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 The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts

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20150508
PostThe King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts



Heyes and Curry are two of a kind working in a full house, in C. D. Roberts' - The King of Hearts and His Joker.



Starring


Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry


Guest Starring


Pernell Roberts as William Bannerman




Vivian Martin as Lavinia Lindsay




Lars Hanson as Leonidas Lindsay




Florence LaBaddie as Daisy




Neville Brand as Ramsey




Viola Dana as Maggie




Louis Wolheim as Bryce




Elisha Cook as Arnie




The King of Hearts and His Joker
by C. D. Roberts



The lady read the two letters she held, smiled shyly, and looked up at the two men standing before her, hats in hands. She was young, anywhere from eighteen to twenty years old, dressed elegantly but not ostentatiously, for daytime.



“You both come highly recommended by my elder sister, Mrs. Jennings, and her friend, Mr. Saunders.” She sighed; her posture relaxing momentarily. Then she returned to her nervous perusal of the letter.

The lady cleared her throat and repositioned herself in her chair, sitting straighter. She cleared her throat again nervously. “My sister writes she has discussed the remuneration, and you have agreed to the terms my husband authorized.”

“My friend and I think the terms are more than fair,” Heyes made a slight wave of his hand to include Curry.

She furrowed her brow, and composed herself as if to appear severe, but only managed to resemble a puzzled, wide-eyed, china doll. “I suppose I shall have to rely on my sister’s judgement.” She paused. “I suppose I should appreciate her taking the trouble to find suitable applicants for the positions.” She sighed again. “I really had no idea how I would ever find anyone out here in the middle of nowhere. But, my husband, Mr. Lindsay, says his business in Denver isn’t too distant, and he thought this locale would be lovely for our honeymoon. This is only a temporary household, and the positions are temporary as well. That was explained to you, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Curry.

“And that the positions aren’t exactly regular? You two will be required to handle all the household duties of butler, footman, and my personal secretary, and really anything else my husband requires.”

“Your sister explained the situation to us before we left San Francisco. She told us you planned to go to New York with Mr. Lindsay in a couple of months.”

“That is correct. I realize it all must seem very strange to you. My husband is from the East. I was living with my sister in San Francisco. When he arrived there on a business trip, we met.” She blushed. “I really shouldn’t tell you all that, but he’s a wonderful man and he quite swept me off my feet. My only disappointment is that he must travel for his business and is often not at home.”

“What does Mr. Lindsay do?” asked Heyes.

“He does something with insurance I believe.” She continued, with a slightly puzzled frown, “He always has a man travel with him as a sort of a guard because he says he has to work with some disreputable men. I never knew insurance was such a dangerous business, did you?”

“I can’t say that I knew that either,” Heyes said looking at the Kid who shrugged.

She stood and reached for the bell pull. “My husband had some staff from the East travel here whom I am certain you will soon meet. They aren’t exactly…” she swallowed, “… well you will see. His regular staff wouldn’t travel to Colorado, but I suppose one mustn’t be choosy out here.”

“I am confident you know your duties.” She repeated this in a voice displaying the opposite of confidence. “I imagine there is little I need to tell you. Smith, we’ll call you the butler, and you, Jones, the footman.”

“I think you can have confidence in us, Mrs. Lindsay,” Heyes responded, smiling with superiority at his friend, when he heard their relative positions.

The Kid rolled his eyes.

“Oh, and one more thing. Smith, please return here after you have settled into your room, and Jones, please report to the cook, Daisy, in the kitchen.”

The maid arrived.

“Maggie, this is Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, the new butler and footman. Please show them their rooms.”

After Maggie and the boys left, Mrs. Lindsay collapsed into her chair, and exhaled as if exhausted.


&&&&&&&&&&

“This is your room,” Maggie announced, opening the door to a room in the attic. She crossed to the opposite side and raised the window. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”

“Maggie, I don’t suppose you could tell us anything about Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay? At least you can tell us about Mr. Lindsay, you worked for him in the East, right?” Heyes smiled engagingly at the pretty maid.

“She’s young,” was the abrupt reply.

“We can see that for ourselves,” said Curry.

“Look, all I know is he went to San Francisco, and got married —fast. I guess he got suckered by her looks and her superior airs.”

“Mrs. Lindsay seems real nice to me,” said the Kid.

“Maybe she is, but it’s still a rush job, if you ask me.”

“You haven’t told us anything about him, Maggie. What’s he do? Mrs. Lindsay said something about insurance?” Heyes inquired.

“Yeah, that’s right, insurance. He travels a lot.”

“Anything else you can tell us about him?”

“I don’t gossip, Smith.” She walked to the door and turned around. “Your uniforms are in the closet. If you need ‘em adjusted, take ‘em to Daisy, not me. I don’t do sewing. See you boys downstairs.”

Heyes turned to the Kid. “What do you think? I think she sure jumped on us when we asked about what Lindsay does for a living.”

“Jumped on you, you mean. She said they ain’t supposed to gossip.”

“Maybe so, but I’ve never heard that stop a maid from gossiping about her employers. I think Mrs. Lindsay’s, sister, Mrs. Jennings, was right about Mr. Lindsay. You ever hear of someone in insurance traveling with a bodyguard?” He put his bag on one cot and began to unpack it.

“Well, maybe he’s in the insurance business, but maybe he’s got an enemy. It’s possible.” Curry sat heavily on the other cot.

“Just remember, Kid, that when Soapy introduced us to Mrs. Jennings he said he thought there was something funny about Lindsay. And he’s had lots of experience; he can smell a crook.”

“It’s interestin’, isn’t it? Mrs. Jennings is a friend of Soapy’s, she knows what he was, and goes to him for help, but she’s worried about her sister being married to Lindsay.”

“I suppose rubbing elbows with a retired criminal is, well, stimulating. I think those society types enjoy flirting with danger—when it isn’t dangerous. That’s a lot different from having your younger sister married to someone who’s a crook.”

“Uh huh.  And Soapy said those society folks liked Lindsay, that Lindsay fit right in with the Upper Crust; knew all the right people and was in demand; a real ladies man, too. Mrs. Jennings said he was good-lookin’…”

“The difference is, they thought he was a legitimate businessman. Mrs. Jennings wasn’t suspicious until she couldn’t discover Lindsay’s source of income. Until then he was the most charming, sophisticated, well-spoken man—and the most handsome she had ever seen.”

“Sounds too perfect, if you ask me.”

“Jealous?” Heyes grinned.

“Nope. I’m just sayin’. Someone could be all that and be straight. But Soapy said there was somethin’ not right. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.” Curry removed his boots and scratched one foot. “With Lindsay gone how are we gonna figure out anythin’ about him even if there is somethin’?”

“Kid, I expected better from you. We’re servants. We’ll have access to every room in the house. That should include his personal office and his bedroom. All I need is a short amount of time to go through his papers to see what his business really is, and if there is anything irregular about it.”

Curry changed the subject. “I’m not too sure about this butler kind of work. What if the others figure out we don’t really know what we’re doin’?”

“How hard can it be? We answer doors, serve food; you’ve seen what those men do at Soapy’s house. Just act like you know what you’re doing. Anyway, from what Mrs. Lindsay said I gather the rest of the staff aren’t exactly the best at what they do. Look at Maggie.”

“I did. She’s real pretty, ain’t she?”

“I wouldn’t get my hopes up on that score. She don’t seem the friendly type.”

“Suppose you’re right.” Curry laid back, head on the pillow, hands under his head and stared at the ceiling.

“I wouldn’t get too comfortable. Remember, we’ve got a real job to do.” Heyes went to the closet, took a uniform off a hanger, and threw it on the Kid.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes pulled on the stiff starched-white collar around his neck as he walked down the hallway. He opened a door, looked inside and closed it, shaking his head.

He quietly walked over to the next door and tried it. The door was locked.

“Smith, or maybe I should call you Mr. Busybody, aren’t you supposed to be reporting to the Missus?”

Heyes turned. “Why Maggie, you’re so quiet I didn’t hear you come up behind me. The parlor is…”



“Right there,” she pointed, “as if you didn’t know it.”

“Now Maggie, I’m just curious about the house; I am new here.”

He walked to the parlor door, smiled at Maggie and opened it. After he closed the door behind him, Maggie continued on with her work, muttering to herself.

Mrs. Lindsay raised her head from a book, slightly flustered.

“Mr. Smith.”

“I think that’s Smith, ma’am,” he corrected her gently.

“Oh, yes. I am sorry. Smith I would like you to talk to our coachman, Byrnes. I don’t believe he was entirely sober yesterday when he drove me into town. Mr. Lindsay isn’t here, and I confess I don’t know how to confront him.” She blushed, apparently embarrassed by the subject.

“I’ll talk to him, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Smith. I’ve never had to chastise anyone for—well for that—before. I wouldn’t know where to start.” She smiled at him in innocent gratitude, and returned to her book.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes entered the barn. A thickset man was sitting on a bale of hay, bottle in hand. He had a day’s growth of stubble on his face, and a scar that ran on his right cheek from the bottom of his eye to his chin.

Heyes neared him quietly as he raised his bottle.

“Byrnes!”

The man stopped and turned to Heyes. Heyes grinned, eyes dancing dangerously.

“Mrs. Lindsay doesn’t like you drinking on the job.”

“Who’s gonna stop me? You?” He stood threateningly.

Heyes moved rapidly. With one hand he snatched the bottle while with the other he landed a right cross on the man’s jaw. Byrnes toppled over onto the hay. The downed man struggled to raise himself, woefully groaning far in excess of what a blow like that should have elicited. “Give me a hand.”

“Nope.” Heyes kept his distance.

Byrnes suddenly twisted up and lunged forward, revealing a knife in hand.

Heyes pulled a gun out of his jacket’s inner pocket. He grinned as the man stopped as abruptly as he has begun, dumbfounded.

“Sit down Byrnes. Let’s talk.”

Byrnes sat on the bale and rubbed his jaw, ruefully. “You’re a good one, you are. You sure got the jump on me. Who are you?”

“New butler. Name’s Smith.”

“Smith? And you’re a butler?”

“Why not? If you can be a coachman, I can be a butler. You like being coachman, don’t you?”

The man nodded, still rubbing his chin.

“You wanna keep your job, right?”

“You can’t fire me and Mr. Lindsay won’t. So, you can do your job and leave me here to do mine the way I like.”

Heyes was slightly taken aback. “How do you know Mr. Lindsay won’t fire you?”

“I just do. He ain’t gonna fire me or my wife, Maggie. He knows better than to do that. You can go ahead and tell him you saw me drinking. It won’t make no difference.”

“It makes a difference to me, Byrnes. As butler, I’m in charge here. You’re not gonna drink on the job again. If you do, you’ll be dealing with me, not Mrs. Lindsay and not Mr. Lindsay.”

“You’d better watch your back, then, Smith.”

“I don’t have to. My friend’s the new footman. You haven’t met him yet. When you do, you’ll find you’re the one who has to ‘watch his back.’” He looked steadily at Byrnes, exuding an air of menace, until Byrnes lowered his eyes and nodded.


&&&&&&&&&&

Curry stood stiffly in the kitchen watching as a woman seated by a table sewed his jacket. She tied a knot, bit the thread and handed it to him.

“There you are, Jones, you’re all set now.”

“Thanks, Daisy.” He put on the jacket. “How do I look?”

“Handsome, if you ask me.” Curry reddened at the unexpected compliment.

“What’s a matter, sweetheart? Too forward for you? I speak my mind; you’ll get used to me—I hope.” Daisy leaned towards him.

He instinctively stepped back, looking surprised.

She rose and brushed the front of her dress. “Oh, alright, then. You look just like a proper butler.”

“Well, that’s nice, but I’m the footman. My friend’s the butler.”

“Butler, footman, what’s the difference, anyway? Come to think of it, what is the difference, Jones?” She removed her thimble and put it, along with her other sewing implements back in a little basket.

“Well, my friend, he has more experience.”

“Oh, so it’s a seniority type of thing, is it? I figure that means you both answer doors, and serve the table, but he sort of runs things and tells us what to do because he knows more, am I right?”

“Yes, that’s it exactly.” Having recovered his composure, Curry now began a little mild flirting on his side. “You know, Daisy, you’re a lot younger than I thought the cook would be. And a lot prettier.”

“We’re all young here,” she laughed.

She turned her attention back to the oven. “Oh, rats!” She opened the oven door handle with a towel and smoke billowed out. She hurriedly pulled a pan out from the oven. “Thank goodness, I caught that just in time.” She put the pan on the counter. On it sat a pair of somewhat homely, overly brown loaves of bread, still smoking. She waved her towel over them.

“I’m sorry about that,” Curry began to apologize. “If I hadn’t distracted you.” She smiled broadly and he began again. “If you weren’t sewin’ my jacket…”

“Sweetheart, don’t you worry your pretty head about it. Even if you hadn’t asked me to sew that I probably would have forgot my bread for something else. It’ll be fine. I’ll just scrape those extra brown spots off and no one will know the difference.”

“You sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure. That little Mrs. Lindsay only pecks at her food like a bird. All the cooking I do and she hardly has any appetite. I can’t imagine what a man like Mr. Lindsay sees in a thin tiny stick of a thing like she is,” she added, turning cross at the finish.

Daisy brightened immediately. “But now you, sweetheart, you’re a real man. You look like you would be interested in a real woman.”

She neared him as she spoke, stood on her toes and almost brushed her lips against his.

“Daisy!”

Daisy and the Kid turned to see a short man, bristling like an enraged rooster, who had entered through the kitchen door.

“Arnie! Arnie, this is the new footman, Jones. Jones, this is my husband, Arnie. He’s a handyman for Mr. Lindsay.”

“Your hu—Nice to meet you.” Curry held out his hand.

Arnie ignored Curry’s hand, addressing Daisy instead. “You start cheating on me with this bird and you’ll regret it, Daisy.” He flexed his hands into fists, and raised himself on his toes, chin pointing up.

“Arnie, I was sewing his jacket for him. Mrs. Lindsay’s orders.”

“She’s tellin’ the truth.” Curry walked within an inch of the short, bantam cock of a man, and looked down at him. Arnie snorted, relaxed his fists, and backed away.

Arnie grunted. “Daisy, I’m hungry. Where’s my lunch? Or were you so busy sewing for this fella you forgot to fix it?”

“Sit at the table and I’ll bring it, you big lug.” She ladled out a brown gelatinous substance into a bowl. “Jones would you care for some food? You must be hungry too.”

“Thanks, ma’am.” He sat across from Arnie. The two men continued to stare at each other.

Daisy brought two bowls over. She tore off the burnt ends of the bread and gave each a piece. She stood at the end of the table, bent and faced Curry, and gently placed one bowl in front of him, while with her other hand behind her she let the second bowl fall in front of her husband.

Arnie grabbed her wrist tightly.

Curry stood. “Let her go, Arnie. I don’t like to see a man treat his wife like that.”

“Don’t you tell me how to treat my wife.”

“Ow! That hurts, you clod!” Daisy slapped Arnie hard in the face. “See how you like it!” He started to rise. “Don’t you even think it…” she warned him, picked up a tea kettle, and waved it in a threatening manner. “You sit there and eat your lunch.” She turned to Curry. “You too! And don’t you go and tell my husband how to treat me.”

Arnie nodded and dug in.

Curry blinked and sat down again. He and Arnie glared at each other. They spooned meat glop from the bowls and chewed it. And chewed. And chewed.


&&&&&&&&&&

Hannibal Heyes stood in front of Mrs. Lindsay. She sat at her desk, and held a letter in a slightly quavering hand. When she spoke it was almost beseechingly.

“This is from my husband. He writes that he will return home tomorrow with Logan. Logan is the man who travels with him to provide protection. In addition, there will be a guest for dinner who will stay the night. We have to arrange the dinner for ALL of them, and a room for this guest. It seems…so much to prepare for, our first dinner party…” Her eyes teared up. “You do know what needs to be done?” she asked.

“I’ll make sure Maggie has a room ready.”

“But the meal!”

“I’ll tell Jones to get the table ready,” he smiled, “and I’ll tell Daisy about the meal. Do you know what you want to serve?”

“I…you go tell them, and I’ll make a menu.”

“Alright, I mean yes, Mrs. Lindsay.” Looking over his shoulder as he left the room, he saw her take writing paper out of a desk drawer and study the blank sheet carefully. “I’ll make certain that everything is taken care of,” he reassured her. He shut the door behind him.

As Heyes stepped out of the parlor, Curry beckoned him. “What did you find out about Lindsay?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothin’? Are you kiddin’?”

“I’ve been too busy to look for Lindsay’s papers. But, I think I know where they are. One of the rooms is locked. I think it’s his study. We’ll break into it tonight. We’re bound to find out something.”

“Good, because I’m ready to leave. The cook’s flirtin’ with me…”

“Since when was a woman flirting with you a problem?”

“She’s married. He husband’s name is Arnie and he works here as a handyman.”

“So?”

“He’s jealous, and she’s a terrible cook,” Curry said glumly.

Heyes grinned at Curry’s woeful countenance. “Now I see why you want to leave. Well, we can’t. At least not for a couple of days.”

“Why not?”

“I, uh, I promised Mrs. Lindsay her dinner party would turn out fine.” Heyes appeared somewhat discomforted.

“Are you sayin’ that even if we find out somethin’ tonight, we’re gonna stay for a dinner party?” Curry gave Heyes an odd look. “You feel sorry for her, don’t you?”

“It’s not that. It’s that I gave my word.”

“Sure, partner.”

“Kid, we’ll leave day after tomorrow. We shouldn’t have to stay any longer if we can get into that study. There’s got to be something in there on him or he wouldn’t keep it locked up. Byrnes implied there’s something Lindsay wouldn’t want people to know.

“Who’s Byrnes?”

“The coachman. He’s married to Maggie by the way. He’s a drinker. I had a little discussion on temperance with him.”

Curry grinned. “I bet.”

“But,” Heyes continued, “he said something that’s been troubling me. He said Lindsay would never fire him, no matter what he did.”

“Maybe Byrnes is blackmailin’ him.”

“That’s what I thought. But that means Lindsay has done something to be blackmailed about.”

“Guess we’ll have to find that out.” Curry paused. “What about this dinner party?”

“Lindsay’s bringing a guest and one other man is staying in town, joining them for dinner. You get to set the table for the big party. And, you get to play waiter.” Heyes grinned from ear to ear and slapped Curry on the shoulder.

“What?”

“That’s your job, being footman.” Heyes rubbed a finger on a side table, and examined it. “You don’t happen to know where Maggie is, do you? She has to make up a guest room.”

“Exactly what job do you have?” Curry asked, irritably.

“Me? You could say I’m chief of staff. My job is to make sure everyone does their jobs.”


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes and Curry crept down the stairs to Lindsay’s office. Curry kept watch while Heyes crouched down, and took his lock pick out of his boot. He began to work the lock under the knob. Moments later, he gingerly tried the door. It didn’t creak and he opened it enough to enter, followed by Curry who positioned himself as lookout.

The desk was sparsely decorated with an inkwell, pen and blotter. No papers lay in the open. He opened the three drawers on one side of the desk. Empty. He shook his head at the Kid. He glanced around. He walked to the painting on the wall, looked behind it, and shook his head again. Curry shrugged and returned to observing the hallway.

Heyes returned to the desk and examined it a second time. There was a small center drawer of the kind used to store pencils, pens, stamps and other small items used in the art of writing. He tried it. It was locked. He raised his eyebrows, looked up, and nodded at Curry.

He deftly worked the desk lock. Inside was one singular item. Singular as in unique and it was definitely unique. It was a peculiarly shaped piece of metal. He brought it towards Curry for him to examine. Curry indicated he had no idea by shaking his head again. Heyes opened his mouth again but Curry waved his hand to shush. He pointed down the hall and then pulled the door close, but left it ajar to peer out.

Heyes replaced the piece of metal, locked the desk and returned to Curry’s side. The two men stood tense and alert as something shuffled nearby and brushed the door. Curry peered out and, seeing the back of a man wobbling unsteadily towards the front of the house, opened the door wider for Heyes to see.

Eventually, the front door could be heard opening and closing.

“Byrnes?” asked Curry.

“Yep, he must have been paying Maggie a visit.”

The two returned to their room, where a disgusted Curry started to unbutton his shirt. “That was a waste of time. We didn’t find anything. No safe and the desk was empty, ‘cept for that piece of metal.”

“I think we found out a great deal, partner.” Heyes was grinning like the cat who drank all the cream.

“How do you figure that?”

“First Lindsay’s got plenty to hide about himself if he keeps nothing in a locked room except for that piece of metal.”

“Yeah, that was weird. Why lock the room and why lock that piece of metal in the drawer. It don’t make any sense.”

“It makes plenty of sense. That’s a very important piece of metal. Genius, pure genius.” Heyes’ voice brimmed with admiration as he paced the room.

“You know what it is? You’ve seen one before?”

“Nope, but I know what it’s for. It’s for recording the combination of the tumblers of bank safes—the big ones.”

“Whoa, Heyes. That means Lindsay is a bank robber.”

“Oh, not merely a bank robber, a master criminal. Like I said, that piece of metal is genius. I wish I’d thought of it.”

“Takes one to know one, I suppose. Are you sayin’ Lindsay’s a bigger genius than you are?”

Heyes quit pacing. “Of course not. I said I wished I thought of it, but there’s a reason I didn’t.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like you gotta have a gang with patience to use something as precise as that. So there’s no reason to come up with that otherwise.”

“We waited when you worked tumblers. We were patient.”

“The Devil’s Hole Gang was never THAT patient. Those safes were small safes, Kid. One night jobs. You have to break into a bank more than once to use this. You use that metal to make a record of complex dials. You can’t do that in one night. I don’t picture Wheat or Kyle agreeing to a job like that, do you?”

“Suppose not,” Curry admitted.

“This explains everything. The servants here are terrible servants because they are actually Lindsay’s gang. He has to travel with a guard—protection—he must have enemies, maybe other criminals he’s crossed.”

“Or maybe the fellow he travels with is his partner,” Curry offered.

“Could be. And he, or they, won’t fire Byrnes because he’s a member of the gang, and he knows too much.”

Curry whistled. “Arnie too. And, that’s why Maggie wouldn’t talk about Lindsay.”

“Right, not because she doesn’t know anything about him, but because she knows more about him than she wants us to know.”

“Then Maggie and Daisy are molls. No wonder Daisy can’t cook.”

“We still don’t know what they’re up to out here. It’s gotta be something big. Maybe Lindsay thinks he CAN rob the Denver Mint. Maybe the guest is some local crook the gang plans to work with.” Heyes’ eyes widened from the excitement. “Imagine.”

“Heyes. Heyes!”

“What?”

“We don’t do that no more.”

Pricked by the Kid, a deflated Heyes returned to reality. “I know. It’s just that the possibilities that device presents…the temptation…”

“Heyes, never mind the temptation, what do we do if this local crook knows us?”

“Make sure he doesn’t tell Lindsay who we are.”

“How do we do that?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll think of something. I always do.”

“Great, a Hannibal Heyes plan.” Curry rolled his eyes.


&&&&&&&&&&

The morning sun shone through the windows as Maggie bustled about the house to prepare the guest room. Daisy was in the kitchen surrounded by pots and pans and food that she would soon despoil. Arnie was outside with Byrnes, where they worked as little as possible. The Kid and Heyes were in the dining room where they sorted out tableware.

“You can’t say I never helped you in your hour of need.” Heyes vigorously polished a silver fork, held it up to the light, and polished it again.

The doorbell rang.

“That’s your job.” Curry had laid out several forks of varying sizes by a china plate in front of him, and was trying the forks out in different positions.

“Uh huh.” Heyes tossed him the polished fork.

Curry put the fork down by the others. “They make another size?” he questioned in disbelief.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes answered the door. The man outside had his back towards the door and was observing Byrnes and Arnie.

“May I help you?”

The man turned and Heyes found himself facing William Bannerman . Both men looked equally surprised.

“Mr.…”

Bannerman cut him off.

“Royce. Benjamin Royce. My card.”

Heyes took it automatically. “Please come in.” He allowed Bannerman to enter and shut the door after him, glancing around to see if anyone else was present.

“Mr. Ba…”

Again Bannerman cut him off. “My name is Royce while I am here. More importantly, what are you doing here? I was under the impression you and your partner had gone straight. Should I be disappointed to see you here? I would rather not think that my eloquence in your favor to the governor of Wyoming has been in vain.”

“It’s not what you may think. My friend and I are here on a job.”

Bannerman looked at him significantly.

“Not that kind of a job. We don’t work for Lindsay.”

Bannerman raised his eyebrows. Heyes explained. “I’m the butler and my friend is the footman.”

“You’ll have to forgive me if I say that doesn’t alleviate my suspicions. Arnie Dowling is the handyman and Mike Bryce is the coachman. Both men have criminal records that could fill a cabinet. Do tell me more.”

“There’s a good reason we’re here. Mrs. Lindsay’s sister hired us to find about the man her sister married. She’s worried.”

“With good cause. Hadn’t you better take my hat and coat? After all you are the butler.” He turned and shook his coat into Heyes’ hands. “Then I presume I can rely on you to introduce me to Mrs. Lindsay as Mr. Royce?”

Heyes hung the coat and popped the hat on the hook above it. “Follow me.”


&&&&&&&&&&

“Mr. Benjamin Royce.” Heyes read the card he held. “Benjamin Royce, Imports/Exports.”

Mrs. Lindsay stood holding out her hand. “Mr. Royce.”

Bannerman cupped the delicate hand in his large one and placed his other hand on top of it. “Mrs. Lindsay, I am genuinely charmed to meet you.”

Mrs. Lindsay blushed appropriately. “Please, be seated. I must apologize, but my husband has not returned to town. I am expecting him today, but not until the evening.”

Heyes, not being dismissed, stood while the two talked. Occasionally Bannerman looked towards him and back to Mrs. Lindsay, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“I did travel here with the express purpose of meeting with your husband to discuss business.”

“Did you?” The very becoming puzzled doll look was back. “I am confused. Do you mean you know my husband and arranged to meet him here or that you wish to be introduced to him?”

“I have never met him before, but I have heard much of him, and have a great desire to meet such a successful man.”

“You do?”

Bannerman held up his hand. “Mrs. Lindsay, your butler is present.”

She only looked more puzzled.

He leaned forward and whispered, sotto voice, “He may have other tasks to perform.”

“Oh. Oh! Yes, I see. Smith, please help the others with tonight’s preparations.”


&&&&&&&&&&

“Guess who’s here?”

“Who?” Curry had all the plates on the table now. He was busy arranging silverware.

“Are you sure the knives go there?”

“Well, there’s always somethin’ that goes across the tops of the plates in those fancy restaurants. There’s less of the knives than the forks and the spoons, so I figure it must be them. That way the forks and spoons have plenty of room at the sides of the plates.”

“That’s good thinking. Bannerman’s here.”

“Bannerman! You mean George Bannerman?”

“Nope, his son, William, the one we met at the revival.”

“That’s a relief.”

“A relief?”

“Well, he likes some crooks, right? And he liked us.”

“Because he thought we were going straight. But now he’s not so sure, seeing us here.”

“He knows about Lindsay?”

“Why else would he be here?”

“Is he here to arrest Lindsay or just have dinner with him?”

“Uh, good point. When I left the parlor he was telling Mrs. Lindsay he wanted to meet her successful husband. With him you can’t tell, he may really only want to meet him. Maybe he can’t arrest him, if he doesn’t have enough evidence. I’m going back, and I’ll see what I can find out. The least I can do is try to convince him we’re not with Lindsay.”

“Yeah, don’t let him get the wrong idea and think we’re in the business again.”


&&&&&&&&&&

When Bannerman left the parlor, Heyes was waiting.

“She’s a delightful lady, don’t you agree?” asked Bannerman. “I confess I would so like to be present tonight, especially as Fast Frankie Ramsey is invited; mind you that isn’t the name he is currently using. I believe he goes by Samuel Stanley.” Ignoring the shock of recognition on Heyes’ face at the name, Bannerman continued, “Much as I tried I could not convince the charming Lavinia, Mrs. Lindsay, to extend a dinner invitation to me for tonight’s little repast.”

“They’re newlyweds and he’s a lot older than her. She doesn’t like to do anything without consulting him,” Heyes said.

“What do you think of Leonidas Lindsay?”

“Leonidas? People are actually named Leonidas? Wait a minute. Leonidas Lindsay? You mean Lindsay is Leonidas Lawrence? The guy who masterminded the Metropolitan Bank heist?”

“Oh come now. You mean you genuinely had no idea who he was?”

“Like I said, neither one of us has met him. We were hired by Lavinia’s sister, Mrs. Jennings, to find out more about Leonidas. We’ve only been here a couple of days.” Then Heyes admitted, “We did figure out he was a bank robber.”

“Go on. How did you do that in only two days?”

“We examined his office.”

“I sincerely doubt he keeps records of his robberies.” Bannerman’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

“No I found a piece of metal. It’s unique and I’ve never seen one before, but I can guess what it does.”

“Ah, you found his ‘little joker.’”

“You know about it.”

“Of course I do. The agency knows what he does and how he does it, but no one has been able to connect him directly to the crimes. No one can prove he is more than a wealthy man in society, albeit with no known source of income, highly sought after as a guest, friends with many of the best people. He is an incorrigible womanizer, but that is hardly a crime.”

“He must have some enemies if that’s true,” Heyes observed. “After all, he travels with a bodyguard.”

“Logan, yes I know. You travel with the Kid.”

“The Kid is not my ‘bodyguard.’”

“I stand corrected. However in other ways, Lindsay’s not as foolhardy as you.” Heyes looked offended but Bannerman ignored him. “He breaks into a bank in advance and places the joker to record the tumblers, and later retrieves it, but he’s never present during the actual robberies. He rehearses the men in their parts before the heists. He’s so successful that other gangs hire him to plan their robberies. You’re clever Heyes, but not the genius Leonidas Lewellyn Lawrence is.”

“Leonidas Lewellyn Lawrence? He only changed Lawrence to Lindsay? Going around with a name like that sure isn’t going to attract attention.” It was Heyes’ turn to wax sarcastic. “Not in the least a foolhardy thing to do. Anyway, I worked in a different kind of situation, that’s all. The West is different than the East.”

Bannerman laughed. “Now I’m convinced. You never have met him before and you’re not planning a robbery with him. You’re jealous. You never thought of something like the joker, and you didn’t consider being a master planner of robberies for hire to other gangs.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Bannerman. Do you actually think men like the members of my gang would work for someone who wouldn’t ride with them and share the danger? I never asked them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself and they knew that. I had their trust. And anyway, a lot of planning was needed for our robberies. I’m proud of the work we did.”

Bannerman was grinning broadly at this conclusion.

“I meant…” Realization dawned on Heyes. “You wanted me to say that.”

“Absolutely. It was worth a little harmless insult to your intelligence and abilities to hear you admit you are proud of your ‘accomplishments’. I always think the successful criminals take real pleasure in what they do. I respect that.”

“I have your respect, then?”

“Certainly.” The two men were at the door now and Bannerman was retrieving his coat and hat. “Did you have to pick any locks to find the joker?”

“Certainly.” Heyes grinned as he mimicked Bannerman.

“By the by, I noticed that La-Mrs. Lindsay has a high opinion of you. She praised you with open good faith after I maneuvered the conversation into a brief discussion of her servants. See if you can obtain an invitation to dinner for me for tonight.” He tipped his hat at Heyes, and left.

Heyes knocked on the parlor door.

“Come in.”

“Pardon me, Mrs. Lindsay, but I was wondering if I should tell the cook and the footman to prepare for one more for dinner.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Mr. Royce mentioned he wished to discuss business with Mr. Lindsay. Perhaps, I jumped to conclusions, but wouldn’t this be a good business opportunity for your husband?”

“Oh, but we just met. I don’t believe it would be correct to invite someone I know only on such a brief acquaintance to a dinner party.”

“Mrs. Lindsay, if I may make a suggestion?”

“If it will be of any assistance, please do.” Her china-doll eyes opened wide.

“Rely on your instincts, not on what you think the rules of society are.”

She reddened. “I wouldn’t want to do anything Mr. Lindsay would disapprove of, or my sister.”

Heyes shook his head slightly. “I don’t think Mr. Lindsay could disapprove of anything you do. You aren’t the type of person anyone could accuse of improper behavior. All you need to do is be yourself. Just now, Mr. Royce remarked on your unaffected charm.”

“Did he? Well, perhaps I should write and extend an invitation to him for dinner. That is, it could be helpful to my husband to broaden his business connections. If I don’t invite him, Mr. Lindsay may lose the opportunity, and, you are correct, my husband is more important than any rule of introduction my sister may worry about. I have my own life, now. Yes, I have decided; I will invite him. I think Mr. Lindsay will be pleased.” She went to her desk and began to write.

“You will see this message is delivered to Mr. Royce.”

Heyes left, smiling.


&&&&&&&&&&

_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.


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The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts :: Comments

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Re: The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts
Post on Fri 08 May 2015, 4:12 pm by royannahuggins
Curry stood, arms crossed, eyeing critically the dining table now filled with an overabundance of crockery, silver and crystal. He adjusted some of the pieces so they lined up precisely.

Heyes approached him from behind. “Looks real good.” He frowned slightly. “I don’t think it’s right, but it looks good. I suppose no one will know the difference.”

“I think it looks just right and I don’t think you could’ve done any better.”

“Maybe not.” Heyes paused. “By the way, we’re having one more guest.”

“What do you mean we have another guest?”

“I mean you’ll have to set another place. Kind of a shame, it looks all so balanced and perfect right now. But, you can do it. You’ve got an hour.” Heyes tilted his head as he eyed the table. “You’ll have to move just about everything to make it even, I guess.”

“Heyes, who is this other guest? Not Bannerman.”

“You got it right on your first guess.”


&&&&&&&&&&

“I’ll wear my pearls, Maggie.” Lavinia twirled one of her long curls around her finger as she put the finishing touches to her hair and dress before dinner. She sat on a velvet cushioned stool in front of a mirror in her dressing room.

The door to a connecting room opened and a handsome man, close to forty years in age, strode into the room. Heyes was in the next room carrying two cloth satchels.

“Give the pearls to me, Maggie. I want to be the one fortunate enough to place those around the loveliest neck in the world.”

As he spoke Lavinia jumped and threw her arms around him. “Oh my darling, you’re home.”

Lindsay kissed his pretty wife repeatedly. “Which makes me supremely happy. And how is my little wife? Have you been taking care of yourself and not pining at my absence? Here, turn around.” He spun her around so her back was facing him. Unobserved by his wife, he took the pearls from Maggie. He held the maid’s hand, and smiled as he brushed his lips against it.

“It’s good to have you home, sir.” Maggie withdrew her hand, but not her eyes from the man.

Lindsay glanced briefly at Heyes who was, to all intents and purposes, engrossed with unpacking shirts and socks. He smiled at Maggie and returned to the business of clasps and pearls. The encounter between master and servant was so brief as to be almost unnoticeable.

“Smith, you’ll be needed downstairs. You can finish the unpacking later.” He turned to Lavinia, “My darling, I’ll escort you to the parlor.” He drew her arm over his and led her out of the room brushing past Maggie.


&&&&&&&&&&

Curry sank into a chair in the kitchen.

“You got that table done just in time,” Daisy observed. “Imagine the missus inviting another guest so late in the game. Who is this Mr. Royce, anyway?”

“Just a businessman.” Curry wrinkled his nose. “What are you cookin’, Daisy?”

“What she ordered. She wanted, let me see,” Daisy picked up the menu, “Pury Pom a la Bon Fem, which is some kind of potato soup; I’m stirring that now, beef, green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, bread, filet of sole, that’s the fish there on that pan. I’ll start that when they’re having the soup, and there’s apple pie for dessert; I’ve baked that already.” She pointed to a darkly browned crusted thing in a pie pan on the counter.

Curry looked curiously into the soup pot. Large chunks of potatoes were joined by carrots and an unknown green.

“I couldn’t find the recipe for the soup she wanted so I improvised. How’s it look?”

“Uh, different.” Curry retreated from the kitchen before Daisy could respond to his underwhelming observation.


&&&&&&&&&&

The doorbell rang.

Heyes opened the door to face a most questionable figure in top hat and tails whose eyes bugged-out on seeing the butler.

“Howdy Ramsey,” Heyes smiled as he held out his hands for the man’s hat and coat.

“What are you doin’ here?” Fast Frankie Ramsey managed to stutter out after regaining part of his composure.

“I’m not here for the reason you think. The Kid and me have legitimate jobs.”

“You expect me to believe that?”

Heyes nodded dejectedly, and sighed. “It’s the truth. We needed the work.”

Ramsey snorted. “I heard you two quit, but I don’t believe this.”

Heyes continued. “We didn’t know who Lindsay was when we took the jobs. How could we when he’s from back east? Look, we’re not going to ask any questions about why you’re meeting him. We’ll be leaving in a day or two ‘cause we don’t want to be involved in whatever it is all of you are up to.”

“How do I know you and the Kid ain’t tryin’ to pull a fast one on me?”

“If we were trying to pull a fast one on you, why would Lindsay have us working here when you arrived? We didn’t know who Lindsay was when we arrived and he doesn’t know who we are, and we’d appreciate you not telling him.”

“I’ll be tellin’ him alright. I’ll be tellin’ him plenty.”

“Don’t do that, Ramsey, at least not tonight. You don’t wanna make a deal out of it. There’s a stranger here, and he ain’t a crook.”

“Who’s this stranger?” asked Ramsey.

“His name’s Benjamin Royce.” Heyes escorted Ramsey to the parlor. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“You know my name, Heyes.’

“Would you like me to announce it?” Heyes smiled, his eyes dancing with merriment.

“No. Call me Samuel Stanley. What’s your alias?”

“Smith.”

“Smith? You’re jokin’.”


&&&&&&&&&&

Curry returned to the kitchen to find Daisy stirring a pot with Lindsay standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder, one finger stroking her chin as he looked down at her concoction, murmuring to her, “Not today, tomorrow at the willow.” He abruptly withdrew from the cook at his footman’s appearance.

“Jones, have all the guests arrived?” He took his pocket watch from his vest and examined it. Lindsay was entirely composed and spoke smoothly as if being found with his arms around his cook was a matter unworthy of any attention.

“No, sir. I dunno. Maybe. The doorbell just rang.”

“In that case, I had better join my wife and the others in the parlor.”

After he left, Curry questioned Daisy with a look.

“You’re not the only good-looking man around here,” was her observation.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes entered the parlor and ushered Ramsey inside.

Lindsay greeted the man with smooth insouciance, and with a knowing glance cast at Bannerman. Heyes blinked at that and looked from Bannerman to Lindsay and back again.

Bannerman was also completely at ease. After the introductions were complete, he reclined and resumed a conversation of small talk with Lavinia who sat at his right.

The new entrant stood uncomfortably alone until joined by Logan.

Lindsay approached Heyes. Ramsey watched him with intense suspicion.

“Smith, return to the kitchen and when dinner is ready you may announce it.”

“Yes, sir.”

As he left the room, Bannerman concluded his conversation with Lavinia and joined the other men.

“What line of business are you in?” he asked Ramsey congenially as Heyes closed the door.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes signaled at Curry to join him outside the kitchen.

“What?”

“The other guest is here.” They both spoke in whispers.

“And?”

“Fast Frankie Ramsey.”

Curry whistled under his breath. “Ramsey don’t like you. Are we in trouble?”

“Nope. Not yet. He knows enough to not talk about us while Bannerman’s here.”

“You didn’t tell him who Bannerman is, did you? He’d kill him.”

“‘Course not. I told Ramsey enough to keep him from speaking out in front of everyone, that’s all. And, even if he finds out, Ramsey can’t be stupid enough to kill William Bannerman. But, I think Lindsay knows who Bannerman is, and I think he’s enjoying the whole situation.”

“Great. I think we need to be gone before Lindsay has anytime alone with Ramsey. I think this whole thing is gonna blow up.”

“Possibly. If he thinks Lindsay is double-crossing him with us, he might try to shoot up the place.”

“So why don’t we just leave now.”

“Because William Bannerman would probably be real grateful if we found out what they were planning. And, because we have to serve dinner. Is it done?”

“Past done, probably. Knowin’ Daisy’s cookin’ that is.”

“I’ll go announce it then. I’ll help you serve, too. I wouldn’t miss this dinner for the world.”


&&&&&&&&&&

“Mr. Stanley, I am most interested in hearing you elaborate on the methods used in your brewery.” Bannerman was avidly pursuing the conversation begun in the parlor as the party settled into their seats for supper, much to the obvious discomfort of Ramsey.

“I think we would all wish to learn more,” Lindsay added as Ramsey hesitated.

“Perhaps, Mr. Stanley doesn’t desire to give away any of the secrets of his business, dear.”

“That’s it! I mean if I tell you how I make my beer, it could ruin my business.”

“Oh come now. I’m not asking for proprietorial information. Simply some details of the business. How large is the brewery, how many employees, those sort of details. Lindsay, you share my interest in this?” asked Bannerman.

“Absolutely.” Lindsay looked down at his place setting with some amusement. “I wasn’t aware table service differed so greatly from east to west.”

“I think you can find considerable difference, if I may say so sir,” Heyes offered. “For example, the setting Jones used is similar to that of The Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It may not be what you will find in New York or Boston.”

Heyes was beside Ramsey’s chair, pouring wine for him as he spoke. Ramsey fidgeted, accidentally dropping some of his silverware.

“I was unaware of that, Smith.” Lindsay responded with his customary agreeable complacency, but he looked thoughtfully at his new servants.

Curry, busy ladling soup, stopped to glared at the silverware on the floor, and then at Ramsey.

Ramsey became more agitated under the gunslinger’s gaze.

Heyes calmly picked up the dropped silver, wiped it with a napkin and replaced it, much to Bannerman’s and Lindsay’s amusement. Lavinia studiously ignored the faux pas.

The diners tasted the soup. Lavinia gagged and held a handkerchief to her face to hide her mouth. Lindsay’s eyes watered but he merely observed that he ‘had no desire for soup tonight.’ Bannerman seemed to waver between mild disgust and amazement. Ramsey downed his portion so rapidly that he belched.

“You don’t want more, do you?” Curry asked.

“Well, now…” Ramsey began.

“Please return to the kitchen for the next course, Jones.” Lindsay continued, with good-humor, “I feel I must explain. The servants are new and are not familiar with the house.”

“My dear fellow, you mustn’t apologize. I find your staff to be extraordinary in so many ways. The food may not be quite to perfection, but with such sociable company as we have here, I find it to be a completely satisfactory evening. Don’t you other gentlemen agree?” Bannerman beamed with bonhomie as he helped himself to the decanter. “Would any of you care for more of this delightful wine?”

“Don’t matter about the servants; food’s fine,” said Ramsey, holding out his glass for seconds.

Logan, who had said nothing all evening, observed Curry who had returned with a shriveled roast that sat alongside a silver gravy boat on a large platter. The ‘footman’ placed the main dish on the sideboard, and began to energetically carve the meat. Heyes watched his friend’s efforts with considerable interest, while he doled out crusts of bread that had belatedly found their way into the dining room, along with something questionable.

“What unusual bread. It appears to be entirely made up of crust ends. I must remark on this to Daisy.” Lindsay held his piece of bread aloft, and brushed off the blackened edges while Heyes placed a piece of the something questionable on his plate.

Lindsay put the crust down and pierced the material on his plate with a fork, lifting it for all to view. “Smith, this is - what?”

“I think it’s the fish, but it looks like only the scales made it to the serving platter. Would you like me to ask Daisy?”

“Not in the least; I enjoy a good mystery.”

“Maybe it’s a mystery, but it sure ain’t good,” Curry opined loudly as he struggled with the beef.

Ramsey brought the conversation back to Heyes and Curry. “These fellas, here, how did you find ‘em?”

Curry dropped a slice of the beef onto Ramsey’s plate with a loud clatter. Ramsey winced.

“You mean our butler and footman?” Lindsay inquired placidly.

“That’s exactly who I mean. How did you manage to find them two?” Ramsey sawed at the meat with gusto.

Curry retreated to fetch the vegetables. Heyes was helpfully ladling lumpy gravy onto the meat.

“They were highly recommended by my sister,” said Mrs. Lindsay.

“What? You hired ‘em, ma’am? Not your husband?”

“They were in my sister’s employ, before I hired them.”

Ramsey, bewildered and a bit boozy, was effectively silenced on the topic.

Bannerman turned the conversation to his own, equally mythical, trading company. Ramsey battled the beef, and Logan remained silent; the conversation was abdicated to Lindsay and Bannerman. Lavinia remained gracious throughout the ordeal.

After the meal, Mrs. Lindsay stood, but Lindsay walked over to her before she left for the parlor, and gently coaxed her back into her chair. “I think Mrs. Lindsay would enjoy some coffee here. Gentlemen, please join me in my study for drinks and cigars.” He waited as the other guests passed him. Bannerman exited last and stopped before Lindsay. “I would like a private word with you.”

Heyes and Curry were clearing the table.

“Certainly. As soon as the others are gone to bed, I’d be happy to converse with you.”

As soon as they left, Lavinia pushed her plate forward, and dropped her head on the table. Her body began to shake and muffled crying sounds emerged.

Curry and Heyes stared at each other. Curry mouthed ‘Wha’?’ and Heyes shrugged. The Kid put down his load of crockery and neared her.

“Mrs. Lindsay, don’t take it so hard. I mean the food wasn’t so good, and maybe me and my friend don’t do this the best, and…” He looked at Heyes for assistance.

“You handled yourself perfectly, and if you don’t mind me saying, I don’t think Mr. Stanley is the type of man who expects or deserves much better.”

Lavinia raised her head to reveal that she wasn’t in distress, but was in reality laughing so hard she was crying. “Oh dear me, no, Smith, I have met some of my husband’s business acquaintances before, and I have a fairly good idea of what they are like.”

“You do?” The Kid looked at Heyes.

“Mrs. Lindsay, I don’t think you are aware of what they really are.”

“Oh, Smith, I am not entirely unaware…” She stopped as if catching herself in the act of saying too much, and hesitated. “…that they are, for the most part, rough and uneducated men. Not having had the opportunity to entertain before, I had no idea that Daisy’s cooking could reach such an abysmal depth. The evening would have been an entire failure if it weren’t so apparent that my husband and Mr. Royce enjoyed it so. And you two, I don’t believe you have ever served a meal before. I can’t imagine what my sister was thinking when she sent you.”

“The truth is,” Curry began, uncomfortably.

“That your sister sent us to make sure you were alright. She’s worried about you, marrying a man so much older than you are.” Heyes completed the explanation.

“Isn’t that just like her? She thinks I am a child and cannot manage. You don’t agree with her, do you, Smith?”

“Well, no, but…”

“I’m not firing you. I really have no choice as there aren’t servants to be found in the area. Although I do think I could find a companion to replace Maggie, and do without a maid entirely.”

She stood. “If Mr. Lindsay inquires after me, tell him I have retired to my rooms.”

“She’s sure changed,” the Kid observed.

“She’s gaining confidence. Maybe the dinner turning out so bad was a good thing.”

Curry looked unconvinced.

“For her, at least.”


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes and the Kid were in the dining room polishing the silver used the prior evening. Heyes’ style was nonchalant, but Curry polished every piece as if it were his gun.

“Ramsey didn’t get a chance alone with Lindsay last night did he?” asked Curry.

“After four glasses of wine and two shots of whiskey he had to be helped to bed. I don’t think he’s gonna be up for a while, so he won’t get the chance to see Lindsay alone this morning, if that’s worrying you. Maggie said Lindsay went into town on business about ten and won’t return until late this afternoon.”

“When did Bannerman leave?”

“Late,” Heyes answered with a yawn. “He and Lindsay spent a long time in the study alone. He didn’t look too happy when he left.” He pre-empted the Kid, “No I don’t know what they talked about.”

Ramsey stalked in, rubbing his head. “Where’s Lawrence?”

“Gone to town all day on business. Don’t you think you should call him Lindsay here? Someone might hear you?”

“I’ll call him whatever I want to, Curry and you too. Tell that cook to get me some breakfast.”

“You’re too late.” Heyes smiled pleasantly. “Daisy left to go shopping in town a few minutes ago.”

“Get me whatever’s left.”

“No.” The Kid stared at Ramsey. “You want somethin’ to eat, get it yourself.”

Ramsey stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

“Guess he decided to go to town for breakfast,” Heyes observed.

“Guess so.”


&&&&&&&&&&

The clock struck three when Heyes stepped out of the kitchen to answer the door.

Curry looked up at him when he returned. “Who was at the door?”

Heyes had a peculiar look on his face. He opened his mouth to respond, and closed it again.

Curry asked, “What’s up? Somethin’ goin’ on?”

“Bannerman’s with Mrs. Lindsay. Lindsay’s dead. His body was found about an hour ago at an empty house about half-way between here and town.”

Heyes paced the length of the kitchen. Curry let out a low whistle.

“The sheriff knows Bannerman and asked him to take charge of the investigation. Bannerman’s got the sheriff and his deputies searching for clues at the site of the murder, and he came here to question the staff and Ramsey. See if you can find Arnie, Bryce, and Logan, and I’ll look for Maggie and Daisy. Do you know if Ramsey returned?”

“Nope,” answered Curry as he went out to look for the men.


&&&&&&&&&&

After he rounded up the maid and cook, Heyes returned to the parlor. He saw Lavinia sitting on a sofa, eyes red; her skin a deathly pallor from shock. She and Bannerman were deep in conversation, the man comforting the recent widow, but Heyes’ entrance interrupted his words of condolence.

Heyes addressed Bannerman. “Jones and I have got everyone in the kitchen except for Ramsey. He left about noon and hasn’t returned yet. How is she?”

“I am upset from the sudden news, but I can speak for myself.” Lavinia’s voice shook. She turned back to Bannerman. “Mr. Bannerman, you have not been entirely honest with me, or with my husband. I would like to hear your explanation for your actions.”

“Mrs. Lindsay, your husband was fully aware of who I was. I do apologize for my deception towards you. I assumed Mr. Lindsay’s new bride was entirely unaware of any knowledge of his activities. Therefore, I came here, under a false name to prevent any rumors or gossip to spread that could harm an innocent lady’s reputation. My purpose for the visit was to persuade or, if necessary, to coerce him into an honest life. I believe he was a man of intelligence and could have done far better.”

“I appreciate your concern. I do not agree with you regarding Leonidas. My husband was no criminal.”

“Mrs. Lindsay, I think you may have had some idea. You had to have known he had no obvious means of income. And, you told me and Jones you suspected his associates.”

“I said no such thing, Smith. I said I was aware that the men he dealt with were disreputable.” The china-doll look had vanished as she spoke in defense of her husband. “I certainly did not say he was involved in any business of a criminal nature. His money was inherited.”

“But he needed Logan to guard him,” Heyes said.

“Many men have hired men to protect them. It is not unusual.”

“Lavinia, excuse me, Mrs. Lindsay, I beg to differ. Most gentlemen do not find it necessary to hire a guard for protection. In addition, your husband's parents are living. He has no inheritance and no allowance from them. He severed his ties with them years ago, so even taking credit out on the basis of a future inheritance would have been most unlikely.”

“Mr. Bannerman, I will not listen to you disparage my poor husband.” Lavinia retrieved her handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped her eyes.

“I am sorry. I do not mean to upset you.” He faced Heyes. “Smith, if Logan is in the kitchen, bring him into the hall. I want to speak alone with him before questioning the others.”


&&&&&&&&&&

Meanwhile, staff had been collected and were uneasily awaiting questioning in the kitchen.

Bryce snarled at Curry. “You don’t have the right to keep us here and question us.”

Daisy cut in before Curry could reply. “Be quiet, you lug. You’re gonna make him think you’re hiding something.”

“Don’t you call my husband a big lug, you tramp.” Maggie was steaming.

“Who are you calling a tramp? You’re not exactly an angel, Maggie Bolan.”

“Bolan? I thought she was married to Bryce.” The Kid stood between the two ‘ladies’ to prevent a physical fight.

“We’re married! Just because we don’t have a paper doesn’t mean nothing. Me and Jim Bryce are as married as she and Arnie Dowling are.” Maggie stretched her arms around Curry and tried to claw at Daisy. “She’s no better.”

“Shut up you two cats!” Bryce yelled.

“No, you shut up, you idiot! You’re the one that started this!” Arnie yelled in return.

“Everybody shut up!” yelled Curry, louder than the rest. He pulled his gun from an inside coat pocket. The two couples froze. “That’s better. You just sit down and keep quiet until Bannerman gets here.”

Bryce pulled Maggie into his lap and wrapped his arms around her to prevent her from reaching Daisy, and Arnie led Daisy to the opposite side of the room.

“Bannerman?” Arnie sagged. He flopped into a chair.

Curry smiled. “Yeah, Royce is really William Bannerman. He’s a great guy. You’ll like him.”


&&&&&&&&&&

Bannerman was questioning Logan in the hallway with Heyes standing near.

“Mr. Lindsay left the house without you this morning; that was unusual, wasn’t it?”

“He said he knew the person he was meeting and didn’t need me.”

“Was he meeting a woman?”

“He said it was business. I think he had a note. He was reading a small piece of paper and put it in his coat pocket.”

“You don’t know where he went?”

“No.”

“Thank-you.”

Logan left. Bannerman turned to Heyes. “Where’s Ramsey?”

“Still not back. But he was real angry with Lindsay when he left the house. I think he thought Lindsay was double-crossing him with me and the Kid.”

“That makes him our most likely suspect. I need to stay here to question Lindsay’s gang. I’d like your friend to stay as well. A little intimidation never hurts a case.” Bannerman smiled grimly.

“Alright, I’ll go to town and see if I can find Ramsey. If he’s in town, he’ll probably be in the saloon. If not, I’ll check the train station.”

“If he’s gone, wire the stations along the line in my name to arrange to detain him.”

Bannerman entered the kitchen, and Heyes left on his search.

&&&&&&&&&&

Bannerman surveyed the unsavory group in the kitchen. “You know who I am and why I am here, so let’s get to business. Daisy Dowling, I’ll start with you. Please follow me into the dining room.”

Daisy turned to look at Arnie before she left the kitchen. Arnie held his finger to his mouth and winked at her. She returned the signals with a nod.

Arnie sneered at Curry.

The Kid shrugged, his manner cool and unfazed.


&&&&&&&&&&

On his way into town, Heyes passed the scene of the murder, which was crawling with deputies and interested locals. It was a small, ordinary house that had a small ‘to rent’ sign hanging in front. It was cottage-like with a flower box under a window, a small porch and shutters with willow trees carved on them. He studied the scene, and then continued on his errand.


&&&&&&&&&&

Heyes entered the saloon and found Ramsey nursing his hangover with drinks from the bar.

He approached the man and put a hand on his shoulder. Ramsey shook it off.

“What?” Ramsey growled.

“You need to come back with me to Lindsay’s house.”

“Why?”

“You have heard the news, haven’t you?”

“I heard there was a murder, so what?” Then realization dawned. “Not Lindsay?”

“Uh huh.”

“What rotten luck. He was going to do a job with me and my boys.” He downed his drink. “Well, that’s off then.” He signaled to the bartender. “Pour me another.”

“You know, for a minute there you had me worried that you were getting sentimental. I thought you meant Lindsay had some bad luck, what with dying and all.” Heyes oozed sarcasm.

“Why should I care about him? I only met him last week. We had business together, that’s all.” He downed the second drink. “I suppose I need to go with you to give my alibi. But, you know where I was this mornin’. I came straight to town to get some breakfast after I left the house.”

“Maybe you stopped on the way.”

“Nope. Hate to disappoint you, but the folks at the diner are gonna remember me arrivin’, and I’ve been here in the saloon since I ate. Probably everyone in town saw me. I may not be the most pleasant fella, but that just makes me memorable.”

“I can’t deny that.”

Outside the saloon Ramsey grabbed Heyes by the arm. “How come you ain’t suspect?”

“Me and the Kid never left the house. And we’re with the law on this one, Ramsey. We’re helping Bannerman.”

“Bannerman?”

“Oh, did I forget to mention that to you?” Heyes asked airily. “The fella who introduced himself as Royce is William Bannerman. I guess it slipped my mind.”

“Wonderful.” Ramsey disgustedly slapped his hat on his head.


&&&&&&&&&&

It was dark when Heyes, Curry, and Bannerman sat on the porch with drinks and cigars.

Bannerman held out his cigar watching the smoke curl from its end.

“Ramsey’s alibis are watertight. There wasn’t enough time between his leaving the house and arriving in town for him to have committed the murder. His arrival in town was well before the murder, at any rate. Dozens of people can attest to him being in town throughout the afternoon.”

“That leaves Lindsay’s gang,” Heyes observed, while the Kid stared at his cigar in thought. “But they had plenty of time after the murder to coordinate their story, didn’t they?”

“Quite right, indubitably. They have alibied each other and I couldn’t wedge a chink in their armor. It will be impossible to prove a case against one or more of them without an eyewitness or incontestable physical evidence, neither of which we have.”

“Daisy met Lindsay at that house,” Curry blurted out.

Heyes stared at him. “You couldn’t possibly know that.”

“He was in the kitchen yesterday, and I heard him tell her to meet him today. I almost forgot what with everythin’ that happened. When I came in they were real close. He said not today, but tomorrow at the willow. It didn’t make any sense to me because there ain’t any willow trees around here.”

Heyes straightened up. “Yes, there are. The shutters of the house where he was murdered…”

“…are decorated with willow trees.” Bannerman completed the sentence, but unlike Heyes he remained at ease, unperturbed by the information.

“That means somethin’, don’t it?” Curry asked him.

“Yes. It means that even if you could testify it would be the word of one criminal, a very well-known one, against four other, lesser-known, criminals. Evidence coming from Kid Curry would be disputed, if not laughed out of court. Not to mention, I would have to arrange for your extradition to Wyoming after you testified.”

Heyes put his hand in front of his face to hide his amusement at his friend’s chagrin as Bannerman resumed. “Frankly, even if the source were better, that evidence is too weak. No prosecutor would dare to present charges based on that.”

Heyes looked at Bannerman. “Going to trial wouldn’t help Mrs. Lindsay’s reputation much either, would it?”

“No, it wouldn’t. As it stands, there is no reason to drag out the investigation and sully her good name. I’ve accepted the fact that, officially, this will remain an unsolved murder. I don’t doubt from what you two have told me and, from what I have heard from informants in the East, Lindsay was involved with both Maggie and Daisy. Arnie and Bryce are not the kind of men who take kindly to being cuckolded.

“I assume they knew about the affairs, and they discovered that Daisy and Lindsay met at that small house. Possibly, probably, Lindsay met with Maggie there as well.

“In addition, they had a second motive. Arnie, Bryce and the remainder of the gang were growing dissatisfied with Lindsay and resented his leadership. They were involved in an aborted bank heist in New Jersey. Physical violence was used against the inside man, a bank teller, who backed out at the last moment. Lindsay never condoned the use of violence, but we believe Bryce had no qualms. From what we discovered, Bryce and the others were afraid Lindsay would break with the gang and provide the law with all he knew of their criminal activities.”

“You knew all this?” asked Curry.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” asked Heyes.

“I wanted to give Lindsay  the opportunity to confirm this with me, and give him the chance to go straight. He refused to provide me with any information. I suppose he believed in honor among thieves.”

“Except for the odd affair or two with their wives, you mean,” observed Heyes.

“A pity really. He was a brilliant man, but he had his failings. The joker was quite an invention.” Bannerman puffed thoughtfully on his cigar. “To continue. I imagine Arnie and Bryce cajoled or threatened Daisy into luring Lindsay into an assignation so they could murder him.

“Knowin’ Logan wouldn’t be with him because ‘three’s a crowd.’”

“Exactly, Jones.”

Heyes raised his glass and proposed a toast. “To the memory of the King of Hearts and his Joker.”


&&&&&&&&&&

The Kid and Heyes sat on a bench in a small town. Curry was resting with his hat pulled over his eyes, and Heyes was reading a newspaper.  



“You won’t believe this.”

“What?”

“‘Mr. George Bannerman and his wife, Sylvia, have announced the engagement of their son, William Bannerman to Mrs. Lavinia Lindsay. Our readers will be aware that Mr. George Bannerman is the proprietor of the world famous Bannerman Detective Agency. Mr. William Bannerman manages the central offices of the agency in the fair city of Chicago. Mrs. Lindsay’s late husband was a successful and well-known insurance businessman, and member of New York society until his unfortunate and untimely demise. The lovely Mrs. Lindsay is the daughter of etc.’”

“I’ll be. I didn’t expect that.”

“Me neither.” Heyes grinned.

Curry straightened up. “I just thought of somethin’. What happened to that little joker, anyway? Does Bannerman have it?”

Heyes’ grin widened. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. Wrapped inside was the little joker.


&&&&&&&&&&



Author's Notes

William Bannerman, son of George Bannerman first appeared in Revival VS 2008/2009. He is loosely based on William Pinkerton, one of Allen Pinkerton’s two sons. William Pinkerton was not a strict law and order man. He confessed that enjoyed the company of criminals more than that of honest men. When master criminal Adam Worth became penniless during his retirement from criminal activity, William Pinkerton helped him negotiate the return of a painting he stole. After Worth’s death, he gave assistance to Worth’s children. Worth’s son became a Pinkerton detective.


Leonidas Lindsay (Lawrence) is also based on a real person, George Leonidas Leslie. Leslie came from a wealthy family, owners of a brewery. He had been an architect in Cincinnati before he invented the ‘little joker.’ He left his business and traveled to New York where he became the acknowledged master bank thief of the United States. He planned his robberies with meticulous detail, and rehearsed them extensively (sometimes for three years). He was hired by gangs throughout the country to plan heists for them.

His own gang eventually turned on him for three reasons. First was lack of patience at his methods. The second was a result of the lack of patience, a bungled robbery that involved violence which may have spooked Leslie. The third was that, unbelievable as it sounds he had affairs with the wives of two of his gang members. It didn’t help that one of the women was the sister of a third member of the gang.

His murder was never solved although, later on, other criminals implicated the gang. It was never known how much Leslie’s wife actually knew about his crimes. Apparently, he told her his job as an IRS agent was dangerous, and that’s why he had a bodyguard.



(Writers love feedback!  You can comment on C. D. Roberts’ 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. You can type any name in the box.)
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Re: The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts
Post on Sat 09 May 2015, 5:01 pm by Penski
I love it when writers bring history into their ASJ stories. This one was so interesting and I sure was surprised with the murder mystery at the end. Was fun how folks they knew were "dropping" in unexpectedly and how they dealt with it.

Another wonderful C. D. Roberts' VS story! goodjob
The King of Hearts and His Joker
Post on Sun 10 May 2015, 3:17 am by Kid4ever
trophy  This was one of those stories that, once you start reading it, you can't stop or put it down until you've finished it all the way to the end! study After I began to read it, I wanted to find out how it ended and it held my attention (and more) from beginning to finish  smile
I agree with Penski about the history bit. It's like an added bonus to a story to learn something new in the process of reading through a story and you did an awesome job of imparting the knowledge in such a fun way that I didn't even realize how much I had learned until I finished.
Without giving too much away, I love how you wove so many interesting, as well as colorful, characters into your VS. They sure had personality!
You did a great job of inserting Heyes and Kid into this mix and I really got more than a few chuckles out of Kid and the silverware... biggrin There were some fun bantering lines between Heyes and Kid, as well as some great dialogue between Heyes and William Bannerman.
One final note: great job with the subtlety of the willow. Only one small thing clued me in cool
All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable way to pass the wee hours of the evening clap
Loved it!
Post on Sun 10 May 2015, 2:07 pm by littlebluestem
Loved, loved, loved your story!

First off, great casting! I especially liked Pernell Roberts as Bannerman. Perfection! (Now I will have to go into the archives and read about his first appearance in this virtual world...)

Nice little wink to have the cook named Daisy -- although her cooking does not quite live up to her Downton namesake!

Loved all the mystery; EVERYONE had a secret -- and an alias! Well, excepting sweet little Lavinia, but evidently she was not quite the dupe I had first assumed....

The murder mystery -- officially unsolved, but of course figured out by our heroes -- was unexpected. Everything was so cleverly strung together. And then how cool to find out that you based it on an actual person.

In addition to the intriguing plot, you included so much great ASJ goodness, e.g, Once again, Heyes landed the perfect job for him, in his words:

“Me? You could say I’m chief of staff. My job is to make sure everyone does their jobs.”

Wonderful banter and so many, many great, humorous bits -- like Kid struggling to set the table and then Heyes telling him he has to redo the whole thing at the last minute -- and their contrasting styles of polishing the silver -- and their many servantry-related faux pas. Of the latter, this one might be my favorite line and image:

“Maybe it’s a mystery, but it sure ain’t good,” Curry opined loudly as he struggled with the beef.

Nice double twist at the end! Happily Ever After for Bannerman and Lavinia and a new toy for Heyes -- maybe it will make an appearance in a future vs...

Great job, C.D.! happy

Re: The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts
Post on Thu 14 May 2015, 9:44 pm by RosieAnnieUSA
Interesting casting. These people look like most of them were silent film stars. This episode is a real "fish out of water" story. Everybody, except maybe Bannerman, is out of his comfort zone. Daisy sure isn't a cook, and her half-hearted attempts to produce edible food are hilarious. The whole dinner party scene would have been a perfect farce; I can see that happening in a silent film, Curry trying to cut tough meat, Heyes picking up silverware from the floor and re-using it, all under the horrified but amused eye of the hostess. Too many good lines to mention. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Bannerman and Heyes, where he got Heyes to admit he was proud of his criminal skills. The epilogue was terrific -- Bannerman and Lavinia getting engaged, and Heyes has the master criminal's tools. I wonder if he'll ever be tempted to try it out?
Re: The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts
Post on Fri 29 May 2015, 12:02 pm by CalicoMax
A belated Max here emerging from the salt mines to catch up and catch a little pleasure VS wise.
Ooooh – CD Roberts no less.  And a strangely pre-talkies feeling to the cast.
So – what does this Lindsay fella really do??
Early mafiosa?  Safe cracker?
Upper crust fitter in and handsome.  Hmmm?  Gigilo?  Blackmailer??
So, the coachman fell for ‘bringing a knife to a gun fight’ huh?
Loving flirting Kid being confused by the sudden husband introduction.
Loving HH deciding his job is all about the delegation too.
Whaaaahay.  One of my guesses was on the nose.
Not a Bannerman man but the man Bannerman.  Very intrigued here, CD.
Liking that after ‘Smith’ sniffs at Lindsay’s lack of alias efficiency, Ramsey calls him on only coming up with – well, ‘Smith’.
Oh, bless them all, the farce of an inedible meal continue… Can they have bugs like Indiana Jones?
Murder mystery alert!!!  Dunno who dunnit – but I’m thinking one of the women.
And of course I am utterly wrong.
Ah well, I’m not HH doing the detecting am I??
Well done boys.
And delighted to see HH has a new toy as a momentoe.
Loved the way you turned a real incident into a VS for our detecting duo, CD.  Consider my paws clapping hard.
 

The King of Hearts and His Joker by C. D. Roberts

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