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 Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20160924
PostWater the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow



Uncertain of Jim Stokely's fate, Heyes and Curry continue to search for clues while they play a game of cat-and-mouse with a gang of suspected killers.


Starring
Pete Duel and Ben Murphy
As Hannibal Heyes and Jed “Kid” Curry


Guest Starring


Monte Markham as Jim Stokely


Sam Elliott as Sheriff Walter Stone


Garth Brooks as Roy Lassiter


Scott Wilson as Thomas Martin


Elinor Donahue as Anne Martin


Michael Weatherly as Jonathan Bascomb


Larry Corbin as Cobb Winters


Tommy Lee Jones as Mitch


Max Thieriot as Carson


Ryan Kelley as Sam


Jared Padalecki as Jesse


Misha Collins as Marty


WATER THE CHANCES?
Part 2
by moonshadow


THE NEXT MORNING, OUTSIDE THE LINE SHACK

When Sheriff Stone woke up he discovered, somewhat to his dismay, that he was sitting in a chair on the front porch of the line shack he had gone to check out the night before.  His hands and feet were bound and he was secured to the chair by a thick rope around his chest.  In addition, although he couldn't reach up to touch it, he knew he'd find a sizable bump on the back of his head because it was pounding like he'd been kicked by a mule.

“Comfortable, Sheriff?” Heyes inquired solicitously as he approached the lawman.

“Hmph – what do you think?” the sheriff snapped and squinted up at him.  “I'm guessing you're the one who jumped me when I came up here last night?”

Heyes' shoulders lifted in a noncommittal shrug.

Stone eyed him from head to toe.  “So you're Kid Curry, huh?”

Heyes shook his head and grinned.  “No; no, I'm not the Kid.”

“You're Hannibal Heyes, then!”

“I'm not admitting to that either.”

The lawman's eyes narrowed.  “Well, what're you gonna do with me?”

“Just keep you outta circulation for a while, that's all.”  Heyes sat down in the chair next to the sheriff.  “And I'm even gonna tell you why.”

The lawman's brow furrowed as he cast the ex-outlaw a doubtful look.

“You see, Sheriff, it's like this: Even though you know that Winters swindled all those good people outta their money, you can't legally do one thing about it.”

“Well, yes, that's true but…”

“We've got a very good friend who's missing – Jim Stokely – might even be dead for all anybody knows.  You can't do anything about that either, not without some kind of firm evidence.”

“Well, no, but I…”

“You can't, but I can.”  Heyes leaned forward, his hands clasped together.  “See, I've got a plan.  The trouble is, I'll need a free hand for a few days to make it work.”

“If I wasn't an officer of the law I'd wish you luck, but as it is, it's my sworn duty to put you behind bars.”

Heyes stood up.  “And that's exactly why you're here; so none of us will get hurt.”

Stone mulled that over for a moment.  “Well, now that we've got that all settled, how about some grub?”

“Right away, Sheriff.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE MARTIN KITCHEN

“I think these look pretty authentic…” Curry, as well as his sentence, came to an abrupt halt when he entered the kitchen and saw the stranger seated on a stool.  He quickly stuffed the papers he held into his pocket.



The man turned to face the Kid.  Scraggly long hair covered most of his bearded face and his clothes looked as if they had seen better days, but there was something strangely familiar about him just the same.

Curry took a few steps closer.  “Heyes?” he ventured tentatively.  “Is that you?”

“I think you've got me confused with somebody else, mister,” the stranger cackled.

“Oh, there you are, Thaddeus,” Anne said as entered from the living room carrying a bottle of whiskey.  “I see you've met Lester.”

After giving 'Lester' a thorough once-over, including a firm tug on the beard, the Kid grinned.  “If I didn't know better... that's a great disguise – you've created a whole new person!”

“That's the idea,” Heyes grinned.  “I'm going to be up close and personal with Winters' men and then Cobb himself; I have to be able to pass inspection.”

“You'll do.  Speaking of inspection...”  Curry dug down into his pocket and pulled out the papers.  “Here.  Took 'em out an' rolled 'em around in the dirt a bit.”

Heyes reached out and took them.  After a quick glance he wadded them up and shoved them into a coat pocket.

“Here you go, Joshua.”  Anne held out the whiskey.  “Father's contribution to the plan.”

“Perfect.  Tell him thank you for this, as well as helping with the map.”  He held up an onion.  “I'm not sure whether or not to thank you for this, yet.”

“He's delighted to be a part of putting Cobb Winters out of business.  As for that,” she gestured to the onion, “just make sure you don't swallow it.”

Heyes nodded as he poured himself a glass of the whiskey, took a big swallow, swished it around in his mouth for a bit, then went to stand by the sink and spat it out.  Next, he poured a liberal amount into his hands and splashed his face, neck and shirt several times.  He picked up the onion with a grimace, and took a big bite.  After chewing it several times, he leaned over to spit out the pieces in the trash bin.

Curry wandered over to join him.

“How do I smell?”  Heyes stepped closer and exhaled heavily in Curry's direction.

The Kid waved his hand vigorously in front of his face, fanning it while his nose wrinkled in disgust.  “Whew – like you've been swimmin' in a whiskey lake filled with soured onions!” he choked out and hastily took a step backwards, rubbing at his nose.  “All you havta do is get real close to Winters an' breathe jus' like that an' we won't have to worry 'bout him anymore!” he quipped.

“The whole idea is for them not to get too close.”  Heyes grinned and took another swig of the whiskey.

“Well, one whiff of you an' they'll stay far away!” Curry chuckled.

“From now on, it's up to you, Thaddeus.  Don't forget I'm in that place if it comes to any shooting.”

“Don't worry; I've got your back.”

Anne saw them to the door and waved them off.  “We'll be keeping our fingers crossed; good luck to both of you.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE WATERING HOLE SALOON

Heyes weaved his way through the batwing doors of the saloon and bellied up to the bar, leaning heavily on it for support.  He removed his hat from his head and let it drop down onto the bar.  “Hey, barkeep,” he slurred as he mopped his brow with his shirtsleeve.  “What's a man gotta do to get a drink?  My throat's real parched an' I wanna drink – right now – ya hear?!”  He slapped his palm down on the bar for emphasis.

The barkeep meandered over and eyed the newcomer with a morose expression.

“My name's Lester,” the man announced in a loud voice and slapped some coins down on the bar.  “An' I wanna whiskey.”  He smacked his lips and rested his head down in his hands, elbows propped on the counter.  

The barkeep picked up a nearby bottle and began to pour.

“Hey – I don't none of that cheap whiskey!  I wanna drink the good stuff today 'cos I'm celebratin'!”

The barkeep rolled his eyes as he reached down under the bar to grab another bottle, poured the drink and set the glass down in front of his customer with a thud.

Lester leaned down closer to the bar, eyeballed the glass and then reached for it, but missed.  Squinting, he tried again and this time he came close enough to grasp it with his fingers, but when he tried to lift the shot glass, it slipped from his hand, spilling its contents all over the counter.  “What happened?” he cried and looked askance at the barkeep.  “Why'd ya do that for?  I was gonna drink it!”  His face clouded over.  “Now it's all gone.”

Shaking his head in exasperation and heaving an exaggerated sigh, the barkeep mopped up the mess and took the money Lester had laid down.  “If ya want more, it's gonna cost ya, mister.”

“I got money – I got plenty of money!  Why, I'm gonna be rich once I find Mister Cobb Winters.”  He dug around in his pocket, pulled out more coins and tossed them onto the bar.  “Maybe ya know him?  Hey – ya know where I can find him?  I'll even give ya some money after he helps me find the trea…” he slapped a hand across his mouth.

After a furtive look around, he lowered his hand and continued.  “Whoopsy-daisy, dang near spilled the beans!  Shhh...”  Lester put a finger to his lips and stage-whispered.  “It's a secret; I can't tell nobody 'cept Cobb Winters.  Yesirree, my treasure map's a BIG secret,” he chortled.  “A $50,000 secret!”

He picked up the glass and, as he raised it to his lips, he tilted his head back just far enough to glance into the mirror that hung on the wall behind the bar.  In it, he could see the reflections of the five men sitting at the table right behind him.  Their poker game forgotten, they were all watching him intently.  Downing the drink, he slammed the glass down hard on the bar.  “I wanna see Cobb Winters right now!” he demanded.

“He's not here right now, so you're jus' gonna havta wait.  Do ya want another drink or not?”

“'Course I do – there's my money – pour!” Lester commanded.  Once the drink was sitting in front of him, he reached out to cradle it with both hands and pulled it towards him slowly.  He brought it up to his lips and downed it in one gulp.  “Ahhh, that sure 'nough hits the spot!” he sighed.  “Pour me another!” he demanded and turned around to face the room.  Elbows propped on the bar behind him, Lester smacked his lips while his eyes scanned the room.

“Sure wish Winters was here,” Lester continued, talking to himself in a mournful tone.  “I really need to see him.  I wanna show him my map so he can find out where the treasure's buried.”  He hung his head and stared at the floor.  “All that money,” he sighed, “jus' sittin' there, buried an' waitin' for someone to find it...”

Lester heaved a sigh of deep regret and raised his head to look at the poker players.  “Hey, maybe one of you fellas can tell me how to find Cobb Winters?”  He stumbled towards the table and, once there, he slapped the back of the player closest to him.  “Can ya help me, mister?” he leaned down and breathed hard into the man's face.  As he did so, his arm brushed up against a bottle of whiskey.  It toppled over, spilling the liquor all over the table.

“Hey – get offa me!”  The man made a face and pushed him away.  “Phew – the crazy old coot stinks to high heaven!”

Lester staggered backwards, fighting to keep his balance, until his back hit the bar.  He stayed where he was and gazed with bleary-eyed reproach at his antagonist.

One of the other players righted the bottle the drunk had knocked down in his stupor and gave the speaker a pointed look.  “Now, is that any way to treat our new friend, Jesse?”

“He hasn't breathed on you yet, Mitch!”

Mitch turned to the newcomer.  “Hey, mister.  Why don't you come back over here and we'll see if we can help you,” he coaxed.  “We'll even pour you a drink.”

“He don't need no more to drink!” grumbled Jesse.  “He can barely stand up now!”

While Lester stumbled his way back to the table, Jesse was quick to move the bottle of whiskey out of his way.

“Here, mister,” Mitch patted the chair.  “Sit down right here next to me.”

“My name's Lester,” the newcomer hiccupped and dropped heavily down onto the chair.

“I'm Mitch.  You've already met Jesse.”  Mitch pointed to each man in turn.  “Next to him is Carson, the one with the busted hand is Sam, and this one's Marty.”

“Hiya, fellas.”  A silly grin on his face, Lester waved and blinked as he tried to focus on each of their swimming faces.

“Now, what's this about a map?”  Mitch asked casually as Jesse poured a drink and sat it in front of Lester.

Eyes wide in shocked surprise, Lester's voice was strangled as he gasped, “Ya know about my map?”  He attempted to put his elbow on the table, narrowly missing it and almost fell out of his chair.  “Whoa – who moved the table?” he chortled and reached for the shot glass.  When he grabbed air instead, he sat staring at his empty hand in a stupor.

Rolling his eyes, Mitch reached for the glass and put it into Heyes' hand.  “The map?” he repeated with a hint of impatience.

Lester reached into his pocket and pulled out the papers, holding them in a tight grip.  “I can only tell Cobb Winters.  Nobody else, 'cos it's a treasure... gold.  Nobody's 'sposed to know.”  He put a finger to his lips.  “Shhh, it's a secret.”  He hiccupped and rambled on.  “See, my friend wrote me a letter – he's in prison now – robbed a mine 'round here 'bout five years ago an' got $50,000 in gold.”

The men at the table reacted with various expressions.

“There was a robbery here about five years ago,” Carson mused.  “The way the story goes, the gold from it was never found.”

Lester nodded several times and then held his head as if dizzy.  “Shouldn't do that,” he mumbled and then smacked his lips several times before he continued.  “My friend wants me to go find the gold, wherever it is.  He buried it somewhere, under somebody's house, at some farm 'round here... but I dunno one place from another, an' that's why I wanna see Winters.  He knows 'em all.  He'll know where the gold is.”

Cobb Winters was passing by their table, but paused to listen when he heard the words gold treasure and his name mentioned.

Although Mitch and the others noticed Winters' presence, they didn't acknowledge him; all of the men wore scowls upon their faces.

Lester didn't give any indication that he was aware of the man standing near them and tried to put the glass on the table.  He missed and the liquid spilled all over Jesse's feet.

“That's it!” he snapped.  “YOU can sit next to this fool – I'm going over to the bar where it's safe!”  Jesse stomped away in an effort to get the whiskey off his boots.

“Some people ain't very so-she-a-ble,” Lester muttered.



Mitch ignored him and said smoothly, “Say, if you'll just share what you know with us, we might be able to help you find what you're looking for.”

“Nosiree.”  Lester shook his head.  “My friend said the treasure's buried around here somewhere... on a farm... but there's so many, I'm not sure which one.  That's why I gotta show Winters my map.  He can tell me what farm it is.  I don't know one place from another 'round here.  An' that's why I'm only gonna talk to Mister Cobb Winters.”  He sat back and folded his arms across his chest.  “I'm not gonna say another word 'til I see him.”

Winters stepped forward and tapped Lester on the shoulder.  “Well, mister, you're in luck, 'cos I'm Cobb Winters.”

“You are?  Really?  I been lookin' all over for you!”  Lester stood up and hugged him, breathing hard into the man's face.  “I gotta gold map right here, see?”  He shoved the papers in Cobb's face.

Winters quickly disengaged himself from Lester and steered him towards his office.  “Let's go into my office to talk; it's much more private.”

“Wheee, hey – we're goin' really fast!” Lester chortled, stumbling along with Cobb.  “Hey, wait a minute, I need to get my hat…” he pulled free of Winters' hand and barely managed to grab his hat before Winters' caught up to him and took him by the arm again, half-dragging, half-carrying the inebriated man.  “Whoa... the whole room's spinnin' 'round n' 'round,” he hiccupped as he was shoved into Winters' office.  While the other man was otherwise occupied, Lester quickly shoved the papers down deep inside his pants pocket.

Cobb closed the door and locked it, shutting off any further observations from the men sitting outside.


*~*~*~*~*~*

The men left sitting at the poker table watched the door close in silence.  Jesse wandered back over to join them.

“Don't that beat all?  $50,000!” Carson whistled softly.  “I ain't never seen that much money before in my whole life!”

“If we'd had just a few more minutes, I could've talked that old timer into letting us have a look at that map!” Mitch groused and poured himself a drink.  “Now I bet Winters' gonna hog it all!”

“Yeah, you're right,” Sam agreed and downed his drink in one swallow.  “Ain't that the way it always is?”  He held up his injured hand.  “An' this is what I got to show for all my trouble!”

“Just for once I'd like for us to get what we deserve!” Marty snapped.  “We're the ones doin' all the dirty work an' takin' all the chances.  How come we never get any of the money?”

“It's true – every time we run into something good we never get any of it!” complained Jesse.  “Why should Winters be the one who always gets it?”

“We'll see about that.  This time things are gonna to be different!” Mitch vowed, his eyes coming to rest on the closed door.


*~*~*~*~*~*

INSIDE COBB WINTERS' OFFICE

Winters pushed the drunk into a chair by the desk.

“$50,000 sure is a whole lotta gold,” Lester slurred.

“Yes it is,” Cobb agreed and sat down next to him at the desk.  “Now, let's see that map of yours.”

Lester fumbled around in his pockets, one at a time, then began all over again, patting each one before he searched inside.  “I dunno what happened to it; it was right here a minute ago.”  When he came up empty-handed again, he leaned over towards Winters and began to search Cobb's pockets one by one, breathing heavily into the man's face while he patted each one as he searched.

Winters turned his face to the side, not bothering to hide his disgust and slapped Lester's hands away.  “It wouldn't be in my pockets!” he snapped.

“I can't see anything...” Lester mumbled.  “Everything's all fuzzy.”

Winters reached over and, with thinly-veiled annoyance, pulled the drunk's hat back and brusquely brushed his hair out of his face.  “There!”

“Hey – I can see!” Lester chortled.  He leaned forward, slid out of his chair and ended up on the floor.  He looked up at Cobb in confused surprise.  “What happened?”

Cobb heaved a deep sigh of annoyance, picked the man up and shoved him none-too-gently back into his chair.

“Oomph!” Lester said and hiccupped loudly.

“The map?” Cobb ground out through clenched teeth.

Lester looked around and put a finger to his lips.  “Shhh, not so loud.  It's a secret.”

“There's nobody in here but you and me!” Cobb snapped.

“Good.”  Lester patted a pants pocket and grinned.  “Hey, here it is!” he announced with child-like wonderment as he pulled papers out.  “Looky – I found the map!”

“Finally!” Cobb put his hand out, but the map was snatched away out of reach.

“Hold on – I can't let jus' anyone see this map.  It's a lotta gold, mister.  I ain't gonna show it to nobody 'cept Mr. Cobb Winters.”

Cobb drew in a deep breath.  “I am Cobb Winters!”

“How do I know you're really him?  Can ya prove it?”

Nostrils flaring, Winters stared at the other man in frustration.  “See that window in the door over there?  It says 'Cobb Winters, Owner.  THIS is Cobb Winters' office.  YOU are sitting in Cobb Winters' chair, inside Cobb Winters' office and right now you are looking at Cobb Winters – I am Cobb Winters!”

Lester squinted at him.  “Oh... yeah, ya do kinda look like him.”

With thinly-veiled patience, Cobb held out his hand.  “The map?”

Eyeing him with mistrust, Lester held the papers tight against his chest.  Slowly he lowered them and held out them out.

Cobb grabbed the papers and unfolded them.  Once they were flat, he began to peruse them.

Lester swung a companionable arm around Cobb's shoulders and leaned in to read along with Winters, once more breathing heavily into the man's face.

Cobb shook off the arm and moved his chair a few paces away.

With an affronted expression, Lester slid to the end of his chair and stabbed his finger at a place on the paper.  “See right there…”

Cobb cut him off.  “I'm trying to see!” he snapped.  “Now sit there and be quiet so I can look these over!”

Lester smacked his lips a few times while his eyes roamed the room.  “Nothin' to drink in here,” he muttered and hiccupped loudly.

Winters ignored him and continued to read the letter.  Next he perused the map.  “Let's see, here's the stream, and there's the town...”  He rose and walked over to a file cabinet.  Opening a drawer, he began to rummage around in it.  “Ah, this looks like it...” he mumbled under his breath.

“Did ya find it?” Lester piped up eagerly.

Cobb whirled around, suddenly recalling there was someone else in the room.  “What?”

“The house the treasure's buried under.”

“Oh, uh... well, yes and no,” Winters prevaricated.  “You see, I'm just not sure; I'll have to do some more checking up on this.”  He walked back towards the other man.  “Hey, I've got an idea; why don't you leave this here with me for a few days?  I'll have time to go through all my records and see what I can find.”

With his elbow on the edge of the table, his head propped up in his hand, Lester mumbled, “Well, guess that'd be alright...”  He sat up suddenly, as if someone had lit a fire under him.  “But ya gotta give me some kinda receipt for it.  I ain't leavin' here without no receipt; nosireee.”  He shook his head.  “I don't want no problems when I come back.  If ya don't, then I'm not gonna leave it here; I'm gonna take it with me.”

“Fine – I'll write you out a receipt!” Cobb snapped.  He snatched up a pad of paper and scribbled on it furiously.  He then tore the sheet off the pad and practically shoved it in Lester's face.  “Here – come back in two days!”

Lester squinted, attempting to focus his eyes on the words.  He even brought the paper up close to his face and scrunched his eyes again.

With a roll of his eyes and a sigh of exasperation, Winters reached out and turned the paper right way up.

A silly grin on his face, Lester chuckled, “Oh, that's much better!”

Cobb yanked Lester unceremoniously up and out of the chair, then gave him a shove in the direction of the door.

Lester turned in Winters' arms and grabbed him by the shoulders, breathing heavily into the other man's face.  Cobb tried to pull back, but Lester only tightened his grip.  “Two days,” he slurred, holding two fingers up against Winters' chest.  He stared at the fingers and repeated, “Two days.  That's the day after tomorrow – right?”

“Yes!” snapped Cobb as he broke free at last from the other man's embrace.  He opened the door and pushed Lester through it.

Lester spun around, put his foot in the door and held up two fingers.  “Remember... I'll see ya in two days.”  He stood in the doorway until Cobb kicked his foot out of the way and shut the door in his face.

“Stupid imbecile!” Winters muttered and turned to walk back to his desk.  Before he had taken more than a few steps, there was a series of loud, pounding knocks on the door.  “Now what?”  He crossed back to the door and when he opened it, he blinked in surprise when he saw the drunk standing there.

“I forgot to give ya back your gun.”  Lester held the weapon out.

Cobb looked down at his empty holster and snatched the gun from the man's hand.  “Get outta here!” he ordered and slammed the door.

The men sitting at the poker table watched in silence as the office door opened and Lester stumbled out, then leaned against the wall for support.  When the door slammed shut, they turned back to the table.

“Looks like they're all done sharing secrets,” Mitch commented sourly.

“Hey,” Sam hissed.  “Lester's heading our way!”

“Good,” Carson nodded.  “Let's see what he has to say.”

They waited until the inebriated man weaved his way towards them.

“Hey, there you are, buddy,” Mitch called out as he poured a drink.  “So,” he inquired with nonchalance, “was Mr. Winters able to help you?”  He held the glass out.

Staggering to the table, his eyes focused on the glass in Mitch's hand, Lester licked his lips.  “You fellas are my friends – my best friends,” he slurred as he reached out and took the drink.  “An' I'm gonna give ya some of my gold when I find it.”  Putting the glass to his mouth, he finished the drink and then tipped his head back to get the last drop.  In doing so, he lost his balance and fell backwards into Jesse's lap.  “Whoopsy daisy,” Lester chortled, his breath hitting the other man straight in the face.  Mouth curled up into a silly grin, he swung an arm around Jesse's neck.  “Hiya, friend.”

Jesse gave the drunk a hard shove.

“Hey!” Lester protested.  From his position on the floor, he looked up in bewilderment.  “Thought ya said ya was my friend?”

“Yeah, Jesse, remember, you should be real nice to our friend here.  He was just about to tell us something, weren't you, Lester?”

“Maybe.”  Lester crossed his arms across his chest and looked towards the bar.  “Maybe not.”

Mitch stood up and reached down to help Lester to his feet.  “Aw, c'mon Lester.  You didn't mean no offense now, did you, Jesse?”  When Jesse didn't answer, Mitch gave the man a pointed look.

“Naw,” Jesse grudgingly muttered.  “Guess I didn't.”

“See?  Now sit down right here and tell us what happened,” Mitch prompted.

Lester dropped into the empty chair and looked around the table with a confused expression.  “What happened where?”

“In Mr. Winter's office.”

“Ohhh... ”  Lester's face scrunched up.  “We did a lot of talkin'.  Well, mostly he talked an' I listened.”

“Did he find that place where the gold is buried?”

“Shh!”  Lester put a finger to his mouth and glanced around.  “It's a secret.”

“Well, we're your friends, and friends share secrets, right?”

Lester nodded.

“We're sharing our bottle of whiskey with you and you're sharing your secret with us.  So, what did Winters find?”

Lester looked around the room and then leaned in closer.  “He thinks it's buried out at the Martin place,” he whispered.  “Under the dinin' room table.  He's goin' out there to check it out as soon as he can.”

The five men exchanged glances.

Lester rose unsteadily to his feet. “Well, friends, 'ol Lester's gotta go now.”  In a stage whisper he added, “Don't forget – I'm gonna share my gold with ya – so don't go leavin' town, okay?”

The men nodded and watched Lester stumble his way out of the saloon.  Once he had pushed his way through the batwings, they began to converse in low tones.

“You know what we've gotta do, dontcha?” Carson asked.

“Yeah, and fast.”  Keeping an eye on Winters' door, Mitch rose to his feet.  “C'mon, let's get outta here.”

Collecting their money, the five men exited the saloon.

Once they were outside, Mitch motioned for them to go down the boardwalk away from the other townsfolk.  “Jesse, you, Sam and Marty head on out to the Martin place.  You heard what that old coot said, right?  He told you where to look.  Remember to be careful and, whatever you do, don't get caught!”

“Where're you gonna be?”  Jesse cocked his head and looked at Mitch with suspicion.  “I thought you wanted to find that gold?  Why aren't you doing this yourself?”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded.  “Why us?”

“Because we can't all go taking off – it'll look really suspicious.  Nobody'll pay any attention to the three of you riding outta here.  Carson and I will make sure nobody follows you.  All you have to do is go out and check under that dining room table.  Don't touch anything except what you're there for – and then come back to tell us what you found, okay?”

Mollified by the man's words, Jesse, Marty and Sam nodded.

“Now get going; we'll meet you back here afterwards.”

Waiting until the three men had walked out of earshot, Carson turned to Mitch.  “You sly ol' devil, you,” he chuckled.  “I swear, you almost had me believing you there for a minute!”

“Some men are more gullible than others,” Mitch grinned.  “C'mon, I'll buy you a beer while we wait.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

Curry was waiting for Heyes in the alley with their horses.  He gestured for Heyes to join him behind a pile of wooden crates.  “I'm guessin' Winters didn't recognize you this time.  So, how'd you do?”

“You're right; he didn't wanna get too close to me after I breathed on him a few times,” Heyes grinned as he began to remove some of his disguise.  “He couldn't shove me outta his office fast enough.  That map we made should lead him straight to Stokely's.  I made sure those men of his knew exactly where to go; they seemed very interested.”

“Winters never said anything about Jim, did he?”

“No, and I never got the chance to ask,” Heyes answered as he traded Lester's clothing for his own.  “He shoved me outta his office before I could see if he'd give anything away.”

“We're not any closer to findin’ anything more out about Jim than we were when we first rode in here!” Curry snapped.  “For all we know, he could be dead!”

“No, we're not any closer,” Heyes agreed, settling his black hat on his head.  “But we've almost got Winters; once that happens, we can let the sheriff take over.  And just for the record, I don't think Stokely's dead.  We're going to find him and when all this is over and done with, I'm going to tell him he owes us a steak supper, okay?”  When Curry gave a reluctant shrug, Heyes added, “For now, let's get back to Jim's place and see who shows up first.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

As Heyes and Curry approached the Martin homestead, Roy and his men rode in from the opposite direction.

“You fellas have great timing!” Roy called out.  “Three of Winters' men are on their way out here.  They're just coming over the hill and should be here in a few minutes!”

“Already?  Okay, everyone get in your places and remember, we're only trying to catch them, not kill them.  Hold your fire and don't shoot unless they do.”

“Right,” the men chorused and spread out.

Heyes turned to the Kid.  “Let's me and you get inside and make sure the coast is clear.  I asked Anne to take Thomas for a ride so they'd be out of the way in case something went wrong.”



They checked out the house and found it empty.

The Kid was standing by the window when the men rode up.  “They're here.”

“Head for the pantry.  We can hear everything and still be out of sight in case anyone checks the kitchen.”

Curry nodded and Heyes followed him from the room.


*~*~*~*~*~*

OUTSIDE THE MARTIN HOME

“Hello?” Sam called out.  He waited and then called out again in a louder voice, “Hello to the house – anybody home?”  There was no answer.

“Looks like the place is empty,” Jesse called out after riding around the building.  “Didn't see anyone out back.”

“There's only the two of 'em,” Sam shrugged.  “Maybe the old man and that girl of his went into Little Bend.”

Jesse turned to the others.  “You two wait out here while I go inside and have a look around.  Holler if you hear or see anyone,” he added and went up the steps.  He knocked on the door and waited.  When no one answered, he eased the door open and called out loudly, “Hello, anybody here?”  All he heard was silence so he shut the door and went into the dining room.

Easing his gun from his holster, Jesse pushed open the door to the study and then went into the kitchen.  Satisfied that the house was empty, he holstered his gun and went back into the dining room.  Pushing the table to the side, he lifted the rug underneath and stomped on the floor.  Once he had located the hollow spot, he knelt down on his hands and knees and took out his pocketknife.


*~*~*~*~*~*

In the kitchen, Heyes and Curry emerged silently from the pantry and Heyes went to the side door to check with Roy.  He then joined the Kid in the middle of the room and pulled his gun from his holster.

“Roy and his men are ready,” Heyes whispered.  “I'll stay here and cover you while you go out and take care of whoever drew the short straw.”

Curry nodded and eased his gun out.

Heyes followed his partner as far as the dining room door and moved to the side as the Kid stepped through it.  Easing the door open just enough to peer through without being seen, Heyes kept his eyes on Curry.

The Kid watched as Jesse eased the blade into the thin slits cut into the floorboards and reached down into the hole.

“Whatcha lookin' in there for?”



Jesse whirled around, gun in hand.  His finger tightened on the trigger.

Curry fired and Jesse's weapon dropped to the ground.

Once Heyes was certain Jesse was taken care of, he went out the side door and found Roy and his men already tying up the other two.  He caught the rope Roy tossed his way and re-joined his partner.

Curry tied Jesse up and pushed him out the door.  “Okay, get on out there with the rest of your friends.”

When Sam saw that it was Curry who followed Jesse out the door, his features hardened.  Twisting free from the man who was knotting the rope that bound his hands, he lurched towards the Kid.  “You just can't keep your nose outta other people's business, can you?” he growled.  “Lucky thing for you I'm all tied up, mister!  Otherwise your friend would be plannin' your funeral!”  Sam was pulled up short when Roy's man caught up to him and grabbed him by the arms.

“Luck has nothing to do with you being tied up,” Curry answered as he turned Jesse over to one of the other men.  “It has to do with being a walk-off.”  e turned to Roy and Heyes.  “You ever noticed how big a man can talk when he doesn't have to back up his words?”

“Untie me!” Sam snarled.  “I'll show you!  Just give me the chance…”

Heyes stepped forward and pulled Sam's bandana loose from around his neck.  Pulling it tight across the struggling man's mouth, Heyes knotted it in the back, then had to step back to avoid being head-butted by the prisoner.  After listening to the muffled words that came from the irate man's mouth, Heyes grinned.  “That's okay, you can thank me later, Sam.”

Heyes pulled Roy aside and spoke to him quietly, “They're all yours, Roy.  Take these three into town and, since the sheriff's kinda 'tied up' at the moment, drop them off at Winters' place.”  As Roy turned away, Heyes added, “Oh, and when you do, don't bother to untie them.”

“Sure thing, Joshua,” Roy winked.  “All part of the plan, huh?”

“Yep,” Heyes nodded.

“That should take some of the orneriness outta 'em,” Roy chuckled.  “Give 'em a taste of their own medicine!  C'mon, men, let's get these varmints back where they belong.”

As the gang members were being led away, Sam pivoted about to give Curry one last glare of hatred, his animosity impossible to miss.

“Roy was right, Kid,” Heyes commented quietly as they watched the group leave with their prisoners.  “Sam really has it in for you.”

“He wouldn't be the first,” Curry shrugged.  “Whaddya think they'll do next?”



“I don't think they'll do anything,” Heyes answered.  “If I'm right, Winters will be the next one to show up.  I'm pretty sure he'll come alone, and when he does, here's what we're going to do...”


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE WATERING HOLE SALOON

When the three men reluctantly walked into the saloon trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys, the patrons began to laugh.  Amid jeers and catcalls, Winters walked out of his office to see what was going on.  Upon seeing Cobb's expression, a couple of the laughing poker players jumped up and began to undo the knots.

“What is this?” Winters demanded.  “Some kinda game?”

“Not the kinda game I wanna play!” Jesse grumbled as he was being untied.  “Those homesteaders jumped us and…”

“Homesteaders?” Winters gave a derisive snort.  “What were you doing – making mud pies with 'em?”

“Mitch sent us out…” Jesse's protest was cut short when Winters held up his hand and turned to glare at Mitch, who was seated with Carson at a nearby table watching the show.

“Get into my office now!” Winters snapped at his henchman before he pivoted about and strode towards the door.

Mitch and Carson exchanged glances, then Mitch shrugged and rose to his feet languidly.  As he passed by Jesse he gave him a hard stare.  “Thought I told you not to get caught!” he hissed.  Without giving Jesse a chance to reply, Mitch entered Winters' office.  The door slammed shut behind him.

“I'm tired of your mistakes, Mitch!  I'm paying you off – we're finished – through!”  Winters went to the safe and removed some money.  “Here.”  He held out the bills.

“Alright,” Mitch drawled.  “If that's the way you want it, but you might wanna keep in mind that there's a lotta things you should pay me to forget...  Like that Blanchard murder, for instance.”  He paused.  “And that Stokely fella.  Everybody's asking about him – even the sheriff.  A few thousand jus' might help me keep my mouth shut a bit longer or…”

“Shut your mouth!” Winters blustered and pulled his gun.  “Or I'll shut it for you!”

“Aw, I was only talkin',” Mitch retorted.  “You know I'd never really do it, dontcha?”

“Yeah, that's the trouble with you, Mitch; you're all talk and no action.  You're a worthless piece of garbage!”  Winters stepped forward, the gun pointed straight at Mitch's chest.  “If you ever blab about that Blanchard deal – or that Stokely fella – I'll fix it so that you'll never talk about anything ever again – you got that?!”

“Yeah, I got it,” Mitch answered still eyeing the gun.

“Good – take your money!”  Winters threw the bills at him.

Mitch stared at the money as it floated around and landed on the carpet.  Bills were scattered everywhere.  He raised his eyes to look into Winters'.  “Bet you think I'm too proud to crawl around and pick it up, don'tcha?  Well, guess what?  I'm not!  Money's money and all that down there is mine!”

Cobb watched with a scornful expression as the other man got down on his hands and knees and crawled around for the bills.

As the last one was picked up, Mitch rose to his feet and headed for the door without a backwards glance.

Before the door shut, Winters called out, “Best remember what I said!”

Mitch left the office and joined Marty and Sam standing at the bar.  After taking one look at Mitch's face, Marty poured the man a drink.  Carson wandered over to join them, but before anyone could say a word, the door to Winters' office was jerked open.

“Carson!” Winters thundered.

The man turned in surprise.

“Get in here!”

“Sheesh – what now?”  Setting his beer down on the bar, Carson muttered under his breath, “Wish me luck!” and took off towards the office.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Once the office door was shut, and without preamble, Winters snapped, “I wanna know what happened out at the Martin place?”

“Aw, they jumped us and…”

“I know that!  What else?”

“Nothin' much.  Well, except it looks like those two strangers organized the homesteaders.”

“So that's it, huh?” Winters murmured thoughtfully.  “Those same two meddlin' strangers again?  What were their names?”

“Smith and Jones.  And it'll take the whole Cavalry to run those Martins off now!”  Looking at his employer, Carson decided to take the bull by the horns.  “You know, maybe it'd be a good idea if you go out there?  That way you can see what's goin' on and figure out what you want us to do next?”

“That's a good idea; think I'll do just that,” Winters answered thoughtfully.  “It's nice to know one of you has some brains in your head!  Thanks; you've been a lot of help.”

“Anytime, Mr. Winters,” Carson replied.  He managed to hide the smirk on his face until he left the office to join the others at the bar.

Winters strapped his gun belt on and hurried out of the saloon.

His men watched him leave with varying degrees of hostility on their faces.

“I know why he's in such a rush,” Jesse smirked.  “An' I know where he's headin, too – the Martin place – it's where the gold's hidden!”

“You're sure?” queried Mitch.  “How do you know?”

“Yep!” Jesse leaned in and lowered his voice.  “'Cos when I was out there today, before they stopped me, I pulled up a couple floorboards and underneath 'em there were two cloth bags!”

Sam gave a low whistle.  “So the treasure story's true; that's a pretty good deal.”

“For Winters you mean!” Jesse snapped.  “50,000 good!”

“Yeah, too bad Winters won't share!!” Mitch grimaced.  “This place makes me sick!  C'mon, Carson, let's go someplace else and do our drinking.”  He downed his beer and the two men left.  Once they were outside, Mitch pulled Carson off to the side and down the alley.

“What's up?” Carson asked.

“He's not fooling me one bit!  I know what he's up to – he's gonna try to buy back the Martin place!  That's the quickest way to get rid of 'em.  Sam was right; $50,000 is a great deal for anyone.  The Martins don't know it's there and after all the grief we've been causing them, they should be ready to sell out for a song.  Why should we let Winters get all the gravy?”

“Sounds real nice, but there's no way for us to stop him,” Carson shrugged.

“Sure there is.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I've got some money tucked away up in that cabin by the dam.  You got any?”

“Well... yeah, some,” Carson grudgingly admitted.  “But…”

“You willing to throw in with me?”

“For what?”

“Outbidding Winters.”

Carson's lips turned up in a smile.  “I can't think of an easier way to make $50,000!”

“We'll go by the cabin to get my money and then we'll go pay old man Martin a visit.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

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


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Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow :: Comments

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Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sat 24 Sep 2016, 12:52 am by royannahuggins
*~*~*~*~*~*

Per Heyes' instructions, Roy followed the pair at a discreet distance.  When they reached the cabin, he dismounted and tied his horse to a nearby tree and crept closer.  He found an open window and huddled under it in order to eavesdrop on the conversation.  When he poked his head above the sill to take a peek, he saw Mitch walk over to the fireplace, remove a brick, reach inside and pull out a wad of bills.

Carson whistled.  “That's a dangerous place to keep your money, ain't it?  Somebody's liable to find it!”

“Not as dangerous as some of the other things hidden here,” Mitch answered, his expression enigmatic.  “If anyone knew what was out here we'd all have ropes around our necks!”

“Whaddya mean?”

“You remember old man Blanchard and the others who disappeared from around here?”

“Joe Blanchard?  Yeah, always thought it was kinda funny how he and the others all dropped outta sight after Winters bought 'em out.  Nobody ever saw hide nor hair of 'em again.”

“And nobody ever will!” Mitch snorted and then pointed to the place where Carson stood.  “You're standing right over where they're buried.”

Carson jumped sideways and backed up against the wall.  “What!?”  He stared at the floor wide-eyed.

“What's the matter – you chicken?” Mitch jeered and clucked a few times and continued his teasing.  “You're scared one of 'em's gonna jump out at you, ain't you?  I can prove it – wanna see 'em?”  He bent down to pull up a board.

“No – I believe ya – don't!” Carson snapped and shot his tormentor a glare.  “Let's just get outta here!”  He turned and rushed out the door.

“Meow!” Mitch laughed as he followed behind him.  “Hey, scaredy cat – ain't it your turn to go take care of Stokely?”

Now that they were out in the daylight again, Carson's bravado returned.  “Yeah.  I tell you, he's one real stubborn cuss.  You know, I just don't get it.  Things would go a lot easier on him if he'd just tell Cobb what he wants to know.  Winters says Stokely's a hard one to crack and we havta keep him alive until he gets that paperwork glitch figured out.  Guess I'll head on out there after we're done at the Martin place; he sure ain't goin' nowhere!” he smirked.

“You got that right!” agreed Mitch.

Roy ducked around the corner of the cabin, hugging the wall, and hid until they were out of sight.  “So that's where they all went!” he shook his head.  “Poor, unsuspecting souls... they sure didn't deserve it.”  He mounted his horse and stared at the cabin.  “An' if what they just said is true, Jim Stokely still has a chance!”  He grinned and followed the pair out to the farm.


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE MARTIN HOME

Heyes and Curry watched from the barn as Cobb Winters rode up and tied his horse to the hitching post.

“Let's go in the side way and get next to that swinging door so we can listen in while I get ready,” Heyes grinned.  “I think it's time for the next part of my plan to be put into action.”




*~*~*~*~*~*

“Why hello, Mr. Winters,” Anne greeted the man when she opened the door.  “What brings you here?”

“Good afternoon, Miss Anne.  I've come to see your father.  Is he home?”

“Yes, he is, come right in.  He's in the study.”

Winters followed behind Anne.

“Mr. Winters, what a surprise,” Thomas greeted the other man.  “Won't you sit down?”

“Thank you,” Winters took the proffered seat.  “I'm glad I found you at home today.  You see, well, I hate to admit it, but I'm in a bit of a jam.”

“I'm sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah?  Well, it's about this farm...”

“Oh?”  Thomas raised a brow and peered at Winters more closely over the top of his spectacles.  “My farm?”

“Yes, it seems I made a mistake in selling it to you.”

“A mistake?” Anne echoed.

“Yes, but you don't need to worry none; you won't lose any of your investment.”

“I don't understand?”  Thomas' bewilderment was evident.  Anne went to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Well, naturally that means that I'll be returning your down payment in full.  I'll even pay you interest for the time I've had your money.  All you have to do is make a quick claims deed out to me and I'll be happy to take this place off your hands.”  Winters beamed at the Martins.  “See, nothing to fret about.”

“That's real kind of you, but it won't be necessary,” Thomas shook his head.

“Oh, but it's the right thing to do,” Winters insisted.  “You must let me make things right.”

“Well, that may be but, you see, I've already made arrangements for the sale of the property.”

Winters was temporarily shocked into silence.


*~*~*~*~*~*

“That's my cue,” Heyes whispered to Curry as he adjusted his shirt.  “Time to make my entrance.  Wish me luck.”

“Break a leg,” Curry whispered and gave him a thumbs up.  He grinned as his partner disappeared out the side door.


*~*~*~*~*~*

“What my father says is true, Mr. Winters,” Anne nodded.  “You see, with all the trouble we've been having, we thought it wise to sell out before anything else happened.”

Making a quick recovery, Cobb blustered, “Well, you'll just have to call off the deal!”

“I'm afraid it's too late; we can't.”

“Well, if you can't – I can!  Who're you dickering with?”

“He should be here any minute.  He said the two of you had already met,” Thomas confided.

Their conversation was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door.  Anne left to answer it and when she reappeared, Lester followed behind her.



“That's who you're dealing with?” Cobb bellowed, an expression of disbelief plastered on his face.

“Yes it is,” Thomas answered.  “All we have left to do is sign the papers.”

With a smug look at Winters, Lester nodded, “That's right; it's all settled.  You jus' sign 'em, Thomas, an' I'll hand over the money.”

Cobb turned to Thomas.  “Do you have any idea who this man is?  He's just a penniless drunk – a transient!” he sputtered in rage.  “What makes you think you can trust him?”

“None of that matters to me.  He's already showed me the money, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a done deal.  All I want to do is get my money back.”

Cobb looked askance at Lester.  “But I never...” he struggled for words.  “Uh, I mean, how'd you find this place?”

Lester stepped closer to Cobb and whispered so that only he could hear.  “I followed you – I never trusted you, Winters, an' it seems I was right!”

“Well, I've got news for you,” Winters snapped and pushed Lester away.  “Mr. Martin can't sell this place to you!”

“Oh, yeah?  Well, stick around long enough an' you'll see that he can – an' did!” Lester countered.

“He doesn't have a clear title – there was a mistake made in the deed.”

“I'll take my chances.”

“Not so fast.”  Winters turned to Thomas and Anne.  “You paid $5,000 on your contract, didn't you?”

“That's right,” Thomas nodded.

“I'm willing to give you a bonus of $500.”

“You will?”

“I'll double that bonus,” Lester said.

“Are you serious?” Anne asked.

“I was never more serious about anything in my life,” Lester answered with vigorous nodding.

“So am I – and I'll raise his bid another $1,000!”

Lester scratched his whiskered chin.  “Let's see, that makes it $7,000.”  He turned to Anne.  “You ever hear of Cobb Winters givin' money away?”

“No,” Anne shook her head.  “I can't say that I have.”

“That's what I thought,” Lester grinned.  “$7,500.”

The front door opened as Lester announced his bid and Mitch and Carson walked in.

“$7,500?” Mitch echoed.  “We'll make it $8,000!”

“What're you two buttin' in for?”  Winters glared at the newcomers.

“We're getting tired of being kicked from pillar to post and losing to you all the time!” growled Mitch.

“Yeah, we're gonna settle down an' become gentlemen farmers,” Carson snickered.  His smile disappeared when Mitch elbowed him hard in the ribs.

“You men will be sorry for this!” Winters warned.

“Oh, I don't think so…”

“Alright everybody – take all your bickering and squabbling outside!  I've changed my mind about selling!”  Thomas folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair.

“But you can't do that!” Cobb protested.  “I'll give you $10,000!”

Thomas shook his head.  “No, there's something going on that I don't know about and I don't like it!”

“No there isn't!” Cobb insisted.

“Then why are you willing to pay twice as much as we invested to get the property back?” Anne queried.

“Well, if word gets out that the deed is faulty, I'll have all the other nest – uh, homesteaders on my neck.  They'll be wanting their money back, too.”

“That sounds reasonable,” Thomas mused, thoughtfully.

“So you'll sell it to me, then?” Winters pressed.

“I would.  That is, if all the others are through bidding?”

“I haven't even started yet!”  Lester stepped closer to the table.  “I'll give you $11,000.”

“That goes for us, too,” Mitch announced.  “We'll up our offer to $12,000.”

“$13,000!” Winters barked.

“$14,000!” Lester countered.

“$15,000!” Winters bid quickly.

“$16,000!” Mitch chimed in and exchanged a meaningful look with his partner.

Lester pushed his way in front of Winters.  “$17,000 – that's a whole lotta money, Mr. Martin!”

Tom looked at the others, but they remained silent.  “Well, Lester, I reckon you just bought yourself…”

“Hold on – wait just a minute!“ Cobb interrupted.  “I need to talk to Mitch and Carson first!”  He jerked his head towards the door.

“You go right ahead,” Thomas answered.  “Take all the time you need.”

Lester, Thomas and Anne shared a conspiratorial smile while the three men were confabbing.


*~*~*~*~*~*

“You two are spoiling this deal for me!” Cobb hissed.

“Ain't you forgettin' that Lester fella?” Carson retorted.  “So far he hasn't spilled the beans about what's out here, but that don't mean he won't.”

“Maybe,” Cobb conceded.  “We're just cutting each other’s throat – you know that dontcha?”

“That's what you get for trying to hog all the gold for yourself!” Mitch countered.

Cobb thought for a moment and then snapped his fingers.  “Why don't the three of us pool our money and try to drive Lester out?”

Mitch and Carson looked at each other, their expressions doing the talking.

Mitch shrugged in resignation.

“Guess we don't have much choice,” Carson grumbled.  “We're in.”

“How much have you got?” Cobb demanded.

“$16,000 between us.” Carson muttered.

“Let me have it.”

“Just don't forget that this is a partnership!” Mitch warned as he grudgingly handed over the cash.  “You'd better not try to double-cross us – or else!”

Cobb gave a curt nod and the trio went back to the bargaining table.


*~*~*~*~*~*

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE SHACK

Roy arrived at the line shack and hurried inside.  He crossed the room to the sheriff, went behind him and began to untie the knots.  “I'm going to turn you loose, Sheriff.”

“Roy Lassiter – I'm going to put you behind bars!  You're in cahoots with Smith and Jones, aren't you?”

“Yes I am, but it's for a very good reason.”

“Hmph!” the lawman snorted.  “You realize that you're already guilty of aiding and abetting known fugitives, kidnapping and holding a lawman prisoner, lying to a lawman and…”

Roy held up a hand.  “Would you at least listen to me before you haul me off, Sheriff?  I promise I won't try to run.  You'll understand why after I explain the whole story.”

Stone folded his arms across his chest while Roy untied his feet.  “Start talking.”

“I was keeping an eye on Winters and his men.  I followed Mitch and Carson just a while ago out to that cabin of theirs up by the dam.  I was eavesdropping on them and Mitch said a lot of things – some really bad stuff.  The worst of what he said was that there were a bunch of bodies buried out there under the floorboards.

Eyes wide, the lawman quirked a brow.  “Did you say... bodies?”

“Yeah,” Roy grimaced.  “Bodies.”

“Who are they?  Did you see any of 'em?”

“To tell you the truth, I didn't really wanna look.  So I don't know for sure, but I did hear Mitch say that one was old man Blanchard.  He also said it was some of the folks who disappeared right after they sold out to Winters.”

“Joe Blanchard?  We got Winters!  We finally got that son-of-a-biscuit-eater!  We needed concrete proof that he was involved in the criminal aspect of it but we just couldn't prove it.  If what you say is true and we go up to that cabin and find the bodies, all those men will answer for the murders!”

“I feel real bad that all those good people had to die like that,” Roy murmured.

“Yes, it's never a good thing to discover that you have a murderer in your town.  It also answers a whole lot of questions, but raises some others.  Did you hear Mitch say anything else?  Anything that might be helpful in putting those men behind bars?”

Roy thought for a moment and then snapped his fingers.  “He mentioned that fella Stokely.”

“Jim Stokely?” Sheriff Stone echoed in surprise.  “What'd he say?  He didn't say he was dead, too, did he?”

“No, but just as they were leaving, Carson said something kinda strange.  Something about it being his turn to 'take care of him'.”

“Take care of him?” the sheriff echoed.  “What's that supposed to mean?”

“I'm not sure,” Roy shrugged.  “Could mean a whole lot of things.  Joshua and Thaddeus have been plenty worried about him, 'specially Thaddeus.”

“They aren't the only ones who're concerned.  Both me and Jonathan Bascomb have been trying to ferret out some clues as to Jim's whereabouts for quite some time.  All we had were suspicions that Cobb Winters was somehow involved and it looks like we were right.  I'd like to think that what you overheard today means that Stokely is still alive.  We just have to find out where.”

“I've already got someone working on that part.  I'll fill you in on what else I know on the ride back to the Martin place.  I should let Joshua and Thaddeus know what we've found out.”

“Okay, but first I want you to take me to that cabin.  I need to see with my own eyes what those miscreants have done.”

“It's right on the way; we'll take the shortcut.  Uh... Sheriff?” Roy hesitated and then looked the lawman square in the eyes.  “I need to get something straight before we go anywhere.  You're not going to lock me up, are you?”

“I should,” Sheriff Stone answered.  “But I'm not.  I guess that, for the next few hours, I'll just have to be deaf, dumb and blind to some of the things that are going to happen 'round here.”

“Good; that's just what I wanted to hear.  You see, I have a small confession to make.”

“Another one?” Stone quirked a brow.

“Yep. Joshua was covering for me earlier.  I can't let him and Thaddeus take the blame for knocking you out and tying you up out here.  They had nothing to do with it at all.  I just didn't want to see anyone get hurt and, well, I figured this was the best way to do it.”  Roy shrugged and fell silent.

“Well, I can't say as I approve of your methods, but I did just say I was going to ignore things I normally wouldn't, so we're just going to pretend this never happened.  Good thing for you, it worked.”

Hearing the lawman's words, Roy released the breath he had been holding and the two men mounted up and began their journey to the cabin.


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE MARTIN HOME

“$23,000!” Lester bid with a fierce scowl at Winters.

“Say, just whaddya want this place for anyway?” Cobb blustered, thinking he had Lester in a hole.

But Lester had an ace up his sleeve.  “The same reason they do!”  He turned to indicate Mitch and Carson.

“And what reason is that?” Thomas quirked his brow.

“Well, this farm is the only source of water in the valley an' that makes it pretty valuable.”

“But you'll never get your money back selling water rights to settlers,” Thomas protested.

“Cobb Winters seems to think he can,” Lester smirked.  “So if it's good enough for him, that's good enough for me!”

Winters pierced Lester with a searing glare.  “$25,000 – and that's my final offer!”

“I want to remind both of you that this is a cash sale – the money's due at the signing.”

With shoulders slumped and a defeated expression on his face, Lester heaved a dramatic sigh.  “Well, in that case, guess I'm finished.  I don't have that much with me.”

“You're through in more ways than one, you interloper!” Cobb turned to Thomas.  “I want immediate possession.”

Thomas nodded.  “We'll be out of here so quick it'll make your head swim.”

“Good.  You make out a quick-claim deed in my favor and I'll even help you pack!”

“Right away, Mr. Winters!”


*~*~*~*~*~*



“That's my cue to get outta here,” Curry muttered under his breath.  With the land deal settled, he was free to duck out the side door.  Mounting his horse, he rode off to meet up with his partner.  “Lester wasn't bad, but it'll sure be nice to have Heyes back again.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

When Thomas left to go get a paper and pen, Cobb turned to Lester.  “This is my place now so you'd best high-tail it outta here.”

“I sure wanted this place,” Lester heaved a dramatic sigh.  “I've never had a home of my own, you know.”

“Right!” Cobb snorted just as Thomas reappeared.

“Well, Mr. Winters,” Lester held out his hand.  “Congratulations; you beat me fair and square.”

Winters ignored the hand.  “Some days you win, some you lose,” he smirked.  “Don't let the door hit you on your way out.”

Lester turned to Thomas.  “Guess this is good-bye, Mr. Martin.  It sure was good almost doin' business with you.”

“A real pleasure, Lester; take care now, you hear?”

The two men shook hands and Lester headed towards the door.  As he passed Anne he gave her a conspiratorial wink.

“Good-bye Lester.”

“So long, Miss Anne.”  Lester tipped his hat at her, then stumbled, careening straight into Carson, who knocked against Mitch.  Lester managed to catch himself, but the other two men tumbled to the ground.

Carson was first on his feet.  “Hey – you crazy old coot – watch where you're goin' next time!” he growled and gave Lester a hard shove out the front door.


*~*~*~*~*~*

THE CABIN BY THE DAM

Sheriff Stone and Roy were already inside the structure, occupied with prying up the floorboards.

“Poor Joe Blanchard,” the lawman shook his head.  “I can't believe they killed all these good, innocent people just to get their land!  There's half a dozen bodies buried out here!”

“Yeah,” Roy swallowed hard.  “Some of 'em's kinda hard to recognize, but I'm pretty sure these two here are Stan and Sarah McAllister.”

Sheriff Stone heaved a deep sigh.  “Winters' men sold me a story that the McAllisters had sold him everything – lock, stock and barrel – and headed back east to start a new life with the money they got for the place.”

“That was a pack full of lies – they never made it!” Roy snorted as his and the lawman's eyes met.  “You're gonna make sure they answer for this, right?”

“It'll be up to the judge, but I hope he sentences the whole bunch of 'em to hang!”  Stone looked around at all the holes in the floor.  “Somehow even that doesn't seem enough for all the trouble they've caused.”  With another deep sigh, he headed towards the door.  “The one good thing out of all of this is that Jim Stokely's body isn't here.”  He rested his hand on the door frame and turned to look Roy in the eyes.  “You wanna be part of the posse?”

“You bet!” Roy nodded.  “I wouldn't miss this for anything!”

“I figured you'd say yes.  You go round up the other folks.  Tell them we'll meet at the fork in the road at the edge of town.”

“Sounds like a good plan, Sheriff, but me and you have something we need to take care of first before we meet up with the others.  Once I've spread the word, I'll meet you at the Martin place, say in about an hour?”

Stone nodded and as the men mounted up, the lawman turned to Roy.  “This trip out to the Martin place.  It have anything to do with Joshua's plan?”

Roy grinned.  “Sure does.  See you in an hour.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

MARTIN HOME

Winters, Mitch, Carson and Lester stood together outside the house.  They watched as Thomas climbed up to join Anne in the wagon loaded with their belongings.

“So long everybody,” Thomas called out as he picked up the reins and the wagon rolled out the gate.

Once it had disappeared, Winters turned to Lester.  “What're you still doing hanging around here?  I thought I told you to get lost!”

“Jus' wanted to make sure they got out of here safely,” he shrugged and mounted his horse.  “Enjoy your new home; good hunting,” he added with an enigmatic look before he rode out in the same direction as the wagon.

Winters turned to Mitch.  “You stay out here and keep your eyes peeled for trouble.”

Mitch bristled with indignant anger.  “How come Carson gets to go inside?”

“Because I say so – that's why!” Cobb snapped.  “And besides that, he knows where the gold's buried!  C'mon, Carson; we've got some treasure hunting to do.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

BACK TO HEYES AND CURRY

Heyes joined Curry at the rendezvous point by the large boulders and began to remove his disguise.

“Everything go okay?”

“So far, all according to my plan,” Heyes answered and stuffed his hair, mustache and beard into his saddlbags.  “They're going to get back every nickel Winters stole from them, plus a little extra, for their trouble.”

“That means we'll get paid, too, right?” Curry's face broke into a smile as he handed Heyes a shirt.

Heyes grinned.  “Sure does.”

“Roy knows where to find us?”

Heyes nodded.  “He knows.  I told him to meet us out at Jim's place once Winters and his men have cleared out.  In case of trouble he's to meet us out at the fork in the road.  Let's get going.”




*~*~*~*~*~*

MARTIN HOME

Winters and Carson were on their hands and knees after prying up the floorboards under the dining table.

“See – there they are!” Carson crowed, pointing to the bags.  “Just like I told you!”

Each man grabbed a bag and heaved it out of the hole.

“Gold sure is heavy!” Carson grunted as he began to untie the bag.

“Can't be too heavy for me!” Cobb retorted as he dumped the contents of his bag out onto the floor.

“Hey – this ain't gold – we've been hornswoggled!”  Carson stared at the pile of rocks.  “What's this?” he queried and grabbed a piece of paper wedged in-between the rocks.”

Winters snatched it away from him.  “It's some kinda note.”

“What's it say?”

Winters began to read aloud, “How does it feel to be sold a pig in a poke?”

“Who'd do a low-down thing like that?”

Still reading, Winters snarled, “Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones – that's who!”

“What a couple of dirty, rotten crooks!” Carson groused.  “But what about that map from the guy in prison?”

“It was all a con!  Well, I'll show 'em that they can't get away with this!”  Cobb stormed out of the building and went straight to Mitch.  “Which way did that Lester fella go?”

“Down the road towards the fork.  Why?  Something go wrong?”

“Plenty!” snapped Winters.  “Let's go!”

The three men mounted up and rode in fast pursuit of their quarry.


*~*~*~*~*~*

WHO'S WHO AT THE FORK IN THE ROAD

Thomas and Anne were seated in their wagon, waiting at the fork in the road.

“Howdy, Andy,” Thomas called out in greeting as another rancher joined the group assembled at the rendezvous point.

“Thomas.”  The man tipped his hat.  “Miss Anne.”  He looked around and counted heads.  “Looks like I'm the last guest to arrive for the party.  Hope I haven't missed much.”



“You're not too late, Andy,” Thomas chuckled.  “The party hasn't even begun yet.  In fact, we're waiting for the guests of honor to arrive.”

Anne tapped her father on the shoulder and pointed to two riders.

“And,” Thomas added, “if I'm not mistaken, here they come now...”


*~*~*~*~*~*

Sheriff Stone reached forward and patted his horse's neck.  “Well, boy, you're sure getting a workout today, aren't you?  Won't be long now and we'll at the Martin place and you can spend some time resting up with Roy's little filly.  The two of you can have a nice little chat.”  He chuckled when the gelding nickered.  “Yeah, I noticed the way you looked at her; you sure took a shine to her, didn't you?”  He patted the animal again and grinned.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Roy urged his horse on to a faster gait.  “C'mon, girl; we don't wanna be late meeting up with the Sheriff.  We've got a whole bunch of important things ahead of us and the sooner we get to the Martin place the sooner we can get 'em done.  I can hardly wait to see the looks on their faces!”


*~*~*~*~*~*

“Looks like quite a crowd up ahead,” Curry observed.  “Sounds like they're real happy, too.”

“Roy's been very busy,” Heyes agreed.

The two men returned the greetings and waves as they joined the others gathered at the fork.

“Anne says you sealed the deal with Winters, Joshua,” Andy called out.  “And that he fell for it hook, line and sinker!”

“Sure did.”

Curry remained seated while Heyes dismounted.

Thomas handed Heyes the stack of money and the ranchers gathered around as he began to hand out the cash.

“Joshua and Thaddeus,” Thomas began.  “We all owe you a debt of gratitude for what you've done to help us keep our homes.  That, and the $1,000 we promised you, of course.”

“You're welcome, Thomas, and that goes for the rest of you, too.  We were glad to be able to help out and…”

The sound of gunshots drew everyone's attention.

Curry looked over his shoulder.  “Looks like trouble's about to arrive.”

“Right on schedule,” Heyes nodded.

Still shooting, Winters and his two men continued towards the group.

The ranchers drew their guns.

“No!” Heyes held up his hand.  “Let Thaddeus and me handle things from here,” he added as he mounted up.  “Trust me; this is all part of the plan.”

“Well,” Thomas demurred as everyone put their weapons away, “guess we'll just wish you both good luck then.”

Heyes and Curry took off at a gallop.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Thomas, Anne and the others watched Cobb and his two men race past them in hot pursuit of Heyes and Curry, their eyes following them until they disappeared from sight.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Sheriff Stone and Roy made it to the Martin homestead at almost the same time.  Roy dismounted and went inside, but returned in just a few minutes.

“They're gone, but I know where they went.”

“To the fork?” Stone guessed.

“Yep.” Roy nodded as he mounted back up.  “And so are we.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

Seeing the two riders in the distance, Anne leaned down towards Thomas.  “It's Roy with the sheriff,” she whispered.  “I bet he's after Heyes and the Kid!”

As the newcomers approached the wagon, the men pulled their guns and pointed them at the lawman.

“Hold it right there, Sheriff!” one of the ranchers warned.

“Now just a daggone minute!” Stone protested.  “You're all interfering with law and order!”

Thomas stepped up to the lawman and spoke in a quiet voice so that only the sheriff could hear.  “We're not going to let you go after Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.”

“Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry?” Stone hissed back.  “What the devil are you talking about, Tom?  I haven't seen those two anywhere near here!”  Raising his voice, he turned to address the rest of the group.  “Listen up – all of you!  I'm after Cobb Winters and his men.  They're all wanted for murder – the murder of some of your friends and neighbors!”

Muttering at the sheriff's announcement, the men re-holstered their weapons.

“They just passed by us here a few minutes ago chasing after Joshua and Thaddeus – they went that way.”  Thomas pointed towards the boulders.

“Why didn't you say so?  C'mon, Roy!”

They took off at a fast clip in the direction Thomas had indicated.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Heyes and Curry took refuge behind some large boulders.

“This is as good a spot as any to wait for them,” Heyes shrugged.

“Shouldn't have too long to wait, they were right behind us,” Curry added.

Moments later, the riders came galloping past their hiding place.  Heyes and Curry followed them with their eyes, waiting until the men were out of sight before they emerged from behind the boulders.  Alerted once again by the sound of thundering hooves, they turned to see the sheriff and Roy riding towards them.

“You think Roy's in any trouble for helpin' us?” Curry inquired, sounding worried.

“Hard to tell from here,” Heyes answered.  “Looks like we're about to find out.”

“Doesn't look like he's handcuffed or tied up,” Curry observed as the pair rode out to meet the lawman and Roy.

“Roy claimed that he knew where to find Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones,” the lawman called out by way of greeting.  “He was right.”

“We finally got the goods on Winters and his men,” Roy enthused.

Heyes and Curry visibly relaxed, although the Kid's hand never strayed from where it rested next to his gun.



“They're wanted for murder.”  Stone's eyes dropped to Curry's hand before they returned to the man's face.  “No offense, Thaddeus, but we're all on the same team, working together to put Cobb Winters and his men behind bars.”

A slight grin lifted the corners of the Kid's mouth and his hand slid over to rest on the saddle horn before he answered.  “No offense taken, Sheriff.”

“Good; let's get going then.  You both just became members of my posse.”


*~*~*~*~*~*

Winters and his two men were brought to a grinding halt when the chase led them to a dead end at the edge of a cliff.

“Where'd they go?” Mitch snarled.  “We were right behind 'em!”

“They couldn't've just disappeared!” Winters snapped.  “Find out where they went!”

Carson got off his horse, walked to the edge and cautiously peered down.  “Well, they sure didn't go that way!”

“There's no other way outta here unless they can fly or make themselves invisible!” Mitch muttered.

“Well, they sure didn't pass us on the way back – that's all wide open country and we'd have seen 'em!” Cobb declared in frustration.  “Let's head back and see what we find.”

Just as they turned their horses to re-trace their steps, Sheriff Stone and his posse of three arrived.

“Going somewhere, Winters?” Heyes inquired as he placed himself directly in front of the other man's horse.

“My, my, my... look who we've got here,” Sheriff Stone drawled.

After directing a heated glare at Heyes, Winters addressed the lawman.  “Sheriff – you're just the man I'm looking for!”

“That's very interesting, Winters,” Stone nodded.  “You're just the man I'm looking for.”

“You see, I've just found…”

Drawing his weapon and pointing it at the trio, the lawman cut him off.  “All of you – drop your guns – now!”  He turned to Heyes and Curry.  “Thanks for all your help; I can handle things from here.”

“But... but... you can't let 'em go, Sheriff – that's Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!”

“You don't say?” Stone shrugged.  “I'll have to look into that when I get you three back into town.”

“But…”

“Winter's right!” Mitch spoke up.  “They are Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!”

“That's enough outta all of you!” the lawman warned.  “If I were you, I'd be more concerned about my own neck going into a hangman's noose for murder!”

Any further protests died on their lips.

Stone tossed a coil of rope towards Roy.  “Here; tie 'em up with their hands behind their backs,” he instructed, then glanced in Heyes' and Curry's direction.  “You two still here?  Well, as long as you're hanging around, you might as well be useful.  You can help relieve 'em of their hardware.”

Once their task was accomplished, Heyes and Curry helped Roy tie up the remaining men.



Cobb, Carson and Mitch rode ahead, Sheriff Stone followed behind.  When he drew near Roy, he paused long enough to say, “I'll meet you back in town,” and looked back over his shoulder at Heyes and Curry.  “Roy's got some news to share with you.  As for me...” he grinned.  “Well, I'd sure like the chance to buy Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones a drink the next time they're in town.”

Heyes and Curry returned his grin.

“We'd be glad to let you do that, Sheriff,” Heyes nodded.  “Next time we're in town.”

The lawman tipped his hat and turned to follow his prisoners.

Heyes' eyes followed them.  “You think the sheriff will be okay on his own with three prisoners?”

“Piece of cake with 'em all tied up like that,” Roy affirmed.  “Besides, he only has to get 'em as far as the fork.  Once he gets there he'll have more volunteers than he needs.  It'll look more like a parade.”

The three men chuckled at the mental image and when the laughter had died down, Curry posed a question.

“Hey, Roy, the sheriff said you had news for us?  Good news, I hope?”

“Better than good, but it's something I have to show you; I can't just tell you.  C'mon, let's head on back to the Martin place.”

Although Heyes and Curry exchanged puzzled looks, they fell in with Roy.  After a few miles, the questioning resumed.

“So, Roy, what's this news all about?” Heyes queried.

“You'll see soon enough; I've already told you all I'm gonna.”

“Can't you at least give us a hint?” Curry asked in an attempt to pry more information from the man.

“Nope.”

A few moments of silence followed Roy's answer.

Heyes snapped his fingers.  “I've got it!  I don't need any help from you, Roy.  I've already figured out what it is,” he declared with a smirk.

“I bet you haven't,” Roy countered, his expression just as smug.

“You sound real sure of yourself,” Heyes grinned.  “Care to make a small wager on that confidence?”

“Nope,” Roy shook his head.

“Ah, but what if I told you?”

Curry shot Heyes a look before he leaned around his partner's profile to see Roy.  “Would you tell him if he's right?”

“Nope,” Roy grinned.

“You're not the only one who can keep secrets, Roy.  Guess I'll just keep mine until we get to the house.”

“Yep,” Roy answered.

The trio rode in companionable silence until they reached their destination.

Seeing an unfamiliar buckboard in the yard, his brow furrowed, Curry broke the silence first.  “Hey, what's that wagon doin' here?  It doesn't belong to the Martins.”

“All part of the news,” Roy's expression was enigmatic as he dismounted and headed towards the house.  At the door he turned back to look at his two companions who were still seated on their horses.  “What're you waiting for?” he chuckled.  “An engraved invitation?”

Heyes and Curry dismounted and joined Roy just as he knocked on the door.

“Come in,” a voice called out.

Roy pushed the door open.  “After you.”  His smile secretive, he made a sweeping gesture with his hand that they should proceed him and stepped back out of the way.  “Well, Joshua, we're about to see if you were right with that guess of yours,” he added with a wink.

Heyes gave Roy a curious look before he followed Curry inside.

“Jim!” the Kid shouted.  His face broke into an ear-splitting grin as he rushed forward to greet their missing friend.

“Well, I'll be...” Heyes muttered.

“Yep,” Roy grinned.  “Glad you didn't bet me?”

Heyes nodded as he and Roy crossed the room to join Curry and the man seated in the chair with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

“It's great to see you again, Jim,” Heyes spoke with sincerity.  As the two men shook hands, Heyes couldn't help but notice the man's wrists.  He gave the shirtless man a critical once-over, his eyes coming to rest on the bruises on his arms, face and chest.

Noticing where Heyes' glance lingered, Stokely winced and drew the blanket tighter and spoke up before anyone could ask.  “You'll all have to excuse my lack of a shirt, but that was one of the first things to go when they kidnapped me.  They thought a ripped shirt would help convince me to talk and force me to cooperate.  Boy, were they ever wrong!” he grinned.  “I'm not sure what Winters did with all my stuff.  Just another mystery to solve, I guess.”

“That's more than a ripped shirt,” Heyes commented with a raised brow.  “You've got a lot of bruising.”

Stokely shuttered his eyes and released a deep sigh.  “My troubles all began when Winters finally got fed up with me telling him I wouldn't sell, so he had his men ambush me on my way into town one afternoon.  Oh, I put up a pretty good fight, but I was considerably outnumbered.  When I came to, all I could tell was that I was shirtless, tied to a chair with my hands behind my back and a bandana was around my mouth.  It was dark and damp; I couldn't hear any noises.  I had no clue where I was.  They knocked me around, didn't give me food or water for days, threatened to kill me...”  Jim took a deep breath.  “They tried everything.”



“I lost track of time; I honestly didn't know how long they kept me there, but I never lost hope; never gave up thinking that somehow somebody would find me.”  He glanced at the men around him with a grateful expression.  “And you did.”

“How are you feelin', Jim?” Curry asked with concern.  “Honestly?”

“Well,” Stokely shrugged.  “Guess there's no sense in beating 'round the bush.  As you've already seen,” he held out his arms, “my wrists are pretty red and raw from being tied up, and so are my ankles.  I've got a powerful thirst and I'm so hungry I could eat a horse, but other than that, I guess I'm doing pretty well, considering what all I've been through.”

“You can say that again!” Roy was quick to affirm.  “You're one lucky son-of-a-gun!”

His expression pensive, Stokely nodded.  “Yeah, guess I am pretty lucky at that.  From what Frank told me on the drive over here, I gather there were others who weren't so fortunate.”

“Frank's one of the ranchers,” Roy hastened to explain.  “I was out at the outlaw cabin listening in on what Mitch and Carson were saying and they mentioned Jim's name and something about needing to go take care of him.  So, since we had no clue as to Jim's whereabouts, I had Frank follow Winters' man when he went to check on Jim and lucky thing he did!

“He followed him all the way out to an old abandoned mine shack – a place where nobody would've ever thought of looking.  Once the man was gone, Frank was able to sneak in, free Jim and get him here.  From what I've been able to see, I don't think he's any the worse for wear, but I think it'd be a good idea for the doc to check him out.”

“Can't hurt,” Heyes agreed and quirked a brow in Stokely's direction.  “So, finish the story, Jim.  What kept you from suffering the same fate as the others?”

“Well, Winters' plan was to keep me alive long enough to sign that deed – which I did do eventually – but boy, did Cobb ever get a surprise when he took that paper to the land office!”

“What'd you do, Jim?”  Curry put a hand on Stokely's shoulder.

“Well, I had a lot of time to think while I was being held captive,” Jim shrugged.  “And during that time, I realized that I had an ace in the hole; something that would at least buy me some time, just in case anyone was out there hunting for me.”

“Me an' Joshua were!” Curry affirmed.  “Along with your lawyer an' Sheriff Stone.”

“I was hoping that there was someone who wouldn't believe everything Winters was saying,” Jim added with another look of gratitude for the group.

“Things just didn't add up,” Heyes shrugged.  “The clues that Anne and her father gave us sent us in Bascomb's direction.  He shared the information that both he and Sheriff Stone were skeptical, as well as suspicious, of Winters, but none of us had any clue that the man would go as far as he did to get what he wanted.”

“I wasn't aware of that either,” Stokely shook his head.  “If I'd have known that slimy weasel was capable of murder, I sure wouldn't have felt so good about my plan.”

“And that plan was...?” Heyes prompted.

“I guess some might say it was just a lucky break, but remember when I said I had an ace in the hole?  Well, when Jonathan Bascomb first drew up my papers, he advised me to put a special clause in my land deed.  I'm very glad now that he suggested it.  Without it,” he continued ruefully, “I'd be one of those bodies under the floorboards in that cabin, and you'd be visiting my grave instead of standing here talking to me.”

Everyone reacted to Stokely's revelations.

“Special clause?” the Kid queried.

“Yep,” Jim nodded and leaned back in his chair.  “You see, Jonathan posed a question that made me think a little.  He asked what would happen to the farm if something were to happen to me.  Financially speaking, my sister Sarah's well off; she's all taken care of.  And, since I don't have any other relatives, it didn't take me long to figure out that there were only two people that I'd trust enough to leave the place to.”  He grinned up at Heyes and the Kid.  “So, in a way, you might say that the two of you are responsible for me being alive today.”

Sporting matching ear-splitting grins, Heyes and Curry exchanged a look before turning to share that look with their friend.



“And Winters couldn't force you to change the clause?” Heyes asked.

“Jonathan would've known right away that it wasn't a legitimate deal.  First, he knew I had no plans to sell the place.  Second, the way we set it up, in the event of my death, the only people who could take possession of the property were Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.”

Heyes whistled.  “No wonder Winters was so riled up.  He couldn't legally sell the farm outright, so he was stuck with it.  Then along we came with our phony buried treasure deal.  He couldn't get rid of the Martins fast enough, no matter what the cost.  It's a good thing you had a back-up plan, Jim.”

“Whatever it was, I don't care about anything 'cept that it worked and it helped keep you alive,” Curry grinned.

“Me, too, Thaddeus.”  Jim looked at the three men gathered around him.  “So, what do you say we all ride into town and, after I've had a chance to get a bath and shave, we have a nice steak dinner, followed by a couple of beers at the saloon?  Supper's on me tonight – I'm buying.  Might even be able to sit a few hands of poker, if I'm lucky.”

Roy nodded in agreement.  “You can count me in!”

“I'd say that I like the way you think, Jim!” Curry beamed.  “But first, we're gonna get the doc to look you over.”  The Kid helped Stokely to his feet and put a steadying arm around him to assist his friend to the wagon.

“And I'd say that I agree 100% with my partner,” Heyes added as he got on the other side of Jim.  Roy followed behind.  “We could do with a bath ourselves.  We worked up quite a bit of sweat and dust chasing down Winters and his men.  I think that we should ask the Sheriff and Jonathan to join us in the celebration.  They'll be very glad to know that you've been found alive and I believe Sheriff Stone mentioned something about buying us drinks?”

“He did,” Curry agreed.  “An' we owe Jonathan a drink, too.  While we ride into town we can catch you up on everything,” Curry promised.  He gave Stokely a conspiratorial wink and added, “You know, Jim, it's real nice of you to name us on that land deed.  I jus' want you to know that, no matter what Joshua thinks, I've always liked you...”

Heyes affected an affronted look and, amid genial laughter, the three men got Stokely settled comfortably into the wagon and the group made their way towards Little Bend for an evening of celebration and friendship.


*~*~*~*~*~*


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Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sat 24 Sep 2016, 4:45 pm by Penski
clap  What a wonderful episode that would have been!  LOVED Lester!  thumbsup  And everything turned out okay... PHEW!  Thank you for writing for VS, moonshadow!
Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sun 02 Oct 2016, 1:31 am by Linda A
clap Very good story, it would have been a great episode.
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Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sun 02 Oct 2016, 12:38 pm by Cal
Always love the action packed episodes....lots of brilliant characters and plenty to keep me guessing....well done Moonshadow read that all in one go.....had to find out where Jim was.....thanks for another terrific episode!
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Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sun 02 Oct 2016, 12:42 pm by Cal
Meant to add...great pictures of Lester.....where they from?
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Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Sun 02 Oct 2016, 10:45 pm by moonshadow
smile Thanks for the comments everyone. It was a real fun VS story to write.
Cal, the "original" pix of Heyes came from the episode "Smiler With A Gun" where they're out at the mine with Seth and then in the desert. desert I had a friend's help in "doctoring" 'em up a bit to help create "Lester" just for this story.
Re: Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow
Post on Wed 04 Jan 2017, 4:24 pm by InsideOutlaw
Lots of mystery and action in this one and we get to revisit with Jim Stokely to boot! Pat yourself on the back, Moonshadow, for writing a double episode and making it so good. Haha, if I were the boys I think I'd give that town a wide berth--too many people robbed by Heyes and Curry.
 

Water the Chances? Part 2 by moonshadow

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