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 Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1

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royannahuggins
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royannahuggins

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Join date : 2013-10-13

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PostTrouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1

Starring

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Pete_a14
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry and
Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes


Guest Starring


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Brett_10
Brett Tucker as Nathan Tremayne


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Amber_10
Amber Chardae Robinson as Stagecoach Mary


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Alex_k10
Alex Karras as Shorty


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Kather10
Katherine MacGregor as Prudence


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Barry_10
Barry Fitzgerald as Henry


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Rory_c10
Rory Calhoun as Will


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Monty_10
Monty Laird as Joe


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Michae11
Michael Weatherly as Cedar Falls Sheriff—Robert Crandall


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Tom_pa10
Tom Payne as Deputy Mike


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Nat_za10
Nat Zang as Deputy Jesse


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Myster10
TBA (in episode) as Chance Cooper


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Robert10
Robert Taylor as Timber Ridge Sheriff—John Larsen


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Fred_g10
Fred Gwynne as Circuit Judge Micah Johnston


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Rex_le10
Rex Lease as Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Baker


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Richar10
Richard Long as Defense Attorney Samuel Westmore


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Wally_10
Wally Cox as Mr. Marlowe Brandon Smith



Trouble in Cedar Falls
by moonshadow



“Put your hands in the air nice and slow!” Sheriff Crandall ordered as he pulled his Colt from his holster and pointed it in the direction of the table. The six deputies were quick to follow suit, leveling their weapons at the table.

Curry dared another surreptitious look at the man next to him, but his partner's eyes were still glued on the lawman.

Then, with an imperceptive shake of his head, Heyes began to raise his arms very slowly. Only Curry heard his partner's quiet sigh of resignation.

The Kid tossed his cards on the table and followed his partner’s example.

Cue music…

*~*~*~*

The blond-haired stranger exited the train that he had taken from Jackrabbit Junction and glanced at the sign hanging from the wooden beam overhead. “Timber Ridge,” he muttered aloud. “One more small town...” He paused on the boardwalk to survey the activities of the local inhabitants. The corners of his mouth crinkled up in a smile as he watched a group of young children playing Rabbit-In-The-Hole.***

Behind the stranger, somewhere in the distance, a faint voice could be heard calling out, “Hey, Coop!”  Pause.  “Cooper!” the voice called louder.  Pause.  “Chance—CHANCE COOPER!”  This time the voice managed to catch the attention of several of the townsfolk, their heads turning to see who was raising all the ruckus and why.

Looking both ways, the stranger shifted the heavy bag he carried from his right hand to his left before he stepped down into the street.

“Hey, Coop!” the persistent voice bellowed.  “Would ya wait up?!”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Stagec13

The sound of stagecoach wheels and pounding hooves stopped the stranger dead in his tracks.  He took a quick step backwards to avoid being hit as the coach rounded the corner.  Forced to wait while the conveyance passed, an impatient sigh escaped him.  He reached into his vest pocket for his watch as the stagecoach pulled up parallel to the boardwalk across the street and glanced at the time before pocketing it.  A moment later he began to make his way across the street once again.

“Coop!  Dagnabbit all to blazes, man—would ya hold yer daggone horses!  I ain’t no spring chicken, ya know!”

A split second later the stranger felt himself being grabbed from behind and engulfed in a great big bear hug which pinned his arms to his sides while he was lifted off his feet high into the air.  To his further dismay, he was then swung around in a wide arc before being deposited back upon the boardwalk he had just vacated moments before.  Two large hands then spun him around in a half circle.  Head reeling, the man had to hold onto his attacker’s arms for support; he gave his head a few shakes to chase away some of the wooziness.

“Boy, I shore am glad that stage is on time for once!” a deep voice boomed like thunder from somewhere above his head.  “Otherwise I mighta missed ya altogether—I didn't think I'd ever catch up with ya!”

The disoriented stranger blinked a time or two in an effort to dispel the stars circling his head in a kind of frenzied war dance.  Once his vision had cleared and the world began to swim back into focus, he found himself staring into the broad plaid-covered chest of one of the most massive men he had ever seen.  Twice his own width, his ‘assailant’ also dwarfed his six-foot height by a good eight inches.  He found he had to tilt his head back in order to look up into the big man’s face.

“Whooweeeee… ol’ Shorty shore got the jump on ya this time, didn’t he?  Bet yer shore surprised to see me, ain't ya?”

“Shorty?” the man echoed in disbelief.  As his eyes once again traversed the length of the giant’s body, they widened even more.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Shorty10

“Yessiree, ya mangy ol’ son-of-a-biscuit eater!” Shorty enthused.  He engulfed the stranger’s hand in his own massive paw and began to pump it up and down with vigor.  “I can’t believe it’s really you, Coop—last I heard ya was over in Jackrabbit Junction.  Say, how long’s it been?”

Like a fish out of water, the perplexed man opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.

“What’s the matter?” Shorty chuckled.  “Cat got yer tongue?  Well, never ya mind; it don’t matter none.  Ya know, ya shore are a sight fer sore eyes!”  He took a step back.  Starting with the top of the new hat which rested upon the blond man’s head down to the toes of his shiny leather boots, Shorty eyed the other man up and down.  “Purty fancy duds yer wearin; betcha got somethin’ in the ol' fryin’ pan, dontcha?”  Winking a conspiratorial eye, he elbowed the man none-too-gently in the rib cage, an action which caused the blond to wince.

Not bothering to wait for a reply, Shorty rushed on.  “I’ve got me a few things that need tendin' to first, but I’d shore like to buy ya a drink—or two.”  He made to elbow the stranger in the ribs again, but this time the other man was ready for him and took a step back just in the nick of time and caused Shorty to chuckle.  “For old time’s sake, ya know.  We could meet up back here in a while so we can talk an’ get caught up with each other.  How’s ‘bout later this afternoon?  Yer free, ain't ya, Coop?”

“Uh… I’m afraid I’m not—”

“Oh…” Shorty’s face crumpled, his expression transformed to that of a man who had just lost his best friend.  “Well, that’s alright, Coop,” the crestfallen man mumbled, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.  “Under the circumstances, I s’pose I understand.  Guess ya jus’ don’t wanna be seen hangin’ ‘round with the likes of me no more, huh?  Well,” he heaved a deep, drawn-out sigh, “it shore was nice runnin’ into ya again… Oh, an’ don’t worry,” he peeked out from beneath the shock of brown hair that had fallen down to cover his eyes, “I won’t bother ya none no more neither–-ya can bet on that!”

“But I don’t—” the man began.

“Never ya mind, ya don't havta explain,” Shorty continued on as if he hadn’t been interrupted.  “I’d say see ya ‘round,” he shrugged his massive shoulders and heaved a deep sigh, “but a man don’t need to get smacked upside his head with a wooden board to know when he’s not wanted.”  With shoulders slumped and a woebegone expression upon his face, Shorty stuffed his hands into his pockets and shuffled off, shaking his head and muttering something about ‘ingrates’ under his breath.

Eyes still wide, the blond stranger followed the giant until he disappeared from sight when he turned around the corner of the building.  “Well, now, if that don’t beat all…”  He rubbed the back of his neck and retrieved his bag from where it had fallen in all the confusion, brushing at the dirt.  After looking both ways, he darted a quick look over his shoulder before he began his trek across the street to the building where he was to meet up with the owner.  Ten minutes later, his business transaction completed, he emerged and, without further mishap, approached the window of the stage depot.


*~*~*~*


The driver pulled the coach door open and began to assist the passengers out.  After the third one had exited, the man poked his head through the doorway.  “Fellas,” he addressed the two passengers who remained inside, “I'm not sure how many passengers we’ll be pickin’ up here in Timber Ridge yet, but the stage is gonna be headin’ out in 'bout ten minutes, so if you’ve a mind to get out an' stretch your legs, make sure you’re back here by then.  If you don't need to get out, jus' stay put.  Nothin's changed; same story as Jackrabbit Junction.  We're still runnin' way behind schedule so the stage ain't gonna wait for you if you're late.”

The sandy-haired man inside the coach gave an absent nod before he inched his way to the edge of his seat, craned his neck slowly towards the corner of the window, then dared to edge a bit further and took a furtive look around.

A few yards away, a matronly woman who had just exited the stagecoach stood on the boardwalk.  She turned to give the conveyance a haughty glare of indignation.

Curry was quick to duck his head back inside.  “Whew,” he whispered in relief.  “That was close!”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Stagec12

The small-statured man standing next to the woman turned and raised his hand in a timid wave.  The woman swatted it down with her hand, then tugged on his arm and began to tow him along behind her like a wayward child.

“Come along, Henry,” she reprimanded the man sharply, the loud rebuke ringing out loud and clear for all to hear.  “And for heaven’s sake—quit your dawdling!  I tell you, it is simply intolerable that we should be forced to share our accommodations with them and that we had to breathe the same air as them.

Pausing only long enough to take a deep breath, her rant continued.  “The worst travesty of all was that we had to sit next to those… those uncouth ruffians and remain in such close contact with them for the entire trip!  The imposition placed upon us is beyond the pale, even without taking into account the added indignity of you trying to be civil with the likes of them!  I simply cannot believe that you had the audacity to speak to that—that transient!”

“Yes, Prudence,” Henry answered in a meek tone.

“Yes?!”  She pivoted around with a frowning expression and arched an arrogant brow at the miscreant.

“I mean no!  No, Prudence, my dear—I—”

“Why, I have a good notion to give them a piece of my mind!” she snapped.  “Especially the one in the brown hat!”  The heat of the fierce scowl she directed at the coach would have scorched it to smithereens and dispatched its two occupants to the fiery pits of Hades if she had her way.

“But, Prudence my dear,” the man began in a placating tone.  The mild protest went unheeded as it fell upon deaf ears.  Henry turned around to send an apologetic smile towards the coach, but even that modest gesture of politeness was thwarted when his attention was reclaimed by his verbose wife’s shrill tones.

“And another thing….” she continued as she dragged her harangued spouse away down the boardwalk.

“I don’t think that woman should try to give away somethin’ she don’t have!” Kid Curry commented with fervor as he once more peeked out from behind the stagecoach window now that the coast was clear.

A snort of laughter erupted from beneath the black hat that covered the face of the man seated next to him.

Curry reached outside and pushed the stagecoach door shut with his hand just to be on the safe side.  He then switched his position and made himself comfortable in the seat across from his partner.  “I think the temperature inside the stagecoach jus' went up ‘bout twenty degrees!” he added with a shudder.

“At least,” Hannibal Heyes agreed with a yawn as he removed the hat and sat up to stretch.  “I must admit, I’m glad they’re not traveling any further with us.”

“You an’ me both!” Curry assented with a vigorous nod.

“Yep, I’d sure hate to have to break in a new partner; good ones are hard to find.”

“That’s not funny, Heyes!”

“Sure it is, if you think about it.”

“Don’t wanna think about it!” Curry answered glumly.

“Aw, cheer up, Kid; look on the bright side.  You made one nice new friend and one formidable new enemy—and it’s not even dinnertime,” Heyes teased.  His words were met with a silent scowl.  “The next time a man shows an interest in your gun, you might want to make sure his wife’s not around first,” Heyes advised, his grin broadening.

“I was jus’ bein’ friendly,” Curry protested defensively.  “Who’d’ve ever thought she’d get madder’n an ol’ wet hen over a measly ol' gun?  Sheesh, it was bad enough when she was scoldin’ her husband, but when she lit into me it looked like she was gonna hit me over the head with that great big ol’ handbag of hers—I thought I was a goner for sure!”

“So did I, Kid,” Heyes chuckled, “so did I.”

“Poor guy.  All Henry wanted to do was hold my gun an' look at it!  Why, the way she treated him—”  Curry shook his head.  “I dunno, Heyes, I’m not sure I’d ever let a woman talk to me like that, ‘specially in front of other people!”

“Ah, but that’s what love will do to you, Kid.”

“Love?” Curry snorted.  “That’s not love!  That man is hen-pecked!  An’ she’s a mean, beady-eyed, spiteful, ill-tempered, grouchy ol’ sour puss—that’s what she is!”

“You know, you really shouldn’t sugar-coat your feelings like that,” Heyes observed with a wry grin.

“Those are her good points!” Curry retorted.  “Wonder how he ever ended up with the likes of her anyways?  Henry was such a nice, friendly man; I liked him!”

“One of life’s great mysteries, Kid,” Heyes yawned.  He stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles and pulled his hat down over his eyes.  He settled down with his arms folded across his chest, all set to continue his nap.  Just visible under the hat brim, a smile turned up the corners of his mouth.

“Must be an awfully good dream to put a grin like that on your face,” the Kid teased.

Heyes lifted the hat from his face a fraction to eye his partner.  “Remember that cute little blonde-haired saloon girl with the green eyes that I spent time with last night?”

“Uh huh,” the Kid winked.  “You shared more'n time with Rose, Heyes.”

Curry's comment coaxed Heyes' dimples out of hiding and a deep sigh of contentment escaped through his lips as he let his hat drop back down to cover his face.  His voice was muffled as he added, “Well, that's who I was daydreaming about.  Rose had just wrapped her arms around my neck and I there I was, leaning in to give her a long, passionate kiss—”

Loud voices outside the stagecoach interrupted Heyes.

“Now what?” the dark-haired man muttered and heaved a deep sigh of resignation mingled with regret.  “Whatever it is, I hope it hurries up and gets over and done with so I can get back to Rose!” he snapped.

“Not on my stage ya don't!” a deep voice declared.

“But why?” a second voice protested.  “I only want to—”

“I don't care what ya wanna do; I done tole ya, mister, an' that's jus' what yer gonna do!” the first voice snapped in reply.  “My stage, my rules; an' 'sides that it's company policy for the comfort of the passengers.  All luggage gets stowed up top—an' that includes that bag o' yourn!”

His face still sheltered beneath his hat, in spite of his eagerness to get back to his daydream, Heyes found himself eavesdropping on the conversation.  He frowned in concentration as he mused aloud, “I know that voice.  Can't quite put a name or face to it, though,” he added and cocked his head to the side.

“I was thinkin' the same thing.”  Curry nodded.  “I'm sure I've heard that gruff voice before.”

“But as I've explained to you, this is very valuable—as well as extremely breakable,” the second voice insisted.  “It simply cannot go up there!”

“Either it goes up there, or ya ain't gettin' on my stage, mister.  Better decide real quick—this stage leaves in exactly five minutes—with or without ya.”

Unable to stand not being able to place the voice, Curry scooted across the seat to look out the window.  Immediately the corners of his mouth crinkled up in a smile.

A short silence followed the ultimatum, then the second voice was heard again.  “What if I were to give you five dollars?  Would that make a difference?”

“Make it ten, mister, an' ya got yerself a deal.”

The man reached into his pocket and handed the money to the driver.  “So much for company policy,” he grumbled in an undertone.

The driver pocketed the money with a big white-toothed grin.  “Sure hope that bag was worth it, mister.”

Curry pulled his head back inside, a twinkle in his eyes and excitement in his voice.  “You'll never guess who's out there, Joshua!” he exclaimed.

Before Heyes could answer, the stage door was jerked open.

A flurry of activity commenced, which mainly consisted of the newcomer attempting to make his way inside the opening along with a bulky valise.  After several bungled tries he finally managed to accomplish his goal.  The out-of-breath stranger collapsed in the spot next to Heyes, huffing and puffing from his exertions.  He reached down and attempted to maneuver the bag into a better place for the journey.

In the process of the stranger getting settled, Heyes was jostled around enough to knock his hat off his face.  It hit the seat and toppled down to land on the floor of the stagecoach.  With his nap interrupted and the saloon girl once again banished to dreamland, Heyes sat up and, with another deep sigh of resignation, bent down to retrieve his headgear.

The stranger leaned forward at the same time and picked up the black hat, beating Heyes by a second.  “I’d like to apologize…”  He froze when he caught sight of the gunbelt around the man’s waist and eyed it with some trepidation.  He gulped before he spoke again.  “I mean, I’m awfully sorry for my clumsiness, mister—it was an accident, honest!”

Pulling a clean handkerchief from his breast pocket he began to brush the dust off the hat and rushed on.  “I didn’t mean to hit you—I mean to knock your hat off—or to cause you any trouble...  Here you go.”  He held the hat out, tentatively offering it to Heyes.  “Good as new.”

Heyes took the proffered hat with a disarming grin.  “No harm done; no offense taken.  My name's Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

The stranger held his hand out to Heyes, his expression one of relief.  “My name is Nathan, Nathan Tremayne.”  After shaking hands with Heyes, he turned to Curry.  When he saw the holster tied down on the second's man’s leg in the same manner as the first, he held his hand out with a faint smile.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Nathan10

Curry smiled in return and shook the man’s hand.  “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to put that up top?”  He inclined his head towards Nathan’s bag.

“Much,” Nathan readily agreed.  “Except for the fact that it has some breakables inside that will help me with a series of articles I'm writing about my experiences here out west.  I also give lectures, and since it has been my experience thus far in my travels that these drivers don’t take much notice when you tell them to be careful, I must deal with the inconvenience it causes me to keep them in one piece.”

With skyward rolls of their eyes, Heyes and Curry nodded.

“We understand.” Heyes went on to explain.  “Not too long ago we were in the same predicament with a marbled bust of Caesar we were responsible for when we helped our friend, Big Mac McCreedy.”  He glanced outside, then turned to his partner.  “Hey, where'd our driver go?  Weren't you going to tell me something about him?”

“Yep,” Curry's grin was smug.  “Bet you'll never guess who it is.”

“Well,” Heyes mused, “the voice did sound kinda familiar but—”

“Here's another clue, it's not a him.”

“Not a him?” Heyes echoed in surprise.  “You're telling me our driver is a—”

At that moment the topic of their conversation came back and interrupted them again.

“Howdy there, gents.  Jus' lettin' ya know there's been a change in drivers.  You'll be ridin' with me to Cottonwood.  The next, an' last, stop after that is Cedar Falls.  Sure hope ya don't mind none.”  Pearly white teeth, clutching a cigar between them, gleamed in a face as black as a burnt-over prairie.  “Not that it'd matter if ya did; jus' wanted to let ya know.  My name's—”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Real_s10

“Stagecoach Mary!”** Heyes enthused and edged closer to the door so he could put his arm out the window.  Even from his seat in the stage he was forced to look up to see into the woman's face.

Standing at six feet tall and weighing nearly 200 pounds, Mary presented quite a figure.

“Joshua!”  She stuck her hand out to give Heyes' hand a vigorous shake.  “Ain't ya a sight for sore eyes!”  She turned to eye the other seat.  “I shoulda known you wouldn't be far away, Thaddeus—long time no see!”  She grabbed his hand, gave it an energetic pumping and grinned.  “Ya never know when ya get up in the mornin' what the day'll bring, do ya?  I wondered if we'd ever meet up again.  What's it been, two, three years now?”

“At least,” Heyes nodded.

“Told you that you wouldn't guess, Joshua—an' I was right!” Curry chuckled.  Where've you been, Mary?  We've been on lots of stagecoaches an' we haven't run into you anywhere.”

“Well,” Mary shrugged her massive shoulders, “doubt ya would've.  Our paths couldn't cross 'cos I ain't been doin' the runs 'round here for some time.  Been back up 'round Montana for a spell.  I'm jus' in these parts for a short bit, then I'm headed back on up to Cascade.  Nice little town; fact is, I'm thinkin' of settlin' down there when I get too old to do this anymore.”

“Hey,” Curry grinned, “you still have Moses an' Sam?”

“Sure do,” Mary nodded.  “Moses' up front leadin' the team jus' like he always does.  Had to leave Sam with some friends back in Cascade; he was actin' a bit poorly.”  Seeing Nathan's look of confusion, she explained, “Sam's an eagle who usually rides with me an' Moses is my mule.  Me 'n him been together for a real long time now.  Kinda lost track of the years, but I sure hope we has lots more before I has to bury him.”  Her grin disappeared for a few seconds, then returned twice as wide.

“Well, we best quit jawin' or we're never gonna make it on time.  An' ya know me, boys,” she winked at the men, “I'm never late.  Might havta make up a bit of time out there on the straight roads, so make sure ya have a good hold on those seats.”  Removing the stairs, Stagecoach Mary secured the door.

“Next stop, Cottonwood,” she called out and climbed up top to start the next leg of the journey.  “Hold onto yer hats, boys!”  She gathered up the reins in her hands.  “Gee up!” she yelled.  “C'mon, Moses ya ornery ol' thing you—yaw, mule!”

Silence filled the coach for a full minute before Nathan blurted out, “Our stagecoach driver is a woman!”

Heyes and Curry grinned and nodded simultaneously.

“Yes, but you better not ever let her hear you call her that,” Heyes advised with a wink.

“Not if you wanna keep all your teeth,” Curry added.

“Are you serious?  You're not just pulling my leg now, are you?”

“Dead serious.  Nobody kids about Stagecoach Mary,” Curry warned with a solemn look, accompanied by a shake of his head.

“But... she is female.  And she's black.  Not only that, but she drives a stagecoach and delivers mail?”  Nathan raised a questioning brow.  “The west sure is full of curious things.”  There was a slight pause before he spoke again.  “Isn't she afraid of getting attacked or robbed?”

“Not Mary!” Curry snorted.  “It's the other way 'round.  She carries a break-top five-shooter Smith & Wesson .38; keeps it under her apron at all times.

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Stagec11


“Under her apron?” Nathan echoed, then paled.  “You mean that...she...right now...out there...”  He gestured with his hands.  “When we were outside arguing— she had it with her?”

“Sure did,” Curry nodded.  “Never takes it off, not even when she sleeps.”

“But how—?” Nathan stopped and blinked several times.  “Nevermind.”

“Oh, but that's not all,” Heyes added, a mischievous glint in his eyes.  “She also has a well-worn ten-gauge shotgun that sits right in her lap while she drives.  According to her, it can 'cut a man in half at close range.'  I choose to believe her,” he chuckled.  “And sometimes she has a revolver strapped to her waist.”

“Can't forget that flask of whiskey—she's never without that either,” the Kid put in.  “Keeps it real close, too.  Also under her apron.”

“Then there's that cigar she keeps clenched between her teeth,” Heyes added.

“She makes 'em herself, you know,” Curry winked.

“They're so potent,” Heyes continued, “hardly anybody else has the stomach to smoke them.”

“Wanna know how we know?”  The Kid shared a grin with his partner.

Still in a daze, Nathan nodded.

“'Cos we both tried 'em.  That was before we knew better.  Sure gave Mary a good laugh.”

“She's quite a character,” Nathan surmised.

“She has to be tough on the outside, but deep down inside, Stagecoach Mary's a real good person,” the Kid reflected.  “Leastwise that's how she's been with us.”

“Stagecoach Mary...” Nathan mused.  “That's another curious thing.  Where did she ever get a name like that?  Doesn't she have a regular one?”

The sound of the horses' hooves pounding outside drowned out any chance of being overheard, nevertheless, Heyes leaned forward and dropped his voice.  “Her full name's Stagecoach Mary Fields,” he began in a confidential tone.  “Some folks call her Black Mary.  She earned the name because she's never missed a day of work, never failed to deliver a single letter, and has never been late—not even once.  She's extremely reliable; people say no one else even comes close to her record.  She's pretty proud of it, too.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Hh_on_10

“Yeah,” the Kid joined in, matching Heyes' low tone.  “An' the way we heard tell is that Mary was hired as a mail carrier 'cos she was the fastest one to hitch a six-horse team.”  As he warmed to his role of storyteller, Curry continued, “See, the story goes that she applied for a job with the postal service, delivering mail all through the Montana Territory.  Now they say for her job interview, her an' a dozen cowboys half her age, were asked to hitch a team of six horses to a stagecoach as quick as they could.  Stagecoach Mary left 'em all in the dust!  She hitched the horses an' still had time left over to run to the saloon, grab a shot of whiskey, come back an' smoke a cigar while she laughed at the others as they tried to catch up.”

“But surely that's just a fabrication?” Nathan scoffed.  “A yarn that cowboys tell around the campfire at night to amuse each other.  It can't all be true, can it?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance, shrugged, then settled back in their seats.

“Why don't you ask her?” Heyes grinned and tipped his hat forward so that it once more shielded his face.

Nathan glanced sideways at the Kid.  “Joshua's kidding, isn't he?” he asked hesitantly.

“One way to find out,” Curry answered, a twinkle in his eyes.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Kc_on_10

Nathan sat back in his seat with a deep sigh.  “So, Thaddeus, do you know any other interesting stories you'd like to share?”


*~*~*~*~*


The stage reached the outskirts of the town and began to slow down.  Once the conveyance came to a full stop, Stagecoach Mary jumped down and poked her head in the window.  “Welcome to Cottonwood, gents.  We'll be here long enough for me to change the team an' for you fellas to take care of any personal business that might need tendin' to so you'll be comfortable for the long ride ahead.”  She turned to Heyes.  “He still pack it away, Joshua?”

Heyes grinned and nodded.  “Maybe even more,” he winked.

“Should I stow some extra supplies jus' in case?”

“Might not be a bad idea; you know how cranky he gets when he's hungry.”

“Ya don't havta remind me, Joshua; I has a real good memory.”  Mary mock shuddered.  “Can't nobody even come close to his bad mood.”

“Hey,” the Kid protested, his expression pained.  “I'm right here!”

“Why so ya are, Mr. Jones.”  Mary's grin flashed his way.  “I suggest ya spend yer time findin' some grub to tide ya over til' ya can get a proper meal in Cedar Falls.”  She set the stairs down and opened the door.  “There ain't nothin' between here an' there fit to be called food, an' we won't be makin' any more stops along the way iffen I has anything to say 'bout it.”

The Kid turned to Nathan.  “Don't believe a word either of 'em says.  C'mon, Nathan, let's go find something to eat; they can fend for themselves.”  He climbed out of the coach and stood waiting for the other man.

Nathan looked at Curry outside, then turned to Heyes, who was still sitting inside the coach, but he didn't move.  His eyes dropped down to his hands clasped together in front of him.

“It's okay, Nathan, we joke around like that all the time.  You won't be taking sides if you go along with Thaddeus; I'll be right behind you.”

Nathan swallowed and raised his eyes to look at Heyes.  “Thanks, Joshua; it'll take a bit of getting used to; I don't have a lot of experience with joking around.”

“If you're around us for long you'll get used to it real fast.”  Heyes grinned.  “After you,” he gestured with his hand.

Once Nathan had exited the coach, Heyes climbed out to join the other two and the trio headed towards a building with a sign that read, “Cottonwood Cafe.”


*~*~*~*~*


Heyes and Curry were both dozing, having been lulled to sleep by the warm day and the swaying of the stagecoach.

Nathan was occupied with watching the scenery as they moved through the different settings.  Spying a sign ahead, he quietly read the words aloud, “The Town of Cedar Falls Welcomes You.  Sounds like a real friendly town.”

A few moments later Stagecoach Mary pulled into the depot and pulled the horses to a stop.

The cessation of movement woke up the two ex-outlaws.

The Kid opened his eyes, sat up and stretched, then looked at his partner and grinned when he saw that the black hat still covered his face.  He nudged Heyes' foot with his boot.  “Time to wake up; you can finish your dream later.”

“Wasn't a dream,” Heyes retorted and came to a sitting position, the hat put back in its rightful place once again.  “Rose is very real.”

“Was, Joshua.  She's back in Salt Creek; we're here in Cedar Falls.”

Amused by the pair's banter, Nathan smiled along with them as Stagecoach Mary dropped the steps by the coach and opened the door.

“Ya stay in there any longer an' I'm gonna havta start chargin' the three o' ya rent,” she warned.  “Better git goin', boys!”

“No need to threaten us,” Curry grinned.  “We're leavin'”

“You haven't changed a bit, Mary,” Heyes chuckled.  “You're gonna give our new friend the wrong idea about you if you're not careful.”

“I 'spect he's already got a real good idee 'bout me,” Mary retorted and looked at Nathan.  “Ain't that right?”

Nathan swallowed and offered her a timid smile as Heyes and Curry moved past him to exit the stage.

Once the three men were standing on the ground, Heyes glanced around until his eyes lit on a sign that read “Ace In the Hole Hotel & Gambling Room.”  “Guess we'll be heading that way, Nathan.  You coming with us?”

“I've got some business to take care of first, but I'll be over there in about half an hour.”

“Once we get our room, we've got to check at the telegraph office and see if there's a message from our friend, Big Mac McCreedy.  He said there was a job coming up soon that he wants us to do.  After we're done at the telegraph office, Thaddeus and me will be downstairs in the saloon.  You're welcome to join us.”

Curry, who had been busy checking out the rest of the buildings, turned back.  “Yeah, an' maybe we can have supper together at that diner over there, if you wanna?”

“Gentlemen, I'd enjoy spending some more time with you after I get this business over and done with and get my room for the night.  Supper sounds like a great idea, too, Thaddeus.  Those sandwiches we got at the cafe were good, but my stomach's already growling.”

“Mine, too,” the Kid nodded vigorously in agreement.  “In that case, I vote we eat first.”

“You always want to eat,” Heyes chuckled.  “Guess I'm outnumbered two to one, huh?”

“It's nice to have someone else on my side.”  Curry's smirk was smug as he added, “At least we don't havta flip a coin this time.”

With an eye roll and a shake of his head, Heyes picked up their saddlebags and tossed one to the Kid.

Nathan retrieved his bag from the stagecoach and gave them a wave as he took off down the boardwalk.

“We'll see you later, Nathan,” Heyes called out as he and the Kid headed towards the hotel.


*~*~*~*~*


AFTER SUPPER, INTERIOR OF THE “ACE IN THE HOLE HOTEL & GAMBLING ROOM”

It's a fairly large establishment for a saloon.  Situated around the room are various gambling tables for poker, blackjack, roulette, etc., each occupied by players, surrounded by saloon patrons watching the games, saloon girls weaving their way through the melee delivering drinks and other workers doing their jobs.  It’s a typical busy afternoon in the saloon: a crowded bar, a piano player pounding out music, drinks flowing, a cacophony of noise.

Heyes and Curry are seated next to each other at a poker table, their backs to the wall with a clear view of the door.  Nathan is seated across from them.  There are three other players at the table.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Poker_10

Having just finished the hand, the dealer gathered the cards from the table and began to shuffle the deck.

While he waited for the next game to start, Curry took a swig of his beer and gave a desultory glance around the room.  Then, with an ear-to-ear grin, he tapped Heyes' arm with the back of his hand to get his attention.  When his partner turned with a questioning look, the Kid inclined his head towards the bar.  “Look over there.”

Heyes glanced that way and a dimpled smile spread across his face.  Catching Nathan's attention, Heyes pointed.  “Look behind you.”

Nathan turned around.  His eyes and mouth widened when he saw that Stagecoach Mary had walked into the saloon and was making her way through the crowded saloon on her way to the bar.

Heyes rose to his feet, gathered up his winnings and headed towards the bar.

A few seconds later the Kid did the same and rounded the table.  “C'mon, Nathan, hurry up—you're not gonna wanna miss this!”  Curry grabbed their new friend by the arm and pulled him along as he and Heyes pushed past people to get a bird's eye view.

Once again in the throes of bewilderment, Nathan had no other choice than to follow along, being towed behind the Kid holding tight to his sleeve.  He offered apologies left and right as he bumped into strangers.  “I'm sorry, excuse me, begging your pardon...”

Their quick pace enabled them to beat most of the other patrons; the trio had a front row view of whatever was going to transpire.


*~*~*~*


Not being small of stature, Mary stood out in the sea of faces.  That, along with the fact that she was a black woman inside a saloon, caused quite a stir among the customers and saloon workers alike.  As she passed, they turned to stare and watch her with their eyes as she approached the bar.  It grew more and more quiet as she continued to make her way through the crowd and bellied up to the bar.  She leaned on it with her left elbow.  A dropped pin could have been heard in the silence.

“I'd like a whiskey, please.”  Her request carried easily throughout the oddly quiet saloon.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Stagec10

The barkeep froze, his mouth agape.  In the process of wiping the glass he held in his hand, he stared at her as if he'd seen a ghost.

Not so for the two ranch hands who approached her, one on either side.

“You're gonna havta go find someplace else to get that drink,” the ranch hand in the brown shirt sneered.  “Ain't that so, Will?”

“Yep, that's right, Joe,”  Will nodded, his manner surly.  “We don't serve your kind here in Cedar Falls.”

Not turning around, Mary pinned the barkeep with a look.  “Is what they say true?  Ya ain't gonna give me a drink—even iffen I has the money to pay for it?”

Before the barkeep could answer, Joe intervened.  “You heard right; your money's no good here!”

Will took a threatening step closer.  “You'd best turn 'round an' walk right back out those doors, 'cos there's only one of you, an' there's two of us,” he sneered.  He looked around at the crowd that had gathered.  “Maybe more,” he added with a sly grin.

Mary turned around slowly and looked Will straight in the eyes.  “What if I should wanna make a bet with ya?  An' what if I won that bet?  Could I stay an' have my drink then?”

“Now, what kinda bet could someone like you possibly make with me?” he laughed scornfully.

“It's not jus' any bet, Will—she says it's one she thinks she can win!” Joe crowed.

Will looked Mary up and down, then spat in the spittoon near her feet.  “I have to admit, you've got me a mite curious.  Let's just say I'll at least listen to your bet, then I'll decided whether or not you get to stay.”

“Sounds fair to me,” Mary shrugged.  “I betcha a dollar that I can lay ya out flat in one punch.”

The whole room broke out in hoots and hollers, as well as raucous laughter, but Will laughed the hardest and the longest.  He clutched his belly and bent over double, holding onto the bar for support.  When he finally raised his head, there were tears of mirth running down his cheeks.  “Whoowhee...  I ain't laughed that hard in years!” he gasped, still chuckling as he wiped his eyes.  “So, let me see if I've got this straight now.  The bet's on you knockin' me to the floor in one punch.  Is that right?”

“Less'n ya don't wanna muss up that pretty smile of yours,” Mary countered, never taking her eyes off Will.

“Jus' wanted to make sure.  Alrighty, then; here's my dollar.”  Will took the steps necessary to bring him up front and close to his opponent and slapped the money down on the bar.  A cocky grin plastered on his face, he shoved his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels and waited.

Mary pulled a dollar from her apron and placed it on the bar next to his.  “One punch, one dollar,” she repeated.

“And, uh, what happens when I don't go down?”  Will smirked and turned to wink knowingly at the crowd, an action which brought forth more snickers of laughter.

Mary also looked around the room before she answered, her voice calm.  “Oh, I imagine your men have thoughts on that already.”

“Not if we have anything to say 'bout it!” Curry muttered under his breath.

“Easy, Thaddeus,” Heyes cautioned and put a hand on his friend's arm.

“So, how do I know when you're—”

Mary's closed fist connecting with Will's face put an end to whatever he had been about to say.

The man dropped as if poleaxed and fell backwards, flat out on the floor.  He lay there stunned, his mouth bleeding profusely.  Amid moans and groans of pain, he moved his jaw around gingerly then, emitting an even deeper groan, he turned and spat a tooth out onto the floor.

Mary walked forward and bent down to pick it up.  After giving it a quick perusal, she straightened up and tucked it into the leather pouch she wore tied to her belt.  “Any other takers on my bet?” she grinned.  “It's only one dollar, an' I've gotta mighty powerful thirst...”

There was some weak laughter and, by the bitter expressions on their faces, a few of the more foolish men looked as if they might be considering it, but none stepped forward.

“I thought so,” Mary chuckled.  Seeing Heyes and Curry at the edge of the crowd, she winked at them and turned back to the bar.

Mumbling and shaking their heads, the crowd of people slowly began to disperse.


*~*~*~*~*


Heyes, Curry and Nathan turned away and began to walk back to their poker game.

“I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen that with my own eyes,” Nathan declared in awe as he trailed behind Heyes.  “And I sure would have lost my dollar on that bet!”

“What would you say if I told you that Mary's never lost that bet in all the times she's done it?” Curry quipped from behind Nathan.  “She never has to buy her own drinks, neither; there's always some poor walk-off who thinks he can win.”

“Never?” Nathan stopped so abruptly that Curry ran right smack into him.  He turned around to face the Kid.  “Sorry, Thaddeus.  I guess I would have to say that you were telling me the truth after what I just witnessed.”

Curry turned him around and gave him a friendly shove before he brushed past him to take the lead.  “C'mon, let's get back to our game.”

Nathan trailed behind him, shaking his head.  “I think that's enough excitement for one day as far as I'm concerned.  A nice, quiet card game will be a pleasant change of pace.”


*~*~*~*


Her back to the crowd, Mary looked at the barkeep as she picked up her dollar along with Will's.  “So?”  She pocketed the money into her leather pouch.

The barkeep glanced upwards and, at the two-fingered signal from the saloon owner, nodded then stepped forward and set two glasses of whiskey on the bar.  “Here's the one you won fair 'n square; the other one's compliments of the house.  The owner sends his congratulations, uh... ?” he hesitated, then finished, “ma'am.”

“An' if I wanted to thank him personally, jus' where might that owner be?”

The barkeep pointed to the balcony.

Stagecoach Mary turned, then raised her glass in a toast before she tossed it back and released a deep sigh of satisfaction.  “Ahh, that sure do hit the spot!”


*~*~*~*~*

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


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Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 :: Comments

royannahuggins
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1
Post on Sat 02 Feb 2019, 12:44 pm by royannahuggins
SALOON, A COUPLE HOURS LATER AT THE SAME POKER TABLE

“How many for you, Jones?”

After studying his hand a moment, Curry replied, “Two,” and placed a pair of cards face down on the table.

“How ‘bout you, Smith?”

“I’ll take—” the words hung in the air.  Shielding his next words behind his card-filled hand for the Kid’s ears alone, Heyes murmured, “Uh, oh…”

A sideways glance at his partner’s face told Curry all he needed to know.  He followed his partner’s line of sight to the doorway and drew in a quick breath.

“Hey, mister—how many cards do you want?” the dealer inquired again, his voice laced with impatience.

“Looks like none of us are gonna be wantin’ any cards for a while, George.”  Eyes bugged out, the player seated next to Curry gestured with his head.  “Turn 'round and take a look behind you.”

When the dealer complied, his eyes widened as well and he laid the deck of playing cards on the table without another word, the poker game all but forgotten.  “Wonder what Sheriff Crandall’s doin’ in here?” he spoke in a hushed tone.  “An’ why in tarnation he's got so many deputies with him?  He usually only has Mike or Jesse, but he’s got both of ‘em—and at least four more—they're not his regular ones!  Hey—they're splittin' up—must be somethin’ mighty big!”

With everyone’s attention focused on the deputies, it was easy for Heyes and Curry to converse quietly with each other.

“Thought we didn't know Crandall!” Curry whispered from behind his hand.

“We don't,” Heyes confirmed.

“Got a plan?” Curry's tone was terse.

“Might not need a plan; might not be anything.”

“An’ if it is?”  Curry laid his cards down and lowered his right hand to rest on his gun.  “What’re we gonna do?”

“Nothing!” Heyes hissed out of the corner of his mouth.  “Smile and get your hands back on the table—you trying to get yourself shot!?” Lacing the fingers of his own hands together, Heyes rested them on the table, a forced smile on his face.

“Maybe we could head out the back—”  Curry made a half turn in his chair but immediately swiveled right back.  “Nevermind,” he muttered.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Curry_11

“What?” Heyes asked out of the side of his mouth, keeping his eyes on the approaching law officers and the smile plastered on his face.

“Them!  Today is not our day, Joshua!”  Heyes' admonition fresh in his mind, he reached out and picked up his cards to keep his hands busy.

Heyes glanced away long enough for a brief glance over his shoulder and managed to conceal his surprise at the sight of three men with badges pinned on their chests that stood not more than five feet away from them.  “Oh,” he commented just as quietly, “them.”  He gave them a fleeting smile and a nod before he settled back into his chair, not quite at ease as a few moments before.

One by one for the second time that day, the saloon activities came to a halt as the occupants became aware of the over-abundance of lawmen in their midst.  One of the deputies stopped by the piano.  He spoke a few words to the man seated on the stool before he re-joined the group.  When the piano player’s music died away, an unnatural silence filled the crowded establishment.  The patrons and workers glanced around and at each other, unanswered questions in their expressions.

With a sense of foreboding that increased with every second that passed, Heyes and Curry watched the group of men who were making a beeline straight for their table.  Included in the assemblage was a sheriff and three deputies who carried rifles.  Not one of them had even a hint of a smile.  They came to a stop when they reached the poker table and stood behind Nathan, facing Heyes and Curry.

“Evening, gentlemen,” Sheriff Crandall said and received a general chorus of greetings in return.

Heyes and Curry gave brief nods in the general direction of the lawmen as well.

“What brings you in here, Sheriff?” the dealer inquired.  “Trouble?”

“There's always trouble, George, but today it's business.”

“With one of us?”  At the lawman’s nod, the man gulped.  “Here?  At this table?”

The lawman nodded once more.  “Yep.”

Curry darted a furtive look Heyes’ way but that man’s unblinking eyes were fixed on the sheriff.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Hh_and13

“Well?” the lawman barked sharply, startling everyone around him with the exception of the deputies.

A short, mousy-looking man peeked out from where he had been hidden behind one of the more muscular deputies that stood off to the side of the table.  He adjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles and darted a covert look at the occupants before he ducked for cover again.  “That’s him,” he squeaked.  “I’d know that face anywhere!”

“Put your hands in the air nice and slow!” Sheriff Crandall ordered as he pulled his Colt from his holster and pointed it in the direction of the table.  The six deputies were quick to follow suit, leveling their weapons at the table.

Curry dared another surreptitious look at the man next to him, but his partner's eyes were still glued on the lawman.

Then, with an imperceptive shake of his head, Heyes began to raise his arms very slowly.  Only Curry heard his partner's quiet sigh of resignation.

The Kid tossed his cards on the table and followed his partner’s example.

Across from them, Nathan’s jaw dropped open. He stared wide-eyed at the two men as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  “What—?”

The lawman’s eyes narrowed into slits.  “What’re you two raising your arms for?  It’s him,” he gestured with his weapon at the man seated across from them, “we want.”

Heyes and Curry needed no further encouragement and lowered their arms with haste.  A questioning look was exchanged between the two before they turned to the man seated across the table from them.  It was now their turn to stare at their new ‘friend’ with undisguised surprise.

By this time every pair of eyes was focused upon the men seated around the poker table.

Once the realization hit Nathan that he had now become the center of attention, that gentleman put his cards down slowly and made a half-turn in his chair only to find several gun barrels leveled straight at him.

“Y-you mean m-me?” he stammered.

“Yes, YOU!” Crandall barked.  “Now get those hands raised nice and high—”

“But I don’t understand, Sheriff—”

“You don’t need to understand—just do it and then we’ll talk!”

As if in a stupor, Nathan complied.

“Now, stand up—real slow—and toss your gunbelt over here to my deputy.”

Nathan rose to his feet at a snail’s pace, making a great show of keeping his arms out and away from his body.  “If you’ll allow me to show you…”  He used his thumb and a finger on each hand to pull his jacket open with slow, deliberate movements.  “As you can plainly see, Sheriff, I am not wearing a holster.  No holster, no gun—nothing.  Now, what’s this all about?”

“I’ll ask the questions here!” Sheriff Crandall’s voice boomed out in the silence as he stared at the table.  “Well, Mr. Smith?”

Heyes instinctively opened his mouth to reply, but quickly snapped it shut when the man who still cowered behind the deputy poked his head out far enough around the lawman to give Nathan a brief head-to-toe perusal.

“He was wearing one when he shot Jerome McAllister down in cold blood!” he declared.  “That's the man, Sheriff—I'm positive!  Killed him deader’n a doornail!” he squeaked before he ducked back to cower in safety behind the deputy.

“Sh-shot?” Nathan stammered as his voice rose another octave.  “Killed!?” He glanced around, shaking his head in disbelief before he continued.  “I never shot anybody—why, I’ve never even fired a gun, and that’s the Gospel truth, honest!”

The sheriff’s brow furrowed.  “Well, looks like we’re going to have to settle this over at the jail.  Don’t make any sudden moves, mister,” he warned.  “I wouldn’t want you to become a permanent resident of my town before we can get to the bottom of this.”

Nathan gulped; his complexion growing a few shades paler as the words registered.

Crandall turned to the deputy nearest him.  “Search him, Jesse.”

Before doing so, the deputy handed his own weapon over to another deputy that stood beside him.  Only then did he motion for Nathan to turn around.  “Put your hands on the back of your head,” he ordered.  “Lock your fingers together and keep ‘em there.”

Numb with shock, his face devoid of expression, Nathan blindly obeyed.  That done, he raised his eyes; they met and locked with Heyes’ brown ones.

Finished with patting Nathan down, the deputy rose to his feet.  “He’s telling the truth, Sheriff; he don’t even have a pocketknife on him.”

Crandall nodded.  “Good; cuff him and take him on over to the jail.”

“I didn’t do it—I couldn’t do something like that!”  Nathan's protests were cut short when the deputy grabbed his arms, pulled them behind his back and locked the handcuffs into place around his wrists.  He winced.  “Joshua…Thaddeus, I know we just met, and I know how this looks, but please—you have to believe me, I did not shoot that man—whoever he was!”  He looked from Heyes to Curry, his eyes beseeching them, his expression asking them to have faith in him.

“You might as well save your breath; it doesn’t matter a hill 'o beans whether or not they believe you.  I’ll get to the bottom of things and straighten 'em out soon enough.  We do things by the book here in Cedar Falls.”  Silence followed his words as the lawmen began to escort the prisoner away.

“Excuse me, Sheriff,” Heyes called out.  “Before you go, do you mind if I ask you a question?”  He ignored the quiet groan from his partner.

Crandall stopped and, although the lawman’s eyes narrowed, he inclined his head in Heyes’ direction.  “Go ahead.”

“Just when and where did the shooting take place?”

The lawman fixed Heyes and Curry with a look.  “Where’d you say you came from?”

“I didn’t,” Heyes countered without missing a beat.  “But I don’t mind telling you.  My partner and I were up in Wyoming—on official business.  Doing some work for Sheriff Lom Trevors of Porterville.  At the request of the Governor, I might add.”

“The Governor, huh?  Sheriff of Porterville, you say?”  Crandall scratched his chin as if in thought.  “You come in by way of the stage?”

“Matter of fact, we did.”

“Well, you would’ve had to pass right through Jackrabbit Junction, then.”

“We did,” Heyes affirmed with a nod and added, “Didn’t stay long though.  As I recall, the stage driver asked us specifically not to get off, so we just stayed put.”

“He give you any reason why?”

Heyes gave a slight shrug of his shoulders.  “Said something about being behind schedule and he hoped to make up some time.”

“Take on any new passengers there?”

“No,” Heyes’ brow wrinkled in thought.  “As a matter of fact, there were two other stops made and we only picked up one other passenger after that.”

The lawman’s glance flicked over to Nathan.  “Him?”

“Yes.  We got a new driver as well.  They both joined us in Timber Ridge.  We went through Cottonwood, then came here to Cedar Falls.”

Crandall turned back to Heyes.  “Did the new passenger have anything with him?”

Heyes frowned in concentration.  “Nothing out of the ordinary, as I recall; just a bag.”  His words were met with silence.  “Of course, I’m only confirming what the stagecoach driver has already told you, Sheriff.”  The corners of Heyes' mouth turned up, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.  “Correct?”

“Maybe,” Crandall allowed.  “But this man is my prisoner and he'll remain in my custody until I say otherwise.”

Heyes didn’t dispute the statement.  “I believe you were about to tell us about that robbery, Sheriff?” he reminded the lawman.

Crandall rubbed the back of his neck.  “Well, guess it won’t hurt none to tell you, since it’s gonna be all over town soon enough and everyone’s gonna be talking about it anyways.  Like I already said, it was over in Jackrabbit Junction.  Sometime early yesterday, Friday morning, before first light, somebody forced the bank manager, Jerome McAllister, to open his safe and empty the contents into a carpetbag.

“Although Mr. McAllister did everything exactly as he was told, never tried to fight or anything, the bank robber still shot him down in cold blood anyway—for no apparent reason.  He probably would’ve gotten away with it scot-free, too, except for the fact that there was a witness.”  The lawman gave Nathan a hard stare.  “An eye witness that the robber didn’t know anything about.”

Heyes shifted his glance over to the general direction of where the ‘witness’ had last been seen.  “The mysterious Mr. Smith, I presume?”

“Maybe,” Crandall’s words were clipped.  “Is that enough for you, Mister…?”  He gave the brown-haired man a pointed look.  “Don't believe I caught your name?”

“It’s a small world, Sheriff,” Heyes replied.  “My name also happens to be Smith— Joshua Smith.  And to answer your question, yes, that’s enough—for now.”

“Hmph,” the lawman snorted and motioned with his gun for his deputies to precede him with the prisoner.

Nathan sent Heyes and Curry another mute look of appeal.

Heyes returned it with a nod of encouragement.  “Oh, Sheriff,” he called out, “I do have one more question.”  If he heard Curry's sharp intake of breath, Heyes gave no indication.

“What now?” the lawman snapped as he made an impatient half turn.

“Is the prisoner allowed to have visitors?”

Crandall completed his turn and pierced Heyes with a shrewd look.  “Accordin' to the rules, a prisoner can have a visitor as long as that visitor is willing to part with his hardware before he does any socializing.”  The lawman turned to leave, but pivoted about after only one step.  “Oh, and as long as it’s before seven o’clock; that’s when visiting time is up.  Otherwise they’ll have to wait until ten o’clock tomorrow morning.  Any more questions, Mr. Smith?”

“No, Sheriff, thank you; you’ve been very helpful.”  Heyes shifted his gaze to Nathan.  “We’ll be by to see you later.”

The prisoner sent him a look of gratitude as he was led away, flanked by all six of the deputies.

*~*~*~*

Once all the lawmen had cleared the room, the saloon went back to business as usual, with the exception of a heightened noise level as the patrons discussed what had just happened.

Heyes tapped Curry on the shoulder.  “C’mon, Thaddeus, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“I think I'm gonna need more'n one!” the Kid muttered.

They collected their winnings and left the table with promises to return later and then made their way to the bar and ordered their beers.

While they waited, Curry made a half turn to survey the room.  “Sheesh, one sheriff an’ six deputies?  Sure a lot of manpower for jus' one person.”

“Yep, sure was,” Heyes agreed.  “Crandall wasn't about to take any chances; he came prepared, and then some.”  When the barkeep set two mugs on the bar, he picked his up and led the way to an empty table off to the side of the room.

Following close behind him, and under cover of the noise, Curry ventured, “What’re you thinkin’, Heyes?”  He sat down opposite his partner and tossed his hat on the chair beside him.  Picking up the mug he took a long drink.

Heyes nodded.  “I am.”

Curry’s brow furrowed.  After swallowing the beer in his mouth, he set his drink down and looked at his partner.  “No, I mean what are you thinkin’ about doin’?”

“Not sure yet; I’ll have a better idea after we visit Nathan tonight.”

Curry leaned back in his chair and heaved a deep sigh.  “That means goin’ over to the jail.”

“Yes.”

“You heard the sheriff—anybody who wants to go inside has to give up his gun.”

“Yes.”

“You know how I feel about that,” Curry replied in a tone as dejected as his expression.

“Yes.”

Curry sat forward and glared at his partner.  “Are you gonna say anything else besides yes!?”

“Yes,” Heyes answered with a dimpled grin.

Curry blew out an exasperated breath.  “Well, I have something to say, too—an’ it’s no.”

“It’s for a good cause.”

“I’ve got a better cause for not doin’ it,” Curry muttered.

“You won’t have to part with it for very long—”

“I won’t have to part with it at all!  We both don’t need to go—do we?”

Heyes watched his partner lay a protective hand on his weapon and bit back a grin.  “Well,” he demurred, “it might be better if one of us stays outside…”

“Long as I’m the one doin’ the stayin’.”  Curry nodded and took another swig of his beer.  “You really think we can help him?”

After a quick look around to ascertain that they couldn't be overheard, Heyes reached for his own mug and stared down into the amber liquid.  “I don’t know, Kid.  If what Nathan’s shared with us so far is true, he doesn’t sound like the kind of person who would gun down an unarmed man, let alone rob a bank…”  He wrapped his other hand around the mug, his expression thoughtful.  “He doesn’t look like an outlaw, but then again, neither do we,” he added quietly and took a drink.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Heyes_19

“I don’t wanna think he’s guilty either, but you heard the sheriff; they’ve got an eye witness who jus' identified Nathan as the killer.”

“Yeah, I know.  That’s one of the things I need to find out more about.”

Curry turned sideways to face his partner.  “D'ya think we’re doin’ the right thing?”

“The right thing?” Heyes quirked his brow.

“Gettin’ involved.”

“We’re not getting involved.”  Heyes paused, then added, “Yet.  Right now we’re just gathering information.  Then we’ll decide whether or not to get involved.”

Curry nodded.  “Well then, I’ll be close by while you’re inside gatherin’ that information.”  He patted his holster.  “Jus’ in case.”

Heyes picked up his mug and downed the contents.  “Wouldn’t have it any other way, partner.”  He rose to his feet.  “C’mon, let’s get this over with.”

*~*~*~*

The two men parted ways when their boots hit the boardwalk.  Heyes continued on his way across the street and Curry stationed himself where he had a bird’s-eye view of the jail.  Sitting down on a wooden bench, he bent down to pick up an old piece of wood and pulled out his pocketknife.

At the entrance to the sheriff’s office, Heyes turned to take a casual look around.  When his eyes lit on the Kid, he put a finger to the brim of his hat and nodded before he turned the doorknob and went inside.

After Heyes disappeared through the door, Curry leaned back, never taking his eyes away from the building his partner had just entered.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Kid_wa10

*~*~*~*

Once inside, Heyes pushed on the gate of the balustrade that separated the entryway from the rest of the jail.  Taken by surprise when he was met with resistance, he almost doubled over in half over the top of the gate.  As he righted himself, he was even more at a loss when a deputy came forward and held up a hand.

“Hold it right there.”

Hands at his hips, Heyes gave a skyward roll of his eyes.  “Do I have any choice?” he muttered wryly.

The sheriff’s voice could be heard from somewhere in the background.  “Be patient, Mr. Smith.  Accordin' to the rules of my jail, you can’t pass through that gate until you hand over your weapon and holster.  If you recall, I shared that bit with you over in the saloon.  Ask my deputy.”

Heyes looked at the deputy, who nodded vigorously in the affirmative.  The ex-outlaw unbuckled his gunbelt and gave it to the deputy.  Again, he made an attempt to enter.  He reached over the gate to unlatch it, but found a bolt lock securely in place.

“You can’t go in yet.”

“Why not?” Heyes demanded.  “I gave you my holster and gun.  What more do you want?”

“Accordin' to the rules, you haven’t been searched yet,” Crandall’s voice droned in an unhurried tone.  “No search, no visiting; simple as that.  Mike there needs to pat you down before you can come any further.”

The deputy nodded in agreement.  “It’s like the sheriff says, Mister Smith; you’re a visitor, an’ if you wanna go back there,” Mike inclined his head towards the door behind him, “then—”

“Fine!  Search me!” Heyes grumbled and submitted to the procedure in resigned silence.

Starting with removing the black hat from the man’s head, Mike patted him down, searching Heyes’ clothing piece by piece all the way down to the outlaw’s boots.

Heyes lifted a brow in inquiry when the deputy was done.  “Satisfied?” he queried, his tone sarcastic, and held out a hand for his hat.  He dared to take a small measure of satisfaction in the fact that his lock pick had gone undetected and was still in its hiding place.

“He’s clean, Sheriff,” Mike called out as he handed Heyes his hat.

“I should be—I took a bath yesterday!” Heyes snapped.

Ignoring Heyes’ heated glare, the deputy took a key from his pocket, inserted it in the lock, slid the bolt over and motioned for Heyes to enter as he pulled the gate open.  “Accordin’ to the rules, visitin’ hours are over in one hour,” the deputy announced cheerfully as the outlaw passed by.  Mike pointed his finger.  “Jus' head right 'round that there corner.”

Heyes walked in that direction and turned the corner to find Sheriff Crandall seated at a large desk.  Head bent, the man was busy with paperwork.  The lawman looked up, then reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a pocket watch.  “Actually, Mr. Smith, that’ll only be fifty-six minutes,” he warned as he snapped the timepiece shut.

“By the time we get done with all this ‘accordin' to the rules’ malarkey, I’m not going to need to go back there because ACCORDING TO THE RULES, visiting hours will be over!” Heyes retorted, his patience at an end.

“Now, now, there’s no need to get all proddy and lose your temper like that, Mr. Smith.  Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar,” Crandall admonished, wagging his forefinger at him.

“I am not interested in catching flies—with honey or with vinegar!” Heyes ground out between teeth clenched tight.  “I just want to see Nathan!”

“Which you'll be doing in just a few minutes.”  He turned to his deputy.  “Go ahead and take him on back, Mike.”  The lawman handed the deputy a key he had removed from a drawer.  “Maybe he'll be in a better mood by the next time we meet.”

The deputy laid his own weapon down on the corner of the desk next to the sheriff.  Crandall reached out, picked up the weapon and put it inside a drawer before he turned his attention back to his paperwork.

As he trailed behind the deputy down a hall to another locked door, Heyes glanced around with interest.  “Good thing all jails aren’t run like this one,” he muttered.

Mike stopped and turned back to face him.  “What was that, Mr. Smith?”

“I was just saying how impressed I am with all the security this little one-horse town jail has.”

“We might be small,” the deputy snapped in an injured tone, “but we ain't never had anyone escape from our jail!  Put that in your pipe an' smoke it!”

Heyes held up a hand.  “No offense meant; I really am impressed.  I've seen quite a few jails and even the larger towns can't hold a candle to the security measures in place here.”

“Hmpf,” Mike snorted, somewhat mollified as he put the key in the lock and led the way back to the cells.

Nathan was standing near the door, gripping the bars tight with both hands.  “Thank you for coming, Mr. Smith; I had a strong hunch you’d keep your word,” he said, his relief evident in both his voice and expression.

“I’ll be back to get you at the end of your visitin’ time, Mister Smith,” Mike announced stiffly, “less’n you wanna leave any sooner.  Accordin’ to the rules, you’ll need to come to the door an’ holler, ‘cos the door’ll be locked from the outside an' one of us’ll havta come an’ let you out.”

Heyes frowned and turned to face the deputy.  “You mean I don’t get to go inside the cell and sit down with him?”

“No way!” Mike chortled.  “Accordin’ to the rules, nobody ever gets to go inside the cells ‘cept the prisoners.”  He pointed to a bench behind Heyes.  “You can have a seat right there if your feet get tuckered out from standin'.”

“Do I at least get to talk to him alone—in private—or are you going to stand here the whole time and eavesdrop?”

“No, sir!” Mike snapped in a wounded tone.  “Accordin’ to the rules, a prisoner has the right to see an’ talk to his visitors alone.  All you havta do is ask.”

“I’m asking!” Heyes answered pointedly.

“I’m jus’ doin’ my job accordin’ to the rules,” the deputy muttered as he pivoted about to stalk off down the hall.

“If I have to listen to you say ‘accordin’ to the rules’ one more time, I will be wanted for murder!” Heyes muttered under his breath, with a scorching glare that could have melted a glacier in seconds, directed at the deputy’s back.

“You say somethin', Mr. Smith?”  Mike glanced back over his shoulder.  “I didn’t quite catch that.”

“Nothing, nothing important.”  Heyes dismissed the deputy with a wave of his hand and waited until Mike had disappeared through the door.  Satisfied that they were alone, he turned to face Nathan with a grin.  “And it's Joshua, remember?”

“Oh, right, sorry.  I’m just so upset, I’m not sure I even know my own name at the moment!”

“It’s Nathan, and I don’t blame you for being a little worried—”

“A little worried?”  Nathan’s brows shot up into his hairline.  “Mr. Smith—Joshua—I have butterflies in my stomach, I'm a bundle of nerves about to unravel!  I’ve never had anything like this ever happen to me before!  I’ll admit that I wanted a little excitement—I wanted to share an authentic experience with my readers—but not this authentic!”

His eyes beseeched the other man's.  “Isn't there some way to turn this chaos into something sensible?  What am I going to do, Joshua?  I know that I'm not a killer, but I don't have any way to prove it—not with some eye witness pointing his finger at me and saying he saw me do it!  I just don't understand; how can he say I did something I didn't do?”

Heyes held up a placating hand.  “There has to be some logical explanation, which we don't know—yet.  But for now, let's concentrate on what we do know.  Visiting hours will be over soon and that deputy will be back to escort me outta here.  Start at the beginning; tell me everything that's happened to you in the past few days.”  He looked Nathan straight in the eyes.  “I mean everything—don't leave anything out.  Even the smallest, or most ordinary, detail could be the key to discovering the truth.”

“I'll try,” Nathan sighed, “but I'm afraid I don't have much practice at this sort of thing.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Heyes_17

“Trust me,” Heyes grinned.  “Some things don't need much practice.  Just relax, take a deep breath and think back to what happened.  Let's start with something simple.  Were you in Jackrabbit Junction?”

Nathan nodded in the affirmative.  “I had some business to conduct in Jackrabbit Junction and by the time I was done, the train had already left the station.  Another one wasn't due until the next day.  It was easier to take the stagecoach on into Timber Ridge.”

Heyes pursed his lips.  “I was hoping you'd say no; it would have been easier if you had an alibi for being somewhere else.  Let's go on with another easy question.  How about that bag you had?  I recall you telling us that there were some breakables inside.  I don't see how the sheriff could find anything objectionable about that, right?”  He sent a smile of encouragement Nathan's way.

Nathan released his death grip on the bars and turned away; his expression became even more grim.  “You don't know how much I wish that were true!” he stated fervently as he collapsed on the bunk and dropped his head into his hands.  “There's nothing simple about that bag!”

Heyes' brow furrowed.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean, that what I have in that bag could very well put a noose around my neck!” Nathan cried without raising his head.  “Do you remember when we were on the stage that I shared with you about how I was going to write a series of articles and do lectures about my authentic experiences in the west?”

“Yes,” Heyes nodded, although he was still at a loss to understand.

“Well, I also got what I thought was a great idea at the time; to tour the east coast and do a kind of 'sideshow' of sorts to exhibit the things I found wherever I presented my lectures.  I've been collecting things from each town I've visited and other places along my travels on the road.”

“Things?  What kind of things?”

“Just some items that I thought would capture a person's interest.  Stuff that most people of 'polite society' would never come across in their everyday life.  Items honest citizens have never seen or heard of,” Nathan added, then fell silent.

“Well, so far I haven't heard anything that would get a man hanged.  Nothing wrong with collecting things.”

“No, and most people might agree with you.  But if I were to tell you what some of these things were, you just might change your mind.”

“Try me,” Heyes prompted.  He sat down on the bench and sent the other man a look of encouragement.

Nathan lifted his head to look into Heyes' face.  “Before this trip, I would have been as blissfully ignorant as to the functions of these objects as the majority of the people I lecture to.  However,” he shook his head and sighed, “I can now no longer claim that.”

A slow grin appeared on Heyes' face as he answered.  “Tell me all about them and let me be the judge, alright?”

Nathan shrugged.  “Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you...”  He rose to his feet and walked to the cell door to face Heyes.  “That bag of mine contains a lock pick, a coil of fuse, bar spreaders, nitroglycerin, dynamite—”

“Nitroglycerin AND Dynamite!?  Together?”  Heyes interrupted as he jumped to his feet, his eyes wide and grabbed hold of the bars of Nathan's cell.  “Are you crazy, man?  You're telling me that you had all that on the stage?  While we were driving over all those bumps?  Do you have any idea how dangerous that stuff is?  You—”

Nathan held up a hand, forestalling Heyes' rant.  “Crazy is debatable, but the nitroglycerin and the dynamite are merely props.”  He gave Heyes a wry smile.  “At least give me some credit, Joshua.  I do know enough to take the necessary precautions.  I swear to you that, although they may look real, they can't do any damage.”

By the end of Nathan's explanation, Heyes' heart had slowed to a normal rhythm and he sat back down on the bench.  “You're absolutely right,” he nodded, a slight smile on his face.  “I've had some experience with all those things and they do come in mighty handy; makes the job a whole lot easier.  When used properly, a bank doesn't stand a chance.”

Nathan looked perplexed as he asked, “You've used those things, Joshua?”

“Me?  Used them?  No, what I meant was that Thaddeus and me worked security at a bank once and they showed us what to be on the lookout for.  We didn't have the faintest clue what stuff like that looked like or what it was used for at all before that.”

“I know what you mean,” Nathan sighed.

“Well, I can certainly see how those things might tend to incriminate, rather than help, you.  Especially in light of the fact that you're being charged with a bank robbery.”

Nathan sighed and went back to sit down on the cot.  “It sure doesn't look good for me, does it?”

Heyes studied him for a moment in silence.  “It could be worse,” he began philosophically.

“Really?” Nathan asked wryly.  “Is that what you'd be thinking if it were you in here instead of me?”

“Probably not.”  Heyes shrugged.  “You're just going to have to make sure that you explain it all to the sheriff the same way you did with me, only start out by telling him that the nitro and the dynamite are props.  Since the bag is in his possession, I'm sure he'll have plenty of questions for you to answer tomorrow.  Tell him the truth; don't let him get you all mixed up.  Thaddeus and me will do our best to try and help you in whatever way we can, but we need more to go on.”

“I wish I knew more.”  Nathan shrugged and spread his hands out.  “But I think I know even less than you do.”

Heyes pursed his lips.  “You've never seen that Mr. Smith before today, right?”

Nathan shook his head.  “No, sir!  When he stepped out from behind that deputy, it was the first time I ever laid eyes on him.”  He got to his feet and began to pace.

“Okay, so the mysterious Mr. Smith might need a bit of investigating to see what's going on with him.”  Heyes paused to think and watched Nathan walk back and forth like a cat on a hot tin roof.  “Can you think of anything else that happened to you, or that you saw or heard while you were in Jackrabbit Junction?  Anything that might help prove your innocence?”

“No,” Nathan heaved a deep sigh and shook his head.  “I wish there was something, but I can't think of one single thing.  I just go from town to town, take care of my business and leave.  I don't normally have very much excitement in my life.  I'm sorry,” he added.

“No need to apologize,” Heyes gave him a smile.  “It's just that even some small detail could make a big difference in how and what we can do to help you.”

“I know,” Nathan nodded with a faint smile.  “And I appreciate you both even considering to come to my aid.  I'm just a normal person who lives a quiet, normal life.  Like I said, nothing exciting or unusual ever happens to me.”  Nathan sat down and dropped his head to his chest and silence filled the cell.  All of a sudden, he snapped his fingers and jumped up from the cot again.

“Wait just a minute!” he exclaimed, his face flushed with excitement.  “There was something strange that happened to me, but it wasn't in Jackrabbit Junction, it was just before I got on the stage in Timber Ridge!”

“Tell me what you remember,” Heyes encouraged.

“Well, I didn't think much of it at the time, only that it was kind of odd, but this giant bear of a man grabbed me and hugged me and called me by some other name.  I thought it was just a case of mistaken identity,” he shrugged.

“What did he call you?”

Nathan's brow furrowed in thought.  “Coop? Yes, that was it, Coop.”

“Did he tell you his name?”

“He sure did and I'll never forget it.  He said his name was Shorty.  At the time, I was amazed that someone so big would be called Shorty.”

“Did this Shorty say anything else to you?”

“Boy did he!  I think I was still in a daze for most of it, but I do remember him commenting on my clothes and—”

“What about your clothes?”

“Well, he said they were pretty fancy.  He also hinted that I 'must have something in the frying pan.'  It sounded like he was implying that was the reason I was wearing such garments.”

“Hmm,” Heyes murmured and began to pace in the small corridor.  “Did he say or do anything else?”

“Let me think a minute, Joshua.”  Nathan closed his eyes.  A few moments passed before he opened them again.  “No, not really.  Like I said, I was still in a daze, confused about the whole incident, and he asked if he could buy me a drink.  He mistook my inability to answer as a no and looked really disappointed.  Hurt his feelings is more like it, I guess.  He said something about this Coop being too good now to drink with the likes of him and then he just walked away without ever looking back.  That's really all that I can remember, Joshua.  I know it's not much,” he spread his hands in exasperation, “but it's all I've got.”

“At least it's a start.  It'll give Thaddeus and me something to work on while the sheriff figures out what he's going to do with you.”

Before Nathan could reply, the deputy came to the door and called out through the small barred window, “Time's up.  Accordin' to the rules, you'll havta leave now, Mr. Smith.”

“I'd like to 'accordin' to the rules' you!” Heyes snapped in an undertone, causing Nathan to grin.

“Again, thank you very much for coming, Joshua.  You'll never know how much it means to have someone on the outside who believes in you.”

Brown eyes met blue as Heyes answered.  “I do know how it feels, and you're right; it does make a big difference in how your mind thinks behind bars if you know there's hope.”  He walked to Nathan and the two men shook hands through the bars.

“Please give Thaddeus my thanks as well.  I'll need all the help I can get to clear my name.”

“I will.  You get some rest and leave the worrying to us.  I'll be back to see you sometime tomorrow and we can talk some more.”  At the sound of the key turning in the lock down the hall, Heyes went down the corridor and waited for the deputy to unlock the door.  Once outside the cell, Heyes turned to give Nathan a wink and followed behind the deputy, doing the whole process in reverse as he exited the sheriff's office.  Finally, free and standing outside on the boardwalk buckling his gunbelt, Heyes took a deep breath of fresh air and waved the all-clear signal to Curry, who had risen to his feet the moment his partner had walked out the door.

Heyes stepped into the street and Curry met him halfway.

“I was beginnin' to get a bit worried,” the Kid said as his eyes searched Heyes' face.

“So was I, but for a totally different reason,” Heyes admitted with a rueful shake of his head.  “Let's head on up to our room and I'll fill you in on everything.”  The pair started walking towards the hotel.  “Wait'll you hear about the inside of that sheriff's office,” Heyes began.  “You'll never believe the security that little jail has!  And let me tell you, if I never hear the phrase 'accordin' to the rules' again you won't hear me complain!” Heyes grumbled as the two men climbed the stairs leading up to the second floor.  Reaching their room, he inserted the key into the door of their room.  “Oh, by the way,” he spoke over his shoulder in a nonchalant tone, “I almost forgot to tell you something that Nathan shared with me earlier.”

“Sure hope it's somethin' that'll help convince the sheriff that he's innocent,” Curry muttered as he followed the other man inside.

Heyes shut the door then leaned against it to watch his partner as he crossed the room.  “What would you say if I told you we were traveling with nitroglycerin and dynamite inside the stage with Nathan?”

“What?!” Curry exclaimed as he pivoted about, wide-eyed with a horrified expression upon his face.  “Both?!  In the stage?!  With us?!”

“Yep, sure was,” Heyes nodded, the epitome of innocence.  “Right there in that traveling bag he was being so careful about.  The bag that was inside the stagecoach with us.  So close we could touch it.  Seems he's collecting things that will help spark an interest in his stories.”

“Is Nathan crazy!?  Or does he have a death wish?  He could've killed us—blowed us all to bits!”

Taking pity on his friend, Heyes relented enough to favor his partner with an impish grin.  “Relax, Kid; I had the same exact reaction, until Nathan explained that they were just props for his exhibition.”

“Props?  Phew, think I jus' aged 'bout ten years, Heyes!”  Curry tossed his hat on the dresser and collapsed on the bed with relief.  “My heart's still poundin' a mile a minute!”

Heyes chose a chair by the window and, after turning it so it faced the bed, settled down into it.  “So, now that all the excitement's over, you ready to hear about that jail?  Afterwards we'll get started working on a plan to help our new friend.”  At Curry's nod, Heyes began to share his experience.  “Like I said, you'll never believe it, Kid!  I was there and I didn't believe it...”

*~*~*~*~*


Last edited by royannahuggins on Sat 02 Feb 2019, 1:13 pm; edited 2 times in total
royannahuggins
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1
Post on Sat 02 Feb 2019, 12:50 pm by royannahuggins
THE NEXT DAY, EARLY MORNING

The two men stepped out of the cafe where they had just finished breakfast and walked down the boardwalk in the direction of the livery.

Heyes stretched lazily, then pulled his watch from his pocket.  “It's just after eight; that should give you plenty of time to make it to Timber Ridge by noon.  “You have enough money for the horse and gear?” he asked when they stopped.

“Yep.  An' dependin' on how long it takes me to find out if anybody knows anything an' what it is they know, I even have enough to pay for a room if I havta stay overnight.”

Heyes reached into his pocket and pulled out some bills.  “Here's some extra, just in case.  You might get hungry with all that hard work,” he grinned.

The Kid pocketed the money, his eyes dancing with mirth.  “I'll be hungry with or without the hard work,” he quipped and took a step down off the boardwalk.  He glanced around before he turned back to look up into his partner's face, his expression serious.  “Watch your back, Heyes.”

“You too, Kid; try to stay outta trouble.”

“Trouble?  Me?”  Curry pointed to himself and grinned.  “How much trouble can I possibly get into jus' askin' a few questions?”  With a shake his head, he turned and headed towards the stable.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Heyes_16

“Your middle name's trouble!” Heyes called out with a chuckle.  He waited at the corner until he saw the Kid ride out on a chestnut and returned the wave his partner sent his way, pulled out his pocket watch again and flipped open the case.  “It's only 8:30,” he said aloud, snapping it shut.  “Well, Sheriff, since 'accordin' to the rules', I can't see Nathan until 10:00, I think I'll just find myself a newspaper to read while I wait.”

*~*~*~*~*

Curry passed the sign that read “Welcome to Timber Ridge,” looked up at the sky and grinned.  “Well, horse, looks like we made pretty good time; should be close to noon, and noon means dinnertime.”  After looping the reins around the hitching post, he headed towards the cafe and enjoyed a hot meal before he made his way to the saloon.  Pushing through the batwings, he took a moment to look around, then made his way to the bar.  Catching the barkeep's eye, he held up a finger.  “One beer, please.”

The barkeep set the mug on the bar and gave Curry a once-over.  “You new in town?” he asked.

Swallowing the beer in his mouth, the Kid nodded.  “Yep, just rode in.  I'm hopin' to meet up with an old friend of mine.”

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Dan_th10

“Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Timber Ridge.”  He held out his hand to Curry.  “My name's Dan.”

“Thanks, Dan,” the Kid grinned as he shook the barkeep's hand.  “Mine's Thaddeus.  My friend, he's a big fella, real friendly, too; goes by the name Shorty.”

“Shoot, everybody 'round here knows Shorty,” Dan grinned.  “He's not big—he's one giant of a man—ya can't miss him!”

The Kid nodded.  “That sure sounds like him.”

Dan glanced behind him at the clock on the wall.  “He usually shows up around this time.”  He eyed Curry for a moment, then added, “Ya could always join in one of the card games while ya wait for him.  You'd be outta the sun and can drink another beer—or two; might even win a few dollars.”

The Kid took another drink of his beer and turned to survey the room.  “Maybe I'll take you up on your suggestion 'bout playin' cards.”  He turned back to the barkeep.  “Say,” he added, keeping his tone casual, “you heard anything 'bout that bank robbery over in Jackrabbit Junction the other day?”

Dan's brow furrowed as he wiped down the bar.  “The whole town's talking about it.  That was a real nasty piece of business,” he sighed and shook his head.  “Jackrabbit Junction's the next town over.  Some folks are pretty scared, while others are all riled up an' callin' for justice to be done.  Accordin' to what the newspaper says, that bank manager was killed in cold blood—he did what was asked an' he still got shot!”

“Anybody have a clue who the killer is?” Curry queried.

“No,” Dan shook his head again, glanced around, then leaned in closer to Curry.  “There's a rumor floating around that they have an eye witness,” he added in a conspiratorial tone.

“An eye witness, huh?” Curry whistled softly.  “Guess that person was lucky they didn't get killed, too.”

“Very lucky, if ya ask me.”

“Wonder where he's hiding out?”  The Kid raised a questioning brow.

“Guess it's a secret,” Dan shrugged.  “They wanna keep him safe 'till he testifies at the trial, if and when they catch the guy who did it.”

Curry downed the last of his beer.  “I sure don't envy that sheriff; he has his hands full, protectin' an eye witness an' tryin' to keep him safe.”

Dan straightened up and grabbed the towel.  “Maybe,” he shrugged and began to wipe down the bar again.  “Not sure I'd wanna stay anyway near the place if I saw a man murdered right in front of me—even if it was the sheriff protectin' me.  “'Course it can all be just a bunch of gossip, too; you never know.”  Dan picked up Curry's empty mug.  “You wanna 'nother beer?”

“Yep,” the Kid nodded and glanced at the poker players.  “Think I'll take your suggestion an' see 'bout joinin' one of those poker games while I'm waitin' for my friend.”

Dan returned a few moments later and set a beer-filled mug on the bar.  “There ya go, Thaddeus.”

Curry laid some coins on the bar.  “Say Dan, does Shorty still like to play cards?”

“Depends,” Dan shrugged.  “If he's had a good day, he'll sit down at the poker table an' be everybody's friend.  But,” he continued, “if it's been a bad one, he'll get a beer an sit way back in the corner all alone.  Don't nobody bother him then.”

“Yep,” the Kid nodded in agreement, tucking away that bit of information.  “He hasn't changed; thinks drownin’ his troubles in a drink will help.”  He raised his mug up in the air.  “Well, let's jus' hope today's been a good one for Shorty; I'd like to enjoy my time with him,” he added before turning to amble his way towards a table.  “You fellas mind if I join in?”  At their nods and words of assent he set his beer down, pulled out a chair and settled in as he withdrew money from his pocket.  “So, what's the ante?” he inquired with a disarming grin.

*~*~*~*~*

Newspaper tucked under his arm, Heyes sank down onto a wooden bench just before the end of the boardwalk.  As he glanced across the street at the sheriff's office, he realized he was sitting in the same spot his partner had occupied yesterday.  Unfolding the newspaper, Heyes began to peruse the front page.  The top headline caught his attention immediately:

JACKRABBIT JUNCTION BANK ROBBED;
MANAGER KILLED

The Jackrabbit Junction Bank was robbed in the early hours
on Friday morning before the bank was open for business.
Bank records indicate that the robber made off with over
$150,000.00 since the “Here's Gold in Your Eye” mine,” as
well as the “Silver Queen” mine payrolls had been
deposited the day before, along with regular deposits.
It is believed that Bank manager Jerome McAllister was
forced to open the safe before he was fatally shot.
Dr. Preston confirmed that Mr. McAllister never regained
consciousness before his death.
Anyone with information concerning this matter or leading
to the arrest of the murderer is urged to contact Sheriff
Sam Miller in Jackrabbit Junction immediately.


Heyes quickly scanned the rest of the front page.  “Hmm, there's no mention about an eye witness,” he murmured.  “Guess they wanna keep that part quiet.”  He raised his eyes to stare at the jail across the street.  “If I was a sheriff guarding the only eye witness to a murder, I wouldn't want that to get out either.”  He pulled his watch out and flipped the lid open.  “Perfect.  Now, if I can only manage not to strangle the first person who says, 'accordin' to the rules,' maybe between Nathan and me we can come up with something to help his case.”  Rising to his feet, Heyes squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and strode across the street to the sheriff's office.

After passing through the same procedures he had the day before, Heyes spent an hour with Nathan.  They went over everything that Nathan could remember one more time, but they weren't able to come up with anything different or new that might help.

“I'm sorry, Joshua.”  Nathan sent Heyes an apologetic look and spread his hands in frustration.  “You don't know how much I wish I could think of something—anything else—that would aid you, but I'm pretty sure I've shared all that I know.  My head hurts from trying to come up with anything new.”

Heyes rose from the bench outside Nathan's cell that he had been occupying while they talked and stepped forward.  “You don't have anything to apologize for, Nathan.  You've done a great job remembering a lot of things that will help us figure things out.  I know it won't be easy, but try to relax while Thaddeus and I do our part.  It'll take some time, and it might be a while before I get back here to visit and update you on our progress, but just remember that we are out there doing our best to get you outta here.”

“Words aren't enough to express my thanks, Joshua.  I'll try and remember what you said when I start to worry.”  Nathan offered Heyes a weak smile.  “If it wouldn't offend you, I'd like to offer you some money as a reward.  I've got a bit saved up, it's not a large amount, but at least it would make me feel a little better if I could pay you for all the work you and Thaddeus are doing.”

“Money never offends me,” Heyes grinned.  “I'll tell you what; let's get you out of trouble first, then we'll talk about money, okay?  I've got a few things to check out but I'll see you soon,” Heyes promised.  He walked to the end of the hall and banged on the door.  “Hey deputy!” he called out.  “I'm ready to leave.”

Deputy Jesse came to unlock the door.  “Have a nice visit, Mr. Smith?”

“Nice doesn't even come close,” Heyes muttered under his breath.  “Would it be possible for me to speak with the sheriff before I leave?”

“Sure thing; he just got back from makin' rounds.  Follow me an' I'll take you to him.”  Jesse locked the door and led the way back to Crandall's desk.  The lawman was just about to sit down with a cup of coffee.  He raised a brow when the two men stopped at his desk.

“Sheriff, Mr. Smith wants to talk with you.”

“'Course he does,” Crandall replied wryly and pointed to a nearby chair.  “Have a seat.”  Giving his deputy a pointed look, he continued, “Jesse, why don't you go check on that paperwork that needs filing in the other room?”  He eased himself down into his chair and took a drink of coffee.  “Would you like a cup?”

“No, thank you.  I thought that since I was already here, I'd take advantage of the opportunity and ask you a question about your eye-witness.”

“Mr. Smith?”

“Yes,” Heyes answered.

“You know what, Mr. Smith?  You are certainly a very curious man.”  The lawman took another sip and eyed Heyes over the rim.  Swallowing, he set the cup on his desk.  “Go on, ask your question.”

“Just how well do you know this Mr. Smith?  How much do you trust him?”  Heyes rose to his feet.  “What makes you believe that everything he said is the truth?”

“Besides being mighty curious, you're bad at math; that was three questions.”  When Heyes would have spoken, Crandall waved a dismissive hand at him.  “Sit back down; I'll answer all your questions.”

Heyes perched on the edge of his seat and waited.

“First off, the witness has people to protect.  He didn't want his real name to get out, so I decided to call him “Smith; it sounded like a good name for an alias,” he shrugged.  “No offense to all the real Smith’s like you.”

Heyes' poker-face never wavered.  “No offense taken, Sheriff.”

“Good.  Now as to your questions, for starters Mr. Smith has lived in Jackrabbit Junction for all of his life.  He's an honest, law-abiding, well-respected and upstanding citizen of the town.  He's also a devoted husband and the father of four children, as well as a deacon of the church.  Now, does that sound like a man who would lie about something as important as this?  Or accuse an innocent man of murder?”

“No,” Heyes agreed, albeit with reluctance.  “But did you see how thick the lenses were on those spectacles he wore?” he persisted.  “I doubt he could see anything even if he was wasn't very far away.”

“He definitely wasn't far away.  You see, I forgot to mention that, in addition to his other roles in Jackrabbit Junction, Mr. Smith works in the bank that was robbed; in fact, he's head of security.  One of the guards who was supposed to be working that day was taken ill unexpectedly and Mr. Smith took his place.  He was several rooms down the hall working on paperwork when the robbery occurred.  Hearing noises, he made his way silently down the hall and remained hidden in the room next to the safe until he heard the gunman threaten the manager.  As you have seen, he isn't a large or intimidating man, so he figured that was his best bet.

“Deciding it was time to step in, he opened the door and ducked behind one of the pillars.  He edged around the pillar just in time to see Mr. McAllister get shot.  The gunman was a very short distance away, but because of the way the robber was turned he couldn't see Mr. Smith.  Unfortunately for the robber, Mr. Smith got a good, long look at him.  Frankly, I don't see any reason to doubt that, when he pointed Nathan out as the killer, he was telling the truth.”

“You're saying that the man who looked like he was afraid of his own shadow, the man who hid behind the deputy and scurried out the door like the devil was breathing down his back—that man was guarding a bank?”

“Yep,” Crandall nodded.  “Looks can be deceiving; it was all an act.  We set it up that way for his own protection.”

There was a moment of silence as Heyes digested the information the sheriff had just imparted to him.  “Well, taking all that into consideration, I guess Thaddeus and me certainly have our work cut out for us to prove that Mr. Smith is wrong and Nathan is innocent.”

Crandall took another drink of coffee.  “Jesse,” he called out, “time to let Mr. Smith  outta here.”

*~*~*~*~*

Kid Curry kept one eye on the door and the other on his cards as he waited.  Half an hour later his patience was rewarded when the batwings were pushed open to admit a new customer.  Even though he was prepared for the appearance of a large man, his eyes widened in surprise.  “Uh, s'cuse me fellas,” he said, tipping his hat and rising to his feet, “but I see a friend I have some business to talk over with.”

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Kid_ti10

As he carried his mug over to a secluded table in the back of the saloon, he watched as the barkeep motioned for Shorty to come over to the bar.  After a short exchange, Dan pointed in Curry's direction.  Shorty turned to give him a look and shrugged, then got a beer and made his way to the table.

“Dan says you're a friend of mine, lookin' for me.”  He studied the Kid.  “Can't say as ya look familiar to me, though.”

“Well,” Curry answered, “it's really a case of we both know the same person; a man named Coop.  I was in town an' thought maybe it'd be nice to meet each other since we know him.  Sit down and join me.”  He motioned for Shorty to sit in a chair across from him.  “My name's Thaddeus Jones,” he added, extending his hand.

“Nice to meet ya, Thaddeus,” the giant replied, shaking the Kid's hand with a massive paw.  He then sank his great girth into a chair that creaked and groaned under his weight as he settled.  Silence fell on the table as the men sipped at their drinks.

Raising his mug, Curry grinned.  “Here's to old friends and making new ones,” he quipped.  When Shorty looked up, then raised his mug to clink against the Kid's, with a smile and said “Yeah,” Curry sighed in relief.  “So, if ya don't mind me askin', how'd ya get the name Shorty?  You're anything but small.”

“Long story short, my friend Joe came up with it one day when I was little.”

Eyes dancing with merriment, Curry teased, “Were you ever little?”

Shorty grinned back.  “Well, let's say when I was 'bout your size,” he countered with a wink.  “My real name's Homer an' my middle name's not much better.  One day we were standin' 'round with my father an' brothers.  Joe looked at me an' started laughing.  'Homer,’ he chuckled, 'you're the shortest of the bunch in your family; I think we should call ya Shorty.'  After all the laughter died down, I decided it wasn't such a bad nickname, so there ya go.”  He sipped at his beer.  “Thing is, nobody 'spected me to keep growin' an' get as big an' tall as I did.  The name stuck, even afterwards; I kinda like it.”

“That was a good story, Shorty.  Maybe you can tell me another one, this time about Coop.”  At Shorty's puzzled look, Curry continued.  “You know, it's been so long that I've called him Coop, I can't remember what his real name is for the life of me.”

“That's an easy one; it's Chance Cooper.”

“Chance—that's it!” the Kid exclaimed and shook his head.  “How could I forget that?”

“He don't use it much,” Shorty shrugged.  “When I saw him the other day, I swore he'd plumb forgot both his names—I was hollerin' at him, tryin' to catch his attention an' he kept on walkin' like he never heard me at all.”

“You saw him the other day?  I haven't seen him in a couple of years.  What'd he look like?”

“Well, his face looks like the same ol' Coop, but he sure ain't dressed like it.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“He was all dressed up in fancy duds, even his hat an' boots!” Shorty exclaimed.  “I ain't never seen him wear clothes like that before.  An' when he talked, well, the few words he said to me anyways, he sure didn't sound like the old Coop.”  He shook his head and sighed.  “He didn't have no time for me, not even a drink.”  Shorty picked up his own mug and downed the remaining beer.

“I'm real sorry to hear that, Shorty.  Now you've got me curious.  Wish I knew where he was; I'd sure like to meet up with him, talk 'bout old times.”

Shorty looked up.  “That shouldn't be too hard.  Jus' saw him headin' over to the mercantile 'fore I walked in here.”

Curry jumped to his feet and laid a couple dollars on the table.  “Really?  I'll tell ya what; buy yourself another beer an' I'm gonna go see if I can find him.  Maybe I can even convince him to join us here for a drink.”  At Shorty's indifferent shrug, the Kid dashed off.

“Sure hope ya have better luck than I did!” Shorty called out as Curry disappeared through the batwings.  He raised a hand to signal the barkeep and settled down to wait.  “Wonder what's gonna happen next?” he muttered aloud.

*~*~*~*~*

The blond-haired stranger gripped the handle of the large carpetbag he carried in his clenched hand so tight that it had turned white.  He directed a brief glance at the sign which read, Timber Ridge Stage Depot, and made his way straight to the ticket office.  “One ticket to wherever the next stage is headin' to!” he said sharply.  After receiving his ticket, he gave it a quick glance then shoved it into his coat pocket and headed towards the stagecoach.  He reached out to grab the door handle, and was just about to pull it open when he was brought up short.

“Hold it right there, mister!” the stagecoach driver called out and came around the corner with a hand held up.  “This here's my coach an' I say when it's time for the passengers to get inside.  I gotta full coach today, so I need to see who's who an' where they're gonna ride when they all get here.”  When the stranger spun around to face the driver, his expression turned as dark as thunder.  Stagecoach Mary's eyes widened in surprise.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 New_br10

“I paid good money for my ticket!” the stranger snarled, taking a step towards Mary, her size not deterring him in the least.  “That means I get to say where I ride and when I get in!”

Mary held her ground and put her hands on her hips.  “Now Nathan, we done had this discussion once an' the rules ain't changed jus' 'cos it's a different town.”

The blond's eyes narrowed and his tone was harsh when he answered.  “I ain't never laid eyes on you before now... darkie!  An' I sure as shootin' know that I couldn't ever forget the likes of you!” he smirked.  “My bag stays with me an' nobody's gonna make me change my mind—that goes double for you!”

“Ya knows the rules for my stagecoach.  No bags inside.  Like I done said, we gotta full coach today an' there ain't no room for any bags.  Iffen you're so attached to that bag of yours, why ya can always ride up top with me,” Mary grinned.  “I've got plenty o' room for ya to sit right next to me.”

The sizzling glare he shot her spoke volumes.  “I ain't ridin' up top with someone like you for any reason!  An' I don't care what the blazes the rest of the other passengers do,” the blond-haired man growled, “my bag's going inside!”  He took another threatening step towards her.  “Let's just see you try an' stop me!”

Unruffled, Mary held out her hand, palm up and grinned at him.  “We could always make the same deal we did before.”

The stranger looked at her hand with disgust.  “You're makin' a mistake, driver!  You'd better get outta my way so I can get aboard this stagecoach or I'm gonna flatten you!”

Mary continued to stand firm, staring him in the eye without blinking.  “Ya go right on an' get inside with your bag, mister,” she shrugged.  “Think I'll jus' go get the sheriff an' let him settle this.”

The blond man's countenance reddened.  “No need to bring the law in over a bag!” he snapped.  “Forget it; I've changed my mind.  There's other ways to get outta town besides this stupid stage!”  He turned and strode off in the direction of the mercantile.

Mary watched him leave with narrowed eyes.  “Mister, ya might look like Nathan,” she muttered, “but ya sure don't talk or act like him; there's somethin' strange goin' on here.”  Turning back to her team, she began to check the harnesses and lines to ensure everything was in working order.  As she was adjusting the last harness she glanced up.  

Her eyes widened in surprise at seeing Thaddeus Jones crossing the street, following the Nathan look-alike into the mercantile.  She moved to the back of the team to get a better look at the store and waited.  A few minutes later she was rewarded for her effort when first the blond stranger exited the mercantile, followed soon afterwards by Thaddeus.

Hands on hips, Mary cocked her head to one side.  “Yessiree, mighty strange,” she muttered to herself.  Although she continued to watch the alleyway, neither man reappeared.  Her glance slid over to the sheriff's office down at the end of the street, then up at the sun.  “Not 'nough time for me to get involved right now, but there's gotta be somethin' I can do to help.”

*~*~*~*~*

Curry entered the mercantile and immediately saw a man who appeared to be about the right height with the right hair color of the person he was looking for.  The man had his back to him so the Kid edged his way closer to get a better look, taking his time so as not to draw attention to himself.  Pretending interest in the various merchandise products in front of him, Curry casually raised his head, as if just looking around.  When his eyes found their target, he drew in a deep breath as he stared at the man a moment, unable to believe what he was seeing.  His eyes widened at the striking similarity to the man he knew as Nathan Tremayne.  “Coop,” he whispered.

At that moment the man turned in his direction.  Curry swiftly busied himself with the nearest thing he could grab, a bolt of material, and pretended to be checking it out, holding it up in front of him, effectively hiding his face from view.  A few moments passed before the Kid slowly lowered the material enough to peek over the top in time to see that the stranger had turned back to pay for his purchases.  

While his target was occupied with paying, Curry ducked out the door and around the corner of the store to wait for him to exit.  Leaning his shoulder casually against the corner of the building, the Kid pulled his hat down low over his face and watched as Coop left the mercantile and crossed the street.

Straightening up, Curry followed at a distance, keeping Coop in his sight without appearing to do so.  He wasn't far behind as the man continued down the boardwalk.  When Coop reached the last building, he turned the corner and disappeared into the alley.  Continuing to shadow him, the Kid carefully edged his way around the corner in order to see where his quarry went.  He stared in disappointment at an empty alley with a door at the end of it.  

“Bet that's where you went,” he said softly.  “You can't escape that easily, mister.”  Curry stepped down into the street and cautiously made his way down the alley, keeping close to the building.  As he neared a pile of crates stacked against the wall, the man he had been tracking stepped out, his gun pointed straight at him.

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Curry_10

“Get your hands up!” Coop ordered.

Curry complied, masking his shock at seeing the man's familiar features up close. “Thought you didn't like guns, Nathan.”

“You're the second person today to call me by that name, mister,” Coop snapped, “an' I don't like it none!  Looks like you're also gonna be the last!  I don't like no busybodies nosin' 'round in my business or bein' followed, an' you're doin' both!”  He gestured with his weapon.  “Move back a few steps!”

The Kid stood his ground; his glacial glare never wavered as he stared at Coop.

“I said... move back!”  Cooper cocked his weapon for emphasis.

Curry stepped back with one foot, then quickly bent down and dove forward headfirst into the man's mid-section, taking the stranger down to the ground with him.  Coop rolled over and pinned the Kid down, then slammed his fist into his opponent's face, catching him in the left eye.  The Kid squeezed his eyes shut against the blinding pain, but managed to keep his hold on Coop's arm as he twisted under his assailant and knocked him off.

The two men grappled with each other, rolling over and over as each one tried to get the upper-hand.  At one point, Curry managed to force Coop to release his hold on the weapon and it fell to the ground.  Each man began to wrestle in earnest for possession of the gun.

Getting his hand on it first and gasping for breath, Curry got to his knees, but before he could do anything more, Coop threw a handful of dirt into his face and kicked him sideways; the gun dropped from the Kid's hand.  Coop scrambled for it and, once it was in his hand, he swung hard, bringing the butt of the gun around to slam against the side of Curry's head.  The ex-outlaw dropped like he'd been poleaxed, to land face-down on the ground.  A gash on the side of the Kid's head trailed blood down the side of his face; droplets trickled to form a pool on the dirt below.

Breathing heavily, fighting to catch his breath, Coop looked around to see if anyone had noticed the scuffle, but all seemed quiet and normal.  Shoving his gun back into its holster, he eyed the man on the ground.  Grabbing Curry's bandana, he fashioned a gag for the Kid's mouth, then dragged the unconscious man further down the alley and dropped him behind the stack of crates.  He unbuckled Curry's gunbelt, removed the gun and tucked it into his own belt.  

“Ya wont' be needin' this no more, mister,” he grinned.  “Least not where you're goin'.”  Next, he pulled Curry's belt loose and looped it around the ex-outlaw's feet and pulled it tight.  Unknotting his own bandana, Coop pulled the unconscious man's hands behind his back and tied them securely.

Coop stood up to survey his handiwork.  “That'll havta do 'til I get back with a wagon.  I'll bring some rope to tie you up nice an' proper when I return,” he promised as he wiped his sweaty brow with his sleeve.  “Now don't you go anywhere without me,” he quipped.  “I'll be right back.”  Wiping at his face and hands, he straightened his clothes and hurried off.

After a quick stop at the mercantile for the rope and a few other necessary supplies, Coop headed for the livery to rent a wagon.  As he waited for the liveryman to hitch up the horses, Coop kept his tone casual as he asked, “Say, aren't there some old mines not too far from here?”

“Yep, three as a matter-of-fact if ya head south, 'bout eight miles out.  In the other direction we got a couple workin' mines.  Why, you lookin' to do some minin'?”

“No, not really.  I'm just killin' time while I'm waiting for a friend to show up.  Thought I'd drive out that way and spend a night or two just prowlin' around.  Many people go out that way?”

The liveryman shook his head.  “Nosiree.  Word is that there's spooks out there hauntin' the old mine shacks.  Most folks steer clear of 'em, 'specially after they hear the moans and groans or see a ghostly shape or two,” he chuckled.  “All it really boils down to is the timbers shiftin' an' their eyes playin' tricks on 'em.  You'll have the whole place all to yourself, mister.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1 Tucker10

“I ain't afraid of no ghosts!” Coop retorted with a derisive snort.  “I don't scare easily; nice an' quiet is jus' what I'm lookin' for.  I'll bring it back in a few days—less'n I strike gold!” he chuckled and paid the man for the wagon.

“I'll see ya in a few days then, mister, iffen the spooks don't get ya first!” the liveryman teased back.  “I gave ya enough feed for the animals for three days.”

Coop gave a curt nod of thanks and drove around to the back alley.  He dragged a still unconscious Curry to the wagon.  With a great deal of effort, he managed to get the Kid up and into the bed of the wagon.

Coop pushed the Kid next to the brand-new shovel he'd bought and covered him up with a tarp the liveryman had tossed in.  That task completed, he climbed up in the driver's seat and headed the wagon down the rutted dirt road that lead to the old mines.  Coop began to whistle as the miles took him further and further away from Timber Ridge.

Once Coop felt it was safe to stop, he turned to give his tarp-covered prisoner a hard stare.  “I don't know who you are or why ya were followin' me, mister, but you an' me are gonna go someplace more private an' you're gonna tell me—or else!”  

*~*~*~*~*


END OF PART ONE


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Penski
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1
Post on Sat 02 Feb 2019, 4:06 pm by Penski
What a great cliffhanger for your story, moonshadow. You have a wonderful way of describing things with lots of little detail that pulls me into the story. Only bad thing... I have to wait a WHOLE WEEK to find out what happens! thumbsup
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Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1
Post on Thu 21 Feb 2019, 3:04 am by Nightwalker
Great episode. I just love Stagecoach Mary.
I have to admit, I dodged the cliffhanger and started reading when the continuation was aired, too - a good decision, because I just couldn't stop reading ;-)
avatar
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1
Post on Tue 26 Feb 2019, 4:01 pm by Dan Ker
I liked the scenes within the stagecoach, at the poker table while the sheriff and his deputies are approaching and Heyes behaviour in jail. Lovely idea seeing him as a kind of attorney. Looking forward to part two.
 

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1

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