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 3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie

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Post3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie

The View From Knightsgate
by Susanna Leslie


Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were on horseback and had been on the trail for nearly a week. Their timetable had been tight, but their journey was ending. They'd managed a small breakfast and a shave at a  hamlet earlier that morning. It was a hot summer's day, but they felt the air cool as they came out through the mountain pass and found their way back to the open countryside.
Bean fields and strawberry fields began to dominate the landscape and they knew the soil must have suddenly changed.

They slowed down as they sighted the beginnings of a town.

A signpost that read "Welcome to Knightsgate" was anchored by the road next to a very large and very old Jacaranda tree. A few feet further, closer to the ground, was a poster sign that read "This year's host for the Kingston County Fair."

Knightsgate appeared to be a thriving agricultural community. They rode past open fields dotted with pitched tents and wagons, presumably housing visitors that had come for the fair.

"Sure is pretty country down here," Heyes said surveying the view. "Odd isn't? Those mountains over there just start from nowhere and end nowhere."

"Well, let's get it over with," Curry said. "I'm beat from the trip."

"Worth it though, huh?" Heyes smiled. "One thousand dollars a piece."

***********

They left their horses at the livery and headed straight for the local bank. As they entered the bank they saw two teller lines and choose the second.

In the first line an attractive young woman was wrapping up her transaction. While waiting for the teller to return, she preoccupied herself by sorting her business papers. She looked up suddenly and saw Heyes smiling at her. She met his eyes but kept her face politely blank.

"Can I help you, gentlemen?" the second teller asked.

"Yes. We'd like to make a deposit," Curry said.

"And how much would you like to deposit?"

"Twenty thousand dollars," Curry answered. A quiet fell over the bank for a moment.

"In your name?" the teller asked.

"No, sir. In the name of Mr. Robert McKendricks," Heyes answered formally in his most serious and official voice. "Delivered by Mr. Joshua Smith and Mr. Thaddeus Jones."

"Ah, for Mr. McKendricks. Yes, we've been expecting you. May I see your deposit?"

Heyes and Curry each removed an envelope from their vest pocket and placed it on the counter.

"Give me a moment, gentlemen." The teller counted it all out.

"Yes. It's all here. Gentlemen, let me put this in the safe, and I'll be right back with your receipt."

They both nodded pleasantly at the teller. The young woman began to head toward the door and Heyes' eyes followed her out.

"You know, the scenery here just gets better and better. What do you say we stay a few days?" he asked.

"Have ourselves a little vacation?" Curry asked and winced.

"That tooth still bothering you?" Heyes asked.

Curry nodded. "Maybe I'll visit the doc while we're here. Let's settle in at the hotel."

**********

They left the bank and started walking in the direction of the hotel. As they turned the corner they saw two young men arguing at the end of the street.

"Aww, you don't know what you're talking about. You're just shooting off your mouth again!"

"I know'd it was you and you're not getting away with it!"

"You better just cool down William or I'll cool you down myself!" an older man came out of the doctor's office and was addressing the second youth.

"Look, I don't have time to stand here arguing with you, I'm late as it is!" the first young man answered William.

"I'm warning you, I want it back!" William hollered at the first man, ignoring the third.

The first man started to turn his back on William.

"Don't you turn your back on me, Ben Andrews!" William pulled out his gun.  A shot was heard and William fell to the ground clutching his arm.

The older man returned his gun to his holster. "Okay…fetch him in and I'll patch him up!"

Two more men watching the scene picked up William and started towards the doctor's office. Curry asked a man standing near them, "Is that the doctor?"

"Nope," the man replied. "The doc's over with the sheriff doing duty at the fair today. That's the dentist."

Heyes and Curry exchanged a look then continued heading toward the hotel.

*********

"I am sorry gentlemen, but we're completely booked up, what with the fair going on and all. If you need us again, I recommend booking in advance," the hotel manager was saying to them.

"Knightsgate's growing faster than a weed, but this hotel isn't I'm afraid."

"Is there anything else around here we can try?" Curry longed for a nice soft bed.

"You say you work for Mr. McKendricks?" the man asked him.

Heyes answered hopefully. "That's right."

"Well, you might try Knightsgate Inn. It's just a few miles west of here. Miss Fowler owns it. It's kind of an inn and a boarding house."

"Miss Fowler?" Heyes asked.

"Yes. Amanda Fowler. Just go straight through town and keep on the main road. You'll see it."

*********

Heyes and Curry finished riding up a small hill. Curry smiled in relief and pointed. Heyes nodded. They rode through an open gate and followed the path.

Lines of linen were billowing on a clothesline off the side yard of a large, well-kept inn.  Jessie, a young woman of about eighteen, was bending over a laundry basket.

Curry called out to her. "Excuse me! Good afternoon! Would you tell me where we can find Miss Amanda Fowler?"

"And who would like to know?" Jessie called back.

"Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith."

"That would be me," a voice answered.

The same young woman from the bank raised a sheet to reveal herself. She was a lovely, graceful woman of about twenty-six. She had a relaxed air of authority. As the proprietress, she had grown to know people and in learning about people she knew herself very well.

Amanda walked over to them. "How can I help you, gentlemen?"

Curry dismounted. "Miss Fowler. I'm Thaddeus Jones and this is my associate Joshua Smith. We were told you had rooms we might be able to rent for a short spell. It seems the local hotel is full up, what with everyone coming in for the fair."

Amanda answered regretfully. "I'm afraid you were told wrong." She paused to think. "How long did you need to stay?"

Heyes had been contemplating Amanda. He was surprised and pleased to recognize her from the bank. He answered from his horse. "Oh, only a few days, ma'am. Then we'll be moving on. We have business we'll be needing to attend to in Stockton."

"You say John Owens sent you to me?"

"If Mr. Owens is the hotel manager, than yes ma'am, that's correct." Curry answered.

"Well, I have one room available with two beds. But it's reserved for my long-term tenants who should be coming back by the end of next week. We'd have to renegotiate once they arrived, if you decided to stay longer. All my borders pay by the week in advance …even if you weren't to stay that long…. breakfast and dinner included."

"That would be fine, ma'am," Curry said.

"All right then. You can leave your horses at the stable. Then come back to the house and we'll settle up." She added firmly,

"Gentlemen, I do have one house rule: no firearms in the house. You'll meet Matthew…Mr. Dodd...down at the stable. He'll take your guns and lock them up. They'll be perfectly safe. Anytime you're headed out anywhere and need them, just let one of us know and we'll return them to you."

"Thank you, ma'am. We'll see you in a few minutes," Curry said.

******

Heyes and Curry walked their horses toward the stable. Matthew Dodd, a Negro in his early thirties, had momentarily put aside his task of mending a saddle and was leaning on the fence rail watching as they approached. He stood six feet tall with strong, clean features and a lean and muscular build.

"Mr. Dodd?" Curry called out to him.

"Yes sir. And who am I addressing?"

"Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith," Curry answered.

Matthew gave them a wry smile. "You don't say? Well, welcome."
He noticed their guns straight away. "I guess Miss Amanda told you about the house rules?"

"Yes she did," Heyes spoke up.

Matthew nodded at them. "Then I'll be taking your guns now, if it's all the same to you."

Heyes and Curry looked at each other and nodded. They each took their gun from its holster and handed it to him.

"Well, Mr. Jones…Mr. Smith…I hope you enjoy your stay."

**********

Amanda was seated at her desk in the study. Curry was counting out a week's rent to her while Heyes signed the guestbook. Jessie looked in once to consult about dinner, and a friendly game of cribbage could be heard from the main parlor.

"Well then, that's it." She put the guestbook and the cashbox in a drawer and locked it. "Breakfast's at eight o'clock, and dinner's at five. Except Sundays. We serve breakfast at ten o'clock on Sundays."

"Thanks again, ma'am. You may not see us for awhile. All I want is a bath and about two days' sleep. We've been on the road for quite some time," Curry said.

Amanda nodded. "I'll show you both to your room."

"Don't trouble yourself, Miss Fowler. We'll find it," Heyes said.

"All right then." She walked them out into the hall. "Up the stairs and the second room to your left." She added with some pride. "I hope you like it. The Baxleys always ask for that room whenever they come. It has a lovely view of the ridge."

The men said their thanks and headed for the staircase. Heyes looked back at her for one more glimpse and smiled.

**********

Curry and Heyes rode into the front yard of the inn. They had just returned from town with supplies and Heyes had a small parcel hanging from one side of his saddle. He slowed his horse as he spied Mrs. Cosgrove, a flirtatious and older widow, at the stable waiting as Matthew readied a buggy for her.

"Kid, do you mind taking my horse back for me?" he asked.

"Now Heyes, there's no reason to be shy. Especially after the way you threw yourself at the poor woman last night."

"All I did was offer to fetch her shawl!"

Mrs. Cosgrove was obviously delighted to see the men and waved at them from the stable. They both waved back. She waved once more to Heyes.

"She's sure sweet on you, isn't she?" Curry grinned.
They heard a woman's laugh coming from the direction of the house. Amanda had just moved outside to the front porch and was sitting on the swing. Mr. Rollin, a salesman, was standing near her. He was very animated and appeared to be relating a story.
Heyes reacted with annoyance. "And what do you suppose they're talking about?"

"Something that's none of our business."

"I swear Kid, I'm gonna need a short fuse and a blasting cap to pry him off of her! I couldn't get near her at the dinner table last night!"

"You do have your problems," Curry replied with mock sympathy.

"I'll take your horse."

Heyes got down off his horse. He untied the parcel from his saddle and walked the path to the house. Curry led both their horses to the stable, nodding pleasantly to Mrs. Cosgrove as she passed by him in the buggy.

*************

Matthew was unloading some bales of hay off a wagon when Curry approached.

"Mr. Jones."

Curry dismounted and Matthew tossed the bale he was lifting into a corner. He was about to lead Heyes' horse into the stable when they both heard a sound like an angry rattle. They exchanged silent looks and walked cautiously towards the noise. Disturbed from its rest, a rattlesnake was coiled in the corner next to the hay bale ready to strike.  The two men saw the snake in the same instant and drew on it. Only one loud shot was heard but both guns were smoking. They turned and looked at each other in surprise. Each eyed the other's gun and then met the other's stare.

Matthew broke the silence. "Well one thing's for sure…"

Curry asked cautiously. "And what's that?"

"That snake is dead."

Amanda had started walking toward the stable with concern, but Matthew waved her back. Heyes glanced briefly from an upstairs window and saw that Curry was all right.

Matthew walked over to the corpse and inspected it. "Yes sir. I never saw a snake living that didn't have a head."

He turned back to Curry. "Excuse me." He reached for a pitchfork and removed the corpse. He disappeared for a few minutes behind the building.

Curry moved to the spot and inspected the wall. Then he unsaddled the horses himself. He led his mare to its stall and took a brush to her.

Matthew returned and leaned against the stable wall, studying Curry. "Where'd you learn to shoot like that?"

Curry shrugged. "Just a lucky shot."

Matthew smiled at the lie.

"And you?" Curry asked trying to conceal his own burning curiosity.

"Practice. Lots of practice. Since I was about…15. I was the youngest of six brothers, always tagging after…always coming up last. Made up my mind I was going to be the best at something. You know what I mean?"

Curry nodded understanding all too well.

Matthew continued. "Never wanted a reputation. I don't need to prove it. I just need to know I can use it when I have it. Makes a man walk tall from the inside…when he knows that about himself." He cocked his head at Curry. "But now you…What's it like being such a lucky man?" he asked and took the saddles into the tack room.

Curry called after him. "I don't get bothered by too many snakes, slithering or the two legged kind." He heard Matthew laughing from inside the tack room.

He returned and led Heyes' horse into the stall next to Curry.  "Are you about through with your gun?" he asked.
Curry removed his gun from its holster and handed it to him.  Matthew slowly took it from him and nodded. He put the gun into a storage room and locked the door.

"Would you like to join me for a drink, Mr. Jones?"

"As a matter of fact, Mr. Dodd, I would."

*************

Matthew lived in a cottage on a small hill at the very back of the property allowing him a bird's eye view of all comings and goings. Curry was surprised by the size of it once he was inside. There was a kitchen, a large parlor, a study and a bedroom. The furnishings were of rich mahogany and he poured them each a drink from a crystal decanter that matched their glasses.

"You live very well." Curry observed as they took their drinks in the study.

"Not what you expected?"

"You continue to surprise me."

"Well, I think I could say the same of you, Mr. Jones. You peak my curiosity."

"How long have you been here…been doing this?"

"From the beginning, three years ago. I designed this cottage and I built it." He offered Curry a cigar. "It's not standard knowledge but I'm a little more than a farm hand here. I'm Miss Amanda's business partner." Then he turned his complete attention to Curry. "I heard mention that you knew Mr. McKendricks?"

Curry nodded.

"How long have you known him?"

"A couple of years," Curry knew he'd better offer more. "We did a very difficult job for him down in Mexico almost a year ago now. Seemed his son's killer had left the country and was living down there. Joshua and I brought her back to stand trial."

"Humm…I heard about that."

"Fortunately, this last job's been a bit more pleasant. And how'd you meet Miss Fowler?"

"Through a mutual acquaintance." Matthew smiled. "Mr. Stanton, Miss Amanda's uncle, introduced us. Mr. Stanton had taken a risk on me once before and liked the results. He's responsible for my first business venture…I own the livery here and the one in Queensburgh. When Miss Amanda needed help building up this property…things just started falling into place."

"You own the livery in both towns? When do you find time to run them?"

"I don't anymore," he grinned. "I just have time to own them."

"What makes a man buy a livery?"

"I don't know about any man, but I know about me." Matthew paused. "I loved my father. When I was sixteen years old he was hung."

"…Because he was a Negro?" Curry asked without malice.

"No," Matthew shook his head, "because he was a horse thief. That's the plain and simple truth of it." He sighed. "I made up my mind to live very differently. I buy horses, trade horses, sell horses, all honestly. I do it for myself and I do it for my father's memory."

Curry regarded him for a moment. He couldn't help but feel a rising admiration for the man. He raised his glass. "To the sins of the father."

Matthew raised his. "And to ties that bind."

*************

It was nearing dinnertime when Curry left Matthew's cottage. He was feeling hungry as he entered their room. Heyes was lying on the bed reading and looked up at him.

"I heard a shot before, what happened?"

"Had a little run in with Mr. Dodd."

Heyes looked worried. "What kind of little run in?"

"We both drew on a very unhappy rattler. You heard two shots being fired."

Heyes put down his book. "He's that fast?"

Curry nodded. "I checked. Two bullet holes in the wall…right next to each other."  He sat down in the armchair. "Funny thing, Heyes. I always wondered what would happen when I met someone…someday… who could match me. But I actually like the man."

Heyes paused for a long moment, thinking. "Does he like you?"

"Yes. I think so."

"Well, that's good." Heyes grinned.

Curry put his hand up to the side of his face and gritted his teeth.

"Kid, we gotta get you to the dentist!"

"Not that dentist!"

Heyes nodded, seeing his point. "Well, what about Queensburgh? That's a sizable town, too. Bound to have a dentist over there."
Curry agreed. "Found out from Dodd the sheriff's name is Tucker. We don't know a Tucker, do we?"

Heyes shook his head. "No…doesn't sound familiar. Why don't we do that tomorrow? Ride over to Queensburgh and check it out. Bound to have a little poker over there, too!"

*************

Amanda entered the kitchen and picked up the coffee pot from the stove. Matthew was sitting at the table reading the paper and eating his dinner. She noticed his cup was empty and put a hand on his shoulder as she refilled his cup. She started to return to the dinner table and her guests.

"He's a very good shot…Mr. Jones," he said without looking up.

Amanda turned back. "Is that a problem?"

He looked up at her. "I'm not sure…there's something…" he shook his head.

"Well…they do travel with very large sums of money. One of them had better be good with a gun."

"How long are they staying?"

"Oh, just a couple more days, I think."

"Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith."

They both looked amused.

Matthew picked up a fork and took a bite of dinner. He thought it over. "I don't think there's a problem," he finally said.

*************

Heyes studied the cards in his hand and then, with his usual deadpan, rearranged his hand which now held a straight flush. He took a sip from his drink and put it down again.

"Five dollars, and I'll raise you five," he bid casually.

He'd been in the saloon for over two hours and had won nearly three hundred dollars. He was waiting for Curry after finally convincing him to see the dentist.

"That's it for me…I'm out," one of the players was saying.

"Who's going to raise me? Anyone?" Heyes asked.

"Nobody's going to raise you, mister…but I'll call you," a second man said.

Heyes revealed his hand and the other men folded. He collected his winnings and rose from the table. He had spotted Curry at the bar and made his excuses to the others.

"How's your mouth? Doc treat you all right?" Heyes greeted Curry.

"A regular angel of mercy," Curry grumbled nursing his drink.

"Done better if I'd taken my chances in Knightsgate. How'd you make out?"

Heyes grinned at him.

"Well, it's nice to be making a little money for a change, isn't it? Let's see how long we can hold onto it this time," he sighed. Heyes could tell he was tired.

One of the men from Heyes' game had made his excuses also. He was standing at the end of the bar looking at Heyes and Heyes could tell he wasn't happy.

Watching him out of the corner of his eye, he said under his breath to Curry, "Looks like I got a very sore loser on my hands. Oh fine, and here comes the sheriff." Heyes had spotted him in the bar mirror and he was making his way over to them.
The man staring at Heyes was about to approach him when he too saw the sheriff and changed his mind.

"Hello, Sheriff," Heyes said pleasantly.

"Hello, boys." He turned to Heyes. "I just heard you did very well for yourself at the poker table." Heyes nodded and the sheriff continued, "You're not from around here, are you?"

"No. We're staying in Knightsgate, Sheriff. Just came over to visit the dentist." He motioned to Curry.

Curry said with some difficulty, "Heard you had a great dentist."

"Where are you staying in Knightsgate…the hotel?"

"No we're staying over at the inn."

"Miss Fowler's place?" The sheriff considered this.
Heyes nodded.

"Came over for the fair?" the sheriff asked.

"Uh, no. Just wrapped up some business we did for Mr. McKendricks," Heyes said carefully, hoping this would end their conversation quickly.

The man watching Heyes had finished his drink and had decided not to wait for him.  He passed the three men and walked out of the saloon.

"I see. Well, we have to be careful. We're not keen on professional gamblers in our town. We run some nice, friendly games here. Enjoy your stay, boys."

"Thanks, Sheriff," they both nodded at him as he headed towards the main room.

Curry set down his drink on the bar. "I've enjoyed my stay. What do you say we leave?"

*************

Queensburgh and Knightsgate were neighboring towns with less than twelve miles between them. The two men had been riding for about an hour and were approaching the main road that led back to Knightsgate.

Heyes had been watching a buggy in the distance going in the opposite direction below them on a side road. Now it made a sharp turn towards the ridge. He cupped his eyes to cut the sun's glare and was able to make out the driver. It was a woman and she was traveling alone.

"Hey, that's Miss Fowler. Fair grounds aren't out that way…Where do you suppose she's headed?"

"Somewhere that's none of our business," Curry said.
Heyes turned to him and grinned. "I think I'll find out if the lady wants some company." He gave Curry a friendly slap on the back. "See you later," he said as he rode away.

*************

Heyes had been following Amanda from a concealed distance and now she stopped. They were about two miles outside Knightsgate. The grass was high and blowing. There was a hillside at her back, a small lake about a quarter mile in front of her and she faced out toward Knightsgate Ridge. She got out and leaned against the buggy, entranced with the view and deep in thought.
He waited a couple of minutes and then rode up and called out to her. "Miss Fowler! Why that is you, what a pleasant surprise."
Startled from her thoughts, Amanda turned towards Heyes. "Why hello, Mr. Smith. What are you doing here?" she asked pleasantly.

"I'm working, actually," he lied and looked around. "This certainly is a beautiful part of the country. I'm doing some surveying."

"I don't understand."

"Well, I think I may have a buyer for this land."

"A buyer?" Amanda was not happy with his answer.

"Yes. It's quite possible. But I need to do some more research first, of course." Heyes covered himself. "Beautiful lake. Would you like to take a walk?"

"No thank you, Mr. Smith. I hate to be rude, but what I'd really like is some solitude."

"I see," he said, a bit confused by her response. He made one last attempt. "But I'd still feel better if I could escort you back to town, when you're ready."

"Thank you, but it just isn't necessary. I come out here all the time. And…" she lifted a revolver from the buggy. "I can use this if I need to. Thank you, all the same." She was waiting for him to leave.

"Well, I guess I'll come back another time. Excuse me," he said, puzzled and annoyed by her sudden coldness.

*************

Dinner began promptly at five o'clock every evening. Curry descended the staircase and headed for the dining room. Heyes hadn't come back that afternoon. Now Curry spotted him walking up the path.

"Where've you been? What happened between you and Miss Fowler?" Curry asked him.

"Moodiest woman I ever met!" Heyes growled. He tore off his gloves and hat and left them on the hall table.

Curry was rubbing his cheek. "Think I'm going to stick to sweet potatoes and pudding this evening," he said.

Lively conversation could be heard from the dining room. Mr. and Mrs. Edgeware, an elderly couple visiting from the east, were recounting their day's adventure at the fair to Amanda as she filled the water goblets. Mrs. Cosgrove and her traveling companion, Miss Bartel, were also enjoying a discussion about the fair with Mr. Hopper, a new boarder who had arrived late that morning.

Heyes eyed the dining room table and noticed the one free seat next to Amanda's usual place was still empty. He, Curry and Rollin appeared to be the last ones to be seated. Mr. Edgeware was already seated at Amanda's right.

Heyes saw Rollin coming in from the sun porch and headed quickly for the empty seat. Amanda had just sat down and Mr. Rollin was right behind Heyes, looking confused.

Amanda turned to Heyes. "Uh, Mr. Smith…Mr. Rollin usually sits there."

"Yes, I know," Heyes agreed taking the seat. "Mr. Edgeware, I heard you went to the fair today…how was it?"
Amanda looked slightly annoyed with Heyes and waited for the other men to be seated.

Rollin, still displaced, looked at Curry who shrugged back at him. The two men sat down; Curry next to Heyes and Rollin at the end of the table.

Grace was said and the guests began eating. Jessie came in and out from the kitchen with the serving trays and Amanda helped her with the side dishes and the beverages.

"Miss Fowler, I'm afraid my coffee is cold," Heyes said and offered his cup to her.

"Mr. Smith, I don't understand, I just made a fresh pot."

"It's still cold I'm afraid," he insisted.

"Certainly, Mr. Smith," she said doubtfully. "I'll refill your cup." She left momentarily for the kitchen.

She returned with a fresh cup and set it down in front of him.
Heyes took a sip.

"Better?" she asked.

"It's a bit weak, but at least it's hot," he replied not looking up.

"My coffee tastes delicious, ma'am… so do my potatoes," Curry called to her.

"Thank you, Mr. Jones. I hope your tooth is feeling better…How's the chicken, Mr. Smith?" she asked hopefully.

Heyes shook his head sadly. "Cold."

Amanda gave up and sat down again. She turned her attentions toward Mr. Hopper. Hopper was explaining about the expansion plans he would be supervising for the local bank over the next few months.

"Uh, Miss Fowler, any chance of getting some fresh towels once before we leave?" Heyes asked her.

"Mr. Smith, you can have fresh towels every day, every hour if it pleases you," she sighed and turned back to Mr. Edgeware and Mr. Hopper.

Heyes started to reach for the sweet potatoes and Amanda deliberately picked up the bowl and offered it to Mr. Edgeware.

"What do you suppose she's thinking right now?" Curry muttered to Heyes.

*************

The dinner dishes were stacked and ready to be washed. As Amanda filled the kitchen sink with water she looked through the window. The men were just leaving toward town for Saturday night poker. Rollin, Hopper, and Heyes were all inside the wagon. Curry was riding on top with Matthew.

They were nearing the main road and Heyes was watching for it.

As soon as he saw it he asked Matthew to stop the wagon.

Curry turned around. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," Heyes answered him. Then he called out, "I'm getting out, Mr. Dodd."

"What!" Curry whispered hoarsely.

Heyes leaned toward him. "I just can't get enough of Mrs. Cosgrove's singing," he said so only Curry could hear and got out of the wagon.

Matthew asked, "Changed your mind then, Mr. Smith?"

Heyes nodded.

"You'll be missing the big money games tonight."

"Thanks, anyway."

"Well, I guess poker isn't your game. Good-night." And the wagon started moving.

Heyes waved as a bewildered Curry looked back at him.

*************

Amanda had started washing the dinner dishes and turned as she heard the kitchen door open behind her. Heyes entered looking at her quietly, thoughtfully.

"Mr. Smith!" she was quite surprised to see him.

"Miss Fowler. I overheard you giving Jessie the night off and I thought you could use some help."

"Oh no, Mr. Smith! Sir, I really prefer the guests remain in the main areas of the…."

Heyes cut her off. "Please don't call me sir…" he said with genuine humility, "because I don't deserve it. Tonight I was rude, disagreeable and completely unappreciative of your sincere attempts at hospitality."

He paused for her reaction. She appeared to relax a little.
Heyes continued. "I'd really like to make up for it…" it was almost a question. He paused again waiting for her reply.

"Well, it wasn't just you, Mr. Smith. I'm afraid I was very disappointed this afternoon when you mentioned you had a buyer for the lake property. I'm hoping to buy it soon myself. Maybe dinner was a little cold in more ways than one."

"Don't worry about that property," he reassured her. "No…there's been a change of plan. That property's just a little too south of Stockton to be worth the investment."

"Oh." Amanda was obviously pleased to hear this. "You're missing Saturday night poker…they may not deal you into the game later."

Her voice had softened as she warmed to him.

He smiled and in reply, picked up a dishtowel from the counter and slung it over his shoulder. She turned back to the sink, also smiling. He walked over and picked up a plate to dry.
Amanda rinsed off a serving tray. "What exactly does a land speculator do?"

"Well, we investigate potential properties that our principals are interested in buying. We take the first look. Do the legwork. Report back to our principals. Thaddeus and I've been all over."

"How do you find your 'principals'?"

"Mostly through independent referrals."

"Like Mr. McKendricks?"

"So you did recognize me from the bank…"

She turned her attention to a baking dish. "It came to me…"

"Uh-huh. We work for him now and again."

"You like all that traveling?"

"Sometimes." He was watching as she intently scrubbed a stubborn spot on the dish.

Amanda glanced back at him. "I like this part of the country. It's very different from Chicago. That's where I grew up. Where are you from?"

He looked at her and wanted to tell her the truth. "Kansas."

"Is that where your family is?"

"Everyone from my immediate family--are all dead."

Amanda turned and looked at him with concern. "I'm sorry."

"It happened during the war…but…Thaddeus is like family. We've been together a long time."

"Mr. Jones seems like a nice gentleman."

"Yes. But right now I'm pretty worried about him," he said gravely. Then he looked at her mischievously, "He's a lousy poker player!"

Amanda laughed and handed him the dish to dry. She looked at the clock. It was half past six. "Oh, I need to go. We'll lose the light by eight o'clock. Uh…I have another dinner guest waiting."
Now Heyes looked surprised. "Another guest?"

"Yes. I need to take a little walk towards the ridge. Would you like to join me?"

"Should I bring my gun?" Heyes asked.

"Oh no. We won't need that," she said opening a cupboard. She took out a small wrapped package and headed for the back door.

"Yes?"

Inside the parlor the piano was being played. A moment later, Mrs. Cosgrove began singing her rendition of 'Beautiful Dreamer.' Amanda tried hard not to laugh as Heyes plugged his ears.

"Ever wonder what Mr. Cosgrove died from? Yes," he nodded and followed her outside.

_________________
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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3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie :: Comments

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Re: 3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie
Post on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 1:50 pm by royannahuggins
Matthew stopped the wagon opposite the saloon. "Gentlemen, enjoy your evening. I'll be back this way around midnight."

The men exited the wagon, all except for Curry.

"Where are you off to?" Curry asked. Heyes' behavior had surprised him and he didn't relish spending the evening on his own.

"I do have a personal life, you know."

"You've got a girl, don't you?"

Matthew just smiled back at him.

"She got a friend?" Curry asked.

Matthew ignored the question. "Now I'm expecting a man with your kind of luck to clean out this place by the time I get back."

Curry got down and looked back at Matthew.

"Until later, Mr. Jones."

Matthew tipped his hat and the wagon took off. Curry watched as it disappeared around a corner. Then he walked across the street and into the saloon.

*************

"All right, so who are we meeting?"

Amanda raised a finger to her lips and motioned Heyes to sit on a log. She opened the package and showed him the contents. It was mostly chicken and sweet potato from their dinner. She set it on the ground about ten feet away from him and joined him on the log. She was staring at the open package and he looked at her with curiosity. A few minutes later a fox appeared. It looked at Heyes and hesitated, then moved towards the package and began to eat.

"Hello, Beauty!" Amanda called softly to it.

It looked up at them briefly, quite unimpressed, and continued eating. As soon as it had finished it darted behind a large rock and vanished.

"Well I'll say one thing, that's the fattest fox I've ever seen!"

Amanda burst out laughing. "Matthew spotted her in the chicken coop. He shot over her head to drive her off but the bullet ricocheted. A piece caught her hip. We decided to patch her up and keep her till she mended. She's been on her own now for almost a week." She looked at him sheepishly, "I can't quite let go."

"What happens when she doesn't come for dinner?" Heyes asked gently.

"Well, then I guess it will mean she found herself a nice fellow and moved on."

Heyes had to know. "What about you? Why haven't you found yourself a nice fellow?"

She considered the question, and decided to answer. "That's easy. I was married once."

Heyes listened apprehensively, not sure he was going to like the answer.

"I was married to a man named Steven Whitfield. Fowler's my maiden name. I was nineteen and very, very happy." She nodded with a faint smile. "Steven was a manager for a large land holdings firm. We were married almost a year…and then the home office was robbed…and Steven was involved. The robbery had been interrupted by the police. There was gunfire and Steven was killed. It's all a bit muddled. I never knew whether the police shot him or one of his associates did it."

She paused and looked at Heyes who was listening intently. "He was shot in the back. They told me he died instantly." She shifted uneasily.

"Back in Chicago, my father is a very well-known attorney. Against my protests he had my marriage annulled before Steven was dead a week. He didn't want any possible association of scandal," she shrugged. "I didn't know what I was anymore…I wasn't a wife, I wasn't a widow." Her jaw tightened. "I only knew I did not want to be a daughter. I left immediately for Sacramento and lived with my aunt and uncle for about a year. I haven't talked to my father since. That was almost five years ago," she said rather sadly. She was looking at the ridge and at the lingering sunset. Then her mood changed.

"And that is the long and sad story of Amanda Fowler Whitfield Fowler," she looked back at him with a smile.

"But how did you end up here?"

She leaned back; comfortably aware she had done most of the talking. "My Uncle Jeremy owned this property and I bought it from him. It took about three years to pay it off and really grow it up. I do very well and I have great help. Matthew's much more than an employee. He's my partner. We have our eye on that property by the lake. This inn is just the start. We want to build our own hotel on that property." Her eyes sparkled as she confided in Heyes. "My uncle says there's going to be some serious talk this fall about moving the county seat from Kingston right next door to Queensburgh. The time is ripe!"
She was playing with the loose piece of string she had used earlier to tie up the package.

He watched her hands. She had thin graceful wrists, and her fingers were long and tapered like his. "I'm always making plans," she explained, then glanced back for a last look at the sunset.

He looked at her wanting to touch her, but he didn't. "We'd better get started back before we lose all our light," he said.

************

Curry had found a friendly game of poker and an even friendlier saloon girl to keep him company. There were several games being played that evening. Hopper and Rollin were seated at another table next to him. Curry was studying his hand when he heard a voice speak up from behind him.

"Got room for another player?"

"Sure thing, you're just in time, mister. I'm gonna have to be leaving early," one of the other men said.

The man sat down and Curry recognized him from Queensburgh. He was the same man that had been eyeing Heyes in the bar. Curry nodded to the man, but the man didn't give any indication that he recognized Curry. Then the saloon girl came over and poured Curry another drink. He let the matter go and returned his attention to his hand.

*************

Amanda and Heyes had walked back from the ridge and were sitting on the front porch. She sat on the swing and he was sitting in the armchair facing her, stretching his legs. The dusk had settled in and the stars were beginning to appear.
They had exchanged some childhood memories about their experiences growing up, she in Chicago and he in Kansas. Now they were quietly listening to the piano being played from inside the parlor. Miss Bartel had switched from Stephen Foster to Mozart and Mrs. Cosgrove was apparently resting her voice.
Suddenly the porch door opened and Mrs. Cosgrove stepped outside.

"Oh, why I thought I heard your voice a moment ago, Mr. Smith," she said with surprised delight.

"Good evening again, Mrs. Cosgrove," Heyes said.

"We were just going to start a three handed game of rummy. Mrs. Edgeware, Mr. Edgeware and myself. Would you care to join us?" she asked him hopefully.

"Cards just aren't my game tonight. But thank you just the same."

She paused a few seconds, thinking, and tried again. "Mr. Smith, a thought just occurred to me. You haven't been to the fair yet!"

"No ma'am, that's true."

"Well, perhaps you'd consider accompanying Miss Bartel and myself?"

"Why thank you, ma'am. We are on a tight schedule. I'll take that up with Thaddeus and let you know."

Amanda had been gently swinging and hid a smile.

"Well…that's fine," Mrs. Cosgrove said, a little disappointed at the lack of a firm response. She also noticed she was the only one doing any talking. "Well, I guess I'll get back to our game. Later Miss Fowler…Mr. Smith…" she returned to the house.

"Joshua, how long are you staying?" Amanda asked him quietly.

He looked at her. It was the first time she had called him by his name. "Through the end of the week, at least…unless you start waving that pistol at me again and try to drive me off!" he winked at her.

She laughed. "No, I promise…"

The night jasmine had sweetened the air and they were quiet again. Neither one seemed to be ready to part the other's company.

She stopped swinging and her voice got serious. "I've found in my life I have to do a lot of accepting even when I don't understand things sometimes…" her voice trailed off.

He got up from the chair and sat down on the swing with her.

"What are you trying to say?" he asked her.

"I'll always think Steven was basically a good man. He fell in with the wrong company and made his own choices." She continued rather troubled. "What I have never understood is what makes any man think he's above the law…"

Heyes fell silent, considering what she had said. Then he answered her, for himself, as well as for Steven Whitfield. "A man can deceive himself into believing he's entitled to things he's not entitled to for all the wrong reasons. He starts believing his reasons. And it can happen to a good man just as easily as it can happen… to the rest of us."

*************

Heyes entered his room and lit the lamp on his dresser. He sat on the edge of his bed thinking and watched as the flickering light made patterns on the wall. Miss Bartel had stopped her playing and the house was beginning to quiet down for the night. There was a knock at the door. He got up and opened it. Amanda was standing there with fresh towels.

"I completely forgot about your towels. Here you are. I don't want you turning back into that mean, grumpy Mr. Smith again," she teased him.

Heyes took the towels and smiled back. "Thank you," he said and set them down on the dresser.

"Well, good night," she said sweetly.

"Good night," but as he answered he took her arm and pulled her into the room closing the door behind them. She was surprised but did not resist. He leaned her against the wall with his arms around her.

"Amanda," he said in almost a whisper, and then he kissed her in a lengthy embrace. He pulled back to look at her. Amanda took a breath and looked into his eyes. She raised a hand to his face and gently brushed back a stray lock of hair from his forehead. He kissed her again and she responded with a passion of her own.
He lifted his head, happy and relieved. Suddenly a thought hit him and he laughed softly.

"What is it?" she asked smiling.

"I was remembering something." He held her close. "Once when I was in San Francisco, I was walking on the docks. I watched while a safe was being hauled off a cargo ship. At one point it was swinging directly over my head and I thought 'what would happen if that cable broke right now?' I think I know what that would've felt like." He said softly, "I've been hit hard."

She feigned insult. "I remind you of a safe?"

He smiled again at the thought and kissed her lightly. "Uh-huh."
Amanda leaned on his shoulder. "Poor Mrs. Cosgrove. This isn't going to go over very well with her." They both laughed then realized they were a little too loud.

"Are you tired? Because I'm not tired at all," he asked her, lowering his voice again.

"Well, I still have a little work left to do for Sunday breakfast." She leaned back and looked at him dangerously. "Do you like to bake?"

*************

It was almost midnight and the card games were breaking up. Curry and two men were still seated at their table. Rollin and Hopper's game had ended and they had already left the saloon.
Curry handed a five dollar coinpiece to the saloon girl who had been serving them. She bent down and kissed him goodnight. The fourth man was standing and picking up his winnings. The fifth man was also standing, watching Curry. It was the same man who had played cards earlier that day with Heyes.

"All I want to know is where's that cheating friend of yours? Stole three hundred dollars from me this afternoon!"

"Nobody cheated you out of anything. You just lost," Curry replied evenly.

"Well he may have gotten away with something, but you ain't gonna."

Curry warned him. "Look it's been a friendly game, don't make it ugly."

"And I'm telling you, you're not leaving until we have it out!"

"Are you accusing me of cheating you?"

"You know his tricks."

Curry stood up. "Mister, you're a rotten player, and a rotten loser. My horse could beat you at cards."

"Who says so?" the angry man retorted.

"He does. And I think you ought to listen to him," a voice answered.

Matthew stood in the doorway.

The other men had moved away from the table. The angry man turned in surprise and took Matthew in.

"And why would I be interested in anything you have to say?" he asked.

"Because I've seen him draw, and you haven't."

The man shifted his attention from Curry to Matthew. "Is that a fact, boy?" The man was distancing himself ready for a fight.

"Yes, that's a fact. And there's one more reason," Matthew stood ready for the man. "You've never seen me draw, either."

"But I have. And you don't want to go there mister," Curry said. He too stood ready.

The man looked from Matthew to Curry for a long moment making his decision. Then he backed down.

"I don't know why I'm wasting my time with either of you. It's your crummy, no account friend I'm interested in." The man picked up his hat from the table and left the saloon.

"I take it that means you won a few hands?" Matthew asked Curry.

"It's been one lucky day," Curry answered without enthusiasm.

*************

Curry was the last man to enter the house. It was dark except for a light in the front parlor and another at the top of the staircase. Suddenly, he heard a muffled scream come from the kitchen. He absently reached for his gun which wasn't there. Looking around he grabbed a poker from the fireplace. In the semi-darkness he crept into the hallway toward the kitchen door.
Curry burst into the kitchen with the poker raised. Heyes had caught Amanda from behind and she was laughing. They backed away in surprise.

"What are you doing?" Heyes asked incredulously.

"What are you doing? I heard a scream!" Curry replied half confused and half angry, lowering the poker self-consciously.

"We're baking!" Heyes replied.

"What do you mean you're baking? It's one o'clock in the morning!"

"We're baking!" Heyes pulled Amanda away from the counter to reveal a tray filled with pastry dough.

Curry looked at both of them. They each had on aprons and were spattered with flour. He was suddenly at a loss for words.

"Well…okay then. Everybody all right?"

"Fine," Amanda smiled.

"Then I'm going to bed because it's one o'clock in the morning." Handing the poker to Heyes, he turned and moved toward the door.

"Good night Kid," Heyes called after him.

"Good night old man," Curry replied without looking back.

"Hello…" Amanda turned Heyes' face toward hers and proceeded to paint a streak of flour from the bridge to the tip of his nose.
Heyes looked at her sternly as she innocently examined her handiwork. Then he smiled evilly. She looked up. His fists were suspended over her head and they were filled with flour.

"Oh no, please! Not the hair!" Amanda pleaded, laughing.
Heyes lowered his fists. He took her face in his hands and dotted her cheeks and chin with flour.

"Thank you," Amanda said gratefully.

He put his arms around her. "You know we never did take that walk around the lake. Would you like to ride back out there tomorrow?"

She took a towel and wiped the flour off his face. "Aunt Lorraine is coming in the morning."

"Then let's make a day of it. Take in the fair, too. Bring along Thaddeus and your aunt?"

She put her arms around his neck and answered him with a kiss.

*************

Heyes reached the top of the stairs. He'd called the Kid by name in front of her. He shook his head and entered the room. Curry was sitting on his bed. He was tossing cards in a hat, obviously waiting for him.

Curry said reproachfully. "You called me 'Kid' in front of her."
Heyes unbuttoned his shirt and smiled ruefully. "I know." He looked up at Curry. "Nice catch, 'old man.'"

"You want her to know who we are, don't you?"

"I want her to get to know me," Heyes replied unhappily.

"Heyes, that's one luxury you don't have right now!"

Heyes continued to unbutton his shirt. Curry watched him with concern. "What is it? What's gotten into you?"

Heyes turned and looked at him again. "When I'm around her…when I'm with her… I feel like… I'm home…I don't know…" he ran his hands through his hair. "I thought I figured it out...I thought it was under control… " he sat down on his bed and sighed. "Kid, I never believed I'd ever hear myself say this, but maybe you'd better do our thinking for awhile…"

Curry was silent for a moment, looking at his friend. "All right, Heyes." He got ready to turn in. "Did you tell her anything else we ought to worry about?"

Heyes answered trying to remember. "…I told her about the time I was watching that Pierce and Hamilton being hauled off the dock in Frisco."

"You are a romantic."

Heyes slipped off his boots. "Kid…. was I baking?"

"Well, he bore a striking resemblance to you…but that's all I'm gonna say. That and you've got flour on your chin."

"Wake me up early tomorrow." Heyes rubbed his chin.

"It's Sunday."

"I know. I'm taking her to church," he replied amazed at his own words.

Curry shook his head in disbelief and blew out the lantern on his side of the room.

*************

It was late Sunday morning and every seat at the dining table was filled. All the guests were enjoying a formal breakfast including Lorraine Stanton, Amanda's aunt.

Mrs. Stanton was an attractive, classic beauty like Amanda. She had arrived earlier that morning, and ahead of her husband who was detained finishing some business in Queensburgh. It was not unusual for the Stantons to make several trips a year to Kingston County and stay with their niece.

Heyes and Amanda were seated together in the same seats from the previous evening but now there was an understated intimacy between them. They were very relaxed in each other's presence. Mrs. Stanton looked over at them from time to time, and so did Curry. Mr. Hopper also looked in the direction of Amanda and Heyes, but he was not looking at Amanda, he was studying Heyes.
Amanda was listening to Mr. Rollin. Rollin was explaining about the company he had met while he was selling at the fair the previous day, and how he would be representing them on the road.

"Miss Fowler these blueberry tarts are delicious!" Mrs. Cosgrove called to her from the other end of the table.

"Why thank you, Mrs. Cosgrove," Amanda said and stole a sly look at Heyes.

"Yes, I must give you my recipe for butter nut pudding!"
Amanda answered back politely and Hopper started to say something and then changed his mind. Jessie moved around the table refilling the coffee cups and Mrs. Cosgrove began relaying her recipe to Mrs. Stanton who was seated next to her.

Finally Hopper couldn't contain himself any longer. "Mr. Smith, please excuse me for asking this, but has anyone ever told you that you bear a striking likeness to Hannibal Heyes?"

"Hannibal Heyes the outlaw?" Jessie asked with genuine excitement.

"Hannibal Heyes, the bank robber?" Amanda asked in astonishment. She looked at Heyes and laughed with delight.

"It's quite a remarkable likeness. I was in Cheyenne about two years ago…when his gang held up the bank there," Hopper continued.

"What about it, Smith?" Rollin asked.

Heyes remained cool and gave it some thought. "It's been remarked on before. Once in Denver, wasn't it?" he looked over at Curry.

"Uh-huh," Curry went along. He smiled at Mrs. Stanton who smiled back at him.

"What I'd like to know, Mr. Hopper, is since when do bank robbers make deposits?" Amanda asked him with amusement.

"Miss Fowler?" Hopper seemed quite surprised by her question.
Amanda explained. "The first time I saw Mr. Smith was at the bank last week. He and Mr. Jones were making a very large deposit into the bank and in someone else's name. Mr. Robert McKendricks, in fact."

She continued. "Now sir, if you were from around here you'd know why I was laughing. Not only is Mr. McKendricks one of our most prominent ranchers, he's also our former county district attorney."

Hopper looked embarrassed. "Well, no offence Mr. Smith, I certainly didn't mean to speak out of turn."

"None taken, Mr. Hopper," Heyes replied pleasantly. He looked at Amanda, who was smiling affectionately at him. He smiled back correctly, but inside he felt a sinking feeling. His heart and his conscience had finally caught up with one another.

"I can understand how these mistakes can happen," Mrs. Cosgrove reassured Mr. Hopper. "People have mentioned to me on several occasions that I look just like Lillian Russell!"

Curry smiled from across the table. "I've thought that very same thing, ma'am."

Jessie opened the kitchen door returning with a fresh serving tray, and Curry got a quick glimpse of Matthew taking his coffee in the kitchen.

"My, it's getting a little chilly in here, don't you think so, Mr. Jones?" Mrs. Cosgrove asked regarding him with growing interest.

"Would you like me to fetch your shawl for you, ma'am?" Curry asked her.

"Oh thank you, Mr. Jones," she answered, delighted by his attentions. "I think I might have left it out on the sun porch."

"I'll hunt it down, ma'am." Curry rose from the table. Heyes watched him go, wondering what he was up to.

*************

Breakfast had finished and Mrs. Cosgrove had retired to the front parlor when Curry returned with her shawl.

"Sorry it took me so long ma'am. I found it out near the duck pond."

She thanked him profusely and she and Miss Bartel invited him to stay and tell them all about his experiences in Denver. He was relieved Heyes had at least lied about a town they both knew. He was polite and attentive but ended the conversation as soon as he could.

Heyes and Amanda were talking at the end of the downstairs hallway and he was holding both her hands in his. He noticed Curry entering from the parlor and heading for the staircase. Heyes said something to Amanda and she nodded and returned to the kitchen.

"Hey, where'd you go?" Heyes asked as he caught up with him.

Curry turned to speak to him when Mrs. Stanton interrupted them.

"Gentlemen, would you join me for a moment in the study."

It was not a question. She motioned to the doorway. Heyes and Curry entered the study and she followed them shutting the doors behind her. Matthew was already in the room seated on top of the desk. He was facing them with his arms crossed and he was wearing his gun. He and Curry looked at each other intently. The two men appeared to be engaged in some private, silent discussion.

Mrs. Stanton continued. "I'm sorry to hear that you're both leaving us today."

Heyes answered in surprise. "I don't understand. We weren't planning on leaving…"

"Mr. Heyes, there really isn't any choice about that."

"Mrs. Stanton, I thought we settled that over breakfast. I'm Joshua Smith. I'm not Hannibal Heyes! And you and I have surely never met before…?"

"Mr. Heyes, I've never seen you before in my life," she said.

"It's Mr. Curry I'm acquainted with."

Heyes could barely believe what he had just heard.

She continued steadily as she gazed at Curry. "I was watching you at breakfast. It took me awhile to recognize you. It's been a long time…you've grown up some…filled out some…but I could never forget you. It is you, isn't it?"

Curry sighed and looked from Mrs. Stanton, to Matthew, and finally to Heyes. "Happened the time I was working with Chuck Hanson's gang. We held up a train outside Columbine. Mr. and Mrs. Stanton were on board. She was wearing this…piece of jewelry. Mr. Stanton and Red Montgomery got into a little argument over it and Mr. Stanton was about to lose…if you get my meaning. Seems Red had a girl back in Boulder who liked sparkly things…I stepped in and convinced Red his girl didn't need it..."

Mrs. Stanton was satisfied. "Thank you, Mr. Curry."

Heyes said testily, "She wasn't completely sure, you know. You could have bluffed!"

Curry looked at Matthew, who shook his head. Curry turned to Heyes. "Heyes, we've been invited to leave. We've already been recognized twice today and it's barely noon! I think this is the best invitation we're going to get for awhile and we oughtta take it!"

Heyes was undone. He sighed and spoke in earnest. "Mrs. Stanton, it's true who we are…but that's not who we are anymore…we've changed. We've reformed. We're honest, law-abiding citizens. And we have reason to believe…and hope eventually for a pardon…an amnesty. Leaving's not that easy for me. I have feelings for Amanda…"

Mrs. Stanton cut him off. "Mr. Heyes, in my book you're still a thief."

Heyes looked confused.

She continued. "You're a thief of hearts. You're in no position to offer my niece anything but heartache. And I think you already know she's had enough of that. My husband and I helped her put the pieces back together once before…if you have any feelings for Amanda you'll get out of her life."

She walked toward the closed doors and turned back. "You decide Mr. Heyes. But I give you fair warning: if you thought breakfast was interesting, wait until you dine with my husband and the sheriff tonight over dinner." Then her tone softened. "I'm sorry it turned out this way, I really am…for everyone. Excuse me. I need to speak to Amanda." She left the room leaving the three men alone.

Matthew spoke up. "You've been recognized three times. I did a little reading last night."

"You don't have a girl," Curry said, putting it together.

"She's out of town. And when she's out of town, I catch up on my reading."

Matthew turned to Heyes. "Our friend here is right. That's the best offer you're going to get today…Mr. Heyes, you have a mighty tempting price on your head. Now you may have Miss Amanda a bit confused for the moment, but you don't do nothin' for me."

*************

Mrs. Stanton had entered the kitchen and found Amanda alone.

Jessie was eating her breakfast on the sun porch.

"Amanda, we need to talk."

"What is it?" she asked, concerned by her aunt's tone of voice.

"Amanda…there's just no easy way to say this…Mr. Smith really is Hannibal Heyes."

"No, that's not possible!" she smiled shaking her head.

"No, it's true. And Mr. Jones is Kid Curry. They admitted it to me themselves. Matthew was there, too."

Amanda got very pale and sat down at the table.

"I recognized Mr. Curry myself," Mrs. Stanton went on with difficulty. "Your Uncle and I were in a train robbery years ago. And Mr. Curry stopped a fight between your uncle and one of the men."

"You knew this during breakfast, didn't you?" Amanda asked sadly.

She nodded. "I had my suspicions. Mr. Curry confirmed them. But I believe what they said to us. They've changed…reformed. They say they're hoping for a pardon. But Amanda, they haven't been pardoned, yet."

"No, he certainly has not…" Amanda said coldly as the truth began to dawn on her.

"Where are they now?" she asked.

"They just went upstairs," Matthew answered as he entered the kitchen.

"They're packing, I presume. We asked them to leave, of course," Mrs. Stanton said.

Amanda looked at Matthew. Her eyes were starting to well up.

Then she stopped herself and tightened her jaw.

"Well, I guess they'll need their guns…"

"Mr. Curry already saw to that for himself," Matthew said.

"Oh, did he?"

Matthew looked at her. "Tell me what you want me to do," he asked her gently.

She shrugged sadly. "Saddle up the 'gentlemen's' horses."

*************

As the two men reached the top of the staircase they heard Hopper's voice from his room. Rollin was showing him a new item from his sample case. They quietly moved past Hopper's room and entered their own.

"It's like being in quicksand," Heyes said as he shut the door.

"I'd feel a whole lot better right now if I had my gun."

Curry lifted his jacket to reveal two guns in his belt. Heyes broke out an approving grin. Curry handed Heyes his gun and put the other into his own holster.

"He knew you had these the whole time, didn't he?" Heyes asked.

"I'm sure he did. That's why he was wearing his."

They took out their satchels and began to pack. A short time later they heard a knock at the door.

"Who is it?" Curry asked.

"Amanda."

Curry looked over at Heyes. Heyes' face had changed at the sound of her voice. He looked worried and contrite and nodded to Curry.

Curry opened the door. Amanda looked at him, making it clear she knew she was looking into the face of Kid Curry. Her eyes moved down to the gun in his holster. She did not look surprised, only grieved. She entered and he closed the door behind her.

Her voice was quiet and steady. "I was going to bring you your guns, but I found out it wasn't necessary." She kept looking at Curry and avoiding Heyes. "Matthew's saddling up your horses. My aunt explained how things are."

"I'm sorry," Curry said in a low voice.

Amanda took a seat in the armchair and spoke to Curry. "She mentioned something about…. a pardon?"

Curry answered. "Yes. It's possible. We're hoping for one-"
Heyes broke in impatiently. "I'd like to point out there are three people in this room."

Amanda and Curry were silent a moment. Amanda still refused to look at Heyes.

Curry continued. "It's not definite, but we have a friend who talked on our behalf to the Governor of Wyoming. We stand a fair chance…eventually."

"Mr. McKendricks?" Amanda asked.

"No. A lawman we've known for a very long time."

"But Mr. McKendricks is a friend of yours?"

Heyes exploded. "Yes! Robert McKendricks is a friend of ours.
Would you please say something to me?"

Amanda turned and looked at him. She placed her hands on the arms of the chair as if to steady herself. She was hurt and angry and having trouble controlling it. "I'm going to miss Joshua Smith. Joshua Smith was starting to mean something to me. But I don't know who you are."

Heyes just stared back at her helplessly.

Curry snapped his satchel shut, shaking his head. "I'll wait downstairs." He left the room, closing the door behind him.
Heyes continued packing in silence.

"So what do they call you?" Amanda asked, regaining composure.

"Heyes. They call me Heyes," he said quietly.

"Everything you said about yourself…things you said to me…was there any truth in it?"

He answered again, softly and earnestly. "I told you as much as I could…and more than I should of."

Amanda sighed. "When they ask what direction you were headed, what do you want me to say?"

"Tell them we were headed east, towards Fort Carlson."

She nodded and he closed his satchel. "Look, we don't have a lot of time, so would you please come over here?"

She heard the pain in his voice and she looked at him, beginning to weaken. She rose from the chair and slowly walked over to him.

Heyes said gently, "I am so sorry….for me." He pulled her to him and their arms wrapped around each other. He made a motion to kiss her.

"No," it was a moan more than a word. She hid her face in his vest.

Unhappily, he complied and continued to hold her.

"Heyes?"

"Umm?"

She said almost whispering, "Don't kiss me good-bye. Kiss me hello."

His expression relaxed and he responded by holding her closer, snuggling the top of her head with his chin. They were facing the window and looking out at Knightsgate Ridge.

A few moments passed and Curry opened the door again. "Sorry, but we better get going…it seems Mr. Hopper had a sudden need to ride into town. Said he forgot some supplies but Dodd thinks he's gone for the sheriff."

Heyes sighed, and still holding her, pulled her away from him to look into her face. He seemed to be searching for something. Then she gave him a nod and a small smile. With effort he let her go. He turned, picked up his satchel and quickly left the room without looking back.

Amanda closed her eyes and listened to his footsteps as they faded down the stairs. She opened her eyes, startled to see Curry with his hand on the door handle watching her.

"Thank you," he said softly. Then he turned and was gone.
Amanda looked out the window and watched as Matthew brought their horses to the front of the house. Mrs. Stanton entered the room, joining her at the window. She put an arm around Amanda's waist.

*************

Matthew was waiting for them in front of the house with their horses.

"Mr. Heyes." Matthew handed him the reins.

"Mr. Dodd." Heyes nodded and mounted up. Curry followed from the house.

"Mr. Curry."

Curry walked over to Matthew and the two men shook hands. Curry mounted his horse.

"Until later, Mr. Dodd," he said and tipped his hat.

Matthew watched them ride away. Then with a faint smile he turned and looked up at Amanda and Mrs. Stanton who had been watching from the upstairs window.

*************

The two men rode until they came upon a signpost that said "Thomasville 32 mi." There was no one following them and they would easily make Thomasville before dark.

Heyes moved past the signpost. On the other side of it, it said, "Knightsgate 14 mi". He stopped his horse and took a drink from his canteen. He gazed at the sign and then looked up at their last remaining view of Knightsgate Ridge.

Curry watched him. "You haven't said a word since we left. Want to talk about it?"

"Nope."

"We'll be back."

Heyes said nothing.

"Heyes, I know we'll be back this way again." Curry said firmly.
Heyes turned and smiled half-heartedly at his friend. He sighed to himself. If ever there was a cockeyed optimist, it was the Kid.

*************

The sun was beginning to set behind Knightsgate Ridge. Contrasting shadows of purple and silver graced its crowns, but there was not a soul around this particular moment to enjoy such a view, except for a lone and patient fox.
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Re: 3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie
Post on Fri 09 Sep 2016, 2:22 pm by Cal
don't normally like it when the guys get mushy, but that was a good read. Kept me interested. Did you write more about Amanda? very well written piece. Could see it all happening in my minds eye. Calx
 

3.9 The View From Knightsgate by Susanna Leslie

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