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 A Rumble in the Jumble by Maz McCoy

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20140301
PostA Rumble in the Jumble by Maz McCoy



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


Guest stars in order of appearance:

Noah Beery Jr. As Sheriff Angus Milton


Richard Bull as The Pastor


Katherine Macgregor as the Pastor’s Wife


Joe Conley as Amos Tooley


Michael Learned as Mrs. Tooley


Mary Jackson as The Widow Whitman


Garfield as Mr. Twinkle



Kid Curry rode into the town of Bluebottle to the sound of hammering. It was a warm summer day. People criss-crossed the street in front of him going about their daily business. A small dog, of no recognisable breed, barked at his horse, but the animal was used to rattlesnakes and the growl of a cougar, so took no notice.

Bluebottle appeared to be just a regular town but as Kid turned onto Main Street the sight before him produced an anxious frown on his face. The hammering continued as he rode past the gallows, the smell of newly cut wood filling his nostrils, before he pulled his horse to a halt in front of the hotel. Kid dismounted slowly, evidence of a long ride showing in his stiff movements and the way he stretched his back and neck as his feet touched the ground. Kid turned to face the gallows, his face expressionless as he adjusted his hat. He studied the newly erected structure, watching impassively as a man tested the trap door with a weighted sack. It dropped, swinging ominously beneath the platform. Turning back to his horse, Kid undid his bedroll, removed his saddlebags, and slung them over his shoulder, before walking up the three steps to the boardwalk and into the hotel.

The bespectacled clerk looked up from behind the reception desk as Kid approached. The disapproving look he gave the dusty cowboy over the top of his glasses turned to a false but pleasant smile when Kid looked his way.

“I need a room,” Kid informed him bluntly, placing his bedroll on the counter.

“You here for the hanging?”

“No.”

“Gonna be quite a spectacle.”

“You got a room?”

The desk clerk met Kid’s steely gaze. Turning, he grabbed a key from a hook and placed it on the counter.

“Room four,” he said pointing to the room rates scrawled on a board behind him.

Kid pulled two coins from his vest pocket and tossed them on the counter before picking up the key and heading for the stairs. The clerk watched him depart.


***

Kid tossed his hat onto the bed, placed his bedroll and saddlebags beside it and sat down heavily on the soft mattress. The room was typical of many others he’d stayed in. Double bed, chair, tatty rug, chest of drawers with a mirror, jug and bowl sitting on top. Peeling wallpaper, net curtains on the window and a vase of dead flowers on the night stand.

Kid undid the buckle on his saddlebags and pulled out a piece of paper. He unfolded it. It was a telegram. He sighed as if already knowing its contents. Kid read it one more time.

To: Thaddeus Jones
From: Joshua Smith, Bluebottle, Colorado

No doubt ever conscious of the cost of sending a telegram, Heyes had used just two more words.

In jail


***

Kid adjusted his hat against the afternoon sun as he stepped down from the boardwalk into the street. He walked purposefully towards the jail, up the two steps, and gripped the door handle. He took a deep breath before entering the sheriff’s office.

Hannibal Heyes looked up as the door opened, then got quickly to his feet, hands clamped around the bars.

“Thaddeus! Boy, am I glad to see you!”

Kid glanced first at the man wearing a badge, seated behind a large oak desk, and then at his friend.

“Joshua.” He turned back to the sheriff. “Sheriff. Can I have a word with my friend?”

“What’s your name, son?” the man asked, sitting confidently back in his chair as he studied the cowboy before him.

“Thaddeus Jones.”

“Smith and Jones.”

Blue eyes met the sheriff’s.

“Can I talk to him?”

“Sure. Just leave that fancy piece on my desk, then you can chat all you like.”

Kid removed his Colt from its holster and placed it on a pile of ‘Wanted’ posters on the desk. He looked up at Heyes as he approached the cell.

“You all right?”

“Fine. Fine.”

Kid drew closer, lowering his voice.

“Tell me the gallows they’re buildin’ outside have nothing to do with you.”

Heyes looked stunned.

“No! They’re not planning on hanging me. Least they weren’t last I heard.” He tilted a thumb at the neighbouring cell where a figure lay on the bunk beneath a crumpled blanket. “Willis Thimble.”

Kid raised his eyebrows.

“That’s his name. In here for murdering his wife in a drunken rage. Hanging him tomorrow morning, if they can wake him up first.”

Kid rested his head against the bars and let out a long breath.

“When I saw the… Sheesh, for a minute I thought…”

Heyes patted his partner’s arm.

“Sorry, I didn’t think.”

Kid looked up.

“So what are you in for?”


***

“BREAKING AND ENTERING!” Kid yelled. “They arrested you for breakin’ and enterin’?”

“Will you keep your voice down?”

“Why? They forgotten what they arrested you for? What the heck were you thinkin’?” Kid glared at his friend.

“I was thinking I wouldn’t get caught.”

“Breakin’ and enterin’.” Kid shook his head in disgust. “So what did you enter?”

Heyes looked over at the sheriff, but the lawman wasn’t looking. He was busy reading the newspaper.

“What did you enter?” Kid prompted.

Heyes mumbled something.

“What?”

“A chrucmsm.”

“A what?”

“Chruchssm.”

“Will you stop mumblin’ and tell me what the heck you broke into?”

Heyes met Kid’s irritated gaze.

“The church.”

Kid’s mouth opened. His mouth closed. His mouth opened again.

“You broke into a church?”

“Yes.”

“A church?”

“Yes.”

Kid’s mouth opened. His mouth closed. His mouth opened again.

Heyes waited.

“Okay. Why?”

“They had my hat.”

“Oh well, that explains it!” Kid lowered his voice. “Sheesh, Heyes! A church!”

“Kid, I was…”

“Stupid? An idiot?”

“Yes.”

“You couldn’t wait for the mornin’ to go back for your hat?”

“It wasn’t like that. I didn’t exactly leave it there.”

“You know the worst thing about this?”

“Rhetorical question?”

“Darn right it is. The worst thing is about this Heyes is…you got caught!”


***

Heyes had the decency to look embarrassed at being caught breaking into a church. He sat on the end of his bunk and ran both hands through his hair, pushing it back from his face.

Kid sat on a chair outside the cell. He shook his head, looked up at Heyes and shook it again, not bothering to hide his disapproval.

“I s’pose I should hear the whole story.”

“Mighty good of you to wanna hear my side.”

“I have just ridden for two days straight with only a couple of hours’ sleep because you were in jail. I haven’t eaten since this mornin’ and those gallows made my stomach turn. Now there is a soft mattress waitin’ for me across the street so don’t even think about commentin’ on my attitude.”

Heyes gave a sheepish smile.

“So tell me.”

“I rode into town after delivering that letter for Big Mac. I was planning to spend the night here, then head out early the next morning to meet you. I was tired and wanted nothing more than a cold beer, a hot meal and a soft bed. I headed to the saloon.”


***

FLASHBACK

Pushing aside the bat wing doors, Hannibal Heyes entered the saloon. Stepping around three large bags leaning against the bar, he placed his hat on the stained wooden counter and ordered a beer.

Wordlessly, the bartender placed the drink in front of him. Heyes picked it up, downing it in one long swallow.

“Mighty thirsty ain’thcha, cowboy?”

Heyes turned to look at the saloon girl sauntering her way towards him. She was typical of so many of her kind. Too much make up, dress cut low, holes in her stockings and one thing on her mind; his money.

“I hate to see a man drink alone.”

Heyes smiled and caught the bartender’s eye. Another beer and a shot of whiskey were set down before him. Heyes pushed the whiskey towards the girl. She smiled, took it and emptied the glass, licking her lips seductively when she had finished. Heyes smiled, watching her tongue.

“What’s your name?”

“Moira.”

“Well, Moira, why don’t I get us a bottle and we can make ourselves comfortable over there?” He pointed to a table in the far corner. Moira linked her arm with his, caught the bartender’s eye and led Heyes towards the table.


***

“Joshua, as fascinatin’ as this is, I’d like to stop you there.” Kid moved away from the cell bars, tilting his chair back on two legs to lean against the wall. “I don’t want to know what else you and Moira got up to.”

“We didn’t get up to anything!”

Kid raised his eyebrows.

“Can I continue?”

“Go ahead.”


***

FLASHBACK

“Where you from?” Moira asked, leaning on the table to give Heyes a better view of what was on offer.

“Out of town.”

“Well, I know that. I meant where exactly you from? Oh no, wait! Let me guess. You from Virginia?”

“Do I sound like I am?”

“I don’t know. What do Virginia folk sound like?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, are you?”

“No.”

“Boston?”

Heyes shook his head.

“Well, I don’t care where you’re from, I like you anyway.”

“That’s nice to know.”

Moira poured another glass of whiskey for them both as Heyes’ eyes scanned the room.

“You sure you’re not tired from that long ride? Maybe you need to lie down?”

Heyes didn’t answer her. His gaze was fixed on the bar. The empty bar.

“My hat.”

“What, honey?”

“My hat. Where’s my hat?” Heyes pushed back his chair and strode quickly to the bar. “Where’s my hat?”

The bartender looked puzzled.

“What?”

“My hat. I put it here on the bar. Where is it?”

“No idea. I ain’t here to look after hats.”

Heyes looked around. The bags that had been leaning against the bar when he entered the saloon were gone.

“There were bags here.”

“Yeah. Matt put ‘em out for the church. His wife cleaned out their closets. Had a lot of clothes her sons won’t wear no more and as they don’t have anyone else to…”

“The church?” Heyes interrupted.

“Yeah, the ladies are having a sale to raise money for the orphans. I said Matt could leave it here ‘til Bill came by to collect it. Say, maybe Bill took your hat too.”

“Maybe he did. Where can I find Bill?”


***

“So where was he?” Kid took a sip of his coffee. He turned to the sheriff. “This is good coffee!”

“Thanks, Thaddeus. Help yourself to another one.”

“I will.”

“Have one of the cookies, too.”

“Thanks, Sheriff.”

“Call me Angus.”

“Thanks, Angus.”

Kid walked back to the cell.

“Will you stop getting chummy with him!” Heyes glared through the bars.

Kid smiled.

“Just bein’ friendly.”

“Well, don’t. That man locked me up!”

“For breakin’ into a church.”

“I had a reason.”

“Didn’t we always?”

Heyes had no answer to that.

“Shall I go on, Thaddeus?”

“By all means.”

Heyes fumed silently.

“Bill,” Kid prompted.

“He’d taken the bags to the church so I headed there.”


***

FLASHBACK

Night had fallen. Heyes tried the doors, but the church was locked. He looked around, but there was no one in sight. He tried the main door and one at the side of the building, but both were locked. A light shone in one downstairs window of the house next to the church. Heyes walked up to the door and raised his hand to knock, but stopped mid-air. He looked back at the church.

VOICE OVER:
“I didn’t want to wake the Pastor. He’d probably tell me to come back in the morning anyway.”

Turning away from the house, Heyes crept quietly back to the side door. He studied it.

VOICE OVER:
“It was a simple lock. I’d be in and out before anyone even knew I was there.”

Heyes looked around again. Reaching into his boot, Heyes retrieved a lock pick. A twist here, a turn there and the door was open. Quietly, he slipped inside.

Moonlight shone through the windows. Heyes let his eyes adjust before searching for the bags.

VOICE OVER:
“I didn’t dare risk lighting a candle. I found a pile of sacks and boxes in a corner beyond the pulpit. The townsfolk had been very generous for the upcoming sale.”

Heyes knelt down and opened the first sack.

VOICE OVER:
“I couldn’t see inside but it felt like clothing.”

He pulled out a pair of britches, holding them up in the moonlight. He whistled.

“Sheesh, someone has been eating too many pies.”

Replacing them, Heyes continued his search, pulling open sacks and rummaging inside. He found a silk top hat and a straw boater, both of which he tried on but he was only half way through his search and there was no sign of his own precious headgear. Heyes glanced at his watch. He needed to get a move on.


***

“That’s when I heard it.” Heyes looked up at his partner.

“What?” Kid leaned forward on his seat.

“A creak. Someone stepped on a loose board.”

“No one watchin’ your back, huh?”

Heyes smiled.

“No. No one watching my back.”


***

FLASHBACK

Heyes stayed perfectly still. Someone was in the church. He heard voices whispering and then…

“Who’s there?” A man’s voice boomed as light from a lantern illuminated the pews.

Heyes’ fingers tightened around the fabric he was holding as he tried to get behind the pulpit without making a sound.

“Show yourself! I’m a man of God. You will not be harmed!”

VOICE OVER
“It was the pastor himself.”

“Noah, be careful. They could be armed!” a woman warned.

There was the sound of more footsteps and then another man’s voice.

“What’s going on? Noah?”

“There’s someone in the church.”

“Come on out. This is Sheriff Milton.”

VOICE OVER
“And then we had the sheriff.”

The lantern swung again and Heyes’ legs were caught in its flickering light.

“Don’t move!”

He didn’t.

“Stand up where we can see you.”

Slowly Heyes got to his feet, only then realising that he was still holding the items of clothing he had just removed from the sack.

“I can explain.”

“Can’t wait to hear it.”


***

“What was he holdin’?” Kid asked.

“A lady’s chemise and pantaloons,” Sheriff Angus Milton supplied helpfully as he topped up Kid’s coffee cup.

Kid grinned.

“Ladies underwear? They caught you with ladies underwear?”

“It’s not like I was wearing it!”

“You could’ve put it on to escape.”

“It’s not funny.” Heyes gritted his teeth.

“Oh trust me, it is.”

“He was standing there in the lantern light, holding these ladies’ unmentionables, trying to convince us he was only looking for his hat. I mean who breaks into a church at night looking for a hat?” The sheriff shook his head in disbelief as he walked back to the stove.

“I happen to be very fond of my hat.”

“I guess you must be, son, to risk imprisonment for breaking and entering.”

“I didn’t break. Nothing was broken.”

“I meant to ask you about that. How did you open the door? Didn’t look like the lock had been tampered with.”

“It’s a trade secret.” Heyes sat, turning his back on the lawman.

Milton chuckled and returned to his desk.

“The pastor’s wife nearly fainted when she saw what he had in his hands. I can’t see those items going into the sale now that they’ve been fondled by a felon.”

“I was not fondling ladies’ underwear!” Heyes’ shoulders drooped. “My hat wasn’t even there.”

“You went through all that and it wasn’t there?” Kid did his best to suppress a smile.

“No.”

“So where was it?”


***

FLASHBACK

“I just wanted to get my hat back,” Heyes repeated as the sheriff closed the cell door and locked it.

“Then you shoulda waited ‘til the morning.”

“I didn’t want to risk someone giving it away.”

“Too late for that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Noah – that’s the Pastor – told me he’d already given it away. Saw the tatty old thing on top of a sack and gave it to Amos Tooley.”

“Who’s he?” Heyes watched the sheriff walk back to his desk.

“Farmer. Grows corn and vegetables. Doing pretty well this year. Reckon he’ll have a bumper crop.” He dropped the cell key into his desk drawer, closing it with his knee. The sheriff yawned. “Now, I’m off to my bed. Try not to cause a ruckus and tomorrow morning I’ll bring you breakfast. Disturb my sleep and it’ll be bread and water. Understand?”

“I understand.” Heyes clung to the bars with both hands. “This Amos Tooley. D’you reckon he’d give my hat back?”

“It means that much to ya?”

“Yes, it does.”

The lawman considered this.

“I don’t s’pose there’d be any harm my asking Amos when I see him.”

“Thank you.”

“Try and get some sleep, son. You’ve had a busy night.” The sheriff blew out the lamp, plunging the jail into darkness, and headed for the door.


***

“Did you get it?” Kid asked, as he bit into a biscuit and balanced a plate of food on his knee.

“Not yet,” the sheriff answered from where he sat at his desk. “I ain’t seen Amos to ask him.” He took a bite of his own biscuit.

Heyes moved his food around with a fork, but didn’t eat.

Kid wiped the remainder of his biscuit around his plate, mopping up the gravy.

“This is real nice,” he informed the sheriff, his mouth full of stew. “Your wife sure can cook.”

“Agnes has always been a good cook. Her mother taught her. You should taste her apple cobbler. Say, if you’re around tomorrow, I’ll get her to bring some by.”

“I’d like that.”

Heyes looked from Kid to the sheriff, disbelief on his face. He shook his head at the friendship they were striking up.

“Say, Thaddeus, maybe you could go and see Amos?” Heyes suggested.

Kid looked up, biscuit crumbs sticking to the stubble on his chin.

“Now?”

“If it’s not too much trouble?”

Reluctantly, Kid put down his now empty plate and stood up, stretching his back as he did so.

“Where can I find Amos?”

The sheriff consulted the large wall clock.

“At this time of day, try the saloon.”

Kid turned to Heyes, who finally shoved a piece of stew into his mouth.

“Don’t go anywhere.” Kid smiled and left before Heyes’ mouth was empty enough to say anything, which was probably just as well.


***

“Is there a man here named Amos Tooley,” Kid asked the bartender.

The saloon was crowded, a piano player pounded out a tune Kid barely recognised and there were several poker games going on. The air was filled with cigar smoke and the smell of beer and whiskey. Two saloon girls homed in on Kid but were waylaid by other customers before they could reach the blond cowboy.

“Over there.” The bartender pointed to the far table.

“Which one is he?”

“Dark-haired fella in a brown hat. The man with the moustache.”

Kid thanked him and made his way across the room, between tables and chairs to the far corner. All too intent on their cards, no one looked up when he approached the table. Kid stood to one side, watching the game for a while and the man identified as Amos. He was a big fella, too big for Heyes’ hat. When the players broke to get a round of drinks, Kid stepped forward.

“Are you Amos Tooley?”

The man eyed Kid suspiciously.

“Who wants to know?”

“Name’s Thaddeus Jones. I understand you acquired a new hat recently.”

The man’s eyes narrowed.

“This about that fella in jail? Broke into the church?”

“In a way.”

Amos smiled.

“I got the hat.”

“I’d like to get it back for my friend.”

“It’ll cost ya.”

“How much?”

“Let me think on it.”

“It’s an old hat.”

“I know that. Pretty beat up. I’m surprised he don’t just get himself a new one.”

“So am I, but my friend says it has sentimental value.”

“It’d hafta.” He thought for a moment. “Come out to my farm tomorrow morning. I’ll have his hat for him and we can negotiate a price.”


***

“D’you get it?” Heyes was on his feet the minute Kid walked into the jail.

“Not yet.”

“What do you mean? He does have it?” Heyes studied his friend anxiously through the bars as Kid poured himself a cup of coffee.

“He has it. Say why don’t I just break you out of jail and we head out?”

Heyes looked shocked. At his desk the sheriff looked up from his newspaper. Angus Milton watched him over the top of his glasses. Kid smiled innocently.

“Just kiddin’.”

“You’d better be,” the lawman warned.

“Not without my hat,” Heyes informed his friend.

“It’s just a hat, Joshua.”

“My hat.”

Kid held up his cup.

“Want one?”

“No thanks.”

“Sheriff?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Kid drained his cup and let out a contented sigh.

“So when are you going to get it?” Heyes asked.

“I’m ridin’ out to the farm tomorrow morning. We have to negotiate a price.”

“Don’t pay too much.”

“D’you want it back or not?” Heyes gave Kid a look. “Then let me do the negotiatin’.”

“No guns.”

Kid smiled.

“I am goin’ to the hotel. That soft bed has my name on it and it has been a long day.” Kid put down the cup and headed towards the door.

“Thaddeus.”

The blond man turned back to face his friend.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”


***

Kid sat on his horse and looked at the farm ahead of him. Reaching forward, he patted the animal on the neck.

“Pretty big place, huh?”

The horse nodded.

A large field of corn led down to a fast flowing river beyond which was an apple orchard. A bridge, wide enough for a wagon, crossed the river at the end of the farm track. Tooley’s house was a well kept, two-storey building surrounded by a barn and several smaller outbuildings. A thin woman with dark hair tied back from her face was sweeping the porch with a besom broom as Kid rode up.

“Mornin’, Ma’am,” he called, as he pulled his horse to a halt.

“Morning.” She stopped sweeping and brushed a strand of hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. “What can I do for you?”

“I arranged to meet Mister Tooley here this mornin’. Name’s Thaddeus Jones.”

“AMOS!” the woman hollered and moments later the door opened and Tooley stepped out onto the porch.

“Ah, Smith, you made it.”

“It’s Jones.”

“Jones, right, Jones.”

“D’you have the hat?”

“Sure do. Follow me.”

Kid got down off his horse and followed Amos into the corn field. He kept his hand on the holster of his gun as they moved into the shadows cast by the shoulder-high plants. Kid’s eyes darted to and fro, ever alert for an ambush. Amos suddenly stopped and Kid walked into him.

“Sorry.”

“There’s your hat.”

He pointed through the field to a lone figure, silhouetted against the sky. Kid started towards him. The man wore a long frock coat, leather gloves, brown corduroy pants and a torn white shirt. Arms held out to the side, he stared straight ahead through sightless eyes and on top of his head sat Hannibal Heyes’ hat.


***

“Your friend is back.”

Heyes swung his legs over the side of the bunk at the sheriff’s announcement.

“Is he carrying anything?”

“Can’t tell.” The lawman stepped back from the window. “I got some pie for that young fella. Agnes wanted him to try her peach cobbler. Apparently we ate all the apple ones.”

As the sheriff set about unwrapping the parcel his wife had given him, Heyes anxiously watched the front door. What was keeping Kid?

“D’you want a slice?”

No answer.

The sheriff looked across at the cell.

“Smith!”

“Huh?”

“D’you want a slice?”

“No. No thank you.”

The sheriff muttered something in reply but Heyes didn’t hear it. At that moment the door opened and all his attention was focussed on Kid and whatever it was he was holding behind his back.

“You get it?”

Kid smiled.

“Yep.”

Heyes smiled with relief.

Kid whacked Heyes’ hat against his leg removing a cloud of dust and straw. Heyes reached through the bars.

“Hold up there, young fella!” The sheriff moved swiftly to intervene. “Let me just take a look at that. Wouldn’t want you sneaking in any contraband or guns now, would we?”

“We wouldn’t?”

“No, Mister Jones, we wouldn’t.” The lawman examined the hat, satisfying himself it was empty. “Okay, you can pass it over.”

Kid did just that.

Heyes turned the hat lovingly in his hand, brushed some dust from the brim and… His face clouded over.

“Where is it?”

“What, something missin’? Don’t tell me you want the dust back as well?” Kid asked.

“The band is missing.”

“We’ll getcha another one.”

“It won’t be the same.”

“It’s just a hat band.”

“No, it’s not.”

Kid looked at his partner. Clearly they were sharing a memory. Kid softened his approach.

“Maybe it’s time for a change?”

“No, Thaddeus, it’s not. I want that band back.”

Kid gave a heavy sigh.


***

“The Widow Whitman has it,” Kid informed his friend that evening as he finished a piece of peach cobbler.

“Who’s she?”

“The Pastor’s sister-in-law,” the sheriff supplied, taking the now empty plate from Kid. “Good, huh?”

“The best peach cobbler I have ever tasted.”

“Agnes’ll like that.”

“The Widow Whitman,” Heyes interjected.

“Oh, yeah. Apparently she saw your hat first and only wanted the band. Said the hat was too tat…” Kid looked at Heyes. “She didn’t want the hat.”

“So where is she? When are you going to see her?”

“I’ll take Thaddeus over to her house in the morning when I start my rounds. Don’t want him scaring her, turning up unannounced.”

“You could go now,” Heyes suggested, hopefully.

“No, son, I can’t. Agnes would never forgive me if I didn’t take the time to sit here and digest her cobbler properly.” The sheriff tipped his hat over his eyes and leant back in his chair.

Heyes looked at Kid, who smiled.

“I reckon you’re right, sheriff. A good cobbler like that deserves respect.”

Heyes found himself uncharacteristically speechless as Kid pushed his hat over his eyes, stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles, and settled down for a nap.


***

“This is the Widow Whitman’s house,” Sheriff Milton said as he and Kid rode up to a small cottage on the outskirts of town.

A well-kept garden full of summer flowers, surrounded by a white picket fence, greeted them. They pulled their horses to a halt, dismounted and tied the reins to the fence. The sheriff opened the gate and they stepped onto the front porch. Sheriff Milton knocked loudly on the door frame. They waited. Inside there was the sound of footsteps on a wooden floor and the shadow of a woman appeared behind the door’s net curtain. The door opened gingerly and a grey-haired, elderly lady peeped around the frame.

“Sheriff, that you?” she asked, squinting at the men.

“It is, Lillian.” He pointed to Kid. “This is Thaddeus Jones. He has a question for you.”

Lillian Whitman opened the door wider and stepped onto the porch. Kid removed his hat.

“What can I do for you, Mister Jones?”

“Ma’am, did you get the band from a black hat that was given to the church for their sale?”

“Why, yes, I did.”

“Do you still have it?”

“I do.” She turned to face the sheriff. “Sheriff, what’s this about? There’s not any trouble, is there?”

“No. No trouble at all. The hat belongs to this young fella’s friend. He’d like to get the band back.”

“Well, why didn’t you say?” She shot Kid a look. “Come with me, we’ll get it right this minute.”

Lillian Whitman led the way down the steps and around to the back of her house. Vegetables grew in neatly sown rows. Beans climbed canes; sunflowers turned their heads to the sun and bees buzzed contentedly from flower to flower. Lillian stopped when she reached a string of tin cans dangling amidst the plants, presumably to scare away the birds. As she reached in between the plants, a movement caught Kid’s eye.

“Come on out, Mister Twinkle,” the elderly woman cooed as she bent down and picked up the biggest cat Kid had ever seen. Mister Twinkle’s long orange fur covered the woman’s arms as she walked towards the men. “Say hello, Twinkle.”

The cat remained silent although it gave Kid a wary glare.

“Lillian, I thought…”

“Hold him, will you?” The question turned out to be rhetorical as she dumped the cat into the sheriff’s arms. The lawman took a moment to adjust the animal’s considerable weight, then stood still as Lillian rummaged in the cat’s fur. “It’s in here somewhere.”

“What is?”

“The band of course.”

“You hid it in the cat’s fur?” Kid asked, incredulous.

“I haven’t hidden it. He’s wearing it. I was going to make it into a collar but when I saw… Ah, here we are.” More fiddling ensued. “When I saw how nice it was, I decided to keep it that length and make it into a belt. It looked real nice on him.”

With that she held up Heyes’ hat band covered in long orange cat hairs.


***

“A cat?” Heyes held his hat band at arm’s length between his right thumb and forefinger. Long orange hairs still hung from it.

“Mister Twinkle,” Kid supplied.

“She put it on a cat?” Heyes stared at the band.

“Made him a belt.”

“A cat.”

“The hairs’ll brush off.”

“What about the fleas?”

“Oh, I doubt Mister Twinkle has fleas,” the sheriff said as he approached the cell.

“She put it on a cat,” Heyes repeated. “My hat goes on a scarecrow; the band goes on a cat. What kind of town is this?”

“At least you got it back,” Kid soothed.

The sheriff produced a key and unlocked the cell door.

“You’re free to go,” he announced as he pulled the metal door open.

“I am?”

“Yep.” The sheriff stood to one side. Heyes quickly grabbed his hat and stepped out of the cell. “’Course I woulda let you go yesterday but you insisted on getting the band back.”

“What?”

“You’da let him go? Yesterday?”

“That’s right, fellas.” Milton stepped behind his desk, unlocked the drawer and pulled out Heyes’ holster and gun.

“So why didn’t you?” Kid asked as Heyes buckled his gun-belt.

“I figured it was the best way to keep him outta trouble.”

Heyes looked hurt.

“You’re right,” Kid agreed and received a look from Heyes.

“Well, Fellas, I know you won’t take this the wrong way when I tell you, I hope you’re leaving town tomorrow.”

“We are, and we understand.”

“Do we?” Heyes asked, grumpily, and Kid placed a firm hand on his shoulder, steering his friend towards the door.

“We sure do. Come on, Joshua. Let’s go pack our things before Mister Twinkle comes by demandin’ his belt back.” Heyes walked outside as Kid continued. “But I gotta tell you, your hat sure looked a lot better on that scarecrow.”


Cue music. Roll End Credits.



(Writers love feedback! You can let Maz McCoy know how you enjoyed the story with a quick comment. Just Post Reply to the Comments for A Rumble in the Jumble 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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