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 The New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words)

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Cal

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Join date : 2015-11-11

20170506
PostThe New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words)

---oooOOOooo---


The new Teacher
By Cal


---oooOOOooo---

PART THREE

(Scene 16   -   2,400 words)

Jed Curry

Nicole brightened as they approached the Stumpery.  Kid watched her jump from his horse and run into her husband’s arms.  They looked a strange mismatched couple, somehow.  The old outlaw, come dynamite expert, and the French-speaking beauty.

She was babbling in French now.

From the names, she used, and the repeating of the words “Bottes” and “C’est impossible”, Kid was in no doubt about the story she was telling.  

Mr Laidlaw in jail for stealing the fancy boots Kid had thrown at him this morning.

This wasn’t good.

He looked at Heyes to see how much of it he was taking in.

All this trouble over a pair of boots.  It didn’t make no sense.  The school teacher had said he didn’t hold a grudge.  The boots were ill fitting and tight.  He had other boots.  Why’d he have to go riding outta of town like that, with the Sheriff, to go chase down the thieves. The posse must have caught up to Jenkins and Laidlaw at the Trading Post.
 
Where else would you trade a pair of fancy boots?

Kid groaned loudly, drawing a knowing look from his partner.

What had possessed him, to make the school teacher take off his boots!?  And, if he couldn’t explain it to himself, how was he gonna explain it to Heyes. And anyhow, how was he supposed to know Mac Laidlaw never wore shoes?!

That was just plain unnatural.

Heyes was looking amused as he walked up to Kid and patted him on the shoulder. Their earlier cross words seemingly forgotten.

“You find yourself a lost damsel… in the woods, Kid … or should that be a lost Mademoiselle?” he laughed quietly, for Kid’s ears only.

“Looks like Ol’ Dynamite Sparrer lucked out in the wife department.  She’s sure a beauty…”

“She is that…” agreed Kid distractedly, still looking pained with thinking.

The sun caught on the shining blond hair of the distraught wife and got Kid’s full attention again.  He’d liked having Mrs Nicole Sparrow in his arms.  Unlike Frankie, Nicole hadn’t protested about his protective embrace. Reminded him of what he might be missing in town.  

Then his stomach growled, loudly.

“Well …she’s safe enough now…” he smiled, turning back to Heyes.

“Think I’ll just mosey on …back to town…”

“Oh, no … no you don’t” chuckled Heyes catching that look in Kid’s eye, and pulling him gently back from his horse.

“She’s over there …saying …its them fancy boots you robbed this morning… got this Mac Laidlaw thrown into jail… I think it’s past time you and me had a little talk …don’t you?”

Kid smiled weakly, looking as innocent and incredulous as he could manage whilst hungry.

“You could tell all that… just from what’s she’s saying… could you?”

“Yep… But… we’ll talk someplace a bit more private,” nodded Heyes watching as the others started to gather around Nicole too.

“Might not have been the same boots?” tried Kid lamely. “Could have been a whole other robbery.”

Heyes gasped a disbelieving negative to his younger cousin, shaking his head.  It said “Really… that’s the best you’ve got?” all in that one sound.

Then Heyes turned serious.

Kid could see he was worried and trying to work out what this meant for them.

“Come on, I collected my horse while you were out collecting damsels in distress…” quipped Heyes sourly.

“We’ll head on up to the next Stumpery …that’s where Ol’ Sparrer and this Mac Laidlaw have got cabins…. Well …Stumps I guess… But that’s also where the old hunting trail …up onto the ridge, that Frankie was telling me about, starts… So… If we decide to stay overnight …we can make us a camp up there and we’ll know we got us a back door …just in case Abe Brent comes looking.”

Heyes walked to his waiting horse that now had all their trail packs tied to its saddle.  He nodded a farewell to the distracted gathering under the wagon sheet, and led the way out of the clearing on the far side.  

Kid followed.  

The families seemed too distracted to worry too much about where Heyes and Curry were headed. They were all talking excitedly at the same time.  It was only Maxwell, that stared after them for a few seconds, before quickly being drawn back into the fray, as Cora demanded just what the menfolk were going to do about poor Mac.

---oooOOOooo---

Kid watched Heyes closely.  

Heyes was thinking hard.

He’d obviously been given directions to follow, to so easily pick his way through the trees like this, with no discernible trail.  He hadn’t looked back to The Kid once.  His shoulders were hunched up, like he was struggling under the weight of some heavy problems in that big brain of his.

Probably rehearsing all the ways this is gonna be my fault, thought Kid sourly.  

He’d have to get him distracted.
 
Kid’s stomach growled loudly again.

“Think I’ll pick us up some firewood as we go…” he called ahead cheerfully, reaching down and picking up some good-looking wood at his feet.  

They’d decided to walk.  The roots and low hanging branches, combined with the steep gradient and the dark, making riding much too difficult.  He kept the cheerful demeanour.

“We can get right in on cooking some of the supplies I got… Say …when was the last time you ate… or slept Heyes?”

Heyes must have been very distracted.  Kid had to shout his name again.  

Heyes didn’t even seem to know what Kid had asked him when he looked back down the slope a minute later.

On the plus side, Heyes didn’t seem to be in a mind to chew out his younger cousin about the theft of a pair of fancy boots either.

So, that was good.

“I said…”

Kid chose his words carefully. You don’t go poking a hornet’s nest.

“…What’s up?  What got you thinking so hard?”

Heyes looked sad, and sighed heavily shrugging up his shoulders. He took several goes to start putting his worries into words.

“Are we doing the right thing, Kid? I mean … Staying ‘round here… helping them poor mining families? I don’t know what Lom or the Governor are gonna make of any of this.  They could be thinking this is just the kinda trouble we should be keeping out of.  I opened a safe before… But that was when we thought we were getting back stolen property for Big Mac… And that was in Mexico.  This isn’t like that.  No one’s paying us …for one thing …and we only have Maxwell and Frankie’s word that what’s inside Widget’s safe belongs to Maxwell.”

Heyes shook his overfull head.

“I don’t think I’ve been thinking too clearly today, Kid…” he said wearily.

“I think I should help get some wood together… I need to …clear my head… get some food inside me …’fore we go making any decisions… about what we do next.”

Heyes picked up a small branch and resumed his distracted walk through the trees.

That’s what Heyes was all fired up about?  Whether he should risk opening Widget’s safe, to help Maxwell get his hands on some legal documents.  That was a no brainer for the Kid.

No.

But Heyes was right, they made better decisions on full stomachs.

“Yep… That’s what I was wondering too…” said Kid quietly to his partners back.

Another bullet dodged.

---oooOOOooo---

They heard the stream, before they saw it.  This high up, it was a fast froth, running noisily over rounded boulders.  The clearing itself was a stump filled scar on the stream’s bank, very like the lower clearing, where Mr Maxwell had set up a temporary home.  

This clearing looked more settled.  

More permanent.

There was a small paddock, with a neat lean-to store. A mountain of well-seasoned fire wood.  A couple of well-maintained stump houses, both of which sported more traditional wooden cabin extensions.  There was a privy shack and a cook shack at opposite end of the clearing.

The first impression it gave Kid was, an outlaw hide out.
 
A self-contained, secret, home in the woods.  Then he remembered what Cora had said about none of the men being able to hunt.

Didn’t really make sense, for miners.  Would suit him and Heyes though.  They could hunt and they had plenty of new supplies. There was clean water in abundance, great stack of firewood.

These stump houses looked more inviting too.  

More lived in.

Kid appraised the set up, and smiled.  Heyes carefully watched the cogs turning behind the blue eyes.
Kid was reflecting on his decision to persuade Heyes they should move right along.  Talk him out of any ideas about helping the miners, and leave right after some food and a bit of rest.  

Maybe, they should stick around for a few days.  Scope out the hunting trail.  See if it did give down onto the tunnel.  See if jumping a train would be as easy as they’d been led to believe.

He could go back into town and …check out train timetables... amongst other things.

There were a myriad possibilities.  

No need for a hasty decision.

No need at all.

He sighed out his content.

Heyes beamed at him seeing the change, as he dropped his few branches of gathered wood near the cooking pit.  

“This is quite a setup, huh!” he smiled at Kid, as the Kid dropped his much bigger load of gathered wood next to the pit.

“Looks like Ol’ Sparrer and Mac have got themselves a nice place here.  You settle the horses… I’ll have us eating in no time.”

Kid could see Heyes wanted to get himself busy on cooking, probably to stop himself over thinking again.  
Sounded like a good plan to Kid.

He took himself off to the paddock to unload the horses and give them a well-deserved rub down and some feed.  They had access to the stream for water, and he decided to refresh both their canteens while he had the chance. Then he dragged both their bedrolls and saddles to set them up round the fire back at the cook shack.

Heyes handed him a big mug of steaming coffee.

Kid accepted the coffee without comment and sat on his bed roll, using his warm saddle for a back rest. The smell of warm biscuits was filling the glade.  Kid’s stomach went again.

“When did you last eat… or sleep?” asked Heyes, laughing without turning, as he crouched stirring a spattering pan over the fire.  

“You sound worse than the indoor plumbing in the Brown’s Palace!”

Kid smirked, but sipped at the scolding coffee carefully hiding the wince as the bitter liquid hit his tongue. That didn’t need an answer.  Heyes knew Kid didn’t miss meals, unless he absolutely had to. and he could sleep in a gopher hole.  He stretched out his long legs, and accepted a steaming plate from Heyes, nodding appreciatively.  Sometimes words weren’t necessary.

Heyes passed the biscuits.

They ate in companionable silence.

---oooOOOooo---

Heyes had smoked his cigarette down to the last tiny stub, and he was just closing his eyes on the glade, stretched out right there by the fire.

“You not planning to go …native… and pick us out a nice homely …Stump?” Kid asked, pouring a shot of whiskey into his coffee mug and using the bottle, to point to the ancient brooding sentinels of the glade, before offering it to Heyes.

“Did you look inside one yet?” Heyes said without opening his eyes but lifting his mug to receive a generous slug.

“Go, take a look …You look in one of them stumps… and tell me …you don’t see a jail cell… Gave me chills…”

“Oh… I’ll take your word for it,” said Kid quietly, eyeing the nearest Stump with a little less enthusiasm.

There was another long pause for some whiskey appreciation.

“But …you’ve decided …on staying?” Kid asked quietly.

Nothing.

“Heyes? We’re staying put… for a coupla days… right?” a little louder.

“I reckon so…” said Heyes almost in sleep, but he didn’t sound at all sure about it.

Kid looked over and saw Heyes’ breathing slow in sleep.  He nodded to himself.

“Just a coupla days… what could be the harm in that? I’ll just have me a coupla minutes shut eye then… think I’ll go check out that back door.”

“Hmmmm… good idea” breathed Heyes.

“Think I’ll come with you.”

Kid smiled over at his seemingly comatosed cousin… Did Heyes ever sleep properly!?

---oooOOOooo---

Kid woke up to a flower being tickled under his chin.

“You’re gonna marry a princess” stated Sophia.

She’d piled many other flowers and ribbons on his chest, and he had a rag doll under one arm. He squinted up at his little tormentor and noted that Heyes hadn’t been given the same treatment.  Heyes lay on his blanket across the fire with his back to Kid, obviously still asleep.

He sat up disturbing the carefully arranged garland.

“Oh…” sighed Sophia. “You spoiled it… I was getting you ready to marry the princess.”

The princess, in the body of Michelle, sat brushing her hair at kids feet.

“Sorry” he said.  “I guess the groom should be awake before you go decorating him for a wedding.”

The girls giggled, and ran to fetch their Mama.

“Ah, you are awake Mousier Curry” called Nicole, coming out of the nearest Stump house with her girls in tow.

“It’s Thaddeus… And yes… I seem to be awake…” smiled Kid.

Over by the other stump cabin Sparrer was deep in conversation with another man.  Kid easily recognised No Shoes.  Wasn’t he supposed to be in jail? Maybe he’d dreamed that bit.

“Joshua!” he called to Heyes rubbing at his eyes and finger combing his curls under his hat.  

“Joshua… somethings happened… Mac Laidlaw … he’s here!”

Heyes rolled over to take a look.

Not that much asleep then, thought Kid.  Probably just faking it to avoid the princess games.

“Well… will you look at that” groaned a tired sounding Heyes.  “How’d he get out of jail so quick?”

Heyes, his hair all muzzed up and eyes full of sleep, squinted up at Kid as he stood on the far side of the fire with the low sun falling at his back.

“Kid?”

“Yeah…”

“Why you got a flower behind your ear?”

---oooOOOooo---

(Scene 17 – 2,400 words)

Heyes
Heyes watched as his long-time partner and younger cousin danced on the other side of the fire, flicking flowers out of his hair like they were hornets.

He smiled broadly.

The food, the whiskey and the short sleep were all he ‘d needed. He awoken with clarity.  He knew what they should do.  

It was obvious, all he’d needed was a little thinking time to put it together.

And he knew why Kid had done what he did.  Of course, he did.  He’d always known.

Kid had said it himself.

“Coz I had to!”

And Kid was right.

Kid just wouldn’t be Kid, without that big heart of his, rushing in to help the needy and hang the consequences.  Didn’t mean Heyes wasn’t planning on giving Kid a hard time for it. Just meant, for now other things were more important.

Like negotiating their cut.

“Come here Kid… I got something to tell you…”

Kid stilled, looking down at Heyes, and seeing he was in earnest walked around the fire to find a place to sit.
Heyes waited while Kid settled himself down.

“I’ve been thinking everything over …and I think… I got us a way where …we just might come out of all this ahead.  I been working on a plan… to get us a stake …for the future… And …the kinda work I’m planning for us to have to do…t’earn it… well …let’s just say… it’s definitely not too hard on the back.  You might even say… we’re kinda uniquely qualified to do it.”

“You got a plan?” said Kid quietly, giving Heyes his full attention.

“Is it legal?”

“Ha!” spat Heyes.

“The man that pulls a robbery this morning …asks if it’s legal.  Of course, it’s legal… well, kinda… Well it ain’t robbery… coz no one’s gonna lose any money… But it could definitely get us a stake.”

Heyes beamed his “I got a plan…trust me” beam.

Kid sighed.

The children were running about the glade making plenty of noise, and the three other adults seemed busy talking together, over by the far stump house.

“OK…” said Kid.

“Let’s hear it.”

Heyes started in on what Maxwell had told him earlier…

Maxwell had said that The Old Spencer mine, over on the other side of the bowl that Clearwater lay at the centre of, had been near paid out when the old man had died and left it to his two surviving offspring, Emma and Steadman.  The old man had left the greater share to his clever, business savvy daughter, in preference to Steadman, who was younger, and want to spend his time at the roulette tables.

Steadman went East and squandered his lesser half in a parade of unsuccessful business schemes.  He liquidated his concern in the mine, by selling shares to Eastern investors (mostly shady casino owners) who he believed would never dream of crossing the Mississippi.

When Emma married well, to a rail magnate no less, Steadman came sniffing around to see what was in it for him.  He found that his new brother-in-law was a might unusual, in that he concentrated on the engineering side of the business, and left the money side to his accountant and good friend, Maxwell.  Steadman quickly ingratiated himself to a position at Widgets side.  

Maxwell said, Wendel Widget was kinda naïve, and easily led, even though he was a wonderful engineer, a loyal husband and good friend. Emma and Maxwell, finding they each had an equal stake in preserving Wendel Widgets reputation and fortune, soon formed an alliance to keep both businesses prospering, and out of Steadman’s hands. They even conducted their business meetings in the garden, under the guise of discussing design of a maze, to keep Steadman wrong footed and away from business decisions.

Apparently, Emma would tell Widget what he’d decided to do, later.

It was a system that worked for everybody.
 
Emma, unlike her brother who had been sent away to school, had grown up in this community, and had its best interests at heart.  And she was under no illusion about her younger brothers gambling addiction.  She indulged him in some ways.  Letting him get involved in the day to day running of the mine. Giving him responsibility for sourcing equipment and materials. Allowing him to set up the tithed businesses at the worker’s camp.

Mostly, she enjoyed his absences and never trusted him with large amounts of the mine’s cash.  The hiring of guards, for the payroll transportation from bank to mine, had been her idea. It was as much to deter Steadman, as to deter outlaws.

Heyes laughed to himself, at this.  

“It would have been hard …for Steadman …to embezzle from the business under such scrutiny… But, when Emma died in childbirth, everything changed.  Widget … he owned the greater share of the mine, but he’d collapsed in grief, and threw himself into his work… Maxwell said something about a …funicular railway …. whatever that is ….and some new tunnels… anyway…”

He’d left running the mine to Steadman, and Steadman wasn’t in a mind to continue to share that responsibility with Maxwell.

Maxwell knew the mine was coming to the end of its economically useful existence when Emma took it over.  Emma had been transferring the younger men to her husband’s railroad business, as the mine faltered.  Giving them new skills.

Under Steadman things changed.

Maxwell could only guess from the books what was happening.  

He started to notice the money going out on materials and equipment was dropping off rapidly.  The bill, for wages, also dwindled as many miners were sacked, leaving them destitute. And the prices, in the mine owned supply stores and saloons, were rocketing.  

Soon after Steadman took over there was a terrible accident. A collapse, triggered by a faulty explosion.  Or at least, that was the story put out.  

Maxwell investigated. He interviewed the dynamite crew, Sparrow and Laidlaw.  Talked to the foremen of the two working gangs, the one’s that lost most men that day, Janx and Jenkins.

They were all sacked.


Heyes stared across the clearing to where Sparrow sat with Nicole and Laidlaw.  He knew just how bad the old outlaw would’ve taken the news that he’d been responsible for the deaths of others in one of his explosions.  
He remembered a blast that had gone wrong, from way back back when they rode together. Sparrer had set the dynamite that time, and Heyes remembered the man’s face when he saw the fractured remains of a train guard. Being the man responsible for lighting the fuses wasn’t always easy.

Maxwell said, Sparrow had taken the disaster hard and turned to drink. Nicole had saved him. But The Kid didn’t need to hear tittle tattle.

Kid was waiting patiently for Heyes to continue.

“It was Maxwell told them about the Stumpery… Where to hide… when they got thrown out ‘coz they couldn’t make the rent... and it was Maxwell…”

Maxwell poured over the doctored company books.  And he discovered that Steadman had saved money buying useless ‘green’ props, and that it was these props that had collapsed, when Sparrow had set the explosion at the face.

The fault was Steadman’s, and he told Sparrow and Janx.

Steadman’s response to the disaster was to blame Janx and Sparrow’s crews, and let them take the brunt of the community’s anger.  Then, he proclaimed a new seam had been discovered as a result of the accident.  He proceeded to get as much publicity for it as he could.

Got articles written in all the papers.  

He had new share certificates drawn up, and had them sold back East on the wave of publicity.

“Hmmmm”  said Kid.

He really was trying to follow all this.

“It’s a sad story Heyes … Especially for them…”

He pointed over at the others with his chin.

“…but I don’t see what it has to do with us?”

Heyes raised his eyebrows, in a very teacher-ly way, and screwed up his lips.

“Ah well now… I’m getting to that bit…  Seems Janx and Jenkins had a secret.  They’d worked on the tunnel … with Sparrow and Laidlaw…. Working for the mine… but getting paid by the railroad… coz work in the mine was in short supply…

Whilst excavating the tunnel, they’d found a new seam… that looked real promising… it ran out under Spencer’s timber.  Well, they weren’t about to tell anyone what they’d found.  

Who would they tell anyway? …The mine …. or the railroad?  They figured they might as well sit on what they’d found…  Wait and see if they could figure a way …to make it pay … for them… I mean.

When they found out that the land belonged to Maxwell, they went to him with a proposition.  His land, their expertise.

It couldn’t fail.  

But they’d need venture capital …to get it started.”

Heyes stopped, smiling over at Kid and trying to gauge if he was following.

Kid blew out an indulgent sigh.

“You know that don’t answer my question, Heyes … Where’d we fit in?”

Heyes bit his bottom lip, savouring his genius incite.  Kid was gonna love this.

“Maxwell told me… Widget wasn’t willing to invest himself … he’d had his fill of mining …and he didn’t relish adding his name to an outfit setting up in opposition to Emma’s father’s mine… He felt it was disrespectful… but… He put Maxwell in touch with other potential investors… friends of his from back East …and said he was willing to stand them the $10,000 surety they’d need to secure the loan …as long …that is… that Steadman Spencer never knew where the money had come from.”

Heyes stopped again, lifting his eyebrows.

“So?” said Kid getting a bit annoyed and impatient.

“How does that …get us… a stake?”

“Well… don’t you see Kid… the investors are due Thursday, and Wendel Widget is nowhere to be seen.  Maxwell says it’s not that unusual for Widget to forget about dates, but he’s never been …out of contact… this long before …He’s way overdue …and Maxwell can’t find him anywhere… so he probably won’t make the meet on Thursday…”

Kid looked uncomfortable. He coughed to clear his throat.

“I… may …know a little something about that…” he said quietly, and explained to Heyes what he’d over heard in town.

Heyes looked shocked and rubbed at his face with a gloved hand.  Then he told Kid about coming across the newly dug grave on his ride with Frankie.

“You don’t think he’s….”

Heyes didn’t finish that sentence.

“Does Widget… not …. coming back …put a crimp in your plans to get us a stake, Heyes?” asked Kid.

“Noo… not exactly…” sighed Heyes.

“I was kinda hoping …he wouldn’t make the meeting Thursday… give us an ‘in’ on the deal… but I wasn’t figuring on him …never …coming back.  That’d make Frankie an orphan… same as us.  That’s terrible.”

Heyes pulled a face.

“Guess the only way to know fer sure… is ….to go take a look…”

Kid shook his head vigerously.

“She ain’t no orphan …same as us, Heyes… that’s fer sure. She’ll inherit …everything… She’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know …Kid…”

Heyes looked really pained for a second.  He blew out a long breath.

“Well… either way… deals the same for us. If we can get a deal on a share in the new venture… It would be like …an investment …in our future… We’d be like ...venture capitalists too… only we ain’t got no capital.”

“Huh? Well… what do we got?” asked a very confused Kid.

“We can help them… get what they want,” said Heyes.

“What is it they want …that you think …they’d be willing to give us a share in a mine for?”

“Me!” stated Heyes triumphantly.

“They need me… to open that safe…  And they need us… to rob the bank… I mean borrow the money from the bank …that they need to show the investor’s representative on Thursday. Who knows… If the investor’s representative hasn’t met Wendel Widget… Heck… I could be a big rich Railroad magnate for the day and flim-flam a broker… That’s easy.”

Kid’s eyes are wide in shock.

“May I remind you Heyes” he began slowly.

“We don’t do that stuff anymore.  We don’t break into houses …and open safes… we don’t rob banks… And this time …remember… We’d have to go in twice… to put the money back!”

Kid’s voice wasn’t rising, but his words were coming out in a violent hiss as he got up in Heyes’ face.

“And… acting …as Frankie’s father… to flim-flam a Banker! How could you even think that was OK … and may I remind you the bank is… IN A TOWN… WHERE ABE BRENT …IS SHERIFF!”

Ok, maybe his voice was rising a little.

Heyes had started leaning back just a bit, but the smile never left his face.

“Yeah… its genius… ain’t it?” he beamed.

Kid groaned.

“Kid… you gotta see the bigger picture… An investment like this… When the mine starts making a profit… As shareholders …we’ll get paid …without doing another blame thing… for the rest of our lives.  Maxwell explained it to me… Being a shareholder … It’s better than stealing! You just sit back and watch the money rolling in… You wouldn’t even have to hold a gun on anyone.”

“And that’s legal?” spat an incredulous Kid.

“Yep… And the mines a sure-fire winner too” nodded Heyes, enthusiastically.  

“Maxwell said …Janx and Jenkins are about the best there are in the business… If they say that seam is good… that seam is good.”

Kid held his head in his hands.

“I don’t know, Heyes… What’s Lom… or the Governor… gonna say when they hear we broke into another bank?”

“About the same … they’d say …if they ever heard about you holding up a teacher… and making him hand over his boots.  You know …that’s arm’d robbery …right there” smirked Heyes.

“Heyes…You know I didn’t…” began Kid.

“That’s right… And neither is this… So, we better be darn sure neither one of them ever finds out!”

Heyes slapped Kid on the back in comradery.

“This is it Kid… This is the big one …that’s gonna set us up for the future …you’ll see… All I gotta do is show these miners… just how much they need us.”

Heyes showed Kid his silver tongue, just in case he’d forgotten it was there.

---oooOOOooo---


(Scene 18 –  1,600 words)

Frankie

Theodore Smith isn’t like Hannibal Heyes.  I wish Hannibal Heyes was our teacher today.  This morning we did math, and Theodore Smith didn’t mention safes, not once.

He isn’t like Miss Henderson either.  

He’s a bit like Daddy.  He knows a lot of interesting things, but he gets real grouchy if you ask too many questions.  

Too many questions, is sixteen.

That’s how many questions I’ve asked about math, and the Founding Fathers and about the constitution and stuff, before he said

“Maybe it’s time to move on.  I too, would like to be educated.  I would like to find out something about you, and your lives here in Clearwater.”

That’s called changing the subject.
 
And the rule about changing the subject is, you’re not allowed to ask any more questions about the thing you were interested in. I know that sounds silly, but that’s the rule, and everyone has to pretend they’ve forgotten what they were listening to before.

I’m not very interested in the new subject.

I already know most everything, about everyone in Clearwater, because Daddy makes me say hello to them all at election time. Except for Weird Harry, of course.

Uncle Steadman says Weird Harry is touched.

I don’t know who touched him.  Uncle Steadman says, me and Weird Harry would get along like a house on fire, which is silly, because a house on fire is dangerous, and Daddy said I wasn’t to ever say hello to Weird Harry.
 
Theodore Smith said

I’m going to set you a piece of work to complete our first day together.  I want you to write an account, of how you spend your days.  Choose an ordinary day. Like yesterday, for example, and I want you to write down how you spent your time.  Just as if you were writing it down in a journal.  Does anyone here keep a journal?”

The rule is, if a teacher asks a question, and you know the answer, you have to put your hand up.

I put my hand up.  No one else did.

Theodore Smith did looking down, at the list of names on the teacher’s desk. You'd think he could remember my name after sixteen questions.

The rule is, you get to answer the question only if the teacher says your name.

“Emelda… Emelda Spencer-Widget? … Ah, I see … And you keep a journal, do you, Emelda?”

“No” I said.

“No? …  But you just put up your hand, Emelda… Did you not understand the question?”

I understood the question fine well.

Sometimes this happens.

I’d have to explain.

“I put my hand up, because I know the answer to the question”
I said.  

He looked confused, so I had to explain even more how this works. You’d think an Herbartian Scholar, would know things like school rules, about questions.  Daddy said, Theodore Smith went to a fine college.

I won’t tell Daddy Theodore Smith doesn’t know how to do questions in school, because it’s his first day, and he’s new at being a teacher.  I’ve been in school for over a year. Maybe he just needs more practice.

“You have to put your hand up, if you know the answer.  And I know the answer, so I put my hand up.  And the answer to the question is, no”
I explain.

“I see…” he said, but I think he must have been lying, because then he said

“The answer to …what question… is no?”

I know the answer to that question too, so I put my hand up, again.  

Like I said, the rule with answering questions is, the teacher has to say your name before you can shout an answer.  Mrs Henderson was quite insistent on that point.

She said

“Frankie… you have to wait to say your answer, dear… Just wait till I call on you before you shout the answer, there’s a good girl.  That way… others will have a chance at a little thinking time too… That’s only fair, dear.”

Mrs Henderson explained to me, that I don’t need much thinking time. That’s why I can put my hand up before the other children in school. But Daddy says school is for everyone.  That’s why he told Mr Maxwell that Theodore Smith couldn’t only be my teacher, at the big house.  He had to be a teacher for all the children of Clearwater.

He said

“If I’m paying for an Herbartian Scholar …then all the children of Clearwater will benefit… From here….we will send a whole generation of new scholars out into the World… and they will become the next generation of engineers and mathematicians…”

The hands up for knowing the answer to a question, rule only works in school.  It doesn’t work in church.  
You can’t answer the questions in church, even if you know all the answers, fine well, and the preacher shouts your name.  In fact, if they shout your name in church, you have to wait outside till everyone else comes out, after the preacher has finished asking all the questions.

Theodore Smith still hasn’t said my name, so I give my arm a little wave to remind him.

I think Theodore Smith is nearly as confused as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  People don’t shoot at teachers, like they shoot at outlaws.  Teachers don’t do Train and Bank robberies. So, I don’t think he’s confused because he’s been shot in the head too many times like them.  

I don’t know why Theodore Smith is so confused looking.  He’s closed his eyes, and put his head in his hands.  
Eventually, he remembers to say my name.

“Emelda?”


I took a deep breath and explained, very slowly, so he could understand, without having to ask any more questions.

You asked if anyone here kept a journal. No one here keeps a journal. So, the answer to your question is, no.”

He still didn’t seem to understand, and looked a bit mad about not be able to understand.  

It’s sad.

He did huffing.

No …SIR, Emelda” he said, which is silly, because no one ever calls me Sir, and only Mummy ever called me Emelda.

I told him no one ever calls me Sir, and people usually call me Frankie.

Tommy Brent got to his feet again, and started on about me going to the library. And then Mary-Beth Janx said about Daddy paying for the school, which Theodore Smith knows fine well, and how I have to come, so Daddy gets his money’s worth.

It’s just the same as they said to Hannibal Heyes yesterday.  But it’s different somehow.  Theodore Smith isn’t doing smiling. Hannibal Heyes did smiling with dimples, when Tommy told him about the library and Mary-Beth told him about Daddy’s money.  I wonder if Hannibal Heyes has opened Daddy’s safe yet.  I hope he’s doing planning, like he said he would, and is going to rob the bank tomorrow.  

I am going to go straight to the Stumpery after School, with Fred Janx, to find out.

When I shared lunch today, with Mary-Beth and Fred Janx, and Matt and Ruben Jenkins and Sophia and Michelle Sparrow, they said, Hannibal Heyes was at the Stumpery when they left for school this morning but no one had seen Kid Curry.

Kid Curry must have got scared again.  

That’s alright for my plan to work. We don’t need a gunslinger, with a fast draw, to rob the bank. We just need to do opening the safe, and Hannibal Heyes can do that. And he's gonna show me how to do it.

Trinni was mad about the pie yesterday, so I only took the chicken this morning, and some biscuits, and some other stuff, not her new pie because she said

“That pie was for Mr Steadman’s dinner… Now I’ve had to make him a new one… I better not find out …you’ve taken another pie, young lady… You mark my words… Things are going to change around here… And you better mind your manners around the Young Master.”

Trinni calls Uncle Steadman the Young Master, because she used to be his navvy when he was a little boy and Daddy says she hasn’t realised he’s grown up yet.  That’s just silly.  Uncle Steadman is old.

Theodore Smith is doing writing on the board now he’s stopped talking loudly. He’s written, What I did Yesterday.

He said

“You have a little under an hour till the end of school, children.”

When he’s behind us, handing out pieces of paper to write on, I remind Fred Janx about Outlaw promises. I do crossing my heart and shrivelling up my face up and dropping my head onto the desktop like I died.

Fred Janx’s eyes go big and wide and he shakes his head.

I hope he understands, it means not to write down about the Jailbreak, with Mr Laidlaw, because he made an outlaw promise, and you can’t break an outlaw promise.

Fred’s eyes close and his head hit’s the desktop too.

“Are you feeling …quite well… Emelda?” asks Theodore Smith.

I look back over my shoulder, and he’s right there.  Behind me.  He’s real good at sneaking back, just like an outlaw.

“And that …is what’s known as …a rhetorical question, Emelda…  Do you know …what a rhetorical question… is?”

That’s real difficult to answer, because I do know.

I do know.

So, I should put my hand up.  

But you don’t answer a rhetorical question.  That’s what rhetorical means.

So, I shouldn’t put my hand up.

I sort of start to put my hand up, then put it down again… and then put it half way up… and then drop it onto the desk.

Theodore Smith nods, and he is doing smiling now.  I don’t know what that means, but I see he has a dimple like Hannibal Heyes under his whiskers.  

When he smiles like Hannibal Heyes, he looks friendly.

“You’ve got a dimple like Hannibal Heyes”
I tell him.

Fred Janx groans.

"And ...just how do you know ...what Hannibal Heyes looks Like... Frankie?"says Theodore Smith right by my ear.

Like I said, if you know the answer to the question, and its a teacher asks it, you have to put your hand up.

I put my hand up, and Fred Janx groans again

"Frankie!"

---oooOOOooo---

(Scene 19 – 1,600 words)

Kid
Kids eyes had opened at the very first promise of morning.

With a passing grunt, from the lump in the low gloom on the other side of the fire, he had headed up into the tree cover to seek the hunting trail of the ancient tribe, that had walked these hills for generations.

The early part of the trail was, almost, clear.  It was marked by a low crop of sparse vegetation, lower than that under the surrounding trees, anyway. Broken twigs, and some disturbed ground, from the boots of other more recent explorers, confirmed it was the trail heading up to the ridge above.

But as he climbed the indicators got fewer, then petered out altogether.

And the going got harder.  

Several times he thought he was following the right track, just to come across an impossible leap up or down, fine for a jump buck deer, not so fine for a man in a sheepskin coat, carrying a rifle and a canteen, wearing heeled riding boots.

At the end of one such impasse, Kid sat, to swill his dry lips with cold fresh stream water, and take stock.  

He would have to retrace his steps, again.

He inspected the rifle, weighing it in his hands.  He would get Cora some game, at least.  He knew now, that the forest ran with deer, undisturbed by the humans confined to the dusty, smoke-filled town, way way below at the side of the lazy river.

He sat quietly, looking down into a small glade, where countless deer must have landed, having launched themselves into space from this rock on which he sat, hemmed in.

A mother deer brought her fawn out into the glade, to eat the new leaves, as they caught the first rays of true morning sunshine.  She looked up, shocked, staring for a whole second, as Kid stood and touched his hat to her with a smile as he turned to retrace his steps.  

He’d get a little further up the trail, before he burdened himself with a kill to carry.  He’d seen evidence of cat predation, so he couldn’t think of leaving a kill out on the side of the trail till he returned.  

No, he’d try and relocate the main trail and get up as far as the ridge if he could.  

He wanted to see the rail tracks, maybe even the tunnel. He needed to know they had options.  Safe ways to leave town.

Right now, this trail was looking… near useless.

---oooOOOooo---

Unusable, hopeless… inadequate, impractical… ineffectual… that was one of Heyes’ words.  Kid thought it fit the situation… the circumstance… that was another one of Heyes’ big words.

Kid had made up his mind.

The trail was no back door. Not on foot, and definitely not on horseback. They’d have to risk the road, or the train to leave town.  This trail wasn’t an option.

About an hour after he’d seen that mother and fawn, he’d come across a mud slide, at the base of a land slip.  The trees had prevented it travelling too far down the slope, and it didn’t look like it had happened any time recently. But effectively, that was the end of the line.
 
He’d tried climbing up it, and had ended up just rolling back down it, in a tumbling mass of mud an scree.  
He’d tried to skirt around it, but he just kept finding that wall of mud.  And it kept pushing him further and further away from the ridge trail.

Eventually he’d given up, and concentrated on hunting.

It just confirmed what he already knew.

Their backdoor was locked up tight.

Useless.

Other words played in his head, as he bounced back down the trail, under the weight of a hefty jump buck slung across his shoulders.  

Eventually, he recognised the clearer trail that marked his approach to the Stumpery. The waft of the cook fire smoke came up from below and tickled at his nostrils.  

His stomach rumbled, and he grinned at the promise of coffee.  He just had to hope someone had beaten his partner to the pot.

What was Heyes gonna make of his news? Would this effect his planning?

Kid rolled his eyes.

Heyes.

What was Heyes thinking, bringing them all the way up here, into the forest, to hide out without knowing for sure they had a back door?  That was the problem.  Heyes wasn’t thinking. Wasn’t thinking properly. He was letting an eight-year-old girl do his thinking for him.  

That was so unlike Heyes. To let anyone, do the thinking… never mind a child.  But Heyes had let Frankie get under his skin, somehow.  

Kid sighed with a smirk.  

There was many a grown woman, Kid could think of, that would have paid good money to learn that little trick from Frankie.  

Heyes so rarely let anyone in.

Not for real.

But Frankie, had Heyes’ mind… all tangled up… somehow.  He’d only known her five minutes.  How’d she DO that?

TO HEYES!

Kid laughed.  

His famous… genius…  cousin… the great Hannibal Heyes… notorious outlaw leader of the Devils Hole gang… befuddled… (another Heyesian word) …by a four-foot female… Ha!

Kid dropped the large deer carcass at the edge of the glade.  It’d need cleaning, but it could wait till after he’d had coffee.
 
He walked over to the still reclining lump by the cook fire.

Heyes greeted him with a week nod from his blanket.

“Heard the shot” he said gruffly, sitting up and stretching his shoulders, and running his fingers back through his hair.

“Coffee?” he grunted, screwing up his eyes to see if the pot was already on the fire.

“You go wash up… I can do that…” said Kid reaching for the coffee pot, but noticing something else by Heyes’ bedroll.  

“Heyes… Did you have to drink ALL the whiskey, last night?” he added sourly, picking up the empty bottle, scouring the base for dregs.

No answer, Heyes just yawned loudly.

Kid watched as Heyes gingerly got to his feet, and meandered to the stream, using just the one eye to navigate.

Not a lot of hope that the genius was thinking any clearer this morning then, thought Kid.

Heyes let out a startled gasp, as his head plunged into the freezing water.

Kid shook his head knowingly.  He’d had the same rude awakening himself, just a coupla hours ago.

This could go one of two ways, he thought.  Depending on just how sore his partner’s head was this morning.

Heyes hadn’t chewed Kid out for the bungled rescue of the schoolteacher yesterday, and Kid didn’t know why.

That worried him.

And now Heyes has a mind, to open the safe at Widget’s place… and maybe even rob the town bank… all… to become… shareholders… in a mine that ain’t even dug yet.  

It sounded like a… a… ‘n ineffectual …circumstance …if Kid had ever heard of one.

But…

Maybe, Heyes knew more than he did.  

Heyes nearly always steered him right.  Maybe it was like that this time.  Maybe Heyes had an ace up his sleeve and was just waiting for the right time to play it. Heyes always claimed to be a genius. Maybe this plan… to be shareholders in a mine …was just that.

Genius.

Kid just couldn’t see it yet.

The genius, behind the bushes back at the stream, groaned loudly as he emptied his bladder.

Someone had already set last night’s logs back to a deep red glow in the cook pit.  Kid shook fresh coffee grounds into the pot, and set it to warm up.  Then he took their stale mugs to the stream for a cursory splash.

Heyes emerged from the bushes, straightening up his clothes and shaking his wet hair like a dog. He put a warm welcoming smile on his face for Kid, and greeted him afresh, like he’d forgotten they’d already done that bit.  He had that smug, can’t wait to share my news with you, face on.

Kid raised his eyebrows, and looked resolved to hear what had been decided in his absence last night.

The absence’s name, was Cynthia, and he’d restricted himself to just a coupla slugs of whiskeys.  He’d only been in town for an hour or two at most.
 
When he’d returned, Heyes was deep in animated conversation with the miners and Maxwell under the wagon sheet.  He’d looked up for a second, obviously relieved to see Kid hadn’t gotten himself into any more trouble, but he was in full sway, so Kid had ridden on through. Climbed the trail to their chosen Stumpery, and fell in his blankets.  

He vaguely remembered Heyes flopping down in his bed roll across the fire, a coupla hours later.

Kid indicated that coffee was up.  And that he’d need coffee, before hearing whatever Heyes had gotten Janx, Maxwell and the others to agree to, last night.

Had they gone for Heyes’ big plan?  

Heyes said it would get them a stake… give them a chance… maybe even allow them to hide out in Mexico or Canada for a few years…  ‘til the dust settled down …after the amnesty came through.

Kid could not even let himself contemplate the possibility that the amnesty wouldn’t come through some day.

They didn’t have a plan B for that.

When they were gang leaders, they’d always had a plan B.  Sometimes they’d even have a plan C. But not this time.  This time they were pinning all their hopes on plan A.

I need coffee, thought Kid.

Please let this plan, be as genius, as Heyes thinks it is.

We could sure use us a stake.

---oooOOOooo---


Last edited by Cal on Mon 15 May 2017, 12:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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The New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words) :: Comments

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Re: The New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words)
Post on Sun 14 May 2017, 5:19 pm by Penski
Still enjoying this story. As someone who was in education, I can sympathize for Mr Smith - not easy having a Frankie in a classroom.
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Re: The New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words)
Post on Mon 15 May 2017, 7:13 am by Cal
Hi Penski

Glad your hanging in there...  I know I should move things along.... Not like me to hang about... But I'm enjoying hanging out with Frankie and the boys in this one too much.

Yeah...what do they call new teachers?  Fresh meat? Lamb to the slaughter....

This is Theodore's first job out of college... as if that's not scary enough... along with the unrealistic expectations that he's going to launch a whole generations of engineers out into the World... he has to have Frankie to deal with... and he thinks her dad is paying his wages.... hehehehehe...
 

The New Teacher Part Three (8,000 words)

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