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 November 2009

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Penski

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Join date : 2013-09-26

20170105
PostNovember 2009

Counting Blessings

Heyes is looking for Jed, but what he finds is trouble. Thank goodness blessings come in the form of his cousin, Kid Curry



Counting Blessings -

“Three kings!” the straight-haired blond with light blue eyes reached over to pull the pot towards him.

Heyes reached out and put a hand on the man’s arm. “Not so fast.” He put his cards down on the table for all to see and smiled. “Full house…I win.” Heyes raked the jackpot money towards the mounting pile in front of him.

The blond narrowed his eyes as he watched Heyes put some of the dollar bills in his pocket. “Seems like you’re too damn lucky to me,” he muttered under his breath.

Heyes, alone again while looking for his younger cousin, was mindful of danger around him. A sore loser spelled danger in his book. “Excuse me?” he asked to bring the accusation in the open. “What did you say?”

Louder so all around the table could hear, the blond said, “Seems like you’re too lucky.”

“Oh,” Heyes paused and looked the man in the eye. “So are you sayin’ I’m cheating?”

“Sure am!”

Heyes looked around the table at the other players. “Do you feel I’m cheating?”

The man between Heyes and the blond shook his head. “Nope, I haven’t seen no way you coulda cheated. Plain lucky, I say. You’re just bein’ a sore loser, Doug.” The other men at the table mumbled they agreed that Doug had no reason to say the drifter was cheating.

Heyes took some of the money from his pile and motioned to the bartender. “Gentlemen, I’d like to buy you all a round of drinks.” After the drinks were distributed, Heyes shuffled the cards. “Ready for another round of poker? You feelin’ better about playing with me, Doug?”

“Yeah…I guess so. If everyone else says you ain’t cheatin’, I guess you ain’t.” Doug shrugged his shoulders and picked up the new cards dealt to him.

Several more hands of poker were played with Heyes winning most of the pots. After another hour of playing, Doug threw down his cards in disgust. “I’m out!” he said as he scraped the chair back and stood up to leave.

“Not leaving mad, are you?” Heyes looked up at Doug to make sure he had nothing to worry about.

“Hmptt…” Doug replied as he stormed out of the saloon.

Heyes frowned for a moment before smiling at the rest of the players. “Who’s dealing next?”

The poker game continued for several more hours with Heyes being more careful not to win so much. Doug’s attitude had him concerned. He had left Devil’s Hole several weeks ago to find his younger cousin. He headed south since the last place he heard about Jed, or Kid Curry as he was now known as, was in Texas. Heyes hated being alone. And here he was in Woodland, Colorado with a possible sore loser out there and no one to watch his back.

The rest of the players gave up playing and left for their homes in the late hours of the evening. Heyes went to the bar for one last drink before leaving. His horse was still tied to the hitching post outside since he hadn’t planned on playing poker when he came into the saloon for a drink in the late afternoon. Looking at his watch, he realized it was too late to stay in the hotel. Camping outside of town was his only option.

Heyes swallowed down the remainder of the whiskey in the glass and pushed off from the counter. He walked out of the saloon and looked around for trouble. The street was dark and quiet. His horse looked up and whinnied to him. “I’m coming,” Heyes said as he walked over to his mare. “Sorry about that. If I knew there was a poker game goin’ on that early, I would’ve taken you to the livery.” Heyes stroked the horse on its nose.

Moments later Heyes heard a noise behind him and felt a sharp pain…as his world went black.

Heyes woke up an hour later with a horrible headache and the blood rushing to his head. Trying to move, he realized he was tied to a horse; slung over the saddle like a sack of grain. No wonder his head was pounding. The horse was methodically walking down a path lit by the moonlight. A groan escaped Heyes.

“Finally woke up, I hear.” Heyes heard someone in front of him talking.

“Who are you and why d’ya want me? Heyes closed his eyes tight against the pain he felt with each jolt from the horse walking. A laugh, instead of an answer, came from the man leading the way down the path.

More frustrated and angry, Heyes tried again. “I said…who are you and what do you want with me?

“You ain’t in no position to make demands, now are ya?” the voice answered back. “Sit tight and we’ll be there soon enough.”

Heyes tried to put a name or a face to the voice as they continued for several more miles. Soon the horses were halted by a grove of trees. Heyes heard the creak of a saddle as someone dismounted and walked up behind him. A knife cut away the leather thong holding him to the horse and a hand grabbed his belt pulling him off the horse and onto the ground.

“Oww…” Heyes exclaimed as he fell. His hands were tied in front of him. He looked up and saw the sore loser from the poker game, Doug, sneering down at him. “You! I should’ve known it was you.”

Doug looked up and down the path as he heard two horses approaching. He drew his gun and yelled, “Andy? Charlie? Is that you, boys?”

“Yeah, it’s us,” one of the riders replied.

Doug holstered his gun and grabbed Heyes by the arm pulling him up.

“Who’s that, Doug?” a middle-aged dark-haired man asked as the horses stopped next to the other animals.

“This here, Charlie, is a cardsharp.” Doug firmly shook Heyes as he showed them his captive.

A heavy-set blond got off his horse. “A cardsharp? Whatcha plannin’ on doin’ with him?”

“Dunno yet, but I aim to teach him a lesson about cheatin’ me outta my hard-earned money, Andy. Got any ideas?”

Heyes rolled his eyes and then wish he hadn’t as his head pounded. “I didn’t cheat no one and the rest of the players said so.” He sighed. “Doug, just release me and you can have your money back.”

Doug pulled out a handful of bills from his pocket and smirked. “You mean this here money?”

“Hey, that’s my money! Not all of it is yours.”

“Not anymore it ain’t. It’s all mine for capturin’ and disposin’ of a cardsharp.”

Heyes brought his tied hands up to his face and rubbed his sore head. “Where’s my hat?”

Doug scoffed. “You ain’t gonna need a hat where you’re goin’.”

Doug led Heyes to a tree. “Andy, bring me a rope.”

“Whatcha need a rope for, Doug?” Andy asked as he untied the coil of rope from his saddle and followed Doug.

“Gonna tie this boy up ‘til we figure what we should do to a cardsharp.”

Doug pushed Heyes against a tree and, taking the rope from Andy, began tying Heyes to the tree.

“Can I at least sit down?” Heyes was growing more and more frustrated that he allowed himself to be captured.

Doug laughed again. “Nope, you can stand. Cardsharps don’t deserve no comforts.” C

harlie gathered twigs and branches to start a fire while Andy set up camp. Soon coffee was simmering by a hot fire while Doug, Andy and Charlie discussed Heyes’ fate.


* * *

Jed arrived in a small town close to midnight. He made his way over to the saloon and was thankful to see lights on. His throat was parched and he needed a quick drink before setting camp for the night. He slid off his buckskin gelding and stretched before tying the reins to the hitching post. His boot kicked a dark object on the ground. He bent down and picked up a hat. Looking around, he didn’t see anyone on the street so carried the hat inside the saloon.

Jed set the new black hat on the counter and smiled at the bartender. “Got time to pour a quick drink?”

“Sure, I ain’t closing for an hour or so.” The bartender came over and poured a whiskey after he saw coins being put on the bar top.

Making light conversation, the man asked the drifter, “Where you from?”

Jed took a gulp of whiskey and savored the flavor. “Just about everywhere. Seem to roam a lot lookin’ for jobs.”

Bartender nodded. “And where you headed?”

After swallowing the rest of the whiskey and pulling out coins for another glass, Jed answered, “Headin’ north.” Then wanting to change the subject from himself, he said, “Found this hat by the hitchin’ post. Maybe it belongs to one of your customers.

The bartender looked at the hat and shrugged his shoulders. “Could be…don’t pay much attention.” He poured another glass of whiskey for the drifter. “Ya know, it could belong to that drifter who was in here earlier winnin’ big at poker.”

“Yeah…and where is this drifter now?”

“He left about an hour or so ago. Really made one of the players mad…accused him of cheatin’. Hope he’s okay. Seemed like a nice gent. Bought the table a round of drinks.”

Jed slowly slipped his second glass of whiskey and stared at the black hat on the counter. There was something about that hat that had drawn his attention. It’s a hat just like his cousin had when they were younger. Jed picked up the hat to examine it more. He heard a ‘clink’ on the floor and looked down to see a shiny object.

Jed held his breath as he stooped to pick up the coin…a coin with a hole in the dead center. A hole made with a bullet. It was a coin the Kid recognized—it was his bullet that put the hole through it. Heyes must’ve kept the coin…this must be Heyes’ hat!

“Sir, can you describe that drifter who was playin’ poker earlier?” Jed asked with trepidation.

“Sure, he was about your build and your age, but with dark straight hair.”

“And where did he go?”

“Dunno, I told ya he left about an hour or so ago.”

“And there was a sore loser at the table accusin’ him of cheatin’?" Jed’s heart started to pound.

“Yeah, Doug thought he was cheatin’ and said so, but the rest of the players said he wasn’t. Why?”

“Where can I find this Doug?”

“He and his buddies usually camp just west of town.”

Jed swallowed the rest of his drink and, grabbing the hat on the counter, quickly left the bar.

“Hey, where you think you’re…Dang young drifters always up to no good.”

Kid quickly untied his gelding and mounted, tying the black hat to his saddle horn. He headed west and galloped out of town. A few miles later he realized he didn’t know where he was going and could be missing markers. And galloping in only moonlight was foolish, too. He halted his horse and looked around. Closing his eyes, Jed sighed. “Where are you, Heyes? Hang on…I’m comin’.” He opened his eyes and saw a small path angling to the left. Jed took the path at a much slow gait.


* * *

Heyes was exhausted. He got little to no sleep being tied standing up to a tree. The pain in his head subsided to a dull thumping during the night. Try as he may, he could not hear what his captors had in mind for him. He wished he hadn’t gone looking for Jed alone. He was old enough to take care of himself. But then the details of his nightmare came back to haunt him—Jed in a gunfight with blood and someone dead. No, he was glad he went looking for his only family member.

The pinks of sunrise were beginning to show in the eastern sky when Heyes woke from a fitful rest. Doug, Charlie and Andy were sound asleep by the fire. “Jed, I wish you were close by. I wish we hadn’t separated. I wish I had counted you a blessin’ and not a trouble while we were growin’ up. Sure do miss you.”

Heyes patiently waited for Doug and his friends to wake up. By mid-morning they began waking up and cooking breakfast.

The aroma of the food made Heyes break his silence. “Hey, is there any chance I can have some of that?”

Doug sneered. “I ain’t gonna waste good food on you.”

“But Doug,” Andy looked up from his plate, “even a dyin’ man gets a last meal.”

Charlie nodded his head. “That’s true, Doug. Sheriff always gives a condemned man a last meal.”

“Alright, alright…you can go feed ‘im. I don’t care,” Doug said as he went back to his food.

“Condemned man? Whatcha plannin’ on doing to me?” Heyes’ voice sounded calm, but his stomach knotted up.

Charlie brought over a plate of food, “We gonna hang ya…at high noon by the path so people can see what happens to cardsharps in Woodland.” He lifted a fork of food up to Heyes. “Open up.”

Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head, fighting the nausea that threatened to overcome him.

“Okay, your choice if ya don’t wanna eat.” Charlie walked back to the fire.

An hour later Doug untied Heyes from the tree and started making a hangman’s noose with the rope while Andy pointed a gun at Heyes.

“Let’s go.” Andy motioned with his gun towards the horses. Heyes walked to his horse and waited. “Get up there.” Putting his tied hands on the saddle horn, Heyes hoisted himself up with help from Charlie.

The others mounted their horses and walked out of the trees and out on the path.

“Over there.” Doug pointed to a large oak near the path. “That’s a good place for him to hang.”

The party of four made their way over to the oak; a gun pointed at Heyes the whole time. Doug threw the rope other a sturdy thick branch of the tree. Leering at Heyes, he rode over to him. “Say your prayers, boy. You’re gonna die.”

Heyes swallowed and then nodded. He was ready.

Doug leaned over to put the noose around his neck when…

“I think you boys oughta think twice about what you’re doin’ there.” A young man on a buckskin gelding rode into the oak’s canopy with his gun drawn, casually pushing up his hat with one finger.

Heyes turned to look at the stranger. “Jed!”

Jed grinned at Heyes and shook his head. “Not anymore. It’s Kid Curry now,” Jed corrected him, hoping the name and reputation were known to the other three men.

“Who in the…” Doug began to say, but was interrupted by Charlie.

“Kid Curry? From Texas? Doug, he’s fast…real fast.”

Heyes smiled with pride as Kid glared at Doug.

“He may be fast, but there’s three of us.” Doug drew his gun, as did Andy and Charlie. And bullets began to fly.

Heyes’ mare spooked and reared; Heyes hung on to the saddle horn with his tied hands as she took off running from the gunfight.

When the bullets stopped flying, Doug, Andy and Charlie were wounded with the Kid unscathed. He glanced to make sure their injuries were not life-threatening and then took off after Heyes’ horse.

Out of the oak canopy, Kid could barely see Heyes hanging on as his mare flew across the landscape. Kid urged his gelding forward to catch up with the mare. Heyes bent down to the neck of his horse and talked soothingly to it, hoping to slow her down. In a short time, Kid was riding next to Heyes and grabbed the reins getting the mare to stop.

Kid jumped from his gelding and over to Heyes. He looked up into the grateful brown eyes and grinned. “First time I’ve had to get you outta trouble, Han. Usually it’s the other way ‘round.” The Kid reached up and untied his hands.

Heyes grinned back as he stretched his sore hands and climbed off his horse. “Damn, are you a sight for sore eyes, Jed! How did you know?”

“Found your hat in Woodland.” The Kid untied the hat from his saddle horn and placed it on Heyes’ head.

“My hat!” Heyes’ pleased face turned into puzzlement. “But how did you know it was mine? It’s a new one you haven’t seen?”

Kid shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno how I knew…just had a feelin’. And then as I was lookin’ it over, this fell outta it.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out the coin handing it back to Heyes with a smile. “I can’t believe you kept it all this time.”

Now it was Heyes’ turn to shrug as he pocketed the coin, “Well…”

“Heyes?” the Kid changed the subject so not to embarrass his cousin.

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’ in Woodland? Ain’t that kinda far from Devil’s Hole?”

“You know about Devil’s Hole?”

“Yeah…I seen your wanted posters, Heyes.”

“Oh…well, I was lookin’ for you.”

“For me?”

“Yeah, I had a nightmare about you and a gunfight and someone died.”

The Kid lowered his head.

“So it was true.”

Jed nodded his head.

“Jed,” Heyes paused for a moment to get his attention and Jed looked up. “Big Jim Santana is the leader of Devil’s Hole now. He sent me to find Kid Curry. Said there might be a place for him at Devil’s Hole.”

Jed sighed and looked away. “I don’t hire my guns out, Han, and I don’t hold to killin’, even if I have killed. It was an accident.”

“Big Jim don’t hold to killin’, either.” Heyes looked sheepish. “We could be together again, if you’d come back with me. And obviously, I need someone watchin’ my back.”

“You’re not doin’ a very good job of it. And the kind of people you’re hangin’ around with…” Jed smiled as he shook his head.

“Well?”

“As long as me and you can be partners again, I guess Kid Curry can join the Devil’s Hole gang. But I’m not Jed…I’m Kid Curry, okay?”

“And I’m not Han…I’m just Heyes.”

The Kid reached over and offered his hand to the other man. “I’m Kid Curry, nice to meet you.”

Heyes shook the blond’s hand and grinned. “I’m Heyes, good to meet you.”
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