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 Hats - A tale of deception

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Lana Coombe

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Posts : 33
Join date : 2013-09-27
Location : UK

20140303
PostHats - A tale of deception

Hats

The tall, dark man sat easily in the saddle and rode towards his destination, at a steady pace.  He was in no real rush to get there but the sooner he did, the sooner it would be over.

The jagged forms of the buildings rose on the horizon in an eruption of mismatched shapes.  He reined his horse in for a moment to take in the view of the town where it would all end.   Taking a few breaths, to steady himself, he heeled his horse forward once more.

As he drew closer he noticed a small, fenced enclosure. The pointed, white, painted struts, which surrounded it, like sharpened teeth, seemed to grin at him wickedly.  Turning his horse in the direction of the graveyard, his attention was drawn to two rounded mounds to the side of the fence, outside the enclosed area.  

He guided his horse towards them, gazing at them unwaveringly.  Stopping close by, he dismounted, stepping smoothly down from the saddle.  Taking the few steps to the mounds, he stood before them, taking in the freshly dug earth, peppered with small stones.  The air hung still and heavy.  Quietness enveloped the sparse landscape. No breeze blew and the bare branches of a solitary tree, spiked the sky.

Reaching up, he took his hat from his head, held it to his chest and bowed his head respectfully for a few moments, before replacing it and turning back to his horse.  With one last glance over his shoulder, he remounted and set off towards the town.

The sun was beginning to set as he rode in, drawing long, dark shadows from the buildings.  He peered out from beneath the wide brim of his dark hat, scanning for one building in particular.  It wasn’t long before he located it, huddled between a milliner’s and a hardware store.  He felt a heaviness and tightness clinging in his chest, at the realisation that this was the last part of his journey - a journey he’d hoped he’d never had to make.  For the last couple of years he’d helped to try and avoid such a trip but now he was at journey’s end.  Best get it over with, sooner rather than later.

He hitched the reins over the post outside the sheriff’s office and purposefully took the two steps up to the boardwalk, feeling them sag and creak slightly under his weight.  His years in the job had taught him self-control, his outward calmness belying the turmoil he felt inside, something that came with experience and discipline.  At this moment he was calling on all his professionalism to make him walk through that door and face the inevitable.  

The room was like so many other town jails he’d visited over the years.  In the centre stood a battered, wooden desk, scattered with papers. Discarded, half eaten plates of food and half empty cups of cold coffee, left by the lawman when he had more than likely been called to duty, littered the top.  Behind the desk was a high back, moderately comfortable chair, the arms rests grubby and scratched with wear.  A pot bellied stove stood in the corner, ubiquitous coffee pot in place.

On the wall, to the right, was a board with the latest wanted posters, pinned haphazardly, overlapping one another.  A little further along was a locked gun cabinet and beneath it a tall cupboard, with one door partially open, revealing more paperwork, a gun belt and an assortment of objects that purported to be items acquired from various crime investigations.  His attention was drawn to a couple of items on the upper most shelf.  Sitting alongside all the other paraphernalia were two hats, one black, with silver studded band and one brown, decorated with silver buckles, inlaid with turquoise stone.

He stared at them, unable to acquiesce that these were the same hats that had once adorned the heads of two of the most affable and dynamic men he had ever known.  The bang of a door made him start and he looked up to see a figure emerge through the back door of the office.  Suddenly hit by a memory of such a moment, almost three years previously, in his own office, he faltered before bringing himself back to the present and the situation at hand.

“Marshall Trevors?”

He focussed on the man before him who had appeared from the back of the room.
“Yes,” he replied gruffly.

“You got here sooner than I expected,” the man said, fumbling with the fastening of his pants. He wiped his hand on his leg and proffered it to the Marshall.  “I’m Sheriff Long, the one who telegraphed you.”

“Guessed as much,” Lom mumbled.

“You want some coffee?” the Sheriff asked, moving towards the stove.

“No,” Lom replied sharply but added, more amiably, “Thank you.” No point upsetting the fella. “I’d like to get this over and done with as quickly as possible.”

The Marshall’s gaze turned once again to the cabinet.  The Sheriff regarded where his visitor was looking.  

“Got me some souvenirs,” he commented, reaching into the cabinet and retrieving the hats, passing the black hat to Lom, holding the wide brimmed brown one himself.

“So I see,” Lom replied dryly.

“Couldn’t believe my luck when those two were caught. They didn’t reckon on the boys from the Big S ranch being in town when they tried to rob the bank. No sir. They didn’t have a chance. Those cowhands jumped at the chance to apprehend such notorious outlaws. Gunned them both down as they tried to leave by the back door of the bank.”

Lom frowned at the man’s account of the events.  They must have been real desperate to act so rashly. It seemed so out of character but he was holding the proof, that it had been them, in his own hands.

“Afraid I’m going to have to keep these as evidence,” Lom told the Sheriff, taking the brown hat from him, who looked disgruntled but, on seeing the steely look in the Marshall’s eyes, backed off.

“Sure. I got me some other stuff.” He reached across to his desk and pulled open one of the draws.  “We were lucky enough to have one of those photographer fellas in town.  Set the bodies up on the sidewalk, in their coffins. Made them look real fine.”

Lom grimaced at the words. It repulsed him to think of them being treated in such a way.  Sheriff Long did not notice the change in the Marshall’s demeanor, as he was busily taking a large envelope from the draw. From it he pulled out a couple of photographs and held them out to Lom. The Marshall hesitated, not really wanting to see his friends displayed in such a way but knew he would have to take a look to satisfy his curiosity.

He gingerly took the proffered images and, taking a shallow breath, cast his eyes downwards to look at them. He stared at them for a good while, as the Sheriff wittered on about something or other.

There, in black and white were the images of two men, lying in plain wooden caskets, their arms crossed over their chests, their eyes closed in the rest of death.  Lom blinked and looked harder and then looked again, fighting the small twitch of a smile, which tugged at the corners of his mouth.

He had no idea how it had happened but was very glad it had. Just how had these two strangers, in the picture, got hold of Hannibal Heyes’ and Kid Curry’s hats?

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'If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor.'
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