out of his hand.

While they argued, a youth in a delivery uniform bounded up the stairs, juggling several wrapped packages.

“This is the third delivery I've made here today,” he grumbled to Heyes when he passed him.

“Ohh! More wedding gifts!” the woman exclaimed, clapping her hands in excitement.

The delivery boy pulled out a receipt and pointed with a pen at a blank line on the bottom. “Sign here, Miss Bishop,” he instructed.

Tessa used his pen, and then he turned to leave.

She placed a hand on his arm. “Just a minute. I need to get an address from you.”

“Sure thing, ma'am.”

“What is the address of Marcel’s?”

“Marcel’s?”

A shocked blink. “He’s only le couturier la plus distinguee in San Francisco.”

“Huh?”

“He came directly from Paris! They say he once designed for Sarah Bernhardt!”

“Oh—you mean that French guy who sews women’s frocks? He’s at 275 Pine Street. Best wishes for tomorrow.” Bounding down the steps he hurried away.

She looked around the entry for a pen.

Curry pulled out the receipt for the invitation. “Miss Bishop, could you please sign right here?” He pointed to a blank line.

She found a pen and signed without reading the receipt.

“What was that address?” she muttered.

“275 Pine Street, ma'am.”

Tessa wrote the address on the corner of the invitation, then her head snapped up, and she glared at him suspiciously. “How do you know the address of the shop I'm using for my bridal gown?”

“I don't...I...”

“Oh, so you pulled that number right out of the air.”

The sound of a door closing echoed inside the apartment. “Tessa,” called a masculine voice from several rooms away.

The young woman's hand flew to her mouth where it fluttered like butterflies. “Now you've done it. If my fiancé finds you here, he'll never understand. He's VERY jealous.”

“He has no reason to be,” the Kid replied evenly.

“Then you're more broad-minded than he is,” she answered, while trying to shut the door and pushing Heyes and Curry away.

A tall, slim man rounded the corner and abruptly stopped. He frowned at the sight of the two strangers. Tessa nodded to Heyes, and then said, “Good day,” to Curry before firmly shutting the door.
__________

Inside, the man crossed his arms. “Tessa, who was that at the door?”

“That? Oh—that was no one,” she replied lightly with a dismissive wave of her hand. She began searching through the stacked letters and packages cluttering an entryway table.

“It didn’t look like no one. Who was it?”

“No one important. Relax, dear. He means nothing to me. I told him…”

“What's that supposed to mean? He means nothing to you?”

“Nothing. Rien! I told him, perhaps if I’d met him before we were engaged…” Her fingers still shuffled the accumulated mail. “Have you seen an envelope with an address written on it?”

He grasped her arm and gently pulled her around to face him. “Just a second. Who was he? What did he want? And why were there two of him? I mean—two of them.”

“Because he brought his friend.” A dazzling smile. “For moral support.”

“WHO brought his friend?”

“The blond, good-looking one with the melting blue eyes brought the other fella—the tall, dark, handsome man—with him.”

The eyes of Tessa’s fiancé goggled and then narrowed during the descriptions.

“Don't be silly, dear. You have nothing to worry about. The first one—what's-his-name—if I hadn't been lying on top of him, I would hardly recognize the man.”

“LYING ON TOP OF HIM?!” The voice of her betrothed rose in both volume and register.

Tessa continued to rifle through the letters and packages. “Where is the address of Marcel’s shop?”

Josiah Trapper grabbed an envelope off the edge of the table. On the corner, an address was scribbled.

Tessa seized it and beamed up at him with a wide smile. “Merci beaucoup, Cheri.” She kissed him on the cheek. “That's the address. I'll be off now for a fitting of my wedding dress.”

“Wait. Wait! Forget about that! What's this lying on top of whom?”

“He was only being a gentleman. After all, if he’d landed on top, he might have crushed me. You saw how tall and broad he is!”
__________

Heyes and Curry walked briskly down the street. Trapper's Transport and Supply was still visible a block or two behind them.

“We'll be at the lawyer's office real soon. Have ya got the receipt?” asked the dark-haired partner.

“Right here, Heyes,” said Curry with a reassuring pat on the pocket of his jacket.

Heyes extended a gloved hand. “Let me see it.”

“Why? Don't ya trust me?”

“Sure I trust ya, but with everything we've been through, I want to see it myself.”

Curry treated him to a gunfighter-glare before fishing out the receipt and handing it over.

Heyes slowed down and then stopped while he studied the signature and the printed name on the form. He looked up and locked eyes with the Kid. “We gotta go back.”

“Why? We delivered the letter and got a signature.”

“We're supposed to get the signature of Josiah Trapper.”

“Why? That lawyer just said we needed a signature. He didn't say who had to do the signin'.”

“I know. But here on the receipt—see, just below the blank line—it says, 'must be signed by the addressee.' That's not Tessa Bishop.” Heyes thrust the receipt at the blue-eyed outlaw and jabbed his finger at the signature line. “Ya gave the letter to the wrong person. We gotta go back and get Trapper to sign this, or we won't get paid.”

“Ah, Heyes, I don't think it's worth a hundred dollars to talk to that crazy woman again.”

“I'll try talking to her this time. Come on, we gotta go back.”
__________

Inside the apartment, Tessa Bishop continued soothing her betrothed, while securing a flowered hat to her hair with a pin.

“Cherie, if I knew his name, I’d tell you.”

“Some cowboy rides in off the range, picks you up in the street—and you don’t even know his name?!”

“He didn’t pick me up. He knocked me down.”

“Do I need to make it real clear to him that he needs to leave you alone?”

“You don't need to do a thing. But, if it will make you feel better, I promise never to see him—or his friend—again.”

They were interrupted by a solid knock on the door. Tessa moved to answer, but Trapper pushed her gently aside and reached for the knob himself.

Hannibal Heyes stood on the porch with his black hat held in one hand and the receipt in the other. Kid Curry stood a few steps behind, watching the doorway.

“Mr. Trapper, we're very sorry to bother you folks again, but my partner made a mistake giving the invitation to Miss Bishop.”

Josiah whirled around to confront Tessa. “He's sending you invitations?! You told me that you don't even know his name, but his partner knows your name and mine.” Trapper rounded on Heyes. “So your—associate is sending my fiancée invitations?”

“No. Nothing like that..."

“So which is it?” Josiah cut him off and called out to snare the Kid's attention. “Did you give my fiancée an invitation?”

“Well...” drawled the blue-eyed ex-outlaw.

Tessa interrupted. “I'm sure that it doesn't mean anything. It's just an innocent infatuation, Sy. Isn't it, sir?” The last was directed to the Kid.

“No,” replied both Heyes and Curry in unison.

“Really?” asked Tessa, staring at the Kid with an open and considering expression. “I had no idea that you could become serious about a girl that quickly.”

“Tessa, tell me the truth,” demanded Trapper, “How long has this been going on?”

She spun to face him. Blue ice glittered in her pretty eyes. “I just met him yesterday morning. If you don't believe that, then I really don't know what else to say.” She blew out a sigh. “Oh, there's my carriage.” She brushed by both partners and started down the steps. She stopped and called back to Curry. “Would you sort things out with Josiah, please? I really must be going.” With no further explanation, she disappeared down the stairs.

Trapper looked past Heyes and glowered at the Kid. After a few seconds, Curry removed his hat and ran both hands through matted curls. He walked up to the door and faced the young woman's jealous intended.

“All I've been doin' is tryin' to deliver a letter to YOU.”

“That's the truth,” Heyes added. “We've both been trying to deliver a letter to Mr. Josiah Trapper for two days now.”

Trapper glared at Heyes, and then returned his focus to Curry. “Where is it?”

“Where's what?” asked the Kid.

“The letter you're trying to deliver to me.”

The Kid patted his pockets and then shot his partner a question with blue eyes and raised eyebrows.

Heyes shook his head.

The blond glanced at the street where Miss Bishop was looking at an envelope as she climbed into the carriage. With an expression of dawning understanding and frustration, Curry slammed his hat back on his head. “Miss Bishop took it! She wrote the address of some French fella on the envelope.” He grasped Heyes' shoulder. “Come on, we gotta catch her and get that invitation back.”

“Here we go again,” Heyes grumbled with a shrug. “We'll be back just as soon as we can, Mr. Trapper. And this time we'll have your letter.”

They hurried down the stairs and after Tessa Bishop.

Josiah Trapper remained on the porch, rhythmically tapping fingers against his thigh. His jaw clenched tightly, and his brows pinched into a single line over his nose and eyes. A burly man, whose ill-fitting suit failed to hide the bulge of a large revolver, joined him on the porch.

“Who was that, boss?”

Trapper scowled. “A couple of cowboys who are too far from the range. I don't like how close they are to Tessa.” He met the other man's eyes. “Follow 'em.”

“Not again.”

“You heard me, Jack. If she's not doing anything wrong, then no one has anything to worry about.”
__________

Heyes and Curry followed Miss Bishop until she disappeared into the courthouse. Without a word, they stopped simultaneously and leaned against a street lamp outside the building.

“Now what?” Curry whispered from one side of his mouth. “What did she go in there for?”

“I'm not sure, but I don't think it has anything to do with us. Let's just go on inside and see where she went.”

“In the courthouse? Are you nuts?!”

“Kid, we just need to be real casual. Why shouldn't two honest citizens walk into the courthouse?”

“Two honest citizens? No reason. Us? Plenty of reasons.”

Heyes mulled for a moment. “You haven’t gotten anywhere with her anyhow. I think it’s time I showed you how persuasion works on a woman.” He aimed a cocky smile at his skeptical partner. “We’ll have that invitation back in no time.”

Their casual stroll was marred by quick starts and stops. Their eyes darted furtively in all directions. They resembled a couple of long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs.

The large double doors of the courthouse waited behind solid white columns. Hung on the wall to the right was a list of public services offered. Halfway down the list, Heyes spied “Marriage Licenses.” He pointed, and the Kid smiled and nodded. Heyes tugged the hem of his corduroy vest and then pushed open the door and led the Kid inside.

A directional arrow on a placard in the lobby indicated that marriage licenses could be obtained down a hallway to the right. They followed the corridor to a small room where a single clerk stood behind a counter. Tessa Bishop was at the head of the line arguing softly with the lanky official.

“I told you that I need it now, because we're getting married tomorrow.”

“Ma'am, I've already explained—twice—that I can't issue a marriage license without both parties present.”

“Since we're getting married tomorrow, you really have very little choice in the matter. I don't know why you can't see that,” Tessa countered sweetly.

The harried clerk pointed to a large hand-lettered sign above his head, and then indicated a line of bold type on the printed form. “See right here, and up there, it says very clearly that the bride and groom must BOTH appear in person.”

“If you keep repeating yourself, we aren't going to get anywhere,” she huffed and tapped the counter with her hand for emphasis.

Hannibal Heyes walked up behind the woman and cleared his throat to get her attention. “Excuse me,” he tried when she failed to turn around.

“Oh, no. Not you again. Don't tell me; let me guess. Your friend wants his letter back.”

“If you would just look in your bag, I think you wrote an address on it.”

The clerk greeted Heyes with a hopeful, and slightly desperate, smile. “Is this the fiancé?”

“Don't be ridiculous. Does he look like my fiancé?”

The clerk squared his shoulders and frowned. “Ma'am, I've had enough of this foolishness. I'm afraid that you will have to step aside.”

“Fine,” she snapped and whirled away from the window. Heyes followed her.

“See what you've done,” she snarled. “How am I to get married tomorrow if I can't get a license? They close in less than an hour. Josiah will never get down here in time.”

Heyes' smile didn't touch his eyes. “It's not my fault that you didn't get your license. I'm not your fiancé.”

“Oh please, don't be absurd. If you were my fiancé, I would have the license right now. And they say that men are the logical ones.” She stopped walking and examined Heyes with a scheming gleam in her eyes. “All right, you'll just have to do it.”

“Do what?”

“Be my fiancé!”

Heyes eyebrows climbed his forehead. “I’m flattered, ma’am, but isn’t that position taken?”

“Obviously I mean pretend to be my fiancé! It’s the least you can do.”

“No, ma’am. The least I can do is nothing.”

She tossed him a wicked grin and shrugged. “I thought you wanted that letter back.”

“I do, but that clerk’s gonna know we’re lying. When I lie, I make it believable. This is dumb.”

“Then you keep quiet, and I'll do the talking.” She slipped her hand through the crook of his arm and towed the dark-haired outlaw back to the clerk's window.

“I found my fiancé.”

“You just told me he wasn't your fiancé.”

“I was mistaken. I didn't recognize him.”

The official scowled, but grabbed a blank form and a pen. “What's your name?” he growled at Heyes.

Tessa held up a hand and stated firmly, “He can't hear you. He's mute.”

Heyes frowned before saying, “Don't you mean 'deaf'?”

“Oh, yes.” Turning to face Heyes, she spoke loudly and slowly with exaggerated lip movements. “Thank you, Sweetheart!”

“You're marrying a deaf-mute cowboy, and you didn't recognize him?” asked the clerk with an incredulous rise in volume.

“Yes,” smiled Tessa, brightly.

“No!” chimed in Heyes at the same moment.

A mutual scowl was exchanged.

“Maybe I can explain,” Heyes began in his best conciliatory tone.

“If he's a deaf-mute, how come he's talking?” scoffed the clerk.

Tessa straightened her shoulders and slammed her hand on the counter. “How dare you rush to judgment on a poor unfortunate!” she exclaimed. “I assumed that you were a God-fearing, church-going gentleman.”

“Of course, we attend the First Congregational down on...”

“Good,” she interrupted. “I'm sure your minister will be very interested to learn that you refuse to give aid and marriage licenses to those of God's good children who are less blessed and have physical disadvantages. The Good-Lord-Above knows that their lives are difficult enough without insensitive bureaucrats like yourself preventing them from getting married.”

“All right, all right. Just take it!” He hastily filled out some lines, signed his name, and shoved the document at the infuriating woman.

Her whole face transfigured with a beautiful smile. “Thank you so much for your kindness. That is very sweet of you.” She turned away from the window and took Heyes’ arm. Resuming her loud, clear voice with extra lip motion, she enunciated, “Come along, Sweetheart. This way.” The ex-outlaw was led—carefully, as if blindness had been added to his list of physical idiosyncrasies—back to Kid Curry. She smirked into his dark eyes, placed his hand tenderly on his partner’s arm and left him.

“Ya gettin' married?” asked the Kid.

“Just come on,” Heyes groused. “At least she's going to give me the letter.”

They followed the diminutive figure outside, where two sets of shoulders slumped, as brown and blue eyes watched Tessa’s carriage roll away down the street.
__________

Several blocks later, Heyes stopped his partner with a gloved hand to the shoulder. “We've lost her,” he stated morosely.

Curry grinned. “Yeah, but I know where she's goin'.”

“Ya do?”

“'Course I do.”

Heyes waited with an expectant expression. “Ya gonna tell me, or are you handling this one on your own?”

“She’s goin’ to see some fancy Frenchman who sews dresses.”

“This is a big city. D’you know his name?”

“Unh-unh, I didn't get the name...”

Heyes’ shoulders slumped.

Curry’s smug pause was perfectly timed. “…But I did get his address—275 Pine Street.”

Heyes examined the street signs on the corner, then looked at the ones a block behind them. “Okay, that would be this way,” he stated confidently and strode off down the street.

A muscular figure in a tight suit emerged from between two buildings. He studied the retreating forms of Heyes and Curry. “Sy ain't gonna like this,” he muttered to a skinny young man following him.

_________________
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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