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 A Grizzly End Part 1 by Calico

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20140223
PostA Grizzly End Part 1 by Calico



Starring
Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes and Ben Murphy as Kid Curry


Guest Starring
(in order of appearance)

Tim Omundson as Robert Parrish


David Spade as Dennis West


Garret Dillahunt as Andrew Harte


Stephen Tobolowsky as Mayor Horace Yeats


Jim Beaver as Chuck Greene


Paula Malcomson as Jen


Brad Dourif as the Doc


Dayton Callie as the Sheriff


Alice Krige as Maddie Whittaker


Kim Dickens as Joanie Gowan


Henry as Nancy


With a Special Appearance by

Bart the Bear




THE MAYOR’S PLACE – EVENING

A log fire crackles. Before it, a familiar, dark-haired figure holds forth to three prosperous-looking young men.

“Thaddeus tried to tell me the tracks were two days old...”

“But, you knew better, Joshua?” This is from a suave individual, long legs stretched out before him and a fine cigar in one hand, Robert Parrish.

A smothered snigger from a second young fella, not nearly so suave, though trying hard with a flashy necktie and glinting watch chain. This one is Dennis West.

After eyeing him for a moment, Heyes clearly decides the snigger is not worth reacting to.

“I sure did. I didn’t get to be champeen tracker of Southern Utah without knowing when tracks are two hours fresh.”

The third young man, Andrew Harte, signals to a plump, older guy – Mayor Horace Yeats – who leans on the mantelpiece. With an obsequious simper, Yeats tops up Andrew’s glass, before doing the same for the rest of the group.

“No, sir! When a man hires Joshua Smith to clear his place of mountain lions, he can...”

Some distance from the fire, sits an equally familiar blond figure. Beside him is a grizzled old-timer, a certain practical intelligence stamped on his rugged features. This is Chuck Greene.

“Joshua sure can talk up a storm ‘bout trackin’, huh?”

Curry, comfortable in a deep leather armchair, takes a swallow from a cut crystal tumbler. “Yup.” Tiny pause. “He can talk ‘bout it.”

Eyes meet in something close to a mute conversation. We gather Kid Curry likes this fella.

From the fire, “Two hundred and forty pounds of howling, screaming, mountain cat flew straight at Thaddeus...”

Topping up Heyes’ glass empties the whiskey bottle. Yeats scurries over to where Curry sits with Chuck Greene.

“Chuck, fetch another couple of bottles from the cellar.”

From the tone, we gather Chuck Greene is his employee.

Yeats sits in the vacated seat, rubbing sweaty hands together in self-congratulation as he views the scene by the fireside. “Chuck’s pretty experienced guiding tourists from back East wanting a taste of the Wild West, Thaddeus, but I want these particular guests’ visit to be a guaranteed success.”

‘Uh huh’ head movement from Curry.

“When Sheriff Trevors recommended you two, he wrote you’d take care of any fancy shooting needed out hunting and Joshua would take care of spinning tall tales afterwards. If you shoot as well as he talks, I’d say Lom Trevors is one truthful man.”

Yeats is clearly happy. He is also kinda – hmm? The right word might be ‘oily’. Literally and metaphorically. Curry, very slightly, shifts away from the mouth oozing, confidingly, into his ear. While he may have warmed to Chuck Greene, he has not warmed to the boss.

Heyes: “Claws like razors hovered inches from Thaddeus’ throat. I had to act like lightning. I levelled my rifle and...”

Not sensitive to subtle body language, Horace Yeats edges yet closer to the Kid. He nods towards Andrew. “Andrew’s father bought out near all the mining interests around here and they say he has the ear of...”

Yeats leans in, murmurs a name. Curry’s reaction suggests this is not news.

“With that young man’s family connections, the Governor will be real grateful to anyone making his visit to Wyoming a success. Hypothetically, he’d probably give full backing to their campaign to be re-elected Mayor.” A conceited beam at Curry. Since no response is forthcoming, he prompts. “Don’t you agree?”

A blond ex-outlaw hoping for amnesty chooses his words carefully, “I reckon the Governor might dish out – or call in – a few favors to stay the right side of Andrew Harte Junior...” Pause. “...Mister Mayor.”

Over by Heyes, Andrew Harte drawls, “Do you think we’ll see any grizzlies tomorrow, Joshua?” His well-manicured finger flicks, indicatively, to The Habits and Habitat of the Grizzly Bear lying open beside him.

“If you do,” Horace Yeats smarms back to the main group, “You’ll be a match for them.” To Heyes, “Andrew’s a crack shot! Won the gold medal for his college rifle team. What do you think of that?”

“I don’t think Joshua heard you, Mayor Horace...” This is Dennis West. “...Your voice was muffled, what with your lips being pressed so hard up against Andrew’s rear end.”

Yeats’ ingratiating smile freezes, his eyes flick, nervously, from side to side.

“Doesn’t you calling Mayor Horace – or anyone – for kissing up border on the disingenuous, Dennis?” Andrew’s voice is expressionless, in fact his whole persona lacks – something. “Ever since you first latched onto Bob and me, your lips have pretty much set in a permanent pucker.”

Dennis West flushes bright red. Then, “Leastways I don’t do it for a living, like Bob has to! My family’s near enough rich as yours!”

Two ex-outlaws exchange a glance; a flicker of distaste at their company but also resignation.

The sang-froid of Robert Parrish never wavers. “Precisely, Dennis. Ever since admittance to the bar, I kiss up for a living – professionally. And, since the depth of my avarice is surpassed only by the breadth of my genius, I do it with far more style than your feeble efforts can ever muster.” He blows a perfect smoke ring.

Dennis scowls.

Seemingly reluctantly, Andrew half smiles. “No one can deny you have style, Bob.”

Robert smiles at Heyes. “Before the conversation veered, distressingly, off-track, Andrew asked our chances of setting eyes on a bear.”

“I don’t rule out bears laying eyes on us,” says Heyes. “I wouldn’t offer odds on them letting us lay eyes on them.”

“I’ll wager you’ve some stories about encounters with grizzlies out on the trail, huh, Joshua?” urges the Mayor, welcoming a return to civility.

“One time,” begins Heyes, affably enough, “while we were working the Chisum trail...”

Robert shoots a silent question at Andrew, who – almost imperceptibly – shakes his head.

“Why not save that one for another night, Joshua?” interrupts Robert, courteously enough. “You and Thaddeus must have preparations to make. You’ll want to get back to your hotel.”

Our boys can take a hint. They rise, reach for their hats.

“And...” This is Dennis. “...We wouldn’t want you shooting your entire anecdotal bolt so early in the week.” Snigger. “Joshua-arh.”

Hey, that was uncalled for. Curry directs a glare at Dennis, who flushes. Mayor Yeats fingers a sweat-limped collar. Heyes takes a moment to brush invisible lint from his pants before looking up. The dark gaze wipes the last of the smirk from Dennis’ face; but all Heyes says is, “We’ll set off around seven tomorrow – if that’s okay?”

---oooOOOooo---

YELLOW BIRD SALOON

“If he talks to you that way again, I’ll...” A swallow of beer saves Curry from having to supply a sufficiently impressive ending.

Heyes’ expression as he returns the fuming gaze is impassive, but also – perhaps – touched at his partner’s vicarious offense. “Dennis runs his mouth trying to impress the bigger boys in the gang. Different kinda gang – but nothing we’ve not seen before. Forget it.”

“You’re gonna stand for that jackass makin’ small of ya?”

“Kid, think about it, there’s a good reason why I’m letting that jackass bray at me.”

Silent, ‘Go on,’ from Curry.

“I’m being paid to.”

The Kid mulls on that. “For twenty dollars a day...”

“Each!”

“Each... Sticks and stones, huh?”

“Always knew you for a philosopher, Kid.”

Curry takes another pull at his beer. “Dunno how Chuck stands workin’ for Yeats.”
A look from Heyes.

“’Cos he’s gettin’ paid, too,” supplies Kid. “Point taken.”

“Chuck said most Easterners Yeats has him guide for are real pleasant company. Dumb about hunting, maybe, but pleasant company.” Pause. “And good tippers.”

“All the same, Heyes, you gotta admit snails trail less slime than Mayor Yeats. I reckon he’d throw himself in the dirt for them rich boys to wipe their feet on if he thought it’d get the Governor owin’ him. Huh?”

“Uh huh,” Heyes sips his beer, thoughtfully. “What kinda man dances to the Governor’s tune just ‘cos he hopes, someday, he might get a favor in return?”

A slow, wry smile from Kid Curry. “Another point taken, Heyes.” He spots a pretty blonde making her way over. More cheerfully, under his breath, “I reckon I’m about to become even more apprec’ative of that twenty dollars a day.”

“Hello,” she smiles, “I’m Jen.”

“Thaddeus Jones. And this fella is...” Charming smile as he shifts so his back blocks out Heyes. “...No one important.”

---oooOOOooo---

NEXT DAY – OUT HUNTING

The expressions of two ex-outlaws suggest tempers being held in check – things are not going well.

“Couldn’t you have at least cleared a path?” grouses Dennis, as a slim branch whips into his chest.

“Wildlife knows to stay away from recent clearin’,” says Chuck. “You want to hunt game; you cut your own path.”

---oooOOOooo---

“Pronghorn,” hisses Kid Curry, signalling for hush and pointing.

”Well, let's go get them!” shrills Dennis.

The Kid rolls his eyes as we hear the distant beat of disappearing hooves.

---oooOOOooo---

“Do you think we will see any bears today, Joshua?” asks Robert.

“Not unless they’re deaf.”

Chuck Greene turns to hide an appreciative grin.

---oooOOOooo---

Coffee brews on a campfire.

Curry looks down at a rifle lying on the grass between him and Andrew Harte. Admiration – maybe with a touch of leftover larceny – lights the blue eyes. Andrew follows his gaze.

“See that...” The Easterner lifts the gun to display the intricate whorls decorating the base of the butt and spiralling towards the barrels. “...Hand carved walnut inlaid with ivory.”

“Real fancy weapon you got there,” acknowledges Kid.

“Real fancy price, too,” says Robert. He catches Kid’s eye. “No offense, I couldn’t afford it, either. Andrew has exceptionally expensive tastes.”

---oooOOOooo---

“Slow down,” Heyes, in full stealth mode, leads the three Easterners in an elbow and hipbone slither through the undergrowth. His voice is low, “Find a spot – then wait. Let them come to you.”

Waiting. Waiting. A rustle in the grass. Waiting.

“Not yet...” warns Heyes.

Andrew leaps to his feet levelling the fancy rifle – BANG!

Again with the sound of retreating wildlife.

“I said – ‘Wait’!” Heyes snaps.

Curry has also scrambled to his feet and squints into the distance. “He didn’t have to. He got one.” He stares at the unmoved Andrew. His voice is reluctantly impressed, “That was some shot.”

---oooOOOooo---

EARLY EVENING

Horace Yeats scurries down the steps of his lavish townhouse as the hunting party turns onto the main street.

“How did you enjoy Wyoming’s wildlife?”

“What wildlife? Apart from Andrew picking off one lousy jackrabbit, all we’ve seen so far is Joshu-arh, our champion tracker of Southern Utah, bending double and identifying dung.” Again with the sarcasm from Dennis West.

Curry glowers. “Wildlife knows to stay away from noisy, dumb...” At a warning glance from Heyes, he bites back whatever insult he was about to use with a visible effort. “From noise. Keep it down; maybe you’ll bag somethin’ tomorrow.”

Mayor Yeats’ face has fallen at his important guests’ evident displeasure. Shooting a would-be fierce scowl at the ex-outlaws, followed by an unctuous smile at Andrew. “I’m sure Thaddeus is right. Tomorrow you’ll bag...”

He is interrupted by Dennis, “Now there’s something really worth bagging.” His mouth hangs open. He even forgets to snigger.

All heads turn. About a hundred yards away, an establishment bearing a sign announcing: Chez Amie. Taking the evening air on a first floor balcony stand two female figures clad in expensive silken drapery. As they laugh together we see their profiles; their faces are no less lovely than their figures.

Seven male faces register varying degrees of yearning. Even Andrew’s expressionless eyes take on a chill glitter of appreciation. After a moment, the Mayor tries to school his features into respectable disapproval. “Disgraceful!”

“Disgraceful AND expensive from the look of them, and from the look of the security,” says Robert. All eyes drop. In front of the building, two purposeful fellas sport tied-down guns and an air of relaxed swagger. Hey, do they sound like anyone?

A gulp from Dennis. The Mayor runs a finger inside his collar. A respectful mute conversation by our boys.

“You ain’t wrong about expensive,” confirms Chuck. “The nearest fifty dollars gets ya to a Chez Amie gal is catchin’ a waft as ya walk by.” Seeing his boss’s outraged expression, he clears his throat. “I’ll go get on, huh?”

Heyes and Curry step toward the house.

Andrew signals to Robert with a flicker of his chilly eyes.

“Why don’t you two take the evening off?” suggests Robert, pulling out his wallet and handing over what looks like a generous tip. “Go have dinner – somewhere else? We’ll make our own entertainment – save Joshua’s bear story for tomorrow, huh?”

He follows his friends into the house. Yeats, wringing his obsequious hands, brings up the rear.

“D’you think us hired hands can take the disappointment of not being invited to join the rich folk for dinner, Kid?”

“I reckon I can bear up, Heyes.”

---oooOOOooo---

AFTER DARK

Our boys exit a restaurant adjusting their hats. Curry points to the Yellow Bird saloon. A nod from Heyes. They stride over.

---oooOOOooo---

YELLOW BIRD SALOON

A beer before him, Kid Curry searches the jostling crowd.

“Looking for someone?” grunts the bar-keep.

“I was lookin’ for Jen.”

“She oughta be here. Must be with a customer. She’ll be down when she’s done.”

A trace of disappointment flickers across Curry’s face.

Heyes throws his partner an affectionately teasing look. “Never mind, Kid. Unlucky in love, lucky at cards, huh?” Brown eyes indicate they should join a poker table.

Rueful grin from Kid. He picks up his beer and follows Heyes.

---oooOOOooo---

NEXT MORNING

In the same restaurant as last night, Heyes and Curry apply themselves to ham and eggs.

Chuck Greene enters.

“We’re not late, are we?” Heyes checks the watch in his vest pocket; seven thirty. “We’re collecting them at eight, huh?”

Chuck briefly holds up a folded note in his hand. “Robert sent word they decided on an early ride. They’ll meet us out by the livery.”

“A ride before breakfast??!! Them?” The Curry credulity is stretched.

“We waited forty minutes for them to drag themselves outta bed yesterday,” says Heyes. “What’s different today?”

“Guess the tale you spun ‘em ‘bout mornin’ bein’ best time o’ the day musta convinced ‘em, Joshua,” Chuck’s tone is gently teasing. He exchanges a look with an appreciative Kid Curry. He pours himself a coffee and says, conversationally, “They musta been real early, ‘cos I saw them up by the creek, past the fork, not long after six.”

Heyes looks at him, curiously. “They weren’t the only ones up early, then?”

A faint flush rises to Chuck’s cheek. “Yeah, well. Best time o’ the day, huh?” He drains his mug. “I’d best get on.” He leaves.

---oooOOOooo---

LATER – HUNTING AGAIN

“You okay, Dennis?” checks Heyes.

Dennis seems downcast, nervous. Robert and Andrew seem their usual selves.

“He’s fine, aren’t you?” says Robert. “Just tired.”

Dennis flicks a glance at his friend. His tongue moistens his lips. “Sure, I’m fine.”

“At least we got us sight of a grizzly.” This is Chuck.

“Too far off for a shot,” remarks Andrew.

“Far off is where I prefer grizzlies,” says Heyes.

Chuck stoops to the ground, bending close to sniff. “Could be antelope’s been through here, trail’s ‘bout one hour fresh. Whaddya reckon, Joshua?”

Heyes examines the spot, purses his lips. Judicious nodding. “Yup. Antelope.”

He sees Curry throw him a look clearly sceptical of the abilities of the self-proclaimed champeen tracker of Southern Utah.

“Though,” more wise musing, “might be two hours fresh.” He smiles, all innocence, at the cynic in the brown hat. “Keep it down everyone, let’s track us some antelope.” Stealthily, he sets off.

“Er...” Chuck Greene indicates a more westerly direction.

“Sure,” Heyes is unfazed. “I was thinking we’d circle in, but we can just follow their path.”

Curry rolls his eyes and follows Chuck and Heyes.

---oooOOOooo---

Chuck and Heyes are out in front, then the Easterners; Curry brings up the rear. Curry calls, “Takin’ a moment!” and moves into trees, propping his rifle against a trunk. We infer this is code for a call of nature.

We follow Chuck and Heyes. Rising and falling terrain makes us temporarily lose sight of the others, when...

The sound of something heavy crashing through the bushes. Screams. Yells. Roaring and the splintering of wood.

Chuck and Heyes spin. After a frozen moment they race back, Heyes easily outpacing the older man.

Back in the trees, Kid Curry also reacts. He grabs his rifle, runs forwards.

We see what the boys – from their different angles – see.

Seven hundred pounds of roaring grizzly has exploded from the dense cover.

Andrew and Robert are sprinting from the scene. Since both are in their early twenties and the peak of health, they are fast putting a decent distance between themselves and the bear. It is not chasing them.

Perhaps realising this, Andrew stops, wheels, and raises his rifle to his shoulder. His stance is steady and he narrows his eyes, coolly, as he takes aim.

The bear’s mighty paws are cuffing at – something. The – something – squeals as it flops through the air like a rag doll. Powerful jaws, saliva glinting on the razor incisors, close...

Kid Curry’s rifle is levelled but...

“Heyes! I can’t risk hittin’ Dennis! Take it from the back.”

Heyes’ rifle is also levelled. From behind the bear he fires – and again.

Simultaneously a bullet – and another – explode from Andrew’s gun.

The bear roars in pain and drops its prey.

A split second later, Kid Curry’s shot hits dead centre between its eyes – and again.

The massive body thuds to the earth.

---oooOOOooo---

The blood-soaked body is lifted onto a makeshift stretcher by Heyes and Curry. They move to take up the ends but Andrew speaks up.

“Let Bob and me carry him. After all, he was our friend.”

Our boys’ expressions register surprise at – well, at the decent gesture.

“Sure.” Curry lays a consoling hand on the Easterner’s shoulder.

Heyes’ eyes are watchful as, with an air of manly grief, Andrew and Robert lift the stretcher.

Chuck leading the way, the two young men set off with their burden, back the way the party came.

Kid Curry is about to follow when Heyes’ hand restrains him. In a low voice he asks, “Does anything about it strike you as – wrong – about what just happened?”

“Uh huh. What kinda dumb grizzly charges a noisy huntin’ party of six? A sow thinkin’ we’re after her cubs – maybe – but this is a boar.”

“Never woulda believed it unless I’d seen it,” agrees Heyes. “Surprised me we even caught a sight up on the hills this morning. Not as if we were much quieter’n yesterday, huh?”

Nod from Kid Curry. “Wouldn’t have expected it to do more’n get Dennis runnin’ even if it charged. That bear acted – I dunno – crazed. Or starvin’ – which he can’t be this time of year.”

“Something else, Kid, that spot Andrew shot from,” Heyes points. “Him and Robert sure covered some ground, huh?”

“A grizzly on your tail is kinda motivatin’, Heyes.”

“The point is – why hadn’t Dennis run? Our trail’s a ways from the cover – they heard the bear – why didn’t he? He isn’t older or fatter; his legs aren’t that much shorter. Bear mighta caught him – sure. But wouldn’t you expect him to be further over? Looks like he didn’t manage a single step.”

Curry’s eyes go from the bushes, to hulking beast body, to the spot from which Andrew fired. “What are you suggestin’, Heyes?”

“I don’t know, Kid. But, I’m thinking on it.”

A rueful shrug as Curry again judges the distances. “Carry on, Heyes, that’s what you’re good at.”

They set off after the stretcher.

---oooOOOooo---

BACK IN TOWN

“...It makes no sense,” Chuck follows Mayor Yeats to the body on the stretcher. “I ain’t never had a mite of trouble on a huntin’ trip. You know that, boss. And, I ain’t never seen a bear behave like that. An’ don’t be thinkin’ I wasn’t real careful with the...”

A sudden warning glower from the Mayor shuts him up. Heyes’ eyes narrow. What was Chuck real careful with?

“No one’s blaming you, Chuck,” says Yeats. “Who can doubt this was a tragic accident?” He repeats this a tad louder, throwing out one hand in a dramatic gesture to the townsfolk beginning to gather. “A tragic, TRAGIC accident!”

“Not that I got any argument with what he’s sayin’,” says the Kid, sotto voce, to his partner, “but who’s he think he’s gotta convince?”

A questioning look is exchanged.

“A fine young man, cut off in his prime in a tragic ACCIDENT. When I think of his poor, bereaved family...” A large white handkerchief is brought into play. “Tragic!” emerges from behind the linen. “Accident!”

An exasperated frown gathers on Robert’s brow as the Mayor plays to the crowd. He clears his throat. “Pull yourself together, Mayor. Andrew and I need to telegraph back East. If they’d be so kind, I’d like Thaddeus and Joshua to get Dennis’s body out of the street and to the doctor now.”

Another question is sent from blue eyes to brown – and back again.

“The Doc?” repeats Kid Curry. “Isn’t that kinda...?” He stops short as if wary of saying something tactless.

“A waste of time? In terms of helping Dennis, yes. But we’ll need to register the death.”

The two ex-outlaws register – well, not much.

“Surely even this far west, it is usual to observe the legal niceties and have a doctor issue a death certificate verifying the cause of death?” Robert sure is fluent!

“Sure,” says Heyes. “Any legal niceties – you’ll find me and Thaddeus observing ‘em.”

“You might also,” the chilly voice of Andrew, “have the doctor verify none of our shots at the bear went awry.”

“Hardly necessary,” begins Robert. “Even if they had, it would not affect the accidental nature of...”

“Oblige me!”

A pause.

“In any case, you can have no objection to requesting a death certificate.” Robert is, as always, nothing but reasonable. “Meanwhile, Andrew and I will attempt to find the right phrasing for the sad telegrams.”

Mute conversation. Something about this is odd, but... Two facial shrugs. Kid Curry retrieves one end of the makeshift stretcher, Heyes grasps the other.

---oooOOOooo---

DOC’S PLACE

A greying man, clasping shining implements, hunches over a scrubbed table. Something unseen is the subject both of his concentrated study and the avid curiosity of Hannibal Heyes. Curry keeps his eyes firmly away. Whenever the conversation pulls his gaze in the table’s direction, he shudders and rapidly shifts his eye-line.

“Light!” barks the Doc, as Heyes cranes for a better view.

“Sorry.” Heyes moves his shadow elsewhere. “I’da thought it wouldn’t take more’n five minutes to give us a death certificate; cause of death: seven hundred pound bear. But, not you, huh? You sure are thorough.”

“Uh huh.” Something is placed in a metal dish and covered with a cotton square.

“If a thing’s worth doing...” admires Heyes. He lifts the edge of the cotton, “That’s...?”

“The stomach,” supplies the Doc. “I’ll be able to tell when he last ate from the state of the contents.”

“A formula for everything, huh?” Brown eyes bend closer, fascinated.

“Light!”

“Sorry.”

Kid Curry presses a hand to his own stomach. “We know when he last ate – we watched him. Doc, all we need to know is – the bear killed him. No stray bullet finished him off.”

“No bullets. He was killed by multiple traumas consistent with a bear attack. Now THAT, Mister Smith, is interesting. This man was starting a kidney stone – see? Not that it would bother him for a year or so.” The gruff face softens at Heyes’ spellbound expression. “It’s a pleasant change to have someone show intelligent interest at a dissection. Most folk around here are – how shall I put it? Close-minded?”

“You mean, they like their relatives buried in one piece?” hazards Curry.

“Post-mortem examination of the human body is necessary to any advances we are going to make in medical knowledge!” The doctor’s tone is passionate. To Heyes, more confidingly, “I don’t often get a chance like this. Ah! Excellent muscular development of the gluteus.”

“Beats me why Andrew even brought up a bullet,” remarks Curry. “It’d still be an accident, huh?”

“A tragic accident,” Heyes amends a la Mayor Yeats.

Both boys grin.

“Maybe he wants his own mind put at rest?” suggests Heyes. “‘Sorry, I shot your boy,’ is not a message you wanna send back home. Even Dennis must have someone who loves him.”

“Nasty!” This is the Doc.

Two guilty looks. “Sorry, Doc. Not the time or place, huh?” apologises Heyes. “We hardly knew him, y’see, and, while they do say never speak ill of the dead...”

“No! This! Nasty fracture.”

The Kid half turns, thinks better of it.

Heyes is instantly curious. “His knee?”

“Yes.”

“Hey – maybe that’s why he couldn’t run?” Curry deduces. Straight away, “Nah – wrong way round. If the grizzly broke his knee, it can’t be why he didn’t run.”

“No bear did this,” says the doctor. “This is a comminuted fracture of the patella. If it had happened during the attack there’d be more cartilage damage and tearing. This was caused by a powerful impact blow from something...Hmmm?” His eyes narrow, instruments probe. “Something rectangular with a corner edge, the narrowest side about three inches. He didn’t run, you say? No wonder – with this he couldn’t have stood, let alone take a step.”

“Could he have smashed his knee on a rock as he fell?” asks Heyes.

“Not with enough force to give this stellate pattern. And, you see the bruising – the loops?”

Heyes bends close. “Kinda – spirals?” Recognition dawns in the brown eyes.

“How many rocks come with evenly spaced swirls?”

“Swirls?” Curry’s eyes too, grow grave. “Can I see?”

“Certainly.” The Doc glances at the queasy young man. “Give me a moment.” A sheet is drawn from head down to mid-thigh. “Now look.”

Blue eyes meet brown.

“Those marks look like they’ve been made by a rifle butt to you?” asks Kid Curry.

“Yup. A pretty dang expensive rifle butt.”

“For two men who just made the equivalent of a successful diagnosis, you two don’t sound too happy.”

“We’re not,” sighs Curry. “We walked in for a certificate sayin’ tragic accident. Thanks to your bullet search bein’ so dang thorough, we’re walkin’ out with a case of murder. Not that I’m blamin’ you, Doc. Some folks are naturally dang inquisitive. It’s annoyin’, but that’s the way they’re made.” A look is shot at Heyes. “If I don’t know that, dunno who does!”

“Adding insult to injury,” puts in his partner, “we walked in earning twenty dollars a day and something tells me we’re walking out earning zip.”

“As far as murder goes,” says the Doc, “that’s not a medical judgment. I’d say someone deliberately crippled this man. If they did it within seconds of being surprised by a bear, all I can say is they take faster decisions than the normal run of humanity.”

A mute conversation. The Doc has a point.

“Unless...?” Heyes stops. Deep thinking. He starts to pace.

---oooOOOooo---

STREET – MEDIUM SHOT

Two familiar figures plus the doctor walk purposefully towards the sheriff’s office. At the step to the boardwalk our boys stop. In unison two sets of hands go on hips, two heads bend forward, two deep breaths are taken.

The Doc has raised his hand to knock before he realizes he is alone. In dumb show we see him beckon. A look is exchanged. Shoulders brace. Heyes and Curry step up – literally.

---oooOOOooo---

SHERIFF’S OFFICE

“...If this fella was downed by one of his friends breaking his knee, why’d they act so keen to have the Doc look the body over?”

The Sheriff, well into his fifties and apparently no fool, sits behind his desk; the threesome face him. Every so often either cornflower-blue or chocolate-brown eyes, or both, stray to the wall, a veritable mosaic of wanted posters. None appear to be THE posters – but, they cannot help but keep scanning.

As the scene starts, the Doc is doing the talking; our boys try to fade into the background. “They weren’t keen to have me look the body over. They were keen to get a death certificate confirming bear, not bullet.”

“They’d no way of knowing the Doc here is Wyoming’s answer to Victor Frankenstein,” puts in Heyes, not the best at staying quiet.

Blinks from the Sheriff and the Kid: who? Recognition and an anxious frown from the Doc.

“I only mean seeing dead bodies as – er – necessary for advancement in medical knowledge,” recalls Heyes. “No offense, Doc.”

“None taken.”

“Okay, they’d no way of knowing Doc’s a – an enthusiast,” the Sheriff chooses the word carefully. “But still, how’d it work? Seven hundred pounds of teeth and claws thundering toward you – who the Sam Hill has time to think: ‘Hey! Here’s a perfect opportunity to turn Dennis into bear bait’?”

“These boys believe the bear wasn’t a complete surprise. Those Easterners were waiting – on the alert,” says the Doc. “Take a look at this.” He passes over a jacket, torn and blood-stained. “More to the point, smell it.”

“The dead fella’s?” checks the Sheriff.

“Uh huh.”

The Sheriff does as he is asked, sniffs.

“Try around the hem,” suggests Heyes. Apologetic glance at Curry that he has again broken the unspoken ‘keep quiet’ agreement.

“Hey...” The Sheriff reacts to a bloodhound, face a mass of lugubrious wrinkles, as she rises from a sunny spot beneath the window, shakes her loose pelt and ambles over to nose at the jacket. “Reckon you can smell it better than me, can’t you, old girl?” To the threesome, “What is that? Molasses? Some kinda woman’s scent?”

“Mister Jones believes it is glycerin mixed with vanilla.”

“Bear lure,” simplifies Curry. His turn for an apologetic glance at his partner.

“Humans will not detect it unless they inhale deeply,” says the Doc. “Not even then out in the open. But a bear’s sense of smell far outstrips ours. Mister Smith believes use of this lure significantly increases the probability of encountering a grizzly.”

“Would these Eastern dudes even know ‘bout bear lure?”

“Mister Smith has explained they researched the local wildlife and noted one of their books covered the topic of lures.”

The Sheriff scratches his head. “Seems pretty chancy; a bear might come – or not. If you want a fella dead, why not stage an ordinary hunting accident? Shoot him.”

“Mister Smith hypothesizes that may have been their back-up plan should the lure fail. However, he further surmises that given Andrew Harte’s reputation as a marksman, a shooting accident might arouse suspicion.”

Curry shoots a swift, silent rebuke at the source of all these explanations, notes, hypotheses and surmises.

“Staging a bear attack, while not foolproof, will likely be accepted as – as the fault of no human agency. As a murder method, it has attractions,” continues the Doc.

“Attractions?” The Sheriff is still sceptical. “Suppose the bear decides you look tastier than the bait, despite him being slathered in lure?”

A mute conversation. The boys get to their feet.

“Maybe you’re right, Sheriff,” says Heyes. “We’ve done our civic duty – brought our suspicions, well, the Doc’s suspicions, to your attention. If you decide those suspicions are ungrounded – so be it.”

“Sit down!” snaps the Doc.

Two backsides sink back to their seats.

“In my medical opinion, Dennis West was deliberately crippled – if these gentlemen are correct, by the butt of Andrew Harte’s rifle. You hold in your hand incontrovertible evidence that steps were taken to precipitate the attack which caused his death. Whatever questions remain – surely it is your duty to investigate further?” The doctor bristles with righteous indignation. “Or, am I to conclude your unwillingness to act derives from the fact that Harte Senior owns half the votes in this town and could buy up the other half any time he dang well chooses – ELECTED Sheriff?”

A deep sigh from the lawman. “Doc, if I wasn’t cautious about throwing accusations at the son of the man who practically owns this town – I’d be a dang fool. You know I believe you arriving back when this place was nothing but mud, tents and a couple of liquor and tail joints mining the miners, was one of the best things ever happened to this town; BUT, we both know what any fancy lawyer’ll dredge up once you start giving that medical opinion of yours in court.”

Doc scowls, but in acknowledging frustration, not anger.

In answer to curious glances from our boys, the Doc says, “I have seven undischarged sentences for grave-robbing back East. I’m not ashamed of it – dissection of the human body is...”

“Yeah, medical knowledge. We got it, Doc,” interrupts the Sheriff.

“However, it does make my position – precarious.”

Fascinated, Heyes leans in to the Kid and murmurs, “Who’da thought it?”

A shrug from Curry. “Me for one,” he deadpans, sotto voce.

The Sheriff shifts in his seat. The impression given is of a decent enough fella, struggling with the eternal struggle between the right and the expedient path.

“Too many unanswered questions, huh, Sheriff?” sympathises Heyes. The boys again rise to their feet. “You know best. We’ll leave you to...”

“Sit!”

Sheesh! That Doc is strict! They sit.

“I reckon the least I can do is find out where that lure came from.” The Sheriff’s sense of duty is winning out. He hauls himself to his feet, reaches for his hat. “C’mere, Nancy.” The jacket of the dead man is held to the greying muzzle of the venerable bloodhound.

---oooOOOooo---

OUTSIDE THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Our boys have hung back and lean on the porch rail watching the Sheriff and the Doc. They, in turn, watch Nancy snuffle back and forth across the street.

“D’you think we’ll ever get used to walking into a Sheriff’s office, Kid? Voluntarily I mean, without a gun at our back?”

“Nope. An’ I sure won’t ever get used to that.” Curry nods at the tin star now adorning Heyes’ chest. Heyes’ eyes drop to an identical star worn by the Kid; he shudders.

“Us being deputized wasn’t voluntary, Kid. The Sheriff didn’t offer any option. But that first walk into his office; d’you think it counts as a good deed? Risking the law’s attention – all in the interests of justice? And justice for DENNIS of all people.”

“Heyes, we did it in the int’rests of not havin’ the Doc draw the law’s attention to those fellas Smith and Jones refusin’ point blank.”

Acknowledging shrug from Heyes.

“’Course,” continues Curry, “we coulda ridden out.”

“And have the Governor think we were mixed up in – in whatever this is?”

“Is that any worse’n us bein’ mixed up in gettin’ the fella he wants us lickin’ the boots of accused of murder?”

A rueful look is exchanged. They turn their eyes back to the street. The Sheriff is beckoning them, impatiently.

“Hey!” Curry straightens. “Is that Chuck’s place Nancy’s headin’ to?”

---oooOOOooo---

CHUCK’S PLACE

“I make my own lures,” a defensive Chuck is telling the Sheriff. “Is that a crime?”

“Not unless you used it for one.”

“These Eastern boys paid good money for a taste of huntin’ out west. My boss knows with the lure, I can near guarantee a bear sightin’. He came over real early this mornin’, told me to use it. He wanted them to have – y’know – the whole experience.”

“Did the whole experience include putting bear lure on Dennis?” asks Heyes.

“No! No way! Early this mornin’ I dabbed some on the trees up in the hills away from the trail – where we got the first sightin’ – and made sure we stayed well away. You fellas know a grizzly ain’t gonna charge a group if it can head the other way. I only wanted ‘em to see somethin’.” Chuck takes a deep breath. “I'm real sorry ‘bout what happened, but it wasn't my fault.”

Another mute conversation – our boys believe 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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