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 The Mrs. Loretta Part II

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CD Roberts
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Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

20130926
PostThe Mrs. Loretta Part II



The arrest of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry is a most exciting event in a small town. Heyes comes up with an inventive plan to escape jail.





On returning to the jail they found Mrs. Harrison still present, and not only present but as commander, ordering a couple of workmen about ensuring that they picked up all of their equipment now that their work was completed.

“What the tarnation!?...” sputtered Stoops. “Dag it all, what is going on?”

“These men have completed some minor alterations to the cell you are keeping Mr. Heyes and Mr. Curry in to make it habitable for the period of their incarceration in Kokomo.”

“Mrs. Harrison…”

“Before you continue, perhaps we should go back and take a look. You are going to put us back in our cell anyway, aren’t you? I’m certain Mrs. Harrison hasn’t done anything too drastic.” Heyes turned and led the way back to the cell leaving the others to follow. Stoops had the growing impression that he was less and less in control each minute although he couldn’t figure out how that was happening or who exactly was in control.

The sight of the cell left the men gaping. The floor had been covered with Persian rugs three deep and another rug had been used as a wall hanging over the boarded up window. More blankets had been added as well as a fringed pillow for each cot in colors matching the wall hanging. A small end table with two drawers had been placed between the two cots. On top of it was a table lamp with a box of matches by it; on the side of the table abutting Heyes’ cot was a small stack of books, and by the Kid’s cot a small stack of dime novels. To conclude the redecoration two wall sconces had been placed on the back wall behind each cot, just to the side of the hanging.

Heyes grinned broadly at the latter; now he had enough light to read. He and the Kid exchanged glances.

Sheriff Stoops was not done sputtering. “Mrs. Harrison, these men are prisoners, they are going to prison,” he said loudly and distinctly, as if repeating that would somehow change things.

“Have you been tried and convicted, Mr. Heyes?”

“Mrs. Harrison, my partner and I have yet to stand trial.”

She turned a withering stare onto Stoops. “I believe the law of the land is innocent until proven guilty.”

“Innocent! Them two! Everyone knows they are guilty.”

“Sheriff Stoops I and the rest of the ladies of the town, who have conferred on the matter I will have you know, expect that you will not blacken the reputation of Kokomo by mistreating your prisoners. We are willing to help you in that endeavor. We will provide their meals; you will see to it that they have daily exercise. On Sundays, the Reverend Stanley Hopkins will present himself in the afternoon for a discussion on religion and morals,” at this Heyes and the Kid exchanged a grimace, “on Wednesday afternoons Mr. Harrison and I will discuss literature with Mr. Heyes. If you choose to join us, please be certain to read one of the books I have left behind for Mr. Heyes. However, if you prefer, I have left some literature for Mr. Curry that I feel you will find more to your liking.”

Heyes had some difficulty maintaining a poker face throughout Mrs. Harrison’s tirade, and at this let out a small snorting sound that he turned into a cough.

“Mrs. Harrison, me and my friend wanna thank you for all you’ve done for us. You’re right about me being no great reader so I do appreciate you bringing those dime novels.”

“Mrs. Harrison I will look forward to our discussions and both of us will look forward to our weekly visit from Reverend Hopkins, right Kid?” he gave the Kid a friendly prompt on the shoulder.

“Oh yeah, right.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, however I and the ladies of the town are merely performing our civic duty.”

She began to put her gloves on in preparation of leaving, and motioned to Travis to get her coat.

“Sheriff Stoops, as you know the ladies have a weekly sewing society on Thursdays…”

“Surely you don’t expect me to take ‘em to that.”

“I was going to say that we will be reviewing and discussing the situation at hand at these meetings, and I will report to you on Friday mornings. If we decide on any changes you will be the first to know.”

With this final remark she turned her back on Travis allowing him to hold her coat for her to put on, nodded to the men, and left.

There was a momentary pause that Heyes was the first to break.

“Sheriff, after long experience, I would say you can’t fight the ladies when they group up like that, much less a woman as determined as Mrs. Harrison.”

“Suppose you’re right,” Sheriff Stoops responded sighing again. He couldn’t remember a day where he had sighed so much before. He walked towards the front of the jail and his desk, mumbling to himself that the women wouldn’t bother so much about those two iffn they were a mite plainer than they were.

“Uh Sheriff,” the Kid called out after him. Stoops turned. “Aren’t you gonna put us back in our cell?”


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In the cell Heyes found a note on top of the books.

“What’s it say Heyes, anything important?”

“Naw, it just says that I shouldn’t worry if these books get damaged in jail because Harrison has copies of these ones that he’s loaned me.”

“Ah ha. There you go Heyes, they may like you but they don’t trust you, not even to take care of their books.”

“Kid it’s not me they’re worried about, it’s ‘others who don’t appreciate the value of a book.’ I suppose they mean you.”

“What?”

“OK, maybe they mean you, the sheriff and the deputy.”

Heyes picked up each book individually, looking at the titles, and flipping through the pages. Not a bad collection he thought. Thackeray’s “Barry Lyndon”, probably meant to be an instructive warning against living the life of a rogue, a volume of Emerson, some Twain. Now that was surprising, he didn’t think that was Mrs. Harrison’s style, perhaps she added that thinking he would like it, and a volume of Greek plays translated into English.

The Kid picked up the dime novel on the top of the stack and sat back to read, not bothering to see what the others were. He gave a low laugh.

“Heyes, it’s about us.”

“She probably figures you would find that interesting. What about the others?”

“Looks like they’re all about us. No wait, this one’s about Billy the Kid.”

“Must have figured if she couldn’t get another one about us you’d settle for one with Kid in the title.”

“Very funny.”

“At least you can read the names. Look at this.” Heyes held out the book of Greek plays.

“Who are they? Sop-hockles, Eur-e pides? Heyes why would anyone wanna read something written by folks with names like that?”

“It is a bit of a challenge,” Heyes answered smiling as he put the book aside and picked up the Twain. He lay back on his cot to read. It certainly was more comfortable in here he thought, what with the rugs holding in more warmth. Good thing the women liked them so much. That was the key; he knew that, to getting out of here when the time was ripe.

He started to read but couldn’t keep his mind on the words. Something was nagging at the back of his mind. He knew he was close to an idea. Well, it was only a matter of time. It was sure to come forward.

He put Twain down and picked up the volume of plays. The names were difficult to say the least. He flipped to the introduction for the first playwright. This was Sophocles and he wrote tragedies or so the introduction said. ‘Oedipus the King.’ That was famous; he’d heard of it. He could even pronounce it. He hadn’t heard of the next two, ‘Antigone’ or ‘Electra.’

He flipped to the next playwright. This one was Aristophanes and he wrote comedies. Guess he had been placed after Sophocles to lighten things up a bit. He read through the titles of his plays. ‘The Clouds,’ ‘The Wasps,’ ‘The Peace,’ ‘The Frogs.’ Well at least he could pronounce those. Some of the others weren’t so easy. ‘The Ecclesiazusae.’ What in the world was that? ‘The Lysistrata.’

Now that was interesting. This one had a bookmark in it. The pages here looked as if they were well thumbed through. That could be promising. He was about to put the book back and continue the Twain, decided against that and reclined on his cot, reopening the book to that play and began to read. Soon he was smiling a broad knowing smile.


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Over the next three weeks a pleasant, somewhat dull routine fell over the jail, and permeated throughout Kokomo. The ladies of the town rotated providing the meals, and it must be confessed that the women who delivered the meals found various reasons to linger by the prisoners’ cell while they ate. Midmorning Heyes and Curry were taken out for their daily perambulation which inevitably finished in the saloon where they were allowed one beer or one shot of whisky daily out of their own funds and the kindness of Sheriff Stoops' heart.

Maintaining funds was no problem. Although Sheriff Stoops balked at permitting them to play cards in the saloon, and couldn’t convince himself that two prisoners should be allowed such freedoms, he was worn down by the number and persistence of the male visitors to the jail. A weekly card game on Tuesdays was initiated. The game became so popular that it “spread” onto other days.

On Wednesdays the Harrisons visited the prisoners, and Mrs. Harrison and Heyes discussed literature with Athena shyly joining in, and on occasion, Mr. Harrison contributing. The Kid, Sheriff Stoops and whichever deputy was present sat apart from the ‘serious’ readers of literature reading and discussing the dime novels.

Guinevere sat with this group as the discussion was much livelier, and far more interesting than listening to the talk about all those horrid dull books. She brought her sewing, which she generally neglected during the week, with her, and as a result was pretty much caught up with the other ladies in time for the sewing circle on Thursday.

The literature group discussed all the books Heyes had been given with the exception of the Greek plays. Heyes deliberately avoided it at this time.

The sheriff, his deputies, and the Kid dreaded Sundays as on that day the Reverend Stanley Hopkins made his appearance in the afternoons after the morning service, and bible study; he repeated his morning sermon, and attempted to instruct the staff and the two outlaws in passages of the Bible. How this afternoon of study turned into a game of poker each Sunday was beyond the understanding of those present, but it did add to the pleasure of all, including the reverend who enjoyed cards as much as his brother pastors did, gambling being endemic throughout the West during this time.

Overall the two outlaws made out pretty well as Heyes pointed out to the Kid whenever the Kid brought up his worries about the time they were spending in jail and the pending extradition.

“Kid, there’s nothing to worry about. We’re well fed, in fact I’ve been meaning to tell you you’re putting on some weight, we’ve got over four hundred dollars in poker winnings, all said we’ve got it pretty easy here, just like a vacation.”

“I agree this is a nice setup Heyes, but what happens when we want to leave? They’re not exactly gonna open the cell door for us and just let us walk out of here, are they?”

Heyes grinned at the Kid, “Kid, how would you like to bet on that?”

“Heyes, you don’t really think…Heyes you’ve had some crazy ideas before…” He paused, thinking. “Ok Heyes, if they actually just let us walk on out of here it’ll be worth the money. How much? Ten dollars?”

“How about twenty?”

“You’re on.”

“OK Kid, I guess it’s time to get started. I noticed the snow was beginning to thaw when we were out this morning. So in another week and a half or so we should be able to ride out of town. We’ll have to be a bit careful traveling but it should be OK.”

After saying that, he rolled over onto his back and started to read.

“Heyes, you said it was time to get started, what are you doing?”

“I’m working on it Kid that’s what I’m doing.”

“Heyes, you wanna increase that bet to thirty dollars?”


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This particular Wednesday book discussion was most satisfactory, Mrs. Harrison thought to herself sipping her cup of tea. The discussion had been most educational and entertaining, so much so, that Mr. Harrison had been drawn in much more than usual. He and Mr. Heyes had made some thoughtful contributions to the discussion; she couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Heyes had been quite deft in manipulating the conversation to make it more agreeable to Mr. Harrison, for which she was grateful.

To make the current situation even more pleasant the hotel had outdone itself with the afternoon tea served, and the secondary reading group had been blessedly silent, and therefore far less distracting than on the previous visits. The sad fact is, Sheriff Stoops and his deputy had fallen asleep, after handing their colt revolvers over to the Kid for cleaning. Guinevere pouted and knitted, dreaming about her future with young Hopkins. As a result the baby socks she was making for Anna Clay’s future little one were later given as a present to Matt Brown, who it must be said, had just about the largest feet of any man in town.

The only unpleasant thought Mrs. Harrison had was that this could very well be one of the last, if not the last discussion with Mr. Heyes. She enjoyed their conversations immensely, and had grown fond of the outlaw. She didn’t approve of his or Mr. Curry being shipped out to prison, had made this abundantly clear to her husband, the sheriff and any other man of importance she could corner, but had found her enlightened efforts frustrated. The men she was dealing with were simply too short minded and obtuse. Why they could not see that it was entirely unnecessary to send reformed men to prison was beyond her.

Heyes took a sip of his tea, and cleared his throat, “It appears to be getting late, and I don’t suppose any of us has much more to say about “Barry Lyndon” today. I haven’t read any of the other remaining books, except one of those Greek plays.”

“Oh really,” responded Mr. Harrison looking curious, “and which play might that be?”

“It was called “The Lysistrata”, if I’m pronouncing it correctly. But I didn’t think it was proper to, um, bring it up in front of the ladies.” He gave a knowing smile to Mr. Harrison which was readily returned.

“No, that is definitely not a play I would discuss with the fairer sex.”

Mrs. Harrison looked sharply at her husband.

“No, I suppose not, no matter how enlightened the lady might be,” Heyes said.

Mr. Harrison chuckled. “No, no matter how educated or broad minded the company may be,” here he looked at Loretta, “it wouldn’t be the thing to do. It is the type of writing the ladies must be shielded from.”

Turning back to Heyes he missed the look of scorn on Mrs. Harrison’s face as she abruptly shut her copy of “Barry Lyndon”. Heyes didn’t miss the expression, and gave Loretta a brief sympathetic glance.

“That may be Mr. Harrison,” and here Heyes gave Mr. Harrison a crooked and slightly wry smile, “not being formally educated, I have to admit I can’t pronounce the author’s name. I was wondering if you could help me out here.”

“Certainly. The author is Aristophanes. Wrote a number of comedies.”

“Ah. Aristophanes,” Heyes repeated carefully. He gave Mrs. Harrison another brief glance.

Mrs. Harrison irritably rose. Standing, she gathered her family together in a hasty manner, and herded them out the jail, barely allowing for a farewell from Heyes, and completely ignoring the Kid, the sheriff and the deputy.


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Back in their cell the Kid tossed aside the dime novel he was reading, and sat on his cot facing Heyes.

“Heyes, what was all that about that Lysistrata play? Why’d you mention that it wasn’t fit for ladies? All that seemed to do was get Mrs. Harrison riled up, and I sure don’t wanna see her upset.”

Heyes put the book he was reading down on his chest. “Because Kid our getting let out of here depends on human nature; the human nature of one Mrs. Loretta Harrison.”

“Heyes not again, not another Judge Hanley. You aged me at least ten years with that plan and anyway I don’t see how getting her upset helps us.”

“Kid, when you were a kid and someone told you you were too young to do a thing, like shoot a gun, what’s the first thing you wanted to do.”

“Alright Heyes, so she’s gonna go back and read that play. I still don’t see how that’ll help us.”

“Kid, if you took the time to read you’d understand,” Heyes said in a superior tone of voice.

“OK Heyes, you read some of that play to me.”

“Alright.” Heyes propped his pillows up and made himself comfortable on his cot. He opened the book and began: “’It is daybreak at Athens; and Lysistrata, a young and beautiful woman, is standing alone, with marks of evident anxiety in her countenance and demeanor. The scene represents the sloping hill which rises from the Lower to the Upper city. In the background are the Propylaea, the splendid portals of the Athenian Acropolis.’”

“The what?”

“The Acropolis. Kid don’t you know what the Acropolis was?”

“No I don’t and I bet you don’t either.”

“Well that’s just part of the introduction. I’ll skip the rest of that and start reading the play."

“Ahem. Lysistrata speaks: ‘Now were they summoned to some shrine of Bacchus,
Pan, Colias (pronounced co-lee-ass by Heyes), Genetyllis ( Gen-ah-tie-el-les), there had been no room to stir, so thick the crowd of timbrels.’”

He stopped and glanced slyly over the book at the Kid enjoying the look of complete puzzlement on his friend’s face.

Heyes opened his mouth to continue reading. “’And now!...’”

“Heyes, don’t. Just don’t. I can wait to see if your plan works without you makin’ me suffer through this.”

“Kid, you don’t want to know what we’re doing?”

“Heyes you read me all that and I’ll know less of what the plan is than I do now.”


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After supper, Mrs. Harrison entered the library of her home. It didn’t take her long to locate the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans her husband had proudly purchased years ago. Finding the volumes of Greek plays, she began to thumb through it. She found the ‘offending’ play and sat down to read. When she reached the fifth page she smiled grimly to herself. Mr. Heyes realized she was no fool, she thought.


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Thursday passed in a leisurely manner. Heyes and the Kid had their breakfast delivered by Betty Standish from the hotel. The morning perambulation followed, and was in turn followed by an afternoon of visits from the male contingent of the town. Some poker was played, and the two outlaws happily stashed their earnings in the drawer of the end table in their cell. The other highlights of the day were lunch and dinner.

The ladies absence on Thursdays was not unusual; this was the day the quilting and sewing club met. On this particular Thursday word had spread that all the women of the town were to be present, whether they sewed or not, and all the ladies meant all, including those who worked in the saloon, and were generally considered, well, not quite ladies.


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Mike Travis left his shift of duty in the early evening satisfied with his day’s work, and hungry for his supper. Nearing his home he smelt the dreadful aroma of overcooked and burnt food. Opening his door he found his Amy holding a pan blackened and damaged beyond repair, sobbing loudly, the tears running in funnels down her face, eyes red, skin blotchy, hair disheveled. It was a wretched sight made worse by the growling of his stomach.

“Oh oh Mike I’ve burnt supper,” she cried placing the useless pan on the counter. She walked to him and put her head on his chest, wailing ever louder.

“Now Amy, it ain’t so bad. It’s only supper. Don’t, don’t cry so.”

“But it was your supper and it’s all burnt up. I don’t have nothing else to feed you.” She sniffed and sobbed. “I was going to the butcher’s tomorrow. Alls I’ve got is this bit of bread.” She held out a crust of bread timidly.

“Now Amy, you just stop all this carrying on. I guess this’ll do me for the night. I had a big lunch anyway. You just hush yourself.” He munched on the dry crust. “You know, we could make a night of it, go to the hotel for supper.”

“Mike, Betty Standish told us ladies it were closed for remodeling until further notice.” More loud sobs ensued. “And I cain’t go nowheres like this anyhow.”

“Alright, Amy, it’s alright. Tell you what. You get yourself washed up and we’ll spend the night together. There’s other things we can do besides eat.”

“Oh Mike, how can you suggest such a thing, and me in such a state.” The sobs increased threefold.

“Amy…”

“Michael Travis, you…you…oh how could you?” And here she ran off into the bedroom shutting the door. Mike followed, stunned, and carefully opened the door. Amy had thrown herself on the bed. Wailing at the top of her lungs she turned to Mike.

“You…you just go away and sleep on the couch.”

Mike gulped, picked out a blanket from the chest at the foot of the bed, and sat on the couch. He turned to look at the bedroom where the loud sobs continued. He wanted a pillow but thought it wasn’t such a good idea to get it at this time.


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Mr. Harrison came home to an unusual reception as well. His wife and daughters were seated in the drawing room busy with their sewing, not an unusual sight on Thursdays as the sewing club meetings generally resulted in a temporary surge of industriousness. It was their greeting that was not in the ordinary.

“Mr. Harrison, dear, the girls and I have already eaten. I gave leave for the servants to retire for the evening. You will have to fend for yourself. I am sure you can manage.”

“Loretta?”

“The girls and I are busy sewing as you can see. I am certain you can provide yourself with supper.”

Taken aback, Mr. Harrison responded, “If you have eaten already, I suppose I shall have to travel back to the hotel and sup there.”

“As you wish, my dear.”

“Good-bye papa, dearest,” added Athena, and Guinevere, completing a French Knot merely gave a quick nod.

“Well, I shall leave now,” he announced, apparently to the room itself, as the ladies were too busy to reply.


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Corbett and Matt Brown returned home that evening to an equally unique reception from Sarah Brown, but one which was possibly more representative of the reception most of the men were receiving that evening from their better-halves.
“Sarah, Matt and me is home,” Corbett announced crossing the threshold.

“We’re here Ma, and we’re hungry,” added Matt.

“So, and what do you two lunkheads expect me to do about that?”

“Uh, Ma, well where’s supper?”

“Fix it yourself. I got better things to do.” Sarah sat on her rocking chair, and picking up a piece of worsted, began to sew.

“Sarah, what’s got into you?”

“What’s got into me? You have a lot of nerve asking me that, Corbett Brown. You men think you know everything.”

“We do?”

“Course you do. That’s what we women was talking about today.” Corbett and Matt exchanged confused looks.

“You always think you know what is best. And here you are sending two re-formed men to prison, and what fer? If they ain’t doing bad no more, why waste their lives and our money?”

“Whaddya mean our money, and whaddya mean we’re sending ‘em to prison?”

“Of all people Corbett Brown, it’s your fault more’n anyone else’s. And the money I mean is the taxpayer money that’ll be spent keepin’ ‘em in prison twenty years.Twenty years! That’s your fault Corbett. What kind of a fool thinks they was only gonna get two years. That’s blood money, and I don’t want it.”

“Sarah, I did it for you,” Corbett responded weakly.

“Harumph.”

“Sarah…”

Sarah picked up her sewing, and attacked it.

“I ain’t got nothing more to say to you, Corbett Brown or you, Matt, and you’d best tell Richard to stay at that hotel. I don’t wanna talk to him, neither. You’d best do something about this mess you caused. ‘Til then you’ll get no meals from me, and you’ll be sleeping out here Corbett, or you and Matt can share his bed.”

“Sarah…”

“Don’t Sarah me. Now look what you’ve made me do,” and she angrily ripped out an error in her sewing.


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Mr. Harrison returned home after a futile visit to the hotel restaurant. He didn’t believe for a moment it was closed for remodeling; he also didn’t believe that the saloon had no food available because the cook was sick. Mary McClure was known for her incredible constitution, and boasted that she had never had a day of illness in her entire life.

He went into the kitchen, but inexperience predetermined that his meal would be less than substantial. He found some bread, and some milk. After dining, he decided to retire, and thoughtfully mounted the staircase, slowly lifting one leg and placing it on the next step to be followed by the other.

His bedroom door was locked. He knocked. He knocked again louder.

The girls' bedroom door opened, and Guinevere put out a sleepy head.

“Not so loud, papa, you woke Athena and me.”

“I am sorry my dear. Go back to bed.”

“Yes, papa.”

He noticed a pile of bedding near his bedroom door. Evidently this was meant for him. He picked it up in resignation, and went downstairs to his den. Puzzled, he wandered through the downstairs half of his home. He entered the library, and decided to select a book to read to help him fall asleep.

Oddly, one of the volumes was protruding noticeably from the shelf. He picked it up, and realized it was his fine copy of the book of Greek plays. It had a bookmark in it. That also was odd as he read from the other copy, the one he had given to the outlaw…

He walked to the sofa and sat down. Opening the book, he saw the play bookmarked was “The Lysistrata.”

Loretta must have read it; that conversation this afternoon…

Mr. Harrison was an intelligent man. Loretta had read the play; that outlaw had wanted her to read the play. And she was acting on it. He put his head in his hands. This was terrible. If anyone ever made the connection he would be blamed. Hopefully, no one ever would; they would think it was another one of Loretta’s plans. That was the important thing, that no man in Kokomo realize he was the inadvertent cause of their misery.


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Sheriff Stoops arrived at the jail the following morning in a particularly foul mood. Slamming the door behind him, he stomped to the stove, poured a cup of coffee, stomped to his desk, and sat in his chair, banging his tin mug down.

“What in tarnation is going on?” he asked to the room in general.

Heyes and Curry looked at him with sympathetic curiosity.

“Got a problem?” asked the Kid. The Kid and Heyes were finishing their breakfast under the surveillance of the night deputy, Carl, who had been guarding them throughout the night.

“Got a problem? The whole town’s gone plumb crazy, as if you don’t know.”

Heyes, the Kid and Carl, who didn’t know, looked at him with puzzled yet sympathetic glances.

Before he could continue the door burst open, and Mike Travis hurried in,

“Sorry I’m late Carl,” he said to the other deputy, “but something’s the matter with Amy. You ain’t gonna believe me, but she’s gone and burned the food two days running now, supper last night, and breakfast this morning. She was in a real state when I left, cryin’ and such.”

“It don’t surprise me none,” said the sheriff. “No man in this town’s getting a decent meal. I saw Jim Martin, and he says it’s happening everywhere. I even got throwed out of the widder’s, and no breakfast on top of that.” Sheriff Stoops, being an unmarried man, boarded at the Widow Johnson’s house.

“Sheriff, you were thrown out of your lodgings? Why’d she throw you out?” asked Heyes leaning slightly forward to demonstrate his attentiveness.

“She said that she needed the room for some of the saloon gals. She said they were going to take a vacation.”

Heyes leaned his elbow on his chair and cupped his head in his hand. The Kid looked at the sheriff in surprise.

“Since when do saloon girls take vacations, and stay in a respectable woman’s house for ‘em?”

“Well how would I know a fool thing like that?” He stopped and looked at the two outlaws. “Maybe you two know something more than I do…”

Heyes raised his face which was one of pure wide-eyed innocence. The Kid followed his lead.

“Sheriff, may I point out that the Kid and I have been under either yours or the deputies’ constant observation. We barely have an idea what you are talking about; much less know ‘something’ you don’t.”

“Well, that’s true. Still, I don’t like it. Mike you put them two back in their cell.”

“Sheriff? You want them back? I mean we usually keep ‘em out all day…”

“They are felons, you dang fool! Criminals, outlaws; they belong in a cell. Now you put them back in theirs.”

“No need getting all upset about it. If you want us back in our cell all you gotta do is ask,” the Kid said calmly.

Mike waved Heyes and the Kid to stand and walk towards the cells.

Carl who had been watching the conversation, eyes darting from speaker to speaker, now muttered something about how he’d better go now and see what his Mary was up to.

As he left Mr. Harrison entered. Mike stopped to listen. Heyes shrugged at the Kid and they stopped as well.

“Stoops, I think we’d better talk.”

“Now what?”

“The situation in town is out of control; the women have in effect gone on strike.”

“I know that. Everyone knows that.”

“They don’t agree with our handling of the prisoners.”

“Handling of the prisoners! Coddling you mean.”

“The ladies have a demand. They want the prisoners released, and refuse to attend to their wifely duties until the demand is met.”

Stoops sputtered, “Well they can wait til hell freezes over. I am not going to release my prisoners on the say so of a bunch of hens. The men will just have to make do.”

“Yes, that is what I thought your response would be. I am certain that the townsmen are more than capable of fending for themselves. However,” and here he leant in closer to Stoops, “you do understand it is more than food and housekeeping I am referring to. The women refuse to attend to any of their wifely duties, and the saloon girls have…”

“I know darn well where the saloon girls are! The men will just have to do without.” Stoops face reddened with a combination of anger and embarrassment.

Heyes raised an eyebrow amused. He and Mr. Harrison gazed at each other as if each were assessing the situation, and the man they were facing. The Kid watched both men smiling.

“How is Mrs. Harrison?” asked Heyes breaking the momentary silence.

“My wife…”

Stoops broke in angrily. “This is her idea, isn’t it? Doggone it Harrison, can’t you keep that woman of yours in line?” And what are you two still doing here? Mike get a move on, now!”

As the prisoners were herded down the hall and into the cell they could hear Mr. Harrison. “Unfortunately it is one of Loretta’s ideas. You realize her nature, Stoops. She intends to get her own way in this, and is determined…”


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The men held out a mere four days. Bad food produced sour stomachs, and sour stomachs resulted in a weakened group of men who were in turns irritable or forlorn. The lack of female companionship weighed on them far more than they anticipated. If they had chosen to abandon the women that would be different; the choice would have been theirs and they could have displayed their superiority, but the undeniable fact was the women had abandoned them. Some husbands were on the brink of violence, but Sheriff Stoops, in a manner most commendable, prevented this.

Heyes and Curry, the only well-fed men in town, were advised not to share their meals on pain of those meals being discontinued, and as Heyes pointed out to the sheriff and deputies it “hardly made sense, me and the Kid starving as well, because of the situation between you and your women, and we know you wouldn’t begrudge another man a decent meal.”

To which the Kid added, “It ain’t our fault the women like us and wanna keep us out of prison.” The facts could not be denied, and the other men looked on hungrily and enviously as the two outlaws ate.


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At the end of the fourth day the men held a meeting in the saloon. The situation was discussed in great depth, analyzed and pronounced hopeless.

Mr. Harrison, as moderator of the meeting, turned to Corbett Brown.

“Corbett, you know how the rest of us feel, however the final decision is yours as you stand to lose the most. You and your sons captured these men…”

“That were an evil day,” a voice from the back interrupted, followed by “here, here.”

“I said you and your sons captured these men and the final determination of their fate, and ours, rests with you.”

“Well, all I wanted the money for was my Sarah, and now she don’t even talk to me. I want my Sarah back, and iffn’ we have to do without a new mattress, bed frame, curtains, and a stove, well then we just will.”

“Am I to understand a mattress, bed frame, curtains and a stove are your wants?” Mr. Harrison was incredulous.

“Sure, that’s what I wanted for my Sarah. All them fine things from the Sears catalog. But we’ve made do all these years…”

“Gentlemen,” Mr. Harrison interrupted removing his tall black hat and turning it upside down, “in exchange for the prisoners, I think every male citizen of the town of Kokomo will be willing, no, not merely willing, but proud, to contribute to the purchase of curtains, a mattress, and a bed frame for Corbett and Sarah Brown. I, myself, will purchase the finest stove in the Sears catalog for the two of them. Corbett, I take it this is a fair exchange?”

Corbett, stunned by the display of generosity, nodded.

The townsmen rose in relief, and walking forward placed their donations in the hat. The last man to rise was Sheriff Stoops. Throughout the last four days he had slowly become the last holdout for law and order, as he saw it, but had resigned himself to the inevitable at the meeting. In a manner most dejected he neared the hat.

“Not you Stoops,” said Harrison, “There’s no need for you to donate.”

“It’s a town decision, and I’ll follow it. No one will say Stoops shirked his duty,” and he dropped a tenner in the hat.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The last few nights Sheriff Stoops had been keeping the night watch in the jail as he had no home to return to. Close to dawn he rose from the cot in the front cell he was sleeping in, stretched, and picking up the keys walked down to the prisoners’ cell.

“Wake up boys,” he said as he opened the door to the cell.

“What? What’s happening?”

“I’m leaving; I’m going to the widder’s for breakfast.” The sheriff abruptly turned and walked out of the jail.

“Well Heyes, whaddya think of that?”

“I think, Kid, we had better get going before they change their minds.”

They gathered their belongings and hastily left the jail. Outside they found their horses tethered to the railing in front of the jail, plus a pack mule fully loaded with supplies.

“Heyes, this is real generous, but I’ve got the feeling we’ve overstayed our welcome.”

“I think that may be a possibility, Kid. Whaddya say we get as far down this mountain, and out of this cold as possible today?”

“I’d say that’s one of your better ideas, Heyes.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They rode silently and cautiously down the steep, dangerous mountain road for the next few hours. Finally the road widened, and became less difficult to navigate.

“Heyes, I’ve been wondering about that play. Was it really about the men not getting fed and not …well you know. I mean I can’t believe someone would really write that.”

“You could say it was more about the men not getting the ‘well you know’ than not getting fed.”

“Sheesh, and that’s considered a piece of classic literature.” He paused. “Maybe I should’ve let you read it to me after all.”

“Maybe so. Kid, I’ve told you there’s all sorts of reasons to read literature. And speaking of books, I’ve been thinking about that “Walden” book by Thoreau and I’ve got an idea.”

“Well if it’s as good as the idea from that Lysistrata thing I’ll give it some consideration.”

“Kid it’s even better. How many times have we been chased out of towns in the last couple of years?”

“Heyes, you don’t need to ask me that. Too many times.”

“Right. So all we gotta do is what this Thoreau fella did. He lived in a cabin by himself; practiced being self-reliant.”

“Is that what that book is all about?”

“Well it’s about more than that. It’s got a lot of philosophy in it. But that’s not what is important. What’s important is the idea of living away from everyone in a cabin. If an Easterner like Thoreau could do that, we could do it easy. We pick up supplies in Porterville, that way we can tell Lom where we’ll be, and head on up to old Mitchell’s cabin. All we have to do is take it easy and wait out our amnesty.”

“Heyes, I think you’ve talked me into it.”


To be continued…
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