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 Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20150514
PostShadow in the Night by Little Bluestem



If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? One really bright little school gal decides to call Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry! Find out what kind of help she needs from our two favorite reforming outlaws in, A Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem.


Starring


Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry


Guest Starring



Hugh Jackman as Sheriff Jake McCloud


Joshamee Gibbs as Major Garfield McCloud


Maisie Williams as Lizzie


Lindsay Sydney Greenbush as Maizie


Sam Elliott as Ned the Bartender


Kiefer Sutherland as Billy


James McAvoy as Joe


Christian Bale as Cal


Walter Brennan as Cookie


Drew Barrymore as Millie


Belinda Montgomery as Gert


Patricia Arquette as Miss Kathleen Sullivan


Sarah and Rachel Macon played by Milly and Becky Rosso


Melissa Sue Anderson as Clara



A Shadow in the Night
by Little Bluestem



Two men were seated at the cluttered table in a small, untidy kitchen. On the table lie the remnants of a meal, dirty dishes, a decanter of brandy, and two half-full goblets.

The younger of the pair was a tall, lean man in his early thirties, with a hardened, weather-beaten face and a square jaw trimmed with thick sideburns that almost, but did not quite, meet at his chin. As he reached across the table to lift the decanter and pour a measure of the amber liquid into each of the two goblets, a sheriff’s tin star glinted from his black leather vest.

The other man was an older version of the sheriff in both facial features and physique. Still lean despite his age, his salt-and-pepper hair hung almost to his shoulders. He too sported extravagant facial hair, his luxurious mutton-chop sideburns longer and thicker, and almost completely snowy white. Incongruously, the older man was clad in the full dress uniform of a Confederate Major, complete with a long sword strapped to his side. Although obviously once resplendent, trimmed with gold braid along the sides of the pant legs and a fringed gold sash, the uniform was threadbare at the cuffs and collar and somewhat moth-eaten.

“Don’t be such a sissy, Jake!” drawled the man in uniform in a thick southern accent. “There’s good money to be made in this transaction! Money we need to win this war.”

“But Uncle Garfield,” protested Jake, “the War’s over. It’s been over since I was a kid, for Pete’s sake.”

“You bite your tongue, boy. I just thank the Lord your pa’s not alive to hear you talk like this!”

“I’m sorry, Uncle Gar, I didn’t mean anything by – ”

“Now listen, son,” replied the older man as he lifted his glass to his lips and took a sip. “Y’all never had a problem helping me and mah men with any of the previous jobs we’ve pulled. It’s the reason I had y’all made sheriff in the first place! Are y’all growin’ a conscience or just scared of gettin’ caught?”

“Those other jobs were small – no one ever even knew about ‘em. It’s just that this scheme is a bit, well…grandiose.”

The major took another swig of his brandy before answering. He held his nephew’s gaze steadily and spoke fervently, “Y’all gotta think big if y’all want to make a difference in this world! It’s all figured. Mah men are collectin’ the – er – merchandise – from the school right now, even as we speak. You’ll lock ‘em up in the jailhouse, then we’ll go fetch the rest at the saloon. The train’ll be here at ten. It’ll be nice and dark by then and all the good citizens of Middleton will be snorin’ in their beds. Our buyer in Mexico will pay top dollah, so we’ll finally have enough money to buy guns, ammunition, supplies. This time we’re gonna show those Yankees what we’re made of.” His pale blue eyes glinted as he added with a defiant shout, “The South’s gonna rise agin!”

“But what if someone sees them in the hoosegow before the train gets here?” whined Jake.

“Who’s gonna see them in that godforsaken backwater you call a town? Why anyone would build a flush school like that in this little burg is beyond mah comprehension. Like I said, all the good citizens will be in bed, and all the bad ones’ll be with us!”

“What about the saloon? There might be some fellas there from the Rocking K. And then there’s Ned. He keeps a sawed-off shotgun under the bar. Let’s just stick with the school and forget the saloon.”

“Oh now, don’t y’all go puttin’ no spokes in the wheel! That’d cut into our profits considerable! I promised two dozen and I’ll deliver two dozen. Ain’t nobody gonna be in there on a Tuesday night but Ned, and he ain’t no match for all of us, even with a sawed-off! You’re frettin’ like an old maiden aunt. Now git – they’ll be at the jailhouse soon and they’ll need you to open up the cells.”

“Yes sir, Uncle,” Jake answered, jumping up from the table. He grabbed his tan Stetson off a peg on the wall and hurried out the doorway as the uniformed man reached for the decanter and poured himself another drink.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A polished brass sign with fancy lettering reading “Middleton Private Girls’ Academy” graced the top of the wide wooden veranda of a four-story, Gothic-revival style brick building surrounded by a green lawn with beds of flowers and several shade trees.

About twenty girls in light summer frocks, ranging in age from six to sixteen, were seated on several quilts spread out on the lawn, enjoying a picnic supper. Some of the girls were nibbling on sandwiches and tea cakes, others sipping lemonade. A handful played a game of croquet. A primly dressed but pretty blonde woman in her mid-twenties glanced at the sky, where the reds and oranges of a setting sun heralded the onset of dusk. She lifted up a small gold-colored watch pinned to her bodice and glanced at the time.

“Girls!” called the young woman, clapping her hands together, “it’s getting late. Time to clean up and go inside. We’ll have some music before it’s time for bed.”

“Awwww, Miss Sullivan do we have to?” the youngest girl asked, a rosy-cheeked six-year-old in a pinafore wearing an oversized bow in her chestnut brown hair.

“Indeed we do, my dear,” answered Miss Sullivan, her gentle smile belying her stern tone, “just because Term is over and most of the girls have gone home for the Easter Holiday doesn’t mean learning stops for those of us left behind! In fact – ”

Miss Sullivan never finished her sentence, but instead froze in place, eyes wide in fear. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere a large group of horsemen rode into view and cantered right into the throng of girls. Pandemonium in petticoats reigned as the pupils attempted to run from the chaos. Men whooped and shouted, some firing their six-guns into the air. What was left of the picnic was soon trampled under the horses’ hooves. The girls screamed in terror as the men began scooping them up onto their horses, some thrown over the pommel like sacks of flour, other more fortunate captives winding up seated in front of their abductors, but all were shrieking and kicking and flailing with all their might. One rider managed to grab a second girl and hollered to the others, “Lookee here, boys! Two at the same time!”

Miss Sullivan caught up the littlest girl in her arms and made a desperate dash for the safety of the school building, but she wasn’t very fast in her full skirts and certainly no match for a man on horseback. She hadn’t gotten more than five feet when she too was hauled up onto a horse, still holding her young student in her arms. As swiftly as it all began, the melee ended in a thunderous cacophony of pounding hoof-beats, masculine whooping, and feminine screaming as the men spurred their horses away from the school, leaving only broken dishes, scattered food, and crumpled blankets in their wake.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sky was darkening as two figures rode into the sleepy little town, dusty from the trail and glancing about, checking out the situation warily. No one else about, either on the street or the boardwalks lining it on both sides. As they passed by the sheriff’s office, their eyes were drawn to the sign above it, which read, “Middleton, Texas Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Jake McCloud.”



“McCloud,” murmured Heyes. “We don’t know anyone name of McCloud, do we?”

“Nope,” answered his partner laconically, blue eyes scanning the other businesses: blacksmith, undertaker, millinery shop, stage depot.

“See,” said Heyes, “I toldja it was worth it to push on to Middleton. I’m for a cold beer and a hot bath. Where’s the hotel?” He turned to look up and down the street.

“Ain’t no hotel, Heyes,” replied his partner. By now they had reached the end of the street. They reined their horses around to head back the other way.

“There’s gotta be a hotel. Maybe we just missed it.”

“Nope. No hotel. And there don’t seem to be no people neither,” the Kid complained grumpily.

“Hey, there’s a side-street. Maybe it’s down that way,” offered Heyes optimistically. The pair turned their horses and traversed the secondary road, passing a few houses, a general store, a telegraph office, and ‘Ma’s Homestyle Café,’ with blinds drawn and a hand-lettered ‘Closed’ sign in the window. They finally came to a saloon at the end of the road.

“Well, at least there’s a saloon,” Heyes said cheerfully. “Let’s go in and cut some of the dust from our throats with a nice cold beer. Maybe they’ve got some grub, too.”

But as they reined in their horses in front of the saloon, they noticed a sign hanging from the saloon’s window as well.

“Closed for Lunch?!” read Curry aloud, incredulously. “It’s gotta be seven o’clock at least! What kinda town did you bring us to?”

“Now don’t get proddy, Kid,” scolded Heyes. “It’s not my fault if Middleton, Texas is a boring little place.”

“Heyes, I’m dead-tired. Let’s just ride outta town a ways and find a good place to set up camp. Any beans left?”

“We’re out of everything, Kid. What say we make a quick stop in the mercantile here and pick up a few things? How much money you got?” Heyes was already dismounting and tying his chestnut mare to the post outside of the store.

The Kid, still seated on his bay, fished through his vest pocket and counted out some coins in his palm. Looking up he answered, “Three dollars and six bits. You?”

“Oh, I’ve got a few dollars socked away,” said Heyes. “Enough to buy a few comforts. You coming?”

“Is it open?” asked Curry doubtfully. “And is there anyone in there?”

Heyes scowled and strode into the store, causing the bells hanging from the door to jingle merrily.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hannibal Heyes strode through the aisles, past sacks of flour and sugar, barrels of potatoes, neat stacks of canned goods, household supplies, bolts of fabric and spools of thread, tools and farm implements, jars of penny candy, and a barrel of pickles. He soon met up with a middle-aged man in an apron, industriously sweeping the wood plank floor with a straw broom. The storekeeper looked up and smiled at his customer. “Good evening, young man,” he said. “You’re lucky to catch me here. I stayed late tonight to do inventory. I was just about to close up and head home for a late supper.”

The bells jangled again as the door opened and Curry entered. Heyes shot him a quick ‘I told you so’ smirk and then turned back to the storekeeper and remarked in a friendly manner, “Middleton sure seems to close up early, don’t it?”

As Curry strolled through the aisles gathering up supplies in his arms – coffee, sugar, flour, a few cans of beans and tomatoes, some beef jerky – the storekeeper replied, somewhat sternly, “Middleton is a quiet little town full of hard-working folks. We get up early and work all day. Then we go home to our families, eat supper, go to bed, and get up again the next morning and do it all over again.”

“That why the saloon’s closed?” asked Curry. “Or do they like to take their time eatin’ lunch?”

The storekeeper looked momentarily confused. “Lunch…?” he ventured.

“Never mind,” answered Curry, piling everything he’d collected on the counter.

“Can we also get a rasher of bacon?” asked Heyes politely.

As the clerk turned to fill the order, Heyes held out an open palm to his partner.

“What?” asked Curry.

“Your three dollars and six bits, Thaddeus,” demanded Heyes.

“I thought you said you had enough to buy a few comforts, Joshua?” parried Curry.

“Yeah, I do. But this is more than a few comforts. Look at all this stuff. Why do you need all this? Where are you gonna put it all?

“I’m hungry, Joshua! You had us ridin’ all day. I’m gonna eat most of it.”

“How ya gonna carry it all ‘til we get to a place to make camp?”

The storekeeper turned back to them, holding a paper-wrapped package. The corner of his mouth twitched. He asked drily, “How long you two been married?”

Heyes did a quick double-take at the man, who gazed at him poker-faced. Then he began to chuckle, shaking his head ruefully at the jest, but Curry, unamused, treated the clerk to a full-fledged ice-blue Kid Curry steely-eyed gunfighter stare. The clerk finally cracked a smile and said, “Aw, I’m just ribbing you. That’ll be four dollars and two bits.”

Curry slapped his coins down on the counter, picked up the parcels, and stalked out of the store. Heyes added a few more coins to make the total, thanked the clerk, and hastened after his partner, still chuckling softly. Heyes, arms crossed over chest, rolled his eyes as he watched his partner stuff cans and parcels into both sets of saddlebags and the small carpetbag on the back of his own mount until they were full to bursting. When he was done, they swung up onto their horses and trotted out of town.

Just as the partners turned the corner back onto the main street, a group of shadowy figures slunk around the corner of the saloon stealthily, looking up and down the street. As the store clerk emerged, turning to lock the door behind him, one man signaled and the rest quickly melted into various corners and shadows, watching unseen as the clerk pocketed his keys and strolled, whistling, down the street.

One man flattened himself next to a side window. For just a brief second, the light from the window flashed off the tin star on his vest. It was Jake McCloud, sheriff of Middleton and nephew to the man in the worn Confederate uniform. Jake peeked through a crack in the shutter next to the “Closed for Lunch” sign. Inside, a bewhiskered bartender wiped the counter with a rag, chatting with a saloon girl leaning against the bar. Two young cowboys stood at one end of the bar, nursing beers and joking with a vivacious blonde saloon girl. Three other working girls were seated at a table in the corner, laughing over a game of checkers.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two prone figures stretched out on either side of the softly glowing embers of a dying campfire, wrapped in bedrolls against the night’s chill. The stars stood out like jewels in the velvet sky and a cricket somewhere nearby chirped rhythmically. The men slumbered peacefully, unaware of a stealthy figure creeping towards them, stepping cautiously, soundlessly. The small shape crouched down on all fours and slowly approached one of the sleepers. The prowler stretched out one hand, slender and pale in the starlight, and carefully took hold of a corner of the blanket, then began to ever-so-slowly tug it from the sleeping man’s shoulder, inch by careful inch. When the blanket was just about even with the sleeper’s thigh, the hand reached stealthily toward the butt of the Colt 45 jutting from the holster strapped to that thigh and very gently unsnapped the safety catch.

Just as the small hand was reaching for the gun, Kid Curry, who was lying on his left side, woke with a start. In a flash, his Colt was in his right hand, aiming at the startled intruder. The figure in the other bedroll sat up to reveal himself as Hannibal Heyes. He looked over at his partner half-sitting up in his bedroll, gun drawn and pointed into the surprised face of a very scrawny, very dirty, very young girl, about eight or nine years of age. She crouched, frozen in place, staring at the gun wide-eyed.

“What in heck are you doing? Drawing down on a little girl?” Heyes admonished his partner.

Curry hastily holstered his revolver, looking chagrined to be caught in that embarrassing position.

“She was tryin’ to steal my gun!” he explained, a defensive tone in his voice.

Heyes sat up, slightly amused, and faced the little girl with a serious look on his face, but a friendly glint in his eyes. “That true? You trying to steal my partner’s gun?” he asked, his voice still husky from sleep.

“No! I was just gonna borrow it. Honest, Mister! I was gonna give it back, I promise. Please, ya gotta let me borrow it!”

“My gun?” the Kid sputtered with alarm. “Borrow my gun? No! I don’t go loanin’ my gun out to any stray little girl that wants it.”

“But I need it. She said to get hold of a gun and come straight back,” she insisted.

“She said? Who said? Who is this ‘she’?” demanded Curry.

“My teacher!” the child almost shouted.

This time it was Heyes who addressed the little intruder, “So let me get this straight. In the middle of the night, your teacher told you to go ‘borrow’ a gun and bring it back to her?”

The boys exchanged glances, each with one eyebrow raised skeptically. The little girl stared up at them stubbornly. She shivered in the cold, her skinny arms wrapped around herself.

“I think you better tell us what’s going on, from the beginning,” commanded Heyes.

“But first, let’s get you warmed up,” added Curry.

He removed his well-worn sheepskin jacket and settled it upon the girl’s narrow shoulders while Heyes poked at the remains of their campfire, coaxing the flames back to life.

Once the little girl was settled comfortably, Heyes began, “So let’s start all over, shall we? My name is Joshua and this fella whose gun you were about to swipe is my partner, Thaddeus. Now suppose you tell us your name and what brought you out here at this hour?”

“Lizzie. But we don’t have time for me to tell you everything!” she insisted. “Some men came to the school. Some bad men. They took us. They said they’re gonna sell us! In Mexico! We have to save them. Either you give me your gun or you come help me!”

She stood up clumsily, encumbered by the oversized coat, and planted two little fists on two scrawny hips. Heyes raised an eyebrow appreciatively, shooting a glance over at the Kid, who was already checking the chamber of his gun so as to be ready to jump up and ride to the rescue. Then Heyes frowned suspiciously and looked at the little girl more critically. “Hold on, Miss Lizzie,” he said. “You’ve got an awful lot of spunk for a little bitty thing. But let’s just get a few more details. Who is ‘us’? Where are they being held, and how did you happen to get away?”

Lizzie sighed impatiently, then said in a rush, “Us is the girls at Middleton Private Girls Academy that didn’t go home for Term Break. The ones that live too far and the ones that don’t have a home to go to. The other teachers left, too, but Miss Sullivan, she stayed to take care of us what stayed. But then the bad men came and they took us! And they locked us in the jailhouse.”

“Jailhouse? Where’s the sheriff during all this?” asked Heyes.

“He’s just as bad as the rest of them!” she cried out. “I heard him say they were gonna sell us to Mexico! I’m the littlest – well, Maizie is littler than me, but she’s only six…”

The partners exchanged glances again, their faces betraying their shock and disgust. Lizzie continued her explanation without pause; they turned back to her in unison.



“…And she’s kind of chubby. So I was the only one skinny enough to fit through the bars. All the other girls are older. They helped Miss Sullivan lift me up so’s I could squeeze out. Miss Sullivan said not to trust nobody, just go find a gun and bring it back there to her. And then I saw you two come outta the general store and ride outta town, so I followed ya.”

“This is crazy,” said Heyes.

The Kid was already pulling on his boots. “I know,” he said. “Let’s get goin’.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The two men and the little girl stole silently through the shadows of the slumbering town until they were standing beneath the barred window of the jail, situated well above their heads. They loitered there listening, but no noise could be heard. The partners looked at each other, frowning.

“I don’t like this,” whispered Curry.

“That makes two of us,” muttered his partner quietly.

The Kid picked up Lizzie and placed her on his shoulders. “Just peek in and tell us what you see,” he whispered.

“Nothing!” she whispered back in alarm, “They’re gone! We’re too late.”

“Shhhh,”said Curry. “Listen.”

Three pairs of ears strained to hear something, anything.

“There! Did you hear that?” asked Curry. “Sounds like whimperin’.”

The trio listened silently for a beat, then a very soft, muffled whimpering sound came from the empty jail cell.

“Maizie!” whispered Lizzie urgently. “Maizie, are you in there?”

From Lizzie’s point of view atop the Kid’s shoulders, the dim jail cell at first appeared to be empty, but then something moved beneath one of the cots. A pale, tear-stained face peered out, barely visible in the dim moonlight.

“Lizzie? Lizzie, Miss Sullivan said you’d come back,” the little girl lisped through her tears, the z’s and s’s sounding more like th’s.

Before Curry could stop her, Lizzie was jamming her body through the bars. Skinny as she was, she still had to struggle and squeeze. When she’d finally pushed her way through, she hopped down and disappeared from sight. The girls’ tearful reunion could be heard from within the cell.

The Kid and Heyes exchanged another meaningful glance, then crept silently around to the front of the jailhouse and warily peeked through the open door. The Kid flattened himself next to the door, gun drawn, ready to leap in and get the drop on the sheriff, while Heyes strode boldly into the office, saying loudly, “Excuse me, sheriff, can you tell me where to find -- ” In the middle of his sentence, Heyes abruptly stopped and called out, “Nobody here.” Curry stepped inside.



The jail cell doors stood open. Inside one cell the two little girls were hugging each other tightly, the older one trying to comfort the younger, who was bawling pitifully. The partners took in the sight, then locked eyes with each other once again. Heyes shrugged his shoulders almost imperceptibly. Curry responded with a frown, then turned away, gun still drawn, and began to cautiously check out the rest of the jailhouse.

“Maizie,” Lizzie explained, “This is Joshua and Thaddeus. They’re gonna help us.”

Heyes bent over and scooped the smaller girl into his arms. Straightening up, he smiled at her and said gently, “Maizie, sweetheart, you need to tell us where the bad men took the rest of the girls.”

“I don’t know!” she wailed. “When they came to get us, Miss Sullivan pushed me under the bed. She said not to make a sound. She said I should stay there until Lizzie came back. I waited so long and I was so scared.” She was sobbing again, burying her little face in his broad shoulder. Heyes patted her on the back gently, trying to comfort the small child, his eyes meeting his partner’s questioningly. Curry returned his gaze, his face a picture of helpless anger.

“There were lights on in the saloon,” said Heyes. “Let’s go see who’s over there.”

“Be careful,” cautioned his partner, “They might be in on it, too!”

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, each holding a small child by the hand, emerged from the sheriff’s office and retraced the same steps they had ridden earlier that evening through the now-darkened streets of Middleton. Hands resting lightly on the butts of their guns, they walked cautiously, looking around alertly as they proceeded. They turned down the side-street, passing darkened houses, the general store, telegraph office, and café, all shadowy and silent as the grave. They finally came to the saloon at the end of the road, the only building from which light was streaming.

“Joshua,” hissed Curry, “we don’t know what’s waitin’ for us inside there.” He jerked his head pointedly toward the children.

Heyes scanned the surroundings, spotting a small, scraggly bush just beyond the building. He signaled his partner with his eyes and they were soon hurrying toward it, little girls in tow.

“Now listen,” Heyes directed gently, crouching down to eye level and resting a hand on each girl’s shoulder. “Thaddeus and I are going to go see what’s going on in the saloon. You two need to wait for us right here. You need to stay quiet as mice. Can you do that?”

Both little faces nodded in the affirmative. Curry grinned encouragingly at them and added, “You two take good care of each other. Don’t move a muscle ‘til we signal ya.”

“I’m scared,” squeaked Maizie in a tiny voice, one tiny tear trickling down her chubby cheek.

“Shhhh,” crooned Curry, also crouching down, “you were so brave in the jail cell all by yourself, Maizie. Now you have Lizzie here to protect you.”

Lizzie responded by nodding her head again vigorously and wrapping her arms around the younger girl fiercely. With a few final pats of reassurance, the two men rose to their full heights and cautiously approached the saloon. They positioned themselves on either side of the batwing doors. Just then there was the sound of breaking glass from somewhere inside. Curry drew his Colt instantly. He flicked his eyes toward his partner’s holster. Heyes responded by drawing his gun as well. At Curry’s nod, both men burst into the saloon.

The place looked like the aftermath of a Saturday night in Apache Springs. Chairs and tables were overturned, broken glass was strewn about amidst puddles of spilled beer. One man was slumped over an upended table, passed out -- or maybe knocked out.

The two former outlaws stepped inside the saloon and looked about warily. A low groan came from behind the bar. When Heyes and Curry looked behind it, they saw the bartender, still clad in his apron, but somewhat worse for wear. Heyes squatted down and gingerly turned him over. There was a deep gash on his forehead that was bleeding freely down one side of his face. Both men holstered their weapons. Curry turned a nearby chair upright as Heyes hoisted the man into a standing position. Together they jockeyed him into the chair.

“What happened here?” asked Heyes, unknotting the faded blue bandana from around his neck and using it to staunch the wound.

“The gals! They took all our gals! I tried to stop ‘em. Ya gotta believe me, Mister!”

Just then there was a clatter of footsteps and a young man burst through the batwing doors. The Kid spun around to face him, his Colt in his hand even before he completed the turn.

“Whoa!” called the newcomer, skidding to a stop and raising both hands.

“It’s okay,” the bartender said. “That’s my nephew, Billy. He tried to stop ‘em, too. Billy, this is ….” He hesitated and turned to look at the newcomers, “Who are you guys anyway?

“He’s Smith; I’m Jones,” answered Curry.

“And I’m Ned. Billy, what happened? Where did they take ‘em?”

“They put ’em on a train, Uncle Ned!” Billy answered breathlessly. “And they had a whole buncha other gals, too. Young ones -- they must be from that school, that fancy girls’ school out by the McKendry place! I came back to getcha and to see if Joe was okay. We gotta go save ‘em!”

The man who sat slumped over the table groaned and began to stir.

“Joe!” Billy yelled, rushing over to him and shaking his shoulders in an effort to rouse him. “They got Millie! And Gert, and all the gals. Let’s go round up the fellas from the ‘K’ and go get ‘em back.”

Billy turned to look at the two strangers. “You with us?” he asked.

“Yes,” both men answered in unison and without hesitation.

Ned still looked a little groggy. “Lemme get my shotgun,” he said, struggling to rise.

“Wait, Ned,” said Heyes, holding up a hand. “There are two girls that got away. Little girls. We can’t leave them alone. Can you watch them while we go fetch the rest?”

Curry stuck his head out the door and whistled shrilly. Two frightened faces emerged from the leaves, pale shapes amidst the dark foliage. Lizzie held the younger girl by the hand and led her toward the saloon. At sight of the girls, Ned’s heart melted.

“Let’s get you two some sarsaparilla,” he said kindly. “And are you hungry? I’ll bet you two are hungry!”

Heyes turned to Billy and asked, “How many men can you get and how long will it take to fetch them?”

“There’s eight more at the bunkhouse – we work at the Rockin’ K Ranch, just outside of town. It ain’t far. They’re good men and they know the gals what work in this saloon. They’ll come. And Joe here’ll come, too. He’s sweet on Millie.”

“I don’t know if Joe is up to it,” replied Curry.

“I’m okay, I’m okay. I gotta get my Millie back,” the young man insisted as he hauled himself up to a standing position and began to take bullets from his gun belt and load them into his six-shooter.

“Which way did the train go?” asked Heyes.

“South. The tracks curve some around the foothills. If we hurry, we can ride by way of the K, fetch our buddies, then go straight over the hills and catch up to the train where it slows down to climb the grade.”

As the four riders galloped out of town and towards the ranch, Heyes continued to pepper Billy with shouted questions, “How many men?”

“I counted fourteen.”

“Where did they put the girls?”

“In the last box car just before the caboose.”

“How many girls?”

“Let’s see, Millie, Flossie, Gert, Agnes, and Mabel -- that’s five from the saloon,” he replied, ticking them off with his fingers. “And there was a bunch from the school -- the teacher, too. Maybe two dozen all told,” he ventured.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

_________________
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.


Last edited by royannahuggins on Thu 14 May 2015, 11:15 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem :: Comments

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Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Thu 14 May 2015, 11:01 pm by royannahuggins


Two young men in shirtsleeves were seated at a table playing blackjack by the dim light of a lantern. Just behind them, another fellow clad in long johns stretched out on his bed, bare feet crossed at the ankles, turning the page of a dime novel. Several other bunks were occupied by sleeping figures, one snoring softly.

“Hit me,” said one of the card players. Just as his opponent dealt out the card, there was a sudden commotion of horsemen outside, followed by muffled shouts and pounding on the door. The card players looked up and the snoring ceased abruptly with a final snort. Sleepy heads poked out from beneath blankets as the door burst open and Joe, Billy, Heyes, and Curry barged into the room.

“Joe! Billy! What’s goin’ on? Where’s the fire?” asked one of the ranch hands, rising from the table.

“Who are these guys?” asked the boy who had been reading.

“This here’s Smith and that’s Jones! They’re gonna help us get the girls back!” blurted Billy.

“Girls?” echoed the first man.

Joe and Billy began talking at the same time. Heyes and Curry stood waiting, arms crossed over chests, looking the men of the Rockin’ K up and down appraisingly.

“It’s Millie! And Gert! And the rest of the gals! They’ve been kidnapped!”

“What?!”

“Slavers! They put ‘em on a train Mexico-bound!”

The ranch hands leapt from their beds, pulling on trousers, buttoning up shirts, shoving feet into boots. They were all talking at once, asking questions and expressing alarm, resulting in a confusion of voices.

“Who took them?” “Where are they now?” “Let’s go!” “What are we waitin’ for?” “Come on, boys!” “What about Agnes?” “Agnes, too! They took ALL of ‘em -- Gert and Flossie and --”

Then Billy’s voice could be heard above the din, “Not just the saloon gals – they took all them girls from that high-falutin’ private school, too!”

One young ranch hand, not more than seventeen or eighteen, with tousled coppery-colored bangs falling in his eyes and freckles standing out against pale skin stopped in mid-button and asked in dismay, “ALL the girls from the school!?”

As Billy and Joe answered in the affirmative, a slightly older boy with a black shock of hair and a day’s stubbly growth of beard elbowed the younger boy, saying teasingly, “Well, I reckon that snooty gal from the school who won’t give ya the time of day might look twice after you help save her pretty little neck from the kidnappers, Cal!”

Cal’s face as he strapped on his holster was a mingled combination of hope, fear, and determination.

The hands, some still doing up buttons or buckling gun belts, bounded out the door of the bunkhouse and raced toward the stable, shouting in their excitement. A soft golden light lit up the window of a small cabin next to the stable. The door flung open and an elderly man in nothing but long johns and cowboy boots emerged. “What’s goin’ on boys?” he hollered in a thin, reedy voice. “Where’s the fire?”

“No fire, Cookie!” yelled Joe. “We’re goin’ on a rescue mission!”

Cookie followed the men as they rushed into the stable and began saddling up their mounts. “Who ya goin’ to rescue? A bottle of whiskey?” the old man joked.

“No, Cookie,” explained Cal earnestly. “Some desperadoes kidnapped about a dozen girls and women and are gonna ship ‘em down to Old Mexico! We’re gonna save ‘em!”

“Well, wait for me!” cried the old man,” I gotta go get dressed.” He started to turn back to his cabin, but Heyes caught him by the arm and said, “Cookie, my name’s Smith. If you really want to help, you’ll hitch up a wagon and meet us there.”

“Where?” Cookie asked.

Billy was tightening his cinch, listening to the conversation, and chimed in, “Just where the train tracks start up the first grade, right past Sugar Creek.”

“I’ll be there,” the elderly man promised, rheumy old eyes shining with excitement.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Twelve horsemen raced cross-country, Hannibal Heyes in the lead. The horses charged out of a wooded area just as the train chugged slowly up an incline. The riders split into two groups, like an ocean wave breaking upon a jetty, and swarmed along both sides of the train, Curry and Heyes each at the head of a pack.

Heyes’ horse galloped alongside of the vehicle, matching its speed. He leaned over to grab hold of the railings on the last box car, then kicked his feet free of the stirrups and hauled himself onto the moving locomotive. On the opposite side of the train, Curry mirrored his move. The ranch hands on both sides of the train gamely followed the former outlaws’ examples.

Once everyone was hanging on, the rescue party worked its way hand over hand to the coupling in front of the last box car. Kid Curry stepped across to straddle the two box cars. The rest of the men clung to the sides of the cars, the wind whipping at their hair, their hats streaming behind them by the stampede strings. They watched with anxious faces as Curry balanced between the two cars, Heyes holding his partner by the legs to steady him while he strained at the pin, finally pulling it out from the coupling between the two cars with a mighty heave. Curry threw the pin aside and made the jump to the rear car as the gap between the two cars widened.

After the pin was pulled, the box car and the caboose behind it traveled a considerable distance due to sheer momentum, then began to slow down and finally came to a standstill. The ranch hands turned to their new companions expectantly. Heyes spoke in a low voice, “Okay, boys, pretty soon they’re gonna start poking their heads out, looking to see what stopped the train.”

“But we’ll be waitin’ for ‘em,” Curry said grimly, forming his right hand into a fist and punching it solidly into his left palm to emphasize his words. “No gunplay. Bullets would ricochet all over the place and might hit one of the girls -- or us.” The boys exchanged eager glances and nodded their heads earnestly, balling their own hands into fists.

“Joe and Billy,” directed Heyes, pointing as he issued commands, “you take the right side door of the caboose, you other two fellas take the left. Thaddeus, I’ll wait on this side of the door to the box car with Cal and -- ”

“Ray,” whispered the young man.

“And I’ve got the door,” said Curry. “Rest of you men, you’re with me,” he told the remaining hands.

The men swiftly slipped into their assigned spots, flattening themselves against the side of the train, waiting silently. After a beat, a gruff voice came from inside the caboose, “What are we stoppin’ for?”

A deeper voice answered, “How should I know? Prob’ly takin’ on water. Go look for yourself.”

Billy and Joe tensed, ready to spring into action. When one of the kidnappers finally stuck his head out of the caboose and looked around lazily, he was rewarded with a slug to the jaw, courtesy of Billy. The man groaned and staggered. Joe grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him from the caboose, then punched him hard, square in the nose. After another haymaker from Billy, he sagged to the ground, unconscious.

“What’s goin’ on out there?” called the first, gruff voice. After a moment, he emerged from the other side of the caboose. “Grady?” he called out, looking around. A ranch hand sprang up out of the shadows and yanked him to the ground. His partner administered a fierce clout over the head which instantly knocked him out. Then Heyes nodded at Curry, who heaved the sliding door of the boxcar open. Heyes, Curry, Cal, Ray, and the rest of the ranch hands clambered into the boxcar.

The men within, seated on scattered bales of hay, froze in open-mouthed surprise. But after only a split-second delay, they sprang into action. Punches flew and so did wisps of straw and clouds of dust. Crying out in alarm, the girls and women scurried into a far corner and watched the melee, clutching each other anxiously. The kidnappers fought back savagely, but were no match for the righteous fury of the Rockin’ K crew, nor for the hard fists of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. In a few moments, two men were unconscious and several more were throwing their hands up in surrender.

Once all the kidnappers had been incapacitated, Curry and two of the cowboys set to work tying the miscreants’ hands behind their backs. When he reached the man with a tin star pinned to his vest, with a look of disgust on his face, Curry jerked against the ropes mercilessly, tying the sheriff’s hands especially tightly.

“Ow! Hey! Watch it!” McCloud complained. If looks could kill, the returning gaze from a pair of blue eyes would have struck him dead on the spot.



“It’s not my fault! It’s my uncle! He made me do it! He’s crazy! He thinks he’s still fightin’ the War! He said we could sell these gals to raise enough money so the South can rise again!”

Without a word, Curry pulled the sheriff’s own bandana from his neck and fashioned it into a tight gag around his mouth. Heyes looked on as the other cowboys lifted the girls and women out of the boxcar and set them on the ground. Soon a swarm of females, ranging in age from eleven or twelve on up surrounded the rescue party, crying and laughing and talking excitedly. The saloon girls embraced the Rockin’ K hands, who were doing their best to look humble yet heroic. Over the general hubbub, a voice could be heard shouting, “Millie? Millie?! Wait! Where’s Millie?” Joe was frantic, pushing his way through the crowd, looking from face to face, but not seeing the one he loved best.

“Oh, Joe, I always told Millie not to bleach her hair,” exclaimed a brunette girl, clad in spangly blue satin that marked her as a saloon girl among the more conservatively dressed schoolgirls.

“What in heck does Millie’s hair have to do with this? Where is she, Gert?” demanded the young cowboy impatiently, grabbing the young woman by both shoulders, but her only answer was to begin sobbing helplessly.

“They took all the girls with fair hair to the front of the train,” explained one of the schoolgirls, standing nearby. “Those awful men said they could get a higher price for them because their hair color is so rare in Mexico.”

“They took Miss Sullivan, and Millie, and the Macon twins – and they even took Clara and she’s only thirteen years old!” a young raven-haired beauty of around sixteen or seventeen wailed, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Curry started to mutter something under his breath, then stopped, looked around at the females thronged about him, and immediately apologized. Freckle-faced Cal stepped forward to gallantly offer his bandana and comfort to the distraught girl. She turned grateful brown eyes to the young cowpoke, who put his arm around her trembling shoulders, casting a grateful glance of his own at Smith and Jones.

Heyes took immediate charge of the situation, swinging easily into “outlaw leader” mode once again. “Joe, you’re with us. Cal, you get these girls back to the saloon. Here comes Cookie now with the wagon.”

Cal nodded importantly. The dark-haired girl cast her adoring gaze his way.

“Boys,” Heyes said addressing the remaining ranch hands, “lock these men up in the jailhouse and keep a guard on them. Billy, wake up the telegrapher and have him send a message to Sheriff Lom Trevors in Porterville, Wyoming. Tell him what happened and ask him to arrange for some U.S. Marshals to get here pronto to take charge of this mess. Can you remember all that?”

“No problem, Mr. Smith.”

Soon three horsemen were galloping after the front end of the train, which was traveling somewhat faster now, having been relieved of the last two cars.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The private car was lush and opulent, with velveteen settees and brocade armchairs. Heavy drapes tied back with fringed tassels framed the windows and the plush carpet underfoot was patterned with oversized roses and intertwined vines. But all this luxury was wasted on the occupants, three of whom sat stiffly on the ornate settee, flanked by two armed men. In the middle of the trio was a pretty young woman with bleached-blonde hair, dressed for her job in the saloon. She held her arms around a teenaged schoolgirl on each side of her, one a few years older than the other, both blonde and terrified. Tears were streaming silently down the younger one’s face.

“Hush, now, Clara,” soothed the woman. “It’s gonna be okay, honey.”

On a nearby armchair perched another blonde teen, the spitting image of the older girl on the settee. Two more gunmen stood guard at the doors, one at the front and the other at the back of the car. Toward the rear and to one side stood a table covered with a snowy white linen cloth. The dandified old man with the lamb chop sideburns was seated there, still dressed in full Confederate Army uniform, albeit worn and faded, pouring brandy from a cut glass decanter into a goblet. Facing him was Miss Sullivan, back straight as a ramrod and arms crossed over her chest.

“You will never get away with this, McCloud!” she spat out the words defiantly.

McCloud snickered, then answered in his southern drawl, “That’s Major McCloud, Miss Sullivan. Or can I call you Kathleen?” He held out the goblet to her.

“You most certainly may not!” she retorted haughtily, ignoring the glass being offered her.

“You’re a little spitfire, ain’t you, darlin’? I always did like a woman with spunk. Wish I could keep y’all for mahself. But y’all will fetch a handsome price indeed.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When they had caught up to the train, Kid Curry, Hannibal Heyes, and Joe leapt from their horses onto the moving vehicle. The horses ran alongside the train for a piece, then slowed and finally came to a halt, bending their heads to graze on the grass sprouting next to the tracks. Heyes jerked his chin pointedly toward the roof. He, Curry, and Joe clambered up the metal rungs to the top of the train. They ran along the roofs of the box cars, jumping lithely from one to another, until they reached the lone passenger car, just behind the wood car.

“Let’s take a look,” Heyes said. “Joe, lend us a hand here.”

When his two companions squatted down and sidled over to the edges of the train’s roof, Joe crouched as well, stretching his arms in both directions to grasp a booted ankle in each hand. Heyes and Curry lowered their upper bodies over the opposite sides of the car, peering upside down through a window on each side.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From inside the train car, the inverted face of Hannibal Heyes appeared in the window just over the shoulder of the old man, visible only to Miss Sullivan. Startled, she met his eyes with her own wide ones. He gave her a quick wink and half a smile before disappearing. The major turned quickly, following her line of vision, but was met with a blank window. He turned back to her suspiciously, but her face was the picture of innocence. A crafty smile spread slowly across his features. “Come on, Kathleen,” he cajoled, “that’s the oldest trick in the book. It sure ain’t gonna work on a seasoned veteran such as mahself. Now stop your play-actin’ and have a nice glass of brandy, mah dear.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heyes and Curry returned to the rooftop at the same time.

“I saw five. You?” asked Heyes.

“Five by my count, too,” replied Curry. “One by the back door, one by the front, two by the sofa, on either side. And the crazy old man at the table. Not to mention someone’s got to be drivin’ this thing.” He paused, squinting slightly, then asked, “You thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’”?

“If you’re thinking the Rawlins job, then yes, I am,” answered his partner.

“Good thing I brought my rope,” replied Curry, beginning to uncoil it.

“What? What are you thinking? What’s with the rope? Who is Rawlins?” asked Joe, looking from one man to the other, completely baffled.

Heyes turned to Joe, and began to explain, “Okay, Joe, this is what we’re gonna do….”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The youngest girl began to whimper. The woman next to her patted her on the back, and murmured softly, “Chin up, darlin’. We’ll get out of this fix somehow.”

Miss Sullivan turned to look at the three petrified schoolgirls with concern, then swiveled back to the major, now sipping his brandy, seemingly unconcerned with the distress of the females in his presence. “Major McCloud,” she said sharply, with the same insistent defiance as she had spoken to him earlier, “At least let the children go. They are young and innoce --”

Suddenly, with a deafening crash and a spray of broken glass, two pairs of booted feet came sailing through the windows on either side of the train car. The girls jumped in their seats and one let out a piercing scream. At the same instant, the door at the end of the car flew open and Joe burst in. The man who had been guarding the door was focused on the two bodies that had crashed through the windows. He drew his gun and aimed it toward Heyes, pulling the trigger just as Joe pistol-whipped him from behind, causing him to miss his target and fall heavily to the carpeted floor.

Landing in a crouch, the Kid drew his Colt swiftly and neatly shot the pistol out of a second guard’s hand. He spun around as he stood up, severing the holster from the third guard’s gun belt before he even had the chance to clear leather. At the same time, his left hand grabbed the emergency brake rope and yanked it hard. The train began to screech to a halt.

The man who had been standing guard on the right side of the settee managed to get off a shot, barely missing Heyes, who brought him down in a flying tackle. His bullet hit one of the windows, which shattered into thousands of tiny shards of glass that sprinkled over the furniture and floor, falling among the pieces of window pane already there.

“Duck!” yelled Millie. She grabbed the girls on either side of her and hurled herself and them to the floor as the glass fell like hailstones around them. She pulled them to safety under the settee. The last pupil, one of the twins, dove under her chair, just as Heyes and the guard he was now grappling with rolled over the carpet in the broken glass, exchanging violent punches.

Reacting quickly to the dramatic rescue, the young schoolmarm took full advantage of the situation and grabbed the cut-glass decanter from the table, smashing it down onto the major’s skull. He immediately slumped to the floor in a most satisfactory rag doll-like fashion and lay there unmoving. “Take that, you -- you -- you ruffian, you!” she cried triumphantly.

Curry and Joe holstered their guns and plunged in to join the brawl. Curry landed a roundhouse punch on the jaw of the man whose gun he’d shot away, followed by a left to the gut. His opponent staggered backward, but regained his footing and countered with an uppercut. Curry blocked the blow with his left hand, then slammed his right fist into the guy’s solar plexus. With a gasp, the man sank to his knees, threw up his hands and panted, “Enough! Enough! You win!”

Meanwhile, Joe dove into his own fight with gusto, wrestling his man to the ground where they exchanged furious punches. Their bodies rolled into a small side table with a brass lamp atop it. The lamp wavered, then toppled over, landing smack on the other fellow’s head. His eyes rolled back and he stopped struggling.

All this time the brakes were screeching and the train was decelerating as fast as its massive inertia allowed. When it reached a complete standstill, the door in the front of the car swung open. Framed in the doorway was a huge, hulking figure dressed in engineer’s denim overalls and holding a shotgun, his face contorted with rage. He pumped the shotgun one-handed and aimed it into the car. Across the room, Curry’s gun appeared in his hand in a flash and two quick shots rang out. The engineer’s right thigh bloomed with blood, his arms jerking up convulsively and his own shot taking out the chandelier, several crystal prisms raining down to add to the glittering mess on the floral carpet. He crumpled into a fetal position, dropping the shotgun and clutching his wounded leg, moaning in pain. Curry stood across the room, his smoking gun still aimed at the man.

Suddenly it was all over. Amid the broken glass and overturned furniture, three men lay unconscious, two cowered in surrender, and one writhed in pain. One woman and three girls peered out from their refuges beneath the settee and chair. The other woman was pressed up against the wall, still clutching the heavy decanter so tightly her knuckles showed white.

Heyes was the first to break the stunned silence. “Howdy,” he said with a big smile on his face, raking the fall of hair from his forehead with one hand. “You ladies alright?”

“Joe!” shrieked Millie joyfully, spying him from where she huddled beneath the sofa.

“Millie!” Joe called back, as she leapt up from the floor, rushed across the train car, and hurled herself into her young beau’s arms. One of the twins crawled out from under the chair and pulled herself into a seated position, her blue eyes wide as she looked about the room in a daze. The other twin and the younger girl peered out from under the settee, hesitant looks on both their faces. Joe and Millie were locked in a passionate embrace, kissing as if they had no need to breathe air. The Kid holstered his Colt with a triple-looped flourish and strode over to the wounded engineer, pulling a fringed cord from one of the draperies as he went. He kicked the shotgun away and set to work tying the huge man’s muscled arms behind his back.

“My leg,” moaned the man.

“Shuddup,” Curry said as he pulled the engineer’s red bandana from where it peeked out of an overall pocket and tied it around the man’s bleeding thigh snugly. “You’ll live.” He rose to his feet, snagged another tassel and set to work on the next member of the gang.

“You must be Miss Sullivan,” said Heyes, turning to the young teacher. “Seems we have a mutual friend.”

“Lizzie!” she breathed. “Is she alright? And Maizie? Did you find Maizie?”

“Yes, ma’am. You can rest assured that Lizzie and Maizie are both just fine and being cared for until we get you back to them.”

“But there are more young ladies!” she blurted, looking close to tears. “In the last box car – please, we’ve got to --”

“They’re safe and sound and halfway back to town by now,” her dark-haired savior reassured her gently, guiding her by the elbow to a nearby chair and helping her sit.

“Oh, oh, thank you. Oh, God bless you. Lizzie must have been guided by angels to find you kind gentlemen to help us, Mr….uh?”

“Smith, madam. Joshua Smith. And this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

Curry looked up from the knot he was tying around the wrists of the man Heyes had subdued, nodded courteously and said, “Ma’am.”

“And that’s -- ” Heyes started to indicate Joe over in the corner, but when he saw that he was still somewhat preoccupied, he turned back to her with a shrug of his shoulders and finished up with, “Well, you can meet Joe later.”

“Thank you, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones,” Miss Sullivan repeated.

“Lizzie was quite persuasive, ma’am,” Curry commented with a crooked smile, still systematically binding the hands of the kidnappers, including the unconscious ones.

“Well, ladies,” said Heyes affably, “shall we escort you back to town? Everyone’s waiting for you there.”

“No! Not the town - the sheriff!” Miss Sullivan gasped, looking panicked again. “He’s in on this too!”

“He won’t be no trouble, ma’am,” answered the Kid, rising to his feet, having completed his task. “By now he’s cooling his heels in his own jailhouse and federal marshals are on their way here to see that he gets what he deserves.”

Heyes led the small party to the open rear door and hopped out, then waited to lift the women and girls down to the ground. Miss Sullivan put her arm around the youngest girl and walked her to the exit. After they had alighted, the twin sisters climbed out, followed by Joe and Millie, seemingly locked together permanently. Curry brought up the rear, glancing around to make sure he hadn’t missed anything or anyone.

As he reached the door, he turned around and touched his hat with one finger.

“Night, boys,” he drawled. “The marshals should get here sometime tomorrow.”

“You’re not just going to leave us here like this?” demanded one of the bound men.

“You’re right,” Curry answered with a slight smirk in the corner of his mouth. “I’m forgettin’ somethin’.”

With a smile on his face but a coldness in his eyes, he pulled the man’s bandana from his neck and deftly fashioned it into a gag.

“That’s better,” he said. “Thanks for remindin’ me.”

With a wink and a grin, he turned and jumped down from the car to join the others in the chilly, moonlit night. All the females were dressed in summer-weight dresses that were not warm enough for the cool night air and were shivering visibly. Heyes immediately skinned off his shapeless grey-blue coat and handed it to the youngest girl. Miss Sullivan helped her climb into it. Joe wrapped his warm jacket around Millie, who was dressed the most skimpily and had goosebumps all over her bare arms. The twins clung to each other for warmth.

The small party walked along the tracks back to where the three horses still stood patiently, intermittently grazing. Even before Heyes started issuing instructions, the Kid was already lifting up one of the twins onto his partner’s horse.

“Joe, you take Millie and this little gal. What’s your name, sweetheart?”

“Clara,” the girl answered shyly.

“Okay, Clara, there you go. I’ll take the twins, and Miss Sullivan, you double up with Thaddeus,” directed Heyes.

Then he swung up behind the first twin and the Kid hoisted her sister up behind him. Meanwhile, Joe lifted Clara onto the front of his horse. After Joe climbed on, Curry helped Millie mount up behind Joe. Then he turned to the schoolteacher, who was starting to look a little worse for wear and was now shivering so hard her teeth were beginning to chatter.

She said dumbly, “The other horses have three, b-b-but we’re only t-two.”

“That’s cuz I’m the heaviest man here and you’re the heaviest woman,” Curry explained as he put his two hands on her small waist and plopped her onto the front of the horse.

Immediately the Kid appeared to regret this explanation. “Um, not that you’re heavy, ma’am,” he back-pedaled awkwardly as he swung up behind her and urged his horse after the other two. “I mean, you’re light as a feather. It’s just that, well, compared to those teenagers, and well, Millie’s only just a little smaller’n you, but then Joe don’t want to let her outta his sight, so --- Are you cold?”

“I’m f-f-f-fine,” she answered through chattering teeth.

“Yeah, right,” he agreed, smiling, as he reached behind himself to pull his bedroll off the back of the saddle. “I’d offer up my jacket, but Lizzie has it. This will have to do.” Unfolding it he wrapped it around the woman’s trembling shoulders.

They rode the heavily-burdened horses at a walk back to town under the crescent moon and the glittering stars. No one spoke except for the occasional murmur between Joe and Millie.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the time they arrived outside the saloon, all the passengers but Millie were sound asleep. The corner of the Kid’s mouth twitched a bit as he watched Heyes gently nudging the sleeping twin who was nestled against his chest to waken her. The other twin was leaning against his back, half-awake now, her cheek resting on his shoulder sweetly. His own slumbering charge awoke when he reined his horse in. She sat up suddenly, inadvertently smacking her head into his chin.

“Oh! Oh, I’m, so sorry! I didn’t mean to – are you all right? Oh, dear, I didn’t -- I mean, I wouldn’t -- ,” Miss Sullivan stammered, her face scarlet.

“It’s okay, ma’am,” Curry assured her. “You just nodded off a bit. No trouble at all.” He slid out of the saddle easily, then lifted her down to the ground.

Just then, a small figure raced out of the saloon and hurled itself into the arms of the school teacher like an arrow released from a bow. It was Lizzie.

“Miss Sullivan!” she shrieked joyfully.

“Lizzie!” the teacher shouted, swinging her up into a big hug. “Oh, Lizzie, I’m so proud of you! You saved us all!”

“I did just what you said!” chattered the little girl. “I went and got a gun -- only I accidentally brought Joshua and Thaddeus along with it.”

“And am I ever glad you did!” Miss Sullivan cried joyfully, embracing her tightly.

Lizzie reached out to hug first Heyes, then the Kid, who took the small girl from Miss Sullivan’s arms and carried her into the saloon, where a party atmosphere prevailed. Everyone was laughing and talking and hugging. Drinks were passed around and toasts were made. Miss Sullivan’s expression changed from joy to alarm when she took in the scene. She made a beeline over to a small group of girls sitting at a table with a trio of cowboys, each proudly bearing tell-tale signs of the battle: a black eye here, a bruised jaw there, a couple split lips.

“And then this big mean-lookin’ guy stuck his ugly mug outta the caboose and -- WHAM! -- I clocked him over the head!” bragged one young cowboy. The girls at the table stared at him dreamily.

“You’re so brave,” breathed a girl of about fourteen years of age.

Then another boy spoke up, “Did you see me when we jumped into the box car? I was fightin’ two guys at once!”

Miss Sullivan, having reached the table, interrupted the coos of admiration. “Girls,” she instructed, “we must be getting back to the dormitory. A saloon is no place for a proper young lady – Eleanor! Put that down this instant!” Her sharp eyes had spotted one of her charges across the room accepting a glass of what looked like whiskey from one of the cowboys. She abandoned the first table and bustled over to her errant pupil, squeezing between jostling celebrants. Just as the innocent-looking girl raised the glass to her lips, her teacher neatly snagged it from her hand and whisked it away.

“To Lizzie!” shouted Ray, hoisting the giggling little girl up onto his shoulders. A cheer went up for the little heroine. Miss Sullivan turned, glass still in hand, eyes darting around the room. Maizie was contentedly curled up on Ned’s lap, sleeping through the revelry. Cal and the dark-haired schoolgirl he had impressed sat together at a corner table, conversing somewhat shyly. Millie and Gert walked past her bearing trays of sandwiches, which eager hands grabbed thankfully. Several of the girls clutched cups of hot coffee, many wearing oversized jackets that obviously belonged to cowboys, while some were wrapped in saddle blankets. The teacher sighed helplessly. She glanced down, realized she was still holding the glass, shrugged, and took a cautious sip. Immediately she grimaced, and began to cough violently.

A hand reached out to pound her gently on the back. She looked up from her coughing fit to meet the twinkling blue eyes of Mr. Jones, grinning down at her. Her eyes went to the glass of whiskey still in her hand with dismay. The tall blond man winked at her, then picked up a cup of coffee from a nearby table and traded it for the glass. He poured just a small slug from the whiskey into the coffee, then clinked the glass against her cup, murmuring, “To Miss Sullivan, who was the one who told Lizzie what to do.”

Blushing again, the teacher took a sip from the cup as Jones threw back the whiskey in one gulp, then turned the full force of his broad smile on her. The blush deepened. Mr. Smith walked up to the pair holding a glass of beer, one eyebrow raised and a teasing smile on his face. As he opened his mouth to speak, Ray rushed up to him and grabbed him by the arm. “Mr. Smith,” he asked, “Me and the boys was just wonderin’ how come you and Mr. Jones here know so much about stoppin’ trains?”

The partners looked at each other. Miss Sullivan said softly, “Smith and Jones…”

Just then Billy ran into the crowded saloon waving a telegram and yelling, “Smith! Jones! I’ve got an answer from your friend Lom Trevors! He says the marshals are on their way! Those fellas are gonna get brought up on federal charges!”

An even louder cheer rose up among the cowboys, saloon girls, and students. Ray melted into the crowd, adding his whooping to the cheers. Someone sat down at the piano and started banging out a jaunty song and several of the cowboys began to sing at the top of their lungs. Miss Sullivan’s eyes widened as she saw it was one of her charges who was playing the raucous tune. Smith and Jones forgotten, she began to push her way through the throng toward the piano.



Hannibal Heyes snatched the paper out of the young man’s hand and scanned it quickly, a huge smile on his face.

“What’s Lom say?” asked Curry eagerly. “Think he’ll tell the governor about this?”

The smile abruptly vanished from the dimpled face. Heyes frowned slightly. Curry raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“We gotta get back to that train,” Heyes said quietly to Curry. All around them the noisy celebrations continued.

“You thinkin’ those fellas are gonna get loose before the marshals get there?” his fair-haired partner replied, also sotto voce.

“Sure am,” answered Heyes.

“You’re not thinkin’ of standin’ guard, are you? We don’t wanna be anywhere near that train when those federal marshals show up!” Curry insisted.

“Nope. We’re gonna bring ‘em here.”

“And just how do you propose we do that?”

“We’re gonna drive the train back to town,” answered Heyes, his grin widening and his brown eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Since when you know how to drive a train?” Curry responded, his voice heavy with skepticism.

Heyes’ face took on a boyishly innocent look as he shrugged his shoulders and said chidingly to his partner, “Come on, Kid! How hard can it be?”

Freeze frame: Heyes with a sly dimpled grin, Curry with a look of disbelief.

Cue the jauntily comical version of the theme music….

~ The End ~



Author’s Notes

If this episode reminded you of an early 80's made-for-television movie starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott, that's because "The Shadow Riders," based on the Louis L'Amour book of the same name, provided the idea for the main plot. Some bad dudes kidnap a passel of girls and women, with the nefarious plan of selling them into slavery in Mexico. Their ill-gotten gains are to be used to buy weapons to further the cause of the defeated Confederacy. Two hunky brothers save the day with some thrilling heroics -- including the daring stunt on the train. As hunky and heroic as Tom and Sam are, I figured Heyes and Curry could fill their shoes -- er, boots -- rather nicely...



(Writers love feedback! You can comment on Little Bluestem’s story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen. You don't have to be a member of this site and you can be anonymous. You can type any name in the box.)
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Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Sat 16 May 2015, 7:11 pm by Penski
wow What an excellent story and your first Virtual Season one! The plot was wonderfully adapted and the boys were in character throughout. I really enjoyed seeing Heyes and Curry interact with the little ones.
goodjob
Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Sun 17 May 2015, 7:10 pm by dustyroads
Excellent! I enjoyed it greatly, a very good story. I always love seeing Heyes and Curry with little ones.



thumbsup       goodjob
Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Sun 17 May 2015, 10:28 pm by RosieAnnieUSA
Wow! What a great adventure! This is a classic western episode, full of heroic but plucky girls, dastardly bad guys, lots of fisticuffs, and the cavalry (ranch hands, H&C) riding in to the rescue not once, but twice! A nail-biter for sure. Terrific episode!
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Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Mon 25 May 2015, 8:08 pm by CD Roberts
Congratulations on your first VS story! Lots of action that allowed the boys, with a little help, to be heroes after a daring and extremely dramatic rescue. They got to use their old train-robbing techniques again. LOL.  Cute, how they got roped into helping out by Lizzie. Nice combination of characters with some very nasty villains. Quite an enjoyable story that made a great afternoon read! clap
Re: Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem
Post on Sat 13 Jun 2015, 7:32 am by CalicoMax1
Calico here,
I know, I know – I’m tardy. Put a black mark against me but I’m here now catching on the wonderfulness that is VS.
Ooh – liking the plotting and scheming prologue, Bluestem.
You’re never gonna let our boys lose in a girls school?? Is HH bringing his guitar it’ll be PTWQ all over again!
Loving pandemonium in petticoats- can I have some in mine?
And, enter two ex-outlaws – counting their dollars as per usual. Beam.
Selling the gals in Mexico, huh? Proper villains here, boys – fetch!
(Is anyone else thinking – if this were a Tiger Beat spoof story a real clever villain would kidnap Heyes and Curry and auction them off to the rich teenage gals at the fancy school??)
Back to our brave duo gathering the rescue party.
Gosh, Bluestem – you are spoiling us with the action shots of Kid straddling the box cars on the roofs. Sigh. Very visual stuff as the cars uncouple.
Oh no! We’ve only rescued brunettes so far – because gentlemen prefer blondes. And twins – always opening a range of mathematical possibilities.
Ride boys, ride like the wind.
Wha-haayyyy! Our boys have swashbuckled through the window like Robin Hood. Huzzah.
All is well! Except of course our boys are being asked how they know so much about stopping trains. Nice touch, Bluestem.
So – does HH get to drive the train??? I guess we imagine he does. Double beam.
Bluestem, what a debut story. Full of action – you would be the stuntman’s friend!!!
 

Shadow in the Night by Little Bluestem

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