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 Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150311
PostDustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender



Short on cash as usual, Heyes and Curry jump at the opportunity to accept what promises to be a well-paying and uncomplicated job offer from their old friend, Sheriff Lom Trevors. However, the pair soon has reason to regret their haste when they discover that the job proves to be anything but simple.



Starring

Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes



Ben Murphy as Jed “Kid” Curry



Guest Starring


Hugh Laurie as Sheriff Micah Mason



Laurie Holden as Cora Mason, Sheriff's Wife



Emily Kinney as Sarah Mason, Sheriff’s Daughter



Peter Breck as Harrison



Anson Mount as Bo



Hunter Heyes as Danny



Wallace Maynard Cox as Jonathan Whitmore




A Town Called Dustbowl
by moonshadow
and Ty Pender


Kid Curry sat near the hotel room window cleaning his gun. He mumbled under his breath at a knock on the door. “Who’s there?”
 
“It’s me – Smith.” Hannibal Heyes entered and locked the door. He sat on the bed and pulled a brown envelope out of his jacket.

“Whatya readin’?” Curry asked without looking up.

“A telegram from Lom.”

“You mean he finally answered the one you sent last week askin’ if he had any jobs?”

Heyes opened the envelope and began to read silently.

“Hope he’s got somethin’ 'cos we’re runnin’ low on cash.”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed dryly and then his eyes lit up. “Listen to this, Kid:

  Joshua Smith, Thaddeus Jones
  Gov needs safecracker vault Dustbowl AZ.
  500 wired to Pinal County Treasurer’s office.
  500 when job complete.
  Lom Trevors, Sheriff, Porterville, WY.”


Curry grinned. “Hey, that sounds perfect.”

“No kidding. Start packing, I’ll wire Lom. Meet me at the telegraph office with the horses.”


0000000

The man looked over his horn-rimmed glasses at Heyes and Curry as they entered the Pinal County Treasurer’s office. “Good morning gentlemen, how can I be of assistance?”

Heyes stepped forward and handed him the telegram.

The man looked at the telegram and then back up at Heyes and Curry. “Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith; pleased to meet you. How do you happen to know the sheriff at Porterville?”



“Lom's an old friend,” Heyes replied as he and Curry seated themselves in front of his oak desk.

“Well then, I’m Jonathan Whitmore, County Treasurer. You’re going out to a town called Dustbowl. It used to be known by another name, but that's of no consequence. It's completely deserted now, except for the sheriff. The county had to keep some law there until everyone had left. We need to retrieve the documents in the bank vault before he’s transferred. That’s where you come in.”

“What kind of vault is it?” asked Heyes.

“I’ll get the report.” Whitmore stood and went over to a cabinet.

Curry turned to Heyes. “Does he expect us to bring those documents back? That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Yeah, I know; I’ll bring that up,” Heyes whispered.

Whitmore returned and handed a page to Heyes. “Here’s the contractor’s report made when the vault was installed. It's big; built into an old mineshaft. It was paid for mostly by the silver mining interest. They were expecting to hold quite a lot of bullion in it. Once you have the vault open, be careful. At one point, the mineshaft takes a steep drop; that part is closed off with a steel door, I believe.”

Heyes glanced down the page and looked up. “It has a Yale dual-combination lock. The combination to the secondary lock is here, but the combination to the primary is missing.”

“That’s right,” Whitmore replied. “It was sent in a separate report to the bank, for security purposes. Unfortunately, it’s lost.  We check with Yale. They would charge a fortune to send someone out from Connecticut.”

“It will take a while to crack this one, even with the secondary combination,” Heyes said. “On these big vaults, the action’s deep inside the door and hard to detect.”

“I understand, but you can’t blast it. That would destroy the documents.”

“What happened to the town?” Curry asked.

“The silver mines dried up suddenly and unexpectedly. The mining operations went bankrupt, then into receivership, and finally were handed to the state. They’re full of water and it would take a fortune to bring them back into operation. There’s no silver left, apparently. The deeds and survey maps to all the mines and to most of the real estate in the town are in the vault, as well as all the town records.”

“Arizona owns everything?” asked Heyes.

“Yes. In some cases the co-owners or partners haven’t stepped forward to claim the property, or we haven’t been able to find them.” He shrugged and continued, “You will be staying with the sheriff and his family. They live in the town’s saloon – or what used to be the saloon. If you get there in the evening it will have the only lights in town, so…”

“Did you say saloon?” Curry interrupted. “The sheriff lives in a saloon?”

Whitmore gave Curry a deadpan look.

“You have to admit, it is odd,” Heyes agreed.

“I don’t deny that, but it’s the nicest place in town. Sheriff Micah Mason has a family and his office and its jail is right across the street from the saloon.”

The two partners shared a relieved look at the lawman's name.

“So how'd the Arizona end up owning a saloon?” Curry asked.

“That’s a sad story; typical of what happened to the town. The gentleman who bought the saloon and hotel made a big mistake. He bought it just as the silver was drying up. He came into town and, within a day, made an offer. Of course the owner was happy to sell. Within a year after the new owner bought it, the town was nearly empty. But he died before that happened and the property passed into county hands because it was unclaimed.” He paused. “Getting back to the sheriff, Mason will be very happy to see you; he’s ready to get out. He can open the bank for you and help you load the documents.”

“Retrieving the documents wasn’t part of the original deal,” Heyes said. “At least we didn’t know about it and we’re not prepared to do it.”

“Oh?” Whitmore took a second look at the telegram. “I see what you mean, that part has been…conveniently…left out.”

“We’re expectin’ to get $1000 for this job,” Curry stated.  

“Five hundred in advance to scope the job,” Heyes added. “If we can’t do it, we’ll report back. But if we can, we’ll return and collect the other five hundred. You’ll have an open vault, but you’ll have to get the documents yourself. That would be an added expense.”

“I understand, but the sheriff has a wagon ready, with horses and feed.”

“That’s fine,” Heyes shrugged. “But a wagon is going to slow us down. We have other jobs waiting. That’s our time.”

“Well, in that case, I can offer you…”

Heyes didn’t give Whitmore a chance to finish. “Five hundred in advance, and one thousand to complete – and you supply the wagon.”

“Assumin' everything can fit in a wagon,” Curry added, “an' two men can lift the load.”

The treasurer looked alarmed as he struggled to form a response.

“How many documents are there?” Heyes asked.

Whitmore pointed behind him “There are four cabinets, that size.”

“Okay, draw up the contract.”

The treasurer examined their faces; stony resolution stared back at him. He reached toward the inkwell in front of him and mumbled under his breath as he started writing, “Fifteen hundred dollars…the whole town isn’t worth fifty cents! These specialists don’t come cheap!”


0000000

It was dusk when Heyes and Curry drew their horses up on the outskirts of the small town and eyed their surroundings.



“Don't tell me we rode all the way out here for nothin',” Curry groused. “You really think this is it?”

“Hmm?”

“Don't tell me this is what I think it is.”

“Well,” Heyes turned to face Kid, “guess that would all depend on what you think it is.”

“Heyes, there’s somethin' about this place that makes me think this job is a big mistake. Somethin's not right, but I jus' can’t put my finger on it. I have a strange feelin' about this town.”

“You mean like it's familiar?”

“Yeah, that’s it, familiar. It's gettin' too dark for me to see much of anythin' more than a few feet in front of me. And with the wind and dust, that just makes it even harder. I'd sure like to see it in the daylight.”

“Well, when you get it figured out, let me know. Meanwhile, sorry to disappoint you, but we're right where we're supposed to be. That sign we passed said ten miles in this direction.”

“How can you be so sure?” Curry challenged. “That sign just said ten miles and the town’s name was painted out. So what makes you think you're right?”

“I don't think,” Heyes countered smugly, “I know.”

“Funny, Heyes, real funny; you know what I mean. Look around.”

Heyes obliged the request. His eyes swept the area in all directions and he arched a brow in his partner's direction.

“Well?” asked Curry.

“You told me not to tell you,” Heyes reminded him with a flash of a dimpled smile and a lift of his shoulders as he finished surveying the street.

“Hmph,” Curry snorted. “That's never stopped you before.”

The men rode further into town. As if on cue, a sudden gust of wind kicked up a thick cloud of dust, and propelled a tumbleweed across their path. The pair turned to watch it roll down the deserted street until it disappeared from view.



Heyes’ horse shied. “Easy, girl,” he soothed, “it's just the wind.”

“Heyes, Whitmore said we’d be stayin' at the saloon with the sheriff, but I don’t see any lights anywhere. Do you see any lights?”

Heyes looked around. “No, but…”

“Well,” Curry interrupted, “that settles it. I think we should turn around an' head back. If we leave now, we won't havta spend another night sleepin' on the cold, hard ground.”

“We can't, Kid. Are you forgetting that we have a job to do? A job, which I shouldn't have to remind you, we've already been paid half the money up front to do and…”

“Yeah, I know,” Curry cut him off and waved his hand in a wide arc. “An' you still haven't proved how you know this is Dustbowl.”

“I’ll bet you a dollar I’m right.” Heyes pulled a coin out of his vest.

“A whole dollar?” Curry sighed. “Okay, I’ll call.”

“The answer's right behind you.”

Curry twisted around and looked over his shoulder. A lopsided, weather-beaten sign dangled by a corner from a rickety signpost. The wind caught it and the wooden placard began to spin around in a wild dance. He edged his horse closer and reached out to halt it. He had to tilt his head sideways to see the faded lettering. “Welcome to …” he read aloud and released the piece of wood. It swung back and forth a few times before it dropped back into place. “Looks like the rest has been painted over.”

“Probably just faded away. It used to say, 'Welcome to Dustbowl',” Heyes grinned.

“Uh huh, great.”

The wind continued to whistle and howl as it weaved its way around the wooden skeletons of what was once a lively town. The sound of distant thunder enhanced the eeriness of the ghost town.

Another whirlwind of dust engulfed them. Curry coughed and wiped at his eyes. “I think I’m beginnin’ to understand how the town got its name,” he muttered. “If you ask me, we ain't gonna find nothin' but ghosts out here.”

The clicks of two guns being cocked behind them made Heyes and Curry swivel around in their saddles like a pair of whip snakes. All they could see were two long, dark shadows.  

“You won't find any ghosts here,” said a gruff voice.

“Don't try it, Curry!” another voice warned as the Kid went for his weapon. “You got two guns on you. Now, both of you, raise your hands high in the air, nice 'n easy.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a tense look and did as ordered.

“Well, well, well…if it ain't Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry right here in Dustbowl. Who'dve ever thought the two of you would end up here in my town?”

“Your town?” Curry snorted with derision. “Not much to claim if you ask me!”

“You'll have to excuse my friend here,” said Heyes, “he's a bit testy. We've been traveling long and hard to get to our destination, only we seem to have got ourselves lost and…”

“You can skip the con job, Heyes! I know all about why you're here and it's not because you're 'lost.' You boys knew this town was empty and so you figured you’d try crackin’ the bank vault, right?”

“Our names are Smith and Jones,” Heyes persisted, “Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones. We are definitely not Hannibal Heyes and whats-his-name…”

A laugh emerged from the shadow. “Nice try. You must figure me for some kinda idiot, Heyes. But as they say, it takes one to know one...” his glance slid over to include Curry, “or two. Both you and the Kid have been callin’ each other by your real names the whole time you've been sitting there jawing and I've been listenin’ real careful-like to every bit of it. You two ain't usin’ Smith and Jones when you think you're alone, so you might as well quit trying to talk your way outta trouble; it ain't gonna work with me. Heyes, this is the best luck I’ve had for a while. You’re going to crack that vault for me.”

Heyes and Curry shared a sideways glance.

“I gotta say, I had you two pegged for bein’ more cautious, and a heck of a lot smarter - 'specially you, Heyes. And now, here you are - my prisoners. Alrighty, boys, that's enough dilly-dallyin'. I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill; one at a time, toss your guns over my way, then get down off your horses and we're all gonna go for a little walk. You first, Curry.”

With a look of resignation, the Kid did as told, followed by Heyes.

Once both men stood on the ground, the second stranger spoke up. “Harrison, I think we oughta’ shoot these two now – they’re too dangerous!”

“Shut up, Bo! Heyes is goin; to open that safe for us. He can do it, so just calm down.”

Heyes squinted as he peered into the shadows. His curiosity increased as the two men stepped out.

Curry, who had been paying extra special attention to the newcomers and the weapons they held in their hands, transferred his gaze to where his own gun had landed.

“Uh, uh, uh...wouldn't try it, Curry,” Bo warned and trained his weapon on Heyes. “'Less'n ya wanna watch your partner take a bullet for your stupidity.”

The Kid raised his eyes to stare into those of the stranger. The cold, calculating expression he saw convinced him the man spoke the truth.

“Thought ya'd see things my way, Curry.” Bo flashed a self-satisfied smirk at the outlaw.

The Kid's clenched jaw and glacial glare were his only response.

“Danny, go over and cuff 'em,” Harrison ordered.

A young kid, no older than fifteen or sixteen, took two sets of cuffs from Harrison, went behind Heyes and Curry, and handcuffed each one behind their backs.

“Okay, boys, start walkin’ to the bank.”


0000000

Harrison led the way, followed by Heyes and Curry. Bo and Danny were close behind, guarding the two. Harrison lit a kerosene lamp before he and Heyes stepped through the open door. Danny entered next. Harrison’s lamp sent long shadows across the inside of the bank.

Curry stopped to look around until Bo gave him a hard shove. The Kid stumbled, but quickly caught his balance and turned to glare at the other man.

Bo smirked and motioned with his gun. “Get movin',” he ordered, 'less'n ya want more of the same!”

The look Curry sent Bo spoke volumes, but he remained silent as he turned away and entered the building.

Heyes and Curry looked around the bank. It was obvious the place had been pretty well ransacked. Chairs were overturned, deposit boxes were tossed to the floor, and it looked like someone had already made a weak attempt to crack the vault.



“You two do all this, or was it like this when you got here?” Curry asked.

Bo poked Curry in his back with his gun. “Shut up.”

“Someone,” Harrison's eyes shifted in Bo's direction, “thought it would be easy to crack using dynamite.”

“How much did he use?” Curry smirked.

“I only had one stick!” Bo protested.

“That's not just an ordinary vault.” Heyes smiled. “Dynamite won't work; neither will nitro.”

“Right.” Harrison gave him a speculative look. “That's why you're here. You know how to do this kind of work and it should be a piece of cake for someone with your experience. That's all you have to do, just open the vault an' everyone will be happy, especially Bo and me.”

“An' me!” Danny added quickly.

“Uh, right. The three of us will just ride outta here and everyone will go on and do whatever it is that they do. Nice and simple.”

“You're expecting me to be able to do this, Harrison. What if I can't get the vault open? What if this is the one combination I can't crack?”

“I already thought of that possibility, Heyes. Guess now's as good a time as any to show you what will happen if you don't succeed.” He looked straight into Heyes' eyes. “I was really hopin’ I wouldn't have to take up everyone’s valuable time to do it.”

“I wasn't aware we were wasting anyone’s time,” Heyes replied and pierced Harrison with a steady look of his own.

“Better watch your mouth, Heyes,” Bo snarled. “Show the boss some respect or I'll be more'n happy to shut it for you!”

Harrison held up a hand. “I'll take care of this, Bo,” he said and took a step towards Heyes.

Curry made a move as if to go his partner's aid, but winced when Bo grabbed his handcuffs behind his back and twisted them.

Harrison stared Heyes down for a full minute before he spoke. “I respect a man with guts, Heyes, but just so we understand each other right off from the start, there's only one leader here and that's me. You'll do what I say, when I say and not ask questions -- is that clear?”

“That my only choice?”

Harrison's fist connected with Heyes' face and a split-second later Heyes found himself flat out on the floor, staring up at the bank’s dimly lit ceiling. He ran the tip of his tongue over blood that trickled from his bottom lip.

Harrison took the few steps necessary to tower over Heyes. “That was a question.” His eyes narrowed and a calculated expression appeared on his face as he fingered his chin. “You know,” he mused aloud, “I'd heard tell that Curry was the stubborn one; maybe I was mistaken. I might be goin’ about this the wrong way. Could be there's another way to help you understand how things work around here, Heyes.” He pulled a bandana from his hip pocket and tossed it towards Danny. “Gag Curry and bring him over here to me,” he ordered and then looked down at Heyes. “You'll wanna be on your feet for this.”

Heyes rose awkwardly as Danny shoved Curry, handcuffed and now gagged, before Harrison.



Heyes took a step forward, but was brought to an abrupt standstill when Bo grabbed his handcuffs and wrenched his arms behind his back, testing his muscles to their limit.

“It's really very simple, Heyes,” Harrison drawled and began to encircle the Kid. “Here's how it works. I only need you for the job, so Curry is dispensable. Your partner's got two arms, two legs, two shoulders...and, last but not least, there's his head.” As the final two words left his mouth Harrison approached the Kid, raised the gun and pressed the cold metal of the muzzle against Curry’s temple. “I believe it's your call, Heyes.”

Heyes continued to stare straight ahead, but his hands balled into fists behind his back. Without turning his head, his glance slid in his partner's direction.

“Right -- you are a stubborn cuss, ain't you? Have it your way then!” Harrison drew back the hammer. As it clicked into place, Heyes spoke up.

“That vault has a double combination lock. If I’m going to open it, I need my partner alive to work the secondary dial.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that to begin with?” Harrison pulled his gun away from Curry’s head and released the hammer. “There's no way I'd let you both work in here together; I'm not stupid,” he snorted. “You can use Bo.”

“You don't understand! I need his help…”

“No, Heyes, it's you who doesn't understand. It's not negotiable.”

“He's done the job before and knows…”

“You might as well save your breath; I don't care what he knows. It ain't gonna happen no matter what you claim. Curry's my leverage and he's gonna stay locked up until that vault is open.”

“The second person has to remain perfectly still,” Heyes persisted. “One cough, one sneeze, or a door slam and I’ll miss the click in the primary and we’ll have to start all over again. It could take up to four hours under the best of circumstances.”

“Four hours!” Bo protested. “I ain't gonna stand around for no four hours - I've got more important things to do!”

“I give the orders around here!” Harrison snapped,

“Sorry, Boss,” Bo answered, not looking the least bit contrite.

“Danny,” Harrison said, “you go keep an eye on our female prisoners while Bo and I get these two over to the jail, and then he and I are gonna go have us a little talk and settle things.”


0000000

Bo and Harrison locked Heyes and Curry in a jail cell, leaving Curry gagged.

“Turn around. I’ll take those handcuffs; we're gonna need 'em for our other prisoners,” Bo said with a leering laugh.

Heyes and Curry turned their backs to the bars and stuck their hands through openings in the cell as Bo removed the handcuffs.

“Make sure everything’s locked up nice and tight, then you can come over to the saloon and we’ll talk,” Harrison said and stepped out.

Bo lit a kerosene lamp.

As the flame flickered to life, Heyes and Curry were able to see that the cell next to them was occupied. The man who sat on the cot had a sullen, vacant look in his eyes that seemed to pierce right through them. A silver badge on his chest flashed in the light.

As Bo walked out of the cellblock, he glanced back to watch in smug silence as Curry struggled to undo the tight knots of his gag. Satisfied, Bo turned to leave, but after only a few steps he pivoted around.

“Oh, yeah, lawman, I almost forgot; I was s'posed to deliver a message to ya. Guess it must've been all the excitement that drove it plumb outta my head until just now. Let's see, it was something real important, too...” He frowned in mock concentration and scratched his head. “Oh yeah, now I remember. The boss said for me to tell ya that Cora's bearin’ up pretty good...under the circumstances. She says you're not to worry none 'bout her - or Sarah - an' for ya not to do anything stupid.”

Bo holstered his gun with a flourish and then hooked his thumbs into his waistband. “Guess she knows her husband pretty well, huh?” Receiving only a heated glare from the sheriff, he shrugged. “Well, anyways, now that I gave ya your message, guess I'd better be on my way. I've got a few loose ends to tie up.” He dangled the handcuffs in the air and then, with a calculated deliberateness, Bo raised his eyes to stare straight into those of the sheriff.

“I'll be heading on over to pay a little social visit to the womenfolk. I just wanna make sure they're okay. I think those poor, lonely ladies deserve a little extra special personal attention - ya know what I mean? Ya got any messages ya want me to deliver to Cora when I see her, lawman? Maybe I'll give Cora a great big hug an' kisses from her lovin’ husband? An' how 'bout sweet Sarah? She must miss ya something awful…Why, I bet she'd be real happy to have my arms wrapped around her, huggin’ her tight, whisperin’ in her ear...”

Bo's taunting words caused the already livid lawman's skin to turn a mottled shade of purplish-red hues and the veins to pop out on his neck as he rose to his feet. The sounds that issued forth from the sheriff's mouth made a wounded grizzly sound tame in comparison. With a look of intense loathing on his face he hissed, “This time you've gone too far, Bo!”

Undaunted, Bo’s smirk grew even broader.

“If you lay a hand…” the sheriff sputtered, “if you dare to touch even one hair on either of those ladies' heads, I'll…”

“You'll what?” Bo gave a snort of unconcerned laughter. “Ya wouldn't dare - ya don't scare me, lawman - you've got too much at stake. ‘Sides that, ya don’t have the guts!” With a final smirk, Bo turned and swaggered away, locking the outer cell bars behind him. A few seconds later, the door to the sheriff’s office closed. The three men could hear Bo's taunting laughter as he continued down the street.

The sheriff's ruddy complexion had begun to recede at the last of Bo's thinly veiled threats; he was now as pale as one of the apparitions that might lay claim to citizenship in the deserted town. The lawman swallowed the bile that had risen to his throat and made a determined effort to clamp down on his emotions as he dropped back down on his bunk. “I'm sorry you two had to see all that,” he apologized. “Maybe I'd better introduce myself; I’m Sheriff Micah Mason.”

“Sheriff,” Heyes nodded, “I’m Joshua Smith.”

“I’m Thaddeus Jones, sir.”

“You're the two Lom wired me about. Well, I expect you're both curious,” the lawman went on, “wondering what this is all about.”

“You got that right, sir,” Heyes and Curry answered in unison.

“Well, this ghost of a town was once home to a whole bunch of good, decent, law-abidin' folks until…”

“Let me guess,” offered Heyes, “until those two showed up and scared everybody off?”

“No, this town was empty before they got here. Those two wandered into town just two days ago. They thought that since the town was empty they’d blow up the bank vault and see what was inside. They tried yesterday, but it’s too strong. If you ever see it, you’ll know why – it’s massive.”

“Yes, it is,” Heyes nodded. “We just came from the bank.”

“Why so big?” inquired Curry.

“This used to be a silver-mining town. The mining companies thought they had some rich mines so they invested heavily; lots of equipment. That vault was built to hold large amounts of bullion and cash. But the mines went flat early. The companies went bankrupt and stopped operations and then the shafts filled up with water.”

“And you're the last man standing, huh?” Heyes grinned.

“My salary's on contract with Pinal County. They wanted to keep some law here until the town was empty. It took a while; there were some stalwart souls that hung on even though the telegraph wires were removed about six months ago. I’ve been reassigned to a county courthouse desk job. We were all packed up to leave when these animals showed up two days ago.” Mason sighed and gave them a dry smile. “Well, gentlemen, it's a bit late, but welcome to Dustbowl. You know, this would've been a smooth job for you if you’d gotten here two days ago. I’m sure the three of us could've taken care of these guys.”

“Thanks,” said Heyes, “but I’m not so sure about that. Bo and Harrison caught us by surprise. They disarmed us when we came into town and marched us in here. We told him we were hired by the county to crack the safe; that was a big mistake. Harrison accused us of bluffing. Now he wants us to crack the safe for him. If you ask me, I think he’s kinda crazy.” Heyes shook his head. He’s even got us mixed up with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

“Harrison says a lot of things, none of which I believe are true,” Mason snorted derisively. “In the short time I've known the man, I've learned to take what he says with a grain of salt. He can call you Heyes and Curry all he wants. As far as I'm concerned, it's just talk; he doesn't have any proof.” The sheriff gave the boys a weary smile. “Look, fellas, Lom is my friend, as well as a good lawman. He wouldn't have sent you if he didn't trust you, and I trust him.

“And another thing,” the lawman continued, “I agree with you about Harrison - he is crazy. The way he sees it, only criminals would come into town to crack a safe; that makes the most sense. Now that you have two showed up, he’s convinced there’s something really valuable in that vault. He and Bo want it real bad.”

“They sure do,” Curry nodded.

“There's actually three of them. There’s also a young kid named Danny. He looks innocent and out of place. He spends most of his time with my wife, Cora, and my daughter, Sarah, over at the saloon. I think he feels more at ease with them.”

“Yeah, we met him,” Heyes said.

“He’s the one that handcuffed us,” Curry added.

“Oh,” replied the sheriff. “Well, I don’t think he’s committed a crime yet. He brags a lot though; he seems to have a chip on shoulder about something, but he keeps it to himself. Anyway, it looks like the county didn’t waste any time finding someone to crack that bank vault. I’ve never been inside, but I doubt it has anything of monetary value. I've been told that it has all of the surveys and titles to the mines, along with some deeds to property in the old town.”

“That's what we were told, too,” Heyes nodded.

“Once you unlock that vault, they’ll probably move the papers over to the state capital. That is,” the sheriff continued, “if we survive. I doubt that any of us will make it outta here alive.”

“Well,” Curry replied, “for a town we thought was deserted, Dustbowl's sure provin’ to be full of surprises.”

“We don’t have much time to come up with a plan,” Heyes said. “They may take me over to crack that vault tonight. Sheriff, what can you tell us?”

“Well, there’s a second key to these cells stashed in…”


0000000

The three men could hear Bo and Harrison talking outside the jail. Soon afterwards, they came through the door to the cells. Danny was with them. He was packing a pistol that looked oddly oversized in his hands.

“Keep your gun on these two until we get back. The ladies are fixin’ supper for us.”

“I'd be glad to, sir.” His face filled with anger, Danny glared at Curry.

“Okay, Heyes,” said Harrison, “here’s the deal. You open the safe for us and we’ll bring you back here. No one gets hurt. We’ll bring Mason’s wife and girl back to the jail and lock them up with him. Then we’ll ride out of town. In a few days, we’ll wire someone to let you out. But if there’s any funny stuff, we’ll shoot you three and take the ladies with us, got that?”

“Can’t argue with a deal like that, Harrison,” Heyes replied dryly. “I’m going to need some food though; it’s going to take about four hours to crack that safe and I can’t concentrate on an empty stomach. My buddy here, too; we haven’t eaten since this morning.”

“Yeah, sure,” Harrison replied indifferently. “The ladies gave us two baskets to bring over. You can find something in there. Bo, bring 'em in.”

Bo set the baskets down. “You got two real nice ladies, Sheriff,” Bo leered. “Too bad they’re stuck with the likes of us.” Bo laughed and Harrison joined in.

“You got that right, Bo!” Heyes grinned.

Bo scowled and reached through the bars, but Heyes had already taken a step back.

“Back off, Bo,” Harrison said calmly, “leave him alone.”

Once Bo had retreated, Curry and Heyes reached through the bars and started emptying their basket. The sheriff did likewise.

“Okay, Curry, you got enough food. Move to the back of the cell until we get Heyes outta here,” Harrison commanded. “Then you can have a little conversation with Danny. He has something to tell you.” Bo and Harrison laughed as they locked the cell and marched Heyes away.

_________________
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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Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender :: Comments

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Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Wed 11 Mar 2015, 4:22 pm by royannahuggins
Curry shook his head and shrugged. “Guess they’re gonna keep callin’ us Heyes and Curry, no matter what we say.” He came to the front of the cell and finished emptying the basket. “Hey, Danny, you want somethin’ to eat?”



“Don't call me that!”
 
“Huh?” the Kid's brow wrinkled.

“Danny's not my real name!” the young man snarled. “You took that away from me, too!”

“Whaddya mean? I've never met you before today!”

“Ya met my aunt!”

Curry shook his head. “Son, I don't have the foggiest idea what you're talkin' about…”

Danny brandished his gun and glared fiercely at Curry. “An' don't call me 'son' – ya ain't got no right to be callin' me anything - so jus' shut up an' leave me alone,” he warned, “or I swear I'm gonna put ya six feet under an' nothin' or nobody's gonna stop me!”

Curry clamped his mouth shut and turned to stare out the window as he resumed eating his dinner. He heaved a sigh when he realized that the view out the window was pitch black.

“I knew ya were a coward...” Danny snorted. Under his breath he added, “Jus' like Aunt Lurene told me ya were!”

“Lurene?” Curry pivoted back to stare at Danny in surprise. “Your aunt...she...her name's Lurene?”

“Nothin' wrong with your hearin' - ya heard me right! Why?” Danny's voice held a challenge.

“Well, that's not a real common name...we met a Lurene once,” Curry mused, his brow furrowing while he thought aloud. “She worked in a saloon...she helped us find a man...” Curry stopped. “Danny. Danny Bilson.” His eyes narrowed as he stared at the boy on the other side of the cell. “You said your real name wasn't Danny. What is it?”

“Why should you care? Not a day of my life went by that she didn’t remind me of how the man she loved died. How you killed him. And she told me the story not just once, but every single, solitary day for the last two years; clear up until the day she died. You broke her heart by killin’ him.”

“I’m real sorry to hear about your aunt bein’ dead, I truly am. But I can’t say I’m sorry about killin’ Danny Bilson; that’d be a lie. You wanna know why?”

The boy snorted and turned away.

“Well, you can just stand there and listen. And maybe think about what I’m tellin’ you. Bilson, me, Joshua, and another man went into the desert to mine for gold. Bilson stole all the gold we had, plus our horses and food, even our canteens. He left us there to die. The other man, Seth, he did die.”

Danny turned back to look at Curry, his angry expression changing to one of doubt.

“Seth was older; he couldn’t make it.” Curry looked down at his hands. A moment later he looked up and continued. “Do you know why Bilson didn’t return for your aunt before we found him? Because he didn’t need, or want, her anymore.”

Danny opened his mouth to protest.

“That’s the truth, Danny. He bought a fancy saloon with the gold he stole. After that he had all the gamblin’, money and women he wanted. Bilson stole your aunt's love; he never loved anybody but himself. He lied to her, because that ‘s what he was: a liar, a thief and a murderer.”

“Why should I believe you? You’re a thief, too, and you murdered him!”

“I didn’t murder him. He called me out. I was just faster than he was. It was a fair fight; there was a sheriff who witnessed the whole thing. You can check on that.”

Subdued, Danny sat down and stared at his hands. When he looked up, his expression was puzzled.

“You already checked that out, didn’t you?” Curry asked quietly.

The boy nodded. His voice had an odd tone to it when he responded. “Yeah, I spoke to the sheriff who saw Danny Bilson die.”

“Is that how you found out who we were?”

After a quick glance at Sheriff Mason, Danny’s tone was guarded. “Yeah, the sheriff was kinda curious after the gunfight, but he said he didn’t have any reason to arrest you. He wrote your names down just in case he needed them later.”  He cocked his head to the side and kept a close watch on Curry’s face as he asked, “You ain’t been back there, have you?”

Curry shook his head. “Nope; never had any reason to. Sheriff said it was a fair fight and we were free to go, so we did.”

“But it wasn’t a fair fight!” Danny protested. “Bilson didn’t have a chance!”

“Danny, I’ve got somethin’ to confess to you. Bilson was the fastest and most accurate shot I ever saw. I watched him in a shootin’ contest just before we met. He hit every plate in the air that he aimed at. And that’s the honest truth.”

“If he was faster and a better shot than you, how come he lost?”

“There’s a big difference between shootin' at plates and shootin’ at a man who can shoot back. And, maybe, just maybe, underneath it all Bilson knew he was guilty of murder for leavin' Seth out in the desert to die. Maybe that slowed him down some. Now, you tell me somethin’. If you spoke with the sheriff, and you knew I won that fight fair and square, why are you so angry at me?”

“I dunno,” Danny shrugged, sadness tinging his voice. “I guess it was for Aunt Lurene. She loved him an' she was all I ever had after…I wanted to do something for her.”

“You don't have anyone else? No brothers or sisters? What about your parents?”

“My ma died a few years back, then two years ago pa, my sister, Sarah, an' me headed west to start over. We had some real bad luck. Ran out of food and water crossing the desert in all that heat. It was like what you went through, I guess.” He swallowed. “I remember there was this terrible sandstorm an' the next time I woke up I was in a room with soldiers.

“They said they found me wandering alone while out on patrol, an' took me back to their fort. I was sick for a real long time. They asked me if I had any kin an' I remembered about Aunt Lurene. I had to think real hard about the name of the town she was in. When I was better an' able to travel, they sent me to live with her.”

“So we both know what it’s like, don't we? Being out in the desert with no water. How a man can suffer out there. And die. And there’s somethin’ else that makes us even more alike. Joshua an' me, we're orphans, too. We lost our folks in the war.”

Danny’s eyes widened.

“We’re from Kansas. A lot of regular folk died in all the fightin’ there in the border area.” Curry stopped, and stared at nothing in particular. Then he changed the subject. “How long you been with Harrison and Bo? An’ why? You seem like you could do a lot better than hook up with those two.”

Danny shifted uncomfortably. “I just joined up with Harrison an' Bo a few months back. This is...uh, well, this is really my first job. When Aunt Lurene died, I was on my own and had to leave,” he mumbled and looked down at his feet. “My name ain’t really Danny, an' I don’t wanna use it no more. I only used it to please my aunt.” He looked back up at the sheriff and Curry. “My real name’s Jimmy; Jimmy Dean.”

The sheriff, who had been listening quietly up until now, spoke. “Jimmy, you mentioned you had a sister named Sarah?”

“Yeah, the soldiers searched for her, but never found anything,” the boy said quietly. “They only found me and my pa, and he was dead.”

“Well Da - I mean Jimmy, there's a chance your sister, Sarah, may be alive. Two years ago when me and Cora were traveling through the desert on our way to visit another family, we found a young girl wandering by herself. She said she had a brother and a father somewhere off in a wagon. We searched, but couldn't find 'em. A bad sand storm had come up the day before so there were no tracks for us to follow.

“We always felt bad about not finding her family, never knowing what had happened to 'em. We took her in; her name’s Sarah Mason now. Her memory suffered some from the heat and she wasn't able to come up with her family’s name, much less where they lived. But there was one person she did remember, her brother, Jimmy.”

“That's my name!” the boy cried. “Ya mean the same Sarah that's over with Cora - I mean Mrs. Mason - she could be my sister?”

“That don’t sound like much of a ‘maybe’ to me, Jimmy,” Curry smiled.

“I'm sorry, but I didn't make the connection until you told us that your real name was Jimmy. I don’t wanna get your hopes up too high, son,” Mason cautioned, “just in case I'm wrong, but if we get outta this, you’ll get to ask her.”

“Yes, sir, you betcha I’ll ask her! I…”

“You mean when we get outta this, Sheriff, not if,” Curry said. “We are gonna get outta here.”

The three fell silent when they heard someone opening the door to the sheriff’s office. Jimmy picked up his gun just before Bo walked in.

Get on over to the bank,” Bo ordered. “Harrison’s over there with Heyes; says he needs your help. He said I didn’t havta stand over there for four hours fooling around with some lock. He's got more important things for me to do, so get on over there an' I’ll keep an eye on these two.”

“But,” Jimmy objected, “I need to…”

“Need to what?”

“Go over to the saloon and…” Jimmy stopped and looked down at the floor.

“The saloon?” Bo chortled. “Why - to get a drink? Listen, boy, if it was up to me I’d dump you; this is no job for a kid, anyhow. You'd better keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t sir me - just get on over to that bank. Now scram!”


0000000

Jimmy could hear Heyes and Harrison arguing when he walked into the bank.

“I don’t buy any of it, Heyes! You still haven’t convinced me you’re not makin’ the whole thing up.”

“What part of it can’t you believe? Heyes snapped. “With a vault door this size, you’re going to need a lot of nitro. How much? More than you have, that’s for sure! That’s why I say you need to try the lock first. Besides, if you blow it, you’ll destroy the documents inside.”

“Documents, documents! You’re never going to convince me that you two came all the way out here to steal a bunch of stupid papers.”

“Look, Harrison, you may not believe it, but those are valuable documents. They’re worth a lot to the person who hired us.”

“Okay, okay! But I still don’t see why it would take four whole hours to fool with that lock. You’re just saying that to get Curry over here.”

“I said it could take up to four hours. I told you I needed total silence or I could miss the click. If I'd had Curry here we might be done already - Bo didn’t work out, that’s for sure!”

“Alright, fine, you’re the expert!” Harrison snapped in exasperation. “Danny, get over here. Heyes says he needs another man to work that second dial.”
“Yes, sir,” Jimmy answered, looking overwhelmed as he walked to where Heyes and Harrison were standing in front of the massive vault door.

“Don't worry, he won't try anything. Not with his partner all locked up over in the jail.” Harrison put his hand on his gun. “Will you, Heyes?”

Heyes sent Harrison a passive look.

Smirking, Harrison turned to leave. “When hegets that thing open, you come over to the saloon and get me.” He pulled the pistol out of Jimmy’s holster.

“Hey!”

“You’ll be alone with Hannibal Heyes. You don’t think I’d be stupid enough to leave you with a loaded gun, do you?” Harrison laughed and walked out of the bank.


Heyes waited until the outlaw had left before he started to talk. “Danny, the lock…”

“You can call me Jimmy, Jimmy Dean. Danny's not really my name and I never really liked it anyway, so I’m gonna use my real name from now on.”

“Oh,” Heyes blinked in surprise. “Okay.”

“An' the sheriff thinks Sarah might be my sister, an' if she really is, he said he’ll show me where my pa’s buried.” Jimmy frowned, “That is, if he gets outta that jail cell alive.”

“Hmm.” Heyes bit his lip and then held out his hand. “Well, Jimmy Dean, pleased to meet you. You know what? I know how you feel about being called by the wrong name. I guess we need to set the record straight between you and me, too. Can you keep a secret?

“Even though Harrison insists on calling us Heyes and Curry, our real names are Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones and we’d boh feel a lot more comfortable if you’d use those names instead of those outlaw ones. Is that a deal?”

Jimmy took a moment to consider the other man’s words before he spoke. “Yes, sir, Joshua. It’s the least I can do since you’re gonna use my real name, too.”

“Good. Once we start working on this lock, we may be here for awhile. How badly do you want to see Sarah? Think you can wait?”

“I wanna see her, I really do, but how can I see her now? Bo and Harrison would probably kill me if I left you here alone.”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded, “you're right. When they were bringing me over here, I overheard them whispering to each other. Bo said ‘we should dump that kid after this job; he’s just too young.’”

“He said the same thing to me over at the jail, but I was hoping he was just kidding,” Jimmy replied glumly.

“You know what Harrison said? ‘Don’t worry, after that safe's opened, I’ll get rid of him. I don’t wanna hear him whining that he didn’t get his share.’”  

“That don’t surprise me none. Some partners, huh?”

“Fact is, there’s nothing inside but some important documents. The governor's paying us to crack this safe and retrieve them since no one knows the combination. Bo and Harrison are convinced it has silver or cash. They’re not going to like it when they find out there’s nothing but papers in there.”

“That’s for sure!”

“I’m going to share something else with you, Jimmy. There’s no future in bank robbing or being an outlaw; you’ll end up like Harrison and Bo. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you; think about it.”

“Yeah, you’re right; I sure don't wanna be like them. What I’d really like to do is go talk to Sarah an' see if she really is my sister. Do you have some kinda plan?”

“Trust me. Here’s what we’re going to do….”


0000000

Harrison walked into the saloon and made a beeline straight for the bar.

“Gimme a beer,” he snapped at the woman who had her back to him.

Without acknowledging him, she calmly finished drying the glass she held before she put it down on the counter. Her back ramrod straight, Cora took her time as she wiped her hands on her apron before she turned around to do his bidding.

The outlaw eyed her in silence. Once he had the beer in hand, Harrison took a drink and then wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “You always that slow in obeyin’ your husband's orders?”

Her chin held high, Cora raised her eyes to meet his, unable to mask her hatred for the man. “My husband never orders me around; I'm quite happy to do whatever he asks of me!”

“I'm not your husband, thank my lucky stars,” Harrison rolled his eyes skyward, “so I don't ask and I won't tolerate anyone - 'specially a woman - not obeying my orders immediately – got that?”

Cora glared at him with defiance evident in every fiber of her body.

“You've already experienced first-hand how I deal with someone who has defied me and that was just a small sample.” Harrison turned to glance in Sarah's direction. “Should I let your daughter have a turn...or do you and I understand each other?”

Cora's eyes grew colder. She pressed her lips together in a fine line as she glanced down at the dark bruises that covered both of her arms. She didn't need a mirror to see the black eye; she could still feel the pain from the backhand Harrison had given her the first time she'd tried to stand her ground and resist. “There's no need,” she said woodenly. “I understand you completely.”

“Hmph!” Harrison snorted and took another swig of his drink. “Now that we got that settled, where's my supper – I'm starving!”

“It's almost ready. You want another beer while you wait?”

Harrison gave a short bark of laughter. “You wouldn't be trying to get me drunk now by any chance, would you, Mrs. Sheriff? I already done told you what would happen to Mr. Sheriff if you tried to trick me.”

“No,” Cora protested quickly, “I just thought it might be a way for you to pass the time until the food was ready – really!”

This time the outlaw's laughter was real. “You sure are easy to spook, Mrs. Sheriff.”

Just then the batwing doors opened and Bo walked in. He stood just inside the doorway, surveying the scene.

Her back to him, Sarah was busy wiping down tables. At the moment, she was bent over, her backside toward the door.

A smile spread across Bo’s face. Quiet as a cat, he snuck up behind her and grabbed the young woman around the waist.

Sarah shrieked in fright and dropped the washcloth.

Both Harrison and Cora turned at the scream.

Cora took a step as if to go to her daughter's aid, but Harrison caught her by the hand and held tight. Cora winced. When she struggled to free herself, Harrison gave her a look that stopped her cold.

“I wouldn't if I were you,” he warned in a low tone. “I can make it a whole lot worse for both of you – you know I can!”

Cowed by his threat, and with an expression of defeat on her face, Cora turned her head to watch what was going on between her daughter and the other outlaw.

“Thought you'd see it my way,” Harrison chuckled and released her hand. “Think I will have me another beer – no, make that a whiskey. Might as well enjoy myself while I watch the entertainment.”

Her attention still focused on Bo and Sarah, Cora jumped when Harrison slammed his palm down on the bar.

“I said, get me a whiskey – now, woman!” he thundered. “An' after that, go get our food!” He waited impatiently while she did his bidding and snatched the glass from her hand. Walking to a nearby table, he settled down into a chair and propped his feet up onto the table. Raising the glass in a salute, he called out, “Here's to a man who knows how to show a woman a real good time!”

Bo quit his pawing long enough to grin at his boss. “Aw, this ain't nothin’,” he laughed, “I'm only playin 'round with her 'til supper's ready!”

Sarah pressed her hands against Bo's chest. She put up a good fight as she tried to keep his mouth away from hers. “Leave me alone - get your filthy paws off me!” she grunted and aimed a swift kick at the outlaw's leg.

Her actions only caused Bo to chortle louder. “I like it when they fight!” He gave Harrison a knowing wink. “Makes it more fun!”

Seizing the opportunity, and not knowing if she'd get another, Sarah raked her fingernails across Bo's cheek and drew blood.

The outlaw howled in pain and pushed Sarah angrily to the floor in disgust. “What'd ya havta go an' do that for?”

Sarah looked up from where she had fallen. “That's no way for a gentleman to treat a lady!” she declared haughtily as she wiped her mouth free of his slobber.

“I ain't no gentleman, an' you sure as hell ain't no lady!” Bo strode forward and yanked the girl upward. He began to shake her like a rag doll. “Look what ya done to my cheek!” He shoved his face up close to hers and growled, “Take a good look at what ya done! Why, I oughta take my knife to your face – maybe that'd teach ya a lesson, huh, little girlie?” Shoving her up against a wall, he reached into his pocket, took out his pocketknife and snapped open the blade. “Wanna little taste of your own medicine?”

“Uh, uh, uh...” Harrison warned Cora without even turning around. “Stay put, or else!”

Sarah turned to look at her mother, her blue eyes wide with fright.

Their eyes met and Cora shook her head. When she spoke, her words were without emotion. “If you want your food before it gets cold, Mr. Harrison, then I have to move. And you know I need Sarah's help to carry it all in here.”

Harrison didn't answer right away. His glance slid over to the other outlaw. “Hey, Bo – what if the girl apologizes? Mrs. Sheriff says supper's ready...whaddya say?”

Bo kept the knife near Sarah's face as he answered. “It'd havta be some kinda apology to make up for what she done to me!”

Harrison turned sideways to glance at Cora. “Tell your daughter to apologize to Bo. Tell her to make it sound real nice, an' maybe - jus' maybe - he won't hurt her this time.”

Pushing aside her own emotions, Cora spoke sharply to her daughter. “Sarah, do as he says. Tell him you're sorry. After we get supper on the table and the men finish their meal, you'll fix up those scratches, won't you?”

Sarah eyed the blade just inches away from her face.  She gulped and forced herself to smile, despite the bile that rose in her throat. “I'm real sorry, Bo, for scratching up your face, but you really scared me! I was just fighting back – I didn't really mean to hurt you. Like my ma says, we'll get you fixed up in no time once you're all done eating.” Her fingers touched his cheek softly. “You'll never even notice 'em once we're done with doctoring 'em up.”

Bo lowered the knife and leaned in even closer until she could feel his breath on her face. “Why, that was right pretty, ma'am.” He closed the gap between them and kissed her hard on the mouth. Sarah didn't resist this time. Bo stepped back and grinned at Harrison. “See what a little discipline can do? Gotta keep a woman in line, I always say.” He clicked the knife closed and sauntered over to join Harrison at the table.

The two women sagged in relief now that the moment of danger had passed. A tear slid down the side of Cora’s face as she watched Sarah wipe away the outlaw's kiss from her lips.

“So, what's for supper, Boss?”

Heyes and Jimmy ducked down from where they had been kneeling outside the saloon. The outlaw had been keeping a firm grip on Jimmy's shoulder as they peeked through the edge of a window.

“Seen enough, Jimmy?” Heyes whispered.

“I’ve seen enough to last me a lifetime!” answered Jimmy. “I’d sure like to teach ‘em a thing or two! We'd better get outta here before they come out!”


0000000

Heyes and Jimmy ran across the street to the jail. Heyes quickly picked the lock and flung open the side door. Once they had found the hidden key to the cells, he and Jimmy ran back to Curry and the sheriff.

“Sheriff Mason, Thaddeus,” Jimmy said breathlessly, “we’re breaking you out; get ready to go!”

“You’re going straight, Jimmy?” the sheriff asked as he walked out of his cell.

“Yes, sir!” Jimmy answered. “Now we need to get on over to the saloon an' rescue Cora an' Sarah.”

“How are they?” the sheriff asked as he hurriedly located their guns and some handcuffs in the front office.

“They're okay for now, Sheriff,” Jimmy answered. “But I think we should hurry. Jail's too good for those outlaws!”

“They were just getting ready for supper when we left them,” added Heyes as he and Curry walked into the front office.

The sheriff handed Heyes and Curry their weapons. “Smith, how does it look over there?”

“Harrison and Bo are probably eating their supper by now and it looks like they’ve been drinking. That means they won't be as sharp. When they see me standing next to the opened vault door, they won’t care about anything else.”

“It’s open?” Curry asked in surprise.

“Yep,” Heyes smiled. “Jimmy was very helpful. Once they get to the bank, I’ll take them inside the vault – way inside. Just remember to stay out of sight until I come back.”

“Or call for help….” Curry added with a grin.

“Okay, everyone,” Heyes said, “time to take your places; you know what to do.”


0000000

Jimmy walked out of the saloon; Bo and Harrison swaggered behind him.

“So’s what’s over there boy?” Harrison slurred, “What’d you find?”

“Joshua just told me to get you. He said he wasn’t gonna touch anything because his friend’s in jail and he doesn’t want you thinking he took anything.”

“So’s he’s real loy-al…to his friend, huh?” Harrison slurred.

“Lot of good that’ll do him,” Bo snorted.

Harrison reached the bank door and stopped. “Boy, you stay out here and keep an eye out. If those ladies take one step outta that saloon, you tell us. Come on, Bo; let’s see what Heyes is up to.”

The two thieves brandished their guns and entered the bank. They saw Heyes standing by the open vault door next to the kerosene lamp.

“You been in there yet?” asked Bo.

“No, I sent Danny over as soon as we got the door open. You’ll need the lamp; I think it'll get real dark in there.”

“After you,” Harrison ordered and picked up the lamp.

The three men started into the vault with Heyes in the lead. As they walked, Heyes’ body cast a long shadow across the whitewashed walls of the old mineshaft. The vault’s front area was surprisingly large, about forty feet wide.

They soon passed four cabinets. “Those are probably the documents,” Heyes observed calmly.

“Check ‘em out, Bo,” Harrison commanded and kept his weapon trained on Heyes.  

Bo walked over to the closest cabinet and pulled out a drawer. “Looks like Heyes is right – just papers.”

“No, go through every drawer and tell me what’s in each one.”

“Okay, Boss.”

Bo pulled a drawer. “Papers, Boss.”

“Okay.”

Bo pulled another drawer. “Papers, Boss.”

“Okay.”

Bo pulled another drawer open with an exasperated sigh. “Papers…”

“Bo, just tell me if there's a drawer with something else besides papers!”

Bo was about to pull his tenth drawer open when Harrison yelled, “Forget about the stupid drawers! Let's go see what else there is.”

“Harrison, are you sure you should give up so soon?” Heyes asked in a condescending tone. “There might be something valuable in one of those drawers.”

“Shut up, Heyes; get moving.”

As they continued to walk, the vault became narrower until it was only about fifteen feet wide.

When they neared the end of the tunnel, Harrison spied something - a heavy steel door with a red warning sign affixed to it. He stopped in front of it. “Okay, Heyes, what’s this?”



“Looks like a warning sign to me.”

“Don’t get smart with me!” Harrison growled. “What’s behind the door?”

“Well, I suppose it could be something valuable; maybe there’s still some silver bullion in there. Maybe that’s where they hid it,” Heyes shrugged. “How would I know.”

“That padlock looks pretty rusted,” Bo said. “One good kick would probably break it.”

“Go ahead,” Harrison ordered.

Heyes moved out of the way.

Bo broke the lock with one swift kick and swung the door open.  

Harrison put the kerosene lamp in the opening and swung the lamp in a wide arc. A shadow swirled back and forth as he moved the lamp. “I really can’t tell. It’s pretty dark in here, but it looks like it curves around. You go on in and take a look in there, Bo,” he ordered. “I’ll hold the lamp.”

Bo took one step inside and looked around in all directions. “Yeah, it looks like it curves alright,” he said as he craned his neck. “Move the lamp more to your left, Boss.”

Harrison moved the lamp and Bo took one more step. Suddenly he cried out, “Wha... aaaah...h…h,” and disappeared down the shaft. His voice grew fainter and fainter until there was only silence.

“What the…” Harrison said. He set the lamp down and backed away from the door.

Heyes retrieved the gun he’d hidden before he sent Jimmy over to the saloon and butted Harrison on the head with it. He grabbed the lamp before Harrison fell to the ground and retrieved the handcuffs he’d hidden. After disarming Harrison, Heyes dragged him away from the door, closed it, and replaced the broken lock.

“Looks like I’m not the only idiot around here, huh, Harrison?” Heyes said as he handcuffed the unconscious man and checked the outlaw's pockets. He removed a set of handcuffs from Harrison’s rear pocket and mumbled, “Too late to use these on me now, Harrison.” Picking up the lamp, he hurried back to Curry and the sheriff who were waiting for him at the entrance.

“It’s me – Joshua,” he called out as he emerged and looked around. “Where’s Jimmy?”

“Harrison told Jimmy to keep an eye on the ladies,” answered the sheriff. “He's over there talking a mile a minute to Sarah. Brother and sister have a lot of catching up to do.”

“That’s all you have to say – where's Jimmy?” Curry chuckled. “So, what happened?”

“Bo got too curious, and too eager, and fell down the mineshaft. There was a warning sign on the door, which I pointed out to him, but he chose to ignore it.”

“They just had to go in there, didn’t they?” Curry said.

Heyes shook his head. “Harrison didn’t. When he turned back I got him with the gun I hid; just like I planned. He’s in there, unconscious and handcuffed.”

“Handcuffed?” the sheriff said, surprised.

“Yeah,” Heyes replied. “I hid a pair in there, along with the gun. Here's the key,” he said with a smile and dropped it into the lawman's hand.

Curry crossed his arms in front of him. “Well, Joshua, looks like you finally got a plan that worked.”

“You two are brilliant!” the sheriff enthused and pumped Heyes’ hand vigorously as he looked Heyes in the eyes. “I want to thank you, Joshua Smith.” He grabbed Curry's hand next and shook it just as enthusiastically. “And a big thank you to you, too, Thaddeus Jones. You handled things like a couple of real pros!”

Heyes and the Kid shared an amused look and returned the lawman's grin.

“Go see how your family's holding up, Sheriff,” Heyes said. “We’ll take care of Harrison.”


0000000

The next morning, Heyes and the Kid stepped out on the street after saying goodbye to Jimmy Dean and the Mason family, who were standing on the saloon’s front porch. They climbed up in the wagon and, after a final wave, heyes reached forward to release the wagon brake.

Curry jabbed Heyes in the side. “Uh...Joshua.”

“Hmm?”

“I know why I thought there was something familiar about Dustbowl.”

“You do?”

“Yeah; Dustbowl ain't Dustbowl - I want my coin back!”

Heyes turned to give Curry a questioning look.

“Look up above the saloon’s front porch,” the Kid continued. “Take a real good look. And this time, I want you to tell me what you see.”

Heyes looked at the wall Curry was pointing to. A large, dusty sign jumped into view and his jaw dropped open. “Matherville Saloon and Hotel,” he read aloud. “It can't be?”

“Yes, it can. Now you know how I feel. Remember how Whitmore said Dustbowl used to have another name, but it wasn't important? Maybe it wasn't to him, but both you and I have a real good reason to remember this place.” Curry waved his hand in an arc, “Welcome to Matherville!”

“All this time,” Heyes shook his head. “and we never knew...”

“How could we? This is the first real good look we've had of the town. It was dusk when we rode in an' then I got locked up in the jail an' you were locked up inside the bank...” Curry sighed. “We never saw it in the daylight or we would've recognized it for sure.” He paused and cocked his head to the side. “No wonder Jimmy sounded odd when he asked if I’d ever been back to the town where Bilson was shot. He knew we were sittin’ in it the whole time he was talkin' to me.”

“One thing's for sure, Kid, this job hasn't been dull, has it?”

“Nope, an' it brought back a whole lotta memories I'd rather forget. Let's get goin’ with these cabinets, Heyes; I'm ready to leave Matherville behind once an' for all.” His brow furrowed, he added, “An' that goes for Dustbowl, too!”

“I'm right behind you, partner.” Heyes agreed and, once the wheels started turning, neither one looked back.


0000000

Whitmore looked over his horned-rimmed glasses at Heyes and Curry. The three men were in the ground floor of the county courthouse, standing around the four newly-delivered cabinets. Whitmore opened the first one. “Ah, contracts,” he mumbled, “Alcott, Campbell, Jenkins, Hardy and etc.” He closed the cabinet and moved on to the next one. “Let’s see what’s in here. Ah, deeds for businesses. McClaren’s Restaurant, Matherville Guns and Ammunition, Matherville Saloon and Hotel…”

Heyes held out his hand. “Uh, Mr. Whitmore, would you mind if we look at that deed for the saloon and hotel? We knew the owner.”

“I don’t see why not,” Whitmore replied, and handed Heyes the deed.

Heyes perused it for a moment and an amused grin crossed his face. He pulled his partner aside and whispered something in his ear.

“What?” Curry responded, surprised. “Bilson wasn’t the sole owner?”  

“Nope.” Heyes showed the paperwork to Curry and then turned to Whitmore. “The deed for the saloon has more than one name on it.”

“Yes, it probably does. Under our state’s law, saloons, hotels, and similar public houses require a partnership of at least two other persons. In any case, more than one signature is required if a single purchaser had to borrow some money to make the purchase.”

Heyes held the paperwork out to Whitmore who read the signatures out loud. “Daniel Bilson, Joshua Smith, Thaddeus Jones. Why, those last two signatures are yours. What an astonishing coincidence.”

“Well, they aren’t exactly our sig -” Curry began.

“Yes they are, partner,” Heyes finished smoothly. “Of course you had a bit too much to drink when we celebrated the purchase.” Heyes clapped the Kid on the back and turned to Whitmore, “He probably doesn’t remember signing the deed.”

“Well, then as administrator for the Pinal County treasury, and legal caretaker for territorial and unclaimed property, I must tell you that you are entitled to the deposit made on this property for the gambling, liquor, hotel and business licenses. Since the property has passed on to the county, you are entitled to a refund. Let’s see,” he mused and did some swift calculations, “that amount would be $500, to be divided evenly between all the partners.”

“Well, sir,” replied Curry, “Danny Bilson is dead.”

“Did he die in Matherville?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If Mister Bilson died in Matherville, there should be a death certificate in the records. That shouldn’t be too difficult to find.” Whitmore rifled through the cabinets. “Ah, here we are, and ah, the sheriff’s records are here as well. Oh, my – what a tragic end! Mister Bilson died of a gunshot wound!” Shaking his head, he flipped through a few more papers. “Yes, everything appears to be in order.” The treasurer looked up at the two men. “Can you prove that you are Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a look.

“Well, Mr. Whitmore,” Heyes answered, “we’ve got this telegram from Lom with our names on it.”

“I suppose that would do, considering that it was Sheriff Trevors who sent you here to do the job in the first place.” The treasurer paused for a moment and then looked at both men. “Of course, the property should be transferred back to you since you are the legal owners. In which case, you will now be liable for any taxes or fees that would accrue if….”

Heyes looked over at Curry and then turned to the treasurer. “Mr. Whitmore, with all due respect, if the property is transferred back to us, as you pointed out earlier, it'll need a formal address in order for us to run it or sell it, and Dustbowl will no longer be a ghost town. In that case, the county will have to pay for a sheriff to stay there, which means the county would also have to pay us rent. Don't you think Arizona’s better off just giving us the refund and keeping the saloon?”

Whitmore’s mouth had dropped open as he listened. “Why, uh, yes. Yes, of course.”

“Now, let’s go up to your office and close this deal,” Curry said. “We’ve got other jobs waitin'.”

The men walked upstairs and into the treasurer’s office. Mr. Whitmore went over to his desk, sat down and unlocked a drawer. He handed an envelope to Heyes. “There’s one thousand dollars inside. You received a five hundred advance, so the envelope contains another five hundred for cracking the vault open and another five hundred for driving the wagon back and delivering the documents, for a total of $1000. If you gentlemen will each sign below your signature on this deed, I will write a draft for the refund of two hundred and fifty dollars apiece, which comes to a total of five hundred dollars.”

Heyes handed the envelope to Curry and picked up a pen to sign the deed. He carefully studied the forged signature he needed to mimic and then looked up. “We don’t want a draft; we can wait here for the cash, Mr. Whitmore, if you don't mind.” Then he signed ‘Joshua Smith’ under the forged signature.

“Alright,” Whitmore replied, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

After Whitmore left, Curry looked up at Heyes. “It’s all here, one thousand dollars. Don’t that beat all, Bilson putting us down for partners? He probably never figured he'd ever see us again. Looks like we do own the place.”

“Well, I guess there is some justice in there, someplace,” Heyes said.

“Justice?” replied Curry. “I’ve thought about Bilson and that smile of his nearly every day since he left us behind in the desert - no, ever since that card game in Stockton with him and Seth. And now I can finally forget about him – and that smile of his. Now where do I sign?”

“Under your signature, there.“

“That doesn’t look anything like my signature!”

“Right, Kid, like I said, you were drinking too much,” Heyes smirked. “Here, let me do it.” Heyes took the pen and paper and signed, ‘Thaddeus Jones’ under the forged signature and placed the deed on Whitmore’s side of the desk.

Heyes grinned at his partner. “Kid, do you realize that this is the first time in at least six months that we've actually collected the full amount we were due?”

Curry returned the grin. “Yeah. I keep lookin' around thinkin' someone is gonna show up to take it away or something's gonna go wrong. It feels kinda strange to be holding this much money all at once and we didn't even havta rob a train or a bank to get it.”

“Honest money, Kid. Let's just enjoy the feeling.”

A moment later the treasurer walked in. He reviewed the deed and handed Heyes another envelope. “Very well, gentlemen, five hundred dollars. That settles our account in full. Can I be of any other assistance today?”

Heyes handed the envelope to Curry and shook the treasurer’s hand. “It was a pleasure working with you, Mr. Whitmore. If you need another safe cracked, or property found, contact Lom. He’ll know where to find us; we’d be happy to help you anytime.”

“We track thieves, too, Mr. Whitmore,” Curry added as he shook Whitmore's hand.

“Yes, I heard about that. I understand the governor is making sure the reward for Harrison is sent to you two by way of Sheriff Trevors. I also heard a rumor that the amount was five hundred dollars?” He raised an inquiring brow.

Curry and Heyes just smiled and tipped their hats as they turned toward the door.



“Two thousand dollars…” the treasurer mumbled under his breath as Heyes and Curry left his office. “The whole town isn’t worth fifty cents - and reward money, too! I need to get into a new line of work.”




(Writers love feedback!  You can comment on moonshadow and Ty Pender's story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen.  You don't have to be a member of this site and you can be anonymous.)
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Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Sat 14 Mar 2015, 8:18 pm by Penski
Oh, another co-written Virtual Season story! What's not to love - great bantering, really vile baddies, a reunion, and a rescue! Wonderful casting of the story, too. You two should write more stories together. Great job!
Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Tue 17 Mar 2015, 12:40 am by Visitor
goodjob
nice!
Post on Fri 20 Mar 2015, 3:41 pm by littlebluestem
Another great vs episode! Next best thing to a real one! Thank you and great job. You two make good partners!

thumbsup
Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Sun 22 Mar 2015, 2:01 pm by Calico
[Calico here]...

A collaborative effort, huh?
Let me get myself a nice mug of tea – and begin.
A mine – am I to anticipate a little trapped underground peril?
Or am I being enticed into believing something valuable is hidden in the so suddenly acquired saloon.
Oh, of course. Dustbowl used to be called something else – so where are they? Reading, reading.
Yeah! Traditional use of the whats-his-name joke. These rituals must be preserved. And I’m pleased to see the boys being picked up on calling each other Heyes and Curry – since they do it all the time.
Dear me, Bo, I don’t think you ever read the hand guide for villains: Rule #4) Go easy on the gloating – it’ll always rebound on you.
Hmmm – are we being set up for Danny changing sides. Reading, reading.
OH! Danny has a grudge over Bilson?? Gosh.
Double gosh – Sarah over the way may be his sister. OR – is the Sheriff cynically lying. I would LOVE it if the Sheriff were just playing on Danny, but I suspect you two are too dang nice for that.
Tut, tut. What nasty villains we have. Still breaking rule #4 as they do villainy stuff with the ladies.
And now they are going to break Rule #7) Don’t ignore the No Entry signs. Snirt. And Rule #8) Don’t fall down the hole. Mind you, to be fair, those last two rules don’t just apply to villains.
And it was where the Bilson shooting happened all the time!
And Bilson forged our boys’ not-names onto the deed. Triple gosh.
Now, you know when the boys found out the amount owing was $500 – d’you know what I thought, I thought they’ve misunderstood and THEY owe the state $500 in back taxes or something. Which would have been a nice Heyes’ reaction moment, finally caught by the taxman. But of course your way has the justice at last angle on its side.
Clapping hard at our boys coming out on top for once. And who can argue with a good, dramatic plunge down a mine shaft.
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Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Wed 29 Apr 2015, 12:40 pm by CD Roberts
This is a great story! I really enjoyed this follow-up to the Bilson episode. The character of Danny was well-drawn, and Bo and Harrison were a couple of very nasty villains. Good team writing; I had trouble telling who wrote which part of the story--very smooth. I loved the twist at the ending with Whitmore, as I didn't see that coming. It was a very satisfying seeing how Danny's situation worked out with the Masons, and that Bo and Harrison got what they deserved. goodjob

(Sorry I didn't post this comment sooner--for some reason I thought I had commented on this story earlier-whoops!!)
Re: Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender
Post on Thu 30 Apr 2015, 1:47 pm by InsideOutlaw
Another fine episode! I never suspected that Dustbowl would turn out to be Matherville and enjoyed that twist. Lots of good scenes here, but I especially liked the one about What's-his-name and the other fella letting their lips flap too much. Clever, too, that our heroes discover they're owners in Bilson's place and how Heyes wheedles out from under the tax bill. Seamlessly written by you both. Kudos! clap
Dustbowl comment
Post on Fri 01 May 2015, 5:55 pm by Maz McCoy
I loved all the references to Bilson..and the town they were in. Very clever to have a connection to Lorrene and the Jimmy Dean reference. biggrin
But I love Cullen Bohanon so how could I possibly accept Anson as a bad guy? headscratch

A triumph for Tyshadow and MoonPender
 

Dustbowl by moonshadow and Ty Pender

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