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 Fate and Fortune by Coronado

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royannahuggins
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Posts : 419
Join date : 2013-10-13

20140315
PostFate and Fortune by Coronado









Virginia Christine as Widow Beaumont


Elisha Cook Jr. as the Scissors Grinder


Charles Lane as the Desk Clerk


Rita Shaw as Mabel


Lurene Tuttle as Florence


Sandra Gould as Gladys


Sophia Loren as Coralina


Anthony Stark as Sam Levitt


Dale Midkiff as Sheriff Thompkins


Gary Clarke as the Deputy


Don Collier as Sam the bartender


Laraine Stephens as Leah


Lee Cobb as the Doctor



“Meow,” Mrs. Beaumont heard, as she crossed the kitchen to put the teakettle on the stove.

“I’m coming,” she said to the impatient tabby cat sitting by the back door.

She pushed the door open. "Oh my!" she cried, as an old gentleman, slightly stooped, with graying hair stepped out of the twilight's shadows. "You startled me!"

He smiled, but didn’t say anything and she frowned for a moment. Then her expression brightened and she said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you. You’re the man who was sharpening my scissors.” She smiled at him and said, “I’ll just be a minute – let me get your money.”

Again he didn’t say anything and then suddenly he reached up and pulled a large piece of cotton out of each ear. “Sorry, ma’am,” he said apologetically. “I forget sometimes I’ve got these in my ears. That grindin’ wheel screeches somethin’ awful.”

She gave him a nod. “Of course, I understand.”

He held out a package wrapped in brown paper. “I’ve got your scissors for you.”

Taking the scissors, Widow Beaumont gave a nod. “I’ll just go and get your money.”

She went into the house and over to a small cabinet in the living room. Opening the drawer, she pulled out a small change purse and carried it back to the kitchen. Pausing a moment, she counted out a few coins and handed them to the scissors grinder.

"I've told all of my friends about you," she said. "I hope they'll be bringing their scissors to you, too."

He nodded his thanks and she waited until he had walked through her garden gate before she shut the door. She was drawing the curtains in the living room and heard the first tell-tale signs that the water was boiling in her teapot. Then the shrill whistle pierced the air and she grumbled to her cat, “Land sakes, that noise is so loud a body can’t hear herself think.”

Her scream suddenly shattered the night.

* * * * * *

Riding into the town of Larkin in the late afternoon, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry casually looked around. They passed the general store where a checkers game was taking place outside; several children were playing with a cat and her kittens outside the café.

Heyes murmured, “Pretty busy town, isn’t it?”

"Yeah, it’s bigger than I thought. Didn’t look like much when we saw it from up on the ridge.”

Riding past the sheriff’s office, they both wore expressions of unease as they saw the lawman standing outside the office, carefully scanning the street as they rode past, and they both gave a quick nod in his direction. Both of them sighed when they realized they didn’t know the man, and they turned to each other and gave a knowing grin.

They rode their horses to the hotel and dismounted. Walking inside, they went to the desk and Heyes pushed the ledger over for his partner to sign as the hotel manager greeted them with a smile. Just as the Kid was about to put his name in the book, Heyes commented to the manager, “Nice town you have here – seems pretty lively.”

The manager gave him an even broader smile and nodded. “Until it gets closer to sundown.”

Pausing after picking up the pen to sign the register, the Kid asked, “Why’s that?”

“Oh, that’s because of the murder.”

Immediately, Heyes pulled the ledger back from his partner.

The man continued, “Most folks want to be home before the sun sets.”

“Murder?” Heyes asked with a glance at the Kid.

“The Widow Beaumont.” The manager leaned forward and said in a whisper, “In her own house!” Then he went on in a normal voice, “But the sheriff has a suspect already.”

Heyes pushed the ledger back to his partner, and the Kid rolled his eyes as he picked up the pen again.

“Well, that’s good,” the dark-haired man nodded.

“’Cept the sheriff’s not sure he’s got the right man.”

Reaching over, Heyes plucked the pen out of Curry’s hand and gave the manager a smile. “Maybe we’ll just ride on to the next town.”

“No, we’re not,” the Kid took back the pen and signed his name with a flourish. “I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m NOT riding to the next town.” He gave the pen to his partner with a glare.

“Fine.” Heyes signed the ledger and looked up at the manager. “Just wondering, how was she killed?”

“Strangled.” The manager leaned forward and whispered loudly, “Right in her own kitchen!”

“Then I’m sure we’ll be fine, Joshua,” Curry said pointedly to his friend. “We don’t have a kitchen.”

* * * * * *

Sitting in the restaurant waiting for their meals to arrive, Heyes and the Kid could hear the quiet conversations of the other diners and the main topic was, as expected, the murder of the Widow Beaumont.

At the table next to them were seated three older women and the partners heard one say, "Did they find her sister in Ohio yet?"

"She doesn't have a sister in Ohio," the one closest to Heyes informed her companions. "She had a daughter in Texas."

"Are you sure, Mabel?" asked the third woman. "I could have sworn..."

"Definitely a daughter," answered Mabel.

"Well, I don't know about you two," the first speaker said, "But I think the sheriff's got the wrong man."

"Florence!" Mabel exclaimed. "How in the world can you say that? That gypsy was seen lurking around her house the day she was murdered!"

"That's because Widow Beaumont had asked Bruno, one of the gypsies, to help her paint the picket fence around her garden," Florence replied. "Gladys, you remember she told us about that."

Gladys nodded. "I do remember that. And I don't think he did it either." Heyes and Curry both glanced over to see her lean forward and announce to her companions, "He's got such kind eyes."

“And I’ve seen him with the little children,” Florence put in. “He always makes them laugh.”

"Kind eyes!" Mabel scoffed. "I wonder if those kind eyes were the last things poor Widow Beaumont saw?"

Conversation at the table halted as the women resumed their meal, and Heyes looked at the Kid. "Seems like there's a difference of opinion on whether the sheriff has the killer in jail or not."

The Kid snorted. "I'm sure the whole town has their own idea." Finishing his coffee he asked, "You ready?"

Nodding, Heyes signaled to their waitress and paid for their meal. They walked outside and paused for a moment on the boardwalk, watching as several colorfully dressed people paraded down the street. There was a man pulling a small, brightly painted cart with the words, "Dr. Good's Elixir," on the side. Another man played a flute while a small dog capered about his feet, dancing on his hind legs. Children were tagging along behind a woman who was handing out small, beaded bracelets to the girls and tiny, carved wooden animals to the boys.

"Gypsies," Heyes murmured. "Haven't seen any of them in a long time."

Heyes and Curry watched as a lovely young woman with black hair paused to say something to a group of the children and they laughed delightedly at what she said before she shooed them away.

Coming along the boardwalk was a man with brown hair and startlingly green eyes. He smiled at the young woman as she approached and tipped his hat to her. "Good evening, Miss Coralina. And how are you on this fine summer night?" His accent indicated he was from the South and she gave him an engaging smile in return.

"Very well, Mr. Levitt. And you?" She paused for a moment, waiting for his answer.

"Ahhh, couldn't be better." He stopped walking and unabashedly watched as she approached the two young men, whistling softly under his breath.

Her bracelets jingled musically as she stopped in front of them and laid a hand first on Heyes' arm, and then the Kid's. "If you gentlemen come by my tent later, I'll tell you your fortune," her voice was low and husky; her eyes an unusual shade of hazel.

Heyes smiled charmingly at her, but shook his head. "No thank you, ma'am. My partner and I have plans to spend the evening in the saloon, playing poker."

The whistler walked up to them and grinned. "Might want to hear what the lovely lady has to say, boys. I got here two days ago, and she told me I'd be coming into a lucky streak with the cards, and I'm still riding it."

"Well, Mr..."

Heyes paused and the Southerner answered smoothly, "Levitt. Sam Levitt."

"Mr. Levitt," the Kid continued for his partner, "I guess we'll find out if that lucky streak is still with you tonight."

"I love a challenge," the other man said. "After you, boys." He gestured towards the saloon with his hand.

When they reached the batwing doors, the partners turned and tipped their hats to Coralina, who watched them go into the saloon, a bemused expression on her face. "I'll be seeing one of you at my tent tonight," she said softly to herself.

* * * * * *

Heyes watched as the man across from him pulled yet another pot over to himself.

“Guess I’m just lucky tonight,” Sam Levitt commented to the other players.

“You don’t dress like a professional gambler,” Heyes observed as he reached for the deck to deal the next hand.

“Who says I am?” Levitt grinned, his gold incisor flashing.

Heyes gave him a knowing look, but didn’t answer. Still grinning, Levitt dropped his gaze and checked the cards that Heyes had dealt him. Levitt looked up at Heyes and a challenging gaze was exchanged between the two men.

The Kid watched the byplay between the gambler and Heyes. Sighing under his breath, he commented, “Looks like you’re gonna be playin’ awhile.” Pushing back his chair, he threw his cards on the table. “Deal me out. Gonna get some air,” he told Heyes as he walked past the table and out the batwing doors.

For a few moments, he stood on the boardwalk, breathing in the fresh night air and then began walking to the end of town, where the gypsies were camped. Brightly lit fires dotted the campsite as he walked among the tents, and the men and women smiled and called out friendly greetings. Not having any particular destination in mind, he was somewhat surprised to find himself approaching the fortuneteller’s tent.

Coralina was sitting outside, stringing beads and she gave him a knowing look as he approached. “You come alone?” she asked, her voice low and musical.

“Yeah, my partner doesn’t exactly believe in what you do.”

“And you?” she asked, a hint of amusement in her voice.

The Kid shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Come,” she led the way into her tent. “Let me see what I can tell you about your future.”

There were several lamps already lit, and Curry looked around curiously. The tent was warm and inviting, with bright pieces of fabric hung around the walls, and braided strings of yarn with bells hanging on them. Coralina sat down at a small table and indicated that the Kid should take the other chair. Once he was seated, she laid her hands down on the table, the palms facing up.

“Lay your hands over mine,” she instructed him.

“Don’t you look at cards or something?” he asked.

She smiled, her hazel eyes warm. “Some do. I like this way. It tells me more about a person.”

The Kid did as she asked, and she closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she looked directly at him and began speaking quietly. “You have been friends with the other man for a very long time. You grew up together, yes?”

As he listened to her, Curry tried to keep his “gunfighter” mask in place; his expression unreadable. “Our families’ farms were next to each other,” he told her. “We’ve known each other all our lives.”

Coralina smiled and then continued, “You do not have a place you call home, as you travel all the time. This is a necessity, not your choice.”

Curry hesitated a moment and then gave a quick nod of his head.

Once again she closed her eyes before speaking. “You once chose a path that you thought would bring you much wealth with little work,” she said.

The Kid heard an undertone of displeasure before she added, “But now you have chosen a much more difficult road and it is very hard for both of you.”

The Kid sat very still, hardly breathing, and before she could continue, he commented drily, “You seem to know an awful lot about us.”

Coralina inclined her head, opening her eyes to look intently into his face. "There have been many months," she paused and then closed her eyes again. "And many broken promises."

Startled, the Kid couldn't help an involuntary jerk of his body as he sat rigidly in his chair.

The moments ticked by as Coralina frowned.

"What?" Curry asked, his voice holding a worried tone.

"I see you have a friend -- a man with dark hair and something bright...He is a lawman, yes?" She didn't wait for an answer as she went on, "He is trying to help you with your quest for freedom, yet he answers to someone else who is the only one who has the power to give you what you seek."

The Kid stared at her, totally at a loss for words.

Coralina opened her eyes and squeezed his hands once before releasing them.

Sitting back in his chair, he asked, "Is that all? You can't tell me anything else? I thought you were supposed to be able to see into the future!"

Letting her gaze rest calmly on him, she smiled. "There are some for whom the future is not easy to read. You and your friend have a very long journey ahead of you. It is my belief that you will, eventually, be successful in what you seek. But," she gave a soft sigh, "I cannot see for certain."

Pulling some coins out of his vest pocket, he laid them on the table.

She could see the disappointment in his face and said sadly, “I regret that I have not been able to tell you the one thing you wanted to hear.”

Giving her a tight smile, the Kid said politely, “Thank you, ma'am," and got up from the table.

Her voice stopped him. "Do you have plans for tonight?" She wore a half smile and her expression rivaled that of any saloon girl whose company he had ever enjoyed.

"Ma'am?" he asked in a puzzled tone.

"Come," she said, taking him by the hand and leading him out of the tent. "My wagon is over here."

* * * * * *

As the first pale streaks of daylight appeared in the eastern sky, the Kid quietly entered their room and saw that Heyes was fast asleep. Pulling off his boots, he didn't even bother to get undressed before lying down on the bed. Not five minutes later, he was startled by a loud pounding on the door. Automatically reaching for his gun, he stared at Heyes, who was now wide awake.

Curry took his gun to the door and asked, "Who is it?"

"Sheriff Thompkins -- open up!" was the shouted answer.

Heyes gave him a nod, and the Kid unlocked the door. As soon as the sheriff and his deputy were in the room, the partners found themselves facing two guns leveled at them.

After a glance at his partner, who was slowly raising his hands, the Kid shrugged in resignation, handed his gun to the sheriff and also raised his hands.

"Mind telling me what's going on?" Heyes asked.

"There was another murder last night," Thompkins explained. "You," he indicated Heyes, "Get dressed. You're both coming with me."

"Who was murdered?" the Kid asked in bewilderment.

"Never mind that now -- you go with my deputy. I'll bring your partner along."

Curry shot an alarmed glance at Heyes, but the other man gave him a small nod and what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'm sure this is just a mistake, Thaddeus. We'll get it straightened out."

The deputy escorted the Kid over to the jail and quickly ushered him into a cell in the back. As the lock clicked shut, Curry gave a deep sigh and sat down on the bunk, his head in his hands. The deputy left him there and returned to the office, where the sheriff was bringing in Heyes. Pushing him into a chair, Sheriff Thompkins nodded to the deputy who went to stand by the front door.

"Okay, Smith. Now, I know you were playing poker most of last night, right?"

Heyes nodded.

"And when you quit for the night, you had lost most of your money, right again?"

Another nod.

"Did you go anywhere after you left the saloon? Before you went back to your room?"

Heyes stared at him for a minute. "Oh, no! Was it Levitt that was killed? Is that what you think -- that I killed him?"

"Just answer the question."

Forcing himself to remain calm, Heyes began, "I followed Levitt out of the saloon to ask him if he intended to leave town soon. He told me that he had planned to leave on tomorrow's stage. I was asking him if he'd change his mind so we could play again tonight."

"I guess he didn't like that idea?" Sheriff Thompkins asked.

"He said he'd think about it. I went back to the saloon, had another drink, and then decided to go to his room at the boarding house to ask him again."

"Did you argue?"

"Not really..." Heyes voice trailed off …"Well, maybe I raised my voice a little."

Sheriff Thompkins stood there for several seconds, studying the man in front of him. "And that was it?"

“I just told you,” Heyes repeated to the sheriff, trying hard to sound calm and reasonable. “I went to his room to ask him to stay another night so I’d have a chance to win my money back.” He closed his eyes in frustration for a moment and then, opening them, said, “Just ask my partner. He can tell you I was in the room all night.”

The sheriff looked at Heyes and ran a hand over his mouth. “Well, no, he can’t.”

“What?” Heyes asked incredulously. “Did you ask him?”

Instead of answering, the sheriff waved to his deputy, who opened the door leading to the area where the cells where. A moment later, the Kid was ushered in, and Heyes looked at him in confusion. “Thaddeus, tell the sheriff I was in our room all night.”

Before the Kid could say anything, the deputy spoke up. "Your partner already tried tellin’ us he was in your room with you all night, but I was on watch at the end of town and saw him come walkin’ back right before sunup.”

Curry looked down at his boots and gave a sigh. Looking at this partner, he shook his head. “Sorry, Joshua.”

Completely bewildered, Heyes stared at him. “But you were with me!” he raised his voice in exasperation.

The Kid looked away again for a moment, and then said, with a touch of embarrassment, “I didn’t get back to the room until just before day break.”

“Where were you?”

“Remember the fortuneteller?”

At Heyes’ nod, he continued.

“I went to see her. And,” once again there was a hint of discomfiture in his tone, “She invited me to go back to her wagon with her.”

Heyes stared at him. "I'm sitting here accused of murder and you were with a girl?!" His voice clearly conveyed his irritation.

Curry looked at the sheriff and now his voice held only determination. “My partner didn’t murder that gambler. He had no reason to.”

“That fancy pants took an awful lot of your friend’s money,” the sheriff insisted.

“He was cheating,” Heyes said disgustedly. “I just hadn’t been able to figure out how. I wanted him to stick around so I could catch him at it.”

The sheriff folded his arms across his chest and looked solemnly at the two men in front of him. "Okay, Smith, you’re gonna stay here with me. I made a mistake when I arrested that gypsy, but you two are strangers here. If anything happens tonight, I know you can’t be the murderer.”

Heyes threw the Kid a look of frustration, “Okay,” he said resignedly. “But what if nobody else is killed tonight? How long are you gonna hold me here?”

“Haven’t figured that out yet,” Sheriff Thompkins admitted. “But, for now, you’ll stay here in jail.”

"At least tell us this," Heyes began. "How was Levitt killed? I mean, since I wasn't there," he finished, his tone sarcastic.

Sheriff Thompkins chose to overlook Heyes' obvious aggravation as he gave a nod. "Well, I figure it won't do any harm to tell you. He was strangled. Same as the Widow Beaumont."

"And the money?" the Kid asked. "Since you seem to think that was why my partner killed him."

"Now that's the funny thing," the sheriff admitted, running his hand over his chin. "The money from the poker game was still in his room."

Throwing his partner a look of satisfaction, Heyes asked, "Then why would I have killed him if I didn't take the money?"

"Maybe you couldn't get back to his room," the sheriff suggested. "Or, you figured you'd wait and get it later."

"Where was he killed?" Curry asked.

"In the alley beside the hotel. There was a young lady at the hotel that heard your friend and Levitt arguing..." He put up a hand before Heyes could say anything. "Okay, talking loudly, heard Levitt leave his room later."

"We didn't quit playing poker until almost midnight," Heyes quickly put in. "Wasn't she sleeping? How did she know it was him?"

"Because he was whistling when he went down the hall. Seems he had a habit of doing that --kinda annoyed some people."

"Maybe Levitt cheated some other players out of their money," the Kid suggested. "You check with everybody else who played in that game? Or the ones before we got here?"

Thompkins nodded. "Yup. They're all local fellas and soon as they started losing, they got out of the game." He looked pointedly at the Kid, “Like your partner, here." Then, his gaze shifted back to Heyes, "Maybe you should've done the same thing, son."

"I wanted to find out how he was cheating," Heyes insisted. "I knew I could win my money back."

"Well, I guess we'll never know, will we?" the sheriff shrugged and looked at the Kid. "You got anything else to say to your friend? 'Cause I gotta lock him up."

Curry pushed himself off the wall where he had been leaning and shook his head. "No, not right now." He gave Heyes a nod. "Behave yourself."

* * * * * *

As soon as he left the sheriff's office, the Kid began walking to the gypsies’ camp. As he neared Coralina's tent, he saw her sitting outside. This time she was braiding colorful lengths of yarn, and she looked up as he approached.

"My friend's in trouble," he told her without any word of greeting.

Her face reflected her dismay as she nodded. "I know. I'm sorry."

"Joshua wouldn't do anything like that," he insisted. "He's not a violent man."

Coralina's gaze sharpened for a moment and then softened as she gave him a small smile. "You are wrong, Thaddeus. Your friend can be quite violent -- if someone he cares about is threatened. But to kill someone over money? No, that he would not do."

"When we got here, the sheriff had someone in custody, and I think I heard talk about it bein’ someone here. Who was it?"

She gestured with her head to a huge, powerfully built man with long dark hair who was washing her wagon. "It was Bruno. He is a deaf mute." She waited to see if Thaddeus understood and at his nod continued. "Because Bruno was helping the poor woman who was murdered, he was naturally the first to be suspected." Her expression became sad as she glanced over at Bruno. "He is very gentle, and very good with children. He likes to make them laugh with balloons and toys."

"How come the sheriff let him go?"

"Because when the woman was being murdered, Bruno was working at the livery. The owner of the livery needed someone to help with shoeing the horses as the blacksmith was hurt." Her eyes darkened with anger as she went on. Bruno tried, but could not make the sheriff understand where he had been. The stable owner was away visiting someone and did not get back until the next day, but finally convinced the sheriff that Bruno had indeed been at his livery at the time of the murder."

Looking over at the huge man, the Kid said thoughtfully, "It wouldn't have to be somebody big and strong to kill an old woman."

Nodding, Coralina reached out to touch his arm. "Is there anything I can do to help your friend?"

The Kid chuckled ruefully. "No, it's my fault. If I hadn't been with you...," his voice trailed off.

"Do not be so quick to blame yourself. You are Joshua's friend. Do not be fooled into thinking the sheriff would believe you if you said that he was in your room all night. Sheriff Thompkins is not a stupid man."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Do you know anybody who might have wanted to kill Levitt?”

Coralina shrugged. "He was a gambler. They make enemies. The question you should be asking is, why would someone murder an old woman and then a gambler? They didn't even know one another."

Thoughtfully, Curry nodded. "That's true."

* * * * * *

The Kid had a quick breakfast in the restaurant before he went over to the saloon, which was empty except for the man tending bar.

"Heard about your friend," the bartender said, pausing as the Kid came up to him. "Sheriff's got him locked up, huh?"

"Joshua didn't kill that gambler," Curry told him emphatically, his voice holding an edge of anger.

"I don't think he did either. That game stayed real friendly all night, even when your friend started losing." Putting out his hand, he said, "I'm Sam, by the way."

"Thaddeus Jones," the Kid replied as they shook hands.

"I've seen a lot of games in here get ugly, but your friend..."

"Joshua Smith," Curry told him.

"Right, Smith -- he was watching Levitt while he was playing. I could see he was trying to figure out how he was winning most of the hands. Over the two nights Levitt was here, most of the players figured he was cheating."

"Anybody in particular seem upset about it?"

"Well, I don't know. It was busy in here both nights...” He looked away for a moment, his brow furrowed in thought. "Wait, you might want to talk to Leah. She was bringing drinks to his table both nights."

The Kid looked around. "Is she here?"

"She’s upstairs with a customer. She shouldn’t be much longer."

A few minutes later, a young man came down the stairs, followed by a pretty blonde in a dark green dress. Sam walked over to her and they talked for a moment. Giving Sam a nod, she came up to the Kid and smiled warmly at him. "Hi, handsome. Sam tells me you wanted to ask me something about the poker games that gambler was in?"

Curry nodded and led the way over to a secluded table. "Can we get some coffee, Sam?" he asked.

"Sure, be right back."

Leah laid her arms on the table and leaned forward, a sympathetic expression on her face. "I was sorry to hear about your friend. Is he okay?"

"For somebody who's locked up in jail accused of murder, yeah, he's fine." The Kid couldn't help the disgusted tone that crept into his answer. Then he gave a shake of his head as he continued, "Sorry -- didn't mean for it to come out like that."

Sam brought over two coffees, and Leah gave him a nod of thanks and then turned her attention back to Curry. "What did you want to ask me?"

"Was there anyone playin’ with Levitt, either night he was in here, that you think was mad enough about losin’ to come after him later?" He took a sip of his coffee, waiting for her answer.

She sat quietly, her thoughtful gaze directed at the window behind him. After a few minutes, she frowned and picked up her cup, taking a small drink. "There was someone," she began, "But I didn't mention it to the sheriff because I know he didn't do it."

"How can you be so sure?" the Kid asked urgently. "Who was it?"

"Jason McCloud. His daddy owns the biggest ranch around these parts. He was playing here the night Mr. Levitt arrived and joined the game." She took another sip of her coffee and Curry waited patiently for her to continue. "You gotta understand something about Jason. He's a real nice boy -- he's only twenty -- but his daddy doesn't understand him. Jason's not much good at bein' a rancher. He's always got his head in a book and wants to go to school back East. His momma died when he was ten and his daddy's always tellin' him to grow up and be a man."

She paused and the Kid gave her a small smile. "You ever…uh, ever take Jason upstairs?"

Leah gave a soft laugh. "His daddy paid me to spend the night with Jason. Wanted me to turn him into a man." Her look became pensive as she said, "We talked most of the night 'cause Jason was so nervous with me. Finally I got him to relax enough so that we could, well, you know..."

Curry couldn't help grinning. "So, why do you say Jason couldn't have killed Levitt? Because he likes books and not guns?"

"Because Mr. McCloud came in the saloon and saw that Jason had lost just about everything he had on the table. He got real mad and told Mr. Levitt he had to give his son back his money. I guess Mr. Levitt figured that it wasn't worth trying to go up against one of the most powerful men in the territory, and he handed Jason back everything he'd won from him."

"What about McCloud? Maybe he was mad about Jason losin’ to a professional? Mad enough to kill Levitt?"

Leah shook her head and laughed again. "You don't know Mr. McCloud. If he wanted to kill the gambler, he would have called him out and shot him in the middle of the street. Mr. McCloud doesn't sneak around alleys at night."

"He could have hired somebody to do it. Figured nobody would suspect him since he was killed the same way as Miz Beaumont."

Again, Leah shook her head, this time more forcefully. "It wasn't Jason or his daddy. I just know it. That's why I didn't say anything to Sheriff Thompkins."

Finishing his coffee, Curry stood up. He pulled some coins out of his pocket and set them down on the table. "Thanks for your time. If you think of anybody else, let me know."

I will." Giving him a warm smile she picked up the money. “And thanks.”

Leaving the saloon, the Kid stood on the boardwalk, looking up the street.

Sheriff Thompkins came up to him and asked, "Learn anything new, son?"

"No, nothing useful," Curry's voice held clear frustration.

"Yeah, that's kind of the way things went for me, too." They stood there in silence, watching the comings and goings of the townspeople, and then the sheriff asked, "Where're you headed now?”

"I have no idea. I talked with the girl who served at Levitt’s table both nights, but she said that there wasn’t anybody that got real mad about losin'."

Thompkins nodded. "I went around and spoke to most of the players and they all told me the same thing. And nobody lost that much before they decided they were in over their heads..." he gave the Kid a significant look, "Except your partner."

"I already told you," Curry said wearily, "Joshua wouldn't have killed him because he lost in a poker game. It's not just the losin' with him, it's how he's gettin' beat. He wouldn’t be able to sleep at night until he figured out how it was bein’ done." He blew out a sigh of frustration and then asked, "Okay with you if I spend the night in the cell next to him?" He gave a sardonic grin. "You can make sure both of us stay in one place."

"It's okay by me," Thompkins replied. "I'll see you later." He turned as if to go and then asked, "Just so I know, where are you gonna be for the next few hours?"

"I guess I'll exercise my horse," the Kid told him. "Then I'll come back and take Joshua's out.” He added sarcastically, “Maybe you should have your deputy ride with me to make sure I don’t ride out an’ don’t come back."

"That won't be necessary," the sheriff said, a faint smile on his face. "But thanks for the suggestion."

* * * * * *

Heyes looked up as he heard the door open, and asked in surprise, “What are you doing here?”

The Kid had his bedroll under his arm and a blanket. “Well, I figured if you had to spend the night in here, ‘cos of me, the least I could do is keep you company.”

He opened the door to the adjoining cell and threw his bedroll down on the bunk. Heyes watched him and then asked, “Sheriff okay with that?”

Pulling a deck of cards out of his pocket, Curry nodded. “Said this way he could keep an eye on both of us.”

In spite of his rather dire circumstances, Heyes couldn’t help grinning. “I guess that makes sense.”

The sheriff came in a few moments later and found them playing poker with the cell bars between them. “Looks like you boys are settled in for the evening,” he commented. “You want some coffee? Just made a fresh pot.”

They both nodded, and he quickly returned with two steaming cups.

“Thanks,” Heyes said, as Sheriff Thompkins pushed it through the slot in the door.

“Much obliged, Sheriff,” the Kid nodded as he took his cup.

The lawman leaned against the open door of Curry’s cell and gave them a half smile. “Just so you boys know, I really don’t think Smith here is guilty. But, I’ve got a duty to the town, you understand. You’re both strangers here and that naturally makes people nervous.”

“But we weren’t even in town when Widow Beaumont was killed,” Heyes protested.

“I know you weren’t in town,” Thompkins replied, “But that doesn’t mean you weren’t camped nearby.”

“What reason would we have to kill her?” the Kid asked. “People were talkin’ about how nothin’ was stolen.”

Rubbing his chin, Thompkins gave a slow nod. “Yeah, I thought of that. And I don’t have an answer. But until this thing is cleared up, Smith here’s gonna have to stay in jail.” He stepped back and closed the door to the Kid’s cell and turned the key.

Before Heyes could say anything, his partner told him quickly, “It’s okay. He’s gotta make his rounds and he can’t take the chance I’ll get you out somehow.”

“Okay,” Heyes said in a disgruntled voice and then added, “Guess that makes sense.”

The sheriff left and they went back to their card game. Several minutes later, the Kid looked at his partner. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“You’ve been wantin’ to ask me something ever since the sheriff left. What is it?”

“You know, sometimes it can be downright irritating the way you do that.”

“Do what?” the Kid asked innocently.

“Know when I want to ask you a question.”

Curry shrugged. “Can I help it if that poker face doesn’t work on me?”

“Hmmph,” Heyes muttered. “So,” he began casually, “What did the fortuneteller have to say?"

Holding back a grin, the Kid didn’t answer immediately. He looked away for a few seconds before he said, “She knew a lot about us, Heyes.” His voice was quiet and serious. “She knew we grew up together. She said that "we once chose a path that we thought would bring us much wealth with little work, but …” He paused for a moment, trying to remember the rest of what she had said. “Now you have chosen a much more difficult road and it is very hard for both of you,” he finished quoting.

Then his voice trailed off and he looked earnestly at his friend. “She said some other things, about how it had been many months and many broken promises. And then she mentioned a dark-haired man who was a lawman and was our friend, and then about how that friend had to answer to someone else." His words were hurried and he looked at his partner, an uneasy expression on his face.

He paused, and Heyes broke in, skeptically, “Do you think she knows who we are?"

The Kid shrugged. "I don't know. I don't think so, unless you think she had the sheriff tell us that story about Levitt just so he could lock us up."

Heyes looked at him for a moment. "That's pretty smart thinking, Kid," he said, admiration in his voice.

* * * * * *

The soft click of the key in his cell door brought Heyes wide awake, and he blinked at the sheriff.

“Mornin’,” Thompkins said, in a quiet voice.

“Morning.” Heyes rubbed his face and glanced over at the next cell where the Kid was still sleeping. As he watched, the sheriff swung the door open and gestured to Heyes.

“Come on. You’re free to go.”

Stretching and yawning, Heyes looked at him for a moment. Then comprehension dawned in his expression and he shook his head. “Someone else?"

The Sheriff unlocked Curry’s cell and looked at Heyes. “Yeah, there was another murder last night.” Glancing over at the Kid he remarked, “He sleeps pretty sound, doesn’t he?”

“You have no idea,” Heyes said, but there was no humor in his voice. “Thaddeus!” he said loudly. “Get up!”

Opening his eyes, Curry sat up and regarded them groggily. It took him a few seconds to take in the open cell doors and he looked at Heyes, who nodded. “Damn,” he said softly. “Sorry, Sheriff. I mean, I know we’re in the clear since we were locked up, but we weren’t wishin’ for somebody else to be killed.”

“I know that,” Thompkins assured them. “And I'm sorry, too.”

Gathering up his hat and coat, Heyes asked, “Who was it?”

“One of the gypsies. The fellow that played the flute.”

“The one with the little dog?” the Kid asked, as he came out of the cell and joined Heyes.

“Yeah, it was the dog’s barking that got somebody curious, and they came to see what was wrong. Poor thing was standing over the man’s body, trying to wake him up with the barking.”

Curry glanced at his partner and they both put on their hats. Heyes reached out his hand to Sheriff Thompkins. “Thanks for the hospitality, Sheriff. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope we don’t have to do this again.”

The sheriff shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.” They walked to the outer room, and Thompkins turned to them and asked, “You boys planning on leaving town today?”

Another glance was shared between them, and the Kid asked, “Why? Some reason why we can’t?”

“No, not at all.” The sheriff hesitated and then added, “I was hoping I could ask your help with something. I’ve asked a few men to help me with patrolling around town tonight. I’d be obliged if you two would agree to help out.”

Heyes opened his mouth to speak and Curry put his hand on his friend’s arm. “Let us think about it, okay?”

“Sure, sure. Just let me know one way or the other.” Thompkins opened the door and the partners walked out.

Standing on the boardwalk, the Kid looked over to the restaurant and sighed loudly. “I’m sure hungry. Think we could go get breakfast?”

Heyes nodded, and when they were seated and waiting for their meal, Heyes asked, “What you said back there, were you serious? About helping the sheriff?”

“Yeah, I was. What’s wrong with walkin’ around town at night?”

Leaning forward, Heyes said quietly, but emphatically, “I don’t like it!"

“What’s the problem with it?”

“This isn’t our problem. We don’t live here -- we’re only passing through.”

“So?” the Kid insisted. “I still don’t see what’s wrong with helpin’ the sheriff out. He’s been pretty decent about everything.”

Raising his eyebrows, Heyes stared at him. “You weren’t the one accused of murder.”

“No, but he told us he didn’t think you did it.”

Not willing to concede the point, Heyes snorted. “I was still in jail.”

Their breakfast was served and, when they had finished, they walked outside. Curry glanced over to the edge of town where the gypsies were camped. “Come on, I want to talk to Coralina.”

Heyes nodded and when they approached the camp, they saw the gypsies going about their daily chores quietly, with little conversation, and the children wore somber expressions. Coralina was helping another woman who was working on a quilt, and she got up when she saw them coming towards her.

“I’m sorry,” the Kid began, and she laid a hand on his arm.

“Thank you. But you must not stay. We have many preparations to make and you are strangers who would not be welcome.” She turned to Heyes. “I am glad that the sheriff no longer had a reason to detain you.”

“I wish it didn’t come at the expense of your friend,” he offered, apologetically.

“Jal would be glad that his death served to set someone free,” she assured him. Her lovely eyes looked into the Kid’s blue ones as she said, “I enjoyed your company the other night…Jed.”

Heyes threw her a startled look that matched the expression on his partner’s face, but before he could say anything, Coralina turned to Heyes. “I believe that it will be some time before you receive what you seek, but faith is a wonderful thing. You will do well to remember that.”

At a loss for words, Heyes nodded and Curry managed to reply, “Thank you, ma’am. We will.”

She nodded and glanced over at the other woman who sat watching them, her face devoid of any expression. “I must go,” Coralina told them hurriedly. “Be safe on your travels.”

With a rustle of skirts, she turned away, and the partners began walking back to town. “I’m ready for a bath and some clean clothes,” Heyes said, as they neared the hotel.

“Yeah, sounds like a good idea,” the Kid agreed.

* * * * * *

As they were relaxing on the front porch of the hotel, each puffing contentedly on cigars, Heyes joked, “I can almost hear you thinking from here.”

The Kid turned to him, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I was thinking about what Coralina had said,” Curry admitted.

“About faith?”

“No, about the fact that the widow and the gambler didn’t know each other. And the gypsy…”

“Jal,” Heyes put in.

“Right, Jal. He didn’t really know them either. So, why were they killed? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Maybe we should be looking at it differently,” Heyes suggested. “What was each of them doing when they were killed?”

“Nobody’s ever said what the widow was doin’,” the Kid told him.

Heyes grinned. “Except we do know she was in her kitchen.”

Rolling his eyes, Curry offered, “What about the gambler?”

“He seemed to be whistling most of the time. Maybe somebody didn’t like what he was whistling.”

“And now there’s the gypsy.”

“Jal…he played the flute with the little dog dancing,” Heyes added.

A few moments passed and then the Kid blurted out, “That’s it, Heyes! We know that Levitt and Jal were making noise of some kind. Maybe certain sounds bother the killer, and he has to kill them to shut them up!”

Heyes stared at him, his expression one of disbelief. “Are you serious? You tell the sheriff that theory and he’s liable to lock us both up for coming up with something so crazy.”

“Well,” the Kid told him seriously, “Maybe the person doin’ the killin’ is crazy.”

“Maybe so. Let me think about it and I’ll let you know if we should tell Thompkins.”

“What about agreein’ to helpin’ him out?” the Kid asked. “I think it would be a good idea -- maybe we could tell Lom about it and he could tell the Governor. Might help out with, you know…”

Heyes shrugged. “I guess it can’t hurt,” he agreed.

After dinner, they went over to the jail to find four men listening to Sheriff Thompkins’ instructions. “So you boys decided to help out?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer continued, “Okay, everybody’s got a section of town to cover. Stay where you’re assigned -- don’t leave your section unless you hear from me, got it?” There were murmurs of assent from the group of men and the sheriff added, “You men go on and I’ll let Smith and Jones know where they’re supposed to be.”

He had a map of the town spread out on his desk with different names in areas—including the names Smith and Jones. Heyes pointed to the area around the hotel and commented dryly, “Smith. Guess you had an idea we’d show up tonight?”

Thompkins smiled. “More like hoping.” He turned to Curry and pointed to the building marked on the map, and said, “I’ve got you over here, over by the saloon.”

The Kid nodded and asked, “Where will you be? In case we need you?”

“I’m going to be walking up and down the streets all night -- just holler or fire a shot in the air if you need me.”

“Okay,” Heyes told him and they left, giving each other a nod as they went to their assigned positions.

The Kid walked around the saloon a few times, but it was still busy inside with men coming and going. “Probably nothin's gonna happen here 'til they close for the night,” he mumbled to himself.

Heyes was doing to the same thing at the hotel, watching as a few people were walking in and out. One of the deputies passed him and asked, “All quiet?”

“Yeah,” Heyes answered. “Nothing unusual going on that I can see.”

The deputy nodded and went to his assigned position at the north end of town.

Several hours later, the streets were almost deserted, and only a few men were seen leaving the saloon. As soon as the last one left, Sam ushered the girls out onto the sidewalk and told them all goodnight.

They were laughing about something as they walked past the Kid, and then one of them exclaimed, “Oh, wait! I need to get my shawl. I left it upstairs.”

Curry laid his hand gently on her arm and shook his head. “Might not be a good idea to leave your friends. Where are you ladies headed?”

“Oh, down to Mrs. Flannery’s boarding house,” Leah told him, as she pointed to the end of the street. “The big white house.”

“Well, okay,” the Kid hesitated and then turned to Leah. “You go on and get your shawl. I’ll wait out here for you and walk you down myself.” As she turned to go back into the saloon, he turned to the other girls. “My partner’s over by the hotel, and I’ll watch you walk down there.”

“Why thank you so much,” the dark-haired girl told him demurely.

As they walked away, he could hear one of them say, “That Mr. Smith is just so nice, isn’t he? With those blue eyes!”

“Oh, Deirdre! That’s not Mr. Smith,” one of the other girls chided her. “That’s Mr. Jones. Mr. Smith is the one the sheriff had in jail.”

“Really?” Deirdre sounded puzzled. “I get them confused -- they look so much alike.”

Shaking his head, the Kid listened as they giggled and teased Deirdre about how she could mistake one for the other when one had “hair the color of golden wheat” and the other one had hair that just “begged a girl to run her hands through it.”

Curry watched as the girls made their way past the hotel, where he saw Heyes tip his hat to them and heard their peals of laughter as they said goodnight to him. After seeing them reach the porch of the boarding house safely, he realized that Leah hadn’t come back. “I wonder what’s keepin’ Leah?”

* * * * * *

Walking through the saloon, the Kid looked around for Leah, but didn’t see her.

“Leah?” he called out, but there was no answer. “And where’s Sam?” he muttered to himself as he continued through the main room and into the storeroom at the back of the saloon.

Just as he was about to turn around, a shrill scream pierced the night and he ran down the hallway and out the back. Light spilled out from the open door enough so that he could see Leah’s struggling in the arms of a man who had a death grip around her throat. As the moon slipped out from under a cloud, the two struggling figures became clearer. The Kid almost drew his gun, but muttered in frustration, “Can’t take a chance…they’re too close together.”

Curry lunged forward and got his hands around the man’s upper body, trying to break the grip he had on Leah, but the killer held fast and the Kid hung on desperately, trying to twist the man around so he would let the girl go. Suddenly, Leah stamped down on the killer’s foot and his grip slipped enough so that she could wriggle free.

Turning his attention on Curry, the other man swiftly reached down and grabbed something off the ground. Moonlight glinted off its surface and the Kid saw it was a knife. Glancing down, Curry realized there were more knives and scissors scattered on the ground and he looked up just in time as the other man swung the blade in a downward arc. Ducking quickly to avoid being cut, he was only partially successful as he felt the tip slice through his forearm and he howled in pain.

The killer brought the knife up again, but was suddenly knocked to the ground as Heyes tackled him from the side. The sheriff came running and he and Heyes were able to subdue the man in a matter of seconds.

Sam came running out of the saloon and immediately went to Leah, who had collapsed on the ground, trying to catch her breath. By now a crowd gathered and there were murmurs from several people…

“Look -- it’s the knife grinder…”

“Who would have thought it was him…”

“Not me, that’s for sure…”

One of the deputies arrived to help Thompkins hold onto the killer while Heyes went over to his partner.

“You okay?” he asked anxiously, looking at the Kid’s forearm, the white shirt stained with blood. “Here,” he took off his bandana and quickly wrapped it around the wound. “Let’s get you over to the doc’s, and then we can come back and talk to the sheriff.”

The Kid nodded and drew a shaky breath. “Good thing you came when you did. I wouldn’t have been able to hold him much longer.”

“Hey, that’s what partners are for,” Heyes told him as they walked past the group of onlookers and down the street to the doctor’s house.

* * * * * *

As Heyes watched Doc Stevens clean and re-bandage the wound, he said with a trace of anxiety, “That was close, Thaddeus.”

“Yeah, it sure was.” The Kid shook his head. “Never figured him for a killer, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. From what people were saying after you caught him, nobody else did either.”

The doctor gave Curry back his shirt and commented, “Sure seemed like a nice enough fellow -- sharpened all of my instruments for me. Did a real good job. Shame it turned out like this.”

After he had finished putting his shirt and coat back on, the Kid asked, “What do we owe you?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. You saved Leah’s life for sure and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sheriff tries to offer you boys some kind of reward.”

They thanked him and made their way outside and over to Sheriff Thompkins’ office. The crowd of people had dispersed and the streets were empty. The sheriff was at his desk and he looked up as they entered. “You okay, Mr. Jones?”

“Yeah, just a scratch.”

“Pretty deep scratch,” Heyes elaborated, as he took a seat in one of the chairs. He nodded toward the back where the jail cells were. “You ask him why he did it?”

The sheriff threw down his pencil and leaned back in his chair, lacing his hands behind his head. “Yeah, I did. Says he didn’t mean to hurt any of ‘em. It was the noises, he said.”

“Noises?" the Kid asked in surprise, before he looked at Heyes with a smirk. “Really?”

“The widow was making tea and he had come back in to give her change -- she had given him too much money. He wore that cotton in his ears because of the grinding wheel making so much noise. He took it out to talk to her and when she turned around she must’ve been scared and screamed. Then that teakettle started whistling and he killed her.”

“And the gambler was whistling, wasn’t he?” Heyes asked.

“Yeah, he was. And it was the gypsy’s flute playing that got him killed. That and the dog barking.” The sheriff shook his head. “Never heard or seen anything like this. Usually it’s over money, or…" he grinned, “A female.”

“So, are we free to go?” the Kid questioned.

Thompkins hesitated and the partners exchanged uneasy looks. Then he gave a slow nod. “You’re welcome to leave any time you want, but I’d consider it an honor if you’d let us put you up for a few days. The town wants to say thanks for what you did tonight. We can give you free room and board for up to a week if you want to stay.”

Heyes stood up and looked at the Kid. “Let us sleep on it, okay Sheriff? My partner needs to get some rest and we can give you our answer in the morning.”

“Fair enough.” The sheriff got up and came around the desk to shake first the Kid’s hand and then Heyes’. “See you boys tomorrow.”

When they were settled in their room, both stretched out on the bed, Heyes asked, “How’s the arm?”

“Kinda throbs a little, but not too bad.” He looked at his partner and grinned. “So, my idea was crazy, huh?”

Rolling his eyes, Heyes said grudgingly, “Okay, so you were right. Happy now?”

The Kid nodded. “Yup,” he answered with great satisfaction. “So,” he continued, “What do you think of the sheriff’s offer?”

Heyes didn’t answer right away and then gave a slow shake of his head. “I don’t know, Kid. If you’re up to it, I think we might want to ride out of here tomorrow. I know the sheriff and the town are grateful to us and all that, but sometimes being just two strangers is a bad thing.”

Curry cocked his head at this partner and asked, “Huh?”

“Think about it, everybody’ll be wanting to buy us drinks at the saloon, maybe get a few invitations to supper…”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“It is when they start asking too many questions.”

“Yeah,” the Kid replied thoughtfully. “I see what you mean.”

“So, we’ll have breakfast tomorrow and then ride out. Safer that way.”

Knowing his partner was right, the Kid couldn’t help a regretful sigh. “Too bad about those supper invitations,” he said ruefully.

“Too bad about the drinks at the saloon,” Heyes put in.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing Coralina one more time,” Curry grinned. “Seein’ as how I don’t have to worry about you bein’ locked up for killin’ somebody.”

“Yeah, you never did tell me how all that came about.”

Shrugging, the Kid answered, “She told me she saw me spending the night with a lovely lady with dark hair. And I reckon she was right.”

Heyes only response was a snort of laughter and after a moment his partner joined in. “She have any friends as pretty as she is?”

“What do you care? We’re leavin’, remember?”

“Hmmm, maybe we should sleep on it…” was Heyes’ response just before he reached over and turned out the light.




(Writers love feedback! You can let Coronado know how you enjoyed the story with a quick comment. Just Post Reply to the Comments for Fate and Fortune 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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Stories: Alias Smith and Jones  :: Virtual Season :: Virtual Season 2010/2011-
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