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 The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

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PostThe Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie



Harry Briscoe is looking for a few good men...and a couple pretty good bad men too.


Starring

Pete Duel
as Hannibal Heyes
Ben Murphy
as Kid Curry

Co-Starring (by order of appearance)


Tom Poston as Sam Bogart


J. D. Cannon as Harry Briscoe


Doug McClure as Sheriff Whitaker


Brian Keith as Sutetonius Stevens



The Briscoe Agency
by RosieAnnie


Two dusty riders climbed down slowly from sweaty horses. Tying the horses up to a hitching post in front of a saloon, the men stretched stiff backs.

“What do you think, Kid?”

“I’m not thinkin’. I’m too busy tryin’ to decide what I want more, a beer or a beer.”

Heyes gave his partner the one-eye closed look. “How do you figure that?”

“Don’t matter,” Kid Curry said. “Either way, I get what I want.”

Passing through the swinging doors, the men took a quick glance around. Four farmer-types were idly playing cards. The bartender was absorbed in a dime novel, but looked up at the sound of the batwing doors squeaking.

“Afternoon, gents, I’m Sam Bogart, proprietor and barkeep. What can I do for you?”

Heyes leaned his forearms on the bar. “Pleased to meet you, Sam. I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s Thaddeus Jones. A beer for me. You decided yet what you want, Thaddeus?”

“Make that two.”

Sam picked up two steins. “Is that one for each of you, or one for you and two for you?”

“Might as well make it two for me,” Curry said. “That’ll save you a trip.” The bartender placed the cold glasses before them. They took long, appreciative drinks.

“You new in town?” Sam asked.

“Yep. Looking for work,” Heyes said. “Have you heard if anybody’s hiring?”

“Depends on what kind of work you’re looking for.”

“Oh, we’re not too particular. Anything that’s honest and not too hard on the back.”

“Well, there’s always ranch work.”

“Thanks anyway,” Curry said. “We’ll probably ask around town later.”

“Say, who’s sheriff these days?” Heyes asked. “Is it still Bob Prendergast?”

“Never heard of Prendergast,” Sam said. “Hope you didn’t plan on a reunion. Tommy Whitaker’s been sheriff a couple years now.”

“Nope. I heard Prendergast had moved to New Mexico a couple years ago, but not exactly where. Just checking.”

Sam returned to his dime novel as the two men drank their beers in companionable silence. Heyes turned around and leaned back against the bar, casually watching the room and the people walking by outside on the boardwalk. A few minutes later, Curry’s elbow poked into his side. At Heyes’ inquiring glance, Curry nodded towards the bartender. Sam was staring at them intently.

“Something we can do for you?” Heyes asked.

Sam folded his novel in half and jammed it into his waistband. “Matter of fact, maybe I can do something for you. Mind if I ask you a question?”

“You can ask,” Curry said.

“You know anything bounty hunting?” Both men tensed slightly. Sam didn’t seem to notice.

“Now that’s a funny question,” Heyes said. “What makes you ask that?”

“The way you look and how you wear your guns, you look like you can take care of yourselves. I just remembered; there’s someone who’s hiring men who’ve got experience with the law. That describe you?”

“Oh yeah, we got that. Lots of experience. Wouldn’t you say so, Joshua?”

“I don’t know if I’d say LOTS of experience, Thaddeus. We got some. Though experience with the law ain’t always the same thing as being bounty hunters, now is it, Sam.”

“You’d have to ask him more about that. He told me to be on the lookout for men like you. And it’s honest work, too. If you think you’d be interested, I can tell you where – hey, here he is right now! Now if that ain’t a coincidence!”

Heyes and Curry turned in unison, each wearing a big smile, until they caught sight of the new arrival, a dark-haired mustachioed man wearing a suit and homburg. Three jaws dropped. The dark-haired man recovered first.

“Boys! I can’t believe it! I was just thinking about you two!”

Heyes and Curry were too surprised to say more than two words. “Harry Briscoe!!”


-----

The three men sat around a corner table, quietly catching up over glasses of whiskey. Harry took long, comfortable drags on his cigar.

“Boys, seeing you here today, this is real fortuitous.”

Curry’s glance at Heyes begged for a translation.

“I don’t know if I’d say it was as lucky as that, Harry, but it sure is a surprise.” Curry flashed a look of gratitude to Heyes for the smooth explanation.

“Sure it is, Heyes... I mean, Thaddeus.”

Curry whispered, “I’m Thaddeus, he’s Joshua.”

“Course, boys, of course. Just checking.”

“What’s this about you hiring bounty hunters?” Heyes asked.

“Aren’t you workin’ for Bannerman anymore? You didn’t get fired again, did you?”

“No, no, boys. I didn’t get fired. My job was eliminated, that’s all. I’m on my own now.”

Mystified, both men looked at each other, and then at Briscoe. “What are you talkin’ about?” Curry asked.

“It’s simple, boys. Bannerman sold some offices to Pinkerton, including Denver. Pinkerton wanted the accounts, but not the agents. I’m out of a job along with every other agent from the Denver office. That’s when I decided it was time to go into business for myself.”

“But why bounty huntin’?”

“Well I can’t just copy Bannerman’s business model, boys. That’s been done. If I’m going to stand out from the Bannermans and the Pinkertons, I’ve got to specialize. And bounty hunting is the way to make serious money.”

Heyes and Curry didn’t look impressed. Or happy. Suddenly, light dawned on Briscoe.

“Nothing personal, boys. It’s just business.”

“I can’t believe Bannerman let you go so easily after you did so much for them,” Curry said.

“Yeah,” Heyes said. “I’m surprised they didn’t offer you something.”

Harry didn’t answer. He coughed into his fist a couple times. Glances were exchanged between Heyes and Curry.

“Harry?” Heyes asked. “Did Bannerman offer you something?”

“Well, they, uh, they might have done. A little something.”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other in disbelief.

“You turned down George Bannerman?” Curry asked.

“Well, Thaddeus, it wasn’t George Bannerman himself. The agency did make a couple offers, but you know me, I’m a man of pride. I couldn’t take just anything and maintain my self-respect.”

“Harry, Harry. What good’s self-respect if you don’t have a paycheck?”

“Yeah,” said Heyes. “What exactly did you turn down?”

“They offered me a position in Kansas City.”

“Why didn’t you take that job?” Heyes asked.

Harry sat up straight so suddenly, the other men almost jumped. “It was reporting to Harry Bright, that’s why! Harry Bright! Of all people!”

“That’s the one who hasn’t had a good thing to say about you in 20 years?” Curry asked.

“Uh huh. That’s the one. Can you imagine that?? Harry Bright! Why, that’s even worse than the Galveston deal.”

“What Galveston deal?” Curry asked.

“Bannerman suggested I open up a new office in Galveston. Galveston, of all places! Do you know how hot it gets in that town? That’s as close as you can get to hell without actually dying!”

“I can’t believe you turned down two job offers!” Heyes exclaimed.

Curry just shook his head. “Harry, Harry... what are we gonna do with you?”

“Boys, this is a good thing. I’m starting out like Bannerman did, training my own people, in charge of my own destiny. You want to see my advertising circular?”

“No,” Heyes said, “but hand it over anyway.” Briscoe withdrew a folded paper from his suit pocket. He passed it to Heyes, who took it and read out loud. “Looking for excitement, opportunity and bountiful rewards in your career? The Briscoe Agency for Professional Detection and Bounty Hunting! Learn from the best! We train you to be the quicker picker upper!”

“The what?”

Briscoe shrugged modestly. “The quicker picker upper.” Curry looked confused. “Marketing, Thaddeus. You need a catchy slogan.”

“Wait, Thaddeus, there’s more. ‘Apply now! Experience preferred but not required! We will train the right candidates. Apply to Harry J. Briscoe, President and Founder.’” Heyes folded the poster neatly. “Harry, I’m impressed.”

“Just how many men have you trained so far?” Curry asked.

Briscoe shifted in his chair. “I’m just getting started, Thaddeus. Just getting the word out, the flyers printed…”

“So the answer is zero.”

“Well, I do have a couple prospects, but, technically, that’s true.”

The two ex-outlaws just stared at Briscoe.

“Now don’t be like that, boys! These things take time, that’s all. Why, once I get these prospectives trained and bringing in some criminals – all under my guidance, of course – I take a 50% commission on the bounties they collect. The money will be rolling in faster than I can count it!”

“Just how fast can you count?” Curry asked.

“Won’t work, Harry, won’t work.”

Harry looked wounded. “Joshua, you shouldn’t underestimate me. Why don’t you think it’ll work?”

“First off, it’s impossible to underestimate you. You exceed all my expectations. Secondly, you’ve focused on working for someone else your whole career. All you know is following orders. You’re used to working with a team and letting someone else run the show. You don’t know how to be a boss.”

“And how about the way you dress?” Curry said. “I mean, look at you!”

Harry looked down at himself. He brushed dandruff off his shoulder. “Why? What’s wrong with the way I look?”

“Your suit, Harry. You always wear a suit. You look like a banker,” Heyes said. “A bounty hunter’s got to blend in, become part of the scenery.”

“Not to mention the two six-guns.” Curry pointed at Harry’s shiny hardware. “Too showy. Too easy to remember.”

“You might have a point or two, boys. It’s true. I work well with a team. Always have.” Suddenly, Harry brightened.

“Hey... what if I hired a couple consultants, just to help set up the training program and get things started on the right foot?”

“Like who?” Curry asked. “Some of the other men from the Denver office?”

Harry shook his head vigorously. “No, Thaddeus, better than that. A couple men who really understand the criminal mind. Who know how bounty hunters operate.”

“Oh no,” Heyes said. “Oh no. You don’t mean us, do you?”

Harry pointed his cigar at Heyes. “I sure do. Who knows more about crooks than you two?”

“Help you train bounty hunters?” Heyes asked. “Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. As far as we’re concerned, there’s more than enough bounty hunters out there already.”

“No, no, boys, this could work! You know as much about the business as anybody, but from the other side. Why your perspective would be invaluable!”

“Invaluable to who, Harry? You figurin’ on collectin’ your first two bounties?”

Heyes put a calming hand on Curry’s arm. “Wait a minute. No need to get all hot and bothered. Let’s think about this. Just how invaluable are you talking?”

“Joshua, are you crazy? You’re not really thinkin’ of doin’ this, are you?”

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t think about it some more, Thaddeus. Since when do we turn down honest work?”

“Since it could get us killed, Joshua!”

“That’s not entirely true. Remember digging up Caroline’s gold in Apache Springs? We took that job, knowing it could get us killed.”

“Yeah, and it nearly did get us killed. You ain’t bein’ real convincin’ here.”

“Boys, just listen to me. You don’t have to say yes right now. Why don’t you think about it, maybe sit in on one of my training sessions? Observe, offer any suggestions, see what I’m building here.”

“That’s a good idea, Harry,” Heyes said. “We’d have to evaluate your current training program before making any suggestions for improvement. If we see anything that needs improvement, of course.”

“Now you’re talking, Joshua!” Harry said. “I’m meeting with a prospective later today, so maybe we can get together after that.”

“I got a better idea. Thaddeus can join you. He can be another prospective student. That’ll give him a chance to observe you at work and give us an idea where we might contribute our expertise.”

“Great idea, Joshua! Here’s my card with my office address, Thaddeus.” Curry took the card from Harry’s outstretched hand with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. “See you at 2 o’clock sharp!” Harry stood up. “We’ve always worked well together, boys. I got a real good feeling about this.”

Heyes and Curry watched Harry leave the saloon. They turned to look at each other, and both men sighed simultaneously.

“I’m glad somebody’s got a good feelin’ about this, because I sure don’t,” Curry said.

“Me neither,” agreed Heyes. “Just on the off-chance Harry does something right for a change, we need to keep an eye on him. Let’s check in at the hotel and get settled. Then you go to Harry’s place at two and see what he says and does.”

“What are you goin’ to be doin’?”

“Talking to the sheriff. I’m wondering what he thinks about a bounty hunting business opening in his town.”


-----

“You want to know what I think about a bounty hunting business setting up in my town, Smith? I don’t like it. Not one bit. But there’s nothing I can legally do to stop it.”

Heyes was sitting across from Sheriff Thomas E. Whitaker, Jr., in Whitaker’s office. The wall behind Whitaker was covered in hundreds of wanted posters, displayed in a haphazard manner. Heyes forced his eyes away from them.

“You’re not worried about the competition, are you, Sheriff?” Heyes smiled genially.

Whitaker didn’t seem to take offense at the question. Instead, he was incredulous. “From Briscoe? Have you met him?”

“On many occasions. I’ve even worked with him on a free-lance basis. My partner and I are talking to him about joining him in his new business as consultants. Kind of help him get it started on the right track.”

Whitaker’s mouth dropped open. “Well, if that don’t beat all. Begging your pardon, Mr. Smith, but you sound like a smart man. Why you’d partner up with Briscoe, I don’t know. That man ain’t got the sense God gave dirt.”

“Oh, he’s not that bad, Sheriff. He just don’t make a good first impression, that’s all.”

“He don’t make a good second impression either. Or third. Look, I got enough to do in this town without picking up after Briscoe. He’s says he’s going after the big bounties, and you know what type of men bring big bounties? Killers. Real bad men who don’t think twice about plugging anyone full of lead. Briscoe’s sure to get himself hurt or killed, along with any poor fool that signs up with him. I do not want to see anyone get hurt, not even Briscoe.”

“Maybe there’s something I can do about that, because I don’t want to see him getting hurt either.”

“Best thing you can do for me is put him out of business and be right quick about it.”

“That’s what I’d like to do. But if we can’t convince him to close up shop, maybe my partner and I can teach him some techniques that’ll keep him out of trouble.”

“You two must have an awful lot of free time on your hands, Mr. Smith, if you think you’ve got time enough to do that. You know what Briscoe said to me, when he first come to town?”

Heyes opened his mouth to reply, but Whitaker didn’t notice.

“He comes in here like he owns the place, and he tells me that he’s going to make my life easier. I say, how you figuring to do that? And he says, because he’s making this here town the base of operations for his business of bringing in the baddest bad men out there, I can concentrate on the day to day crime, the small-timers and penny-pinching rag-pickers. And I say, mister, some of them bounties you’re talking about are mad, bad and dangerous to know. They will kill you as soon as they’d say howdee do. Well, he just smiles at me and tells me he’s retired from the Bannerman Agency, and a Bannerman man knows how to handle bad men. Then he hands me one of his fancy calling cards and starts to leave, but he trips over his own feet on the way out, and one of them fancy guns he wears goes off, and he almost shoots himself in the leg. He can’t even handle his own gun, and he’s supposed to be a Bannerman?”

“Sheriff, I’ll admit that Harry can be a little clumsy at times, but he really was a Bannerman man. We’ve worked on investigations with him when he was at the Denver office.”

Whitaker shook his head. “Well, I’ll be. That sure is a surprise. I thought he was lying. He really was a Bannerman man?”

“Sure was. Fifteen years and more.”

“And now he’s setting up his own detective agency. That’s strange, you know. It ain’t like the Bannerman Agency to let their people go out and set up a business to compete with them. But then, he’s not like any Bannerman I ever seen before.”

“No, he sure isn’t,” Heyes agreed, “He’s one of a kind, old Harry is.”

“He’s going to be the last of his kind, if he don’t watch out. You really think you can put him out of business?”

“Got to try, Sheriff. He is my friend, whether I like it or not. Can I rely on you for help, if we need it?”

“To shut him down before he gets himself and some other poor fool killed? You bet.”


-----

Kid Curry walked down a long hallway, examining the writing on each door as a grandfather clock chimed twice. He pulled a business card out of his pocket, read it, frowned, and looked around. Card in hand, he walked further down the hall. Ahead, he saw a man, short, squat, strong, holding a business card, looking at doors.

“Excuse me,” Curry said “Are you lookin’ for the Briscoe Agency?”

“Sure am. It is supposed to be on this floor, right?”

Curry looked at the card again. “I think so. Is that where you find the Grand Suite?”

“Couldn’t say. I ain’t had too much experience with grand things.”

“Sheesh.” Curry scratched his neck. “Me neither. Maybe we should find somebody to ask.”

Both men turned when they heard rapid footsteps approaching them. Harry Briscoe rounded the corner, a little breathless, one hand holding his hat on his hand. He skidded to a sudden stop when he saw his two prospective students waiting.

“Good,” Briscoe said. “You’re prompt. Very important quality for an agent.”

“Yeah,” Curry said. “I can see that.”

“Glad you’re here, Mr. Briscoe,” the stranger said. “We couldn’t find your place.”

Briscoe pointed to the end of the hall. “Stairs up to the room with a view. Follow me, gentlemen.” He walked quickly, and Curry and the man had to move fast to keep up.

At the top of a short flight of stairs was a landing. The gold-leaf painting on the oak door said “Briscoe Detective Agency.” Harry took out a key and unlocked the door.

Curry stepped inside and stared. The office was large, ornate, and richly furnished. The other man almost bumped into him. He whistled in admiration.

“Whoo-ee! Mr. Briscoe, this is some place!”

“Glad you like it, Stevens.” Briscoe walked around them and gestured to the large mahogany table in the middle of the room. “Why don’t you sit down and introduce yourselves.” Both men sank into comfortable leather chairs while Harry removed his hat and sat down across from them.

“Thaddeus Jones,” Curry said, extending his hand.

“Suetonius Stevens,” the other man said, shaking hands with Curry. “Don’t try breaking your teeth on that name. Everyone calls me Tony.”

“Anybody ever call you Sue?” Curry asked.

“Not a second time.”

Harry folded his hands on the table and gave both men an intense look. “Before we talk about me training you two to be bounty hunters, I want to know what kind of experience you’ve had with the law. Jones, why don’t you go first?”

Curry frowned and glared at Harry, who just steepled his fingers and looked at him expectantly.

“Ah... well, I was a deputy once.”

Briscoe blinked. “You were?” He sounded surprised.

“Yeah. Yeah I was,” Curry said, warming to the topic. “Sheriff hired me and my partner to escort a couple bank robbers to another town to face trial.”

“He did?” Briscoe asked, sounding doubtful. “And you did it?”

“Yeah,” Curry said, defensively. “Sure we did. In fact, two other men from their gang tried to ambush us along the way. But we were ready for them. We captured them, and turned in all four members of the gang. Twice as many robbers as we started out with.

And, I worked an undercover job once, catchin’ some train robbers out in Brimstone, Colorado. Took down the whole gang.” His look dared Harry to comment. “So I got some experience.”

“I’ll say you do, Jones,” Tony said. “How come you want to do a training program? Seems to me you don’t need any help to catch yourself some bounties.”

“I haven’t signed up yet. I’m here to see what Mr. Briscoe has to offer.”

“I never been a deputy like Jones here, Mr. Briscoe,” Tony said, “but I’m already pretty good with a rifle, and I can hold my own in a fight. Seems to me that’s all I need to get started.”

“That’s all you need to get killed, Stevens,” Harry said. “I’ll train you in professional detective skills. How to track somebody. Not just by reading the ground, but by interviewing people who got information. How to trace the crook’s movements and follow them on the sly, so they don’t see you coming. And not just how to get the drop on them, so you can take them, but how to keep them took so they don’t get away. Catching them’s just half the job, as Jones’ little story illustrates so well. The other half is getting them back to face justice, without getting your head blowed off along the way.”

Stevens was nodding thoughtfully. “You make a lot of sense, Mr. Briscoe.”

“Tell me about yourself, Stevens,” Harry said. “You’ve never worked law enforcement, is that right? Not that that’s really necessary.”

“No, I got no experience with doing this kind of work like Jones does,” he said, “but I know bank robbers all too well. Clint Weaver and his gang robbed the bank where me and mine had our life’s savings. They cleaned out the bank, and they cleaned us out. I lost all my money, but my kin, they lost their farm, lost everything, even the kids. Had to send the two girls into service. The boys were too young to work, and they had to go to an orphan home. All because of them dirty rotten thieves. I can’t do nothing about what already happened, but I can track down every one of them crooks and send them to the devil.”

Curry and Briscoe were quiet, absorbing this story. Neither man knew what to say at first.

“But nobody got shot during the robbery, did they?” Curry finally asked.

“Nope. Made no difference, though. Weaver killed my kin just the same. Bank robbers, they’re the scum of the earth. So, Mr. Briscoe, I got plenty of reason to do this kind of work. I been a carpenter all my life. All I need is the right tools, and I can get the job done. That’s why I’m here.”

“Sounds like you’re ideally suited to go into this line of work, Stevens,” Briscoe observed.

“No he ain’t,” Curry responded. “I’ve heard tell of the Weaver gang. If they didn’t kill anyone that day they robbed your bank, it’s a miracle. They are real dangerous. Better to let the professional lawmen go after them.”

“The professional lawmen been trying to catch them, and they ain’t done it yet. ‘Sides, if Mr. Briscoe here can show me some tricks of the trade he learned from Bannerman, Weaver won’t see me coming.”

“You’re not heeled,” Curry said. “Do you know how to use a pistol? Because you better be real good with a six-gun if you’re going to face down Weaver and men like him.”

“I’m more of a rifleman, Mr. Jones, but I’m no gunnie. I figure I can learn that, too. I ain’t stupid, you know.”

“Stevens’ lack of experience with a six-gun doesn’t matter, Thaddeus,” Briscoe interrupted. “That can be taught.”

“Weaver’s been shootin’ people since his pa kicked him out when he was 14,” Curry argued. “How you fixin’ to teach Tony to face-off with someone like that, Harry? He won’t even slap leather before Weaver puts him down. Do you really want Tony’s murder on your conscience?”

“Now wait a minute, Jones. Don’t you be disrespecting me and Mr. Briscoe like that. I can take care of myself. Anyway, I figure he knows more about guns than you do. He’s got two six-guns, and you only got one.”

“You only need one when you know how to use it,” Curry said.

“I hear tell that Doc Holliday wears two guns, same as Mr. Briscoe here,” Tony said. “You think you’re better than him too?”

“Doc Holliday? Now there’s a great example. You want to be like him? You ever pointed a gun at a man and pulled the trigger like he does, and then walk off when someone breathes his last because of you?”

“Nope,” Tony said. “But I got reason to learn. Clint Weaver’s wanted dead or alive. Don’t make no difference to me how I bring him in.”

Harry’s head was snapping back and forth as he watched the escalating argument between his two recruits.

“You know what it means to wear a gun? Do you?” Stevens just looked at Jones stubbornly.

“Tell him, Harry. Tell him what it means to wear a gun, if he’s goin’ after bounties.”

“Well, I, uh...” Harry cleared his throat. “Why don’t you tell him, Jones. You’re doing so well.”

Curry glared at Harry before turning back to Stevens. “It means you’re a target. It means men assume you’re able to defend yourself. You’ll have to shoot, and you’ll have to shoot to kill.”

“I ain’t afraid of shooting. But I think maybe you are. Maybe you’re yellow.”

Across the table, Curry heard Briscoe take in a deep breath. He spared a glance at Briscoe and saw real fear in his face. He didn’t know how Curry would react to that insult.

Instead of getting angrier, the tension drained out of Curry’s body, and he slumped in his chair. “Yeah. Yeah, I am. And you should be, too. Because when you carry a gun, you shoot it. And when you shoot, you’ll have to aim to kill. You ever killed a man, Tony? I mean, fired a bullet into a man’s chest and then watched him bleed out on the street? Because that’s what you’ll have to do. Stand there and watch someone’s guts spill. Can you do that?”

“You bet I can,” Tony said, still angry. “I want to make sure Weaver and his kind don’t hurt nobody else. The best way to do that is to put him in his grave. Him and every other bank robber.”

“Stevens.” Briscoe’s voice was quiet. “This work isn’t about revenge. This is about justice. We bring in people like Weaver where the sheriff can’t, because we can devote everything to tracking him down. We arrest Weaver and then we let the justice system work through its due process. It’ll be up to a judge and jury to decide if he deserves death. Not you.”

“Harry’s right,” Curry said. “Just because a wanted poster says dead or alive, it don’t give you the right to commit a murder.”

“We aim to be agents of the law, Stevens,” Harry said. “We don’t take the law into our own hands. We’re not killers. We enforce the law. We don’t bend it to get some kind of private revenge.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing from you two. I come here to learn how to bring down the worst of the worst, and all I get from you two is mealy-mouthed love your neighbor garbage. I can’t tell anymore if I’m at a detective agency or Sunday school.” He stood up so fast, his chair fell back and crashed on the floor behind him. “And you, Briscoe, I thought you was supposed to be so tough. I never thought I’d see the day when a Bannerman man wants to be coddling criminals. If you won’t help me, I guess I’ll have to bring in Weaver all by my lonesome.” Stevens strode out, slamming the heavy oak door behind him.

Curry and Briscoe winced at the sound.

“That went well,” Briscoe said drily.

“Is this really what you want to do, Harry?” Curry asked. “Send an amateur like Tony out against the Weavers of the world?”

“He won’t be an amateur, once I’ve worked with him, Thaddeus. He’ll be able to handle himself.”

“Are you listenin’ to yourself? You asked me and Heyes to work with you because we know criminals. Well, we’ve tangled with Clint Weaver and his gang. You can train Tony till judgment day, and he still won’t last two minutes against Weaver. It won’t matter none to Clint, but it’ll matter a lot to Tony’s kin, and it’d be your fault for puttin’ him there.”

“You got it wrong. You heard him. He’s planning to go after Clint Weaver, with me or without me. At least I’d give him a little knowledge, maybe give him a chance.”

Curry put both hands on the table and pushed himself up wearily. “No, Harry, there’d be no chance. Heyes always says a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You’d give Tony just enough confidence to go up against Weaver, when you and I know it’s gonna end with Tony in a pine box.”

Harry was clasping and unclasping his hands, over and over. He didn’t look at Curry.

“You stick with this idea of trainin’ amateurs to be bounty hunters, and you’re goin’ to be responsible for a lot of them getting shot up, maybe even killed. Is that really what you want, Harry? Can you live with that on your conscience?”

Curry put Stevens’ chair back up right next to the table. He paused at the door with his hand on the handle, looking back at the unmoving Briscoe.

“I’m goin’ over to the saloon now. I need about six or eight glasses of whiskey after this. If you want to talk, that’s where I’ll be.”

He exited the room much more quietly than Stevens had done. Harry watched the closed door for a long time.


-----

Hannibal Heyes passed through the saloon doors and stopped just inside. He looked around the room. Kid Curry was standing at the bar, shoulders slumped, leaning forward on his crossed arms. A depleted bottle of whiskey and an empty glass were in front of him. Heyes walked over to stand next to his partner. Sam Bogart was behind the bar, reading his ever-present dime novel, but he looked up when Heyes arrived.

“Didn’t expect to find you here, Thaddeus.”

Curry just shrugged. Sam held up a clean glass. Heyes nodded, and Sam used Curry’s bottle to fill glasses for both men.

“How’d things go with the training session?”

“Wonderful. Just wonderful.” Curry tipped his glass back and drained it in one quick swallow. He reached for the bottle for a refill but stopped when Heyes put a restraining hand on Curry’s arm.

“Move your hand or lose it.”

Heyes wisely released Curry’s arm and watched Curry pour more whiskey for himself. “What happened?” he asked quietly.

Curry didn’t answer.

“Come on, Thaddeus,” Heyes urged.

“Not here,” Curry said. “Not now.”

“Alright. Let’s go back to the hotel room so you can tell me about it.”

“Not yet. I’m still thirsty.”

Heyes tried another tack. “How about we go sit down at a table? I been walking all over this town today, and my feet are killing me.”

Curry acknowledged his request with a slight nod. Heyes picked up the bottle and both glasses, and he led Curry to a table near the end of the bar, with a good view of the room and the entrance. Heyes filled both glasses and settled back to wait out Curry’s temper.

Tony Stevens came into the saloon. Passing through the doors swinging on squeaking hinges, he noticed Curry and stopped long enough to sneer at him. Curry ignored him. Curious, Heyes watched Stevens stomp angrily to the bar and order whiskey. As he drank, he shot dirty looks at Curry’s reflection in the mirror that hung over the bar.

“Who’s your friend?” Heyes asked.

Curry didn’t look up from the table. “Harry’s prospective student, Tony Stevens.”

“And where’s Harry?”

“Probably still at his grand suite.”

“His suite? He’s got a suite?”

Curry looked briefly surprised that Heyes seemed so impressed.

“Your meeting didn’t go so well, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“What did you do with this Stevens, call him out?”

“’Course I didn’t. If I had, he’d be gettin’ bandaged up right about now.”

“Judging by the way he’s looking at you, you still might get the chance.”

“I don’t draw on somebody who’s not heeled. You know that.”

“What are you talking about? He’s wearing a gun.”

Curry sat up straighter and looked directly at Tony Stevens. Stevens wore a gun belt that fit him loosely and hung at an awkward angle. A look of concern crossed Curry’s face.

The batwing doors swung open again. Harry Briscoe walked in. He looked at Heyes and Curry. He looked at Tony Stevens. He went to an unoccupied table across the room and slumped down in the chair. Sam walked over to take his order. Soon, Briscoe was gripping a beer stein, sudsing his mustache with foam, looking deeply unhappy.

Heyes eyes shifted from Briscoe to Stevens and back again to Curry. Each man was studiously ignoring the others. Each man’s face was angry and his body looked stiff with tension.

“I had an interesting visit with Sheriff Whitaker, Thaddeus. How about we take this bottle back to our hotel room so I can tell you what he said, in private?”

“Okay. I don’t think much of the company here anyway.” Both men stood, draining their glasses as they rose. Heyes tossed a few coins on the table and picked up the bottle. He led the way to the door quickly, but stopped when he realized Curry wasn’t behind him. He turned and saw Stevens come around quickly to confront Curry, standing with his right hand hanging loosely near his holster.

Heyes snapped the safety off his own holster and moved behind Curry and to his right. Across the room, Harry Briscoe straightened up, and Sam Bogart put down his dime novel and bent low to reach the shotgun concealed under the bar.

“Jones,” Stevens called out. “I want to talk to you.”

Curry, his face impassive, looked directly at Stevens. “I’m listenin’.”

“I got me a gun now.”

“So I see.”

Stevens swallowed hard a couple times. “And now that I got me a gun…”

Curry waited. Heyes moved his right hand closer to his own gun. Briscoe slowly rose, gripping the pearl handles of his two six-guns. Sam cradled the shotgun in his arms, unnoticed.

“Now that I got me a gun... I got no idea what to do with it.” Stevens smiled awkwardly. “I was thinking... maybe you could teach me?” Breaths were exhaled noisily. Briscoe relaxed slowly back into his chair. Sam replaced the shotgun on the shelf. Curry’s expression didn’t change. He waited. Stevens tugged at the loose gun belt, but it settled at an awkward angle again.

“I’m not thinking to face off with anyone, Mr. Jones. I mind what you said. I know you can’t make me into some kind of gunnie, and I don’t want to be like that anyway. But I need help. Right now, I’m more likely to shoot myself than anyone else. And I can’t help my family if I’m dead.”

“No,” Curry agreed. “That wouldn’t help them much.” He jammed his thumbs into his gun belt. “You’re talkin’ basics, right? Nothin’ fancy?” Stevens nodded. “I’m not at my best right now. Me and my partner” – he nodded towards Heyes, who smiled in response – “been havin’ a few whiskeys. Would tomorrow mornin’ work for you? Say, meet you here around 10? We’ll ride out of town a bit, find a private place to shoot where we won’t cause any ruckus.”

Stevens’ whole body relaxed. “Thanks, Mr. Jones. I sure would be grateful.”

“In the meantime,” Curry said, “Take that hogleg off before somebody comes gunnin’ for you. Then you can sit down back there with Mr. Briscoe. You two didn’t get to finish your talk.”

“I’ll do just that.”

Curry watched Stevens unbuckle his gun belt and hang it over one arm as he walked over towards Briscoe. Stevens and Briscoe shook hands and then sat down together, heads close as they spoke. Only then did Curry turn towards the doorway, facing Heyes standing before him.

“We all done here, Thaddeus?”

“Yeah. Let’s get back to the hotel before some other gun-totin’ fool shows up.”

“We better walk fast then.”


-----

The hotel room was almost dark when Kid Curry opened his eyes and rolled onto his side. He rubbed his face and groaned. Slowly, reluctantly, he pushed himself into a sitting position and then leaned forward, cradling his head in his hands.

When Curry heard the door handle turning, he reached for the gun belt hanging over the brass headboard. He relaxed when he saw it was Heyes returning.

Heyes smiled brightly. “Feeling better?”

“Oh sure.” Curry watched Heyes light the wall lamp. The room grew lighter as Heyes turned up the wick. “Where you been?”

“Visiting Harry’s office.”

“What were you doin’ at Harry’s?”

“A little safe-cracking.”

Curry snapped to attention. “You robbed Harry?”

Heyes put his hat on the dresser and settled into a chair, running his hand through his long hair. “I didn’t steal anything. I just had a little look around.”

“Alright, I’ll bite. Why were you lookin’ around?”

“Something my new friend, Sheriff Whitaker, said about the Bannerman organization has been on my mind. Since Harry was still confabbing with your shooting buddy, and you were getting some beauty sleep, I figured I could get in and out before he came back and take a look through his papers. And lo and behold, I found something interesting.”

Curry rubbed his neck. “You goin’ to tell me about it?”

Heyes shook his head. “Not just yet, Kid. I want to think on this a bit more, figure out how we can use this to our advantage. And I think it’ll be to Harry’s advantage, too, though he may not think so at first.”

“We got to shut him down, Heyes.”

“I know,” agreed Heyes. “He’s a danger to himself and us, especially us. Even Sheriff Whitaker thinks so.”

“It’s worse than you think, Heyes. He actually said some smart things about how to track and bring back bounties. If he gets a chance to teach that to his trainees, you and me’ll have to buy passage on the next ship to South America.”

“Did he? Well, all the more reason to put him out of business.”

Curry put his head between his hands again and rubbed his head.

“Got a headache, Kid?”

“Mmm...”

Heyes stood. “Come on. I’ll buy you dinner. You’ll feel better.”

Curry looked up at Heyes and smiled. “Now you’re talkin’. Food always makes me feel better.”

“That’s one of the constants in life I depend upon, Kid. Get your hat and let’s go.”


-----

Kid Curry pushed his empty plate aside. He folded the cloth napkin and put it on the table. He burped.

Hannibal Heyes snickered. “Guess I don’t have to ask if you liked your dinner.”

“Nope.”

“Headache gone?”

“Yep.”

“Feel like playing a couple hands of poker before we turn in?”

“Yep.”

Heyes glanced at the door and frowned. Curry noticed, and twisted in his chair to see what changed Heyes’ mood.

“What is it?”

“Feel like talking to the sheriff?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Don’t think so. Smile, and try not to look suspicious.”

“How do I not look suspicious?”

Heyes rose to greet Tommy Whitaker and shake his hand. “Good to see you again, Sheriff.”

“You may not think it’s so good when I tell you why I’m here. Mind if I sit down?”

“’Course not. This is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

“Oh yeah,” Whitaker said. “You’re the one that wants to teach that fool Stevens how to use a gun.”

“You got it backwards, Sheriff. The most important lesson I’ll teach him is not to use his gun.”

“Looks like you won’t get the chance. Him and Briscoe rode out a couple hours ago, hunting a bounty.”

“They did what?” Heyes asked.

“They’re out chasing a bounty.”

Both Heyes and Curry wore stunned expressions.

“How did they decide there was a bounty to chase?”

“Sam over at the Silver Dollar, he says they were drinking and looking at a few wanted posters Briscoe had in his pocket. Stevens thought he recognized somebody he’d been drinking with a day or so ago, and they decided to go track him down.”

“Who do they think they’re looking for?”

“Man named Johnny Barnes. You ever hear of him?” Heyes nodded. “He was with the Cowboys, out of Tombstone. Wanted for everything but truancy. Bounty’s $2,000.”

“Do you think it really is Barnes they’re hunting?”

“Could be. No way to be sure right now. The description on him’s pretty vague. He wasn’t one of the leaders of that gang. Just a foot soldier. But he’s a bad one. If he figures out Briscoe and Stevens are trailing him...”

“Any idea which way they went?” Curry asked.

“Yeah. I can point you in the right direction, but that’s about all.”

Curry and Heyes looked at each other and made their decision without speaking.

“If you can do that, Sheriff, we’ll leave at first light. We’ll just pay up and meet you at your office in a few minutes.”

“Glad to hear it. I’ll be waiting.” He tipped his hat at both men and left.

“Guess that means no poker tonight,” Curry said.

“Nope,” agreed Heyes.

“And we’ll have to be up and out at the crack of dawn.”

“Yep.”

“Without breakfast?”

“Probably.”

“Sheesh. Harry better be grateful for all we’re doin’ for him.”

“If he doesn’t get himself killed first.”


-----

The sun was high in the sky when Heyes and Curry found the remains of a campfire. Curry dismounted and poked the ashes with a twig.

“Don’t look more than a couple hours old. They must’ve got a late start this mornin’.”

“If it’s their fire and not Barnes’.”

“I think it’s theirs. Looks like two bed rolls were laid out. And there’s signs of two horses and two different sets of footprints. It should be pretty easy to follow them from here. I think we can pick up the pace. Just be sure to keep a sharp eye. We don’t want to sneak up on them unawares. They might spook and shoot us.”

“Happy thought,” Heyes said.

Curry swung back up onto his horse. “You know anythin’ about this Johnny Barnes, Heyes?”

“He was with the Cowboys Gang. That’s all I need to know to know he’s trouble. ‘Course, it’s more likely they’re following some poor sap who’s guilty only of fitting a vague description on a wanted poster.”

“Maybe,” Curry said. “The way our luck’s been runnin’, it’ll be Barnes; they’ll catch him and claim the reward, and Harry’s business will be off and runnin’.”

“You got to have some faith, Kid.”

“Faith in what? In Harry?”

“Sort of. Faith that Harry will mess up somehow. Or, in case he does do something right for a change, faith that my Plan B will work.”

“That the plan you haven’t told me about yet?”

“Yeah. It’s already moving forward.”

“I hope you’re right about this, Heyes. Because we could be in a lot of trouble if you’re not.”

“Trust me, Kid. When have I ever let you down?”

“I’d tell you, but we ain’t got all day. Let’s get a move on.”

The two men rode on slowly, in a familiar rhythm of watchfulness. Curry, in the lead, followed the careless trail left by Stevens and Briscoe. Heyes scanned the surrounding forest intently, head turning side to side, looking nervously for men who might be hidden among the trees. When Curry suddenly halted, Heyes almost collided with him. Curry turned in his saddle and held up one hand, cautioning Heyes to keep quiet.

“What is it?” Heyes said, almost in a whisper.

“Thought I heard a strange sound up ahead.”

“An animal?”

“Not like any animal I know. Let’s check this out on foot.”

They dismounted and tied their horses up several feet off the side of the road, where they wouldn’t be easily visible to passers-by. Heyes looked inquiringly at Curry, who drew his gun and pointed it in the direction he wanted to go. They moved quietly through the trees for about a hundred feet.

Heyes heard an odd sound up ahead. He followed in Curry’s footsteps, stepping carefully over tree roots and the thick carpet of dry leaves. When Curry sank to his knees and pushed some bushes aside with his pistol, listening intently, Heyes got down, too. Both men were tense. Heyes pulled his gun from its holster, swallowing hard.

“I do not believe this,” Curry said in a low voice.

Heyes crept up closer to Curry. “What?” he mouthed without sound. Curry pointed, and Heyes peered over his shoulder. He saw the source of the strange sound. In a small clearing, Briscoe and Stevens were gagged with bandannas and tied securely, coils of rope around their upper bodies and around their feet. They were rolling in the dirt, trying to loosen the ropes that bound them. It looked like the ropes were tight enough that all Briscoe and Stevens could do was get dirtier and more frustrated.

Heyes, smiling, started to stand, but Curry waved him down. “Make sure Barnes is gone first.” Heyes nodded his understanding and, still smiling, went right while Curry went left. They met up on the other side of the small clearing.

“Nothin’,” Curry whispered. “I saw his tracks. He’s gone, probably for more than an hour. Looks like he took their horses and everything they had with them. We might as well untie them.” Curry started to move forward but was restrained by Heyes’ hand on his arm.

“Let’s wait a couple minutes,” Heyes said. “I want to make sure I remember every little detail of this picture. This ought to be worth a few favors down the road.”

The men rolling on the ground were grunting through their gags. Heyes and Curry grinned at each other and stood up.

“Well, well, Thaddeus, what do we have here?”

The men rolling on the ground paused in their frantic motion and twisted towards Heyes’ voice. Hope, joy, and embarrassment all passed over Harry’s face. He grunted muffled sounds in Heyes’ direction.

“Stop rollin’ around, you two,” Curry said.

Heyes pulled a knife out of his boot and kneeled next to Stevens. He cut through the ropes while Curry stood nearby and watched. Stevens pushed himself to his feet and stretched while Heyes moved over to release Harry.

“I’ve never been as glad to see you boys as I am today,” Briscoe said. “You didn’t see him, did you?”

“See who, Harry?”

“That rotten thief Johnny Barnes, that’s who! He saw us coming and got the drop on us! Stole our horses and our money, too!”

“You alright, Tony?” Curry asked Stevens, who was patting himself and shaking off a collection of leaves, grass, and dirt.

“Oh, I’m dandy,” Stevens said. “Just fine and dandy.” Stevens was carefully not looking in Briscoe’s direction.

“How long you been here?” Curry asked.

Stevens stopped brushing himself off long enough to look at the sun. “Probably an hour or more, I’d say.”

“Good,” Heyes said. “Barnes is long gone then. And with two extra horses, he can switch his ride and move fast. We don’t have to worry about him coming back.”

“You mean you’re not going after him?” Briscoe asked.

“Nope,” Heyes said.

“But why not? He’s a thief and he’s worth $2,000.”

“A thief, you say? Sounds like a bad man. That’s the kind of man we avoid, right, Thaddeus?”

“Avoid them like we avoid hard work,” agreed Curry. “Besides, who’d give you two a ride back to town if we rode off?”

“Just as well,” Harry said. “Once we get back to town, me and Stevens will get fresh horses and set off again.”

“Not on your life, Briscoe. I fell for your sales pitch once. I ain’t doing it again.”

“Now Stevens, I admit we’ve had a small setback, but…”

“But nothing, Briscoe. It’s bad enough getting robbed, but we could’ve been killed. If’n you knew what you were doing like you said you did yesterday, we wouldn’t been rolling in the dirt today like a couple tomcats in heat. Our deal’s off. And by the way, you owe me a horse and saddle.”

“That’s a smart decision, Tony,” Curry said. “Let the professionals deal with the Barnes of the world.”

“I am a professional!” Harry shouted. “I know how to deal with the Barnes of this world!”

“Double up with me, Tony, and let’s get you back to town. Breakfast’s on me.”

“That’s the best offer I had all week, Thaddeus. And if you don’t mind, I think I’ll pass on the shooting lesson.”

“Another smart decision. Eatin’s better than shootin’ any day.” The two men started to walk away when Curry noticed Briscoe and Heyes weren’t following him. They were standing apart, motionless. Heyes was staring at Briscoe, who was looking everywhere but at Heyes.

“You boys plannin’ to camp out here?” Curry said.

“Me and Harry need to talk a couple minutes. We’ll catch up.”

“Suit yourself.” Curry and Stevens walked between the trees and were soon out of sight.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, Joshua. We were on Barnes’ trail. We could have brought him in, no problem.”

“Except you were louder than a herd of buffalo and almost as careful. You got ambushed before you’d barely broke camp, you lost your horses, your guns, and your money, and you ended up gift-wrapped like some bounty hunter’s Christmas present.”

“Just a momentary setback. Now that I’ve seen him up close and clear, I can identify him. I can resupply and track him down.” Heyes saw some idea light up Harry’s face, and he braced himself.

“Why don’t you and Thaddeus join me? Think of it – I’ll give you boys, say, 25% of the reward. You won’t get a better offer like that!”

“I’m sure I won’t, Harry. But I’m going to decline your generous offer. In fact, I think me and Thaddeus are going to decline your offer to join your business.”

“Now don’t be like that. Sure, this little incident doesn’t look good…” Harry paused while Heyes snorted, “but these things happen. A professional lawman regroups and rededicates himself to the task. And with the value of your expertise, yours and Thaddeus’, why the sky’s the limit.”

“You value our expertise at 25%. Yesterday you said we were invaluable. I don’t think we can come to an agreement on the numbers.” Heyes turned and started walking back through the woods to where the horses were tied up. Harry followed him, talking all the way.

“What kind of negotiation is that, Joshua? Let’s talk. I know! I’ll buy you and Thaddeus dinner tonight? How about it? I know Thaddeus appreciates a fine meal. Just call it my way of saying ‘thank you’ for your timely intervention this morning. We can talk more about our business opportunities.”

“Talk more or listen more, Harry? I don’t think we have anything left to say to each other on this subject.”

Heyes stepped under a branch. Harry, following and talking, didn’t notice, and the branch slapped him. He staggered and wiped his face. Heyes continued without noticing. Harry scrambled to keep up.

“Call it an olive branch then. I’ll make it all up to you. Come on! It’s only dinner! It’s not a commitment. We can come to an understanding, I’m sure of it!”

Heyes paused. “You’re buying?”

“Absolutely! My treat!”

“You’re talking about a good dinner. At a real restaurant, with waiters and a wine list. Not the saloon.”

Harry hesitated and gulped. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Of course! Nothing’s too good for you boys!”

“I don’t know, Harry.”

“Joshua, I can see you’re skeptical,” Harry said. “Give me a chance. I know I can put all your doubts to rest.”

“You know me and Thaddeus well enough to know by now, we can be bought. We’ll meet you at eight, and you can tell us how we’re going to train bounty hunters who won’t be going after the bounty on us.”


-----

Kid Curry leaned back on his hotel bed. Heyes was carefully combing his hair, dipping his comb into a glass to smooth out stray hairs. He stood back and admired his reflection in the mirror, turning right and left.

“I still can’t believe he turned down two job offers from Bannerman.”

“Believe it.” Heyes tucked an errant hair behind one ear.

“Heyes, this is all our fault.”

Heyes tore himself away from the mirror to look at his friend. Curry looked like he was serious.

“How is this our fault?”

“We helped him too much before. It made him think he was capable.”

“Helping each other is what friends do, Kid.” Heyes returned to the mirror.

“I guess.” Curry lay back on the bed, hands laced behind his head, and stared at the ceiling. “I don’t know why we’re doin’ this.”

“Doing what, eating with Harry? Because you and I don’t have enough money to feed you properly.”

Curry sat up quickly. “That’s not what I mean, and you know it. We sure ain’t gonna work for him, or even with him. Why string him along?”

“Couple of reasons. First, he did offer to pay for dinner, and we’re not exactly flush. Second, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s our friend. And third, so we can put him out of business.”

“Is puttin’ him out of business the sort of thing a friend does, Heyes?”

“Friends like us, with a healthy sense of self-preservation? Sure. Besides, it’s for his own good. Even if he don’t know it yet.”

“Harry’s not goin’ to think that’s the act of a friend.”

Heyes sat down on the opposite bed. “You saw what happened today. If he goes after real criminals, not pretty good bad men like you and me, he’s going to get hurt, maybe even killed. We’re going to keep him alive, and that is something a friend would do.”

“He won’t have any kind of a job then. What’s he supposed to do, become a crook? He’s worse at that than he is at being a detective.”

“Leave it to me. Plan B is moving along.”

“Oh. Great. I feel so much better.”

“Have a little faith, Kid!” Heyes got up and reached for his suit jacket. “You go ahead and meet Harry. I’ll catch up with you, oh, maybe a half hour or so late.”

“Where are you gonna be?”

“Putting the finishing touches on Plan B. Make some excuse for me, and I’ll be along soon as I can.”

“You gonna let me in on this plan sometime, Heyes?”

“Soon enough. Just make sure you follow my lead when we’re talking at dinner.”

“If you say so. I sure hope you know what you’re doin’.”

Heyes paused with his hand on the doorknob. “Kid! I’m hurt! A Hannibal Heyes plan never fails.” He didn’t notice Curry’s doubtful expression before he went out.


-----

_________________
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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The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie :: Comments

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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Fri 21 Mar 2014, 4:01 pm by royannahuggins
“Thanks for invitin’ us to dinner, Harry.”

“My pleasure, Thaddeus, my pleasure. Just an inducement. If you boys come on board with me, you could eat like this every night.”

Curry doubted it, but he didn’t say so. He took another sip of the wine Harry had ordered and admired the restaurant. Lots of soft lighting, professional uniformed waiters hurrying around unobtrusively, well-dressed people talking in quiet tones, and a fine wine.

“This is real nice, Harry. Me and Heyes ain’t been able to afford this kind of place since we went straight.” Curry tilted his head back to drain the glass. When he put the glass back down with a thump and an appreciative sigh, he saw Hannibal Heyes looking down at him.

“Looks like you took me seriously when I said you should start without me. You two look pretty relaxed already.”

“Good timing, Joshua. I was saying to Thaddeus, you’re not going to get another offer like mine.”

Heyes pulled a chair out and sat down. Briscoe obligingly poured a glass of wine for him, earning a nod of thanks.

“I don’t doubt that, Harry. But before we order and spend more of the money you haven’t earned yet, I’ve got a few questions,” Heyes said.

“Fire away. I’m all about partnership, and partners shouldn’t have secrets.”

“I’m glad you feel that way. Secrets can be dangerous, don’t you think?”

“Well... well, I suppose so, but...”

“For instance,” Heyes said, interrupting. “Since we’re speaking of secrets, I’m wondering about your old friends at the Bannerman Detective Agency. Do they know about your little operation here?”

“The Agency?” Harry said. He looked uncomfortable. “Well, actually, no, I haven’t formally discussed it with Bannerman. But I’m sure that doesn’t matter. I’m just small potatoes compared to the Agency. I’m sure they don’t care about what I’m doing now.”

“Are you sure of that, Harry? Really sure?” Heyes smiled sweetly at Harry, who suddenly found his collar a little too tight and tugged at it. “Why, you’re frowning. Is something wrong?”

Harry forced a smile. “No, of course not, everything’s fine. Better than fine. You know, if you two come in with me, we could put together a training program that’s better than anything Bannerman or Pinkerton has, and you could afford this kind of eating every night.”

Heyes flashed a glance at Curry, who blushed and looked down at his plate. Heyes turned his attention back to Briscoe.

“I admire your optimism, but frankly, I’m surprised you decided to do this kind of work.”

“Why surprised, Joshua? After all, I’m a Bannerman man. I know the detecting business inside out.”

“Technically, you used to be a Bannerman man. But that’s beside the point.”

“Oh,” said Harry. “What is the point?”

Heyes leaned forward, causing Harry to lean in, too. “Just this. You were an employee. You did all the work, and Bannerman took all the credit. Right?”

“Well, yeah. That’s why I’m starting my own business. People are going to hear about Harry Briscoe.”

“Exactly!” Heyes said. He looked expectantly at Harry. Curry watched the interplay between the two men, waiting. Harry looked confused. “I’m thinking about the danger you’re in.”

“What danger are you talking about? I’m not in any danger.”

“Well, no, not yet. But once your business is up and running, you’ll be a target for every low-down crook and killer out there, people like Barnes. They’ll be hunting you.”

“They will? Why?”

“Because you’re training bounty hunters to go after them! Your students will be swarming all over the bad guys, and it’s all because of you. If the crooks want to be safe, they’ll have to go after you. You’ll need to hire some of your best students to be your bodyguards. Don’t you think so, Thaddeus?”

Curry was startled, but he recovered fast. “Sure, Joshua. You know, Harry, I got to tell you, I really admire you for riskin’ your life this way.”

“Risking my life? How?”

“By settin’ yourself up as a target. That takes real courage, especially without the gang – I mean, the Agency – to watch your back. I didn’t know you had it in you. You got my respect.”

“Oh yeah... thanks. But, uh, I don’t think anybody would go after me. I mean, like I said before, I’m just small potatoes.”

Heyes smiled brightly and slapped Harry on the back. “Now you’re just being modest. This business model of yours will make you famous! Think about it.”

“I am thinking about it.” Harry wiped his forehead with his napkin. He was perspiring heavily. “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?”

“I think it’s just you, Harry,” Heyes said. “Me and Thaddeus aren’t feeling the heat right now, are we, Thaddeus?”

“I feel just fine.”

“How about we order? You must be about as starved as Thaddeus by now.”

“You boys go ahead,” Harry said. “I think I lost my appetite.”


-----

Two men sprinted for the hotel porch as thunder rolled and fat raindrops began to fall. They’d barely jumped the steps, two at a time, when the skies opened up and the rain came down in sheets.

“Sheesh. If this keeps up, nobody’s gonna go out for poker. We might as well call it a night.”

Hannibal Heyes turned to watch lightning illuminate the chunks of hail beginning to fall and coat the unpaved street. “For once, I’m in total agreement. I don’t feel like swimming to the saloon, especially since we did pretty well last night. Let’s just get packed so we can get out of town early tomorrow morning.”

“After breakfast,” Curry said.

Heyes ducked his head to hide his smile. “Goes without saying.”

“I thought sure we’d see Harry again. It’s been two days. He hasn’t even showed up at his office suite. Wonder where he’s been keepin’ himself?”

“I couldn’t imagine.”

Curry looked at his partner. Heyes wore his innocent face. “What do you know that you’re not tellin’ me?”

“Plenty, Kid. Plenty.”


-----

They found Harry Briscoe waiting in the hallway outside their hotel room.

“Well, Harry, we were wondering what happened to you,” Heyes said.

“Invite me in, boys. There’s been a small change in plans.”

Heyes opened the door, and Harry entered and sat down heavily on a bed.

“What’s goin’ on?” Curry asked.

“A lot, Thaddeus. Apparently somebody sent telegrams to Bannerman, telling him all about my little venture here.”

Curry glanced quickly at Heyes. Heyes only smiled blandly in return.

“Why would anybody want to do that?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, Thaddeus. But whoever it was, it’s making some big problems for me.” Harry was twisting his hat between his hands.

“I don’t see how that could be,” Heyes remarked.

“Well, you see, I’d kind of forgotten about the agreement I had to sign when I left the Agency.”

“What agreement was that?” Curry asked.

“There were some documents that Bannerman made everyone sign. I maybe didn’t look at all of them as careful-like as I should’ve. I sort of promised not to compete with Bannerman’s business for two years, and they seem to think my agency is direct competition.”

“Seems kind of un-American to me, Harry,” Heyes observed. “I can’t imagine there’s any law that stops you from going into business for yourself.”

“There isn’t,” Harry replied. “But because I signed this document, they said they’d sue me into the poorhouse before I earned one red cent.”

Curry sat down on the other bed across from Briscoe. “That sounds awful unreasonable. Maybe they’d be open to some kind of deal.”

“Funny you should mention that. They did offer me a deal. Bannerman offered to drop the lawsuit and reinstate me with full salary and seniority if I’d take the job in Galveston. It’d be pretty close to having my own business, since I’d be setting up the office, doing the hiring and training, everything. I got no choice but to accept. So, I’m going to live in Hell.”

Curry whistled in admiration. “Sounds like a sweet deal.”

“Yeah. Even a pension, if I live long enough to collect it.”

Heyes slapped Harry on the back a little too hard. Briscoe jumped a little and glared up at Heyes, who only smiled sweetly. “Congratulations, Harry. You should be real happy.”

“Oh, I’m happy. Sure. I guess.”

“Come on, cheer up,” Heyes said. “You’ll be in charge. It won’t be the Briscoe Agency, true, but you’ll still be running the office, and you’ll have the whole Bannerman organization backing you up. Besides, Galveston’s a booming town. Lots of opportunity there. That means lots of crooks.”

“Lots of trigger-happy Texans, too. Lucky me. If they don’t kill me inside six months, the heat will. If you’re ever in Galveston, put some flowers on my grave.”

“Sure, Harry, if that’d make you feel better.” Curry said.

“I just don’t get it, boys. Why would anybody want to tell Bannerman what I was doing? Why would anybody want to shut down my little bounty hunting business?”

Curry looked at his partner. Heyes wore his innocent face again. “I don’t know, but I’m sure it was someone who had your best interests in mind. And maybe his own, too.”





(Writers love feedback! You can comment on RosieAnnie's story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen. You don't have to sign in and you can be anonymous.)
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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Sat 22 Mar 2014, 11:51 pm by Penski
I checked and double checked... I can't believe this is your 1st Virtual Season story, RosieAnnie!  goodjob 

I absolutely love Harry Briscoe and you did a wonderful job sounding and acting just like him. Very creative plot - can see why the boys were nervous, enough that Heyes talked to the sheriff about Briscoe. Really enjoyed the scenes of the Kid being upset in the meeting and in the saloon. Loved the line... "we wouldn’t been rolling in the dirt today like a couple tomcats in heat." Poor Harry really didn't want to give up his new business until it was forced on him. And moving to Galveston? Yep, that's probably as close to Hell as you can get - hot, humid, and, at the time, lots of loose cannons.

Thanks for venturing to write a VS story!
Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Mon 24 Mar 2014, 8:17 am by NoraWinters
RosieAnnie -- what a great first VS! You managed to keep Harry in character throughout, which takes quite a bit of skill. Poor Harry -- maybe he'll come to love Galveston. I do love his bounty-hunting slogan: "the quicker picker upper." Had to laugh when I read that. All, in all, clapping very loudly.
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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Mon 24 Mar 2014, 11:54 am by CD Roberts
RosieAnnie, what a great story! This is just like watching an episode. Harry is prefect and so is all the dialog. There are so many good lines like:

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t think about it some more, Thaddeus. Since when do we turn down honest work?”

“Since it could get us killed, Joshua!”

“That’s not entirely true. Remember digging up Caroline’s gold in Apache Springs? We took that job, knowing it could get us killed.”

“Yeah, and it nearly did get us killed. You ain’t bein’ real convincin’ here.”

I like Tony and how he stands down on a gunfight with the Kid-not knowing what to do with the gun now that he has it. And, the story has a fitting resolution.

 goodjob wow 

Hope you write more VS!
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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Mon 24 Mar 2014, 3:43 pm by Grace R. Williams
Great job on your first VS episode, RosieAnnie! Loved every moment from beginning to end. I particularly enjoyed the hard "gunman" edge you gave the Kid in his scene with Stevens, and your resurrection of the word "confab!" Wonderful story! Hope to read more from you.
Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Mon 24 Mar 2014, 7:36 pm by InsideOutlaw
Amazing first VS episode.  The boys and Harry were absolutely pitch-perfect throughout.  I love Heyes' underhanded solution and Harry not figuring out who turned him in.  Lots of great lines, but my favorite was the sheriff talking about Harry's first, second, and third impressions.  Got a good laugh, too, out of the boy named Sue and Sam Bogart (shades of Casablanca?)  Congratulations on a job well-done! clap
Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Mon 24 Mar 2014, 10:42 pm by Keays
Great first VS episode RosieAnnie.  You caught Harry really well with all his nuances and fumbling around.  Loved how he tripped over his own feet and nearly shot himself in the leg while leaving the sheriff's office.  No wonder the sheriff was so worried about this new business in town.

Heyes is up to his old tricks again.  It's not a crime to break into a man's private room and crack open the safe if you don't take anything.  Is it?  Yes; I wonder who sent those letters to the Bannerman agency.  Harry has a couple of good friends there.
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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Tue 25 Mar 2014, 7:22 pm by Lana Coombe
What a good one Rosie! Very episode like, with convincing dialogue and characterisations. A thoroughly enjoyable read.  clap study 
VS 14 story -- RosieAnnie
Post on Wed 26 Mar 2014, 9:09 pm by e-pony
Great VS episode. Clever plot and all the characters ... well, in character. Would love to have seen this filmed.

Pony
Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Thu 03 Apr 2014, 12:31 pm by Calico
Calico here! Sheesh, I will soon be caught up. (Deep gulp of tea)
Smiling already ‘cos Harry is in it.
Hey, I quite like the quicker picker upper! Catchy.
Loving the faster than I can count joke.
Also loving the ‘since it could get us killed’ banter.
Loving THE Kid claiming credit for the Last Train to Brimstone capture – would love to see Harry’s face.
Oh Rosie, Clapping here at the change in mood as Curry swallows that Stevens has a justified grudge against bank robbers.
Dear Kid though, he really doesn’t want this chap getting hurt does he?
Oh, poor old Harry all trussed up. It’s Reformation all over again.
Now?? Did HH set up the ambush?? Or not? Cannot make up my mind.
Aw, so Harry’s going to Galveston after all. (Is it really that bad??)
Very, very picturable as an episode Rosie!! Great stuff.
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Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Sat 19 Apr 2014, 9:30 pm by Ghislaine Emrys

Wow, this was terrific! You are the best at writing Harry, and writing the boys and Harry together. But poor Harry: Yet again, he's in over his head--he's lucky the West is such a small place he keeps running into Heyes and Curry!

A great idea for an episode, very realistic and so true to everyone's character. Loved the first scene between Heyes and the sheriff about Harry; also loved Kid's seriousness when talking to Tony (and this was great: Anyone call you Sue--not a second time: What a great line!)

So many excellent lines, but these were my favorites:
* "I didn’t get fired. My job was eliminated, that’s all."
* “Trust me, Kid. When have I ever let you down?” “I’d tell you, but we ain’t got all day."
* “I want to make sure I remember every little detail of this picture. This ought to be worth a few favors down the road.” Definitely that is Hannibal Heyes, former leader of the Devil's Hole gang, talking there.

Congrats on your first VS--hope to see many more!

Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
Post on Sat 26 Apr 2014, 4:46 pm by HannaHeyes
Another first time VS writer! This was wonderful! You write Harry Briscoe so well. And his company slogan gave me a good laugh! Harry's one of those people you want to help and strangle all at the same time. He just never learns. Heyes' plan B was great. Loved Kid's last line. Great job!
Re: The Briscoe Agency by RosieAnnie
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