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 First Post .... Jedidiah Jones....(8,500 words)

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Cal

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Join date : 2015-11-11

20160120
PostFirst Post .... Jedidiah Jones....(8,500 words)

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--ooooooOoooooo---

Jedidiah Jones
by Cal

---ooooooOoooooo---





Joe had recognised the affable pair as soon as they boarded his stage coach but there were several other passengers so he hadn't been able to say more than Howdy.  That had been very early this morning.  In the last one horse town they'd passed, he only picked up post and a telegram, no passengers. The last of the original passengers had alighted, all that is accept Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  He'd been able to greet them properly then, shook their hands and had a quick catch up on their quest for amnesty.  He'd also reminded them that in his opinion stages weren't a good mode of transportation for two notorious ex outlaws. He knew he shouldn't but he really liked them two young rascals.  

It wasn't till the last way station for change of horses that he'd remembered the telegram in his pocket.

Make best time. Collect Marshal Wormser and two deputies from Mudd Town for transit to Silver Strike. Much trouble north. Haste expected.

Oh Dear, the boys were supposed to be on the stage clear through to Silver Strike but that couldn't be now.   He'd get them as close to the rail track as he could.  No use worrying them with it until it was necessary though.  Oblivious, Heyes and Curry dozed.

"Mr Heyes, Mr Curry you might want to come on out here"

The stagecoach had stopped in the middle of nowhere, nothing but sand, sage brush and cactus in all directions.  The two ex-outlaws had awoken with a jolt, and were now looking to each other for explanation.  Nothing.

Kid poked his head out of the coach and politely informed Joe neither of them needed a comfort stop and they were both set on getting a little more shut eye before Silver Strike.

"Can't let you do that boys.  I'm sorry but this here's where you're getting off.". And with that their saddle bags and bedrolls hit dirt.

"Now wait a minute Joe!" Kid was riled, he'd been woken up early by his reckon-ing.  

"We got us two tickets to Silver Strike.  No one knows us there and we figure on have a fine time for ourselves when we get there...which we won't if you don't quit worrying and drive!"

Joe smiled.  He quite liked the idea that he could rile up Kid Curry, the notorious outlaw and reputed fastest gun in the west, without fear of reprisal.

"Well now I could let you two ride on to Silver Strike, but I think it might just get a bit cramped in there what with me collecting Marshal Wormser and his two dep-uties in Mudd Town."

Joe laughed as the two boys fort with each other to exit the stage.  

"Seems there's been trouble up in Silver Strike and Willard Wormser's the only thing that passes for law in these parts, though what he's doing in a hole like Mudd Town is anyone's guess.  I could drop you just outside Mudd Town and you could walk in after the stage left, but I know you two are trying to avoid trouble and this sure sounds like trouble.   Here's as close as I can get you to the rail track, south.  Well north and south, there's only one track as yet, goes up to the mines and back."

"Didn't we meet a Wormser once Heyes?"

"Yes Kid" Heyes grinned, "But he was a little green. Too young to be a Marshal, even this close to the end of the tracks".

"Could be Willard’s son.  He'll be one of them deputies I got to collect" put in Joe.

"Well that decides it.  He'd know us on sight!  I think we've come as far north as is healthy for us Heyes." Kid started picking up his belongings. "Thanks again Joe. Which way’s that track?"

"Maybe we should try get some horses Kid, train probably don't run too often" thought Heyes out loud.

"There's some homesteads round here. Can't say exactly where. How they grow anything in this dust? Might sell you horses though."  Joe threw down a couple of canteens.
" Good luck boys, gotta get in on time." and with that he whipped up the team and was away.

Heyes picked up his gear, took a long drink from one of the canteens and followed Curry into the desert.  He looked longingly toward the mountains to the North. There were only a few hours of daylight left.  This wasn't the plan.  The plan was baths and beds, poker and women, not cactus, rattle snakes and walking.

---ooooooOoooooo---

An hour later they are not looking quite so cool.  The packs are heavy and the boots are rubbing.  In the distance a whistle blows and a tower of smoke and steam passes across the horizon in front of the boys heading north. They stopped to watch its progress.

"Well at least we know where the track is now" said an optimistic Heyes.

"And we know there's no train south for days" finished a pessimistic Curry.

"Well then we gotta find a homestead" Heyes smiled

"With one hour of daylight left" Curry frowned.

They found the highest ground they could and scoured the horizon.

"There!" Kid whooped "Smoke"

" See, new our luck was in. " dimpled Heyes smugly.

---ooooooOoooooo---

As they approached, Curry took Heyes arm to hold him back. Ever watchful, he went a little closer to check out the homestead.  Green timbered cabin with a mud brick veg store, not quite a house yet.  A barn, outhouse, and a coral with some wild looking range horses.  There was a couple of fields, a vegetable patch, chickens, a well and washing still out. As he watched a young woman left the cab-in, placing a four or five-year-old onto the ground, as she picked up a basket to fetch in the washing. No other movement. No other residents.

"What were you expecting Kid, Black Howard and the Rooster Gang?" laughed Heyes.  

"You just keep laughing Heyes, I'll just keep checking."

The boys walked straight up to the back of the cabin, hailing the young woman so she could watch their approach and not be too startled.  The boys were looking hotter and were limping more. Heyes had tied his bandana round his forehead as though he needed it to absorb a lot of sweat.

"Mam!  Are we glad to find you; we been walking for hours." He gave her the fa-mous full dimpled magic smile.

"Yes Mam, our horses dropped right under us miles back, must of had poisoned water" improvised Curry.

Ruth Jones eyed the two handsome strangers, noticed the tied down guns.  She'd learned never to take anything or anyone at face value, and she had little Megan at her feet.  Leaning into her washing basket she raised the shotgun she kept there, never mind that she would never leave it loaded with a curious four-year-old in the house. They didn't know that.  The ex-outlaws stopped in their tracks, both seemed hypnotised by the muzzle of the shotgun.

"Well boys, I think you've come close enough.  Take those gun belts off, remove the bullets from the chambers and just leave them on the ground.  There's water over by the well and I could sell you some provisions but I'd be obliged if you would be moving along please as soon as possible."

The silver tongued one gave it another go,

"Er...mam...we sure thank you for letting us use the well, we don't really trust the water we got..." They dramatically hobbled to the well as if they were walking over hot coals.  
"But we were kinda hoping you might let us sleep in the barn.  Not much daylight left. Like we said our horses are dead...we thought maybe you could sell us a cou-ple of horses in the morning... and we sure would like to take you up on any offer of food."

"Are you out here alone mam?" asked Kid, full of concern.

"What of it?  I'm expecting my husband and eldest son back from town before nightfall and as you can see, I got all the company I need". She waved the shot-gun at them which made them both very nervous. " Sides only horses we got are either too old or wild accept the driving pair and we won't be parting with them.  Which way was you headed?"

"Well..." Heyes replaced the bandana with his battered black hat and pushed it to the back of his head. "Without horses I guess we should go to the rail track and hop us a freight." Kid nodded agreement.

"But there won't be another train by for days!"  As soon as the words left her mouth Ruth new she would have to offer these strangers a roof for the night, but she wasn't really sure that her husband and son would make it back tonight.  She was torn.  Curry saw the worry on her face, the way she pulled the young child behind her skirts.

He took a single step towards her, stopping at the alarm in her face.

"Mam, we didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. We'd surely appreciate a few provisions. My partner and I will be moving along just as soon as he gets his boots back on, won't we Joshua?" Kid looked back to where Heyes sat on the edge of the well inspecting imaginary blisters. " And we are mightily sorry for giving you a scare..." This was accompanied by the full baby blue eyed look that had melted hearts all over the West.  Ruth was not immune and there was something very familiar and reassuring about this young blond cowboy.

"No, where are my manners?  I'm sorry, here you are stranded out here through no fault of your own, asking for help and I'm holding a shot gun on you.  It's just so hard to tell who you can trust these days.  You wash up some, stow your things, and your guns in the barn and come into the house for some food. I got a stew on the stove for my boys when they get back.  Plenty to go round."

Ruth put the shotgun on top of the washing, swung the basket onto one hip and pulled Megan behind her into the cabin.

"Well I got to hand it to you Kid, that look nearly melted my old cynical heart" Heyes shook his head and fought back the laughter threatening to escape him.  

"Well I don't think either of us wanted to sleep out and wait on a train did we?" said the smug one thinking...still got it!

---ooooooOoooooo---

The boys are sat at the table, the remnants of a good meal in front of them. Ruth is smiling at one of Heyes stories and little Meg is fascinated with her new play-mate Kid Curry.
Later still, the fire is roaring and Kid hands over an exhausted Meg now in her night things to a laughing Ruth.  Heyes is looking at an old guitar in the corner.  Nobody needs to hear that again Heyes.

"I'd better get this young lady to bed. She wanted to stay up to see her daddy and big brother but it doesn't look like Jed and Elias are going to make it back tonight after all".

"Jed?" smiled Heyes, relishing Kids discomfort, "Jedidiah Jones would be your husband then Ruth?"

"Well yes, but no one but his mother calls him Jedidiah." Ruth laughed, "Why, do you know him?"

"No mam" said Kid. Subject closed he told Heyes with a look.  "We'll get out of your hair. Are there any chores we can do for you before we settle ourselves over at the barn?"

---ooooooOoooooo---

next morning

Heyes eyes opened instantly at the touch of a cold gun barrel touched to his tem-ple. He slapped at the snoring lump next to him.

"Hey Thaddeus...we got company" Curry's eyes shot open his hand seeking the Colt.

"Easy, you don't want me to get nervous and put a bullet into your friend’s head now do you?". Kid froze staring into a pair of menacing eyes nearly as blue as his own. " That's better.  Now, do one of you want to tell me what you're doing in my barn?"

Ruth was setting the table for breakfast when her son Elias came in from the front yard.

"There you are; thought you'd be back last night".  Elias was a tall rangy near thir-teen-year-old with blond curly hair and blue eyes, the image of his father.  " Well don't keep me in suspense, did he get it?" she asked picking up Meg to settle her at the table.  

"I sure am ready for breakfast Ma and Da said I wasn't to tell you nothing..."

The cabin door opened and Heyes and Kid stroll through hands raised, they also raise eyebrows and shoulders in answer to her perplexed look. Jed follows holding his rifle in front of him.

"Look what I found in the barn Ruth".

---ooooooOoooooo---

Explanations made, they're all sitting at breakfast, Heyes beguiling all with his storytelling. In a lull in the conversation Ruth's curiosity has got the better of her.

"Jed are you ever going to get round to telling me whether you got it, or were you just planning on leaving me in the dark?" She laughed launching a tea cloth his way.  Heyes and Kid look at each other for explanation. Nothing.

"Well" said Jed, unable to keep the pride from his face. He fished in his pocket for something and attached it to the front of his vest. Ruth screamed with joy.  Elias and Meg joined their parents in a family hug.

"Yes, it’s sheriff Jedidiah Jones!"

Kid choked on his coffee, but couldn't take his eyes away from the eerily familiar seeming family.

Heyes froze mesmerised by the big shiny star.

---ooooooOoooooo---

"Aren't you kinda young to be voted for sheriff Jed?" asked Heyes, he was helping Jed with the stock.  Kid had gone off to help Elias with his chores.  

"Vote was unanimous, and Marshal Wormser approved it before he left on the stage" stated Jed defensively "Wormser insisted Mudd Town needed a sheriff and the job is waged and comes with a new house closer to town. Better for Ruth and the kids".

"Will you sell up then?"

"It's already done, the railways been after this land for over a year now, all we got to do is pack up and move to the new place."

Heyes looked around at the little spread, the cabin and store, the barn and stock...

"Quite a job..." he whistled

"Well yeah I thought it would take us a week but if you and Thaddeus were to help it might only be a couple a days.  I can afford to pay you, well will be able to when I get the money for this place.  Would you consider helping us get packed up and to move the horses to the new place?"

A price agreed, the next two days are a blur of activity as the family Jones' life is packed into the two large carts, one owned by the family, one hired from the Mudd Town livery.  Things for a second trip are secured in the lockable store, live-stock are rounded up involving much hilarity as all six humans and a dog are out-foxed by two dozen chickens.

"Are you going to shoot the two old nags in the barn Jed?" asked Kid "Probably not fair to ask them to make the trip and they can't stay out here alone".

"They're the only riding horses we got Thaddeus.  Elias and me will drive a rig each. I thought you and Joshua could ride Ding-a-ling and Dogmeat to take the stock in."

Kids face was a picture, then he smiled. "Can I tell Joshua?"

---ooooooOoooooo---

At a very slow pace two wagons trundle up the dusty road.  Between them strag-gle twenty thin unbroken range horses. On either side, hoping no one sees them who knows them in such company, patrol Ding-a-ling and Dogmeat.

At the campfire that night you can see that the little family has taken a real shine the two most successful outlaws in the west.  Curry is wrapping himself round supper, Heyes compliments the cook.  Ruth looks at the quiet blond one and then to her husband and thinks they could almost be brothers; the children have cer-tainly taken "uncle" Thaddeus to their hearts.

Early the following morning, Elias stretches out of his blankets and takes himself off to the stream for his ablutions.  Kid has been up for some time. He's cleaned the Colt and has set some fir cones up on a log. Aware that he has an audience he forgoes the fast draw for accuracy practise.  He takes rather more strides back from the log than he'd planned and lifting his gun carefully hits six cones dead centre very rapidly.

"Wow, that was great Thaddeus! Where'd you learn to shoot like that!" exclaimed the youngster, eyes round as saucers.  Kid looked a bit embarrassed, guess he could have toned it down a notch more.

"You haven't been showing off your fast draw have you partner?" drawled a ra-ther annoyed sounding Heyes just arriving at the stream. Kids eyes went wide at his partner’s indiscretion.

"You can fast draw too?" squealed Elias.  Heyes looked suitably shame faced.

"He's just joshing with me Elias, aren't you Joshua?  I once won a fast draw com-petition... but there was only one other contestant, and he wasn't as fast as me" covered Kid.
Elias didn't seem to be dwelling on it anyway,

"Well round here that was pretty pretty shooting.  My da says you don't need a fast draw less you want to be Kid Curry or something but if you point a gun you'd better hit what you aim at."

"That's right son" agreed Jed, joining the washing party.

"Da is it OK if Thaddeus shows me how to shoot better?" enthused Elias. A mute conversation between Jed and... Jed.

"OK, but you ain't got long, your Ma will want to get moving"

Heyes handed over his Scofield for the lesson, smiling at Kid and his young ap-prentice.

"First we need to find out which eye you favour..." began the fount of all knowledge, well in all things gun.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Mudd Town

They'd already left Ruth and the children at the newly built house just outside town, the twenty horses were installed at the coral there for breaking and sale. Only the hired wagon was unpacked, and with the excuse of returning it, the three thirsty men of the party were making the one-hour hop to town in search of cold beer.

The wonderfully titled Mudd Town boasted few buildings.  One street: mercantile, undertaker, smith, two saloons, though one boasted that it was a casino. A hotel, a restaurant, a bank and newest of all, in fact not quite finished yet a jailhouse. At the far end some houses and a church, perhaps a school house but these were a bit detached from the main street.  

The livery at one end of the street, with a small coral was easy to spot. They got rid of the hired wagon, and paid for Ding-a-ling and Dogmeat to have some well-deserved pampering.  

As they approached the street they were surprised to hear whooping and holler-ing and even a few gun shots coming from the far end up by the saloons.

"Lively little town you just been made sheriff of Jed.  Is it usually as noisy and busy as this?" wondered Heyes.

"Well no, it’s usually real quiet lessen the miners come in... that don't happen much since the mine started paying its workers with credit for their own shops and saloons up north.  We got a few ranches here about but that'd be mainly Saturday nights. Not sure who all these people are..." Jed looked a little bewil-dered searching the crowd for a familiar face.

"Heyes!" shouted an inebriated voice from the shady side of the street. Heyes froze, glancing over his shoulder his dark eyes popped as he recognised the lead-er of the Roosters, Black Howard.  His brain went into overdrive.  He threw an arm round Jed and wheeled him round to face Howard,

"Hey yourself, Is this a welcoming party for the new sheriff?  My good friend sher-iff Jed Jones here". Heyes pushed the badge...Jed...towards Black Howard and mouthed Joshua Smith over his shoulder. Howard looked a bit startled as his eyes focussed through his alcoholic fug on the bright shiny star shaped badge, then he looked up at Heyes with a rueful smile.

"Ahhhh! Yer nearly had me! Haha come an av a drink Hey...." He belched loudly in Heyes face, slapped him on the back and tried to pull him towards the casino.

"We'll come right along, you go set em up...er...friend" he said to Black Howard's staggering back as he pushed the drunken leader of the Rooster gang towards the bat wing doors of the casino.

Curry's eyes were wide; he'd spotted wanted men on every corner "What's going on here?" he rasped out of his quickly constricting throat.  "And why are there red flags everywhere?"

Heyes now scanned the street and spotted several more Roosters and worryingly even more of the Miller gang, villains all.  He acknowledged some with a slight nod behind Jed's back whilst propelling the young sheriff towards the jailhouse as fast as he could.

"Jed! Jed Cur...." Kid had a huge coughing fit grabbing Jed for support and cough-ing close to the sheriff’s ears. "They all seem real pleased to see you Jed " stated Heyes "Perhaps you should wave, you know like politicians do, and they got all these red flags out for you.". They noticed the red flag above the casino was ac-tually a pair of red draws!

"Oh yes, quite a celebration!"

Kid and Heyes started cheering and hollering.

"Hey! yeah! Jed Jones! Yeah! Hey everyone its Jed Jones!" whilst bundling Jed up the street and finally into the jail.

As soon as Jed walked to the far side of the small building to fix coffee the boys got their heads together,

"There's more crooks out there than up at the Hole!" whispered the Kid. "And they all know who we are!" he hissed.  Heyes rolled his eyes, he didn't need tell-ing.

"We got to get out of here!" Kid pleaded.

"On what?  We going to make a fast getaway on Ding-a-ling and Dogmeat? We got to stall for time, give me a chance to think. This don't make no sense Kid!"

Jed brought coffee over smiling, "Wasn't really expecting any fuss." He looked a little bashful.

" Wow, what a reception Jed. You didn't tell us how popular you were. Can see now how you won that vote unanimous..." jabbered Heyes.

At that moment the door of the jailhouse flew open and a large red faced man burst in slamming the door behind him.

"Mr Mayor" greeted Jed warmly "I'd like you to meet...." but he was interrupted

"Jed, Jed my boy, back so soon!  We weren't expecting you back for a week!" he accused.

"Yeah well I was real fortunate. Meet Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, I know he looks like he should be kin..." Jed noted the impatience on the Mayors face, "Well I got me some help. Ruth is already hanging curtains."

" Help!" The Mayor looked about him as if trying to spot rattlesnakes.  His eyes rested on Smith and Jones with loathing.  "Well you should be there with her son...can't expect a woman to do everything...and her with the children...shame on you Jed...you get back to that little woman of yours..."

"But Mr Mayor Elias is almost fully grown...and Ruth doesn't want us under her feet...I thought you might be needing me as old Seth had to go up north with the Marshal and the town seems to have got pretty busy since I left..."

The penny dropped for Heyes.  The Marshal and his deputies had been called North because of big trouble, which usually meant robbing, in the mining district.  Here were two of the local bandito gangs hurrahing Mudd Town.  The flags were out signalling the lack of any lawmen, and here was the mayor, and local business owner no doubt, worried that the towns lucrative arrangement was about to be upset because a couple of busybody drifters helped the new greenhorn sheriff move his family!

" Thaddeus why don't you and the mayor go see if any of the good citizens of Mudd Town are in need of the Sheriff's assistance whilst I help Jed get this office organised. We'll be over for a beer in a bit."

Heyes had assumed his gang leaders voice, the one that brooks no argument. He discretely palmed a note left on top of a pile of wanted posters on the desk, as he guided the mayor back through the door mouthing to Kid,

"They're all in on it, it’s a hurrah and its our fault Jed's here."

He turned and looked round the office, at the huge amount of paper on the desk, including wanted posters for most of the towns current guests, including no doubt him and Kid.

" Don't look like Mudd Towns ever had a sheriff before and it looks like Marshal Wormser has left you a mountain of paperwork huh Jed. Did I tell you I'd done some clerking for Sheriff Lom Trevor's in Porterville?"

---ooooooOoooooo---

Kid and the Mayor, The Honourable Horatio Mudd, strode quickly to the saloon, Mudd fretting to himself that this was a mess all the way. Kid let him ramble on not feeling there was any need for him to contribute to the conversation.  Mudd pushed through the batwings ahead of Curry and was half way to the bar when he realised the room had gone completely silent, the crowd frozen all eyes on the door.

Kid stood on the threshold, his eyes slid around the smoke filled room taking in all the inhabitants and their weapons. Several well-known gunslingers by the bar straightened up eyes focussed on the Kid. The barkeep dropped his hands below the bar. Mudd turned to study the drifter he'd just been introduced to as Thad-deus Jones.

Kid smiled, it didn't touch his eyes,

"Well Howdy, call this hurrahing...when Devils Hole hurrahs a town we make a lot more noise. I need a drink!"

"Hey Kid you're drinking out my bottle!" shouted Curly Alison, a huge red headed bull ox of a man and leader of the Miller gang. The spell was broken and the crowd released its collective breath as the room exploded into loud and raucous celebrating.

Mudd looked at the baby-faced stranger, he put Devils Hole and Kid together and his eyes showed the moment he realised just who he'd walked from the jailhouse with.

"You're Kid Curry!" it was more of a statement than a question. He grabbed Kids hand and pumped it, and you're young Jed's kin well I'll be."

Kid had too many things to think about just at that moment to correct the Mayor.  He was being eyed by half the room as a rival or at least a complication and the other half as some kind of idle, it was very strange, but it felt good being himself for a change. He downed a good whiskey in one and picked up a beer which no one seemed to think he'd be paying for. Several of the working girls gravitated his way.  Alison asked if he was looking to join Millers, that he'd heard Heyes and Kid had left the Devils Hole outfit. It was easy to be evasive with everyone around him keen to talk to him, he found he hardly had to say a word.

After about an hour, the silent statues routine was repeated as Heyes walked through the batwings.  Kid held his breath, expecting Heyes to be followed by Jed.  Heyes, seeing Kids discomfort beamed his full dimpled devilish smile, walked over to the Kid and laughed,

"What?  You didn't think I could persuade Jed to get home to Ruth and the kids, you thought I'd walk him into this den of vipers?" then under his breath for Kids ears alone he added "I told him you n me been deputies a couple a times be-fore...your badge is in my pocket" Curry spat beer all over the nearest gunslinger.  Heyes laughed again slapping Kid on the back and offering to buy beers for the sprayed.

"Where's our honourable mayor Kid? We could turn this to our advantage." Curry pointed his chin to the rear of the room where a collection of town dignitaries and business men had their heads together in animated conversation.

"Deputies!" Kid managed to squeak "In this town?  What are you thinking Heyes?" he managed between coughs.

"All you gotta do is keep your er ...sheriff .... alive for a couple of days while I get us a stake by parting our brethren in crime here from their ill-gotten gains at the poker tables ". beamed Heyes.  Seemed it wasn't only Kid who was enjoying the chance to be himself for a while.

Heyes eyes shone with glee.

Kid was speechless.

---ooooooOoooooo---

"Gentlemen," dimpled the silver-tongued one, as he interrupted the debate amongst the towns great and good at the rear of the saloon.  "You appear to have a problem that needs a plan, a Hannibal Heyes plan no less.  Question is, what's it worth to let your little town go on cashing in on the I'll gotten gains of your current clientele without your young sheriff getting his head blowed off?"

The men quieted as one looking in wonder at the youthful amiable young man that had just introduced himself as the notorious outlaw leader Hannibal Heyes.  His reputation as a successful schemer was legendary but compared to the other cutthroats in the bar, this could be the Sunday school teacher!  Then Kid Curry appeared at his shoulder, all business.

"Urm… what price did you have in mind...Mr Heyes?"

"First of all let me just clear up a few things, am I right in thinking the good folks of Mudd Town offer a .... shall we call it temporary amnesty... to us robbing folk while the red flags are flying." Nods. "What's to stop you throwing them all in jail for the rewards when they're drunk enough, and who’s on lookout for the Mar-shals return?" continued the centre of all attention, he was loving this.  "And where are the law abiding citizenry?"

The Mayor threw a conspiratorial arm round the young man's shoulders, he hoped to show the criminal mastermind that others could be just as devious.

"We sent Seth north with the Marshal, so we know his every move. Seth, Seth Miller that is, he's got shall we say ...a past...he was one of the original Miller brothers...and his sister Marybeth, who heads up the towns woman's guild, she's the widow of old Blake Cartwright, him that ran with the Roosters.  So we been doing this a long time son we just never had us a sheriff before. We don't throw them in jail, they don't rob our bank!"

"We need this trade more than ever now the mines are getting mean with paying their workers cash...of course they blame that on all the payroll robberies..." All eyes slid to the two most successful outlaws in the west. Heyes and Curry tried to look a bit apologetic. "Truth is, now the towns growing we need tax dollars for schools and such and for that we need trade."

"It don't hurt that they usually leave a few dead bodies when they leave...oh each other’s I mean...especially when they come in at the same time..." put in the un-dertaker.

All eyes turned to him in incredulity as if this were a step over the line they'd drawn for themselves." Well it’s a small town, it’s hard to keep going just on flus an accidents" he tried to justify "Sides them gunslingers always pay real well to bury someone they just shot!  No offence Mr Curry"

Curry rolled his eyes " None taken".

"Well the law abiding element know not to come into town when the flags are up Mr Heyes, but I don't see how we can help Jed now he's here?" Intervened the Mayor with another look implying this was their fault which was met with true poker faced innocence.

"He was handpicked by that interfering Marshal. Said he wasn't corrupted. How we going to explain he got all shot up before Wormser even had a chance to tell him what his duties are?"

"He ain't all shot up yet " insisted Curry.

"Oh I know he's your kin..." apologised Mudd, all eyes turned to Kid in wonder in-cluding Heyes'.

"And he won't be if you use my plan" smiled Heyes" Shall we say two more days’ trade for two hundred dollars’ gentlemen?  That seems a fair price."

"Apiece" Curry levelled a blue eyed gunslinger stare at each man in turn...they didn't need to vote on it...Nods all round.

"We'll be taking that in advance" smiled the dimpled one.

---ooooooOoooooo---

"That went well, this'll buy me into a high stakes game" smirked Heyes brandish-ing the wad of cash. They were back out in the street looking for the hotel, seems they were staying for a few days.

"What?  Jed's as good as dead!" argued Curry. " Unless you really do have a plan?"

" Not yet, but I got all night to come up with something, Jed's not coming in to town till after breakfast and this lot will all be nursing hangovers till noon..."

They entered a small two floor building up by the church called The Highway-man's Rest.  

"They sure know how to make a man feel at home here don't they Kid" beamed Heyes

" We'll take a room with two beds " he informed the whiskery old fella at recep-tion.

"I'm very sorry...Mr Heyes...Mr Curry...the Hotel, well that is to say the whole towns full...with both gangs in town I'm afraid I have nothing left to offer..."

"What!" Heyes was suddenly not so amiable. He snatched the register and pe-rused the list of current occupants. " Well Kid it seems Livingstone and Stanley had the last room available" They couldn't help but laugh at some of the aliases in the register.

"Can you suggest anywhere?" smiled Curry at the relieved receptionist.

"Well if you don't want to put on your kin Mr Curry I could suggest a couple of cribs for the night...the new jailhouse has never been used ...and I provided the bedding and pillows myself..." he cringed away a bit not sure if this would trigger another explosion of temper.

There were no words, a mute conversation, eyes closed for a second, Nods and they left.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Well we ain't going to be doing nothing but sleeping off a drunk anyway Kid, come on we'll drop our stuff at the jailhouse and go part The Roosters from some of their haul.

Heyes is in full poker mode, raking in some fair sized pots, while Kid tries to judge which way trouble is coming from. One of the local ranches have come into town and it’s just a matter of time till the pot boils.  Sure enough deputies Smith and Jones, minus badges, are soon spectators to a bar room brawl.  No one’s died so as they stagger their way over to their salubrious accommodation they figure they've done a good job.  Heyes collapses on one cot not even removing his hat, Curry cradling the cell keys in his hands lies back on the other.

"Ha...we haven't had that much fun in... too long..." His only answer was a snore from the other side of the cell.

---ooooooOoooooo---

"Did you come up with a plan?" asks a crumpled Curry nursing a Heyes made cof-fee. His face contorts at the taste.

" I slept all night! First for me in a cell. I think those cots are a bit too soft for a cell" Heyes complained, "Still got some time over breakfast.  No one’s getting up till after noon, not after last night"

" Oh I don't know.  Think those ranch hands had to get back, must have been up at first light" Curry shook his head, "Who'd work that hard.... Sheesh"

Over breakfast Heyes shows Kid the note he purloined from the jailhouse desk.  Marshall Wormser had requested the new young sheriff to keep the peace until his return and not to worry about statutes and ordinances or any of the other paperwork and regulations until his return, when he would personally take him through the job requirements.

"He hasn't seen this and we know all the stuff Lom complains about having to do...fire safety plans...that sort of thing.  I can keep him tied up in red tape in here for some of the time.  We could invent some out of town trouble that needs in-vestigating.  You could go take some pop shots at one of the ranches".   Heyes was musing.  He didn't really expect Curry to chip in.

The door of the restaurant opened and in strode Jed beaming,

"Mudd is real impressed with you two.  He says the town was quiet as a mouse last night, no trouble at all" He slapped each of his deputies heartily on the back.  The pain in their heads was very evident from our point of view.

"You just leave the night times to us Jed while we're here, let you and Ruth settle in to that new love nest of yours" Heyes plastered a smile over his hangover.

"Well today couldn't be finer and it’s my birthday" grinned Jed.

"It is! It is!" smiled Heyes genuinely "Well that just dandy and of course in line with the town ordinance you'll be taking the day off"

"Huh!" Jed looked shocked.

"Oh yes, read it just yesterday, you don't get many days off Jed, don't think Ruth would forgive you if you missed one.  And as it happens its Thaddeus' birthday too. Who'd a thought it?"

Not Kid that's for sure, but as always he caught on quick, "Yep, my birthday too we should celebrate"

"You can do better than that Thaddeus.  Did we ever tell you Jed about the time we broke twenty mustangs in a week?  Why Thaddeus here's practically born in the saddle. Bet you and him could get some of them Wilder's of your broke ready for sale in no time.  The livery needs riding stock, bet you could trade a few horses and make enough to pay us off, no need to wait for the sale money to come through"

Heyes took a smug deep breath, beaming at his partner.  Kid thought this may be good, but potentially painful...for him.  His face sort of smiled

" Yeah Jed, let's you and me go show Elias how it’s done" He swept Jed up in his enthusiasm "The towns in safe hands"

---ooooooOoooooo---

Two juxtaposed scenarios:

Kid, Jed and Elias working the horses watched by adoring Ruth and Meg.  Much dust and bucking and "Go get him!" and landings. But Kid is in his oils working horses and he's well fed and part of a family.  The bruises are worth it.

Heyes is holding...nothing...the pot is large.  His poker face is enigmatic. The op-ponents are throwing in. "More drinks over here! " He shouts to the barkeep" And how about some more sandwiches " this to sweeten the losses of his com-patriots.  

"Coming right up Mr Heyes"


Another raucous night ensues, music, singing, fighting, drinking....

Later, a stiff looking Curry and a smug looking Heyes are counting the winnings behind bars.

"You know it won't be Jed's birthday tomorrow don't you?" sighs Curry as he sinks into his cot and is snoring before his head hits the pillow.

Heyes frowns, he's going to be thinking most of the night.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Next morning, after breakfast our boys are joined by bright eyed Jed.

Kid and Heyes look as though their best hurrahing days are behind them, they're looking a little grumpy this morning.  They both know from long experience that they won’t be the only ones with sore heads and short fuses in Mudd Town today.

The morning was mostly quiet, hangovers doing the hard work keeping trouble at bay. Jed patrolled the street with Kid getting glowing reports from all the business owners as he passed.  He was taken aback at the undertakers to see two dead bodies laid out for burial,

"Died of a fever Doc said, must have brought it in with them poor sods. I'll get them buried real quick so as not to risk it spreading " assured the beady eyed lit-tle man rubbing his hands together.  Kid recognised two of the gunslingers from the saloon, both Millers gang. Must have been a grudge match.  He noted the bul-let hole over the heart in the first one’s vest before it was swiftly covered by the undertaker.

At the first sign of trouble, shouting coming from the saloon, Kid steered Jed back to the jailhouse where Heyes had spent the morning inventing and writing regu-lations and ordinances that looked like they had been written in stone and hand-ed down from a mountain, that would hopefully tie the young sheriff up in red tape for hours.  Kid slipped away to see if trouble had found them.

---ooooooOoooooo---

The mood had turned ugly. Curly Alison was not pleased to find two of his fast guns were dead and assumed wrongly that they'd been shot by Roosters.  Black Howard wasn't having that and was calling Alison out.  When Kid looked in at the batwings both leaders seemed to register a common enemy at the same time.

"Curry did you gun down Deke and Wesley?" Alison screamed.  

"Yeah, wasn't one of us must of been him" raged Howard pointing at Kid.

"Not good" thought Curry, he took a deep breath and pushed through the bat-wings to face his accusers. This was going to take all his nerve. He stood toe to toe with Black Howard till the older man sat back down. Then he turned a glacial stare to Alison.

"I didn't have no cause to gun down no one...yesterday..." he let the implied threat sink in. " And I don't take to be called a killer for no reason.  Suppose you think real hard whether those two had anything against each other..."

Silence, the three men glared, hands hovering near gun butts. A crease crossed Curly Alison's brow, "Well now I come to think on it they were always riling each other"

"Well there's your answer...showdown" said Curry laconically.

"Aw and we missed it!  I always wondered which one of those two boys were fastest" blurted Alison.

"Neither of them now" stated Curry. "They're over at the undertakers if you want to pay your respects"

"Hell no! Couldn't stand either one of them. Let me buy you boys a drink".

---ooooooOoooooo---

a little later

Curry watched the room over the rim of his beer glass, it had gotten rowdier since the two gang leaders had repaired to the Casino, Howard having promised Alison a better bottle than that available at the saloon.  He decided to watch just a little longer then return to the jail to spell Heyes at sheriff watching.

" You, Kid Curry...I think you shot Wesley...he was a friend of mine and Deke couldn't have out drawn him...I think you put a bullet in him" This from a young, dishevelled looking punk at the end of the bar. Kid slid his eyes in that direction, saw the mule jaw and gunnie stance, the twitching fingers.  

He lowered his beer and placed it carefully on the bar. The whole room froze, all eyes eagerly seeking the two combatants. Whispers went round the room.  Kid pushed away from the bar to face his accuser.

"Well you’re wrong sonny, they shot each other, and they both shot to kill"

"Well I'm gonna kill..."

"No you're not" Kid was already pumped with adrenalin, the gun was in his hand even faster than he usually draws, gasps escaped the onlookers. The gunslinger had barely grasped his gun’s butt, he froze, eyes wide looking down the barrel of Kid Curry's Colt.

Kid was feeling mean, "You're lucky I don't blow your brains out, but I haven't got the time to deal with a wet behind the ears whelp like you, and don't you ever call me Kid, to you it’s Mr Curry."

Kid was right up in the punk’s face.  He holstered the Colt and left the saloon. Be-hind him he heard the laughter aimed at his adversary and immediately regretted letting his temper flare up like that.  He headed for the jail.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Heyes was running out of ruses to keep Jed in the office and was just wondering where the hell the Kid was when the door opened and a stony face Curry walked in.  He quickly read the signs, Kid had been dealing with...stuff.  

"Oh good, can you hold the fort Thaddeus, Jed and I are going to ride out and talk to Mr Dyer over at the circle T... they think there's been some rustling.  Jed looked up from the umpteenth fire prevention plan Heyes had had him compiling with relief, at last something to do, though he was a bit annoyed Smith hadn't men-tioned it earlier.  

"Fine" said a monosyllabic Curry helping himself to coffee.

"You should be wearing your deputy badge Thaddeus" said Jed following Heyes out.

"Hmm," nodded Kid, he pulled his hat down and had already shut his eyes.

---ooooooOoooooo---

When Heyes and Jed got back to town about three or four hours later the town was in full swing again.  They put their horses up at the livery.  Heyes had hired out a fine Bay, two old heads watched him leave the stables and whickered their disapproval in his wake.

" I'm not really sure what Dyer expects me to do about a few head of beef...he doesn't normally bother with such small losses...it could just as easily be a cat as rustlers." reasoned Jed.

"I guess he never had a sheriff to complain to before Jed, you're mighty popular, perhaps he just wanted to take a look at yer" opined Heyes.

"Did you think he looked surprised when we showed up?  You wouldn't have thought he'd asked us to come by" Jed shook his head as they walked down the ramp to the street.

" Curry, Mr Curry I wasn't ready for you before" the even more dishevelled and definitely more inebriated gunnie shouted from across the street.  Heyes looked around for Kid confused.  There was a deep sigh from his companion

"Not this again!" Jed rolled his eyes. Even Heyes had to admit that was just the way his partner did it, light dawned Heyes looked at the challenger "This isn't Kid Curry friend"

"Stand aside Joshua, he's not listening to you. Not the first time I've had to fight that no good gunslinger’s battles and it won't be the last" Jed's voice had dropped to cool controlled monotone, he stilled, eyes fixed gun hand as still as the kids just before...

The draw was swift, the aim better, the young punks gun flew into the air and blood spurted from where his trigger finger had been.  The boy fainted.

Jed ran across pulling his bandana from his neck.

"I'm sorry you had to witness that Joshua.  It's a curse but apparently I look like Kid Curry. I've had this happen from time to time since I was a teen.  If I hadn't learnt to use a gun, I'd have died years ago. It's a burden I had to bear. I wish they'd catch that @#££%& and lock him away so that the rest of us can live in peace. I bet Thaddeus would understand probably it’s happened to him too."

Heyes watched the scene mesmerised, and we thought we had to watch his back, wonder if Mudd Towns going to rue the day they appointed Jed Jones sheriff!

"Yes he's been mistaken for what is name many a time.  We better get Billy the Kid here to a doctor fore he bleeds to death".

---ooooooOoooooo---

Snoring was coming from a cot in the cell from under a brown floppy hat, but Heyes keen eyes noted that all their stuff was packed and ready to go.  He was on his own, Jed had stayed up at the doctor’s house to put the patient right about a few things when he came round.  Heyes suspected Jed wasn't keen to come back to resume anymore paperwork that day.

A loud knock on the door woke Curry. The telegraph clerk entered looking around for Jed.  "It's from Seth...that darn Marshall's back on the ten fifteen train tonight. The wire was down so Seth's only given us an hour or so notice to clear out the town".

Heyes left the unopened telegram on the desk.

"You clear out the Millers Kid, I'll roust out the Roosters"

And with that they were running down the street yelling to get the flags in and to ride for the hills. Outlaws spilled out onto the street in various stages of undress. Lovely saloon gals waving out the windows to the generous tippers as they left. In less than half an hour the town had emptied.

Kid and Heyes looked at the empty street and congratulated each other on a job well done.

"Heyes"

"Yes?"

"There's a Marshal due in on the train whose son knows us on sight"

Horror crossed their faces as they ran to the jail to collect their belongings.  

---ooooooOoooooo---

Train station Mudd Town

" Can't understand what's keeping them Marshal Wormser, they said they would be here to greet you" apologised Jed.

"Well we can't hang around here waiting for them Jones, let's get back to your office for coffee and you can fill me in on your first week in the job..."

"I thought they'd never go!" hissed Kid as they hid at the back of the telegraph office. "Run!"

The train was already moving, but we see the boys throwing here possessions at the steps as they board the rapidly accelerating train.

---ooooooOoooooo---

" Do you think that's what it'll be like when we get the amnesty Heyes"

Kid and Heyes had a whole carriage to themselves. Kid was lying back under his hat. Heyes had found a newspaper and was pretending to read it whilst day-dreaming about all the ways he was going to spend the large wad of cash in is saddlebags.

"You mean a town full of crooks and a rooky sheriff? No I don't think so Kid" He smiled and went back to his daydreaming.

"Sheriff Jedidiah Curry..." whispered Kid to himself " Got a nice ring to it...."and he went back to his own daydreaming.





The End
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