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 Alias Angel by Little Bluestem

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royannahuggins
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Posts : 422
Join date : 2013-10-13

20181102
PostAlias Angel by Little Bluestem

Starring

Ben Murphy and Pete Duel as
Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes



Co-Starring


Burl Ives as Patrick “Big Mac” McCreedy



Katy Jurado as Carlotta McCreedy



Jonathan Scarfe as Griff Carson



Arthur Hunnicutt as Pike, a member of Griff’s Gang



The rest of Griff’s Gang
Sean Sullivan, Christopher Wynne, Thomas F. Wilson



Edward Andrews as Ralph Peterson, Banker of Red Rock



Duane Grey as Sheriff of Red Rock



Dulé Hill as James Johnson



Alias Angel
by Little Bluestem


Two familiar riders walked their horses through a wide-open landscape dotted with sagebrush and scattered with large boulders into a spectacular sunset.  The blazing orange disk of the sun sank slowly behind a distant bluff, the western sky painted with pink and ochre clouds.  The former outlaws, although dusty and trail-worn, slouched comfortably in their saddles, posture relaxed, their contented faces bathed in the soft rose-gold light.


“Ya know, Heyes,” commented Kid Curry with a lazy drawl.  “Sometimes I think we ain’t never gonna get our amnesty.  But seein’ somethin’ like this,” he waved his gloved hand at the western horizon, “makes me almost not mind.”

“That’s the spirit, Kid!” replied Hannibal Heyes with a grin.  “Why, if we hadn’t been chased outta the last three towns we were in, we might not be riding along right here and right now to witness this glorious sight.”

“Yeah, that was a good idea to telegraph Big Mac to see if he has any jobs for us.  I just hope it don’t have anything to do with that doggone Caesar head.”

“The Caesar head is ancient history,” Heyes answered, then chuckled at his own joke.  He changed the subject to more practical matters.  “It’s gonna be dark soon and we still have a full day’s ride to Red Rock.  How about we find a good place to camp?  Looks like a stream over along that line of trees.”  Heyes raised his arm and pointed to an area of vegetation about a mile in the distance, off to their right.  Curry, however, was not listening.  Instead, his attention was riveted on the horizon ahead, just off to the left.

“Kid?  Kid?” Heyes tried to get his partner’s attention.  He looked in the direction Curry was staring and asked, “What is it?”

“Do you see that?” asked Curry, eyes still glued to the horizon.

Heyes squinted.  “No… Yeah, now I do.  Smoke.”

The Kid nodded, then steered his horse toward the faint column of smoke, black against the crimson clouds.

“Whoa – hold up there, Kid!  That smoke is someone else’s problem.  Not our problem.”

“C’mon Heyes, let’s just get a little closer -- see what it is.”  Curry urged his mount into a trot.

Heyes rolled his eyes and slapped his mare’s rump to follow.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes and Curry rode up to the smoldering remnants of a wagon and pile of charred household goods issuing thick curls of black smoke.  A man was sprawled on the ground nearby, unmoving.  His head was bare, his blond hair ruffling slightly in the breeze.

As the partners dismounted, both drew their pistols and approached the wreckage cautiously, casting their eyes around the area warily.  As they neared the inert man, their gaze met.  The Kid nodded his head ever so slightly at Heyes, who holstered his Schofield and knelt on one knee next to the body.  Curry kept his Colt drawn, scanning their surroundings alertly as his partner rested his hand on the man’s chest, then bent over to place his ear to his heart.  At last Heyes looked up and shook his head, his expression grim.


Curry turned his head away, but as he did so, something caught his eye.  It was another figure, this one a woman, judging by the full skirts.  She was lying face-down, also still as a stone.  He jogged over to her, sliding his gun into its holster.  Crouching, he gently rolled her onto her back.  The mixture of confusion and fury on his face made it clear that she, too, was beyond help.

Meanwhile, Heyes rose to his feet and walked aimlessly around the scattered debris, speculating aloud, “Who would do this?  Couldn’t be Indians.  Not in these parts.”

“Heyes!  Come here!” barked Curry.  “Maybe this is why.”  

Heyes hastened to join his partner next to the woman’s body.  The Kid lifted a limp arm gently.  The gingham sleeve ended with a border of eyelet lace just below the elbow, revealing a forearm with skin a rich, dark brown.  Tight-lipped, Curry returned the limb to its resting place, almost tenderly.

Heyes crouched next to his partner and placed his hand on Curry’s shoulder.


“Joe Sims all over again,” the Kid said, his tone heavy with resignation.

“Maybe,” his partner shrugged.  “We don't know for sure.  Maybe they had something someone wanted or maybe someone had a grudge against them.”

“What’s wrong with people, Heyes?” Curry demanded, his voice sounding slightly strangled.  He turned his head away quickly.

Heyes tightened his grip on Curry’s shoulder and shook his head sadly.

Neither man moved nor spoke for a long moment.  Abruptly, Curry rose to his feet and strode away from the tragic scene, kicking at a rock violently.  After several paces he stopped, then peered at the ground.  He knelt, examining it more closely.

Heyes stood as well and approached the forlorn remains of the young couple’s worldly possessions purposefully.  He searched through the still-smoking pile, tossing various items aside until he found what he was looking for – a shovel, slightly blackened, but still usable.  He returned to the man’s body and began to dig next to it.

After several moments, Curry came over to where Heyes was hard at work, already knee-deep in the hole.

“I’d say there were five on horseback.  They took their team -- two heavy draft horses.  Left about two hours ago, headed south.”  He pointed.

Heyes paused from his efforts and straightened.  He stared at Curry incredulously and demanded, “You’re not suggesting we follow them?”  He thrust the shovel toward his partner, who took it automatically, then pulled his bandana from around his neck and wiped the sweat from his face.

Curry shook his head and began to dig methodically at the hole Heyes had begun, his jaw clenched tightly.

Heyes gestured wildly as he practically shouted, “And what would we do if we caught them?  We have no proof they did this!  Say we did catch them – without getting shot up ourselves, which ain’t likely.  We bring them to the sheriff – then what?”

Curry didn’t answer.  He shook his head and kept on digging, putting more muscle into his thrusts and tossing the dirt away harder and more emphatically than before.

“You know I’m right,” Heyes persisted, arms folded over his chest.

Without breaking his rhythm, Curry answered, “I know you’re right.  But we both know it ain’t right.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Dusk had settled in, with only a few lingering remnants of gold and rose indicating the recent sunset.  It was not fully dark yet; the sky overhead was slowly turning a cobalt blue and one or two stars were just beginning to poke through.  Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, one dark and one light head bowed, stood next to two fresh mounds of dirt, each with a roughly made wooden cross jutting from one end.  Hats in hands, the former outlaws stared down at the newly turned earth.  Both men were sweat-stained and dirt-smudged with slumped shoulders and downcast eyes.

Heyes finally broke the silence.  “C’mon.  Let’s get outta here and find a place to camp before it’s pitch black.”

Simultaneously, the men placed their hats on their heads and turned to leave.

Suddenly a soft mewling sound pierced the gathering darkness.

“Wait,” said Curry, stopping dead in his tracks.  “You hear that?”

There was another mewling sound, this time a little louder.

“Sounds like a kitten,” said Curry tentatively.

“Don’t worry about it, Kid.  A cat’ll do fine on its own,” consoled Heyes.

A much louder noise pierced the air -- not feline at all, but the unmistakable wail of a human infant.

Both boys looked at each other and said in unison, “That’s not a cat!”  

They dashed in the direction of the sound and began to search frantically among the sage brush and piles of boulders on the periphery of the scene of the attack.

“Here!” Curry yelled.  Heyes raced to his side, just in time to see him reach into a crevice within a rock pile and withdraw a blanket-encased bundle, wiggling and bawling.

Curry cradled the bundle in his arms as Heyes reached over to pull the blankets away, revealing the face of a baby of about six months of age.  It was a beautiful baby: chubby cherubic cheeks, skin the color of coffee mixed with cream, flaxen hair in tight, tight curls close to the scalp, eyes squeezed shut as it wailed inconsolably.  Kid jiggled it gently, soothing it.  “There, there, it’s okay.  There, there, little guy,” he crooned softly.

Little by little, the baby settled down, its steady bawling supplanted by intermittent whimpers, which soon died away and finally ceased all together.  Soothed at last, the infant opened its eyes, lashes starred with teardrops, and smiled tentatively at its rescuers, two tiny white bottom teeth punctuating an otherwise gummy smile.  The baby’s eyes against the café au lait skin were a startlingly bright cerulean blue.

The two men gaped at the angelic little face, then met each other’s eyes.  His eyebrows tilted skywards, Curry searched his partner’s eyes for answers.

Heyes said, “They must have hidden him here when the raiders came.”

“What are we gonna do with him?” the Kid asked.  

“We take him to the nearest town – Bensonville – it’s just a little out of the way,” Heyes answered pragmatically.

“But what about tonight?  How are we gonna feed him?”

“Remember I bought some powdered milk last time we got supplies?  You said it was a waste of money, but it’s gonna come in real handy after all.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The boys sat near a small campfire.  Curry dipped his fingers into a tin pan of milk, offering them one at a time to the child in his lap, who sucked hungrily, but became fussy and frustrated every time a finger was removed.  Heyes was kneeling nearby, industriously fashioning some contraption.

“Heyes, hurry up!  This ain’t workin’ too good,” groused Curry.

“Almost done,” Heyes answered, preoccupied with his efforts.

At last, he brought his creation to the fireside and showed it proudly to his partner.

“What is it?” asked Curry skeptically.  “And what did ya do to my glove?”

“Relax.  It’s one of your old ones.”  Heyes held up an empty tomato tin with a leather riding glove attached to it.  All the fingers but one had been tied off with thin strips of rawhide.  

“See,” Heyes explained as he loosened the tie attaching the glove to the can, “I wetted the leather and tied it off real tight to make a seal.”

He picked up the pan from next to the fire, and poured milk from the pan into the tomato can as he continued, “I tied off all the fingers but one, and poked a small hole in that one so that the milk...”

As he spoke, he re-tied the rawhide and upended the can.  A few small beads of milk leaked from a tiny hole in the tip of the glove’s one remaining finger onto his wrist.  Heyes grinned happily, and said, “…the milk comes out here, just like a real baby bottle!”

He proudly handed the “bottle” to Curry.

“Not bad, Heyes,” the Kid said, impressed.  He placed the glove-nipple into the baby’s mouth, who immediately latched on and nursed greedily.  Heyes and Curry gazed at the feeding infant, clearly entranced by the sight.

When the child finally released the nipple, a contented expression on the chubby little face, Curry wrinkled up his nose and said, “I think he needs a new diaper.”

“Well, then, change him,” Heyes commanded.

“Change his diaper?  I don’t know how to change a diaper!  You’re the genius -- you do it.  Here.”  He pushed the baby into Heyes’ hands, who held it under the armpits, feet dangling.  Face to face, they gazed into each other’s eyes.  The baby blew a tiny bubble, burped very, very softly, then gave Heyes a gummy, milky smile.  A goofy expression on his face, the former leader of the Devil’s Hole gang grinned back, his dimples dimpling.

Curry rose, grabbed a horse blanket, and spread it on the ground next to the fire.  “Here – put him down on this,” he suggested.

Heyes laid the baby down, lifted up the little dress, and began fumbling with the pins.  The Kid half-crouched just at his shoulder, watching the progress somewhat worriedly.  “What are we gonna use for a clean diaper?” he asked.

Heyes managed to undo both pins and started to pull off the soggy diaper.  His words somewhat obscured by the pins held between his teeth, he asked, “What’s the softest thing we have?”

As Heyes wiped the baby with a clean cloth moistened with water from his canteen, Curry rummaged through his saddle bags, rejecting item after item.  At last he pulled out a white shirt and exclaimed triumphantly, “My old white shirt is soft!”  He pulled out his knife, then hesitated and asked, “How big should I make it?”

“About the size of a bandana, looks like,” replied Heyes.

The Kid made a small cut in the fabric with his knife, then ripped it the rest of the way.  He repeated the process, then tossed the rectangle of fabric to his partner, saying, “Here – try this on him.”

“Thanks, Kid, but he’s not a him,” Heyes answered, snagging the thrown cloth with one hand.  

“Huh?” Curry said dumbly.  After a beat, realization hit him.  “Ohhh!”

Heyes fumbled with the makeshift diaper.  The Kid watched over his shoulder earnestly, then reached in to help.  It was a clumsy, four-handed process and took a rather long time, with at least one outlaw finger getting jabbed with the pointy end of a pin.  Finally, the partners got the diaper fastened.  Their eyes met, both smiling with satisfaction.

“There ya go, Angel,” the Kid said, grinning.

“She’s almost asleep,” observed Heyes in a whisper.  The baby stirred and fussed again.  The partners looked at each other with mute “Now what?” expressions.  Then Heyes’ face brightened and he began to softly sing, “As I walked out in the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day.”

The baby immediately began to settle down, her eyelids drooping slowly.  The Kid joined in the song, adding his clear tenor to Heyes’ rumbling baritone, “I spied a young cowboy wrapped up in white linen, wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay.”

As the scene ends, the camera pulls back to reveal a cozy sight:  The dark silhouettes of the two former outlaws crouched over the sleeping babe, the warm glow of the campfire behind them and the wide velvet sky spangled with stars stretched out above.  We hear their low voices harmonizing the melancholy tune.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The figures of the Kid and Heyes on horseback cast long shadows in the golden afternoon sunlight as they reached the outskirts of a small town.  They passed a hand-painted sign proclaiming it Bensonville, Texas, pop. 348.  As they rode into Bensonville, Heyes cradled the baby in the crook of his right arm, handling the reins with his left.  A scattering of townspeople went about their business, no one paying the two strangers any mind.  As they arrived at the sheriff’s office, Curry read the sign aloud, “Sheriff Buford P. Antelman.”

“Never heard of him,” Heyes said, with obvious relief.

“Me neither,” replied his partner happily, hopping down from his horse and tying his reins to the hitching rail.  He walked over to his partner, reaching up for the baby, which Heyes carefully handed down to him.  “Come to Thaddeus, Angel,” Curry crooned, smiling a slightly crooked smile as she grabbed a fistful of his curls in her tiny fingers.

A few curious passersby did quick double-takes as they realized the two dusty cowboys had a small baby with them.  More than one leaned in close to whisper something to a companion about the somewhat incongruous sight.

Heyes dismounted and tied his horse next to Curry’s, then fell into step alongside his partner.  The two former outlaws strode side by side up the steps and into the sheriff’s office without a trace of hesitation.

As they pushed open the door, the local lawman rose from his desk.  Heyes spoke first, smiling genially, “Sheriff Antelman, my name is Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.  We’re here to report a crime.”

“Go on,” was the terse response.

“About 20 miles east of here, we came across some homesteaders that had been bushwhacked.  A young couple.  They were both dead – shot – wagon burned, team stolen.  But… there was also a little baby,” Heyes explained.

As he mentioned the infant, Curry helpfully held out the child toward the lawman.

Antelman took one look and pronounced in apparent disgust, “That’s a mulatto baby.”

Curry hugged the baby close to his chest protectively.

“Yessir,” answered Heyes.  “We think maybe that’s why the parents were killed – the father was white and the mother was…

Sheriff Antelman interrupted rudely, “Ya don’t havta tell me what she was!”  He frowned and twisted his mouth into a sneer.  He took a step forward and peered closely at the infant, then at Curry, and then back at the child.  He turned to Heyes and stated flatly, “That brat is the very spit of your partner.”

“Well, she does resemble him somewhat,” Heyes commented reasonably.  “Her pa had the same coloring as Thaddeus.”  

The sheriff turned to aim a stream of tobacco juice toward the spittoon in the corner of the office, most of which landed on the floor with a splat.  “What the hell do you expect me to do about it?” he demanded irritably.

The Kid scowled at Antelman’s unhelpful reaction to their news, but Heyes continued doggedly, “Well, you are the law.  And this is the nearest town.”

“Ain’t my jurisdiction,” Antelman snapped, sitting down in the chair at his desk.  He picked up a sheaf of papers and leafed through them, occasionally making a note with a pencil stub, pointedly ignoring the two cowboys and their small burden.  The partners exchanged glances.

“What about the baby?” asked Curry, speaking for the first time since they’d entered the jailhouse.

Antelman stared at Curry and answered the question with one of his own.  “How do I know you didn’t make up that story just to get rid of your own … mistake?”

Curry’s face clearly showed his anger, but when he opened his mouth to speak, his partner shot him a sharp look and quickly suggested, “You could ride out yourself and see the graves, Sheriff.”

“Ain’t got time for that,” Antelman said dismissively, continuing his paperwork.

“So, you’re saying you won’t take charge of this baby?” asked Curry, belligerently.

Antelman looked up and scowled.  “What do I look like?” he demanded.  “The Mother Superior of a home for foundlings?  There’s an orphanage in Sand Creek.  Take it there,” he retorted and resumed his work, pointedly ignoring his visitors.

Curry opened his mouth again, but Heyes shut him down with a glare and said sarcastically, “Thanks, Sheriff, you’ve been a big help.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A heavily made-up, blowsy woman, somewhat north of 40, leaned against the frame of an open door.  Her floral print silk kimono hung loosely about her shoulders, revealing a glimpse of lacy corset and ample cleavage beneath.  Several younger women of the soiled dove variety crowded behind her, in various states of undress.  The women peered curiously at the two cowboys standing in the alley among the trash bins and an old wooden crate with a faded whiskey label.  Both men were young and handsome, one fair-haired, one dark.  The dark-haired man, battered black hat held in his hand politely, stood just in front of the other, who was holding a blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms, jiggling it gently.

“Well, hello, boys.  What can we do for you fine gentleman?” the older woman asked.

“Howdy Ma’am,” Heyes began persuasively.  “We could sure use your help.  It seems we’ve found ourselves an orphaned baby.  Being, well, being bachelors and all, we obviously aren’t fit to take care of her.  So, uh… we were… uh... hoping maybe you fine ladies would see fit to take her in…”

Curry stepped forward, helpfully adjusting the blankets to reveal a glimpse of the child.

The woman’s expression grew cold.  “A baby?” she repeated.  “What would we want with a baby?  You say she’s a girl child?  Bring her back when she’s grown and I’ll give her a job.”  She laughed harshly and slammed the door shut.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The back porch of a white-washed frame church:  A thin, balding man in preacher’s black stood awkwardly in the doorway, holding the door slightly ajar.  Once again, the two cowboys stood listening, this time Heyes holding the child, who had fallen asleep against his shoulder.

“I’m real sorry, fellas, I’d help you if I could, I really would.  But the people in this town…you see… well, I just wouldn’t be able to find anyone to take her.  Really, I wouldn’t.  Your best option is St. Rita’s Orphanage down in Sand Creek.”

“Reverend, we can’t leave her in an orphanage.  We’ve had – er – some experience with orphanages and they’re no fit place for children,” Heyes persisted.

“Like I said, I’m real sorry.  But no family in this congregation will take a mixed-race baby into their home.”

“Sounds real charitable,” muttered Curry.

The men turned to leave, but before they’d taken more than a step or two, the minister called out, “Wait – there’s a settlement --”

They stopped and turned back to listen as he continued.

“About 30 miles west of Red Rock.  It’s called Haven.  It was settled by freed slaves after the War.  The folks there just might take in that baby.”

The boys nodded their acknowledgment, if not quite appreciation, for the small help offered and walked back through the town, ignoring the stares and murmurs of passersby.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes and Curry stood in front of the counter of the local mercantile.  Curry rang the silver bell on the counter as Heyes said brightly, “Don’t worry, Thaddeus, we’ll stop in Red Rock, explain to Big Mac we’ll be a little late to do his job, then we’ll take Angel on to the Haven settlement, find a nice family there who would be happy to adopt her.”  Heyes handed the sleeping child carefully to his partner who took her just as gingerly, then reached into his vest pocket for some money.

The storekeeper, a tall, aproned man with steel-rimmed spectacles and a thick grey mustache, entered from a back room, saying, “Good afternoon, gentlemen.  What can I get for you?”

Heyes replied, “We need baby things.  Um, let’ see… a baby bottle, some milk, diapers.  We just need enough for a couple of days…”

“Sure boys.  Let’s see here.  You’ll need some of these.  And this.”  He placed baby-care items on the counter as he spoke, a glass bottle, two lids with attached nipples, canned milk, a stack of folded diapers.  “So how old’s the little tyke?” he asked, smiling.

“Er…uh… we don’t really know,” answered Heyes.

“Lemme take a look at the little feller,” said the storekeeper, still genially smiling and craning his neck to peek at the blanket-wrapped bundle against Curry’s shoulder.  He reached over to pull the blanket aside, revealing dark skin and light, kinky hair.  The smile slid from his face.  He looked suspiciously from the baby to the blond man holding her.  Just then, two middle-aged women walked into the store.  “Take it outside,” the storekeeper snapped.

The women looked on with pursed lips and crossed arms.

The Kid narrowed his eyes, treating the clerk to the glacial stare he usually reserved for an opponent in a fast draw face-off.

“It’s okay, Thaddeus,” Heyes said, resting his hand on the Kid’s arm.  “I’ll get what we need and meet you out front.”

“Come on, Angel,” Curry said to the baby as he carried her out into the street.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The partners rode along in silence through the southwest Texas landscape, Curry still holding the baby in his arms, his expression unsettled.

Heyes looked over at him with sympathy, then said, “Don’t let it eat at you.  We’ll find her a family in Haven.”

“Heyes, those people back there – they acted like -- like she was something dirty, something bad.”  

“I know, Kid.”

Curry went on, “But this baby is a person.  Someone’s daughter.  And she was loved.  Her ma’s dyin’ act was to hide her to try to keep her safe.  Her ma and pa were tryin’ to take her someplace where they would be accepted.  Where they could raise her up.”  He paused, an anguished look on his face.  “She had a name, Heyes.  Heyes, no one will ever even know her real name.”

“I know, Kid.  I know.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The boys rode up to the now familiar McCreedy ranch house.  A middle-aged Hispanic woman clad in a severe black dress and a crisp white apron stepped onto the veranda.  “Julio!” she hollered.  “Venir y hacerse cargo de esos caballos!”  She turned to greet the visitors with a heavy Hispanic accent, “Buenas tardes, Señor Smith, Señor Jones.  Señor McCreedy has been awaiting your arrival most anxiously.  Julio will see to your animals.”

“Howdy, Teresa,” they answered.

Curry was holding the baby.  Heyes got down from his horse first and took her into his arms, crooning, “Come here, Angel.  Time to meet your Great Uncle Mac.”  

After the Kid dismounted, he pulled the saddle bags and bedrolls from both horses.  A boy of about twelve ran up, took the horses’ reins and led them off toward the stable.  He grinned as the fair-haired man thanked him in Spanish, “Gracias, Julio.”

As soon as Teresa saw the baby, she reached out and took her from Heyes and carried her into the rancho, speaking rapid Spanish to her in a tone of voice used by mothers the world over, regardless of their native tongue.

Heyes and Curry followed, the latter burdened down by saddle bags, bedrolls, and carpetbags.  

Patrick McCreedy walked into the room, the stub of a cigar clenched in the side of his mouth.  “Boys!” he greeted them, then began to scold, “You’re late!  I was almost starting to get worried about you.”

Two servants, a middle-aged man and a girl, young and pretty, entered and relieved the Kid of the saddlebags and bedrolls and carried them up the wide staircase, the girl giggling shyly when Curry winked at her.

“Sorry Big Mac, we were unavoidably delayed.  And we have an errand to do before we start the job,” explained Heyes.


“No, no, no.  This job can’t wait.  I’ve got some important papers for you boys to deliver to Cranford and they’ve got to be there by Tuesday.  You need to get them signed and notarized, then delivered to the bank in Red Rock.  Whatever this errand is, it’ll have to wait ‘til you do the job.”

Teresa handed the baby to Heyes, saying “Con permiso, I will tell the señora that Señor McCreedy's nephew and his friend are here – and they have brought with them a bebé!”  She bustled out of the room calling out to her mistress in Spanish.

Heyes held the child up for McCreedy to see.  “This is the errand.  We came across some settlers on the way here.  A young couple.  They’d been killed.  This is their baby girl.”

“We’re taking her to the Haven settlement, hoping the folks there’ll take her in,” finished Curry.

Big Mac barely glanced at the child and said, “There isn’t time.  You’ll just have to leave the baby here.  Teresa can take care of it.  I need you to do the job first, then you can deliver the kid.”

At that moment, Carlotta McCreedy swept into the room, followed by Teresa and yet another woman servant, this one carrying a tray of drinks, which she placed on the table.

“Señor Smith, Señor Jones, what a pleasure to see you.  What is this I am hearing about a bebé?” Carlotta asked in heavily accented English.

Heyes held the infant out to Carlotta, who started to reach for it, but at the last minute, balked and looked uncomfortable.  “Teresa will take it,” she commanded.

Teresa asked in Spanish, “¿Cuál es su nombre?”

Carlotta translated, “Teresa wants to know what is the bebé’s name.”

“We don’t rightly know,” replied Curry.  “We’ve been callin’ her Angel.”

“Ven conmigo, pequena Angelina,” cooed the housekeeper, scooping up the child with practiced skill.  “I will get the little niña some nice warm milk,” she added, addressing the men.

As Teresa left with Angel, Carlotta’s gaze followed them out, almost wistfully.  Heyes’ intelligent brown eyes watched her watch the baby.  He caught Curry’s eye.


Pat McCreedy, however, barely glanced up, taking no notice of the child nor his wife’s reaction.  He seated himself at the table, all business, and began to organize the papers strewn across its surface.  “Okay, now let’s get these papers in order…” he began.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Curry and Heyes tied their horses to the hitching rail directly in front of a dove-gray clapboard building.  Turned white wooden posts framed a large, glass-paned window.  Painted upon its surface were ornate black letters, trimmed in metallic gold, proclaiming:

Samuel T. Redling,Esq.
Attorney at Law.

“Heyes, look,” Curry hissed.


Heyes followed his partner’s line of sight to observe a group of unsavory-looking men on horseback, five to be precise, riding down the main street, leading two huge and powerful fawn-colored Belgian draft horses.

“Lotsa people have draft horses,” answered Heyes blandly.

“There’s five of ‘em,” Curry said emphatically.

“C’mon, Kid, we’ve got a job to do,” Heyes insisted as he turned toward the office.

Curry lagged behind his partner and scowled at the leader of the group as they rode past, his right hand resting close to the butt of his Colt.

“Whadda YOU lookin’ at?” sneered the horseman, a fellow in his mid-thirties, broad of shoulder and chest, nattily dressed in a tooled leather vest and long, black duster, albeit unshaven and unwashed.  His long, blond hair was tied back with a piece of rawhide and, despite the ugly expression and several days’ worth of reddish-blond whiskers obscuring his face, he was nevertheless a handsome man.  He reined in his mount.  The small party followed his lead.  A short, scrawny man with a grizzled salt-and-pepper beard and tobacco-stained teeth whined, “Whaddawe stoppin’ for, Griff?”

“Just admirin’ your Belgians,” Curry replied innocently.

“Beauts, ain’t they?” bragged Griff.  Curry reached up to pat one of the huge animals on its broad, well-muscled neck.

Heyes, who had stopped on the boardwalk in front of the lawyer’s office, watched the unfolding confrontation warily.

“Where’d ya pick ‘em up?” inquired the Kid, nonchalantly.

“Why would ya wanna know that?” Griff asked suspiciously.

“Maybe I was thinking of gettin’ one myself.”

“Come on, Thaddeus,” interrupted Heyes.  “We’re late for our appointment.”

Griff squinted down at Curry from his superior position on his mount, letting his eyes crawl over him from head to toe, lingering a moment on the gun strapped to his hip, then looked him straight in the eye.

“Maybe you shouldn’t go pokin’ yer nose into other people’s business,” he muttered, resting his hand on the butt of his own gun.

Heyes, still standing on the boardwalk, called out, “Thaddeus” with a note of warning in his tone.

Curry stared back at the mounted man, his face expressionless and his clear cornflower-blue eyes boring into the horseman’s grey-blue ones.  The man stared back; the other riders behind him shifted uncomfortably.  After a tense moment, Griff broke off his gaze first and said abruptly, “Come on, boys.  We ain’t got time to waste.”

Curry stood in the street, arms folded over his chest, watching them as they rode away.  Griff twisted around in his saddle to stare back at him.

“What are you thinking?” hissed Heyes.

Curry shrugged.

Heyes rolled his eyes and answered his own question, “You’re not thinking, that’s the problem.  Now come on.”

As the partners entered the lawyer’s office, doffing their hats, a short, thin, elderly woman with white hair pulled back severely and knotted at the nape of her neck smiled at them brightly from her seat behind the reception desk.  “May I help you gentlemen?” she chirped politely.

“Yes ma’am,” answered Heyes.  “I’m Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones.  We’re here on behalf of Patrick McCreedy.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Redling is expecting you.  If you could just wait in here, please.”  The petite woman bustled up from her desk and ushered her visitors into an adjoining office with a large polished mahogany desk in the center.  Rows of bookshelves crammed with thick law books lined the walls.  They sat in the two leather wingback chairs facing the desk.  As soon as the receptionist exited the office, Heyes again turned to his partner and asked, sotto voce, “What were you thinking asking about those horses?”

“It’s them, Heyes.  I know it.”

“You don’t know it because you can’t know it.  And even if it was, you couldn’t prove it!  You’re just asking for trouble.  And you almost got it.”

Curry scowled; just then the lawyer entered the office through an interior door, trailed by a second man.

“Mr. Smith?  Mr. Jones?  I’m Sam Redling and this is my assistant, Will Hackleman.  He’ll be witnessing my signature.”

The four men shook hands and exchanged greetings all around.

“You have the papers?” asked Redling, seating himself behind the desk.  Heyes pulled the folded papers from his breast pocket and handed them to Hackleman who passed them to Redling.  The lawyer produced a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and placed them on his nose.  He began to read the papers, mumbling to himself as he did so.  “Mmmm hmmmm.  Yes.  Uh Huh.  Mmph.  Very good.  All in order.”

He extracted a fountain pen from an inkstand on his desk and signed the papers on two separate pages with a flourish.  Hackleman opened a small wooden box from which he extracted an embossing seal.  He applied the raised seal to the two pages with Redling’s signature, then signed his own name as well.  He sprinkled blotting powder on both pages, shook them gently for a few seconds, and blew the powder off them.  Redling then took one of the signed pages, and handed it to Hackleman who placed it in a file.  Redling refolded the remaining papers, stuffed them back in the envelope and handed it to Heyes, who returned the bundle to his vest pocket.

“Thank you very much, gentlemen,” said the lawyer.  “Give Big Mac my regards.  And Mrs. McCreedy as well.”

All four men rose to their feet, shook hands again, and Heyes and Curry exited the office.

Once they were standing on the boardwalk, Heyes remarked, “Well, that was efficient.  How about I take care of the horses while you check into the hotel?  Then we’ll go grab some dinner.”

Curry grunted in agreement and began to untie the reins.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~



_________________
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 Fri 02 Nov 2018, 10:06 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Fri 02 Nov 2018, 12:54 am by royannahuggins

Heyes and Curry sat at a corner table covered in a blue and white checked tablecloth in the local café, scraping their plates, finishing off their meals.


Heyes put down his fork, then yawned and stretched elaborately.  “Well, I sure am tuckered out.  What say we head straight to the hotel and call it a night?  We’ve got a long ride tomorrow.”

“You go ahead, I’m just gonna go have a beer or two.”

“Thaddeus, I know what you’re up to.  You’re hoping to run into that Griff character again.”

No answer.

Heyes persisted, “You’re just gonna go trying to pick a fight, hoping he’ll call you out.”

“I just want a beer.  You comin’ or not?”  Curry stood, picked up his hat, and headed for the door.  Heyes, his expression showing his exasperation, hastily placed some bills and coins on the table, grabbed his own hat, crammed it on his head, and hurried out the door after his partner.  As he caught up to him in the street, he took hold of the upper portion of the Kid’s left arm.  The latter stopped and turned around.

“Kid, I am asking you please don’t do this.  We don’t know for sure they’re the ones who murdered Angel’s folks.  And even if they are, they’re not worth you going to jail -- or hanging.  Please.  For me.”

Curry said nothing for a long time.  At last he answered, “Okay, Heyes.  For you.”

Heyes looked pleased with himself for successfully convincing his partner, when abruptly he realized said partner was once again striding toward the saloon.  He looked at him in consternation.  The Kid glanced back over his shoulder and asked, “Comin’?”

Heyes hastened after Curry, saying, “But you just said you weren’t gonna do this – “

“I said I wouldn’t pick a fight, not that I wouldn’t go to the saloon.”  He strode up the wooden steps and pushed through the batwing doors, Heyes shaking his head and frowning as he followed.

As soon as they entered the smoky barroom, they scanned the crowd.  There was no sign of the five men they’d seen in the street earlier.  An expression of relief crossed Heyes’ face, while the Kid for his part looked disappointed.


They found a space at the bar and Heyes signaled the bartender with two fingers and placed a coin on the counter while Curry continued to scan the room.  Soon the beers were poured and both men lifted their glasses in unison, took a swallow, then turned around to lean against the wooden bar, each with one boot heel hooked over the footrail, elbows resting on the counter.

“One beer and we go to the hotel,” Heyes decreed.  

Curry didn’t answer.  He was looking pointedly into a back room, which hadn’t been visible from the entry.  Heyes followed his partner’s gaze and groaned.  There was a small commotion in the corner of the back room.  A solidly built, rough-looking man with long blond hair tied back in a ponytail had his hand clasped on the upper arm of a young saloon girl, dressed in a sparkly yet scanty dress.  She was obviously trying to get away from him.  He turned slightly, revealing his face.  It was Griff.  Seated near them were his four companions, looking on with leers and guffaws, obviously entertained by the sight of the hapless woman’s futile struggles.

Curry swallowed the rest of his beer in one go, slammed his glass onto the bar, and strode in the direction of the commotion.

Heyes drained his glass hastily and placed it next to his partner’s, then followed close behind him, muttering, “Here we go again” under his breath.

The Kid stopped a few feet from the couple.  He stood with legs shoulder-width apart, thumbs hooked casually in his belt, staring calmly at Griff.  “I believe the lady said to let go of her arm,” he said in a reasonable tone, but with ice in his blue gaze.

“I don’t see no ladies in here,” Griff responded harshly, looking over at his men, who all laughed rudely at the slur.  Then he turned to face the man who had spoken, roughly pushing the girl away.  She would have hit the floor, had not Heyes stepped in to catch her and lead her away from where Griff and the Kid stood, almost nose to nose.

“You promised,” he mouthed as he retreated, not able to tear his eyes from the stand-off.

“Say, you’re the yahoo that was so interested in my Belgians,” Griff snarled accusingly.

“Yeah,” drawled Curry lazily.  “They put me to mind of a team some folks I know have.  A young married couple.  They were headed west in a covered wagon pulled by a matched set of draft horses, resembled the two you have.”

He stared closely at Griff’s face, ignoring Heyes’ warning glare and shake of the head in the negative direction.

“What’s that to me?” Griff asked petulantly.

“Obviously nothin’,” replied Curry, his voice dripping with disdain.

“Ya know, from the moment I saw ya, I took an instant dislike to that baby-face of yours.”

“Funny, I had the same reaction to your face.”

“Then let’s settle this once and for all.  Step outside.”

“What?”

“Yer not too bright, are ya?  Here, I’ll spell it out for ya.  I’m callin’ you out, Clodhopper,” challenged Griff.

The bar got very quiet.  Several patrons backed away.  One man pushed his chair back and scrambled out of it.  A few men glanced uneasily at one another, while a handful pushed forward, craning their necks, eyes gleaming.  Griff’s men grinned and leered in gleeful anticipation, nudging each other and exchanging knowing glances, obviously confident in their leader’s superior gunmanship.

Heyes stood very still, ignoring the saloon girl’s hasty thanks as she left his side.  His gaze was directed at the Kid’s hands.  Still wearing his riding gloves, both hanging casually from the thumbs tucked into his belt.  Heyes breathed in deeply and slowly, waiting like everyone else to see what might happen next.

“Unlike certain folks, just cuz’ I don’t like the way somebody looks don’t mean I want to kill ‘im,” Curry said significantly.

“Like you could,” retorted Griff, his hand resting on the butt of his six-gun menacingly.

Curry just shrugged his shoulders and continued to stare at the gunman, unperturbed.

Beads of sweat stood out on Griff’s forehead.  He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his neck.  “You won’t go outside cuz yer yella!” he shouted.

“No, I won’t go outside because I promised my partner I wouldn’t,” Curry answered, his voice calm and quiet.

Heyes exhaled, releasing the breath he had been holding.  A very slight smile played on his lips.

“Yer partner or yer nursemaid?” scoffed Griff.  “I knew you for a yellow-bellied coward the minute I clapped eyes on you.”

This brought on a chorus of jeers and guffaws from Griff’s cronies.

The Kid did not so much as move a muscle.  Soon the laughter and jeering died down and a hush once again settled over the crowded barroom as the two gunmen continued to stare at one another, still as statues.  Finally, Curry broke the silence.  “Come on, Joshua.  Let’s get outta here.”

Without waiting for an answer, he pivoted on his heel and returned to the bar in the main room of the saloon.  Heyes followed him hastily, his expression a warring mixture of surprise and relief.

When they reached the bar, two freshly poured beers awaited them, along with the young blonde saloon girl, her upper arm already purpling from the rough treatment she’d received.  The barkeep stood nearby, wiping the counter with a rag.

“On the house,” the bartender said, indicating the drinks.  “I want to thank you boys for stickin’ up for Lilly.”


“I thought he was going to shoot you for sure!” breathed Lilly, brown eyes wide with admiration.  “You were so brave.”

Just as she pronounced the word ‘brave,’ the back room erupted in loud clucking noises, sounding like a flock of overgrown chickens.  The clucking was led by the members of Griff’s gang and joined in by the crowd, along with much whooping and jeering.  Griff, looking smug and self-satisfied, accepted a whiskey bottle thrust at him and knocked back a big slug.

The Kid took a drink from his beer, his poker face securely in place.

Heyes thanked the bartender, then turned to his partner, raising his glass.  “Sometimes it’s braver to walk away than to fight.  Thank you, Thaddeus.  Thank you for not stepping outside with him.”

“Sometimes it’s smarter not to be brave,” commented the barkeep.  That’s Griffin Carson.  He’s mean as a snake and the fastest draw I ever seen.  If you’d stepped outside with him, that’s the last you’d ever have stepped.”

The bartender moved down the bar to tend to another customer.  Lilly leaned in and kissed both men on the cheek in turn, then melted into the crowd.

After a few moments of silent sipping, the Kid said, “I know, I know.”

“I didn’t say anything,” protested Heyes.

“Yeah, but you were thinkin’ it mighty loud.”

“What good did you think it would do?”

“I don’t know, I just thought… I just thought maybe he would say something that would prove they did it.”

“Thaddeus, you’ve gotta let this go.  There’s nothing we can do to bring back her parents, but we can do right by Angel.  Now let’s get over to the hotel, get a good night’s sleep, and head back to Red Rock tomorrow.  Then we’ll take Angel to that settlement and find her a nice family.”

Curry nodded.  Both men finished off the last swallows of their beers, set their glasses down, and exited the bar.  The rowdy sound of Griff Carson and his men, still drinking and carrying on in the back room, followed them out into the street.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Kid and Heyes trotted their horses side by side along the trail through the sparsely wooded landscape, the sky a deep blue, unmarred by clouds.

Heyes looked at the ground as they proceeded, noting hoofprints, several normal-sized prints and a scattering of oversized ones.  He glanced over at his partner, squinting slightly, and asked, “You noticed?”

“Yeah, a few miles back.  Didn’t wanna say anything.”

“Apparently, your friends are headed to Red Rock, as well,” commented Heyes.

“Could be they’re goin’ to Mexico, just by way of Red Rock,” the Kid offered.

“True…” Heyes hesitated.  They rode along a little farther in silence.

Then Curry said, “This could be a good thing, Heyes.  Big Mac is an important person in Red Rock, so the sheriff there might listen to him if he says somethin’.  Maybe it’d be enough to at least open an investigation, maybe turn up more evidence…”

“Kid, I thought you agreed, you’ve gotta let this go.”  He paused, then pointed to a small copse of trees and suggested, “Come on, let’s rest the horses a bit.  Make sure they stay well ahead of us.”

Curry sighed and reined in.  They walked the animals over to the shady spot.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes and Curry rode along the trail.  It was now around midday, evidenced by shadows so short as to be almost nonexistent, the sun at its zenith.  Both former outlaws had shed their coats and rolled up their sleeves.  As they approached a wooded area, muffled voices could be heard.

Curry slowed his horse, then stopped it, saying, “Hold up.  Hear that?”

“Yeah,” answered Heyes, frowning.  “I don’t think we rested quite long enough.”

Cautiously they dismounted and wended their way through the trees, which they soon discovered were growing along a ridge.  The trail hair-pinned here, skirting the clump of woods, then descended about 30 feet in elevation and wound along below a steep, rocky escarpment.  Peering from behind the trunks, they saw below them a group of men gathered beneath a large, dead tree.  Among the horses hobbled nearby were two huge, fawn-colored draft horses.  The partners squatted down behind a fallen log on the crest of the steep hill and peeked over the top.

“There’s six now,” observed Curry, squinting.

Heyes pulled out his field glasses and looked through them.  He sighed wearily and handed the instrument to his partner, who also looked.

Through the magnified view, they saw the same five men that they’d run into in Cranford.  Griffin Carson with his long blond hair, hanging loose and blowing slightly in the breeze, was instantly recognizable.  But now there was a sixth man among them.  The new addition’s face was bruised, his hands were bound behind his back and his mouth was gagged with a red bandana.  The reason was clear:  The man’s skin color was a deep, rich mahogany.  He was young, not much more than twenty, and slim, but well-built, his features handsome, his expression defiant despite his dire predicament.

As the partners watched, one of the other men tossed a length of rope over the tree branch overhead.  The rope ended in a noose, which Griff slipped over the bound man’s head.

“Joe Sims all over again,” muttered Heyes.

“Yeah,” Curry agreed.  “Ya know, even though he was a bounty hunter – professional – Joe was a good man.”

He handed the field glasses back to his partner, who tucked them away.

Heyes shook his head and rolled his eyes.  “Sure was.  And I suppose you want us to shoot off a full load each to scare ‘em off like we did for Joe.”

“I plan to do more than scare ‘em,” stated Curry, rising to his feet.  He calmly unholstered his gun and checked to make sure there were bullets in the chamber.

“Wait – what ---?”

“Heyes, that’s practically a kid they’re aimin’ to string up.  And my guess is there ain’t no more reason for it than the color of his skin.  Which just proves to me they were the same bunch that murdered those settlers.”  He closed the cylinder with a flick of his wrist and returned his Colt to its holster, twirling it as he did so.

“You’re gonna kill them?” Heyes asked in shock.

“I ain’t no killer, you know me better’n that,” the Kid scoffed.  He walked back to where they’d left their horses and pulled his partner’s rifle out of its scabbard, then did the same with his own.  He removed a box of rifle cartridges from his saddlebags, then returned to his partner’s side.  “We’re gonna arrest them in the name of the law and bring ‘em into Red Rock to face justice,” he said.  Curry leaned both long guns against the log next to Heyes and set the ammunition on the ground between the weapons.

“Kid, there’s five of them and only two of us,” Heyes protested as Curry reached over and helped himself to his partner’s Schofield and checked its chamber.

“There’ll be three when we free their prisoner.  And besides, you forgettin’ who we are?” Curry grinned, spinning the cylinder of Heyes’ gun.  

“Used to be,” muttered Heyes.

“You gonna back my play?” asked the Kid.

“You know me better than to ask that,” Heyes rejoined, picking up the nearest rifle and commencing to load it.  The Kid surveyed the terrain as Heyes repeated the process with the other rifle.  When both guns were loaded, he looked at his partner.

“Ready?” asked Curry.

Heyes nodded and shouldered a rifle, aiming at the group below.


The Kid grinned and commenced shooting, fanning the hammer of Heyes’ six-gun so the shots came out rapidly as he ran along the ridge, masked by the weedy vegetation.  After six shots, he shoved Heyes’ gun in his belt and pulled his own Colt.  The shots came in even more rapid succession.  Bullets flew in every direction, pinging and ricocheting off the rocks and trees and kicking up puffs of dust in the hard-packed soil around the gang’s feet.  

Meanwhile, from behind the log, Heyes aimed and fired, aimed and fired, switching rifles as he ran out of bullets.  The outlaws reacted to the fusillade in panic, reaching for their guns and taking cover, the one holding the end of the rope abandoning his task.  Carson shielded himself behind the young man with the noose around his neck and took three quick shots into the thick weeds along the top of the ridge where the gunfire was coming from.

As Curry paused to reload, Heyes called out, lowering his voice and making it sound authoritarian, “Alright boys.  We got you covered.  There’s ten of us and five of you.  Throw down your guns and put your hands in the air and no one’ll get hurt.”

The short outlaw with the gray beard was the first to toss down his weapon and thrust his arms over his head.  The others hesitated, looking to their leader, who sneered, “There ain’t ten of ‘em.  There can’t be more’n three or four out there.  We still outnumber ‘em.”  He aimed his six-gun at the log on the ridge above and squeezed off two more rounds.

Another flurry of gunshots seemed to come from all directions.

The outlaw who had already given up hit the dirt, covering his head with his arms.  At the same time, another man went down, clutching at his shoulder.  Then the skinniest one grabbed at his thigh, howling loudly as he collapsed.  The fourth outlaw attempted to shoot, but his pistol flew from his hand.  He yelped and dived to the ground, grabbing at his wrist and looking about in alarm.  Griff, the only member of the gang still standing, squinted up at the ridge.

Heyes rose from behind the log, aiming his rifle steadily at the leader.  Still using his voice of authority, he bellowed, “You boys stay up here, under cover.  But keep a bead on Carson.”  He began to make his way down the steep hill, his boots sliding through the scree, the rifle held steadily.

Curry bounded partway down the embankment, then skidded the rest of the way, Colt pointed where the others were huddled, two moaning in pain.  When he reached them, he kicked their guns aside.

Carson held his position behind his prisoner, using the youth’s body as a shield.  Now he thrust his gun against the young man’s jawline, pressing hard beneath his chin, pushing his head up at an awkward angle.  “Stop right there,” he ordered.  “Or I’ll send this boy to Kingdom Come.”

Heyes froze halfway down the escarpment.

Carson smiled maliciously and said, “Well, fellas, looks like we got ourselves a little stand-off here.  Tell ya what.  You lower your guns nice and slow, and call off your men up there, and this boy lives to steal another day.”

Although he couldn’t speak for the gag in his mouth, the young man’s eyes flashed in anger.

“But if you don’t, I’ll blow his dirty head clean off.”

“Well now, I never took Griff Carson for a coward,” Curry drawled.

“What did you say?” Griff sputtered indignantly.

“Yeah, I heard back in Cranford that you’re Griffin Carson, the fastest draw in Brewster County.”

Carson scoffed.  “Just in the county?”

“In all of Texas?” the Kid asked, slipping some sarcastic awe into his voice.

“Huh.  Try west of the Mississippi,” bragged the gunman.

“Hmmm.  I heard Kid Curry was the fastest gun west of the Mississippi.  And east of it too,” the Kid observed.

Heyes rolled his eyes.

“Ya ever go up against Kid Curry?” asked Kid Curry.

“No one’s heard nothin’ about Kid Curry for over a year,” Griff said derisively.  “I ‘spect he met up with someone faster’n him and done took up permanent residence in Boot Hill.”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” said Curry, shaking his head.  “Now you’ll never know who was faster.”

Heyes shot his partner an exasperated look.

“People say I’m pretty fast,” the Kid said innocently.

Griff’s eyes narrowed.  “What’re ya gettin’ at?”

“I think you know.  And you also oughta know that I know ya only got one bullet left.  So, if you shoot that kid, my partner shoots you.  And then it’s all over.”  The Kid paused to let this sink in.  Then he suggested in an amiable tone, “How about we all put down our guns?  You let that fella go.  And then you and me see who’s fastest.”  

“What?” Griff demanded.

“Yeah, what?” Heyes echoed in disbelief.

Curry ignored his partner.  “If I win, we take you boys on to Red Rock and turn you over to the sheriff.  You win and we get back on our horses and ride away.”

“Huh.  If I win, you sure won’t be ridin’ away,” gloated Griff confidently.

Curry shrugged.  He slid his gun into the holster and stood calmly facing the gunman in the all-too-familiar stance, his right hand hanging loosely.

Heyes was doing his best to tell his partner with his facial expression that this was a very, very bad idea indeed, but Curry continued to ignore him.

A slow smile crept across Carson’s face.  He turned to Heyes.

“Set your rifle down.”

Heyes took one last imploring look at the Kid’s determined face, then complied.

“Griff, what about all them other fellas up on the ridge,” asked the bearded gang member worriedly.

“They’re lyin’, Pike.  There’s just the two of ‘em.  Ain’t that right, boys?”

Carson released his grip on his human shield and roughly pushed him to the ground.  He twirled his six-gun in several elaborate flourishes, then plopped it into his holster.  He pushed the right side of his duster back behind his hip, out of the way of his gun butt, and took a few steps toward Curry, mirroring his stance.

“So,” he said, grinning malevolently.  “Seems as if our little baby-faced friend here might not be quite the yellowbelly we thought he was, huh boys?  It’s almost a shame to havta kill ya,” he added.

The two men squared off, staring into each other’s eyes.  Heyes held his breath.

Griff reached first.  It was an impressive draw, extremely fast, his gun a blur.  But Curry was faster.  With his usual lightning speed, he had his Colt in his hand in less than the blink of an eye.  Two shots rang out in quick succession.

Griff’s face registered disbelief, then pain mixed with fury.  His gun lay at his feet, three crimson drops soaking into the dust next to it.  He held out his right hand, palm up, staring at it raptly as more blood dripped from a small, ragged hole in its center.

Heyes’ face showed relief, pride, and a slight measure of exasperation all rolled into one.  He scooped up his discarded rifle and descended the rest of the way down the hill, approaching his partner, who hadn’t yet moved.

“You alright?  I heard two shots,” he asked with concern.

“Guess he missed,” Curry quipped with a smirk.  “Don’t feel bad,” he consoled Carson, who was now grasping his bleeding right hand by the wrist, still staring at his palm.  “Your draw was real fast.  It’s just a little hard to aim with a bullet hole in your hand.”  He twirled his Colt expertly and holstered it, then removed his partner’s pistol from his belt and tossed it to him.

“Thanks, Joshua,” said Curry, smiling.  Heyes caught the gun neatly with his left hand and placed it into his own holster, grinning.

“Okay, fellas,” Heyes announced cheerfully.  “We’re gonna play a little game called, ‘Let’s tie each other up.’”  He pulled a handful of rawhide strips from his back pocket.

Curry strode to where the would-be victim of the aborted necktie party sat on the ground, watching the scene with wide eyes.  He pulled the noose over the young man’s head, then removed his gag and began untying the ropes around his wrists.

Heyes was directing two of the outlaws to tie the other two men’s hands behind their backs.  Then he said to the bearded outlaw, “Very good, Pike.  Now you tie him up and then you can go over and do your boss and then I’ll tie you up.  How’s that sound?”

“I’m wounded,” groused Pike.

“Aw, that’s just a graze.  It’s not even bleeding anymore.  Come on, nice and tight,” he encouraged.

“You alright, son?” asked Curry, helping the youth to his feet.  “What’s your name?”

“James.  James Johnson.  You -- you saved my life.”

Griff had wound his bandana around his injured hand.  He glowered as Pike tied his hands behind his back.  Apparently recovered from the shock of losing the showdown, he argued, “Ya got this all wrong!  When we get to Red Rock, you’re gonna look quite the fools.”

Heyes said reasonably, as he tied Pike’s hands together, “You don’t expect us to believe that you’re the victim in this?”

“I know how it must’ve looked.  But this boy’s a rustler!  Tried to steal our horses!  Everyone in Texas knows what happens to horse thieves.  Ain’t against the law.  You had no right to stop us!”

“Is that true?” asked Heyes, looking into the young man’s eyes.

“The only horse thieves ‘round here are them.  Those are my sister’s and her husband’s horses.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look – they got the same brand as my horse!  It’s a flyin’ J – my family’s brand.  J for the Johnsons and flyin’ cuz we free.”

The Kid kept his gun trained on the bound outlaws while Heyes strode over to the horse Johnson indicated and examined the brand on its rump.  Sure enough, it was a large capital ‘J’ with curved wings extending to either side from the top of its stem.  He walked back to where the draft horses stood waiting stolidly.  He peered at first one, then the other, and looked up, grinning from ear to ear.  “Looks like we finally have our proof, Thaddeus.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A procession of eight riders followed by the pair of massive draft horses plodded slowly down the road.

As they rode along, Johnson said, “Thank you again.  Not many men would have done what you did.  I don’t even know your names.”

“I’m Joshua Smith.  This is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.  We just wish we could have done more for your sister.  And her husband,” Heyes said apologetically.

“I’m beholden to you both,” James said.  “Now I can go back to Louisiana and tell Mama what happened to Maggie.”  He swallowed.  A single tear spilled out of his eye and ran unheeded down his cheek.

“You’re a long way from home, James,” commented Curry gently.

‘We have a few hours’ ride,” said Heyes.  “Maybe it would help to tell us your story.”

A faraway look came into James’ eyes.  Then he began, speaking with quiet pride.  “Like I said before, my people are freemen.  Johnsons ain’t been slaves for two generations, not since my great-grandaddy was a slave on the Trent Plantation.  His name was John.  Story goes, John once saved the massah’s son when he ‘bout to drown, when they both just boys.  Cal Trent promised John he would give ‘im his free papers when he grow up and inherit the place.  And so he did.  John worked there as a free man the rest of his life for pay.  He saved up his money ‘til he could buy his wife and children’s freedom.  Those children were my granddaddy and his brothers.  They took the surname Johnson to honor their pappy.  And they worked hard and saved up to buy a big piece of property right next to the Trent place.  Started breedin’ horses.  Ever since then, Trents and Johnsons been livin’ side by side.

“The two families were always on good terms.  Worked alongside one another, socialized even.  Marcus Trent, he one of my best friends.  But when my sister,” James’ voice broke, “my sister Maggie and Marcus started courtin’, both families were against it.  His daddy, our daddy, they both forbade it.  Daddy he say he shoot Marcus if he don’t leave her alone.  But that didn’t stop them.  They snuck out and got married, secretly.  They didn’t tell nobody until, well, until Maggie couldn’t hide it no more.  They thought once the baby come everything be alright.  But it wasn’t.  If anything, it made things worst.  Even though they was married.  Daddy made Maggie choose.  He was willin’ to let her keep the baby and Mama would help raise her up a Johnson, but she could have nothin’ to do with Marcus no more.  Maggie, she beg and she plead, but Daddy he wouldn’t hear none of it.  Same thing happen to Marcus.  His family disown him.

“In the end, they up and left.  Loaded up a wagon with everything they owned and headed west, to California.  Said they heard people could live there, any color, any mix of marriages, and be accepted.

“Mama, she wouldn’t stop crying.  But Daddy, he took it even worse.  It was like all the life went outta him.  And then, one day, his big old heart, it just gave out.”  James paused, then straightened his shoulders and continued, his voice stronger, “I’m the man of the family now.  Mama say to me go after them, tell them we was wrong and bring them back.  I’ve been on their trail ever since.”

“I lost track of them for a while, but then...” James paused his narrative again and swallowed hard, a stricken expression on his young face.  “Then I found them.  But I was too late.  I saw what was left of their wagon.  Two fresh graves.”  Tears were now streaming silently down his cheeks.  “After that I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t go home; I couldn’t face Mama.  I was just wanderin’ from place to place -- and then I saw the horses.  I knew them for Marcus and Maggie’s team.  Thought maybe these boys could tell me what happened to them, thought maybe they were the ones that buried them.  So, I try to ask them.  Try to explain about Maggie and Marcus.  They accused me of tryin’ to steal the horses.  That’s pretty much when you two showed up.”

“James,” Heyes said gently, “we were the ones that buried your sister and her husband.  We came across their wagon, still burning.  It is our strong belief that Carson and his gang killed them, set their wagon on fire, and stole their team.”

“And the baby?  They -- they kilt the baby, too?” he asked in a near whisper.

“No!  She’s alive!” exclaimed Heyes.  “We should have told you first thing, but in all the excitement… She’s stayin’ with some friends of ours in Red Rock.  We’ll take you to her.”

James began to cry again.  “Praise Jesus!” he said.  “That’s the one good thing that’s come out of all this.  I can bring Sera back to my Mama – her grandmamma.”

“Sarah?” asked Curry.  “Her name’s Sarah?”

“Sera with an ‘e.’  Short for Seraphina.”

“Nice to finally know her real name,” Heyes commented, smiling at his partner.  “Thaddeus had us calling her “Angel.”

James chuckled, wiping the tears from his cheeks.  “I guess you picked a real good name for her then, Mr. Jones.  The name Seraphina comes from Seraphim, and that’s a kind of angel.”

“Well I’ll be doggoned,” mused Curry.

James was grinning broadly now.  “The word ‘seraphim’ means “fiery ones.”  Maggie told me she picked the name because her little Seraphina was sweet as an angel, but she’d have to have considerable fire in her to stand up to folks who don’t approve of her heritage.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

When the party rode into the town of Red Rock, passersby stopped to stare at the unusual sight.  Just as they passed the bank, Big Mac McCreedy himself emerged from the building with his banker friend, Ralph Peterson.  McCreedy’s eyes went large and round behind his spectacles when he recognized the two men leading in a string of prisoners.


“Joshua!  Thaddeus!  What’s going on, boys?” he demanded, approaching the horses.  

Heyes reached into his vest pocket, produced the signed papers, and handed them to McCreedy.  McCreedy passed them along to the banker without so much as glancing at them.  The usually garrulous Peterson took the papers dumbly, eyes still fixed on the string of outlaws.  The sheriff stepped out of his office and joined the curious throng.  More townspeople began to gather to stare and whisper.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Inside the jailhouse, seated around the sheriff, were McCreedy, James, Heyes, and Curry, each with a mug of coffee.  

“That’s quite a story, young man,” commented the lawman.  “I’ll want to look at those brands for myself, you understand.”

“Yes sir.”

“And Thaddeus and Joshua, you say you were the ones that found the bodies?”

“That’s right, Sheriff.  Plus the tracks of five horsemen,” corroborated Curry.  “We reported it to Sheriff Antelman up in Bensonville, but he refused to do anything.”

“And we ran across them fixing to lynch young James here earlier today,” added Heyes.

“We kind of persuaded ‘em not to go through with it,” Curry put in.

The door to the cell block opened and a middle-aged, grey-haired man carrying a black leather medical bag emerged, closing it behind them.

“Well, looks like they’ll all live long enough to hang,” he said drily.  “Whoever did the shooting made sure not to do any lethal damage.”

“Thanks, Doc,” said the sheriff.  “Would you like to join us for a cup of coffee?”

“Thanks, no.  Barbara’s expecting me home for dinner.  I’ll stop by tomorrow afternoon to check on them.”  He tipped his hat and exited.

“Will they hang, Sheriff?” asked James, once the doctor had gone.

“Most likely.  Every single one of ‘em is wanted for murder.  These new crimes are damning, but they can only hang ‘em once.

“So, what about the trial?” Heyes asked.

“They’ll be standin’ trial for the murders they’re already wanted for, plus these two.  I’ll enter your statement and the evidence from the brands as testimony.  No need for you to testify, ‘less ya wanna stick around here for a while, Mr. Johnson,” the sheriff said kindly.

“I want to go home, sir.  As long as they can’t hurt nobody else, I’m satisfied,” said James.

“Thanks to Smith and Jones, here, that ain’t gonna happen.  Say boys, just occurred to me.  There’s rewards on these fellas.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a mute conversation, then Heyes spoke, “We want James to have it.”


“Might take a little time, young fella,” the sheriff said to James.

Pat McCreedy spoke up, “Sheriff, you let me know the amount and I’ll front it to the boy.  Then you can pay me back when it comes through.  I know he’s real anxious to take his little niece back home to his family in Louisiana.”

“Thank you, Mr. McCreedy.  My family is already indebted to you for taking care of her, and to Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones, of course.  For everything.”

Heyes and Curry nodded modestly.

McCreedy patted Johnson on the shoulder and said, “Aw, it was nothing.  Kinda nice having her around the place.  My wife Carlotta has grown very attached to the little tyke.  As a matter of fact,” he said, turning to his “nephew” and friend, “she was fixing to tell you boys that you could save yourself a trip to Haven, that she wanted to adopt Angel for herself.”  He paused and turned back to James.  “But that’s all changed now, isn’t it, young man?”

“Yessir,” answered James.

“Well, that’s as it should be, but I’m afraid my Carlotta will take it hard.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Carlotta McCreedy sat on the wide veranda of the McCreedy ranch in a rocking chair, Seraphina dozing peacefully in her lap.  With an uncharacteristic maternal expression on her face, she sang a lullaby softly in Spanish,

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, Canta y no llores,
Porque cantando se alegran,
Cielito lindo, los corazones.”


She looked up at the sound of hoofbeats, smiling at the arrival of her husband’s wagon, flanked by horsemen.  As she took in the additional rider with her husband and his friends, she stopped rocking.  Her smile faltered, and she nodded slowly, knowingly.  Then she looked down at the sleeping infant in her lap and murmured, “Little one, I will miss you.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Belgians were hitched to the McCreedy wagon, which was packed up with bundles and boxes and fitted with a Conestoga-style cover.  James’ unsaddled horse was tied to the back.  A large group of well-wishers were gathered to bid James and his infant niece farewell:  Pat and Carlotta McCreedy, Heyes, Curry, Teresa, Julio, the rest of the household servants, as well as several ranch hands.  James held Sera cradled against his chest with his left arm.  He stepped forward and took Carlotta’s hand.

“Mrs. McCreedy, on behalf of my family, I must thank you for taking care of Seraphina.  I am sorry for any sadness my taking her home has brought upon you,” he said gently.

“Of course, I am sad to say adios to her, but I am very happy for her.  It is true I have grown quite attached to her, but little Angelina Seraphina belongs with her family,” said Carlotta, her voice thick with emotion.

She kissed the babe on her forehead tenderly, then surprised everyone by kissing James on the cheek.

James smiled at her, teeth even and white against his dark skin.  The young man shook hands with Heyes, Curry, and McCreedy, and held up little Sera, smiling and cooing, for each of them to kiss good bye.  Then he tucked her carefully into the crib that had been arranged in the back of the wagon, climbed into the driver’s seat, and with one last heartfelt thank you, he urged the horses forward and headed toward home.

As the wagon rumbled off, everyone, including the McCreery’s’ small army of servants, waved and called good bye and adios and Godspeed and vaya con Dios until it turned the corner at the end of the lane and disappeared from sight.  Carlotta dashed a tear from her cheek and turned to Heyes and Curry with a determined look on her face.

“Now, let’s talk business,” she commanded.  “Instead of my husband, it is I who have a delivery job for you boys.  Tomorrow morning you two will escort Señor McCreedy and myself to St. Rita’s orphanage in Sand Creek.”

Pat McCreedy turned sharply to look at Carlotta as she went on.

“I will tell the good sisters that Carlotta Armendariz McCreedy will adopt the baby that is in most need of a mother’s love.  I do not care if it is a boy child or a girl child or what color that bebé’s skin is, even if it is blue or green or purple!”

She turned to her husband, who was smiling at her, love and pride shining in his eyes.  Pat McCreedy reached out and grasped his wife’s hand and squeezed it in his own.

“And a father’s love, too,” she added, returning his fond gaze.  “Who knows,” she continued with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.  “I might even find two or three that I want to bring home!”  

“Well, Uncle Mac, looks like you’re gonna be a Papa!” chortled Heyes.  He turned to Curry and slapped him on the back.  “And me 'n you – we’re gonna be uncles!”



All three men beamed from ear to ear.



(Writers love feedback!  You can comment on Little Bluestem'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: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Sat 03 Nov 2018, 4:35 pm by Penski
Little Bluestem - Your first Virtual Season story - well done! I love the idea of the Kid and Heyes being out of their comfort zone and caring for a baby. Very reminiscent of Joe Sims and the open animosity at that time. Love how several wanted Angel at the end. The ending is very sweet! Thank you for contributing to VS this year!
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Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Sun 11 Nov 2018, 1:31 am by moonshadow
Heyes and Kid... and a baby - what a fun ASJ adventure for your debut as a Virtual Season writer.
I had to laugh as I pictured the two of them trying to care for a baby, calling upon their outlaw and survival skills along with Heyes' ingenuity to make things work.
You wove an interesting story filled with bad guys, heroes and a little scene stealer around a tragedy and topic of the times with great skill.
I had to keep reading to find out what happened to the wee one; glad it all worked out - whew!
Hope to see more of your talent in next season's VS!
Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Sun 11 Nov 2018, 4:29 pm by InsideOutlaw
Congrats on your first VS episode and what a good one it was! Lots of action, a solid plot, and a satisfying conclusion.  You had the boys in character with the Kid crusading for justice and Heyes reluctant but supporting him as always. Nice tie in to the series as well with several appropriate nods to Joe Sims.  Thanks for a fun read and I’ll look forward to your next VS.
Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Mon 12 Nov 2018, 10:42 am by Axwell
I really enjoyed reading your story! Please keep on writing for the next season.
Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Mon 12 Nov 2018, 4:48 pm by Laura
What a great story. I enjoyed it a lot. Is there any situation where the boys cannot handle themselves? I liked the way Kids choice of the name Angel was right on. And that they found her family. I also liked the way they referred to Joe Simms, he was a good man even though he was a bounty hunter. The whole story just worked out great.
Re: Alias Angel by Little Bluestem
Post on Mon 12 Nov 2018, 5:49 pm by Nightwalker
Beautiful story. It initiated pictures in my mind right from the start. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Alias Angel by Little Bluestem

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