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 Den of Thieves (part two)---the Sixth Haff and Wong Tale ... 7,400 words

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Cal

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Join date : 2015-11-11

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PostDen of Thieves (part two)---the Sixth Haff and Wong Tale ... 7,400 words

---ooooooOoooooo---

Den of Thieves
(The Sixth Haff and Wong Tale)
PART TWO

By Cal

---ooooooOoooooo---


The story continues: Heyes and Curry are about to meet the Highbinders of the Hip Sin Tong …Will they find out what happened to Wong?

---ooooooOoooooo---

A Chinese parlour

“Oh Thaddeus?” Heyes looked a little surprised but wasn’t shaken.  “How good of you to join us. Let me introduce you to Mr Woo and Mr Ping.”  Heyes swung his arm towards two gentlemen with stony glass stares on their faces on the other side of the room, then smiled back at Kid.  “Gentlemen, this is my …urm…partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

Neither of them had their guns anymore.  Kid felt the loss acutely.  His face remained impassive.

“Seems this is Mr woo and Mr Ping’s patch.  They’re happy for us to work their crowd …as long as we cut them in for thirty…” explained a smiling Heyes to Kid.

“Forty percent.” Stated Ping coldly.

“…like I was saying …forty percent.” Heyes raised his eyebrows to Kid. “I think that’s acceptable, don’t you partner?”

Curry studied Heyes’ face for information, saw the plea in the dark eyes and nodded.

“We will be keeping all of your earnings for tonight Mr Smith, to seal the deal.”  Woo held out a hand.  

Heyes reached carefully into his jacket…but not carefully enough for the Chinese henchmen stood behind the partners.  One came forward batted Heyes’ hand down and reached into his jacket to remove the wad of small denomination notes Heyes had collected that night.  

The henchman handed the notes to Woo with a small bow.

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “Well of course, if that’s how it’s done …here.”  Heyes smiled to his grim faced partner giving his head a small shake with a shrug, “We would normally seal a deal with a drink, wouldn’t we Thaddeus?”  He made this sound like he thought they’d been insulted.

Curry’s eyes narrowed then he nodded again, slowly.

Ping lost the inscrutable face for just a second.  “We are also knowing the way of doing business here in the West, Mr Smith.  A drink is an excellent idea.  Drinks!” he barked.

There was then a bizarre scenario where the four men, all eyeing each other like cobras, sat briefly on two couches to consume some clear fiery liquid from small bowls in the pretence of friendship, following an amicable business deal.  

Curry raised his drink in salute but said nothing. He wasn’t sure what his partner was playing at and he was felling nekkid without his gun.  He still managed to exude menace.

Heyes’ smile never touched his eyes as he also saluted his hosts with his …bowl of fire water.  However, he gave his full attention to Woo when he left the couch to go stash the cash in a complicated looking box on top of a cabinet in the rear of the room.  ‘Not a safe then’ he thought, ‘more of a puzzle box.’


Seeing Heyes’ interest, Ping quickly showed them to the door.

“Until tomorrow gentlemen.”

---ooooooOoooooo---

The trail back to town

“What was all that about?” asked Curry as they rode double back to town.  He was glad to have his Colt back in its holster but couldn’t have told you what was going on.  “Were they the highbinders?”

“The who?” Heyes smiled at Curry’s back.

“Haff said the highbinders from the Ip Sin Tong are holding Wong to ransom for their cut of the bank robbery.  Is that what you were doing talking to that creepy pair?”

“Well yeah…No…I don’t know.” Admitted Heyes, rolling his eyes at Curry’s mastery of Chinese gangster culture. “I was just curious to get a look at them.”

‘And they were curious to get a look at us, too’ thought Curry.  “Did you ask any questions about Wong?”

“No!” Heyes shook his head definitively. “Don’t you think we’re all injured enough already, without me taking another beating?”

‘Another beating?’ thought Curry shaking his head.  ‘All he did was fall off his horse.’

---ooooooOoooooo---

Back in the storeroom, very late

“Did you see Wong?” asks an anxious Haff when they push through the door. He’s been sipping some more of the ‘medicine’ from the fresh bottle of whiskey, and although groggy is remaining conscious, most of the time now.

“No, not this time,” says Heyes, “But I’ll be going back tomorrow and I’ll make contact with our Tong friends, see if they want to make another deal.”

“Another deal?” Haff is perplexed.

“Oh…Heyes is cutting them in for forty percent of his take at the shell table.” Adds Kid with a shake of his head.  He doesn’t understand how that helps at all.

“They’re bad men Heyes” warns Haff.  “They will keep uppin’ the price for Wong.”  He shakes his head slowly. “And it won’t be forty percent…in a week or two… you’d be working for them, just so they don’t kill you…. or your partner or your family…” Haff shook his head again, “Evil men…I should just have got back here with no bullet hole and payed them.”

“They would just come after you for more money Haff.  That type don’t give up after just one payment.” Heyes’ voice was a low rasp.  “What if I could find a way to get Wong back and make them think he was as good as dead?  Then they wouldn’t come after you again for more money.”

“You could do that?” Haff’s eyes are wide.  “I have money Heyes, if that’s what you want?”

“Well, we could certainly negotiate a finder’s fee…” Heyes’ voice is rising as he smiles.

“Wait a minute!” Kid’s voice is ferocious, he’s worried Heyes might be back-sliding. “This would be the same money he just took out of the town bank!” A finger points into Haff’s face.  “That don’t seem too honest to me Heyes.”

“Relax Kid…I bet ol’ Haff here been saving for something special…been real careful with his money, ain’t yer?” Heyes rises his eyebrows at the Indian.

“I don’t spend money…” agreed Haff cheerfully.

“See Kid. Haff don’t mean to pay us from the bank haul.  He’s going to pay us with his savings.”

Heyes starts pacing so he doesn’t have to look directly at Kid.  

“Don’t suppose a lawyer, or a doctor, or a detective, is gonna worry about where their clients’ get the money to pay them from, do you Kid? Hell, if they did that, they’d go outta business pretty darn quick.” Heyes likes that, he nods.  

“No, our client,” Heyes waved an arm at Haff. “Is going to engage us as agents, to find his missing partner.  Right Haff?”

“Right.” Stated Haff. “And you can have all my money.”

“No!” Curry still sounded anything but convinced this was legal, but he didn’t want his larcenous partner to fleece Haff either. “We don’t want all your money, Haff.  A Finder’s Fee is normally ten percent.”

“$5,000 it is then” smiled Heyes holding out a hand for Haff to shake.

“Just what have you got planned Heyes?”  Blue eyes stared into Heyes’ face, eyebrows saying ‘what is it you’re getting us into now?’

“I think we should take a lesson out of our smiling friend’s book, Kid.” Heyes returned the stare. “We could learn a lot from a snake like Danny Bilson.”

“Danny Billson!” Kids voice was loud and dangerous.  “I ain’t killing anyone Heyes!”

“No Kid, you won’t have to, but he sure left us for dead.”

Heyes turned his attention to a confused looking Haff.  “Haff, just how much do you know about this opium?”  He took the bottle from the shelf. “Kid tells me you think there’s enough in here to floor a buffalo.”

---ooooooOoooooo---

Next day, after breakfast

Heyes is pacing in the storeroom, getting the details straight in his head before putting his plan into action that night.  He’s had been quizzing Haff for some time.

“So you think the Tong knew that you, Wong and the boys from Devils Hole were planning on robbing that bank, so they snatched Wong for ransom to get a cut.  And if you didn’t come up with the money, they were going to send his head back to China and claim a bounty on it?” Heyes screwed up his face as he said this.  Was that any different to being wanted dead or alive?

“Yes, that’s why I had to make a show of it after the robbery.  So they knew I had the money and I would pay.” Haff’s face dropped.  “If I hadn’t taken a bullet I would have taken the money to them already and saved Wong.  If they think I’m dead…”

“They’d use plan B…the head thing.” finished Kid. “But then I showed up asking after Wong and now they think Heyes and me are part of the Devils Hole gang and we will pay to get Wong back.”

It all sounds a little far-fetched for Kid. “Why didn’t they just ask us flat out for the money when they had us over at their place then? Instead of all that talk about small time percentages.”

“It’s not their way.  For them it’s like a game,” Haff’s turn to show distaste.   “They like playing games, especially with other people’s lives. They know you have the note.  Did you see the rings they wore?”

“Yes…the seal.” said Heyes.  

“No” said Curry at the same time. “Oh…on the notes.” Light dawned in the blue eyes.

“That’s their calling card?” Heyes opined.

Haff nodded.

“So they want the next move to be ours.” Heyes scowled.

“Well what now?” asked Curry.

“First we need to get $20,000 out of that mule cart” stated Heyes.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Later

Curry went to the mule cart and returned carrying a heavy-looking sack which he dropped next to the cot.  

Haff winced.  He reached inside a brought out an intricate looking box with fancy paintwork.  Heyes and Curry looked at each other perplexed and then at Haff.
 
“That’s like that fancy lock box Woo used to store his money in,” Curry said. “Can you open one of those Heyes?”

“I only ever saw that other one.  I’d have to study it.” Said Heyes intrigued.  Heyes looked at the intricate box with glee. ‘This could be fun’ beamed the dimpled one.

“I can open it” said Haff flatly.  He sat up gingerly, with a groan and leant over the box.  He looked at the partners, “Wong will kill me if I show you how to open this…He hasn’t even shown Wheat.” He indicated that they should turn their backs.

Heyes pushed his hat to the back of his head with a long finger then dropped his hands onto his hips, looking disbelievingly at the Indian.  

“Haff, if I can’t learn to open these fangled boxes real quick, Wong ain’t going to be able to kill you, cause he’s gonna find that real difficult to do…without a head!” Heyes rolled his eyes.  

Haff has cogs turning behind his eyes. Kid smiles in sympathy.

“I’ll turn my back Haff, but you gotta show Heyes how to open that box.” Kid said with a nod turning to face the door. Haff’s eyes closed for just a moment before he nodded at Heyes.

Haff took Heyes through the complicated procedure of opening the box.  When they’d got enough money out to pay the ransom, he showed Heyes how the lock was set again, then he let Heyes open and close it a few more times.  

Kid, forgotten, had made coffee, and was shaking his head by the stove while his partner did a good impression of a small boy with a new toy on Christmas morning.

“That’s a neat trick!” Pronounced the genius.  “And its metal lined, …so you couldn’t just take an axe to it.”  Haff’s eyes went wide as he imagined the destruction of yet another of his partner’s precious possessions.  

Oh dear, he’s noticed the silk bandages then.

---ooooooOoooooo---

That evening, in the shanty Chinatown

Heyes had attracted quite a crowd.  Kid had played ringer to drum up some initial interest but was now watching Heyes’ back from a discrete distance. He’s also packing $20,000 and two bottles of finest whiskey under his coat.  He saw several of the henchmen from the day before.  They stood and stared for just a second, then walked on; they had made their point.  The threat was received and understood.

As the night wore on Heyes took higher stakes bets and then, deciding he’d taken enough money for night, began to pack up and signalled to Kid that he’d be leaving.  

Right on cue, a large Chinese henchman appeared at his side.  “Follow me Mr Smith.” He raised a hand in Curry’s direction to signal that his presence wasn’t required.  

Kid gave him a gunslinger stare and pushed past the hand to follow Heyes.  Just let them try and take his gun from him tonight.

---ooooooOoooooo---

The same parlour

“You have had a successful evening Mr Smith?” greeted Woo with a smile like a snake “Ah... Mr Jones.” He didn’t look at all pleased to see Curry and still wearing his gun, but the smile didn’t leave his lips.

“Woo…Ping.” Said Kid taking a gunnie stance next to Heyes’ shoulder, face stone.

“Yes.” said Heyes, a huge smile splitting his face, but the cunning in the dark eyes is obvious to the Heyesian connoisseur. “Come now Thaddeus, we have a business agreement with our friends Mr Woo and Mr Ping. Let’s keep this civil shall we.” He patted Kid on the shoulder. “I believe gentlemen, we agreed forty…”

“Fifty percent.” Said Ping, his lips twitching into a sneer.

“…Fifty percent?” smiled Heyes, nodding in incredulity.  “I can see I’m going to have to run to keep up with you boys. You sure know how to work up a patch don’t you?  Fifty percent? Ok…”

He halved the wad of notes that he produced from the inside of his jacket.

“I can see you are certainly men of enterprise, like ourselves.” Heyes nodded to his partner with an inclusive smile.

Woo and Ping didn’t look at all happy to be compared with the two, small-time hustlers in front of them.

Heyes makes a show of noticing the look, and as though he’s forgotten to mention the blindingly obvious and continues, “Ohh…I don’t mean this.” Heyes waved the notes in his hand like he’s forgotten they were there. “No…this is just our cover…no…no…I meant our real purpose here.”  

Heyes let his voice drop to a very business-like rasp.  “Here gentlemen.  I believe you are the ones purporting to be in the business of extorting money from small-time crooks.” He practically throws the money in his hand at Woo.

The two Chinese men looked at each other, and regard their guests with new eyes.

Ping spoke up, “And what business is it, that you think we have in common Mr Smith?” He emphasised the name, to show he knew it was surely as much an alias as the names they were currently using.

“Bounty hunters, Mr Ping.” Heyes squared up alongside Kid, matching the stance and the stare.  

“Jones and I are the best in the business.”

“What makes you think we are interested in bounty, Mr Smith?”

This was Woo.

“Because we’re the best,” Heyes pulled his lips to a line and rocked on the balls of his feet.  “You don’t think we would ‘ve showed up here unless we knew exactly who we were dealing with do you?” It was a rhetorical question.

‘I did!’ thought Kid but he managed to keep his poker face.  

Heyes went on, “We recognise excellence in our fellow man gentlemen.  We see you gentlemen as equals, men who will understand us, men we can do business with.” Heyes favoured each of his hosts with a satisfied nod.  

“We’ve been given the task of bringing a certain gentleman…shall we call him …Wong?” Heyes let out a small barking laugh, “to justice in Mexico.  We have a fine lucrative arrangement with certain high-standing family members of those he murdered…”

Heyes eyed the men opposite him like old friends, “And we have been told…” Heyes flicked his eyes to his partner “Or should I say… we have …found out…” He shook his head at Kid. “From Wong’s partner, that you have already done a lot of the work for us.  A job which we are disposed to pay you for, handsomely.”

Heyes rubbed his hands together and let the silence build.

Ping and Woo spoke briefly in Chinese.  

Ping turned his snake smile to Heyes “He is wanted for murder in Mexico?” Heyes nodded.  “He will hang?”

“Firing squad.” Supplied Kid, memories of Santa Marta in his mind.  He didn’t know exactly what his cousin was doing but he trusted that Heyes did.  He could play blood thirsty henchman.

“Firing squad.” Ping nodded. “Do they need …the head …once that is done? Would it still be recognisable?”  

Heyes’ eyes opened wide. ‘Grief, these guys really are scum he thought,’ retaining the smile.

“Well gentlemen, given your interest in the …head …I’m sure Mr Jones and I could supply it, later …For a price of course.” He rubbed his hands together again as if relishing the prospect of doing future business with the two low-lives in front of him.

Woo smiled, “I think we do understand each other Mr Smith.  We would be happy to do further business with you, but first we must agree on a price.”

“And we would have to see the merchandise we wish to buy” put in the Kid. “As we only get the full bounty if he’s still alive, the folks paying us want the pleasure o’ seein’ him killed” explained Curry with a nasty smile on his lips.  

“Certainly Mr Jones” Ping nodded “Quite correct.”  He shouted to the guards, outside the room this time, in Chinese.  In just a few minutes Wong was dragged into the room.  He looked battered and drugged, but he was still alive.  Heyes gave their prize a cursory inspection, he nodded to Kid.

“That’s him.” Confirmed Kid, and jerked his head to the door, effectively ordering the guards to take Wong away again.

Heyes took the second note from his pocket.  Looked at it.  Handed it to Woo and smiled “I’m assuming we’re talking …dollars, …American.”  He snapped his fingers at Kid.  

Kid reached into his jacket and extracted the package of notes and handed it to Heyes.  

“Shall we count it gentlemen?” invited Heyes, sweeping his arm to the couches.  

Heyes and Kid certainly know how to assume command don’t they.

All four men sat and the two Chinese men watched the growing stack of notes greedily. Woo immediately took the stash to his lock box and put the money beyond reach of the two Americans.  Heyes was shaking Pings hand with a smile, and reached to shake with Woo as he returned to the couches, “We must settle on a price for your …part…of the prize, but first let’s settle this deal between us business men, with a drink…Thaddeus?”  

Kid produced one of the fine bottles from his jacket and four shot glasses from his pockets.  Smiling he poured them all a drink.  Big ones. He placed two glasses in front of Woo and Ping, lifting his own glass he downed the drink in one smiling for the first time.

The two Chinese gangsters looked pleased with the way this was going, already up on the deal and the prospect of making the bounty for the head too.  They had no intension of paying these foolish Americano bounty hunters for the head but until it was delivered, they would drink along and show these two amateurs how civilised they could be.

Heyes of course started talking up a storm. He was just flattering enough to keep the company sweet and drinking and entertaining enough with his tails of the West and some turns of the shells, that the party continued on for a couple of hours.

It was after the drinking party was in full swing, that Kid introduced the second bottle.  The one Heyes and him didn’t drink from. Kid was also the first to become seemingly unconscious…a fact that drew much hilarity from their Oriental hosts, considering their capacity to drink to be far superior.  Heyes encouraged them to prove it.

Heyes had let the highbinders best him a few times at the shells to keep them entertained, they in return had introduced him to a game of pure chance involving the slamming of dice, shaken in a cup, onto the table top.  They’d been using the wad of small denomination notes from Heyes pocket to keep it interesting.  

Ping then fixed Heyes with his cold eyes, and appeared almost sober as Heyes sent the shells around the table top again, in a blur watched carefully by Woo.  He was just trying to decide whether another ‘win’ was called for when Ping batted his hands from the shell and in a thankfully slightly slurred voice pronounced,

“A wager to interest men of the World Mr…Smith…what say you.  We will give you and your prisoner safe passage back to the town…what will you give us…” There was a sneer and a threat implied.

Heyes favoured the sour oriental with a supposedly drunken smile and waved his wad of cash, “Well I seem to have most of the money…”

“No…I have a better idea…” A large knife appeared like lightening from Pings sleeve and embedded itself in the table top.  “Safe passage for you…I would require a keep sake…” He lifted the hand that had thrown the knife, the tip of the little finger was missing.  “I will keep a small piece of your partner’s gun hand.  Don’t worry he won’t feel a thing.”  

Mad laughter from the highbinders.

Kid, very much aware of his surroundings was fighting the urge to let his right hand, complete with all its fingers, from pulling the Colt from its holster.  ‘Sheesh! What is it with these guys and body parts! You better know what you’re doing Heyes.’

Heyes used the apparent consideration of the wager to cover himself as he filled all the glasses again with very large measures of the doctored whiskey.  He pushed a finger inside his collar and gave the highbinders a shrewd look.

“Such a wager would have to be honoured gentlemen.”  Nods all round. “Safe passage to town for us against a fingertip…” He made a show of considering it.  “If you call the shots, then I insist on calling the game.”  He certainly wasn’t going to let them sucker him with that dice game.  It was pure chance, no skill at all. “We’ll wager on the shells…” He smiled reaching his hands out to the shells on the table.  Quick as a flash the knife was back in Pings hand and pointed at the shells.

“The game is already afoot, Mr Smith.  We don’t need you to …shuffle again …right Mr Woo?”  

“Yes, the pea is under the middle shell.” Woo pronounced triumphantly slapping his partner on the back.  They both gloated at Heyes discomfit for a few seconds, enjoying this small victory over the upstart Americans.

Kid tensed, but this was only perceivable to Heyes as they sat next to each other on the couch, their legs touching.  

“The wager will be honoured gentlemen…” stated Ping leaning over to lift the middle shell.

“I certainly hope so” smiled Heyes, thanking his sheer dumb luck that at the last second he couldn’t bear to let these hideous men win another game from him and so he had palmed the pea.  Lifting the right-hand shell, he slipped the pea, faster than the eye can see, into position, to be revealed to the disbelieving pair opposite.

He quickly diffused the awkward silence by lifting his glass in salute and laughing maniacally, “To safe passage back to town!” He felt Curry’s leg loose the tension it had been holding.  ‘Don’t worry Kid, we both know we need that hand of yours just the way it is…phew!’

Heyes concentrated in pouring whiskey down the throats of his hosts whilst appearing to be drinking just as heavily himself.  He finally realised all he had to do was feign unconsciousness for the highbinders to give up the fight to remain conscious longer than the American and fall into the arms of Morpheus.

Kid rolled his eyes and knocked Heyes arm to signal the all clear.  He sent a glare Heyes’ way to say that he hadn’t enjoyed the wager at all. Heyes sent an apology to Kid and they both fort giggles realising that they’d still managed to consume a lot of booze.  One of the guards outside the room yawned loudly. Kid picking up the doctored bottle and some glasses signalled that he would go deal with that.

Kid took the doctored bottle around to the guards outside the door and stationed with Wong, in a brotherly wish that they should all join in the general bonhomie between the partners and their bosses.

Soon all but Heyes Kid and Wong were unconscious.  Heyes made a bee line for the lock box.  It wasn’t exactly the same as Wong’s, but it was a puzzle and he relished the challenge.  

Kid fetched Wong and explained that unfortunately for the plan to work he would have to be tied up and gagged again before anyone else regained consciousness.

Wong drank …water …and rubbed his hands and feet.  He joined Heyes at the lock box and they started theorising how best to open it.  Kid went to watch by the door in case they got disturbed and kept one eye on the time …Haff had said they should have at least four hours to work.

After two hours Kid was looking worried. “Are you ever going to get that thing open Hey…”

Heyes lifted the lid to the box, with a huge full dimpled smile for his cousin.

“Just gotta have a little faith Kid.”  

Wong took the money out of the lock box, leaving Heyes to get it sealed again and started hiding the wads of notes under his robes.  

Kid smiled, “Well it’s time for us to get to sleep then” he said.   He took Wong back to the room with the sleeping guards, tied his hands and feet again then gave him a small draft from the drugged bottle before replacing his gag. “Pleasant dreams.” He smiled.

Heyes was done by the time he got back to the room, with Woo and Ping snoring up a storm.  He arranged himself on the couch as he’d been earlier and took a small swig from the drugged bottle.  Heyes poured himself a small glass and then poured away the rest and hid the bottle down the back of the couch, replacing it with the un-doctored bottle, that he’d already stashed there.  

Sitting next to his already snoring partner, he drained his glass.

---ooooooOoooooo---

An hour or so later, not yet sunrise

Heyes was being tapped across the face by Kid.  

“Come on Smith …think we’ve outstayed our welcome…”  Heyes’ eyes opened to see Kid looking a bit hung over, but straightening himself up, and two oriental gentlemen staring at him.  “Come on Smith, you passed out …we gotta get …Wong …and get on our way to Mexico …Come on …soon as we can get movin’, soon as we can get paid …and get back here with …well ...get back here.”

Kid was setting his hat on his head and leaving for the next room.  

Heyes smiled up at his hosts, “It’s been a pleasure gentleman.  Sorry, guess I don’t hold my drink as well as I used too.”

He quickly straightened himself up and joined his partner, who was bundling a near unconscious Wong out through the door onto the trail.  They both acted a bit embarrassed for their lack of capacity to hold their drink, and assuring their hosts, that they were good for returning with the promised merchandise the following month, left as quickly as possible.  

“(Amateurs.)” Sneered Woo.

“(They didn’t even set a price for the head.  If that’s the best in the West…)” Ping shook his swimming head.

The partners had to carry Wong between them to their horses and then throw him across the saddle in front of Kid.  Luckily for Wong, he remained unconscious.

---ooooooOoooooo---

“Are they following” Kid asked for the fifth time in ten minutes.

“No, quit worrying we’re in the clear as far as town at least, they gave their word, I won the wager remember?”

“Remember!” Kid was indignant “How could I forget, but it don’t mean I trust their word.”

“They’re a little twisted Kid,” Heyes screwed up his face “But they got this honour thing going.  No I think we’re in the clear till they open that box. Even then I left them a little surprise”

Curry’s eyebrows raised.

Heyes managed a smile for Curry.  “I left Ping’s ring in the lock box.  If we’re real lucky they’ll kill each other when they find the moneys gone.”

Curry smiled but he was still worried.  He knew that the blood-thirsty pair they’d just left would probably want to handle their $20,000 again as soon as their heads were straight enough for them to remember they had it.  

They could already be unlocking that box.  

---ooooooOoooooo---

When they were free of the shanty town they kicked the horses to a fast lope to cross the ground to the town of Tunnel Junction proper. The town hadn’t come to life yet; it was very early.

The first gunshot pinged into the side of a building a foot above Heyes’ head. A second kicked up the dust just behind Kid’s mount.  The partners sprang from the saddles and dived for cover, Kid dragging Wong’s unconscious form with him.  Kids Colt was in his hand but he couldn’t see anyone to fire at, the rifle shots were from some way off.  He sent a couple of rounds high as a warning. Heyes also sent some shots high.  Return rifle fire had the partners ducking for cover again.

“What in tarnation is going on here!” hollered a loud voice from the street.  Sheriff Deke Hodges had only just got back to town, he was looking forward to a breakfast and a soft bed, and someone was starting a gunfight …in his town!

“Cease fire over at the camp!” he hollered walking straight down the middle of the alley towards Heyes and Kid, who were crouched in cover on either side of the alley.  

“Get down!” shouted Kid at the Sheriff.

“Find cover!” Heyes shouted at Red Cloud Rises, following the sheriff.

“This is Deke Hodges.  Stop your firing, and get over here where I can see you.  If you’ve got a beef with these here drifters.  Well, I got them covered.  They ain’t going anywhere.” The sheriff vaguely waved his gun at Heyes and Red Cloud, catching on lifted a Colt pistol and pointed it at Curry.  

Curry looked on incredulous but put his Colt back in its holster.  

The sheriff was alongside them now. “We got a thing in this here Country called the Law.  And I’m here to uphold it. Come state your business.”

The sheriff stood right out in the open, waiting.  First Heyes, and then Curry dragging Wong along with him, came and stood either side of him.

From the shanty came two riders, Woo and Ping.  They weren’t carrying rifles. They were watched by the four men in the alley, Wong remained oblivious.

“Well?” said the big sheriff. “Woo, Ping.  What’s your beef?”

“These bounty hunters have stolen money from us sheriff.” Stated Woo flatly.

“Bounty Hunters?” Hodges, took a second, to look at the two drifters afresh.  They both looked pretty beat up now and they had a Chinese fella roped up and gagged.

“Sheriff,” began the silver-tonged one, “Remember I told you I owed Mr Jones here a debt, for saving my life.  Well, turns out Mr Jones is a bounty hunter, and that man there is wanted for murder down in Mexico.  I’ve been assisting him in his duties.  We already got his partner locked up.”

Heyes gave the big sheriff his most earnest expression.  

“And, well I saw Mr Jones here, pay these two gentlemen handsomely for their part in bringing this ruthless killer to justice.  Mr Woo there, he locked the money in some sort of lockbox. We all had a little bit too much to drink to celebrate, but when we came round this morning, in their …parlour …well, I thought we left on pretty amicable terms… We even had plans, to do some more business with them in the future.”

Heyes turned a questioning face of innocence to the two oriental gangsters.  Oh he was a supreme liar; he could see the grains of doubt trickling through their minds.

“Am I to assume gentlemen, we are no longer in business?”

He looked towards Wong’s head.

“Is what he says true?” Hodges asked.

“We will believe it true, if you search them both …and their horse’s sheriff, and they prove not to have our money.”

Ping’s snake smile was back in place.  

Red Cloud came forward to search Heyes, thoroughly. His hands found the lock picks, but he didn’t say anything, just gave Heyes a look.  He found no large sums of money.  The Sherriff was satisfied that Curry wasn’t carrying stolen money either. Their horses saddle bags, blankets and rifle boots were also found wanting.

“Satisfied?” Hodges asked the Chinese gangsters. “There ain’t any money here, sides what Smith had in his jacket.”

Woo turned angry eyes to Ping.  Who in a fit of anger produced a knife from his sleeve.  It wasn’t certain, if the knife was destined for Heyes or Hodges, as in a flash Kid’s colt was in his hand, and the knife was flying back over the heads of the highbinders.

Seeing the draw and the knife.  Red Cloud Rises raised his Colt and pointed it at Ping.

“That was mighty fine shooting Red …Didn’t know you still had it in you.”

Smiled Hodges turning from his search of Heyes’ horse, at the sound of Kid’s bullet, and seeing the Indian scout pointing the gun.  Red smiles and gives Curry a grateful look. Curry’s not sure what just happened.

“I think gentlemen; justice has been served here don’t you.” Hodges dismissed the highbinders with a look.

Reluctantly, Woo and Ping turned and rode back to the shanty town, eyeing each other suspiciously.  We hear an argument begin.

“Thank you Sheriff” said Curry, picking Wong up from the ground, he seems to be surfacing.

“Wait just a cotton picking minute there boy.” Curry froze. The sheriff took Wong’s arm. “If he’s a prisoner there’s only one place he’s going and that’s to jail.” The Sherriff rounded on Heyes “And if’n you got his partner, then you better fetch him to the jail also.”

The partners looked at each other perplexed.

“Sheriff, we were thinking of starting out for Mexico right away” started Curry.

“Oh No! …We ain’t going anywhere, till after I’ve had me some breakfast.” Stated the Sherriff flatly.

“We? Sheriff” Heyes looked baffled.  “You can’t mean you’re planning to come with us, all the way to Mexico?”

“No, but I got a duty, see.  I got to get you safe to the County border, on the other side of that plain there, if’n that’s a dangerous murderer you got there.  And I ain’t had me a decent meal in days.  So I ain’t leaving town again, till I’ve had breakfast!”

---ooooooOoooooo---

Restaurant in Tunnel Junction across the street from the jailhouse.

“Heyes, don’t seem right sitting in here eatin’ while Haff and Wong sit in Jail all beat up and shot.” Kid whispers while the Sheriff chats to the restaurant owner.

They both look across the street to the jailhouse.  Heyes considers.

“Well it beats us sitting in jail all beat up and shot don’t it Kid?”

“Yeah…guess so” Kid sounds surprised, he hadn’t thought of it like that.

Heyes is still staring out the window at the mule cart parked up outside the jail house.  It still contains most of the bank haul, from the bank just up the street.  Wong did know how to rob a bank in these new times of fast communications, that seemed to have left him and Kid and their methods behind, but Wong’s methods didn’t appeal to Heyes.  The he remembered the $20,000 that Wong had stuffed in his robes last night.

“If Wong gets bored he can always count his money.” He smirked at Kid.

Didn’t make Kid feel any more comfortable though.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Later out on the plain

Kid is driving the mule cart with the prisoners tied up in the back covered by a rifle in the hands of Hannibal Heyes.  

Haff is head to foot in grey robes and the coolly hat. He’s kept his chin on his chest since Heyes came to the storeroom to tie him up.  He’s feeling guilty because he thinks Red Cloud may have worked out he is more native American than Chinese.

Wong, now ungagged and very much awake, is silent.

The sheriff and Red Cloud Rises ride either side of the wagon.

“Sure glad someone’s got some prisoners Mr Jones…” The sheriff felt the need to fill the silence.  “Over there, is the last time we got a look at that Devil’s Apache …He high tailed it up that near vertical cliff …It was really something to see.  Of course, he got a little something, to remember us by too…”

“$50,000.” Opined Heyes.

A slight smile passed Wong’s lips.

Red Cloud bit back a smile with a sideways glance towards Haff.

“No …No…” Sherriff Hodges looked annoyed to be reminded of the banks losses.  “No, but we shot him good. Yasser! He left here, packing some lead. We didn’t find a body, but there’s still a chance we killed that son of a bitch.”

With that, the sheriff kicked his horse on a little.

Wong sent a questioning look at Heyes, who nodded, then Wong nudged his partner, who dropped his chin still further.  A quiet Chinese-Apache-Mexican rant started.  Heyes kicked Wong’s foot, and slid his eyes to Red Cloud, who was still smiling.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Much later

Clear of the plain, finally on their own, four exhausted adventurers pull off the trail into a quiet spot to brew coffee and eat a meal. Wong is inspecting Haff’s wound. A stream of Chinese Apache Mexican starts up

“(Looks like it was sewn up by a ham fisted gorilla…you do this to yourself?)”

“(No Curry insisted on doing it.)” Haff is wincing as Wong makes adjustments.  “(And he brought enough opium to knock out a buffalo herd.)”

Wong plasters a smile on his face and turns to Kid. “Thank you for the care you have shown my partner.”

“Your welcome, just wish we could have done more.” Smiled Curry.

Wong turned back to Haff.  “(Thank God you didn’t it’s going to take me weeks to sort this out.)” Another smile for Curry.

Heyes shook his head, he could see what was really being said, and shook his head at the smile of satisfaction on his partner’s face.  He couldn’t help but jump to Kids defence.

“Well Haff was happy to hire us to help him get you back from those crazy Chines…kidnappers.” Smiled Heyes raising his coffee cup to salute Haff.

Wong turns disbelieving eyes to the cringing Indian.  “(You done what? How much you promise them? This money is overdue at the Hole …which is North…. They’ve brought us South…We’re going to have to go round a very long way….and now we got to tell the gang there’s no money!)”

Heyes hid a smirk, badly.

Wong turns and smiles for Heyes.  “Thank you for my rescue also.”

“It’s going to be a pleasure” smiles Heyes. Eying the lucrative bulges under Wong’s robes.

“(Don’t worry…its only $5,000…ten percent finders fee…I thought you were worth it…now not so sure…)” Haff rubs his sore side and pulls down the robe over the smarting bullet wound.

Wong considers this, finds it acceptable.  He once again plasters the false smile on his face before facing Heyes.  “I believe we owe you $5,000 Mr Heyes.”

Wong extracted a pile of notes from his robe and counted out the money and handed it to Heyes.

Kid watched and worried.

Heyes beamed and put the money away in his saddlebag.

“You sure that’s honest money Heyes?  Sure feels strange knowing where it comes from.” Kid shook his head.

Heyes sighs, he should have expected this.

“Did you rob a bank Kid?” Heyes eyes wide.

Kid shook his head.

“No.” Heyes shakes his head.  “Did you just risk your life to save Mr Wong here from certain death?”

Kid nodded.

Heyes threw his hands up in a ‘see!’ gesture.

“You worry too much Kid.”

Haff grinned at Kid in a ‘glad I’m not the only one getting nagged’ way.

---ooooooOoooooo---

Next morning

Heyes and Curry are taking their leave of Haff and Wong.  The diminutive partners are heading North …eventually.  Heyes and Curry are heading …in any other direction.

Heyes had been trying to find the right time to broach a tricky subject.

“You’re gonna have to start varying your methods Wong.  That posse knew Haff had the money and that the gang were going to split.  They all came after Haff.  It’s just a matter of time till someone puts the barber and the robberies together.  You’ve had a good run with that ruse but like our friend Soapy says, you got to know when to change the game.”

Heyes was in earnest.  He didn’t like to add that in his opinion it was just a matter of time till Wong got Haff killed.

Curry wasn’t so squeamish, Haff seemed to be getting a raw deal.

“Haff if you don’t spend the money, why are you an outlaw?  Heyes an’ me we’re trying to go straight, right? Sometimes now, we don’t have any money, but when we were in the game, we really knew how to spend that stuff.  We were really good at it. So I don’t get it?  You said you were once a slave to the tribe, then a slave in the mines in Mexico, said you had to kill to get out, now instead of having a life you’re running with a gang of outlaws and you don’t even want to spend the money …Why d’you do it?”

Haff looked at his partner then back to Kid.  “Freedom Kid.  I do it to help my friends, because I can choose to.” He shook his head, no big deal.

“Well for someone who values freedom Haff you chose a really stupid and dangerous occupation. You know you could end up in jail, or dead.  Most do!” Curry shook his head.

Heyes didn’t miss the impact Haff’s words had on Wong.  The little Chinaman was deep in thought, as he considered the implication of his partner’s words.

‘I do hope he’s planning a career change’ thought Heyes.

---ooooooOoooooo---

On their way to somewhere, they haven’t decided yet.

“You know there’s going to be people on the lookout for them all the way back to the Hole don’t you?” Kid hasn’t let it drop yet.

“I know.  Let’s hope it’s just someone who wants to lock them up for a bit, not someone who wants to lob bits off them and ship them to China or hold a nice lynching party for them or a firing squad.” Heyes wants to stop this now.  They said their piece.  They’d done their best.

“Stupid thing is they didn’t have to be outlaws.  Make themselves wanted.” Kid shook his head in disgust. “They didn’t need amnesty. All they had to do was not start robbing banks!”

“Who you mad at Kid?” Heyes smiled over at his younger cousin. “You sure that’s Wong and Haff you’re mad at.”

Kid didn’t have an answer.

The End


Last edited by Cal on Sat 21 May 2016, 12:52 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Den of Thieves (part two)---the Sixth Haff and Wong Tale ... 7,400 words :: Comments

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