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 Come Up and See Us Some (Other) Time by Nora Winters

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Join date : 2013-10-13

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PostCome Up and See Us Some (Other) Time by Nora Winters


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


Guest Stars:

Stagecoach

Teri Garr as Lizzie Hannibal


Arlene Golanka as Verna Dubois


Hank Worden as Hartley Biddles


William Bryant as Joe Ivers


Harvey Korman as Mr. Horace Collins


Agnes Moorehead as Miss Agnes Collins


Household

Michael Weatherly as Joseph Oatley


Josh Holloway as Theodore Oatley


Barbara Stanwick as Mrs. Elmira Oatley


Prologue

The passengers boarded the stage under glowering clouds. The guard, clad in a slicker, stuck his head inside.

“It’s gonna rain, a real gully-washer. Hope I won’t have to ask you men to help push us out of mud, but at least this should discourage anyone from robbing the stage. It’ll be slow, but we should make it.”

He looked closely at the passengers, his eyes lingering on Heyes and the Kid, then withdrew his head and shut the door. The stage began to lurch along.

~~~000~~~

Inside the Stagecoach

A couple on the elderly side of middle age rode facing forward. Opposite them sat two women, not in the first bloom of youth but young enough, and bursting with…health. Their clothes were just a little too tight and bright, and the necklines just a little too low—demonstrating that although they were clearly not ladies, they were definitely women. Heyes sat next to the women riding backwards, while the Kid sat opposite him next to the middle-aged man.

Heyes looked around, smiling brightly. “It looks like we’re going to be together for a while folks; we might as well make friends. I’m Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

The Kid touched the brim of his hat and smiled at the women seated facing him, who turned up the voltage of their smiles in response.

“Well, hello there. I’m Verna Dubois—that’s my stage name—and she’s Lizzie Hannibal. I’m sorry, Mr. Smith, did you want to say something?”

“No, just a little dust in my throat. Please call me Joshua. Stage names—are you ladies actresses?”

“Not exactly, Joshua, but we’re heading to Denver to be in a new musical revue there.”

A sniff from the woman across the seat was ignored by all.

“Yes,” Lizzie chimed in enthusiastically, “Verna here is a lead dancer and I sing as well as dance. This is a big opportunity for us.”

“That sounds very excitin’, Miss Hannibal…” the Kid began.

“Oh, it is. Now, when I started, I wanted to be in a circus; you know, with the elephants and all, that’s why I chose the name Hannibal—he’s this famous general who liked elephants—I remember hearing about him in school… Goodness, Mr. Jones, are you alright?”

“Joshua’s right, it’s dusty in here,” the Kid managed to choke out while mostly swallowing his grin. “You were sayin’ about General Hannibal and his love of elephants?”

“Well, anyway, since I love elephants, too, or I’m sure I would if I knew any—they are such strange creatures from the illustrations I’ve seen in books—as I was saying, I just thought it would be wonderful to use Hannibal as my name. But I never did get to work in a circus; I’m not sure I’d like all that traveling all the time, either. Anyway, I became a dancer and singer instead, but I kept the name.”

Heyes and the Kid absorbed this—the Kid with eyebrows raised and a grin hovering at the corner of his mouth and Heyes with a slight frown. The Kid turned to Lizzie’s companion, “So Miss Dubois …”

“Oh, please call us Verna and Lizzie; we might as well all get cozy, Thaddeus, wasn’t it?” Verna interrupted.

The Kid smiled and nodded. He looked at Heyes.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Verna and Lizzie. Now, how about you folks?” Heyes queried, his eyebrows raised as he looked politely at the couple.

“I’m Collins, Horace Collins, and this is my sister, Agnes.”

Agnes glared at the assembled group, sniffed again, and pulled her skirts a little tighter about her but said nothing.

Horace scowled at her, then turned a broad smile on the others. “I must apologize; my sister can be shy. I’m a salesman heading to Denver on business and brought my sister along as a treat for her. And you, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, do you mind if I ask why you two are headed to Denver?”

“Not at all. We’re visiting some friends there. Haven’t seen them for a while, so we’re looking forward to a good visit.”

~~~000~~~

Later

The various passengers were dozing while the rain drummed on the roof. Sounds erupted outside. There were calls to the horses to hold up, and the coach came to an abrupt stop.

Verna was thrown against Heyes and stayed there. Heyes opened his eyes and smiled down at her, then smirked slightly at the Kid.

Horace patted his pockets worriedly. “I do hope it’s not a robbery.”

Agnes sniffed. “Well if it is, I’m sure these two men can hold them off, the way they are wearing guns strapped to their legs—assuming, of course, they don’t plan to murder us all.”

Heyes and the Kid stared at her, eyebrows raised.

Verna and Lizzie, however, at the mention of the guns, turned their eyes towards the Kid and looked at the gun in its holster nestled against his thigh, then slowly moved their eyes over slightly and focused. “Oh, I’m sure Joshua and Thaddeus would never hurt us,” breathed Lizzie, licking her lips.

The Kid turned a dull shade of red.

“Amazing how dusty it is in here, despite the rain,” Heyes choked, grinning at the Kid. “Lizzie is quite right, Miss Collins, you have nothing to fear from us.”

The door opened and the driver thrust in his head. “Sorry, folks, the creek is too swollen for us to cross in the dark tonight. It’s too dangerous. We’re going to go back to that house we passed about half a mile back, try to get you all lodging there. I need you two to help us turn the coach around,” he stated, looking at Heyes and the Kid.

The Kid ran a quick finger around his collar and stood up. “Sure, it’s gettin’ a little hot in here anyway.”

“Yeah, Thaddeus, you could use a cold shower in the rain about now,” Heyes muttered as he climbed out after the Kid.

~~~000~~~

Outside the House

Through the stagecoach windows, the passengers watched the driver and guard converse with someone in the doorway of the house. The rain had stopped, but Heyes and the Kid were wet and muddy. Even so, Verna was pressed against Heyes in order to look out the window and Lizzie was leaning towards that side of the stage with her hand resting on the Kid’s thigh.

The Collinses had drawn away from the soggy pair and were doing their best to look out the windows without coming in contact with them.

The driver turned towards the coach and called out, “It’s all set, folks. The Oatleys here have agreed to let us spend the night.”

The passengers disembarked, with the women hurrying towards the open door. As he handed down luggage, the guard looked closely at Heyes and the Kid. The Kid returned his gaze, then quickly looked away.

Walking towards the door, the Kid muttered to Heyes, “He look familiar to you? He was sure starin’ at us.”

“Yeah, but I can’t place him. I have a feeling a train was involved though.”

“Well, that’s just great! Now what?”

“There’s nothing we can do about it tonight. Besides, I think we just might be able to enjoy warm beds and some entertainment from Verna and Lizzie and that’s gotta be more fun than riding all night in the stagecoach.”

~~~000~~~

Inside the House – the Great Room

The owner greeted the group as they entered.

“Hello folks. I’m Mrs. Oatley, and it looks as if I’m your host for the night,” she stated grimly.

As Horace Collins looked at her his eyes grew wide and he gasped. “Elmira! What are you doing here? I never expected to see you again.”

Miss Collins started. “Elmira? That’s your Elmira? I thought she dropped you and married Wainwright …”

Mrs. Oatley interrupted, her eyes narrowed and her lips in a thin line. “Well, Horace, it has been many years, hasn’t it? You must be his sister, Agnes. Yes, I did marry, and Mr. Oatley built this home for us. Unfortunately, he passed on some years ago.” She placed a subtle emphasis on the name “Oatley.”

At that moment, the driver walked in with two men. The three were talking quietly as they entered.

Mrs. Oatley acknowledged the three men who had just entered. “The horses are all taken care of I gather?” she asked.

The men nodded.

“Let us continue introductions then,” Mrs. Oatley resumed. “I know you, Horace, and your sister Agnes. These are my sons, Joseph and Theodore.”

Horace Collins held out his hand to the two young men, “I’m Collins, pleased to meet you.”

Everyone looked at Mrs. Oatley’s sons and then at Heyes and the Kid.

“Why, they look a lot like the two of you!” exclaimed Lizzie.

“Ooh, more for us,” murmured Verna, looking delighted as she ran her eyes up and down each one.

Joseph and Theodore looked at Heyes and the Kid through narrowed eyes. Joseph took the lead, “You two brothers also?”

“No, just partners,” replied Heyes. “I’m Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones. These lovely ladies are Verna Dubois and Lizzie Hannibal. And …” he said, turning to the driver and guard, “we never got your names in that rain and all.”

“I’m Harvey, Harvey Biddles,” said the driver. “And he’s Joe Ivers.”

“This is quite a house you have here, Mrs. Oatley,” stated the Kid, looking around.

The room was indeed unusual. The front of the room rose two stories, while a gallery with rooms opening off it created a ceiling over the back half. There were stairs at each end of the gallery giving access from the room in which they stood.

Mrs. Oatley smiled. “Yes, my late husband hated to be closed in and loved to entertain, so he built this house to his design. Aside from the great room, on this floor are the kitchen, Mrs. Kay’s—our housekeeper’s—room, and the study. Then, up those stairs are some bedrooms that open on to that gallery overlooking this room. Finally, Theodore and I are up one more flight.”

“This room’s okay, but I don’t know that I’d call it ‘great.’” The Kid whispered to Heyes.

Heyes rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Even with all this space, some of you will need to double up. Let me think…” Mrs. Oatley mused.

“My boys can share Theodore’s room across from mine. Miss Collins, you may have the first room at the top of those stairs. Miss Dubois and Miss Hannibal, you can share the room next to Miss Collins. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, you will be next to Miss Dubois and Miss Hannibal. Mr. Biddles and Mr. Ivers, you may have the last room on that floor by the other set of stairs—that’s Joseph’s room. Then, Horace, you will have the room on the next floor up. It is small, but at least you will have it to yourself. Only my boys and I will be on that floor.” Mrs. Oatley directed the army of guests to their quarters. “Mr. Biddles, you did say that the stagecoach line would provide compensation, did you not?”

“Yes, Ma’am, they should.”

“I certainly hope so. Oh, as I said my husband hated to be confined so there are no locks on any doors. Mrs. Kay will have some supper ready for you all in about an hour so we’ll leave you to get settled.”

OATLEY'S HOUSE FLOORPLAN
]

~~~000~~~

Heyes and the Kid’s Room

Heyes and the Kid began removing wet garments and looking through their saddlebags to find something dry and clean. Muffled giggles and low-pitched laughter could be heard coming from the next room.

“Humph, Oatley boys helped them with their bags,” grumped the Kid.

“This could still be interesting, Kid. I see we have a door between our rooms. No locks, remember?” grinned Heyes.

“Yeah, I remember,” growled the Kid. “And I don’t like it; it worries me.”

“I like it when you worry; it makes me feel safer. This sure is a peculiar set-up, though. Did it seem to you like the driver and the Oatleys were a mite too comfortable with each other for strangers?”

“I wasn’t payin’ attention. Ivers kept starin’ at us. Those Oatley boys sure look a lot like us though.”

“Oh, come on, Kid, that’s the least strange thing about this place. That’s been one of our best advantages—lots of folks fit our descriptions.”

Knock, knock.

As the Kid reached for his gun and Heyes turned towards the door, Ivers pushed his way in, a gun in his hand. Heyes stepped back, hands raised. The Kid pulled his gun and pointed it at Ivers. “See?” he muttered to Heyes.

“What is this all about, Ivers?” blustered Heyes.

“Easy boys, I’m not here to make trouble,” said Ivers, holstering his gun and closing the door. “That was just payback for the problems you caused me the last time we met.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.

“What, you don’t remember? You jumped my partner and me, stole our tickets for the Brimstone train.”

“Gaines!”

“Look, can’t say I’m too happy about the way you went about it—Bannerman almost docked our pay—but ol’ Briscoe set it right. He told Bannerman that you were old friends, helping him out, and that Grant and I were in on the set-up with him. When I first saw you at the stage depot, you both looked familiar, but I didn’t place you until I heard your names …”

The Kid and Heyes pokered up.

“…Smith and Jones.”

The Kid finally holstered his own gun.

Heyes smiled, “Sorry about that other time. How is Harry?”

“He’s fine. I’m here now because I need your help.”

“You need our help? How?” the Kid asked suspiciously.

“There have been too many robberies on this line. We think Biddles is in on it—that’s why I’m riding guard incognito. Thanks for not revealing my identity by the way.” He nodded his appreciation. “Though I suppose that was because you didn’t remember me…” He waved his hand, dismissing the thought.

“Anyway, Biddles has been robbed eight times in the past year—always when there’s a load worth stealing. Most drivers would have quit after one or two times, three at most. The company wants to know who his accomplices are.”

He paused for a moment, “But that’s not why I need your help, or at least not the only reason. I want to make sure you aren’t following Handy Horace and Agnes-the-Abbess either. I don’t want to horn in, but there’s a one-thousand dollar reward for them.”

“Handy Horace?” the Kid asked.

“Agnes-the-Abbess?” echoed Heyes.

Ivers laughed. “Yeah, hard to believe now, but she was a pistol in her day. Ran one of the wildest brothels in Kansas City. Her brother Horace was supposedly a partner, more like he sponged off her. Then the customers noticed that their wallets were a lot lighter after her brother came by. They raised a stink and folks chased the pair of ‘em out of town. By the way, their last name is Cuthbert, not Collins.”

“Who would have thought? I’d’ve said Agnes was snow white pure,” declared the Kid, shaking his head.

“Guess she drifted,” quipped Heyes.

“Hah!” Ivers barked out a short laugh. “Horace has been ‘acquiring’ items ever since. Seems he recently acquired an emerald brooch—worth a lot of money—there’s a five-hundred dollar reward for its return. Then, it also seems Horace knows this Elmira here and I swear that name “Wainwright” sounds familiar…”

He paced a few turns around the room then snapped his fingers. “Oh, that must be Elmira and Wainwright Oats! He did time for grand theft—no wonder he didn’t like locks—and most people thought she was his partner, but they could never prove it. My God, I bet the Oatleys are the ones robbing the stage!” Ivers paced rapidly about the room.

”Anyway, Smith, Jones—Briscoe says you’re good in a pinch. Here’s the deal. I need to keep an eye on all these folks—Biddles, the Oatleys, Horace, and Agnes, and I want to find that emerald. I’ll split the reward with you. Will you help me or not?”

“Uh…”

“Think about it. I’m counting on you. Bannerman is counting on you. It can’t hurt to have friends in the Bannerman agency. Now, I’ve got to go clean up for supper—tell me then.” Ivers sketched a brief salute and left.

“Well, now what do we do?” asked the Kid as he pulled off his wet boots, then stood and began removing his belt.

Heyes removed his pants and stood in his long johns while pulling dry pants from his saddlebags. “Let me think, sounds like…”

Heyes broke off as they heard the sound of a door opening, and both straightened quickly, the Kid grabbing his gun and his pants and Heyes grabbing a pillow, as Verna and Lizzie peeped in. The women’s smiles widened as they entered the room.

“Hi, boys. We thought we heard voices and are we ever glad you’re in the room next to us. This place is creepy and no locks! Why you never know who might come crawling into your bed at night,” Lizzie exclaimed, shivering in a manner that displayed many of her charms, and looking at the Kid. She smiled as her eyes rested on the hand clutching the waistband of his pants, holding them up.

“Yeah,” echoed Verna. “Of course, I can think of some folks I wouldn’t mind having crawl into mine, might warm me up after that cold coach ride.” She smiled at Heyes, placing a hand on his arm as he held the pillow strategically in front of him. “We came to ask you to escort us to supper. This crazy place scares us.”

Lizzie watched as the Kid put down his gun and tightened his hold on his waistband. “And I thought you were just happy to see us,” she murmured.

The boys’ mouths hung open. Heyes clutched his pillow more tightly then summoned a smile. “Not to worry ladies, we’ll be happy to escort you, as soon as we get into dry clothes. Now, if you will please excuse us.”

As the women left the room, Heyes darted to the door, shut it, and put a chair against it that he immediately sank into.

The Kid let go of his waistband and smirked at Heyes. “This is gonna be a real interestin’ night. I say we “protect” those two and forget about Gaines. Those “Alps” are lookin’ mighty interestin’, Hannibal.”

Heyes rolled his eyes and threw the pillow at the Kid, who caught it, laughing. Heyes grinned back, then sobered and shook his head. “You ain’t thinking, Kid. We’ve got to help Gaines. We can’t have him looking too closely at us; he doesn’t seem to be as incompetent, or crooked, as Harry. And, think about it, if he doesn’t find the emerald and it gets back to Harry that we were here… Harry knows who we are, remember?”

The Kid groaned. “It’s never easy, is it?”

~~~000~~~

The Dining Table

Heyes and the Kid came down the stairs with Verna and Lizzie hanging on their arms. Theodore Oatley turned a pair of icy eyes on the Kid and Lizzie, as Lizzie clutched the Kid’s arm tightly, giggled, and announced, “Here we are. We were afraid we would be late, but the boys agreed to escort us and then it took them ever so long to get dressed again.”

The Kid and Heyes offered sickly smiles to the assembled guests.

“That’s some stare he’s got,” muttered the Kid.

“Now you know how the rest of us feel when you do that,” Heyes replied. He stepped forward. “Sorry, folks, just took us a bit to get dry. Supper sure smells good.”

“Well, let’s be seated,” snapped Mrs. Oatley. “Horace, you’re on my right. Then Theodore, then you, Miss Hannibal, Mr. Jones, and finally Mr. Ivers. Joseph, if you would sit on my left? Then Miss Dubois, Mr. Smith, Miss Collins, and Mr. Biddles, you may sit on that side. That’s as even as I can get it.”

All sat as directed. Mrs. Kay brought in a large tureen of stew and platters of corn bread, green beans, and tomatoes. Next she brought in a pitcher of coffee and several bottles of wine. Everyone was suitably appreciative of the food. Mrs. Kay beamed and went back into the kitchen.

~~~000~~~

After Dinner

The food was mostly gone as were the bottles of wine.

Lizzie and Verna’s faces had taken on a rosy glow and their voices had become just slightly shriller. Horace’s face was now a bright red; his nose was even beginning to glow. Ivers, too, looked bemused.

Heyes’ face froze as a foot slid up his leg. He glanced at the Kid, who looked at him, the corners of his mouth slightly upturned, then suddenly froze as well.

Mrs. Oatley stood up. “Shall we adjourn to the seating area?”

“Sounds wonderful!” Heyes jumped up.

“Great idea. Thanks for the food, ma’am; it was delicious,” the Kid choked out as he suddenly rose to his feet.

Everyone stared at them. Lizzie and Verna smiled sweetly while the Oatley boys glowered and then suddenly glanced down before they too rose to their feet rapidly.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

As people shuffled around finding seats, Ivers pulled Heyes and the Kid to the side.

“Well, have you decided?”

“Of course we’ll help you. Can’t let thieves get away, can we?” responded Heyes.

“Good men. The Bannerman Detective Agency won’t forget this. We’ll find that emerald brooch if it’s the last thing I do,” Ivers blared out.

The Oatley brothers looked up sharply from where they had been talking with Verna and Lizzie.

“Keep talkin’ about it that loudly and it probably will be the last thing you do,” growled the Kid. He and Heyes walked away to the far side of the room.

“So Mr. Ivers,” began Joseph, “when did the stage line begin employing guards? I don’t think I’ve noticed them before as the stage passed the house.”

“It’s recent, because of all the robberies. Funny thing though, there have been no attempts on the stage when I’m riding on it. It’s almost as if the gang knows in advance when a guard is posted.” He looked closely at Biddles as he spoke.

Biddles stopped for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, then sat next to Miss Collins, who put her hand to her throat, simpering. “It must be dangerous driving that stage. Why all sorts of things must happen, the horses bolt, robberies, and so on. How long have you been a driver, Mr. Biddles?”

“Oh, about three years now. Since the Missus died, I’ve just been driving. Got no reason to stay home these days.”

“I’m so sorry to hear about your wife,” purred Miss Collins, moving closer.

“Now, though, I’m trying to save enough money to move on to warmer climates. The cold around here seeps into my bones something awful.”

“I’ve heard that the desert is wonderful in the winter,” Miss Collins offered.

“Aw, would you look at that,” Verna whispered, having sidled up to Heyes and the Kid. “Maybe they’re made for each other.” She smiled benignly at the two on the couch. “Boys, the Oatley sons have offered to show us around the grounds now that it’s stopped raining and there’s a moon. I don’t suppose you have some other entertainment to offer Lizzie and me, do you?”

Heyes and the Kid glanced at the three Oatleys, who were in earnest conversation with each other, then looked at each other and sighed.

“Sorry Verna. We thought we would turn in; it’s been a long day for us. Enjoy the walk.” Heyes answered regretfully.

Verna’s mouth turned down and she shook her head, then shrugged and went over and tucked her arm through Joseph’s. “Let’s go, boys.”

Elmira and Horace watched the four of them leave.

“Horace, the boys tell me you have an emerald with you.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Elmira. You look lovely by the way.”

“Don’t change the subject. You’re in trouble. The guard knows about the emerald; the boys heard him talking to those two—Smith and Jones—about it. I could help you hide it in exchange for a share.”

“Elmira, my dear, I remember you fondly and accurately. I’m not drunk enough to trust you, or did you think I’d gotten that stupid? If I give you the emerald, I’ll never see it again or get a share of the proceeds.”

She shrugged. “Suit yourself, but don’t blame me if it’s gone by morning.” She turned away.

“Folks, so sorry, but I’ve had a long day, and I think I’ll turn in,” announced Mrs. Oatley to the room.

“We were thinking of doing the same thing. After all, we’ll all be getting up early in the morning,” agreed Heyes.

Everyone in the room went up the stairs and entered their rooms.

~~~000~~~

Agnes’ Room

Knock, knock.

Agnes looked up from where she sat brushing her hair. She pulled her dressing gown close then peered out the door before opening it. “What do you want, Horace?”

Horace entered and shut the door. “Agnes, the guard is a detective—he’s looking for the emerald.”

“I told you, you shouldn’t have taken it.” She resumed brushing her hair.

He watched her without any semblance of affection in his gaze. “You’ve enjoyed my income too, little sister. Perhaps you don’t wish to share in the proceeds of this little trinket.”

She stopped, put down the brush, and turned her glare on him. “I repeat, what do you want?”

“Here, take it and find a place to hide it, where Ivers won’t think to look.”

Agnes reached out to take the emerald and held it up to the light. They both stared at it.


~~~000~~~


Heyes and Curry’s Room

“Well, Kid, I guess we’ve waited long enough. Let’s hope Horace is asleep.”

The two slipped out of the room.


~~~000~~~

Top Floor Hallway

“Can you hear anything in there?” whispered Heyes.

“No, he must be asleep.”

“Be ready in case he wakes up.”

The Kid rolled his eyes. “I think I know what to do by now.”

~~~000~~~

Horace’s Room

“He’s not here.”

“Good, we can look closely then. Let me know if you hear him coming back.”

The Kid stood by the door, holding it open a crack to look into the hallway, his gun at the ready. Heyes quickly ran his hand under and over the pillow and under the mattress. He then moved on and went quickly through Horace’s bags, then the drawers in the room.

~~~000~~~

Oatley Boys’ Room

Ivers left the door open slightly to listen for anyone coming.

He quickly and methodically searched the beds, the wardrobe, the dresser, and the desk.

Suddenly, he looked up and listened intently. He went to the door and put his ear against it. Then he snuffed the candle and slipped out of the room.

~~~000~~~

Back in Agnes’ Room

Horace stood up to leave but turned back just before he opened the door. “Oh, I think Smith and Jones are working with Ivers, so don’t let them see the emerald either.”

Agnes rolled her eyes. “So glad you warned me, otherwise I’m sure I would have run right out and handed it to them,” she snapped.

“Agnes… Oh never mind.” Horace stomped out of the room.

~~~000~~~

Top Floor Hallway

Ivers quickly went to the far end of the hallway.

The Kid looked out of Horace’s room quietly, then motioned to Heyes. The two stepped into the hall.

“Quick, you hear that? Someone’s comin’! In here.” The Kid opened the door to the next room and he and Heyes slipped in.

Horace grasped the handle of his door, stopped, looked around, frowned, and then entered.

Ivers watched him enter then quietly went down the hall and the stairs.

~~~000~~~

Elmira’s Room

Heyes and the Kid pressed against the door, listening.

“Did we wake her?” Heyes mouthed in the Kid’s ear.

“I don’t hear anything,” the Kid answered.

Finally, they looked at each other and crept to the bed.

“Empty,” announced the Kid. “Where do you suppose she is?”

“I don’t know, but while we’re here we might as well search this room, too. Maybe she’s in on it with Horace or she might have something about the stage robberies. You search this time, and I’ll keep watch.”

“How come I have to search through the lady’s things?”

“She’s no lady, Kid, and I doubt she has anything you haven’t seen before.”

~~~000~~~

Top Floor Hallway

“Well that was a waste of time; nothing in Horace, Mrs. Oatley, or the Oatley boys’ rooms,” the Kid grumbled. “What now?”

“Shh, we don’t want to wake anyone up. Maybe Agnes has it.”

The two slipped down the stairs to the next floor.

~~~000~~~

The Study

Ivers entered the room surreptitiously and made sure the curtains and the door were shut before lighting a lamp and turning it low.

He began opening drawers and searching through the papers.

Suddenly, he looked up, blew out the lamp, and cracked the door open. He stood there listening.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

Biddles and Elmira came down the stairs and sat on the couch. “Shh. Did you hear something?” whispered Biddles.

“Relax, this house always makes noises. The boys are out with those two, Verna and Lizzie, Ivers is checking on the horses you said, and everyone else went to bed.”

“Look, they’re on to us, we can’t do this anymore,” Biddles argued.

“We just need a little more and then we can retire. You’ll have enough to move south, and we’ll have enough for the house and all.”

“We can’t do the stage.”

“Just one more job. I’ll have the boys take care of Ivers in the morning; you just have him check whether the creek has gone down enough for the stage to cross it. Anyway, Horace has an emerald somewhere. Now, I’ll sweet talk him and try to get it, you try the sister.”

“That old bag!” Biddles exclaimed.

“She’s younger than I am.”

“She’s a dried-up old maid.”

“All the easier to sweet talk, but I’ll tell you something, she is no old maid. She was pretty spicy in her day.”

The two got up and walked up the stairs.

~~~000~~~

Hallway Outside Agnes’ Room

Agnes opened the door and peered out.

She quickly exited and shut the door behind her.

She paused at the top of the stairs and looked behind her towards the stairs at the other end of the hall.

Then she walked down the stairs.

~~~000~~~

The Study

Ivers opened the doors, looked out, and watched Mrs. Oatley and Biddles head up the far stairs.

He shut the door, relit the lamp, and returned to his search.

~~~000~~~

Agnes’ Room

“Don’t wake her,” cautioned Heyes.

“Can’t. She’s not here either. Where is everybody in this dang place?” the Kid growled, bewildered.

“For a group of people that went to bed early, nobody seems to be getting any sleep,” agreed Heyes. “Now look for that emerald.”

The Kid searched through the bedding and the dresser; Heyes searched through the bags.

“Not here; maybe she has it with her, wherever that is,” the Kid suggested.

“Maybe; let’s try downstairs.”

The two eased open the door and slid out into the hallway.

~~~000~~~

The Study

Ivers tucked a piece of paper in his pocket and closed the last drawer.

“Well, that’s it,” he muttered to himself. “Now for that emerald.”

He blew out the lamp again, opened the door and began to step out then, hearing noises, he drew back in and pulled the door almost closed.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

Agnes wandered around the room, talking to herself.

“Now, where should I put this so I can get it quickly in the morning?” She looked around. “Drat Horace. How does he always get us into these situations?”

Suddenly, she paused and looked up.

Out of sight she heard two shrill female giggles and the lower rumble of men’s voices.

She quietly went back up the stairs.

~~~000~~~

Hallway, Outside Agnes’ Room

Heyes and the Kid slipped into the hallway and listened for any sounds.

“Now where?”

“Shh, Agnes is coming up the stairs!”

The two headed back towards their room, then stopped as a figure moved towards them from that end of the hall.

Without a glance, they opened the door behind them and slipped in.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

Verna, Lizzie, and the Oatley boys entered from outside.

“Did you hear something?” Lizzie asked, looking around the dark room.

“Don’t worry, ladies, this house makes all sorts of noises,” Joseph answered, setting down the lantern.

“I guess everyone else has gone to bed,” announced Lizzie.

“Maybe we should too,” said Verna slowly.

“Can we escort you ladies to your room?” asked Theodore.

“We would never say no to such good-looking men,” cooed Lizzie.

The four of them headed towards the stairs.

~~~000~~~

Hallway, Outside Agnes’ Room

“Oh!” exclaimed Agnes as Biddles came towards her.

“Miss Collins! I was coming to see if I could continue our discussion in private,” explained Biddles.

“Really? Well, I think we can accommodate that,” she purred.

The two went into her room.

~~~000~~~

Hallway

Verna, Lizzie, and the Oatley men paused at the top of the stairs.

“Did you see something?” breathed Verna.

“Do you have ghosts here?” asked Lizzie, clutching Theodore’s arms.

“That was no ghost; I think Miss Collins is entertaining company,” smiled Joseph.

“Well bless her li’l old heart,” whispered Verna.

The four continued down the hall.

“Here you are, safe and sound,” stated Theodore.

“Would you like us to check under your beds for you?” offered Joseph.

Verna opened the door then turned and suddenly shut it again.

“That’s sure kind of you to offer, boys, but we need our beauty sleep. We’ll be fine. Come along Lizzie.”

Verna opened the door a crack and pulled Lizzie in, shutting the door in the Oatleys’ faces.

The men looked at each other, shrugged, and headed up the hall towards the stairs to the next floor.

~~~000~~~

Verna and Lizzie’s Room

“What’s wrong with you?” cried Lizzie angrily. “Things were just getting interesting.”

“I looked in to see that door over there closing. Those two, Smith and Jones, were in here and I want to know why.” Verna explained.

She strode over and yanked open the door between the rooms, Lizzie right behind her.

~~~000~~~

Heyes and Curry’s Room

“This is crazy. No one is where they’re supposed to be!” exclaimed Heyes running his hand through his hair and sitting on the edge of the bed.

The Kid sank onto the bed and pulled his hat over his eyes. “And that danged emerald ain’t anywhere.”

Both looked up, startled, as the door opened and the women stalked in.

“Find what you were looking for, boys?” Verna challenged them, hands on her hips.

“Yeah, what were you doing in our room?” Lizzie backed up Verna.

“Ladies, ladies, we were just checking to see if you had made it back safe from your tour with the Oatley boys. After all, none of us really know them, do we?” soothed Heyes. “We were worried about you.”

“Well …”

“Gee, I haven’t had a man worry about me in forever,” breathed Lizzie.

The Kid stood up and put his arms around her. “You can never be too sure when you’re in a strange place. After all, you told us yourselves that this house scared you.”

“Well…” murmured Verna, not convinced.

“Verna, really we’d be devastated if something happened to two such lovely ladies,” cajoled Heyes, putting his arms around Verna and kissing her.

Lizzie watched this with interest then pulled the Kid’s head down for her own kiss. “Mmm … maybe you should check under the bed for us after all, Joshua. I’ll wait here with Thaddeus while you and Verna check.”

Knock, knock.

“Oh, come on,” groaned the Kid.

Heyes went to the door, opened it, murmured, closed it, and turned around.

“I am so sorry ladies, but this just isn’t our night. When we checked your room, we made sure no one else was lurking there, so you’re safe.” He walked over and opened the adjoining door. “Sweet dreams, ladies. Be good.”

The Kid let go of Lizzie, glaring at Heyes as he did so.

“Good, huh,” Verna huffed. “We’re good alright, but it doesn’t seem that you’re going to find out just how good we can be.”

“And when we’re good, we’re very good,” purred Lizzie, joining Verna at the door.

“Yeah, but when we’re bad, we’re better,” was Verna’s parting shot as she closed the door behind them.

“Heyes…” groaned the Kid.

“We have company; Gaines is in the hall,” explained Heyes, walking over and opening the door.

“About time,” grumbled Ivers. “Anyone could have seen me out there. I got what I need on the stagecoach robberies. The Oatleys are in on it. But how are you doing on finding that emerald?”

“We haven’t found it yet…” started Heyes.

“Well no wonder, if you’ve been spending your time canoodling with the two people we know don’t have it,” stated Ivers angrily.

“We weren’t canoodlin’,” declared the Kid, narrowing his eyes. “Whatever that means.”

“We had to duck into their room or get caught coming out of Agnes’ room,” Heyes explained. “Now we’ve searched Horace, Elmira, the Oatley boys, and Agnes’ rooms with no luck. One of them must have it on them.”

“Yeah, Agnes has it, unless she’s hidden it or passed it off by now.”

The two groaned.

“You mean we might havta search all over again?” cried the Kid.

“If you knew she had it, why didn’t you tell us that before?” demanded Heyes angrily.

“Because I just found out. I heard her down in the great room while I was checking out the study,” Ivers explained patiently. “But I think she still has it because those two next door and the Oatley boys came back before she had a chance to hide it.

“Now I have to go. I’m sharing with Biddles, remember? I told him I’d check on the horses, but he’ll get suspicious if I don’t get back there soon.” Ivers turned and walked out the door.

Heyes stood there, his brow furrowed. “Let’s check out the great room just in case she managed to hide it. At least people are back where they’re supposed to be—I think.”

Heyes opened the door, the Kid right behind him, and quickly closed it again. The Kid walked into him with an “oomph.”

Heyes held up a hand. “Biddles is just leaving Agnes’ room, looking mighty pleased with himself.”

“Yeah, well that’s how I’d be lookin’ if I were leavin’ a room with just Lizzie in it,” the Kid said, exasperated.

Heyes gave him a look. “Let’s follow Biddles and see if he goes back to his room or somewhere else.”

The two quietly eased the door open and slipped out.

~~~000~~~

Top Floor Hallway

Knock, knock.

Biddles quietly tapped on Elmira’s door.

Elmira opened it and looked out, then reached out, grabbed Biddles, pulled him inside, and closed the door.

Two shadows approached the door. Heyes and the Kid leaned forward quietly, putting their ears to the door.

~~~000~~~

Elmira’s Room

“Well?” queried Elmira.

“I got it,” said Biddles. “Agnes thinks once we get to town away from Ivers, she’ll sneak away from her brother, meet me, and we’ll head off to her precious desert. Well, I want the desert, but not with her. Though I gotta admit, she’s no prissy school marm.”

“Give it to me,” Elmira demanded.

“How do I know you won’t take it and cut me out?”

“Because if I did, you could just tell folks that you recognized my boys from the robberies. Once we’re caught no one would believe us that you were in on it, since you’re the one who turned us in.”

“Good point. And don’t think I wouldn’t do that,” he threatened as he handed the brooch over to her. “Where are you going to put it?”

“In the safe in the study. I’m the only one who knows the combination. That way no one else can get it, and I can sleep without worrying about you.”

The two moved towards the door.

“You first, Biddles, go back to your room and keep an eye on Ivers,” ordered Elmira.

“You just remember I could ruin you all,” he retorted as he opened the door.

~~~000~~~

Top Floor Hallway

Heyes and the Kid straightened up and hurried to the far corners of the hallway, hiding themselves in the shadows.

The door opened and Biddles strode out and headed down the stairs without looking around.

Heyes and the Kid waited a moment and then started to come out of their shadows just as the door opened again. They slipped back.

Elmira poked her head out and looked around then she slid out, quietly closed the door, and headed down the stairs.

“Now what?” mouthed the Kid.

“Let’s follow her and see if she takes us to her safe,” responded Heyes quietly.

They paused a moment then quietly walked towards the stairs.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

Elmira quickly stepped down into the room. She stopped, looked around, and listened. She shook her head and walked into her study, closing the door behind her.

~~~000~~~

Hallway Outside Biddles and Iver’s Room

Heyes and the Kid cautiously peered over the balcony railing, looking down into the great room.

As they watched, a shadow slipped under the balcony towards the back of the house. They heard the faint sound of a door closing.

Quickly they went down the stairs.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

They reached the great room and looked around to orient themselves in the dark.

Heyes leaned over to the Kid. “You keep an eye on the door to the study. I’m going to go around outside to see if I can look in the window.”

“Be careful, Heyes.”

“Always. You be careful too; this place is full of thieves, and I don’t mean us.” He clapped the Kid on the back then headed towards the side door to the outside.

The Kid watched him for a moment then moved to the side of the study door, where he would be concealed if the door opened.

~~~000~~~

Still in the Great Room

The Kid was leaning against the wall when the door opened. He held his hand to prevent the door hitting him.

Elmira strode out, looked quickly around, then shut the door and headed for the stairs without looking back.

The Kid ducked behind a convenient potted plant and watched her climb the stairs.

As he started to move, there was a quiet exclamation from above. He froze in place.

~~~000~~~

Hallway

Elmira walked quickly and quietly towards the far end of the hall.

Horace walked quickly and quietly towards her end of the hall.

They met and nearly bumped into each other.

“Oh” exclaimed Elmira, immediately muffling her own words. “What are you doing here?” she demanded quietly.

“I was concerned about Agnes,” blustered Horace, equally quietly.

Elmira stared at him. “Such brotherly devotion,” she mocked.

“All right, if you must know I gave her the emerald brooch and wanted to check on it.”

“I’m sure she’s sleeping by now, Horace, and would not appreciate you waking her for that reason. I was checking that everything was settled for the night, and then I was going to come visit you. There was a reason I gave you your own room next to mine. I have missed you, Horace,” she purred, taking his arm.

Horace looked at her closely then smiled slightly. “Well, I wouldn’t mind renewing our acquaintance my dear, but I’m not giving you the emerald. I’m on to your little stagecoach shenanigans, too. Now that we understand each other, allow me to escort you upstairs.”

“Oh, Horace,” she purred, laying her head on his shoulder briefly before the two walked down the hall to the stairs up to the next floor.

~~~000~~~

The Study

The Kid slipped inside the room and shut the door.

Rap, tap.

He looked over, then hurried to the window, opening it to allow Heyes to climb inside.

“Did you see where the safe was?” asked the Kid.

“Sure did,” grinned Heyes. “But I couldn’t see the combination when she opened it. It was already open by the time I could look in the window.”

“Look, anyone could walk in on us,” the Kid said, looking around nervously.

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Let’s go back to our room and wait until we’re sure everyone is asleep.”

The two slipped back out the study door.



~~~000~~~


The Study

Heyes pulled a candle from his pocket, lit it, and set it on an upturned glass he found then headed over to the wall behind the desk. Walking to the second portrait hanging there, he removed it to reveal the safe. He looked at the Kid, who nodded, pulled his gun, and walked over to the door.


~~~000~~~


Heyes and the Kid’s Room

Heyes and the Kid entered the room. The Kid sank onto the bed with a slight groan, while Heyes sat in the chair and threw his hat onto the dresser.

He pulled off his boot, reached in, and took out the brooch. Then he walked over and sat on the bed on the side away from the Kid, staring at the brooch.

The Kid rolled over and came around the bed to sit next to him, also staring at the brooch.

“All that, and we’re not goin’ to get to share the reward are we, Heyes?” he queried plaintively.

“You know we can’t.”

“Couldn’t we just say we didn’t find it?”

“You know we can’t do that either.”

“Fine, no reward, no women, and little sleep—best night I’ve spent in ages,” the Kid muttered as he sank back down on his side of the bed. He closed his eyes and dropped off to sleep.

Heyes’ expression softened as he looked at him. “Get some sleep, Kid. I’ll figure out how we get out of escorting the prisoners all the way back to Denver.”

He looked again at the emerald before tucking it into his vest pocket. Then he, too, lay down on the bed to sleep.

~~~000~~~

Heyes and the Kid’s Room

Knock, knock.

“I think I’ll shoot whoever’s there. I just got to sleep,” the Kid moaned, pulling the pillow over his head.

Heyes just groaned.

Knock, knock!

With a huge sigh, Heyes got up. “Coming, I’m coming.”

He paused to make sure that the Kid had his gun ready and then opened the door.

Ivers bustled in.

“What do you want, Gaines? We just got to sleep. It’s not even dawn yet.”

“It will be soon. Did you find it?”

“Yeah, but you woke us up for that? We’ll give it to you later.”

“Biddles wants me to go see if the creek’s gone down. Not sure I feel safe going by myself.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other and groaned.

“You’re probably right. They could shoot you and let the water take you, then claim you fell in.”

“Give us five minutes, then go, and we’ll follow.”

~~~000~~~

Down at the Creek

In the early dawn light, Ivers walked cautiously towards the edge of the creek. The water mark showed that it had gone down considerably. He grabbed a stick and poked into the water as he went, judging its depth.

The Oatley boys stepped up behind him.

“That’s enough, Ivers, or whatever your name is. It’s the end of the line for you. Who do you work for?”

Ivers spun around and looked at the Oatley boys. “I work for the stage line; you know that. What’s this?”

“We told you, you are going no farther,” said Joseph, his hand resting near the gun strapped to his hip.

“Well, I wouldn’t say that,” quipped Heyes.

“Boys, you really don’t want to do this,” the Kid informed them.

The Oatley boys whipped around, reaching for their guns. In a flash, the Kid had his in his hand before either could draw. Heyes was close behind him.

Joseph and Theodore raised their hands. Ivers stared.

“That was amazing, Jones!” he exclaimed.

Then he shook his head and turned to the Oatleys, “We thought you two might try something here. I have the goods on you for the stagecoach robberies and know Biddles was working with you all.”

He pulled out two pairs of handcuffs and cuffed them. “Okay, we’re heading back to the house.”

The Kid just gestured with his gun before returning it to his holster with an impressive flourish.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

As Agnes arrived for breakfast she looked at Elmira and Horace then smiled at Biddles, who looked at her quickly out the corner of his eyes then moved away. Verna and Lizzie came into the room right behind her.

“Where are the boys? We thought Joshua and Thaddeus would be down here since they’re not in their room, and where are Joseph and Theodore?” Verna asked.

“Joseph and Theodore have gone out to check on the horses,” responded Elmira. “I have no idea where the others might be.” She frowned.

“I sent Ivers to check the creek to make sure the stage could cross before we leave, but I don’t know about the other two,” Biddles stated. “I guess I’ll go start tacking up the team, as soon as I finish breakfast.”

Horace sidled over to Agnes, “You have the emerald?” he whispered.

“Relax, brother, it’s taken care of.”

~~~000~~~

The Dining Table

The platter of eggs was partially gone and the remaining eggs showed signs of congealing, the biscuits were no longer steaming, and the ham was cold, but Mrs. Kay brought out a fresh pitcher of coffee.

“I wonder what is taking everyone so long,” worried Mrs. Oatley.

“And where are those two men, Smith and Jones?” contributed Horace, looking around and sweating slightly.

Suddenly, the door opened and in walked Biddles with his hands in the air, then the Oatley boys in handcuffs. Behind them walked Ivers, pointing a gun at them. Finally, Heyes entered with his gun trained on the rest of the household.

“Hands up, everyone,” Ivers commanded.

“What are you doing?” exclaimed Verna as she raised her hands, looking at Heyes.

“I told you they were trouble,” announced Agnes to her brother.

Mrs. Oatley reached into a drawer in the sideboard stealthily.

“That’s far enough,” commanded the Kid, coming up behind her with his gun pointed at her as he reached into the drawer and drew out another gun.

“Ivers, you’re a thief and you’re in cahoots with these two!” exclaimed Horace.

“Calm down, everyone, and we’ll explain. Smith, would you do the honors of securing the prisoners while your partner there keeps an eye on things?”

“Certainly, Gaines. Verna and Lizzie, you can put your hands down. Why don’t you go sit over there out of danger?” Heyes directed as he pulled out thongs and began to tie various hands behind backs.

“I don’t understand,” Lizzie cried.

“And to think we thought you two had possibility,” muttered Verna, as she and Lizzie moved out of the way.

“Gaines!” exclaimed Mrs. Oatley. “I thought your name was Ivers. Release us immediately,” she demanded.

“Now that everyone is secure, why don’t we all sit down over there,” directed Gaines.

~~~000~~~

The Great Room

Most of the people were seated, but Gaines remained standing, and the Kid leaned against a wall with his arms crossed and his right glove off, although his gun was holstered.

“Could someone please explain what is going on?” asked Verna.

“Certainly, Miss Dubois. My name is Fred Gaines, not Ivers, and I’m a Bannerman detective, hired to find out who was robbing this stage line. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones have assisted the Bannerman agency previously so I was glad to see them on the stage.”

“You’re the law?” breathed Lizzie, looking shocked.

“Not exactly; we knew Gaines already and last night he sought our help,” Heyes apologized.

“Getting back to the subject,” interjected Gaines. “Very few people here are who they say they are. In fact, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones may be the only ones using their real names, and Biddles here, of course. Even Miss Dubois and Miss Hannibal are using stage names. The Oatleys’ real name is Oats. Wainwright Oats was a well-known thief who did time for grand larceny. It appears to run in the family. These three are making quite a business out of robbing stages and they are working with Biddles.” He nodded at the men and their mother who sat side-by-side on a couch, glaring at him. Biddles, who sat in a nearby chair, glared and muttered under his breath.

“Now these two, Horace and Agnes, their real name is Cuthbert, but they are better known as Handy Horace and Agnes-the-Abbess.” Verna and Lizzie looked at each other then at Agnes and laughed.

“Horace here is well known to have used some questionable methods to support himself and his sister ever since her Kansas City brothel was closed.” At this, all the men looked at Agnes, who stared them down.

“This time, he acquired an emerald brooch that is worth a lot of money and for which a substantial reward has been offered. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones were instrumental in finding that emerald.”

Verna looked at Heyes angrily, “That’s why you were in our room. You thought we had it!”

“No, no,” pleaded the Kid. “Honestly, we didn’t. We had just searched Agnes’ room and had to duck into yours to avoid bein’ seen.”

“You didn’t come to see us?” Lizzie asked, outraged.

The Kid looked uncomfortable. “Er, no.”

Lizzie glared at him. Heyes stifled a laugh.

Biddles, meanwhile, was glaring at Elmira, while Horace glared at Agnes.

“I thought you’d keep it safe, Agnes,” complained Horace.

“Well, actually, brother, dear, I gave it to Mr. Biddles for safe-keeping. I’ve had enough of you and want a life of my own.” All eyes turned to Biddles.

“Yeah, and I gave it to Elmira who said she was putting it in her safe. Can’t trust anyone these days,” he finished, shaking his head.

“I did,” declared Elmira indignantly. “It’s still there.”

“No, no it’s not. Mr. Smith has it,” stated Gaines. “Why don’t you give it to me now, Mr. Smith?”

Heyes pulled the brooch from his pocked and handed it over, after looking at it wistfully. All eyes followed the emerald.

“And there I thought he was glad to see me,” murmured Verna.

“How did you do that?” demanded Elmira. “I locked it in the safe. No one besides me, not even my sons, had that combination!”

All eyes turned to Heyes. “It’s amazing what can be seen through a window, if you know what to look for,” he explained. He looked up and caught the Kid’s eye.

“Yeah, we saw you head into the study, Mrs. Oatley,” explained the Kid. “Joshua here went around to the window, while I waited outside the study door in case of trouble.”

Mrs. Kay walked into the room with another pitcher of coffee and stopped short, looking around as a frown gathered on her face.

“I’ll take that. Thank you, Mrs. Kay,” stated Gaines. “I’m sorry, it looks like you are out of a job. Join us for now.” Mrs. Kay looked confused and sat in a chair by Verna and Lizzie. Verna and Lizzie leaned over and whispered with Mrs. Kay while the others turned their attention back to Gaines.

“So now what happens?” asked Elmira.

“Now, you six will be passengers in the stage this time. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones will help me take you to the next town to lock you up, until the proper authorities can try you.”

The Kid and Heyes looked quickly at him, then nodded, and sighed.

~~~000~~~

Outside the House

The Kid backed out of the stage, “Okay, they’re all set. No one’s gettin’ loose until we release ’em,” he announced.

At that moment, Verna and Lizzie walked out the front door with their luggage.

“I’m so sorry, ladies, we can’t transport you,” Gaines announced, “but we will arrange transportation for you when we get to town.”

“We weren’t about to ride with such crooks anyway. We made other plans,” Verna announced. “Mrs. Kay is going to take us to town in the surrey and we’ll catch another stage when we get there.”

Mrs. Kay pulled the surrey around the corner of the house. The Kid and Heyes grabbed the women’s bags and walked them towards it.

“I’m really sorry how this worked out,” the Kid began.

“Yeah, I guess you boys aren’t coming to Denver now, are you?” responded Verna.

“Not right away. Maybe later,” answered Heyes.

“Well, when you do get to Denver, why don’t you come on up and see us sometime?”

“Maybe we will,” laughed the Kid.

They kissed Verna and Lizzie good-bye and helped them into the surrey. They and Gaines waved good-bye as the surrey moved off. Then the three climbed on board the stagecoach.

~~~000~~~

The Other Side of the Creek

The stagecoach was mud-covered, but out of the creek and waiting. Gaines climbed back onto the driver’s seat of the stagecoach.

“I think this is where we part company, boys,” he said, looking down at Heyes and the Kid and pulling his gun.

They stared, then put up their hands.

“Gaines, after all we’ve done for you,” Heyes reproached.

“That’s why we’re parting company. I got to thinking. Jones there is mighty handy with that gun, and I don’t believe for a minute, Smith, that you could see Elmira open the safe well enough from a window to see the combination. And I’m pretty sure your names aren’t Smith and Jones. I have a feeling that if I put my mind to it, I just might find that there’s a reward out on you two. In fact, given our two encounters I might even be able to guess what your names really are.”

“But remember, we’re friends of Harry Briscoe,” Heyes tried.

“Yeah, well, I never thought Briscoe was all that smart,” Gaines responded. “Now, I owe you boys so we’re parting company here. There should be horses and saddles back at the Oatley place, courtesy of the Bannerman Agency. Have a good ride.”

Still holding his gun on them, he reached back, grabbed their saddlebags and bedrolls and threw them to them. That accomplished, he flicked the whip and the stagecoach moved off. Heyes and the Kid stood on the side of the road, watching it drive off.

“So here we are, in the middle of nowhere—have to cross a swollen stream and walk a pace to find some horses; we’ve had no sleep, no breakfast, no women, and no reward—remind me again why we went straight.” The Kid snorted, disgusted.

“Don’t ask, Kid, just don’t ask right now,” sighed Heyes as he pulled off his boots and rolled up his pants legs again before stepping back into the creek.

The Kid pulled off his boots and joined him. “We are never takin’ a stage again, Heyes. Nothin’ good ever comes of it!”



(Writers love feedback! You can let Nora Winters know how you enjoyed the story with a quick comment. Just Post Reply to the Comments for Come Up and See Us Some (Other) Time 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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