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 The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw

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royannahuggins
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Join date : 2013-10-13

20161020
PostThe Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw



Heyes and Kid find themselves stuck in a town in the middle of a blizzard and broke. Forced to take the only jobs available, the pair soon find themselves embroiled in a battle between the townspeople and the Chinese.


Starring

Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry



Guest Starring


Andy Lau as Jay


Cao Jun as young boy


Ge You as Zhang Yong


Pat Morita as Mr. Lin


Robert J. Wilke as Wilson


Sammo Hung as Wang Chao


Xu Jiao as the girl



The Cold Hard Truth
by Inside Outlaw


Kid Curry stood just inside the door of the Capitol saloon on Truckee’s Main Street dusting snow from his shoulders.  The howling blizzard outside forced a gust of icy crystals through the cracks in the plank door and caused him to visibly shiver.  He looked down as he stomped the white powder from his boots causing an avalanche of snow to fall from the brim of his brown Stetson.  When he looked up, the bar swamper was standing before him with a scowl on his face and a broom in his hand.

“You ‘bout done?” snapped the wiry, homely man.

“Sorry,” mumbled Curry, easing past the irritated employee to the long oak bar.  A huge mirror ran the length of the back bar giving him an excellent view of the other patrons.  There were several poker games going on in an alcove at the rear of the building, but the players were so engrossed in their cards that they failed to lift their eyes to the newcomer.  The tables set up directly behind the Kid were empty save for a daytime drunk too far gone to care about anything.  No one, besides the swamper, had noticed he’d arrived.  Gesturing to the bartender at the far end of the counter, he held up two fingers and mimed drinking a mug of beer.  With a nod, the aproned man poured the drinks and carried them to where he waited.

“That’ll be two bits.”

Sliding a coin across the scarred wood, the Kid picked up his mug and took a long pull on the frothy liquid.  Sputtering, he slammed the mug down and coughed.  “Sheesh, that’s cold.”

“Yessir, folks in Truckee like the weather cold and the beer colder. You just a two-fisted drinker or is someone joinin’ you?”

“My partner’s over at the rail depot.  He’ll be here shortly.”

“That’ll stay cold enough then,” said the man, nodding to the second mug.  “You come in on the three o’clock from Reno?”

“Yep.  Why?” asked the Kid tersely.

“You got lucky, mister.  The folks on the eastbound train are spendin’ the night on the summit.  Call went out for volunteer shovelers a coupla hours ago.  Avalanche’d be my guess.”  No sooner had the words left the man’s lips than Hannibal Heyes blew into the saloon.  He, too, left a small drift of snow at the door and caused the cursing swamper to reappear.

“Don’t mind him.  He’s an ornery cuss.  Ain’t you, Dickie?  That there’s job security, man, so shut your trap and get on with it.  Mister, I do believe this beer has your name on it.”  The talkative bartender beckoned Heyes over.  The ex-outlaw took a drink, raising his eyebrows as the slushy brew hit his lips.  With a chuckle, the bartender walked to the other end of the bar leaving the two frigid men standing side by side.




“Train’s delayed,” said Heyes.

“I heard.  How long?”

“Could be hours; could be days.  Nobody’s saying until they hear back from the work crews.”

“We’re gonna miss our deadline,” said the Kid.

“I know.  I already wired ahead that we were delayed.”

“Get a reply?”

“Sure did.  ‘Unacceptable:  get here yesterday.’”

“Good old Silky.  The man don’t waste words.”

Heyes turned around and leaned his back against the bar letting his eyes roam across the room.  Spotting the poker players, he grinned.  “Well, looks like we’re stuck here for a while.  Guess I’ll go make us some legal money.  You coming?”

“Naw.  You go on ahead,” said the Kid.  “Think I’ll head over to Jibboom Street and find some company of the female persuasion.  You gonna be all right on your own?”

“I’ll be fine.  Let’s meet up for dinner at the hotel.  Steaks’ll be on me,” answered Heyes.  He swaggered his way to the poker tables while his partner headed for the door.  Pausing, the Kid pulled up his collar and tugged down his hat brim before he swung open the door and went out into the storm.


oooOOOooo

The Kid found Heyes waiting in the lobby of the hotel a few hours later.  Heyes was seated in an upholstered side chair by the huge stone fireplace radiating warmth and was reading the local newspaper.  He looked up as his friend sat down across from him.

“You get us a room?” asked Curry.  “I’m ready to call it a night after dinner.  The afternoon’s activities tired me out.”

“Not yet.”

“How come?”

“Well,” Heyes paused, “I had a bad turn of luck at the tables.”

“How bad?” asked the Kid, tightly.

“Pretty bad.  Did you see that fellow with the derby and his back to the wall?”

“How bad?”

Heyes shook his head ruefully and ignored the question.  “I didn’t know it, but that was Pete Alvertson.”

“The ‘Poker Pete’ Alvertson?!”

“The same.”

“You lost all your money, didn’t you?”

Heyes grinned sheepishly.  “Hey, it ain’t often I get to play with someone as good as me.”

“Sounds like you were playin’ with someone better’n you.”

“No, I’ve got his number now.  If you spot me a loan, I can win it all back.”

“Well, that may just be a problem.  I’ve only got enough left to cover dinner and a room for a night or two.”

The grin disappeared and was replaced with a scowl.  “I thought you were still flush from that last job.”

“I was flush, it don’t last forever.”

“You spent it all?”

“Just ‘bout.”

“On what?!!”  Heyes stood up and towered over his partner.

Curry stared up at him, completely unrepentant.  “That ain’t none of your business.”

“Oh, let me guess, you spent it on the shady ladies in Laramie, and in Ely, Winnemucca, Reno and…”

“I said, it ain’t none of your business.”

“Well, it is now!  We’re outta money and stuck here for who knows how long.”

“You shouldn’t have gambled your stake away.  What were you thinkin’?”

“I was thinking you’d cover me.”

“You thought wrong.  What’re we gonna do?”

Slumping, Heyes mumbled something unintelligible.

“What’d you say?” asked Curry.

“I said, we’re gonna have to find a job.”

Curry stood up until he was face to face with his partner.  “Did you say, get a job?”

Lowering his voice to a whisper, Heyes replied, “Well, it ain’t like we can just rob the bank, can we?  Even if we were still in that line of work, the town’s snowed in.  There’s no place to go and if we tried going anywhere we’d leave tracks a baby could follow.”

“I wasn’t suggestin’ robbery, but what the heck are we gonna do in the middle of a dang blizzard?  And don’t say shovelin’ or I’ll flatten you.”

Heyes picked up the discarded newspaper and scanned the advertisements.  “Listen to this:  Ice Company looking to hire men to harvest ice.  No skill required.  Pays three dollars a day with room and board.”

“Sounds cold.”

“Everything’s cold in Truckee.”

“Find me an indoor job,” said the Kid with all the menace he could muster.

“Ain’t any other ads for jobs.  Besides, this time of the year, all the indoor work is probably long gone.”

“All right, we’ll answer the ad tomorrow, but we’re eatin’ now and gettin’ a warm night’s sleep.”  His decision made, Curry started for the dining room.  “Harvestin’ ice, huh, how hard could it be?”


oooOOOooo

“This is the place, Kid,” said Heyes, double-checking the address in the newspaper advertisement he held.  The tall warehouse was a sturdy structure built of stone with thick walls giving it a somewhat prison-like appearance.  The noon sun cast a forbidding shadow over the two partners.

As the two men walked toward the heavy, double doors one swung open and a tall, burly man stepped out onto the ramp leading to the entrance.  He turned and pulled a chain through the door handles and fastened a heavy lock on it.  Turning, he spotted the partners.  “You here about the jobs?”

Heyes gave the man his best smile.  “Yes sir, we…”

“You’re hired.  Be here at sun-up tomorrow and I’ll set you up on a crew,” said the big man.

“Uh, we’re hired?  Don’t you want to know who we are?” asked Heyes.

“Don’t care who you are.  Every other able-bodied man in town is up on the summit digging out.  You’ve got your arms and legs and you both look healthy enough.”  The man smiled and held out his hand.  “I’m Burt Caffrey, foreman of the Truckee Ice Company.  You’ll report to me.”

Heyes grasped the offered hand, but the Kid frowned.  “Sun-up?”

“Yep, we’re short-handed so we’ll work extra hours; six a.m. to six p.m. with a half hour lunch.  I’m closing up for my noon meal right now and heading home.  If you got any more questions, they’ll keep ‘til tomorrow.”

Curry’s frown deepened, “That’s a twelve-hour day.”

“You can count, too.  That’ll be a help.”  Burt walked off leaving Heyes and the Kid shivering in the cold shadows.

“I’m gettin’ a feelin’ this job ain’t gonna be as easy as we thought, Heyes.”

“Look, we’ll work until the tracks open up and then we’ll hop the westbound.”

“I’ll do this on one condition.  No more poker games for you until we get to Silky’s.”

“All right.  Then no more women for you.”

The Kid was quiet for several heartbeats before he laughed, “Who’re we kiddin’?  I’ve still got a few bucks left; let’s go find a game and a couple of friendly ladies.”

“Now you’re talking!”


oooOOOooo

“You boys come and see us again soon, y’hear?”  The madam, standing by the front door, smiled at her handsome patrons.  “I love good-looking men especially ones with money in their pockets.”

“We will, Miss Carrie,” answered the Kid solemnly.  

“Yes, ma’am, you run a real fine place here,” added Heyes, tucking in his shirt tail.

“I wish the folks here saw it that way, but Carrie Pryor’s a dirty name ‘round this town,” bemoaned the madam.  “Heck, between fightin’ off the other cathouses and the vigilante raids, it’s a wonder I’ve got time for clients.”

“Vigilantes?” Heyes questioned.  “I don’t much like the sound of that.  Vigilantes can mean unexpected necktie parties.”

“Yeah, the 601’s have been raidin’ Jibboom Street for a coupla years now.  You’d think they’d have figured out when one house closes, two more jump up in its place.”  The small, tough woman laughed raucously.  “Bunch of hypocrites; spendin’ every Saturday night on Jibboom, and Sunday morning preachin’ and railin’ against our sinful business.”

“What does 601 stand for?” asked Curry.

“Six feet under, zero trials, one rope.”

Gulping, Heyes ran a finger around his shirt collar.  “Yes, well, thanks for the evening, ma’am.”

Carrie pulled the door open for the men and held it as they stepped outside.  “Careful out there.  Truckee ain’t the safest place after midnight.”  The door closed firmly behind them as the snow fell heavily to the white-carpeted ground, softening the world around them and muffling sound on Jibboom Street.  The two men saw plenty of tracks crisscrossing the roadway from the bordellos that lined either side of the road.

“Business, despite what Miss Carrie said, appears to be booming,” Heyes quipped, stepping off the sidewalk.  He and the Kid followed a well-trodden path down a side alley towards Main Street.

“Argh, it’s cold,” the Kid put one gloved hand over his chin to warm his face.  “A body could freeze to death just drawin’ breath.”  Heyes stopped suddenly causing his partner to collide with him.  Curry followed the direction of his gaze and saw a small figure deep in the shadows ahead rummaging through a trash bin.  “Who’s that?”

The person stood up and faced them defiantly, an armful of apples clutched in his hand.  A torrent of Chinese curses broke the stillness of the night and rotten fruit was deftly thrown at them.  Ducking, Heyes watched the small man run around the far corner of the alley as a light came on in a window above the alley.  The sash slid up and a sleepy man in a nightcap leaned out.  “What’s going on down there?”

The Kid stepped forward with a smile.  “Someone was rootin’ through your trash.  Guess we surprised him.”

“Chinese pig!  He don’t dare show his face in town during daylight, but he digs through my garbage dang near every night.  One of these nights, I’ll catch the…”

“I think he was just looking for food,” said Heyes.

“Ya feed one and pretty soon there’s a dozen beggin’ at your doorstep.  A plague, that’s what they are!”  The window closed with a bang.

Heyes shook his head and smirked, “Friendly sort, ain’t he?”

“If he’s that upset about his garbage, I wonder what he’d do to two ex-thieves?” observed the Kid as he began trudging through the powder.

“Shhh!  He might hear you.”


oooOOOooo

The next morning dawned clear and very cold, but Heyes and the Kid arrived on time at the warehouse to find it bustling with activity.  Wagons and sleighs were being loaded with tools and men milled around drinking coffee.  One of them turned towards them.  “You the new guys?”

Heyes smiled.  “Yep.  I’m Smith, he’s Jones.”

“Smith and Jones?” the man chuckled.  “Couldn’t you come up with better names than that?”

“They’re our pappys’ names,” answered Heyes tersely, his smile disappearing.

“Well, at least they’re American.  Smith is American, ain’t it?  You don’t go spellin’ it funny like those Brits do, do you?”

“Pappy fought and bled for the North, so it’s Yankee enough for me.”  Heyes stared the man down until he nodded.

“I’m Wilson.  I’ll be your crew chief.  Get some coffee and climb onto that wagon,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder.  “I’ll be along in a second.”

Heyes and the Kid walked over to a line of men holding tin cups and waiting patiently as a small Chinese man leaned out of the warehouse window and poured steaming cups of dark liquid from a large coffee pot.  They each took a mug from a small, rickety table set up adjacent to the line and waited their turn, listening to the soft rumblings of the other men.  Snatches of conversation drifted through the air, but one man’s voice rose above the others.

“Why the hell’d Caffrey hire him?  It ain’t like a white man can’t make coffee.  Damn Chinese are always taking money from our babies’ mouths.”

The diminutive man serving coffee looked up at his critic and then shifted his gaze to the two men at the end of the line before quickly looking down.

“Hey…Joshua, ain’t that the same fella who was lobbin’ apples at us?”

“Shh.  Don’t get him in trouble.  Sounds like he’s already got enough,” cautioned Heyes.  When they reached the front of the line, the man scowled at them.  Holding out his cup, Heyes gave him his friendliest smile.  He inhaled the delicious aroma and sighed happily.  “Nothing better than a fine cup of coffee in the morning.  Thank you, sir.”

Almond eyes looked up in surprise.  “You’re welcome, mister,” said a very quiet voice as the man filled the Kid’s mug and replaced the pot on a small, blazing woodstove.  There were no more men in line so he started to slide the window closed but hesitated when the Kid spoke.

“Much obliged, I’m Thaddeus Jones, this here’s Joshua Smith.”

“Zhang Jie.”

“Dr-ah-ng Gee-eh?” said the Kid, trying to duplicate the sound.

“White men call me Jay…or filthy dog…or worse.”

“We noticed folks ain’t too friendly to foreigners ‘round here,” said Heyes.

“They don’t like the Chinese.  They want us to go home, but this is our home.”

Looking puzzled, the Kid said, “Jay’s a first name.”

“Yes, in China the surname is followed by the given name.”

“So your first name’s Jay?”

“Correct.”

“You speak pretty good English.  I’d guess this has been your home for a spell,” said Heyes.

“I am an American.  I was born here.  My father came to New York City in 1842; he worked making clothes in the garment district.  I grew up and took a job with the railroad and moved west.”  Looking past the two ex-outlaws, Jay noticed the other white men grumbling and staring at the three conversationalists.  “You better go.  It won’t help you to be nice to me.”

“I’m not in the habit of letting other folks choose who I can and can’t talk to,” growled Heyes.

“Please go, for my sake and for yours.”  Jay slid the window shut with finality.

“C’mon, Joshua,” said Curry, tugging at his partner’s arm.  “Wilson’s waitin’ on us.”


oooOOOooo

The two men riding in the bed of the overfilled ice wagon lurched as it bounced around on the rutted road cutting through the tall ponderosa forest that populated the floor of the canyon.  Snow fell heavily from the sky, adding to the grayness of the afternoon and the grayness of the men who’d worked all day in the inclement weather.  The primitive path followed the railroad tracks descending the western wall of the valley.  Heyes craned his head up to follow the steep rise of the parallel rails but they disappeared in a fog of snow.  He whistled softly.  “I’d sure hate to be the brakeman coming down that grade blind.”  He glanced at his partner, who sat unspeaking on top of the chilly cargo.  “You ain’t talking now?”

Curry glared at him with unconcealed disgust.  “I’m too dang cold to talk.”

“We’re the new men on the job.  We’re bound to get the worst seats.”

“That don’t help my cold a…”

“Hey, look!”  Heyes pointed past his best friend to a clearing through the forest.  The tall pines were blocking the worst of the storm and he could just make out several canvas tents erected on the far side of the frozen-over stream that divided the canyon.  There were no signs of inhabitants and the camp had an air of abandonment.  He turned to the driver of the wagon.

“Hey Eli, who’s camping out here this time of the year?”

“That’s the China camp.  Stupid devils don’t know what’s good for ‘em.  We chase ‘em outta one place and they just turn up in ‘nother.  You’d think they’d get sick of freezin’ to death and move somewhere warm.  Coldstream Canyon ain’t no place to be in the winter,” said Eli, without taking his eyes off the team pulling the laden wagon.

Heyes stared back at the tents as they disappeared behind the curtain of snow.  A bright flash of color and movement caught his eyes and he squinted to see two small children, hand and hand, trudging through the deep powder before, they too, faded from sight.  “There’re kids out there!”

“Yeah, so?” answered Eli.  “What’d you expect?  They breed like rabbits.”

Curry rolled his eyes at his best friend.  Both partners fell silent for the rest of the trip.


oooOOOooo

Steam rose from the copper tub and a curly-blond hair exploded out of the hot water scattering droplets across the old carpet of the hotel room.  “Aaahhh,” intoned the Kid as he lounged against the high-back curve of the bath.  “I got aches where I didn’t even know I had muscles.”



“Hurry up, will ya?  I’d like to soak before the water goes cold,” said Heyes.  He sat in an upholstered chair with the down comforter from the double bed wrapped tightly around him.

“You lost the coin toss, friend.  I’ll be done when I’m done.”

Dark eyes bore into the back of the blond head before a sly grin split into twin dimples.  “Dining room starts serving in ten minutes, Kid.”

“Geez, why didn’t you say so sooner?” said Curry, springing to his feet and grabbing up the towel tossed carelessly across the edge of tub, wrapping it about his waist as water sluiced from his naked shoulders.  He had barely climbed out when Heyes plunged into the still sudsy bath and sighed happily.  “Ain’t you comin’ to dinner?”

“You go on without me.  I’ll join you after I drive the chill from my bones.”

“Suit yourself.”  The Kid quickly pulled on his clothes and hurried out the door.  The dining room was filling up at this hour, but he was able to get a corner table with a view of both the front of the hotel and the kitchen door.  No sooner had he sat down than the latter opened and a lovely, smiling young lady came to take his order.  He grinned up at her admiringly as she rattled off the daily specials.  “I’ll have the pot roast and some extra potatoes, please, ma’am.”

“Yes sir, Mr.?” she prompted blushingly, letting her deep green eyes linger on the handsome face for just a moment longer than was proper.

“Er, Jones, ma’am.”

“You’re new in town, aren’t you, Mr. Jones?”  She closed her pad and dropped it into a pocket, but made no move towards placing the order.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Staying long?”

“No, ma’am.  Me and my partner are leavin’ soon as the summit’s cleared.”

Disappointment blossomed across her face and she flounced away as Heyes entered the room and joined the Kid, pulling out a chair and saying, “I see you’re making friends with the locals.”

The Kid shrugged.  “She had that look in her eye.  You know the one that screams trouble.  Your bath didn’t last long.”

“Yeah, wasn’t much point in lingering in cold water.”

The waitress returned with the Kid’s order and slipped it in front of him.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” said Heyes, smiling up at her.  “Have you heard anything from the summit today?”

“Yes, it’s an avalanche; a big one, twenty feet deep I hear.  Fellas say it’ll be days before the tracks are cleared.  Guess you’re stuck here like the rest of us until it is,” she said grumpily.



Heyes watched her march away to take orders from another table near the front of the room.  “What’s eating her?”

“Same thing that’s eatin’ me, we both want outta here.”  Curry picked up his knife and fork and began tucking into his meal.

“Hey, it’s better than being stuck on a train with a bunch of strangers and nowhere to go.  At least we’re making money.”

“That is the least of it.  I ain’t been this cold in a long time and I don’t like cuttin’ ice.”

“It could be worse.  Think about those Chinese folks.  They’re living out in the dead of winter and scrounging for food.”

Curry nodded his agreement, his mouth full.

Heyes’ filled fork stopped just short of his mouth.  “Don’t seem right the Chinese are treated the way they are.  They helped build this town from nothing.”

“Folks around town keep sayin’ as how the able-bodied townsfolk are all workin’ the summit.  You’d think they’d be hirin’ anyone willin’ to work to fill in for ‘em.”

“You haven’t been here long, have you?” asked an older man seated directly behind Heyes.  “Forgive me, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation.”  He stood and picked up his dinner plate.  “May I join you?”  Without waiting for an answer, he pulled out a vacant chair and made himself comfortable.  “I’m Wally Prescott.”

Raised eyebrows silently assessed the newcomer before Heyes said, “Joshua Smith,” and the Kid added, “Thaddeus Jones.”

“So you’re from around here, Wally?” asked Heyes.

“Yes, I’ve been here since the gold rush.  Made my strike on the Feather back in ’52 and never left.”

“That right?”  Curry looked at the man with new interest studying the cut of his well-tailored garments.  “Looks like you did well for yourself.”

“I did.  Unfortunately, my three ex-wives benefited more heavily from my excellent fortune than I have.  I’m afraid they left me with only the clothes on my back and a small income from my remaining investments,” Wally chuckled good-naturedly despite his sobering assessment, “but they each showed me a fine time while it lasted.  But, gentlemen, I didn’t interrupt you to talk about myself.  You were discussing the plight of our former railroad and lumber workers.”

“We were just saying Truckee doesn’t seem too friendly a place if you’re Chinese.”

Wally appeared unoffended by Heyes’ comment.  “Truckee’s got a long and colorful history but there are folks who would rather pretend that the Chinese have no part in it.”

“Why is that?” mumbled Curry around a forkful of potatoes.

“Human nature, I suppose.”  Wally shook his head ruefully.  “The Chinese arrived when the gold rush began, but they’ve never really assimilated, instead living separately from the rest of us in their own Chinatown.  Despite working for our businesses, they don’t frequent them.  They shop in their own stores and grow their own vegetables, raise their own livestock, and see only their Chinese doctors.  Why, they even have their own judges and lawyers enforcing their laws.  Makes folks nervous.”

“So they kinda have their own country right here in Truckee?” questioned Heyes.

“That’s right, and it doesn’t sit well with most folk.  Still, white folks hire them on the cheap and they work hard doing the sorts of jobs you and I won’t if we don’t have to.  But things have changed in recent years.  When the rush petered out and things got tight, jobs got scarce.  Those low-paying wages started looking better and better all the time.  Regular folk were having a hard time feeding their families and they began noticing that the Chinese were still doing fine.  Prejudice began to grow stronger as times got rougher.  People fear what they don’t understand and it all came to a head back in ’75.  There were some mysterious fires in Chinatown that nearly took down our own downtown. Folks began to get skittish about them being so close to town and one thing led to another.  Chinese fella, a wood cutter by trade, was murdered out by Trout Creek in ’76 and things went from bad to worse.”

“What happened?”  Heyes was leaning forward, his dinner forgotten.

“An all-white jury acquitted the men who did it and Truckee became known as a violent place to be.  Wasn’t long before the Chinese started getting pushed out of their jobs and Chinatown got burned to the ground.”

“That sounds kinda harsh considerin’ it was the killers that got off,” grumbled Curry.

“Don’t get me wrong, Thaddeus, I agree with you.  Live and let live I always say, but there are folks who take a harder line and they began forcing out the Chinese.  But they didn’t want to go, so they rebuilt their town on the other side of the river and tried to settle in again, but some folks were having none of it.  They started themselves a Caucasian League and White Labor Club.  Now there aren’t many business owners willing to hire the Chinese and the ones that do get boycotted.  Those Chinese who have jobs keep their heads down and their eyes closed.  The others have gone into hiding and depend on their friends and families to keep them fed.  It’s a sad state of affairs and I’m ashamed of it, if I say so myself.”

“We saw their camp up Coldstream,” said Curry.  “Didn’t look like a place to raise a family.”

“There’s nowhere else for them to go,” said Wally.  “Some of them go back to China, some to the coast, but nobody wants them.  Haven’t you heard of the anti-Chinese movement in California?”

“Yeah, we have.”  Heyes then pointedly asked, “So what’re you doing to help the Chinese who are still here?”

“Well, I…I” began Wally.

“Let me guess, you live and let live and you don’t do nothin’ at all.”  Icy blues eyes narrowed in disgust.

“There’s nothing I can do,” snapped Wally, jumping to his feet, red-faced and angry, “not if I want to stay in Truckee in one piece.  Best you remember that.”

“Not likely to forget,” said Heyes, dismissively.  He waited until their uninvited guest had left before turning to his partner.  The Kid pushed his half-eaten plate away.  “I’ve lost my appetite.”


oooOOOooo

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


Last edited by royannahuggins on Thu 20 Oct 2016, 11:04 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Thu 20 Oct 2016, 10:32 pm by royannahuggins
oooOOOooo

The wind was unrelenting and it drove the falling snow in every direction; down drawn-up collars, into bandana-covered noses, eyes, and ears.  The crews worked silently and miserably, pausing every once in a while to huddle around the fitful fire they’d built in hopes of warming their numbed bodies.

Wilson stood out on the frozen ice pond, an ice saw in his hand.  He was scoring the ice lengthwise while Eli worked in the opposite direction creating a precise checkerboard pattern.  Heyes and the Kid worked, using breaker bars, to bust the ice into forty-four inch by one hundred and thirty-two inch rafts.  Once a raft was freed from the pond, the partners used their pike poles to drag the floating blocks to where the last two members of the team were using mules to haul the rafts from the water up onto bucked-up logs.  Making quick work of sawing the rafts into twenty-two inch square blocks, the finished size, the cutters then loaded them onto the bed of the wagons.  Two other teams were spread out around the edge of the pond.



At noon, Wilson blew a whistle signaling the teams to gather at the fire.

“’Bout time.”  The Kid’s clothes were caked with splashes of ice and his eyebrows had turned white with snow.  He let his attention wander towards the fire and didn’t see Heyes break loose the raft with a mighty heave of the breaker bar.  A chunk cracked from its edge and rocketed across the ice.

“Look out!” yelled Heyes as he watched the missile slam into his partner’s leg and knock him to the ground.

“Oww!”  Writhing in pain, Curry gripped his calf tightly and yelled, “What the hell’d you do that for?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose!”  Heyes frowned down at him.  “Are you all right?  Let me see.”

“Gimme a hand up.”  Once on his feet, Curry gingerly flexed his leg.  “I’m fine.  It’s just gonna be sore, that’s all.”

Together, they walked slowly towards the others, the Kid limping alongside Heyes.

“What happened to you?” asked Wilson as the Kid sat down on one of several stumps circling the fire.

“It’s just a bruise.  I’m fine.”

“Good, ‘cause I can’t afford to lose you.  Get some soup.  You’ve got fifteen minutes.”  The gruff man walked away and joined the others who were huddled together on the leeward side of the filled wagon using every inch of the sheltered space.

A Dutch oven filled with a bubbling bean soup sat on the coals.  Heyes picked up a bowl from another rock and filled it with the steaming soup before handing it to the Kid and fetching him a spoon.  He filled a second bowl and stood in front of the seated man blocking him from the wind.

“You don’t need to mollycoddle me.”

With a shrug, Heyes sat down on another stump.  His fingers refused to grip his spoon and he fumbled with it for a few seconds before securing it in his fist.  “What?” he said, noting Curry’s watchful eyes.

“You’re gettin’ frostnipped, ain’t you?”

“My hands are just cold, that’s all.”

“Let’s move closer to the fire.”  Curry stood and dragged his stump next to the flames.  He waited as Heyes joined him.  “It’s been four days, Heyes,” he whispered.  “How long are we gonna have to freeze our butts off?  I can’t take much more of this.”

“I don’t know.  You’d think they’d have the summit cleared by now.  How long does it take to shovel out a bunch of snow?”

“Hey, what’s that?”  The Kid was peering out at the ice but the curtain of snow made it hard to see very far and he was squinting.

“What’s what?”  Heyes strained to see what his partner was talking about.

“That!”  Curry jumped to his feet, wobbling slightly as pain shot up his leg.  “It’s those kids!”  He pointed out onto the ice where Heyes could just make out something red working its way across the pond.  Then he could see them, a little boy and an older girl leading him by the hand.

“The ice is thinner out there, they could fall through.”  Heyes stood up and began waving his arms to get their attention.  “Hey, you kids, get off of the ice!  It ain’t safe!”  Horror distorted his face as the startled children heard his yelled words and panicked, breaking into a run.  The boy slipped and let go of the girl’s hand just as she broke through the ice and disappeared in a great splash of water.  Instantly, the two partners sprang into action as the other men were just beginning to gather around to see what all the fuss was about.  Heyes ran to the wagon and grabbed the coiled rope on the buckboard seat.  He tied one end to the back of the wagon and ran back to the edge of the ice, wrapping the other end about his waist.  A strong hand gripped his upper arm and shook him ruthlessly.  “Hey!”

Determined blue eyes and an outstretched hand demanded the rope.  “Give it to me.  You haul us in.”

“No, I’m lighter than you and your leg’s hurt.”

“I reckon I can still crawl on my belly, but I ain’t strong enough to haul you in on one leg.  Give it to me.”  Screaming and crying floated out of the grayness.  The little boy was leaning over the cracked ice, holding onto the girl’s red coat with both hands.  

Heyes slipped the rope around his partner’s waist and knotted it securely.  “Don’t take any chances. We can’t count on any help.  Tug twice when you’re ready to be hauled back.”

“Got it.”  Curry limped onto the ice and hurried towards the children.  As he neared the center of the pond, the ice creaked and popped under his weight, fractures radiating outward from where he stepped.  He knelt down, slowly and carefully, then began easing forward on his stomach.  The rope played out behind him.  “Keep it taut!”

Heyes took up what little slack there was and braced a leg against one of the logs, leaning back slightly.

The Kid tried to pull himself along using whatever handholds he could find, but the smooth ice and his gloved hands kept defeating him.  He could clearly see the two children.  The boy’s face was crimson with exertion and fear carved his features.  The girl’s head bobbed above the ice and her red coat was bunched tightly about her neck, her face pale and her lips blue.  “Hold on, I’m comin’!”  He ripped off his gloves and, using his bare hands and nails, grappled with the ice levering himself across it until he slid up next to the boy.  “Grab the rope and hang on.”  The boy did nothing.  “You don’t understand a word I’m sayin’, do ya?”  Curry slipped one strong arm under the girl’s shoulders and arms and screamed, “Pull!” while yanking on the line.  The rope cut into his waist and he began to slide backwards lifting her from the water.  The boy let go of her and grabbed onto their rescuer, clinging tightly to the Kid’s sore leg as he was dragged backwards.

Hauling on the rope with all his strength, Heyes yelled, “Give me a hand!  I need help!”  Two men, hurried forward to take up the slack in the rope and help pull, but the other men stood around them watching the drama unfold without stepping in to assist.  Everyone could hear the ice groaning from the concentrated weight and everyone heard the sharp report when it gave way.  Heyes, still straining to pull, saw his best friend plunge through the ice with the children.  He glanced back at the others and screamed at them, “Grab the rope, you idiots, or I’ll get every last one of you!  I swear it!”  With grumbles and mutters, the remaining men lined up behind him and threw their strength into the rescue.  Instantly, Curry bobbed up above the ice and was pulled backwards onto it, the girl and boy still desperately hanging onto him.  This time they nearly shot across the ice with the force of the men pulling them and were quickly on solid ground.  Heyes dropped the rope, his hands burned raw.  He grabbed the tarp covering the blocks of ice in the wagon and ran to his partner.

The Kid’s lips were blue and he was already shivering.  The little boy let go of him and started tugging at the girl.  She was deathly still and white as a ghost, not responding as the boy pleaded with her in Chinese.  Heyes swept the canvas around all three of them, swathing them together.  The boy started to struggle, but was soothed by Heyes’ unfamiliar but reassuring words.

“Can you walk?” he asked Curry.  “We’ve got to get these kids home before they freeze to death.”

The Kid unfurled the material and rose unsteadily to his feet.  “I can manage.  You take the girl, I can take the boy.”
 
“Put the tarp around you, I’ve got her.”  Heyes took off his heavy winter coat and wrapped it around the unconscious child, lifting her gently.  The Kid wrapped himself in the canvas.  The little boy wouldn’t take his eyes off the girl, and didn’t resist when the Kid scooped him up and tucked him inside the warm covering, instead wrapping his arms around Curry’s neck and peering back at Heyes and his charge.

Wilson had run almost the whole length of the pond witnessing the rescue as he raced toward his men.  Arriving, out of breath, he gasped out, “Where d’you think you’re going?”

Curry continued to plod away, but Heyes rounded on the man.  “We’re taking these kids to their parents.”

“You go and you’re fired.  I’ve got a crew to run!”

“We quit,” replied Heyes.  He ignored the man’s raw, unintelligible cursing and followed his partner’s snowy boot prints into the shelter of the forest.  The girl shifted in his arms.  She was awakening to the warmth of his body heat.  Black eyes opened and peered up at him, alarmed.  “It’s all right, sweetheart, you’re safe now.”  She relaxed slightly and he added, “We’re taking you to your parents.  The boy’s fine.”  She smiled in response.

The Kid was directly ahead of him, stumbling every so often, and it was plain to see his feet were frozen and not feeling the ground.  A torrent of Chinese erupted from the small boy, and his voice rose louder and louder.  Curry tried to soothe the boy, but he began wriggling so he put him down.  When he looked up, two brightly garbed men had appeared a few yards in front of him.  Frowns dressed their faces until the boy ran up to the tallest man and threw his arms around his legs, gabbling in Chinese.  The men listened intently.  Smiling, they approached the two men and the girl.  The shorter, heavier set man gently took the girl from Heyes’ arms and clutched her to his chest, tears running down his face.

“You understand what they’re saying?” asked Heyes.

“Not a word, but I understand how they’re sayin’ it.”

The taller man beckoned to the two ex-outlaws to follow.  He led them further and further into the thick pine and spruce forest until they came to a small clearing nestled into a bend created by the railroad tracks.  Heavy canvas tents were scattered about the open ground.  A rough, wooden handcart stood to one side of the largest tent.  A small corral contained several mules and an old horse.  Next to it stood a buckboard that had seen better days.

The man led them inside the big tent.  It was comfortably furnished and very, very warm.  More like a drawing room than a tent.  An elderly woman was stoking the woodstove that stood in one corner and when she turned towards them, it was obvious she was blind.  Her wrinkled eyes had a milky cast to them and they peered off into a middle distance only she could see.  The man with the boy said a few words to her and she hurried away, closing the tent flap behind her.  He shooed the child over to the woodstove where the boy dropped into a warm pile of pelts.  The heavier man carefully deposited the girl next to him and turned to smile at the two strangers.

“Thank you.  My daughter says you saved her life and her cousin’s, too.  We are in your debt,” said the man, his silken robe shimmering in the light of the stove.  “Please, be seated.  My mother will bring food and dry clothing.”

The Kid sank down onto a cushion and removed his wet boots as the old woman returned, carrying a steaming pot, followed by another woman who held a bundle of clothes.  Seeing the traditional Chinese garments, Heyes chuckled as Curry groaned.  “I can’t wear those!”

“I assure you Chao’s wife selected them for their warmth,” said the tall man, indicating the younger woman.  He swept his arm towards a carved screen placed next to the tent flaps.  “You may change over there.”

“Thaddeus, you have to get out of those wet clothes,” said Heyes, merriment dancing in his eyes.

“I’ll flatten you if you tell anyone about this,” warned Curry as he took the clothing from the woman and went behind the screen.  She took the rest of the clothes to the children and started efficiently changing them into dry clothing.  Curry emerged a few minutes later, resplendent in silk.  “Hey, these are real comfortable.”  The fabric swooshed softly about his legs as he crossed to the warmth of the stove and sat cross-legged, his back to the cast iron device.  “Ahhhh.”

Heyes accepted a cup of tea and both of them smiled as the blind woman offered them steaming bowls of soup.  She smiled encouragingly while she reached into her pocket and extracted two pairs of chopsticks.  It was Heyes’ turn to groan.

“My apologies, I’m afraid we don’t have any western utensils to offer you,” said their host picking up his own bowl and demonstrating how to use the sticks.

Clumsily, the Kid clattered his sticks in the bowl but came up empty as the tall man chuckled.  “Feel free to sip from the bowl.  We find it acceptable.”

Relief etching his features, Curry lifted the bowl and took a greedy sip.  Smiling, he lowered it and nodded at the woman.  “It’s tasty, ma’am.”  She giggled softly and went to tend the children.

“Gentlemen, I am Zhang Yong and this is Wang Chao,” said the heavy man indicating the taller man.

Heyes nodded.  “I’m Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

Once again the Kid tried to wrap his tongue around the difficult name.  “Dr-ah-ng?  Joshua, ain’t that Jay’s last name?”

“Ah, you have met my brother,” said Yong.  “He has taken a new name and chosen to stay in town while enduring the scorn of many.  Jay has embraced America in a way that I, alas, cannot.  I fear I am haunted by the ghosts of my ancestors and wish to keep to the old ways.”

Heyes smirked slightly.  “By living in a canvas tent in the middle of nowhere during the dead of winter?”

Yong laughed out loud.  “I’m afraid you have caught me, Mr. Smith.  I am a fraud.  At least that’s what my brother tells me.”

“No offense meant, Mr. Zhang.”

“None taken, Mr. Smith.  Please make yourselves comfortable and enjoy your meal.  Chao and I will see the children home to their mothers and return shortly to take you to town.”  The two robed men wrapped the children in furs and lifted them up.  Before she was ushered out of the tent, the little girl turned in her father’s arms and smiled sweetly.  Both men beamed at her.  The smiles dropped from their faces once they were alone.

“Heyes, we’ve gotta help these people.  It’s a crime what’s happenin’ to them.  Those kids and the old folk should have real roofs over their heads.”

“How’d I know you were gonna say that?”

“So, what can we do?”

“I don’t know what to do.  Let me think on it.  At least, they’re comfortable enough,” said Heyes.

“They won’t be if this winter keeps up the way it’s been goin’.”


oooOOOooo

Heyes sat up on the buckboard seat next to Yong, the Kid, wrapped in furs but shivering, rode in the bed.

“J…J…Joshua, are we t…t…there yet?” Curry asked through chattering teeth.  “I ain’t feelin’ so good.”

Heyes turned to him and noted his rosy cheeks and pink ears.  “We’re almost there, Thaddeus.”  When he turned back, he could see the buildings of Truckee just appearing through the veil of snow.  Softly, Heyes asked Yong, “Can you drop us at the Doc’s, Mr. Zhang?  I don’t like the way he looks.”

“The doctor is up on the summit, Mr. Smith.  We can send for him, but it will be a long time before he arrives and Mr. Jones could be quite sick by then.  Perhaps I can offer a better idea.”

“What’s that?”

“I can take you to the Herb Shop.  Mr. Lin can prescribe something.  He was a respected doctor in China and learned in the ways of traditional Chinese medicine.”

Heyes appeared to think it over for a moment and then he nodded.  “All right, I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

“No, Mr. Smith, I assure you it shouldn’t hurt.  Much,” teased Mr. Zhang.  He skillfully guided the mule team through the churned up snow and mud covering Main Street and turned south towards the bridge that led to Lake Tahoe.  Nestled on the northern bank of the Truckee River was a whitewashed two-story building with a small covered porch.  Zhang pulled up the team and stepped down.

Heyes went to the back of the wagon and climbed up next to Thaddeus.  “How’re you doing?”

The Kid looked up, miserably.  His eyes were red-rimmed and rheumy.  “Terrible.  Give me a hand, will ya?”

Heyes helped him up and out of the wagon keeping a steadying arm wrapped around his waist as they entered the store together.  Oil lamps burned brightly in several places illuminating a bewildering inventory.  Behind a long oaken counter and in front of several shelves filled to overflowing with jars containing items Heyes had never seen before, stood a tiny Chinese man.  Yong spoke rapidly to him in his ancestral tongue as the shopkeeper nodded.  Several words were fired back while the Kid stood and swayed on his feet.  Yong responded and the tiny man smiled, holding up one finger.  He turned to his shelves and pulled down several jars, he then reached under the counter and brought out a knife, a small scale, a mortar and pestle, and two small glass vials.  Swiftly, he combined herbs in the pestle and pounded them to a fine powder before emptying them onto the scale.  Weighing out the medicine carefully, he poured the mixture into one of the vials and returned his implements to their resting places.  He restored the dried herbs to the shelving and walked a few feet down the length of the wall running his hands along the jars, mumbling to himself.

Heyes watched him curiously.  The man lifted a large mason jar, peered at it shaking his head, and put it back.  Reaching to his right he took a cobalt blue jar down and walked back to his customers.  He retrieved a funnel from his store of tools and poured a small amount of liquid into the second vial.  Now nodding enthusiastically, he pushed both vials towards Heyes and treated him to another onslaught of Chinese.

Yong translated. “Mr. Lin says to give Mr. Jones half of the liquid now and the other half tomorrow morning.  The herbs should be brewed into tea using one teaspoon per cup.”

Heyes took the vials and held them up to the light.  He handed the liquid-filled one to the Kid and watched as he drank it down.

“Not bad.  Tastes kinda sweet.”

“What is it?” asked Heyes.

Yong chuckled quietly.  “I have no idea what the English words would be.  I can barely pronounce them in Chinese.  Mr. Lin said they are effective against ague.  He also says he would like to examine the patient and offer additional treatment.  Mr. Jones, could you please be seated over by the woodstove and remove your shirt?”  He indicated a caned chair near the blazing fire.

The Kid sank into it gratefully, dropping the fur he was wrapped in.  He tried to remove his shirt with fumbling fingers, but Heyes had to rescue him, gently pulling it off.  Curry whispered up to him.  “What’s this additional treatment?”

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, you’d better go along with it unless you want to end up on ice instead of cutting it.  Remember how sick you got that winter we were stuck in Clarence’s cabin?”

Mr. Lin carried a stool over to where his patient was sitting.  Under his arm was a bundle.  When he sat down, he put down the bundle on the stool.  Heyes stared at it before asking, “He isn’t planning on sticking little needles into him, is he?  I saw a fella do that once in San Francisco.”

“No, Mr. Smith, acupuncture has fallen out of favor amongst true physicians due to your western influences.  The Imperial Medical College eliminated it from its curriculum in 1822.  It is now only practiced by those you would call quacks.  I believe Mr. Lin will be performing a massage.”

“Massage?”  The Kid leaned away from the tiny man who was warming his hands in front of the stove.  “You mean he’s gonna be rubbin’ me all over?”

“Hey, it’s better than being stuck with a bunch of needles, ain’t it?” said Heyes.

“Massage, or an-mo, is an important part of Chinese medicine, Mr. Jones.  I promise it will ease your aches and pains and restore your body’s vital energies.”

“It will, huh?  Guess that sounds all right.”  Relaxing, the Kid let Mr. Lin put his warm hands on his chest.  As the doctor worked, Curry closed his eyes and sighed contentedly.  “You know, Josh, I could get used to this.  I’m feelin’ better already.”

Heyes smiled.  “Thanks for bringing us to your doc, Mr. Zhang.”

“No, thank you.  It is a small repayment on the large debt we owe you.  I would be honored if you permitted me to recompense the doctor.”

“All right by me.  We’re a little short on cash so let’s call us even,” said Heyes, extending his hand and shaking Zhang’s. Both men stood behind doctor and patient watching the treatment as the color returned to Mr. Jones’ ashen face.

Thoroughly massaged, Curry allowed Heyes to guide him back to the hotel and tuck him into bed.  He awoke the next morning to a knock on the door.  Heyes ushered in the waitress from the dining room bearing a hearty breakfast on a large tray.  Deftly, the woman slipped it onto the end table next to the prone Kid and left without a word or even a smile for the patient.  Curry wriggled upright and ate with gusto, demolishing his meal before leaning back into the pillows propped up behind him. “Don’t that beat all?  I feel great.”

Heyes was sitting in a stuffed chair on the other side of the room.  He had finished his own meal while his partner ate and was sipping a cup of coffee.  He put the cup down and went to the bedside.  Placing a hand on the Kid’s forehead, he smiled.  “Glad to hear it.  Let’s keep it that way.  You rest up awhile.  I’m going down to the warehouse and see if I can beg Wilson for my job back.”

“I don’t want my job back.  I won’t work for Wilson.”

“You need to rest.  I’ll work.”

“Never thought I’d hear those words comin’ from your mouth.”

“If we want to keep eating, we’ll need the job.  We’re running out of money, Kid, and we don’t know how much longer we’re gonna be stuck here.”

Heyes left his partner and walked towards the warehouse.  The yard surrounding the stone building was un-shoveled from the storm and footprints trampled the snow.  He banged on the heavy doors but received no response.  Just as he was leaving, he noticed more prints leading around the side of the building.  He followed the tracks to the small window where Jay served coffee and found the small man hurriedly stuffing a sack with his coffee-making supplies.

“Where is everybody, Jay?”

Startled, the man spun around.  “Mr. Smith, Mr. Wilson has shut down the job.  He says he doesn’t have enough men and he can’t pay if he can’t get enough ice.  He was very angry when he came in this morning.  You shouldn’t be found here.  He is furious with you and Mr. Jones.”

“Guess there’s no point in asking for my job back.  You quitting?”

“Yes.  I heard him say he’s going to rid Truckee of Chinese.  He’s a member of the Caucasian League.  He can make much trouble.”

“I’m sorry he feels that way, but his beef is with me, not you.  What reason would he have for going after you?”

“I’m Chinese.  That is enough.”

“What’re you gonna do now?”

“I must warn my brother.  Mr. Wilson said he was going to start by getting rid of the camp.  I am very worried.  I must go.”

“I’ll go with you.  Give me twenty minutes and I’ll meet you back here.”

“It is not your fight, Mr. Smith.”

“Maybe not, but I know better than most folks what it’s like to be unwelcomed.  Your brother has been a friend to me and Thaddeus.  We won’t turn our backs on him.”

“Then thank you.  I’ll be back here in twenty minutes.”

Heyes hurried back to the hotel.  He burst into their room and found the Kid up and sitting in the chair, cleaning his gun.  He blurted out his news, “Wilson’s going after the camp.  I’m going out there with Jay.”

“Not without me, you ain’t!”

“No, you’ve been sick.”

The Kid laid his gun down on the floor and stood up.  “I ain’t sick now and I ain’t lettin’ you outta this room until you agree to take me with you.”

Heyes blew out a breath of exasperation and snapped, “Fine, but we’ve got to hurry.  I’ve got to stop by the telegraph office and I told Jay I’d meet him soon.”

The Kid hastily dressed, grabbed his gun and, two minutes later, they were out the door and nearly running up the street to the telegraph office.  “Who’re you sendin’ the telegram to?” asked the Kid as he struggled to keep up with his healthier partner.

“Silky, we need his help.  I’ve got a plan.”

“Care to tell me?”

Arriving at their destination, Heyes stopped at the door before answering.  “No time.  Get some horses and meet me here.  Bring one for Jay, too.”  He went inside and the Kid hurried towards the livery.


oooOOOooo

Jay clutched the saddle horn with white-knuckled fists.  The horses galloped through the snow, sending puffs of powder flying with every stride.  He glanced over at the men riding next to him.  Mr. Smith was flicking the ends of his reins back and forth across his horse’s withers urging the powerful animal on.  Mr. Jones’ big brown horse easily kept up with Smith’s sorrel gelding.  Tipping precariously to and fro atop his own horse, Jay mumbled Chinese prayers.  From the top of the last rise, they’d seen a large group of riders ahead of them.  There was no time to waste.

Slowing as they weaved the horses through the trees, they could hear shrieks of terror from the camp.  Heyes lifted his arm and slid to a stop, leaping from his saddle.  The Kid and Jay pulled up next to him, their horses blowing steaming breaths from their nostrils.

“We’ll go in on foot so we can surprise them.”  Not waiting for his friends, he turned and ran towards the desperate cries, his footsteps muffled by the snow.  The Kid followed on Heyes’ heels and Jay trailed behind the longer-legged men.  As they ran, a tendril of smoke curled above the trees and thickened into a dark cloud.  The screams had ominously diminished and the three men ran faster.  Curry broke into the clearing first, his Colt .45 in hand.  Across from him, the big tent he’d been welcomed in yesterday was burning brightly.  Chao and his family were clustered near the fire. One man held a gun on Chao’s wife and his three children.  Another restrained the weeping woman, leering at her.  A third man held Chao in a chokehold.  Other families cowered by their burning homes trying to salvage their worldly possessions.  The old woman sobbed at the loss of her home.  The entire camp was in chaos.

Swiveling his head as Jay and Heyes ran towards Chao, the Kid saw Wilson and his men gathered around a barren cottonwood tree on the right side of the clearing.  Someone had tossed a rope over one of the lower branches and Yong stood in the center of the mob, a noose around his neck.  Wilson tugged on the rope, lifting Yong off his feet as some of his men cheered him on.  One or two looked away, uncomfortable with their boss’ brutality but unwilling to cross him.

The Kid fired a shot in the air and Wilson looked in his direction.  With an evil grin, he pulled harder as Yong kicked wildly, his hands bound behind his back.  Curry’s next shot severed the rope and Yong plummeted to the ground, still struggling for freedom.  “Freeze!” yelled the Kid.  Wilson went to draw, but felt the stinging pain of the third shot before he could clear leather.  His left arm gripped his right as his gun fell from nerveless fingers.  The rest of the men raised their arms in surrender.

Curry’s first shot had startled and distracted the vigilantes threatening Chao’s family, the second and third shots caused the man holding Chao to look over his shoulder and loosen his grip on his throat.  Gasping for air, the Chinese man kicked backwards striking a hard blow to the man’s ankle.  Yelping, his captor released him but caught a fistful of silk, halting his victim’s escape.  Chao threw a fist at him and they fell to the ground, wrestling.  The other two men avidly watched the fight and shouted encouragements.

Unseen, Heyes crept up behind the armed man and pressed the barrel of his Schofield into his back.  “Bang, you’re dead,” he whispered softly, reaching around to pluck the gun from the shocked man’s fingers.

Jay picked up a broken tent pole and swung it hard at the third man’s head.  The man dropped to the ground, out cold, and Chao’s wife ran to her children, hugging them tightly to her.

Chao delivered a flurry of solid blows to his opponent and finished the fight.  Dragging the wobbly man to his feet, he took the man’s pistol from his holster and covered him.

Heyes shoved the disarmed man towards Jay who pushed the man down next to his inert accomplice.  Chao brought his man over and the two Chinese men stood over the prisoners wielding the tent pole and gun.  The ex-outlaw leader turned towards his partner with a pleased smile.  “Need some help?”

“I was just going to ask you the same thing,” said the Kid.  “I could use a hand tying up this lot, if you’re not too busy.”

Heyes sauntered over.  “Not busy at all.”  He walked up to the erstwhile lynch mob and helped Yong to his feet, easing the noose from his neck.  “You all right, Mr. Zhang?”

Coughing, unable to speak, Yong nodded his affirmation.

Heyes pulled a knife from the shaft of his boot and made quick work of cutting the rope into pieces long enough to bind the men.  He handed several lengths to Jay, who began tying the men up.  Heyes started with Wilson, jerking him roughly and yanking his injured arm behind him.  Yowling, Wilson started to protest, but Heyes cut him off, “Quit whining.  You got off easy.  A gunshot hurts a whole lot less than hanging.”

Wilson shot him a venomous glare.  “You’ll pay for this, Smith.”

Heyes smirked.  “For stopping a lynch mob?  I don’t think so.”

Looking at the Chinese families gathered around the Kid, Wilson screamed.  “We’ll be back and, when we are, you’ll be sorry.”  Curry made a show of holstering his pistol with a flourish and giving the man a steely-eyed stare.

Heyes shook him hard.  “No sir, you’re going to be sorry for harassing the newest employees of Central Pacific Railroad, hired by Collis Huntington himself.”

Wilson said dumbly, “What?  When?  What for?”

Grinning broadly, Heyes pulled him forward.  “These good men have been hired to help clear the summit and I don’t think Mr. Huntington’s going to take it well when he hears how you tried to hang his help.”  Giving Wilson a hard shove, he pushed him towards Jay, who took his arm and led him to the gathered vigilantes.  “Time is money when you’re running a railroad and, if there’s one thing Huntington is fond of, it’s money.”  Joining his partner, Heyes winked at the Kid.  “Jay and Chao, how about harnessing up those mules for one more trip into the sheriff’s office?”

Chao and Jay laughed, delighted, and hurried off to complete the task.

“That true, partner?”

“Not yet, but I’m hoping there’s an answer when we get to town.”

“Silky?”

Heyes shrugged.  “I asked him to pull a few strings with his good friend and try to get them hired on.”

“That’ll stop Wilson for now, but what happens when the job’s over?”

“I also asked Silky to see if Huntington would give these folks tickets out of here in exchange for getting his trains back on schedule.”

“If he don’t?”

Heyes started to walk away.  “I’ll think of something else.  After all, we used to steal trains for a living.”

The Kid groaned.  “I was afraid you were gonna say that.


oooOOOooo

Heyes and Curry stepped up into the specially-appointed railcar and walked up the aisle.  Yong and his family, Chao’s family, and Jay were all seated on the plush benches, chattering excitedly in Chinese.  The children stood on the other side of the car and pressed their noses against the frosty glass, their breaths dulling it further.  Chao’s daughter traced a Chinese character in the condensation with her finger.  Reaching the front of the car, the two ex-outlaws stowed their bags on the overhead shelf and slipped onto an empty bench.

“California, here we come, Kid,” said Heyes softly, keeping his voice low so no one would overhear.

“Who would’ve thought Silky and Huntington would come through and with a private coach to boot.  At least these folks won’t be gettin’ harassed until they reach the city.”

Heyes nodded grimly.  “Things won’t be much better there, but there’ll be more opportunities for them.”

“Maybe Silky can find them work.”

“Maybe, maybe not, but he said he was willing to try and that’s a lot coming from Silky.”  Heyes chuckled.  “He also said we owed twice over now and, since we cost him money being late, he was going to take it out of our hides.”

Curry leaned back in his chair and laughed.  “Guess you didn’t tell him how broke we are; hides are all he’s goin’ to get.”

Heyes watched the children playing gleefully while he held his hat in his lap, worrying the brim.  “You know, Kid, it says an awful lot about a man when he needs someone to look down on in order to feel better about himself.”

“That it does, Heyes.”  The Kid pulled his hat down over his eyes and put his legs up on the opposite bench.  A minute or two later, he added.  “Lucky for all of us, you think so highly of yourself.”  He didn’t see the hat before it hit him.


*********


Author’s Notes: Much of this story is based on Truckee, California’s early history.  The Chinese Herb Shop, built in 1878, is the last building remaining from the second-largest Chinatown on the West Coast.  You can learn more about Truckee’s history of Chinese discrimination at:  http://www.chssc.org/History/OldChinatowns/chinatowntruckee.html



Carrie Pryor, Poker Pete Alvertson, the 601’s, and the Caucasian League are all real parts of Truckee’s past.  To learn more about them, visit:  http://www.truckeehistory.org/truckees-notable-townspeople-and-memorable-characters.html

Some dear friends of mine owned 300 acres in Coldstream Canyon outside of Truckee.  Their property contained the remains of the old Chinese camp as well as artifacts from ice harvesting.  We spent many happy hours camping there and rooting through the soil finding bits and pieces of history.  My friends ended up selling the property to the Nature Conservancy with the caveat that it would be kept undeveloped except for the construction of a campground for public enjoyment.

Harvested ice was stored in Truckee in double-walled, sawdust-insulated warehouses and kept covered with up to two feet of sawdust.  It could keep for up to three years.  Ice was considered a luxury reserved for the wealthy.  Upscale San Francisco hotels and restaurants imported ice from Truckee.  Fruit being shipped east from California was kept cool with Truckee ice.  Ice was also important for the mining operations in Virginia City where the temperatures could soar to over one hundred and twenty-five degrees.  Miners were allotted ice water throughout the day to regulate their body temperature.  In 1872, the Consolidated Mine used more than one thousand tons of ice.



(Writers love feedback!  You can comment on Inside Outlaw's story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen.  You don't have to be a member of this site and you can be anonymous.  You can type any name in the box.)
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Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Fri 21 Oct 2016, 9:51 pm by Penski
Brrrr... What a freezing cold story! I could feel the frosty air in this one. I LOVE stories with historical facts and this one was full of tidbits. Great notes at the end of the story, too! How'd Kid win the hot bath? Was Heyes feeling generous? Wink I thoroughly enjoyed this one, Inside Outlaw. Thank you so much for your contribution! thumbsup
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Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 4:57 am by Cal
Loving this episode.....so much atmosphere and detail...and the boys concern ringing through....not going to hurry it....can't wait to get back after lunch to finish it..... brilliant...and chilly start InsideOutlaw....and thanks for the bath scene...that warmed us all up I'm sure!
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Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 8:40 am by Cal
Wow....that was wonderful....I loved all the historical information at the end....the details were so obviously true as the story unfolded...but you kept it true to the AS&Jverse and the boys characters. Obviously, I enjoyed the Chinese story line and the characters.....I'm back in China in a few weeks ....but my own character Wong is based on my Chinese friends rather than the nineteenth century Chinese of the West....very grateful for the links InsideOutlaw shared at the end. Very impressed!

I've really loved VS2016....I'm very grateful that all the writers and producers took the time to do this for us.... special thanks to Penski....now....I get to read them all over again!
Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 9:22 am by aliasfluffyone
Enjoyed reading and especially the history notes. Silky's line "get here yesterday." sounded just like him. :)
Loved it!
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 2:21 pm by LittleBluestem
Wonderful episode, InsideOutlaw! I always enjoy it when writers weave actual historical facts into their stories. This episode shed some light on a shameful part of our nation's history. Of course, it makes me quite proud that our favorite ex-outlaws are above all that prejudice and hatred. (Sad to say, it is still around today and raising its ugly head all too often lately.)

I think their inherent goodness is the key to the eternal appeal of our two "pretty good bad men." They may have done things that were illegal, but they have strong values and morals. It's one of the reasons we all fell in love with them -- that and their loyalty to each other, not to mention their extreme gorgeousness...!

Great action scenes, especially the thrilling ice rescue. I could totally picture that scene as well as the big showdown at the Chinese camp with Heyes in there scrapping away and the Kid showing off his gunmanship.

Well done all the way around. (And thank you for the lovely bathtub scene!! That was a nice bonus!)
wow
Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 4:40 pm by RosieAnnieUSA
Terrific story, IO. You've got it all here -- naughtiness (shady ladies and poker games), hurt/comfort (Kid's little swim and subsequent illness and treatment), history (Truckee, the Chinese presence, and prejudice against them), a distasteful job for the boys that they have to take because they're broke (cutting ice), and heroics (saving two little children). It all comes together in one neatly gift-wrapped package for us readers. Thanks!
Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sun 23 Oct 2016, 11:26 pm by Linda A
clap clap Very good story, I enjoyed it, great action and emotions.
Re: The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw
Post on Sat 29 Oct 2016, 8:41 pm by Laura
I liked this story very much, I felt that the story it had a ring of truth to it. I think that our fellas concern and respect for other people that are different comes from their early beginnings, there own folks being killed because of their differences during the war. A very good story.
 

The Cold Hard Truth by Inside Outlaw

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