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 By Hook or By Crook by CD Roberts

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20140301
PostBy Hook or By Crook by CD Roberts


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


Guest Starring

Ken Berry as Doctor Phineas Hooke


Freddie Bartholomew as Bobby Hooke


J.D. Cannon as Harry Briscoe


Leo Gordon as Jerome Stanley


Dub Taylor as the Old Man


Kenneth Tobey as Sheriff


Glynnis O'Connor as the waitress


Monty Laird as the Brown-Haired Fella


Roger Davis as the Blond-Haired Fella




A gas lamp flickered in the dark, providing enough light to read the sign that spanned the building: Needlesburg Bank. Inside, was a man muffled in a dark coat, with his hat pulled down against the cold. He crouched beside the safe; long tapered fingers caressed the dial, and turned it gently. A second figure, wrapped in a lighter coat, stood, facing the window.

“Hurry up,” the figure whispered anxiously.

“I’ve told you before, you can’t hurry these things,” was the response. “A job like this requires skill and finesse.”

“Finesse,” groused the other.

“Yes, finesse. You know, I really think if you read more, you’d have a better understanding of these things. Now keep quiet so I can hear the tumbler.”

A few moments passed in near silence, the only sound the ticking of a clock. Then a satisfied ‘ah’ and the door of the safe opened, revealing stacks of paper money, boxes of coins, piles of paperwork, and hidden goodies, of who knows what, in metal boxes.

&&&&&&&&

“I guess you were right; things were going too well to last.” Hannibal Heyes tossed the newspaper down onto the bed he was sitting on in obvious disgust.

Kid Curry, seated on a battered chair with his legs propped up on the remaining bed, stopped cleaning his gun. He held it up for inspection, eyed it, and gave it an approving nod before responding to his partner. “They’ve connected the robberies?”

Heyes looked at him scornfully. “Four bank robberies, all during the night, all by an expert at manipulating the tumblers? Did you think the law wouldn’t connect them? They’d have to have been done by the same gang; any fool would come to that conclusion, eventually. I guess the only surprise there is that it took the authorities this long to figure that out.”

“They’re blamin’ us?” The Kid looked at Heyes, and waited for him to reply.

Heyes turned away, apparently finding something fascinating in the wardrobe; perhaps the unusual patterns in the fading, stained surface intrigued him. He stared at it, glancing up and down its full length. He twisted his lips slightly, into an odd sort of grimace.

The Kid laughed. “Oh ho! I get it. They’re blamin’ you. I guess that means I was only half-right. Things are still goin’ fine for me, but you’ve got a problem there, partner.”

Heyes, having concluded his perusal of the wardrobe, rearranged his face. He replaced the grimace with a bland look, the kind that you could melt butter in your mouth with.

“Kid, the only lead they have is a brown-haired stranger in each town.” Curry’s grin increased, threatening to detach his chin from his head. He opened his mouth to speak.

Heyes interrupted him. “He has been seen accompanied by a blond man, about your height, also a stranger. You were about to say something?”

“I was about to say we gotta do somethin’ before the governor of Wyoming gets the wrong idea,” he grumbled.

“I thought that was what you were going to say.”

“Whadda we goin’ to do?”

“I figure the best place to start is to go to the last town this gang robbed, and see what we can find out. Let’s see here, that would be,” Heyes picked up the paper, “um, uh, Needlesburg.”

“You want us to just walk on into a town that was just robbed, and nosy around askin’ for information? Where the sheriff’s gotta be lookin’ for two, well, at least, one, notorious bank and train robber?”

“They won’t be looking for us. They’ll be looking for those two strangers that were seen in town before the robbery. We’ll be perfectly safe.”

&&&&&&&&

“We heard you had some excitement here, recently.” Heyes raised his glass of beer from the counter, in front of which he and the Kid stood, and took a sip.

This bartender, like all bartenders in the West, when not engaged in pouring or serving drinks, kept busy by wiping a glass. Like the Kid cleaning his gun, he paused, and held it up for examination, turning it and eying it in an expert manner. “Yep.”

“Heard your bank was robbed,” the Kid said.

“Yep.” The bartender apparently approved the cleanliness of the last glass and moved onto another.

The Kid glanced at Heyes as if to say ‘now what?’ Heyes shrugged in response.

“We heard they didn’t even have to blow the safe. That must have been really something,” Heyes said encouragingly.

“Yep.”

Curry sighed audibly and took a large sip of his beer. He looked at the glass, surprised. “Hey, this is really good beer. I don’t think I’ve drunk any beer this good outside of Denver.”

Heyes frowned at the Kid, and shook his head slightly.

The bartender perked up. “That is one of the finest beers you will find outside of Denver. We order it special, and we can’t get it all the time.”

“Well, it is good beer,” Heyes said in a flat, uninterested voice.

“The same brewery makes another beer, a special...” He bent below the counter. “... Let’s see. I thought I had a bottle here. We can’t get it on tap, only a bottle on rare occasion.” He stood up. “I’ll check in back.”

“No, you don’t have to...” Heyes began, but the bartender cut him off.

“I don’t often get fellows in here that appreciate a good beer. Most of the folks around here just wanna get on a drunk, and don’t have a palate like you and your friend here. I’ll be right back.”

Heyes turned to the Kid. “It’s a beer,” he said. “I don’t see anything special in it.”

The Kid retorted, “That’s because you don’t have a palate. This is a good beer, sorta sweet, mapley tastin’. Or maybe caramely, I’m not sure. Then you get woody hops, earthy, and then it gets dry and woody.” He sniffed it. “I shoulda smelled it first; a fella in Denver told me that, but I didn’t expect this to be so good, so I didn’t bother. It’s got a nose, that’s the smell, that’s earthy and mapley too.”

The bartender returned with a bottle held high. “I found it. I thought we had one left somewheres. I put it aside for a special occasion.”

“This is a special occasion?” asked Heyes.

“With you two real beer drinkers here to talk to, it sure is.”

“Well, you did provide us with a superior beer; it’s got a good nose, earthy hops and maple. The taste is very good, sweet like caramel, then you get the earthy hops, and then it gets dry and woody.” Heyes rattled off this newly acquired information, while the Kid folded his arms in front of his chest and snorted.

“That’s it! That’s it exactly!” The bartender beamed.

Heyes continued. “Tell you what; we’ll pay for the bottle if you’ll join us at a table.” He held out his hand, which was eagerly grasped, and heartily shook, by the bartender. “My name’s Joshua Smith and this is my friend, Thaddeus Jones.”

“I’m Jerome Stanley,” the bartender said, shaking the Kid’s hand. “I’m pleased to meet ya.”

“Likewise,” answered Curry.

“Now let’s sit down here; this is a good table, the legs is even and it don’t wobble much, and here, I’ve got some shot glasses.” He placed his arms on the table and opened them to reveal the glasses and bottle they had enveloped. “We’ll put ‘em right next to your beer glasses like that, and I’ve got two of ‘em for me.” He pulled two additional glasses out of his apron. “There now, we’re all set for tasting.”

Jerome used the large linen bar-towel he carried on his arm to wipe the bottle of beer. He placed the bottle in the center of the table for the men to appraise. “Ah,” he sighed, “a work of art.” He carefully opened the bottle and poured a dram’s worth into each shot glass. “Now, you fellows taste that and tell me what you think.”

The men sipped the beer and sat back.

“Well?” Jerome asked expectantly, “What do you think?”

“Partner, you go first,” the Kid said, generously, “you’re the expert.” He took a second sip.

Heyes looked slightly taken aback, but quickly caught himself, and said smoothly, “It sure is special.” Jerome beamed.

Heyes continued, “I’ll say one thing for this beer right off; it’s pretty strong for beer. I don’t think I’d be able to manipulate any tu…” The Kid gagged, coughed and bent forward. Heyes grinned and slapped him on the back. “What’s a matter, partner? Swallow your beer wrong, again? He’s got a problem with swallowing sometimes. Like I was saying, I don’t think I’d be able to break into a bank and fiddle the dials on a safe and open it; that’s what a bank robber has gotta do, isn’t it?” he asked the Kid who, still coughing, could only nod.

Jerome raised his glass to stare at the golden liquid in it. “It is a stronger brew, I’ll give you that. Still got that robbery on your mind, huh?” He paused, and mused to himself thoughtfully, for a few moments. “It’s funny you should say that about the bank and the safe and all, though.”

“Funny, why?” choked out Curry, who was still gulping for air. He gave Heyes a worried, yet reproachful, glance.

“It’s just that those two fellas that they think did it...”

“Yes?” from both men.

“I don’t think they were bright enough to have done a robbery like that even if they were sober, which wasn’t too often. What do you think?” he turned towards the Kid.

“About those fellas?”

“About the beer.”

“Oh yeah.” Curry held up the glass which held a slightly cloudy, golden brew in it, with thin, creamy foam on top. He smelled it. “This one is fruity, kinda lemony.”

“Yes. Go on.”

“Whoa, now it’s sweet and bitter and lemony all at once. Hits you right away, don’t it?” He eyed the glass, impressed. “If those fellas were drinking so much, they weren’t working regular jobs, were they? Were they drifters?”

“Naw, they worked. They worked for a traveling dentist, unloading and loading his equipment. Course, the story is they’re Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, so they were probably just playing stupid. What else?” He pointed to the glass.

“Got a lot of hops, don’t it? More than the other beer. So, what did those fellas look like?”

“Aw c’mon, I thought we were talking about this here beer.” He looked at the beer in his glass fondly and then at the two men with suspicion. “You sure are awfully interested in this robbery. Like you got some special interest in it.”

“Look, don’t get us wrong. My friend and I are true beer connoisseurs. We are completely engaged in tasting this beer.” Jerome began to smile and visibly relaxed. Heyes continued. “But there’s no reason we can’t talk about the recent excitement your town has had as well.” Jerome stiffened.

“Look Jerome, to tell the truth, we, ah...we do have an interest in the robbery,” the Kid attempted, but quickly finished seemingly at a loss of how to continue. He turned to Heyes.

“We’re not really at liberty to say, but...” Heyes began.

“I know, you’re detectives! Right, you been sent in here because there’s been four now, and the local sheriffs aren’t doing too well. I read they were gonna send in some Bannermen. That’s it, ain’t it! You’re them.”

“Shh, yes that’s it, but we can’t really tell you,” Curry said.

“You didn’t hear anything from us,” Heyes added, sternly. He whispered to Jerome, “Now what did these fellows look like?”

“Sort of like you two, you know, sort of nondescript, the kind of fellows you wouldn’t notice. Your height, brown fella had a face more like your friend, and lighter hair than you. The blond one, more reddish than blond.” Heyes looked up, puzzled. “And thinner than your friend here.”

&&&&&&&&

It was dark when they walked down the street towards the hotel.

“Just out of curiosity, partner, were you goin’ to tell him we’re Bannerman men?”

Heyes laughed. “Naw, this time I was going to say we were working for Lom Trevors and the governor of Wyoming. I had an angle all worked out that there were robberies like this in Wyoming, and we were checking to see if this was the same gang.”

A newsboy hawked the latest paper, and Heyes stopped to purchase one. They walked on side by side, quietly. Heyes stopped and read the paper intently. He stopped reading, and stood in thought.

“Heyes, what is it? Is there another story ‘bout the robberies in the paper?”

“Uh huh.”

The Kid stood beside his partner. He had all the appearances of a man impatiently waiting for a revelation of some sort. He shifted his balance from leg to leg, and brought his hand over the butt of his holstered gun as if ready for action. “C’mon Heyes, what is it?”

“I’ve been thinking.”

“I know that.”

“It’s kinda odd. I’m thinking the descriptions don’t match.”

“Huh?”

“The descriptions of the fellas suspected of the robberies don’t match. Remember I said they mentioned a blond fellow twice in the other papers? Well this robbery in Needlesburg was one time, but they only said brown hair for one fella, and blond for the other. The other robbery with a description of the blond said he was a tow-head. And now Jerome here says more red than blond. There’s a big difference between reddish-blond and a tow-head. I don’t suppose all the lawmen working on this are color blind. And they caught one of the fellas in the first town. They had to let him go ‘cos of lack of evidence. But he couldn’t have got all the way from there to here in time for this robbery.”

“Well, we know the papers don’t always get the descriptions right. But the timin’ is another thing.” Curry looked puzzled. “But, if the descriptions don’t match, and they caught one fella and let him go, than they gotta know it ain’t us.”

“Maybe. But I think we still got two problems. One is they may think the robberies ain’t connected. They may think some are copycats. They may still think we done one or more. Even if they do rule us out entirely, having our names mentioned so many times in the papers is gonna make it harder for us to travel unnoticed. The law is busy looking for Heyes and Curry, or two men who resemble them. If this isn’t solved soon it’ll be a long time before things quiet down for us. And something big has gotta be up because The Bannerman Agency is sending in a man.”

“I suppose so. Even if the robberies aren’t connected, that sure is some coincidence, all them brown and blond men. It’s weird. But then that fella caught wasn’t even one of the robbers, if they let him go.”

“Lack of evidence doesn’t mean he wasn’t in on it. Kid! What if the robberies are connected? What if those fellas aren’t the actual robbers, but they’re just in the towns as red herrings.”

“Red herrings?”

“I mean, they’re being used as false leads. The lawmen are preoccupied with them, and lose the trail of the real robbers. Those men may have nothing at all to do with the robberies. Maybe they’re just being hired to be in town at the time, and don’t know anything at all.”

“Heyes, that’s a lot of maybes. That’d have to be a real well-organized gang to do that. I can’t think of anyone we know bein’ up to that.”

Heyes chuckled. “Well, I’m not thinking of Wheat, you know. But some of the gangs back East I’ve been reading about recently are run like business organizations. I suppose it was only a matter of time before we caught up with that style out here. The paper said the law thinks the robberies are connected. They have some evidence they don’t wanna disclose to the public about that. That’d really be something, you know. Someone is thinking big.”

They began to walk again, but before going more than a few paces, Heyes grabbed the Kid by his arm to stop him.

“Kid, if this is a big organized gang, and we catch them, it could mean our amnesty. Think of it, Hannibal Heyes halts a criminal organization in its tracks, preventing a wave of robberies from overtaking the West.” Heyes almost glowed while speaking, and his eyes sparkled.

“That’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, and how’d we get any recognition for catchin’ this gang? Without bein’ thrown in prison first I mean.”

“We contact Lom now. Let him know what we’re doing. We’ll have to make sure we catch the head of this gang, the brains behind it all. The small fish won’t count. Catching all of them would be ideal, be we may not be able to do that.”

The Kid looked skeptical.

“Look, Kid. At the very least, we’ve gotta get the law off our tails. But if we can carry this off…”

“Uh huh, if. That’s a big if.”

They walked on to the hotel, and up to their room. Heyes reached out to open the door. Curry stopped him, and pointed. The door wasn’t entirely closed. The Kid pushed gently on it, and it opened slightly wider, without noise. A dim light moved in the room. Heyes and the Kid looked at each other and nodded. They pulled their guns and the Kid threw the door open.

The light went out, and there was confusion as the intruder tried to pass the men to effect an escape. Heyes cried out, “Get him!” followed by, “Not me! Him!”

There was a yelp, and Curry cried triumphantly, “I got him.”

Heyes fumbled about, found the lantern, and relit it. The man whimpered. “What are you doing?” demanded Heyes.

The man raised his head. Harry Briscoe looked woefully at his captors.

The Kid groaned. “Oh no. Don’t tell me you’re the Bannerman man they sent to investigate the robberies?”

“As a matter of fact, I am, boys.” Harry Briscoe brushed his coat as if trying to regain some dignity. “And as for what I’m doing, I’m doing my job. I found out there were two fellows in this room that matched the description of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry so I got right on it. What are you doing here?”

“Harry, it’s our room.” The Kid sat on his bed.

“Oh, right. I guess that explains the descriptions matching you.”

The Kid rolled his eyes.

“Harry, if you had been doing your job you would know that the descriptions of the robbers seen in this town don’t match us. So you won’t find them by looking for us.”

“I know that.”

“Then why are you searching our room?” asked the Kid in exasperation.

“Most of the descriptions don’t match from town to town, so I figured I might as well check you two, well I mean whoever was in this room, out. Like I said, I’m just doing my job.”

“Harry, what does The Bannerman Agency make of the descriptions not matching, and so many brown and blond strangers paired together in these towns?”

“Now, that’s the interesting part of it, Heyes. Smith. The descriptions of the two men seen in the first two towns are a match, then one from the third and fourth town match, and let’s see, one from the second to the third?”

“Harry, if that even makes sense, and I’m not sure it does, what we’re askin’ is does that mean anything at all to the Bannermans?” the Kid asked, irritably.

“Well, we think it could mean we are dealing with a huge criminal organization. Mister Bannerman suspects a large gang with a criminal mastermind behind it. The use of the blond and brown-haired fellows with some resemblance to you two, doesn’t matter if it is a vague one, in each town, is brilliant. The law is focusing on them, and it also distracts the law. A lot of the sheriffs I spoke to are out looking for you, wasting their time. It’s a perfect red herring. Think about it, boys.” Harry spoke rapidly, and excitedly. “This is big. If I break this case I’d get a bonus, maybe a promotion.” He paused for breath. “Hey, you know what? You two could help me on this.”

“What’s in it for us, Harry?”

“Kid, I’ll put in a good word with George Bannerman if you help. He’s got influence with important people.”

“Not good enough, Harry,” said Heyes. “We want more than a good word this time.”

“Boys, Mister Bannerman can’t give you your amnesty.”

“Maybe he can’t, but he can make it possible. We’ll want credit for this, out in the open, in the papers. We’ll want the highest praise from Bannerman, and we’ll want him giving a glowing account of us being law-abiding members of society.”

Harry wiggled uncomfortably. “You’re asking a lot, boys.”

“You’re askin’ a lot, Harry,” replied the Kid. “If this is a huge organized gang like you seem to think it is, this is goin’ to be dangerous.”

Heyes continued with the subject at hand. “We’ll wanna see the next report you’re sending Bannerman. You put in there how we’re helping you out, and how we’re honest men now. You make sure he understands what we want.”

“Mister Bannerman can be a hard negotiator. I can’t promise he’ll agree to what you want.”

“Then we don’t help you. You can leave, Harry.”

“No, wait. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Harry,” Heyes had a grin on his face, but his tone and his eyes were all danger, “I’m sure that if Mister Bannerman don’t agree to everything we want, you can see to it that the information gets leaked out from the agency to the press.”

“You’re smart, Harry,” Curry added, grimly, as Heyes rolled his eyes. “You can manage that much without havin’ it traced back to you.”

“All right. Seeing as this is the biggest case I’ve ever had; I need to solve it, I’ll do it. The banks are starting to breathe down Mister Bannerman’s neck, so he may come through for you.” Harry conceded, but shook his head.

“That’s more like it,” Heyes said, patting Briscoe on the back. “Tell us what you know.”

“For a start, these robberies actually started back East, you won’t have heard about that, and they’ve been spreading west. We know from the number of robberies, gang members, the rapid movement, and so on that we are up against something big. The brown-haired and blond-haired men are cogs in the wheel. They may be hired just for show, but we think they may be casing the towns, and the banks robbed. From that one caught and released, and from a couple of others I’ve caught up to…”

“You caught up to some of them? I’m impressed, Harry,” said Heyes. Curry smirked.

“Yes, I’ve caught up to some of them. They never seem to be too bright or to know too much. They’re just rank and file. That’s been our problem. We can’t trace them back to the mastermind. There have to be middlemen, carrying orders and information back and forth. But by the time we get to a town where the bank was robbed, the leads are dried up and everyone gone, except the men they want us to see.”

“These men have gotta be drifters, right?” asked Heyes. “But no one is paying them any attention before the robberies? Usually the law keeps an eye on drifters.”

“They aren’t coming into the towns as drifters. They have employment with itinerant medical types, medicine men, doctors, dentists. Those types need men to do their heavy work, loading, unloading if they have equipment, crowd control if they’re selling medicine, and so on.”

“Are the medicine men the middlemen?”

“Good question, Kid. We thought so at first, but ruled them out. They’ve been victims, themselves. All of them have had drugs or medicines stolen, and in a few instances, equipment that can be easily sold has been taken.”

“Why would they be stealing that?”

“We have a lot of theories about that. The drugs are valuable and can be resold like the equipment. That may be a perk offered to gang members, extra income, you know. Or the drugs may be leverage. A lot of criminals have addictions to opium and drugs like that. Opium is being stolen. Also chloral hydrate. That’s knock-out drops like they make Mickey Finns with in San Francisco to kidnap men for sailors. Handy stuff for criminals. And maybe the gang likes to leave a calling card, you might say, to taunt the law with how easily they’re getting away with this. Could be a bit of everything I’ve mentioned. But it is a part of the modus operandi that connects the robberies.”

“The what?” interrupted the Kid.

“The way they work,” Heyes answered.

“Maybe whoever is behind this just don’t like doctors or tooth pullers, and gets some sorta revenge that way,” offered Curry. “I know a lot of fellas feel that way.”

“I think Harry’s right about this. The drugs are useful for a criminal organization. If they’re a big enough gang, they have people to sell what they can’t use. That’s a smooth operation,” Heyes said admiringly.

“I’ve sent some wires out to sheriffs I know asking if any traveling medicine men have shown up in their towns. I got a reply from one that fits the bill. A dentist arrived in Selby yesterday. And he has two men working for him, one brown-haired, one blond.”

“Who just happen to sort of resemble us.”

“Exactly. And that makes it a lead worth following up. We may finally get there before the robbery takes place, and maybe we can find the middlemen. If we catch them, it could lead to the big man behind it all.”

“I’d like to follow up with those two fellas at least,” grumbled the Kid. “I don’t take kindly to this red salmon thing you and Harry are talkin’ about.”

“Salmon? I didn’t mention salmon,” said a clearly puzzled Briscoe.

Hannibal Heyes sighed. “Working with you two geniuses on this is gonna be a real pleasure.”

&&&&&&&&

Kid Curry leaned on a post, in front of the saloon, reading a newspaper. He was wrapped against the cold weather in his brown leather coat, hat pulled low on his head to keep the heat in. On the vacant lot beside the saloon was a wagon with a banner unfurled on its side. ‘Doctor Phineas Hooke, Painless Dentistry’ it proclaimed in large red lettering. A good-sized tent was pitched next to the wagon which, from the cries that could be heard from it, served as the good doctor’s operatory.

The Kid raised his eyes periodically, glancing at two men snoozing in the shade of the wagon.

Eventually a man staggered from the tent holding his jaw in one hand and a small bottle in the other. He was escorted by a slender, dark-haired man, approximately thirty-five years in age, wearing a heavy black coat. A boy, of about twelve or thirteen warmly bundled in a brown coat, helped support the dental cripple.

“Remember; take a teaspoon of the medicine at night before retiring to sleep, and a teaspoon in the morning upon awakening.” Apparently, the slender man was the dentist. He and the boy gently pushed the man on his unsteady way.

Then the dentist turned his attention on the sleepers. “Brown, Smith, help me move the chair and the canisters. The positioning is awkward for treatment. Come on you lazy lubbers, rise and shine.” He gave the legs of each man a kick. They grumbled and followed the slender dentist back into the tent.

The boy walked over to the Kid. In a confident manner for one so young, he announced, “I say, capital day for having a tooth pulled or a filling placed, if you need it.” He raised his hat in a form of salutation, displaying cropped light-brown hair, but quickly lowered it against the cold.

The Kid looked down at the boy, clearly amused. “Workin’ up business? As it happens, I don’t need it.”

“My father says it never hurts to ask. People don’t always want to go to a dentist, you know. They require encouragement. Father is painless,” he added helpfully.

“Yeah, I can read.”

“You have been standing here a long time. I couldn’t help but notice. You can’t blame me for thinking you were in want of treatment.”

“Like I said, I can read. Right now, I’m readin’ my paper. It takes awhile.”

“Do you enjoy reading? I don’t. Father thinks I should read more. He is quite obsessed with reading, I think.”

Curry smiled. “I’ve got a friend who thinks the same about readin’ as your pa. Tells me to read more, too.”

“I’d rather tramp about outside than read.”

The Kid grinned. “Me too, kid.”

“Do you enjoy shooting? You wear your gun as if you know a thing or two about shooting. I know how to shoot.” The boy announced this fact proudly.

“Is that a fact?”

“It is. I was taught how to shoot by a genuine Western sharpshooter. I wager I could out shoot you.”

“A genuine Western sharpshooter, huh? Where you from, kid?”

“Massachusetts. You mustn’t be skeptical. We do know how to shoot in Massachusetts. And he was a real Western sharpshooter. He was traveling with a Wild West show. He taught me all he knew. My name is Robert, by the way. Would you care to place a wager on my marksmanship?”

“Bob, I don’t wanna bet you. Anyway, I’m busy.”

“Certainly, I see that you are extremely busy. I imagine reading that paper will occupy your entire day.”

The Kid returned to reading his paper.

“You’re not afraid, are you? I didn’t think a big fellow like you would still be tied to his mother’s apron strings.”

The Kid lowered his paper. “All right, kid. I guess I have five minutes to spare. How much are we bettin’, and exactly what is the bet?”

“I think fifty cents on my hitting six out of six bottles on one draw would be an acceptable wager.”

“All right. Fifty cents on six out of six.”

“Bully! It’s a bet. I’ve got bottles by that log over there.” Robert pointed to a log on the opposite end of the vacant lot. “I’ll get my pistol.” The boy ran into the wagon and returned with the gun and a box of ammunition.

The two walked to the log, and Robert placed six bottles on it. They backed away from the log, and now stood with the tent and wagon behind them by several feet.

“Draw!” commanded Curry.

Robert drew fairly rapidly, and then shot and hit six out of six bottles. As Robert was shooting, the two men assisting the dentist left the tent and walked out of the lot and into town, unnoticed by the Kid.

“That’s pretty good shooting for a kid. I guess I owe you fifty cents. What happens if I draw once and hit six out of six bottles?”

“I suppose that would make us even.”

“What happens if I’m faster than you, but I still hit all six bottles?”

“If you can do that, then I’ll pay YOU fifty cents!”

While Robert and the Kid talked, Hannibal Heyes left the saloon adjoining the vacant lot. Looking at his partner and the boy he stopped, put his hands on his hips, wearing a grim countenance. He walked to the wagon and peered briefly into it.

Robert set up six more bottles.

Leaving the wagon, Heyes walked to the tent and peered into that. He turned and faced the shooters.

Heyes sharply shouted “Thaddeus” at the same time Robert shouted “draw”. The Kid drew, turned reflexively towards his partner while shooting, hitting the log and missing the first bottle, turned back to concentrate on the bottles on the log, and hit the remaining bottles in rapid succession.

“You certainly are fast, and accurate,” admitted Robert. “You probably would have hit the first bottle if that man hadn’t called you. I’m almost willing to pay you the fifty cents.”

The Kid glared while reloading his gun. He started to walk towards Heyes.

Robert called after him, “I said I’m almost willing to pay you the fifty cents. However, you lost both wagers, so you owe me a dollar.”

The Kid turned to the boy, anger and amazement on his face as the boy continued, saying, “Thaddeus.”

Robert held out his hand. The Kid walked back to him, and grimly pulled his change from a pocket. He counted out a dollar and handed it to the boy.

“Thanks, Thaddeus.”

“That’s Mister Jones to you, kid.”

“Thanks, Mister Jones,” the boy politely responded.

The Kid joined Heyes as Robert stood, counting his money while eyeing the men thoughtfully.

“Why’d you shout at me while I was shootin’? You know better than to do that. And you don’t look like you’re in trouble or needin’ me for nothin.’ I lost a dollar bet ‘cause of you.”

“You lost more than a dollar. You lost those two men.”

“What? They’re gone! I only had my back to the tent for ‘bout a minute.”

“Well, a minute was all it took. They’re gone. I don’t suppose you managed to find out anything, did you?”

“The kid is the son of the dentist, and they’re from Massachusetts.”

“I’m not asking about the dentist and the kid, I’m asking if you found out anything about those two men.”

“Uh, no.”

Heyes pursed his lips in exasperation. “Okay, you go and see if you can find them. I’ll see if I can find anything out from the dentist or the kid.”

The Kid walked off and Heyes entered the tent. The boy followed him in.

“Howdy, Doc. Are you busy? I’ve got a tooth I’d like you to look at.” The thin dentist, minus black coat, initially appeared even frailer. But closer inspection revealed the wiry musculature of his arms and hands. No doubt years of tooth yanking had strengthened these.

“Have a seat, and I’ll examine your tooth momentarily. I’m doing a small amount of reorganizing.”

“Go right ahead, Doc.” Heyes sat in the dental chair, in the center of the large tent, with his back towards the tent opening, and performed an examination of his own examination of his surroundings. He eyed the treadle drill warily.

The doctor shuffled among his instruments. “Bobby, why were you shooting again? You promised me that you would read this morning.”

“I won a dollar, Father. The fellow I won it from was the fastest and best shot I’ve ever seen, too. Look.” Robert smiled ingratiatingly at the dentist, while proudly reciting the account of his adventure. Then he turned to Heyes. “Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t speak so as he is your friend. And I guess I only won because you distracted him.”

“That’s okay, Bobby. Everyone loses a bet once in awhile.”

Doctor Hooke looked at the money briefly and returned to his instruments. He picked up a very small mirror on a long thin handle, and inspected it, eyeing it professionally. He wiped it on his coat and replaced it, before selecting the next instrument to inspect and clean in a professional manner.

“We’ve discussed this before. I don’t mind you playing outdoors, or practicing your shooting as you enjoy it so, but you need to become more studious. You will come to regret your lack of education in the future, I’m afraid. Remember our bargain.” He turned and smiled gently at the boy. “You’ll find it a great defect if you lack the knowledge you have the opportunity to gain at this time. You will discover yourself an inferior to those more accomplished. When we travel to Europe the distinction between yourself and others will be all the greater, and will discomfort you.”

“Don’t you mean if we travel to Europe?”

“My dear boy,” he said, patting his son on his head fondly, “We are going to Europe, I promise you. But, you don’t wish to embarrass myself or yourself among all those educated Europeans, do you? Now, go and read.” He picked up a book and handed it to the boy.

“Pilgrim’s Progress! I’ll be hanged if I’ll read that.”

“Robert, don’t swear.”

“Sorry, Father,” the boy said, not looking particularly sorry at all. “I’ll read the book to please you.” He walked to the opening of the tent, and, as if a sudden thought came to him, stopped and turned. “But can I use some of the money I won to buy a dime novel? There’s a brand new one I want to read. It’s about Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. I’ll only spend a dime. I promise.” Robert winked and smiled at his father. “Please.”

Doctor Hooke laughed while Heyes shifted in the chair. “Very well, you scamp. Off with you now.”

The dentist placed the mouth mirror he had previously wiped on his coat, and another instrument that resembled a long curved sewing needle with a handle on it, on the round tray attached to the patient chair Heyes sat in. He picked up the instruments and said, “Let’s have a look then. Open.”

Heyes raised a hand and blocked the doctor’s arm. “Doc, I couldn’t help noticing. You’ve got a lot of equipment, and some of it’s pretty big. How do you move all that from town to town?”

“I expect you saw the wagon? Yes. Of course you did. Now relax, sit back and open wide.”

The hand went up again. “No, I mean the loading and unloading. That’s a lot of stuff. Do the townsfolk help?”

The dentist chuckled. “Not voluntarily. In a similar manner to some of my patients, they don’t cooperate so readily. I usually have to hire locals or drifters to help with the larger equipment. The two men helping me currently were loitering in the last town I practiced in. I was able to complete a considerable amount of dental treatment there. I have fond memories of my stay. Now if you’ll just…”

“You mean all you know about them is that they needed work? That’s a bit of a risk, isn’t it?”

“I know next to nothing about you, yet I am willing to risk placing my hands in your mouth. If you’ll open, please.” He smiled encouragingly at Heyes, raised his hands a third time, and again they were blocked by the uncooperative patient in the chair.

“But expensive equipment like this,” Heyes protested. “Wouldn’t you want some information on the men you hire?”

“People don’t generally steal dental equipment. I imagine they would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to purchase the items. In addition, the larger equipment is not easy to conceal, you’ll concede that point? Now, let’s try again…”

His hands went up and hovered over Heyes’ mouth, only to be defeated a fourth time.

“Do you have a toothache, or are you only interested in obtaining information on my hired hands?”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

“Doc, do you have a few free minutes? I’d like you to come to the saloon with me, and meet my,” Heyes paused and swallowed, apparently swallowing his pride, “my superior.”

“I think I can spare you some time.” The dentist took out his pocket watch and glanced at it. “It appears I currently don’t have a patient, and, looking at the time, I doubt I will be treating anyone else today.”

&&&&&&&&

A short while later, Heyes, Doctor Hooke, the Kid and Harry sat around a table in the saloon, each with a mug of beer.

“Harry, I think you’re gonna have to tell Doctor Hooke here a little of what we are interested in if you want to get the goods on this ga…”

Harry held up his hand to stop Heyes.

“…those two men,” Heyes finished.

Harry leaned towards the dentist, and spoke in a confidential whisper in his best official manner. “I’m Harry Briscoe, Bannerman man.” He displayed his identification card for the doctor. “I can’t tell you much except me and my men here, Gaines,” indicating the Kid with a wave of his hand, “and Grant,” pointing to Heyes, “are on the track of a big gang of bank robbers. We need as much information as possible on those two men you hired; they may be involved.”

“Smith and Brown, part of a gang of thieves?” The dentist laughed, as if incredulous at the thought. “Those two are hardly able to put their shoes on the correct feet. All I hired them for is to move my heavier equipment, and only under my direct supervision.”

“Now, we don’t think they’re the brains. They’re small potatoes, but we need to know as much about them as you can tell us.”

“I cannot tell you much. I can tell you that Brown is from back East.” His three listeners perked up. “I believe he was Amish, was sent out as a young man to experience the world, as they do, you are aware, and never found his way back.” He scratched his head. “I have the feeling Smith was in a bit of trouble with the law; he doesn’t always answer to his name. It is true he isn’t smart, but he isn’t that stupid, and he isn’t deaf. I think Smith may be an alias.”

“We’ve found that a lot of wanted men, who aren’t too clever, use Smith as an alias,” Curry mentioned.

“That’s true. And when they can’t think of Smith, they use Jones,” riposted Heyes.

“I don’t believe either man has criminal tendencies. I simply cannot believe that. I think their difficulties arise from drink.”

“My friend here was keeping an eye on them earlier today. He lost them, when he lost that shooting match to your son. You don’t happen to know where they would have gone to, do you?” The Kid frowned grimly at Heyes. Heyes returned the look with an innocent smile.

“There wasn’t any more work for them. I thought we would find them here. I am surprised they aren’t here. I gave them some pay, you see. So I assumed...you don’t think they are dangerous, do you? I can take care of myself; it is Bobby I am concerned about. I simply don’t understand the use of violence.” He paused and gently smiled at the other men. “I try to help people with these hands.”

This last sentence apparently produced some unease in his three listeners. They shifted uncomfortably, and Harry raised a hand to one cheek and rubbed it.

“Doc, I’m sure we all think you’ve helped a lot of people.” Heyes spoke for the men in a sincere voice.

The Kid continued. “Yeah, you’ve probably helped lots of people who were in pain, and had bad toothaches, and swollen jaws…” His voice trailed off.

“That’s right, dentistry is a noble profession,” Harry added, unenthusiastically.

“Well, I do have ‘hands’ as we say in the profession.” Hooke smiled half-proudly and half-wryly at the men’s ‘compliments.’ “But back to these men, you haven’t answered my question, are they dangerous?”

“No one in this gang has killed anyone, well not yet at any rate. As a matter of fact, they haven’t hurt anyone.”

“That is not entirely reassuring, Mister Briscoe. What if they turn violent? My son means everything to me. Should I let these men go?”

“No, no! Don’t do that. We don’t want to lose them. Tell you what. I’ll have my man Grant, here,” Harry indicated the Kid.

“That’s Gaines, Harry.” The Kid looked irritated.

“You’re Gai? I mean, yes, Gaines here, that is, guard you and your son. Grant, and me, are going to watch the bank.”

“I’m indebted to you, Mister Briscoe, and you, Mister Gaines. Ah, I see Bobby at the doors. Please excuse me. I haven’t found much work in this town, so, if those men return to the wagon, I think I shall begin loading it.”

The doctor left and the Kid turned on Harry. “You’ve split us up. We were goin’ to watch the bank together. We have no idea how big this gang is, you know.”

“Harry is right. They rob the medicine men as well. So someone is gonna have to be at the wagon. And if the doctor starts packing, they’re gonna have to make their move tonight,” Heyes said calmly, drinking some beer.

“That’s right. This is it.” Harry seemed nonplussed, and confused as to what came next.

Heyes continued for him. “We can’t take them at the bank. We won’t get the middlemen that way; we’ll only get the cracksman and the look-out. They’ll probably go to the wagon after holding up the bank; stealing medicines or equipment isn’t as important as getting the money. That’s what I’d do at any rate. So Harry and I tail the robbers from the bank and pick you up at the wagon. Then we all follow them to wherever the men who they report to are staying.”

Briscoe stood. “Right. I’ll see you two tonight. Shall we say seven o’clock? I’ve got some paperwork to do. I’ll meet you at the bank, Smith, er Grant.”

“I suppose it’ll be all right,” said the Kid. “Anyway, I like Bobby. He seems like a real nice kid, and I keep thinkin’ he reminds me of someone I met somewhere. You know that feelin’, Heyes.”

“I do?”

“You know, where someone reminds you of someone else you liked but can’t remember. Wish I could. Suppose it don’t matter, though. He’s just a kid, anyway, so I couldn’t have met him before.”

&&&&&&&&

Heyes and Briscoe crouched behind some barrels across the street from the bank.

“What time is it?” Harry hissed.

Heyes took out his pocket watch, and squinted at it. “Too dark to read.” He started to stand, when a figure appeared out of the darkness. He dropped behind the barrel as the figure neared.

“It’s all right. It’s me, Robert. It’s getting awful cold so Father asked me to bring these to you.” He held out two steaming tin mugs.

“You could have been seen,” Harry complained.

“No, everything is quiet. There’s no one moving about, except for Father, myself and Brown and Smith. Mister Gaines wanted you to know they returned to the wagon. They’ve helped us pack up. We just finished. Father says I have to go to sleep when I get back so I might miss all the action. You will let me know everything that happens, won’t you?” He handed a mug each to Harry and Heyes.

“If anything happens, we’ll give you the complete story. What time is it, Bobby?”

“It’s early yet. It’s only eleven-thirty. The saloon only closed a half-hour ago. Father asked Mister Gaines, and Mister Gaines said he didn’t think the robbers would make a move this early, that they would probably wait until after twelve, more likely after one in the morning to make certain no one was about. Anyway, Mister Gaines agreed these would warm you up.”

Harry took a sip and coughed. “What the…what’s in this?”

“Mostly coffee, but Father added a little medicinal alcohol. Not much, but it tastes stronger than brandy or whiskey because it has so much medicinal flavor. I think it tastes sort of like metal.” The boy laughed quietly.

“You had some, Bobby?”

“Father let me have a few tastes, Mister Grant, before I came over, to keep me warm, he said. I’m hoping he’ll let me have a few more sips when I return.”

“Well, you better get back and claim those sips. Mister Briscoe and me wouldn’t want you out here much later in case those men decide on an early break-in.”

“Yes, sir. Good-night, sir. Good-night, Mister Briscoe.”

Harry grunted.

&&&&&&&&

As day broke, the early morning sunlight fell on the crumpled bodies of Harry Briscoe and Hannibal Heyes. Heyes raised his head, eyes blurry and unfocused. He struggled to sit up, tilted his head back against the wall behind him, and opened and shut his eyes repeatedly. He shook his head, looked down at Harry, and then pushed the Bannerman agent’s shoulder.

“Harry, Harry, wake up.”

Briscoe grunted. He spoke to the ground beneath his face. “Wha’ happened? My head’s got mules inside it dancin’ and kickin’.” He lay with one eye pressed against the dirt, so apparently that one was out of commission. The lid on the other eye flickered. “Heyes?” he questioned, wearily.

“I think we been drugged. Harry, what did you say that knock-out stuff was?”

“Chlerlll hydra.”

“Would a dentist have some of that?”

“Mmmm.”

“Up, Harry. Let’s get going.” He stared at the bank. The blinds to the window facing them were askew. Suddenly sober, he ran across the street, peered in the window and ran back.

He kicked Harry. “Up! Get up, Harry! Now! The bank’s been broken into!”

He dragged Briscoe up by the arm and pulled the man along with him to the lot with the tent and wagon.

He and Harry looked totally bewildered with what they saw. The lot that the tent and wagon had been parked on was bereft of wagon and tent, and entirely empty, except for the groaning bodies of the Kid, Doctor Hooke, and Robert.

Heyes ran to Curry to help him. “You all right?” he asked anxiously, his voice higher than usual by an octave.

As Heyes assisted the Kid, Harry saw to the dentist and his son. “They’re all right,” he shouted.

“Me too,” said the Kid. “What happened? I feel like I been kicked in the head by a mule.”

“Well at least you only got hit by one mule. You’re better off than Harry,” Heyes muttered in a relieved voice.

Doctor Hooke staggered about the lot, flailing his arms helplessly. “My wagon, my equipment, where is everything?”

“Looks like the gang decided to help themselves to the entire package, Doc. You had everything packed and loaded?”

The doctor nodded sadly at Heyes.

“It must have been easier to take it all than pick out stuff, I guess,” said the Kid, rubbing his head.

“Doc, what was in that drink last night?”

“Coffee and some alcohol.”

“None of that chloral hydrate stuff?”

“Bless you, no! That would have made us all unconscious.” The dentist’s voice trailed off as he took in his surroundings. “Robert and I were asleep in the wagon.” Heyes looked at the Kid who nodded. “But, we should have felt, no would have felt being moved—if—if we weren’t drugged.”

“You kept some of that stuff?”

“I have, had, two bottles. One was half-full, so I had recently ordered and received a second. I use it to calm the more nervous patients, to keep them still during treatment.”

“Did Brown and Smith know about it?”

“No. Wait, yes. Brown asked me if there was anything that he could take if he needed a tooth pulled. I thought, oh dear, I thought he was going to ask for treatment, and I showed him the bottles. He must have added it to the coffee and alcohol when I was otherwise occupied. I am sorry, I feel as if this is entirely my fault.”

“Doc, it ain’t your fault,” the Kid reassured the doctor, giving a downcast Robert a pat on the shoulder.

“Hey! Bank’s been robbed!” The shout came from down the street. Suddenly the town came alive, as men came running tying on gun belts, or carrying rifles. A woman’s head, topped with a white cabbage of a bed cap, peered out from a second-story window above the general store. Younger female heads with flowing hair popped out from windows above the saloon. Voices shouted all at once, and someone cried, “I think I see hoof prints here. Looks like we got us a trail.”

The sheriff could be heard organizing a posse. Soon the men were riding on their way.

“Mister Bannerman isn’t going to be pleased if they catch them,” said a glum Harry Briscoe.

“They ain’t going to catch them,” an assured Heyes said.

“They ain’t?” repeated Harry, perking up.

“They ain’t?” repeated Curry at almost the same time, skeptically.

“Nope. Not if this is like the other robberies. They may catch up to Brown and Smith, but not the fellas who actually robbed the bank.”

The Kid smiled. “I get it. The red trout.”

Heyes stared evenly at the Kid. “The red herrings,” he said slowly and distinctly. “But Brown and Smith won’t know anything, will they? And there won’t be any evidence connecting them to the robbery, right?”

“Right, good thinking, Grant.” Harry was alert now, chest raised. “We need to follow the trail of the real robbers.” Chest deflating he added, “Wherever that is.”

Heyes pushed Harry to where the wagon had stood on the vacant lot. “This is the trail we wanna follow if we wanna catch the robbers.”

“Right again, Grant. Let’s go!”

&&&&&&&&

Heyes, Curry and Harry were about to leave the livery stables when Doctor Hooke and Robert ran up to them.

“Mister Briscoe! Mister Briscoe! Before you leave could you sign this for me?”

“What’s this?” Harry looked at the paper the dentist handed to him, puzzled.

“It’s a note reading that my wagon and equipment have been stolen. I have insurance for them, you see.” The dentist stopped and reddened, looking somewhat uncomfortable and embarrassed. “That wagon is my livelihood. I don’t want to sound, well, you may not catch them, and if it is dangerous, and if you don’t return...Dear me, this sounds so...I cannot obtain compensation without some signatures. Official signatures…” He drifted, grasping for words.

Harry looked daggers at the hapless man, as Heyes and the Kid covered smiles.

“I won’t use it if you, I mean when you return. It’s just a precaution. You understand. I have to take care of Bobby. But I do need the signatures of men in authority as proof of my claim. Just in case that is,” the dentist finished, looking miserable.

“Sign it, Harry,” ordered Curry. Harry grunted and signed the paper.

“You won’t need it though. We’ll be back and we’ll have your wagon. I promise, Bobby.”

“I believe you, Mister Gaines.”

Robert waved after the men as they rode off.

&&&&&&&&

“Look. There she is.” The Kid pointed to the horizon.

“I don’t see anything,” said Harry.

“You gotta have faith, Harry.” Heyes raised himself off his saddle. “Good. I don’t see any riders. No one outside of the wagon. It’s probably only the cracksman and the fella who kept guard during the robbery. Let’s get them.” Heyes took his gun from his gun belt. The others did likewise and all three men rode in haste to the wagon.

“Hands up,” barked Harry.

A grizzled elderly man raised his hands.

“Where’s your partner?” demanded the Bannerman man.

“Partner?” queried the man in a raspy voice.

“Harry,” said the Kid.

“Is this a hold-up?” asked the man.

“No, it’s not a hold up. We are the law,” Harry said brusquely.

Heyes shut his eyes as if in pain, and opened them again gingerly. “Where did you get this wagon?”

“I bought it from that dentist fella. He sold it to me cheap, sayin’ he was retirin’. He said he didn’t need it no more as he had an uncle somewheres that died and left him all his money.”

The Kid and Harry exchanged dumbfounded looks as Heyes walked to the wagon. He went inside. Sounds of things being moved and tossed about could be heard by those waiting outside. When he came out, it appeared he was going to hit his head on the side of the wagon, possibly repeatedly. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”


“Huh?” asked Briscoe.

“Can I go?” asked the grizzled man.

Curry looked at Heyes who nodded. “Yeah, you can go.”

They watched the wagon depart. When it was out of earshot the Kid said, “You were saying somethin’ about bein’ stupid?”

“Yes! Me! Stupid! How could I miss it? It was the amnesty. It seemed so close. It blinded me.” He began to curse under his breath.

“What do you mean?” Harry was truly puzzled.

“An enormous organization, Harry? Run by a hidden mastermind behind the scenes? I should have known better. I should have known that if you believed it was a large gang I was on the wrong track.”

“Well, we didn’t catch them this time, but next time.”

“There isn’t any next time, Harry. Didn’t you hear what that man said? He’s retired. There ain’t going to be any more robberies.”

“Whoa there, partner. Are you sayin’ that Doctor Hooke was the robber? You can’t believe that. And what about Bobby? You sayin’ he has his kid helpin’ him rob banks?”

“Past tense, Kid. Had his kid helping him rob banks. You two know what’s in that wagon? Besides the dental stuff, what’s under the blankets and other supplies, I mean?”

“Uh no.”

“Banners. ‘Doctor Phineas Hooke, Painless Dentist. Phillip Morgan, Doctor of Medicine. Phillip Hooke, Medicine Man.’ Harry, did The Bannerman Agency even bother to get descriptions of the medicine men?”

“Well, no. They were victims, too. They weren’t under suspicion.” Harry froze in horror. “Oh, no, that paper. That paper I signed. He’ll collect the insurance. We’d better hurry back to stop him.”

“We can try. He’s probably long gone by now.”

&&&&&&&&

They slowed their horses on entering the town.

“It was so simple. That’s where we went wrong. All it took was two men, well, one man and a boy. He’d hire the drifters, which caused confusion. That’s one distraction. Then he’d ‘steal’ something of his own. He’d make sure the law knew he’d been ‘robbed,’ so that they wouldn’t be suspecting him. And people, being people, wanted it to be big. We did. We wanted a big case to solve. But all it really was -- was distractions, a few small banks, and insurance money. It added up though. He has enough to retire, if he don’t spend it all like most robbers, and somehow I don’t see him doing that.”

“I still can’t believe he’d involve his son,” said the Kid shaking his head.

“That kid was a pretty good shot, though, wasn’t he?”

They dismounted and entered the sheriff’s office.

Harry introduced himself, and his fellow ‘Bannerman men,’ to the sheriff.

“So you’re on these bank robberies, too?” asked the sheriff. “I don’t like interference from private detectives.”

“Sheriff, we’d like to work with you, not in competition with you, but time is getting short.”

“If you wanted to work with me why didn’t you introduce yourself earlier? I suppose you’ll be wanting to question Brown and Smith? Maybe, I should let you. I can’t get nothing out of them.”

“And you won’t. They weren’t in on the robbery.”

“If they weren’t, who was?”

“Have you seen Doctor Hooke today? Is he still in town?”

“Yeah, I saw him. Signed a paper for him for his insurance. Poor fella lost everything. Oh wait now, you ain’t sayin’ he?”

“Yes, we are,” replied Harry in a businesslike tone. “He’s the culprit. He sold his wagon and supplies. Having you sign a paper for his insurance company is to distract you.” Harry parroted Heyes’ points rapidly. “And he gets himself a bonus when they pay out.”

“Ralph! Ralph, come here,” the sheriff called out to his deputy. “You know where that dentist fella is?”

“Left town on the train, oh, I’d say right after you signed that paper for him.”

“You know where he was heading?” asked Heyes.

“Took the train west is all I know.”

“We’ll wire ahead. Give them descriptions of the dentist and the boy,” barked Harry. He turned back to the sheriff. “You didn’t get the name of the insurance company, did you? I can wire them, and when the claim is filed, we’ll let them know not to pay, and we’ll follow that lead.”

“Nope. Just signed a paper with what he wrote. He didn’t say the name of the company.” Shamefaced he continued, “He didn’t seem the criminal type.”

“No, he didn’t,” agreed the Kid.

“I’ll wire the Agency and see what we can find out about him under his aliases. But our best bet is if he’s picked up based on the descriptions.”

Harry left and walked to the Wells Fargo office to send his wires. Heyes and the Kid followed him outside.

“You think they’re gonna catch him, Heyes?”

“I think he’s prepared for this. We know his belongings weren’t stolen. He coulda kept a disguise or something. He and Bobby had plenty of time to hide anything they wanted to keep.”

“I still can’t believe he involved Bobby. What kind of a father would do that?”

“Maybe he wasn’t his father. Maybe he picked up the kid because he’s smart enough to play the game. I seem to remember a con man named Soapy, didn’t think it a problem to pick up stray kids. But if they go to Europe, maybe that life of crime is over.”

“Maybe. I hope so.”

_________________
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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By Hook or By Crook by CD Roberts :: Comments

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By Hook or By Crook Part 2 by CD Roberts
Post on Sat 01 Mar 2014, 3:54 pm by royannahuggins
Harry, Heyes and the Kid were in a diner eating. Heyes and the Kid were eating, that is. Harry was relaying his updates from the Bannerman Agency between gulps of food.

“He’s a dentist from back East. Got his training at a genuine dental school in Philadelphia. Used the name Phineas Roberts at that time. We’re not certain if it’s his real name, ‘cos there’s no background on him before that, but there’s various stories of a man resembling him involved in body snatching, and some other borderline activities. We think it may be how he paid his way through school. He opened a practice using the name Philip Roberts in Boston.”

“He was already usin’ assumed names?” asked Curry.

“Yep. Must have been too much competition in Boston. Moved to Albany.”

“Too much competition or maybe he got into too much trouble, and had to move,” pointed out Heyes.

“Yep,” agreed Harry. “He kept changing names and seems to have been getting into schemes that were questionable. Always had periods of going straight, though.”

“What about Bobby?” The Kid seemed pained as he asked the question.

Harry snorted. “We don’t know how they met, but we do know that three years ago Philip Jackson married Roberta Mackenzie. You wouldn’t have heard of her by that name, but you may know her by this one: ‘Bertha Bullet; the Petite Pistoleer.’ She wasn’t any Annie Oakley, but she can shoot pretty well. Traveled with one of them Wild West shows, with a sort of second rate Buffalo Bill, named Clyde Coyote.”

The Kid groaned.

“Let me guess,” offered Heyes. “They left on the train, and then somewhere switched from being father and son to husband and wife.”

“That’s what we think. So we missed them. Mister Bannerman thinks they left the country by now.”

“Will you send agents after them?” the Kid asked in a worried voice.

“Probably not. We still have no direct evidence pinning them to the crimes. The expense of finding them and bringing them back wouldn’t be worth it. The individual hauls from the banks won’t make it worth it, and no insurance companies have contacted us about any false claims.”

Harry stood, and flagged the pretty waitress. “The bill’s mine, boys. Courtesy of The Bannerman Agency.” He settled the account with the young lady, whose eyes kept settling on the Kid.

Heyes put down his cup of coffee after Harry left, and looked intently at the Kid. “Okay, what is it?”

“What is what?”

“You been acting funny ever since Harry mentioned Robert was Roberta.”

“Heyes, you remember I said Bobby reminded me of someone?”

“Kid, no.”

“Yep. There was a stage act in Denver about five years ago. Bertha Bullet and Bonnie Ballad, a singin’ and shootin’ act, if you can believe that. Not much of an act really. But boy was that Bonnie something. I sure wanted to get close to her. Bertha was sort of; well, too boyish, I didn’t pay her much never mind.”

Heyes laughed. “You didn’t help her with her shooting, did you?”

The Kid nodded. “Like I said, I wanted to get close to Bonnie.”

“Wait a minute. That was back when we were -- did she know who you were? She did, didn’t she? She knew who we were.”

“Uh huh. I guess we were lucky they were crooks, otherwise they mighta turned us in. I guess we should look on the bright side.”

“You mean other than wasting our time and money, getting drugged, and not getting anything out of it? Except a dinner paid for by The Bannerman Agency, that is.”

“Oh I dunno. It’s a pretty good dinner. Ma’am,” Curry called out to the waitress who pranced to the table. “Can I have another cup of coffee?”

“Oh yes, sir,” she beamed at him. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“You doin’ anything after work?”

“Well I wasn’t before, but I guess I am now,” she replied coyly.

Rolling his eyes, Hannibal Heyes stood up. He walked to the door, glanced back and left the diner. His departure went unnoticed by the pretty waitress and Kid Curry, who were deep in superficial conversation.



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By Hook or By Crook by CD Roberts

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