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 The Mrs. Loretta Part I

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CD Roberts
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Join date : 2013-09-23

20130926
PostThe Mrs. Loretta Part I




The arrest of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry is a most exciting event in a small town. Heyes comes up with an inventive plan to escape jail.





Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes left their hotel room to brave the increasingly chilly streets of Kokomo Colorado, a mining town with an elevation of some 10,600 feet. Heyes was holding an open book and alternately reading, and then looking up to avoid any obstacles that were in his path. His pace was leisurely, far too leisurely for the Kid who was both cold, and thirsty for a beer.

“Heyes, do you think you could walk a bit faster? I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but it’s pretty cold out here.”

“Mmm.”

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been somewheres so cold so close to spring. Must be ‘cause of the elevation. I mean, how high up is this town anyway?”

“Mmm mmm.”

“Well, at least there’s no snow. I mean, we’re pretty lucky there’s no snow, right? I figure that’ll be done for the year.”

He looked at his partner with a slight glare that went unnoticed and continued in an irritated tone, “’Course being so high up I guess we’re pretty safe. I mean we don’t know the sheriff and the deputies and they don’t know us, so we could probably stay here a good long while, right Heyes? Right, Heyes?!”

“Kid, it’s cold. How come you’re walking so slow?”

They reached the front of the mercantile where a young lady with blonde hair worn down skipped past another young lady with light brown hair tied in a bun at the nape of her neck. The one with the brown hair was seated on a bench in front of the store, bundled up in a heavy coat and gloves, hunched over, busy reading.

A gust of wind blew the hat off of the blonde girl. It was buffeted along towards the two men, and the Kid caught it.

As he turned to give it to her, a formidable, stout, middle-aged woman, bearing a strong resemblance to both young ladies, walked out of the mercantile. Curry swiveled from the blonde young lady to face this woman, hat held out.

“Excuse me ma’am, but your daughter’s hat flew off,” he said in a quiet voice while smiling at the older lady.

Mrs. Loretta Harrison looked at him with more approval than she would generally give to a man of his type. He wore the clothes of a ranch hand with a gun belted low below his waist. However, he had the good sense to approach her and not her daughter, and he spoke in a polite manner, unlike many of the other men of his ilk.

She took the proffered hat. “Thank you, young man. Guinevere, here is your hat; see that you tie it on properly this time.” She turned towards her other daughter, “Athena, come along.”

“Yes, mama,” said Guinevere.

“Yes, mama,” echoed Athena.

Heyes walked forward to stand next to the Kid, and gave her an engaging smile. She would hardly have given him a second glance if he hadn’t held a book in his hand. She looked down at the book and back at him raising her eyebrows with a questioning look. He obligingly held the book forward so she could read the title: “Walden and Other Essays” by Thoreau. Thoreau was an enlightened thinker and his works were of considerable merit. She nodded her approval at the brown-haired man, turned and collected her daughters, and the three ladies walked towards their home for lunch.


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The two men turned to each other, and smiled, shrugging their shoulders. Kid Curry mouthed at his partner, “Guinevere and Athena?” The two men laughed silently and walked to the saloon.


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Corbett Brown, retired railroad conductor, currently employed by Mr. Roland Harrison as a janitor for his various businesses watched the ladies and the men from across the street unnoticed. He scratched his head. He knew those men. He’d seen them. He’d seen them on a train, on a train they had halted to ‘relieve of its contents’ as the brown-haired man had put it. You simply didn’t forget an event like that.
He thought it over. They were Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, outlaws and wanted men, he knew that much. That meant there was a reward on them. He figured it would be a lot of money, maybe ten thousand dollars ‘cause the banks and the railroads wanted to put those two out of business real bad.

He thought about his wife, Sarah. He adored Sarah. She was a fine woman and had given him two good strong sons. He’d never been able to give her much in return. She’d wanted proper curtains made out of proper curtain material for years, but they couldn’t afford it. She wanted a real mattress too, on a real frame bed, not the homemade straw-stuffed mattress on the hand-made rope bed they slept on now.

If he caught those two outlaws and turned them in he could collect the reward. If he collected the reward he could buy the curtain material, the mattress, and a real bed frame for Sarah. Heck, maybe, just maybe, there would be enough for that stove in the Sears’ catalog she was always admiring.

He stopped his reverie. He felt sort of sorry for the two men. They’d go to prison. He didn’t like the thought of sending two of his fellow men to prison; he’d been in jail once when he’d drunk a bit too much and hadn’t liked it. But they were outlaws, and had done real bad things. He supposed they should go to prison. And anyway he figured it wouldn’t be for very long, maybe a couple of years, and Sarah would get her mattress, bed,----and curtains.

On the other hand, robbing that train had got Rufus Shipley, the railroad manager, all upset and in trouble. He’d never liked Rufus Shipley and was secretly glad to see him all discomforted. He’d liked Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry for that. But, well, Sarah was more important.

He walked to the livery where his son Matt worked. He needed to talk it over with him and figure out a plan, and Matt was more practical than his other son Richard, who was trying to advance himself by working for Mr. Harrison as a bookkeeper during the day, and for the hotel as a clerk at night.


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“I sure am hungry,” the Kid said as he faced his friend who had stopped for a stretch after leaving the saloon.

Heyes grinned back. “Nothing like a good day of poker to work up an appetite, eh?”

They walked to the hotel and through its double doors into the lobby. On the right side was a small restaurant with four tables that sat two each. Two of these tables had been pushed together to accommodate the Harrison family for their Saturday night supper. Unless she had a dinner party, Mrs. Harrison graciously allowed the servants Saturday night off in addition to Sunday. The manager of the hotel always ‘worked-up’ an excellent meal for the town’s wealthiest family.

Heyes and Curry sat at one of the two remaining tables. The Harrisons looked up briefly at the newcomers, Mrs. Harrison holding her gaze a bit longer on Heyes than was polite. Guinevere returned to finishing her meal, and to questioning her father on his day’s activities, and Athena resumed reading the book she had brought with her. Loretta Harrison thought for a moment. Other than Athena and Richard Brown there were very few people in town she could discuss literature with. The man with the brown hair had the potential for providing some stimulating conversation and, the good Lord knew, she could use some.

The waiter ambled over to Heyes and the Kid, and took their orders in a desultory manner. Since the only item available was the roast beef with root vegetables and potatoes that had been prepared for the Harrisons it didn’t matter much anyway. After taking the outlaws’ orders to the kitchen he returned in short order with two plates of food, dropped them in front of the two men, and turned to fawn on the Harrisons to the amusement of the Kid and Heyes.

Mrs. Loretta Harrison ignored him. She had an important mission for her husband and interrupted both the waiter and Guinevere.

“Mr. Harrison dear, I should like you to introduce yourself to the young men seated at the next table, and then introduce them to myself and the girls.”

Roland Harrison looked over at the next table.

“My dear, are you quite certain? You would like to be introduced to a couple of menials?”

“I am quite certain,” Loretta responded firmly.

Mr. Harrison shook his head slightly, but rose and walked the two feet over to the next table.

He coughed. “If you, ahem, er, gentlemen would excuse me, I am Mr. Roland Harrison. I am a local businessman,” this was an understatement, as he owned over half the town, “and would like to make your acquaintance as I don’t believe I have seen you in Kokomo before.”

He held out his hand in a tentative manner as if to say he wasn’t certain if making their acquaintance was something he actually wanted to do but he was willing to give it a try.

Heyes and the Kid stood and shook his hand in turn.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Harrison, I am Mr. Joshua Smith, and this is my friend, Mr. Thaddeus Jones.”

“This is right friendly of you Mr. Harrison, happy to meet ya,” added the Kid in turn.

Mr. Harrison then introduced his wife and daughters, to which the Kid and Heyes responded properly that they were delighted to meet them. Introductions being over Loretta Harrison came to the point. There was no sense in dragging this out with small talk if the conversation proved to be as dull and worthless as talking with the local janitor, Corbett Brown, not that Corbett wasn’t a good man, she reminded herself.

“Mr. Smith, I noticed earlier today that you were reading Thoreau. I find his works particularly fresh and stimulating. Do you think it true that ‘the mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation?’ ”

Athena quickly sat her book aside, eager to enter the conversation, while the Kid looked on with a slightly pained expression.

“Ah yes, ‘what is called resignation is confirmed desperation.’ You are a reader Mrs. Harrison, and obviously of works other than ladies’ novels. I admire that in a lady.” He smiled adding quickly, “If you don’t mind my saying so, Mr. Harrison.” Mrs. Harrison smiled at the compliment while the Kid rolled his eyes.

“Not in the least, Mr. Smith.” He meant it. He was proud of his wife’s intellectual attainments, and was only too happy when she found someone of equal abilities to have conversations with, as he was generally preoccupied with business matters. He was never jealous, as there was never any reason for it, as he and Loretta were perfectly matched. He sat back to enjoy his brandy and cigar in relative peace and quiet.

A three-way conversation began that covered Thoreau, Walden, Civil Disobedience, which Heyes found enjoyable to discuss if for no other reason then its title alone appealed to his outlaw nature, and then moved on to other American authors. The Kid’s eyes glazed over. Guinevere began to fidget. She picked up a ribbon from her dress and began to remove nonexistent pieces of lint from it.

Loretta Harrison frowned at her daughter to stop.

A few more moments passed.

“Papa, may I go for a walk?” asked Guinevere with a bored pout.

“Hmm?”

“Please, may I go for a walk? Mr. Jones could join me. We could walk up and down the main street. We won’t go far.”

“Oh well, if you and Mr. Jones would like, my dear.”

“Mr. Harrison, I’d be more than happy to escort your daughter,” the Kid answered unable to hide his relief.

Mrs. Harrison looked at Curry briefly. “See that you stay on the main street.” She fully expected to be obeyed.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

The Kid and Guinevere left rapidly and began to walk off frustrated extra energy.

After a few moments the Kid wasn’t entirely too sure if he hadn’t traded one boring conversation for another. Guinevere talked, and when she talked she talked. She talked about hats, and clothes. She talked about her girlfriends. She talked primarily about Brian Hopkins, the son of the Reverend Stanley Hopkins, and her beau. He soon learned more than he ever wanted to know about a preacher’s son and his family. He led her to the front of the gunsmith’s shop where he could study the various rifles on display. He found that if he interjected an occasional “yes, ma’am,” and “I see, ma’am,” she was very happy. He wasn’t actually sure if she heard him anyway. At least he was outdoors, which was better than sitting in that restaurant with the other conversation, even though it was extremely cold.

What was it with most women anyway? They sure seemed to like to talk. It made it difficult to concentrate on the differences in the Winchesters. The last woman who talked so much was, oh yeah, that crazy Lorraine. He just couldn’t figure it out. Well, at least this one didn’t appear to be crazy.


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As Heyes was unlocking the door to their room that night the Kid announced, “you know Heyes I think I figured out why I don’t care for women that talk a lot.”
Heyes threw the key on the dresser. “Is that so Kid? OK, why?”

“I think it’s because of you. It’s because you talk too much a lot of the time. I just figure I can’t handle it in someone else.”

Heyes looked bemused. “Kid, you really have some strange ideas sometimes. Have I told you that? I really think you should leave the thinking to me.” He nodded and gave the Kid’s shoulder a friendly, but condescending, pat.


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Corbett and Matt Brown entered the town’s hotel at 2 AM and walked over to the desk clerk who was sitting behind the reception desk half asleep over an open book.
“Psst, Richard. Richard, wake up. C’mon son.”

“Pa, Matt, what are you doing here?”

“Ssh, keep it quiet son.” Corbett waved his hands nervously at Richard.

Richard looked around the lobby. Unsurprisingly it was empty, which was to be expected so early in the morning.

“Well, all right Pa, but there’s no one else here.”

“Don’t matter we don’t wanna take no chances,” whispered Matt.

“You gotta extra key to them strangers’ room doncha? Them two fellas new to town, one brown and one blond?”

“Of course I do Pa. What do you want it for?” Only then did he take in fully his father and brother’s appearance and realize they were both armed with Colts, and his father held another Colt.

“Now wait a minute, Pa. What do you two think you are up to?”

Matt grinned nervously, “we’re gonna capture them two. They’re important outlaws.”

“What!?”

“That’s right son. Them two is Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. Remember I told you they robbed the train once. I recognized them right out.”

“Are you certain? Are you really certain, Pa? After all, I work here. I can’t just hand over guests’ keys. I could lose my job,” Richard whispered in a pleading voice.

“Course Pa’s sure. He ain’t stupid you know,” grumbled Matt.

“That’s right. Now son, you just hand me that extra key and take this here gun.”

Richard’s eyes widened. “Take the gun! You want me to help you! I can’t help you arrest two guests!” He handed his father the key with a shaky hand.

“Dick, you gotta help us. We’re talking about arresting Heyes and Curry. Now we can’t do that alone. They’re dangerous men.”

Richard gulped. “I know that, and that’s why I don’t want to help you. In fact, I think you should think this whole thing over. Are you absolutely certain they’re really Heyes and Curry?”

Corbett answered by grabbing Richard’s right hand and putting the gun in it. “You be careful holding that. Now c’mon,” he ordered.

He and Matt walked up the stairs, Richard trailing unhappily and shakily behind. By the time they reached the outlaws’ door all three men were shaking.

“Pa, maybe you’re not so certain. Let’s go back downstairs and think this over.”

“No son. I can’t do that I owe it to your Ma.”

“To Ma? What’s Ma have to do with it?”

“The reward money you idiot,” whispered Matt. “Pa needs it to buy Ma all sorts of nice things.”

“Oh,” said Richard. He could understand that reasoning. He braced himself for what was to come. He’d read about Kid Curry, and was certain they didn’t have a chance against him, but if it was for Ma…he gulped, closed his eyes, said a short prayer to himself, and warily opened his eyes again.

The three men stood outside the door for what seemed an awfully long time. Finally Corbett reached the decision that he sure wasn’t gonna turn around and go downstairs. It’d be too shameful to turn tail. He put the key in the lock and quietly turned it. He opened the door slightly and peeked inside. It was quiet enough. By the light of a full moon he could see that the room’s occupants were asleep in their beds. He opened the door farther, and entered, waving at his sons to follow. When all three were in the room, Richard carefully shut the door behind him.

They looked at the two beds. Each bed had a gun belt slung on the headboard. Richard was convinced. The two were Heyes and Curry. Ordinary men wouldn’t sleep with their guns like that. Matt began to move towards Heyes’ bed to get the gun in the belt.

Richard stopped him and pointed to the Kid. He knew from his reading the Kid was the blond, and he knew from his reading that it was more important to get his gun first. And he knew he wouldn’t take Kid Curry’s gun. He pushed his brother towards Curry’s bed. Matt walked quietly over. The three Browns had a moment’s quiet panic when a floorboard squeaked slightly and Heyes stirred, muttering something that sounded like ‘book her toodeloo’ or perhaps ‘booker do oh do’. When he seemed settled again, Matt continued. As he removed the Kid’s gun, Corbett gave Richard a nudge. Richard quaked forward to Heyes’ bed. He studied the man’s face momentarily, wondering why the leader of an outlaw gang was muttering utter nonsense in his sleep, reached towards the gun belt, and removed the gun.

Unprepared for such easy success the three men stared at each other. Finally Corbett made a motion with his hands as if he was pulling a trigger. His sons, afraid of the outlaws’ weapons put those in their belts, and using their own weapons cocked them close to Heyes and Curry’s heads.

The reaction was immediate. Both men jumped and reached for where their weapons should have been. They both stopped on realizing the gun belts were empty. At the same time Corbett lit the lamp on the dresser.

The Kid looked around grumpily.

“What are you doing in our room?”

“Now you boys just sit still,” said Corbett. “We’re arresting you.”

“You’re what?” asked the Kid.

“I think you men have made a mistake,” said Heyes in an amused voice.

“Nope. No mistake. I seen you on a train I worked on once.”

“Perhaps my friend and I resemble someone you saw on a train once but I can assure you…”

“No you can’t. You’re Hannibal Heyes and you’re Kid Curry,” he said pointing his Colt at Heyes then the Kid.

“That’s right,” added Richard. Our pa’s seen you before so there is no sense you arguing. You get up and get dressed.” His voice and his hand shook. The gun was wobbling uncomfortably close to Heyes face.

“You don’t mind lowering that thing a bit, do you? The way you’re holding it, it just might go off accidentally and I have the feeling I wouldn’t like the result.”

“Oh-uh.” Richard pulled the gun back at Heyes, and waved him out of bed with it indicating he should start dressing. Matt kept his gun pointed at the Kid while Heyes dressed. When Heyes was done Corbett pulled a leather thong out of his coat pocket, and tied Heyes’ hands behind his back. He turned to the Kid.

“All right. Your turn.”

The Kid sighed, got up and dressed. Corbett tied his hands behind his back.

“OK, let’s head on over to the jail. We’ll let the sheriff sort things out there.” Corbett looked at the two. Up close they didn’t look like such bad fellas. “Sorry ‘bout this but I need the money.”

On their way out the door Heyes stopped.

“Do you mind bringing that?” He asked, turning his chin towards the dresser.

“You mean this?” said Matt picking up the copy of Walden. Heyes nodded.

“Don’t see why not.”

Heyes and Curry were prodded forward out of the room, down the stairs and out the hotel doors by the Browns. Stepping outside a deep sharp cold hit the men like an icy slap in their faces.

“It’s cold. Heyes pursed his lips, and frowned looking up at the sky in a futile effort to access the weather, the extreme darkness making that impossible.

“Couldn’t you fellas have waited until morning?” muttered the Kid, tripping on a rock in the road.

“I’m sorry boys. I mean I’m right sorry ‘bout all this. It’s just that I really need that reward money like I said. I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Corbett Brown and these are my sons Matt and Richard.”

“Corbett, I really don’t think this is the time for introductions.” The Kid started to pick up speed. Even though he didn’t like the idea of going to jail, he figured it would be better than freezing outside.

Heyes followed suit, and the Browns hurried up to keep up with their prisoners.

“Well, it’s just that I don’t want you two to feel unkindly towards us. We don’t feel unkindly towards you.”

“Corbett, you woke us up in the middle of the night, got us out of our warm beds, you are taking us to jail, it’s freezing out, and you don’t want us to feel unkindly towards you? I think it’s a little late for you to say anything that would make us feel any other way.”

“Now Mr. Heyes,” somehow Corbett felt he couldn’t call his prisoners boys any longer or use their given names; Heyes especially seemed to have a commanding manner now that he was fully awake, and Corbett fell back into his lifelong habit of addressing those he regarded as his superiors as mister, “you just don’t understand my situation.” He trotted to keep pace with Heyes.

“Corbett, I don’t think there is anything about your situation that I, or my partner would care to know about.”

“I was a railroad conductor, you see,” Corbett continued.

“And?”

“And well that’s it. You see now?”

“Corbett, lets just get this over with so we don’t all freeze,” said the Kid almost running the last few steps to the jailhouse.


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The next morning there was a great undercurrent of excitement throughout Kokomo. Corbett Brown had arrested two infamous outlaws, and they were in Kokomo’s jail at this very moment where Sheriff Stoops and two deputies were guarding them. A telegram was to be sent that very day to the authorities in Wyoming notifying them of the capture. Soon those very same authorities would arrive in Kokomo to remove the prisoners. Everyone was certain Corbett would be presented with his reward at that time. People began to drift to the jailhouse hoping for a glimpse of the famous prisoners, creating a noisy, crowd around the small jail. The town took on a holiday atmosphere; the bank and shops closing.

Sheriff Stoops decided to allow the citizens of Kokomo to view the outlaws in groups of three or four in order to satisfy their curiosity and reduce the crowd. He didn’t like crowds and thought uneasily that large numbers of people in the vicinity might somehow enable the two men to escape though he couldn’t see how.

Many of the men leaving the jailhouse were surprised to recognize the two men as the very same ones they had lost to in poker over the last few days. Stories circulated recounting the exploits of these games, the players now proud to have lost to Hannibal Heyes. Others, who were not poker players but who had come into contact with Heyes and Curry related how they had seemed to be such nice pleasant folks. Details were discussed as to what the two men had done in town, what items they had purchased, which room they had slept in at the hotel, what they had eaten, what conversations they had with townsfolk. After all, no one important had ever visited Kokomo before.

Even Mrs. Loretta Harrison decided to pay the jailhouse a visit. She didn’t take her daughters as she did not think this would be an appropriate experience for them. When she arrived midday, the people milling around the jail moved aside leaving her an open path to the door.

“Sheriff Stoops, good afternoon. I understand Mr. Brown arrested two notorious outlaws early this morning. They are in the room in the back? May I see them? I am most curious to see a genuine bank and train robber.”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Harrison. Yep. We have them in the cell in the back. I’ll take you back there myself. They’re locked behind bars so there is nothing for you to be afraid of.”

Mrs. Harrison gave the sheriff a withering glance. As if she were afraid of anything, much less two outlaws. The sheriff shrank back from her a few feet.

He led her to the cell in the rear portion of the jailhouse. As they walked towards it, the distance from the potbellied stove in the front room became evident in the lack of heat in the rear. Mrs. Harrison found herself facing two men bundled in their heavy winter coats legs pulled up under the one thin blanket each cot was supplied with, shaking miserably. The barred window let in little light, certainly not enough to read the book on the cot beside the brown haired man, but more than enough cold air. The two men looked up and managed small smiles of greeting.

She looked from the men to the sheriff revolving her head slowly in a deliberate manner ending by giving the sheriff a stare that made him consider calling Deputy Travis back to take his place so he could head to the saloon for a stiff whisky.

“Sheriff Stoops, you have made a mistake. I had supper with these gentlemen last evening and I can assure you they are not outlaws. Corbett Brown is in error.”

“Mrs. Harrison, Corbett worked for the railroad for over fifteen years. He was on a train they robbed. Now you know he wouldn’t make a mistake like that. Anyway it’s up to the authorities in Wyoming to decide.”

Heyes shook his head sadly. “We have had mistakes like this before. I guess my friend and I do resemble those two terrible men. The last time this happened it took six days out of our life to have it corrected. And to be honest I don’t think Mr. Jones or myself would like to wait six days back here waiting for someone from Wyoming to come and sort it out.”

The sheriff shook his head. Corbett was a friend of his. He knew the man to be honest and trustworthy. Even before reading over the wanted posters he knew he had the right men.

“Look, sheriff, even if you don’t believe us, maybe you can keep us under arrest someplace warmer.”

“Yeah, how about the hotel,” added the Kid brightening at the thought.

“So you can escape? No you two are staying right here where me and my deputies can keep an eye on you. I heard about you and your escapes.”

Mrs. Harrison watched the three men during the exchange. She wasn’t foolish and she realized that Sheriff Stoops and Corbett Brown were probably correct in their assumption. It was really too bad as she had enjoyed Mr. Smith’s, no make that Mr. Heyes’, company. What a shame that one of the most intelligent and pleasant men in town was an outlaw soon to be sent to prison.

“Sheriff, we won’t escape. Wouldn’t it be easier on everyone if you kept us locked up in a small room…?”

“Small warm room…” added the Kid

“…somewhere else. We’ll give you our word…”

The Sheriff gave Heyes a disbelieving look.

“Look, even if we were Heyes and Curry, they haven’t robbed anything in over two years.” The Kid pleaded.

“Almost three years,” began Heyes warming to the subject, however he began to cough before he could continue.

“It is extremely cold back here. Those men will be quite ill before the Wyoming authorities arrive. Perhaps you should move them.”

“Mrs. Harrison!” Sheriff Stoops was shocked at the suggestion. “These two men are criminals. Criminals belong in jail and I ain’t moving them. You can’t trust criminals. And anyway, they’re tough. They’ll be just fine.”

“Perhaps you should board up the window at the very least. I don’t imagine it would help you in your reelection if two men froze in your jailhouse,” Mrs. Harrison said in an icy manner. She turned to leave, and nearly strode into Deputy Travis carrying back the prisoners’ noontime meals. She looked askance at the platter with its two small bowls and two pieces of dried-out bread.

“What is that?”

“Ma’am? Oh this. It’s the prisoners’ lunch. Soup and bread.”

Heyes coughed again.

Mrs. Harrison looked at the prisoners, looked at the sheriff, looked at the deputy, and left reeking of an air of displeasure that was palpable.


The sheriff and the deputy stared a moment at each other. Then Sheriff Stoops followed Mrs. Harrison. Deputy Travis didn’t move.

“Uh deputy,"the deputy turned to the Kid, “do you think you could give us our meals?”


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In the front room to the jailhouse Mrs. Harrison hesitated at the door, turned to Sheriff Stoops and asked “Is it true what Mr. Heyes said Sheriff? That he and Mr. Curry haven’t committed a robbery in over two years?”

Sheriff Stoops pondered this over. “Gotta admit, I ain’t heard of them two doing nothing the last couple of years, so I guess it could be true.”

“I see.”


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Back in the cell Heyes smiled at the Kid between mouthfuls of soup.

“You know, Kid, I think we have a powerful friend.”

“I think you may be right Heyes.”

Heyes’ cough was much better.


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That evening Amy Travis hurried into the jail carrying a pot from which wisps of deliciously fragrant steam escaped from under the lid.

“I’ve brung supper,” she announced.

“Amy, you shouldn’t have come all the way out in this cold with supper. I’d a been off work in ‘bout an hour. Sure smells good though. It’s stew, ain’t it?” Deputy Travis was real pleased his wife cared about him enough to bring his supper all the way to the jail. That would warm him up, and make the walk home easier. And his wife was one of the best cooks in town; helped out in the hotel restaurant.

“Mike, it ain’t fer you. It’s fer the prisoners. Mrs. Harrison come by the restaurant and ordered it fer them. Said she wanted them to have something more substantial-like than soup. Here, take this pot from me, and take this here bag off my shoulder. It’s got the bread in it.”

Mike’s jaw dropped open in disappointment.

“Well don’t stand there like a dang fool, help me out here.”

He took the pot and the bag, and walked a bit dejectedly to the cell. Amy picked up the dishes kept in the jail and followed her husband.

“My, it’s cold here. It sure is cold ain’t it?” She took in the dismal surroundings. The window had been boarded up which only served to warm up the cell a few degrees while shutting out most of the light the cell received. It was a dreary spot.

“You could say that ma’am,” said the Kid as Heyes began to cough again. Mike Travis glanced at him suspiciously.

“Ma’am, that smells wonderful. Is that for us?” Heyes gave her a huge warm smile.

“Sure is. Courtesy of Mrs. Harrison. She said she don’t want you two to starve.”
Amy couldn’t help but smile back.

“Would you thank her for us, uh…”

“It’s Amy, Mr. Curry.”

“…Amy. Tell her we’re real grateful to her, and to you.” He smiled at her.

“Yes sir.”

She left feeling elated. She had never met a real-live outlaw before, and these two were not only outlaws they were real nice, and good-looking to boot. ‘Course she knew they were nice before, and lookers, but now they were really something special.

The Kid and Heyes settled into the business of eating. Not only was the stew excellent but holding the bowls warmed their hands as well. They were ravenous and ate quietly. Mike had glumly left the pot in the cell under his wife’s gaze. He figured he maybe wasn’t gonna get any after they took seconds, and gave it up as a lost cause when the Kid started on thirds.

“Mike. Mike, you back there?”

“Who’s there?”

“It’s us, Joe and Betty Standish. Can we come back there?”

Joe and Betty were the proprietors of the hotel.

“Well yeah, you can come on back. What are you doin’…”

Mike’s jaw dropped for the second time that evening. Joe and Betty’s arms were laden with quilts and blankets.

“What are you doin’?” he repeated in a puzzled voice.

“Mrs. Harrison came by the hotel earlier, and she mentioned that it was real cold back here. She also pointed out as we have so few guests we had a lot of spare bed clothes, and that it would be a real kindness on our part to bring some of ‘em here for these boys,” Joe explained.

“You realize I am gonna have to search all them blankets don’t you?”

“Oh that’s all right. We have plenty of time, and Richard Brown is watching the desk now anyway,” Betty chirped gaily.

“Mr. and Mrs. Standish, it’s good to see you. Seeing how cold it is here this is a great kindness; one that we truly appreciate.”

The Kid nodded in greeting. “What he says goes for me too.”

“Well, you boys were good guests; didn’t damage the room like some others, always respectful and quiet. It’s a shame how it all turned out.”

“I can’t say we don’t feel that way too.” Heyes shook hands through the bars with Joe after Joe and Betty handed the blankets and quilts over to Mike. Mike began a routine of searching one blanket at a time. He wanted to hand them through the bars but that was awkward and drew disproving stares from Betty Standish who wasn’t too happy with the way her good blankets were being handled. Instead he carefully piled the blankets that had been searched, pulled his gun out, carefully opened the cell, and carefully allowed Heyes to carry in the blankets.

“I do hope you boys are all set,” said Betty. “I don’t suppose there’s anything else we can do for you?”

“Ma’am you’ve done plenty for us,” the Kid said gratefully.

“Too bad you can’t make it a bit lighter back here,” added Heyes.

“It is a bit dark back here, isn’t it? Sorry about that boys. I don’t think I can do anything about that.”

“Thanks any way Joe,” Heyes called after him.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“You know, Heyes, its too bad Mrs. Harrison ain’t sheriff. I have the feeling we’d be on our way by now.”

“I suppose so, Kid. I suppose so.”

‘You think we can get out of here before they come to get us from Wyoming?”

“I think it kind of depends on how much time it’ll take the authorities to get here.”

“You got an idea, then?”

“Sorry, Kid. Not an idea, just a feeling. Just the feeling that if we had the time I’d get an idea. I think all these people need is to be pointed in the right direction, somehow.”

“Suppose so,” mused the Kid.

“Kid, now don’t you go to thinking. We’re in enough trouble already.”

“Clever, Heyes,” came the response muffled by blankets.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Wake-up. Amy Travis brought you two breakfast.” Sheriff Stoops clanged a metal spoon on the bars.

“Smells good. What is it?”

“Looks like you got bacon, oatmeal, and some biscuits this morning, Kid. For a couple of jailbirds you two are eating pretty well.”

“The food’s good, sheriff, but if you ever been locked up in this cell of yours, you’d give up the food real fast to get out.”

“If you say so Heyes.”

“Sheriff Stoops, when are the Wyoming authorities gonna get here?”

“Oh, I’d say in about four, em no, make that about six weeks, give or take a week or two.”

Heyes and the Kid froze.

“Did you say four to six…” began Kid.

“…Weeks?” finished Heyes. They looked at each other aghast. A little more time would be fine, but four to six weeks?

“Well, of course, don’t you boys know? No of course you don’t know. Window’s all boarded up so’s you can’t see out. Snowed last night. Big snowfall. No one’s gonna be able to get in or out of town, not on them mountain trails. It’s too dangerous. They’ll have to wait until the snow melts.” He gave them their meals and hurried up front to be close to the stove.

“Heyes if they keep us in here for four weeks, much less six, we are gonna freeze to death.”

“Well, that’ll save them the trouble of extraditing us.”

“Heyes you gotta think of something. We have to get out of here.”

“You know, Kid, I think you’re getting kinda soft in your old age. Conditions here can’t be any worse than in the Wyoming Penitentiary.” He looked down at the plate he held. “Better in fact.”

“Heyes…”

“Don’t worry, Kid. We’ll be long gone before they get a chance to extradite us.”

“Oh I figure we’re gonna be gone alright. It’s how we’re gonna be gone that worries me. I’m hoping it’s gonna be in the vertical and not the horizontal.”

Both men hunkered under their blankets and devoured the meals.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sheriff Stoops was at his desk, cup of coffee in hand, busily doing nothing. He shuffled some papers around rearranging the piles they were in into new piles. Then he picked up some wanted posters and glanced through them. Not that he expected any more outlaws to arrive in Kokomo with the roads blocked. He was beginning to regret the two he had.

Normally in winter when the snows isolated Kokomo he could pretty much shut up the jail. He enjoyed this time of year because the lack of activity meant he could take long breaks at the saloon or at home. He looked towards the cells and frowned. Now he was gonna have to play nurse-maid to those two. And to make it worse it was obvious that Mrs. Loretta Harrison had decided to champion them, which meant she was gonna be spending a lot of time looking over his shoulder.

Right when he reached that point in his thoughts the lady in question came into the jail every inch of her exuding her well-known commanding presence, and firmness of action. Stoops sighed inwardly.

“Mrs. Harrison what…”

“Sheriff Stoops I have come with the purpose of discussing the prisoners’ condition.”

“Again? I thought we had already…”

“The situation has changed Sheriff; surely you are aware of that. The roads have been blocked. You cannot send them to Wyoming in a timely manner. Therefore long-term arrangements for their keep must be made. I have with me a list of items necessary to implement that will provide for their care for the next month in a most satisfactory manner.”

“Mrs. Harrison…”

“You can begin immediately sheriff. They have been caged in that small cell for the past few days in a most inhumane manner. They are in need of exercise.”

“Exercise? How in tarnation am I supposed to do that!”

“Sheriff Stoops, must I do all the thinking for you? You and your deputy must remove them from that cell and walk with them for an hour a day.”

“In this weather? It’s freezing out there!”

“A brisk walk daily will provide them with enough exercise and it certainly won’t do you or your deputy any harm. You look as if you could use it yourself.”

“They’ll try to escape.”

“And go where?”

“You have a point there…”

Deputy Travis walked through the door, slammed it and hurried over to the stove. His started removing his gloves by biting onto the glove on his right hand in order to pull it off with his mouth, while at the same time stamping his feet to warm them.

“Don’t bother removing your gloves and coat Travis.”

“How come sheriff?” Travis looked at the Sheriff and Mrs. Harrison perplexed.

“We are going for a short walk with the prisoners to get them some exercise,” and so saying the sheriff tossed the keys at his deputy. Unable to catch the keys with his frozen hands, Travis bent over and spent several moments picking them off the floor.

“OK Travis, go get them two out of their cell and let’s get going. The sooner we start the sooner we’ll get back.”

“When you return sheriff we will discuss the weekly regimen of the two prisoners; I have it written out.”

“Mrs. Harrison I agree with you that in four weeks them two are gonna need to get out some but this is still my jail and I’ll say how the prisoners are gonna be taken care of.”

Deputy Travis returned with Heyes and Curry, both men shaking out their legs from being cramped up for so long, and stretching their backs.

“OK you two, we are going for a walk.” Sheriff Stoops began to put on his winter coat and gloves.

“So we heard Sheriff,” answered Heyes smiling pleasantly. Stoops glared at him.

“Well sheriff we could hardly miss what you said what with you raising your voice like that and all,” the Kid added.

Stoops opened his mouth to speak but before he had the chance Heyes turned to Mrs. Harrison. “My friend here and I would like to thank you for your kindness, Mrs. Harrison. I’m certain Sheriff Stoops is a good man, and would have seen the need for us to move about eventually, but we are grateful that you have taken our small needs under your consideration.”

“What he says is true for me too ma’am. It was getting a mite crowded back there so to speak.”

“Alright, alright, let’s get going,” the Sheriff added in resignation.

The four men walked the length of the main street of town and turned back to walk the other way. Conversation was limited to discussions of how cold it was, and hurried greetings from townsfolk surprised to see the prisoners on the street.

As they neared the saloon Corbett and Matt Brown approached.

“Morning Sheriff, Travis, fellas. Hey sheriff, how come you’re out walking with these two outlaws?” asked Matt, while Corbett turned his gaze towards his feet unable to look Heyes and Curry in the face.

“Exercise,” responded Travis. Seeing Matt’s puzzled face he added in a knowing manner, “prisoners need daily exercise iffn they’re gonna be locked up so long. It’s the hu-main way to treat ‘em.”

“That’s right, Matt. That’s how they do it in the penitentiary or so I’ve heard.” Heyes sighed audibly. “I suppose if Kid and I are gonna be locked up for twenty years we might as well start getting used to it now.”

Corbett looked up eyes wide. He opened his mouth but was unable to speak, and closed it again.

“Well at least you two finally gave up on that ridiculous story about not being Heyes and Curry.”

“Sheriff Stoops you’re a smart man. We couldn’t have kept that up with you, especially as Corbett here has seen us before.” The Kid stared at Heyes as Heyes spoke not understanding when they had decided to admit who they were or why.

“It’s really cold out here. What say we all go in for a beer?” asked Matt.

“Matt Brown these men are prisoners. I can’t take them in the saloon for a beer,“ Sheriff Stoops almost shouted. “Why is it that nobody in this dang town understands they - are - prisoners.”

“Well sheriff, it’s not like they are going anywhere is it? They can’t leave Kokomo and it is cold out here. I mean we can watch them as well in there as out here.” Travis started hopping in place to get warmer.

“And sheriff, we can walk around in the saloon as well as out here and be a lot warmer too,” the Kid pointed out

“We’re not armed sheriff. You know we can’t do anything,” Heyes contributed.

”Alright, let’s go on inside. Travis you stick by them while they walk around the saloon, and you fellas are gonna walk. I don’t want it to get back to Mrs. Loretta that you didn’t get your exercise.”

“Yes sir, we’ll walk.” The Kid smiled broadly.

Inside the Sheriff sat with the Browns while Travis walked with Heyes and the Kid around the saloon. The whole situation provided much amusement for the townsmen when it was explained, but liking their sheriff, and being familiar with Mrs. Loretta Harrison they didn’t rib him too hard about it. It didn’t hurt that most of them had met and played cards with Heyes and the Kid and had found them “likable fellas.”

Corbett sat morosely with his head as close to his glass of beer as he could get it with out being in the glass.

“Corbett, what in tarnation is the matter with you,” asked Stoops.

“Twenty years is what’s the matter with me,” Corbett raised his head and opened his eyes in a sorrowful manner. “I didn’t know they was gonna get twenty years, and what with them getting Rufus Shipley all in trouble with the railroad company, it just don’t seem fair.”

“Pa are you worryin’ about them two?”

“Twenty years,” Corbett repeated, “no man deserves to be thrown in prison for twenty years, lessen’ he’s killed someone, and then the law is kinder, ‘cause the fella who kills someone is hanged and there’s an end to his trouble.”

“Corbett, what did you think was gonna happen with those two? They’ve committed armed robbery. It’s true they never killed no one, and well, it’s true they ain’t appeared to have done nothing the last couple of years…” the sheriff’s voice trailed off.

“I thought they was gonna get a couple of years, maybe four, not twenty is what I thought.”

“We haven’t been tried yet so it’s not certain we’ll get twenty, maybe we’ll only get fifteen.” At Heyes’ voice Stoops stopped musing and refocused his thoughts realizing the outlaw was behind him in the course of perambulating around the room.

“Fifteen ain’t hardly no better than twenty,” came from Corbett.

“Seein’ as you feel so strongly about it I wish you had thought to find out about that a bit earlier, Corbett."

“So do I, Mr. Curry, so do I.”

“I hate to point this out to everyone, but you two are criminals and you are going to be tried and get what the law says you deserve.”

“Reformed criminals, sheriff,” said the Kid.

“That’s right sheriff, we went straight and mended our evil ways a couple of years ago like we told you,” Heyes looked at the sheriff with his most sincere expression.

“Hey sheriff,” piped up a voice from the next table, “do you mind if those fellas sit here and play a few hands with us. I’d like to see if I can win back some of my money.”

Sheriff Stoops banged his fist on the table in exasperation. “They are prisoners. They are not gonna play cards with anyone.” He turned to Travis. “You walk ‘em around the room a couple more times, then come back here, and we’ll all sit for spell. You two will get one beer each, do you understand?” he said in a gruff voice.

“Yessir sheriff, we understand. Thank-you.”

“Sheriff Stoops you are a light to your profession. I don’t think we’ve met a fairer man as sheriff or marshal, have we Kid?”

“Nope, Heyes, can’t say that we have.”

The two walked on followed by Travis.

“Heyes,” hissed the Kid out of the side of his mouth, “how come we’re admitting we’re who we are?”

“One, it’s useless to say otherwise with Corbett Brown around, and two---I think this town likes us better as outlaws.” He smiled at his friend.


Last edited by CD Roberts on Thu 26 Sep 2013, 8:34 pm; edited 4 times in total
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The Mrs. Loretta Part I

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