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 Across the West by Anita Sanchez

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Posts : 432
Join date : 2013-10-13

PostAcross the West by Anita Sanchez

Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy

Jonas Randall     Tom Hanks

Sheriff     Clint Eastwood

Elmer Curtis     Paul Newman

Leader of Outlaw Gang     Jim Sturgess

Driver     Will Smith

“It’s him, I tell you.” Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry shaded their eyes to peer across the dusty street. They stared at the approaching figure, coming slowly towards them along the wooden walkway that lined the row of stores and saloons in the little town of Red Rock.

“No, it isn’t,” Curry groaned. “You’re seeing things. It’s a mirage.”

“It’s him, I tell you,” Heyes muttered, turning and pretending to study a display of ladies’ hats in a shop window. “I recognize the hat, and the way he walks. And I recognize that enormous six-gun he carries.” He elbowed Curry in the ribs. “Don’t stare!”

“You’re staring,” the Kid growled.

“It’s him all right,” Heyes heaved a sigh. “Most of all, I recognize the star on his chest.”

They scurried across the dusty, sun-baked street, hats pulled low. The tall figure crossed the street as well, his spurs kicking up little puffs of dust, as he continued in their direction. Heyes stole a glance from under his hat brim, and groaned. “He’s still coming this way. Quick, let’s duck in here.”

They pushed through the swinging doors of a saloon. The interior was cool and friendly after the glare of the street. “Not a bad place to hide out for a while,” Curry remarked softly as they leaned against the bar.

Heyes glanced cautiously around the dim, narrow room. “It’s got a back door, that’s all I’m interested in.”

“Shh,” Curry hissed. “That old guy’s looking at us, too.”

“You boys wouldn’t be interested in a friendly game of poker, by any chance?” a pleasant voice inquired. “Awful quiet in here today.” A solitary man was shuffling a deck of cards at a nearby table, and he raised his brows at the newcomers. He had pure white hair and a trim silver goatee. The starched white suit and the gold watch chain stretched across his ample front told of well-lined pockets. The Kid glanced at Heyes.

“Sure,” Heyes shrugged casually. “Why not?” It would be less conspicuous than idling in front of the bar.

The man dropped a few of the cards as he shuffled them awkwardly. “I have to confess, I’m not terribly experienced at games of chance,” he said. “Is it five cards to each player, or six?”

“Well, I believe it’s five,” said Heyes, scratching his head. “Isn’t that right, Thaddeus?”

“Guess so,” the Kid said with a shrug, rubbing his nose to hide a grin.

As the game began, Heyes watched the saloon door like a cat at a mouse-hole. But no suspicious lawman pushed the swinging doors apart. Curry kept a wary eye on the windows, but no curious face peered inside. No one seemed to notice them at all, in fact, and as the poker game proceeded, they both began to relax and even enjoy themselves. The white-haired gentleman didn’t seem to know a straight from a flush, and he was a reckless gambler.

“Mind if I join in?” A deep voice made both Heyes and the Kid jerk their heads up, and Curry’s hand sank quietly towards his holster. However, the newcomer wasn’t a tall man with a star on his chest, but a portly figure in elegantly cut clothes. Heyes and the Kid nodded politely, but their acquaintance with the goatee looked as if he’d bitten into a lemon. “I suppose so,” he said ungraciously.

The newcomer sat down in a chair and snapped his fingers for a waiter, as though he owned the place. “Introduce me to your friends, Curtis,” he said, with a broad smile.

“We just met,” Curtis snapped, all his genial politeness gone. Heyes and Curry stood and announced their aliases, shaking hands all round, but Curtis remained seated.

“Randall,” said the plump little man, beaming at them. “Jonas Randall.”

The waiter brought over a tall bottle, and gave a little bow as he put it at the stranger’s elbow. “Thanks very much, Mr. R.,” he said, as he was rewarded with a dollar tip.

Heyes raised his eyebrows as he read the label on the dusty bottle. “Looks like they save the good stuff for you,” he remarked.

Randall smiled, his broad cheeks creasing. “Well, money talks, boys,” he said. “Money talks. And speaking of money, Curtis, have you given any more thought to our little wager? If you can’t prove your point, I win.”

“Well, I’m quite sure I’m correct in my estimate.” Curtis scowled, the pleasant twinkle quite gone from his face. He threw his cards on the table. “Any person of sense could see that—“

“Could see that the impossible is possible?” Randall chuckled gently, and Curtis’s ears grew red.

“I‘ve had quite enough…”

“Excuse us, gentlemen,” Heyes said, pushing his chair back. “I can see you have business to discuss, so we’ll be on our way.” He began to gather up the money on the table. “Thank you for a very pleasant—“

Randall interrupted. “I appeal to you, Mr. Smith—Mr. Jones. You’re intelligent men of the world—I can see that from your expertise at games of chance.” He gestured at the pile of silver dollars Heyes was sweeping into his hat. “I ask you—isn’t it ridiculous to suppose that a man could travel between Denver and St. Louis in a week?”

Curtis banged his fist on the table before either of them could speak. “Damn it, the thing’s completely possible, given the new railroad. Any man of sense could see it.”

“From Denver to St. Louis in only a week?” Heyes looked at Curry who shook his head. “Well, we once made it from Wyoming to Kansas in two weeks, but I don’t think…”

“Eight days, then,” snapped Curtis. “Perfectly possible.”

Randall shook his head, smiling broadly.

Curtis audibly ground his teeth. “I’d like to see you put your money where your mouth is,” he growled.

“My dear Curtis, nothing would make me happier. Prove me wrong!”

“Well, for obvious reasons…”

“Well, send someone else, then.” He patted back a polite yawn. “Forgive me, this argument never seems to get anywhere. But I really must be going.” He tipped his shining bowler politely as he walked away.

Curtis sat, scarlet-faced, like a volcano about to erupt. “What was that all about?” Heyes asked.

“It’s a long-standing argument we’ve had. The opinionated jackass. It’s perfectly possible; he just won’t admit it, and I can’t prove it.”

“Why not?” Kid Curry asked. “Just go to Denver, send a telegram—they’re always dated—and then go to St. Louis and send another. That’d do it.”

Curtis pushed himself back from the table, and his chair glided smoothly backwards. Neither of them had noticed that he was seated in a wheelchair. “For obvious reasons, that would be difficult.”

Curry began to stammer an apology, but Curtis waved his hand, the smile returning to his face. “Say, I don’t suppose you boys would be willing to help me out? I’d pay you—in fact I’d be willing to pay pretty high. Of course, it’d mean you’d have to leave town right away…”  

“Leave town right away?” Heyes glanced at the Kid, trying to hide a delighted smile. “Oh, dear, we did have rather important business here, but I suppose…”

“Of course, of course. I couldn’t expect you to just leave town at the drop of a hat. Forget it, I’m sorry.”

“But I suppose we could manage it,” Heyes added hastily. “Just to do you a favor…”

The stagecoach pulled out of town in a hurry, the driver snapping the whip over the horses’ heads with a crack like a pistol shot. Heyes and the Kid gave a final wave to Mr. Curtis, who sat in his chair watching their departure. Then they settled back on the comfortably upholstered seats, tipped their hats over their eyes, and prepared to enjoy the trip.

Curtis waved his hat, and then gave a satisfied nod as the stagecoach disappeared around the bend. Behind him, the saloon doors swung open, and Jonas Randall emerged. He strolled up to Curtis, and stood beside him, eyeing the cloud of dust that hid the departing coach.

“Did our young friends get off alright?” he inquired.

“Oh, yes,” Curtis said, smiling. “I think it will work out.”

A tall man with a star on his chest crossed the street towards them. “Morning, gents. So how’s it going?”

“Oh, very well, sheriff,” said Randall.

Curtis nodded, smiling. “Very well indeed.”

“All aboard!” Kid Curry climbed slowly up the steps of the train, moving like an old man. Heyes still stood on the platform, both hands on his back, leaning from one side to the other. “Twelve hours in that damn stage,” Curry growled. “My legs are stiff as a board.”

“We made good time, really,” said Heyes, checking his watch. “Now we just have to catch the 6;15 train in Marston, change trains in Porterville, and we’re there.” He climbed reluctantly into the passenger car, and they made their way down the narrow aisle in search of a seat.

“Boy, I’m sick of sitting around on stagecoaches and trains,” said Curry. “It was a lot more fun robbing them than looking out the window to watch the world go by. I’d like to see a little excitement…”

“Will you shut up?” Heyes hissed furiously. He glanced around at the other passengers, but no one took any notice of them. “What are you, crazy? You’d like to see a posse rounding the corner?”

“No, I just want a little more excitement, that’s all. This is duller than ditchwater.”

“Tickets, gentlemen?” They handed over their tickets to the conductor, then took their seats in the dusty car. Curry leaned back in his seat, pushing his hat over his eyes to avoid any more conversation.

“Excitement,” Heyes muttered, giving him a sidelong glare. “Just what we need.”

The train chugged past flat grassland, every now and then coming to a jerking, banging halt in dusty little towns that all looked exactly alike. Heyes had to admit to himself that the trip was, indeed, remarkably dull. Curry snored, head back on the opposite seat, and Heyes counted the telegraph poles flashing by, his mind wandering off when he reached three thousand and seventeen.

An abrupt jerk almost sent them out of their seats, and a clanking, hissing wheeze woke the Kid up fast. “What’s going on?” he demanded. “Why are we stopping?” Heyes shook his head as the train ground to a halt.

“You don’t suppose…” Curry began, looking around uneasily.

“You were hoping for some excitement,” Heyes snarled. “There’s only one reason a train would come to a sudden stop in the middle of nowhere like this.”

“Maybe there’s a cow on the track,” Curry said hopefully.

“Stand and deliver!” shouted a gruff voice. As the rest of the passengers shrieked and fluttered, peering out the windows and exclaiming, Heyes and Kid Curry sank back into their seats wearily, and both heaved a sigh.

A crowd of passengers were pushing and shoving, stretching their necks out the window to get a better view. Heyes glanced out the window, and sighed again. Sure enough, the engineer and conductor had their hands in the air, and a gang of ragged men was guarding them.

Heyes and the Kid joined the line of passengers who were filing off the train, following the nervously shouted commands of one of the gang, a plump, youthful fellow with a bandanna pulled over his nose. Another young outlaw relieved the passengers of their valuables, as Heyes just managed to slip his watch into his boot in the nick of time. He and the Kid obediently handed over the meager contents of their pockets, and then strolled over to join the passengers who were exclaiming with indignation and gawking at the excitement.

Up by the head of the train, another group of men was attaching a bundle of dynamite to a huge safe that squatted in the rear of an open freight car. Heyes and Curry watched the operation with a critical eye.

“Anyone we know?” Heyes murmured.

“Don’t think so,” said Curry, scanning the faces. “They’re a bunch of children. Honestly, look at that kid, I don’t think he can shave yet.”

“Well, why don’t you give them some pointers, grandpa?” Heyes inquired. “Tell them about the good old days.”

“Shut up,” Curry said automatically. “Look at that, he hasn’t even got his holster tied down.”

“Young people these days.” Heyes shook his head. “I don’t know what the world’s coming to.” He watched as the outlaws fiddled with the dynamite, cursing and arguing. “I just wish they’d hurry up. We’ve got a connection to make. “

Curry glanced towards the front of the engine. “I got a feeling we’re not going to be making it.”

Heyes followed his gaze and groaned. Just ahead of the engine, a section of track had been pried apart, and the rails disconnected. “Dammit!” Heyes threw his hands in the air. “That’ll take a week to fix. Why on earth couldn’t they just put a log across the track? Why do they have to destroy property?”

“Young people these days,” said Curry. “Come on, let’s see how bad the damage is.”

It was bad. They stood surveying the bent and twisted metal. Nearby, the outlaws’ horses were tied to a tree, and they stamped and sidled, eager to get away from the still-hissing locomotive. Heyes looked at the horses and pursed his lips in thought.

“You want what?” the outlaw leader repeated, scratching his head. He was a lanky youngster with a weak attempt at a mustache, and a long, thin neck. He frowned at the two older men standing before him.

“To buy two horses,” Heyes repeated patiently. “We’ll pay you for them, don’t worry.”

“With what?” inquired the boy. “We just took all your money.”

“He’s got a point there, Joshua,” Curry murmured.

Heyes ignored him. “Why, with advice, son,” he said. The gang looked at him with suspicious frowns. “Now, see, take a look over here.” He put his arm around the young man’s shoulders and led him over to the safe, which was heavily festooned with explosives. “If you light that fuse you’ll blow the door off the safe, sure, but you’ll also blow half the money to kingdom come.”

“What? You’re crazy,” said the boy. When he forgot to keep his voice low, it squeaked.

“Sure, money’s made out of paper, isn’t it? It’ll burn up. Trust me, I remember when—I mean, anyway, never mind. If you use all that dynamite you’ll be lucky to get a third of the money intact.”

“In what?”

Curry smiled. “Not burned up,” he explained.

The outlaw leader looked mystified. “But how do you know so much about—“

“But if you put the dynamite over there, near the hinges, you can use less, don’t you see?” Heyes deftly rearranged the stacks of explosives. “Now it isn’t anything to do with us, you understand—we don’t want money--we’re just going to ride off and get out of your way. But if you light off that fuse, the door will come off as neat as pie, and everything will be just fine…”

As they cantered off, a muffled explosion resounded in the distance. Heyes seemed not to notice, but Curry glanced over his shoulder and saw a plume of black smoke rising from the train car. The sound of cursing voices came to them on the gentle breeze.

“I can’t believe he fell for that trick,” he said, spurring his horse to catch up with Heyes.

“What trick?” Heyes demanded. “I gave him some valuable advice. Certainly well worth two scrawny horses.”

“But putting the dynamite where you told him would blow everything in the safe to Kingdom Come,” Curry pointed out. “They won’t get a nickel out of it.”

“I prevented those youngsters from embarking on a life of crime,” said Heyes. He pulled back on the rein and looked back over his shoulder at the rising cloud of smoke. “They’ll thank me someday. Honestly,” he added, shaking his head, “Young people today...”

They kept going, heading west as the sun sank behind the clouds that edged the horizon. The sky grew orange, then gray, and the horses slowed, but they only stopped for brief halts. Behind them the moon rose late; a lop-sided, half-hearted moon, but it gave enough light to see a few yards ahead, and they kept on.

“It’s got to be no more than thirty miles,” said Heyes. He looked up at the stars, trying to get his bearings. “North and a little west, across the river, and then to the town of Marston. Once we’re there, we’ll have it made.”

“We should be coming to the river any time now,” Curry remarked. “It’s a steep ravine, I remember. Keep your eyes open, let’s not fall in it.”

“Mm, that would be exciting,” Heyes agreed. They rode on in silence, listening for the rushing of the water.

“I think I hear it,” said Heyes. “We must be close. I don’t see any sign of the bridge, though.”

“Look out!” Curry yanked the reins, sending his horse skidding sideways. Heyes’s horse pranced backwards, snorting. “What?” Heyes demanded.

Curry shook his head. “Something’s wrong…hang on.” He swung out of the saddle and led his horse forward. After a few steps he halted abruptly. “Well, I found that bridge,” he called over his shoulder.

“Oh, good,” Heyes said, peering through the gloom. “Where is it?”

Curry stood on the edge of a sharp drop, craning his neck over the edge. “At the bottom of the ravine.”

They both stood holding their reins and looking down into the darkness. The ravine was hidden in blackness, but the roar of rushing water could be heard far below.

“All right. Well, we’ll just have to swim,” Heyes announced.

“What?” Curry glared at him. “Are you crazy? I’m not swimming anyplace.”

“No, it’ll be okay,” said Heyes, patting him on the back. “We can do it. It’s a pretty fast current—we’ll have to leave the horses here, they’re exhausted. But we can make it.”

“You can jump in there if you want to, but I’m not going to!”

“What’s the matter?” Heyes demanded. “You can swim.”

“Of course I can swim!” Curry snapped. “What kind of idiot doesn’t know how to swim? It’s just that…” His hand drifted towards his gun belt.

“The gun!” Heyes rolled his eyes. “Hail Columbia!” he groaned. “That stupid gun. You’re like a hen with one chick over that thing. It’s just a piece of metal.”

“I went to a lot of trouble to have it specially balanced, you know.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake…”

“And it’s not easy to find a gunsmith who really understands…”

“Well, two thousand dollars from Curtis will buy you a dozen new ones.” Heyes was already unbuckling his gun belt. “Wrap it up in your shirt and make a bundle, and then try to keep it above water. Tie it on your back or something.”

“What about my boots?” Curry demanded. “They’re practically brand new.”

“Well, wrap them up, too. They’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, where have I heard that before,” Curry muttered, but he sat down and yanked off his polished, square-toed boots. He took off his shirt, and carefully placed his gun belt and the boots in the center, then made a neat package, wrapping the sleeves around the knobby bundle and tying them together in a tight knot.

“Ready?” Here we go,” said Heyes, wading into the black water. Curry followed him, feeling the icy water pushing against his legs as soon as he stepped into the river. He took a deep breath and waded further, feeling the sand slip away under his bare feet. The current was awfully strong.

“You know, I’ve often heard the saying about losing your shirt,” Heyes said cheerfully. “I never knew anyone who’d gone and done it literally, though.” He threw another log on the fire, and turned so that the heat from the flames could dry out the back of his long underwear.

“Shut up,” Curry said through chattering teeth. “You’re inches away from death right now.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Heyes. “What are you gonna do, shoot me?”

“Drown you, possibly,” The Kid growled, wringing out a sock. “River’s right handy.”

“Sorry about your gun,” Heyes said, a little remorsefully. He whacked Kid on the shoulder. “But just think, we’ll be able to buy all the guns and boots we want once we get to St. Louis.”

“Yeah, except how are we gonna get there?” Curry inquired. “It’s a bit of a long walk, especially as we’re barefoot.”

Heyes fished his watch out of his pocket and looked at it, then shook it and listened hopefully for a ticking sound. Water dripped into his ear. He sighed and shoved it back in his pocket. “Well, I guess we’ll have to just start walking and see what comes along…”

They started off down the muddy, pot-holed road as the sun rose, walking gingerly in their stocking feet. Every pebble and stick seemed to poke into their feet. After a few miles, the Kid felt he was walking on red-hot coals. “This is awful,” he growled, sinking down on a handy stump. “Let’s wait here till the next person comes by and steal their boots.”

“Now, Kid, that’d be dishonest,” Heyes said, grinning. “I know you wouldn’t do a dishonest thing like that.”

“Watch me,” Curry groaned, rubbing a blistered foot. “I won’t kill anyone, I’ll just tie them up and gently remove their boots. The governor will never find out.”

“It can’t be too much farther—“Heyes broke off. “What’s that?” He shaded his eyes against the rising sun, and they both peered down the road in the fresh morning light.

“Halleluiah,” Curry said. “Looks like a wagon.”

“Sort of,” Heyes answered. The wagon was a flat-bedded, dusty old cart that creaked and groaned as it wobbled down the road. Every time it hit a pothole the wheels seemed about to collapse. He heaved a sigh. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers,” he said. “Come on, our carriage awaits.”

“Thank God!” Curry waved a hand. “Hey, pal! Any chance we could hitch a ride?”

“It’s not very fast,” said Heyes doubtfully. “Looks pretty beat up. And he’s got all those crates in the back…”

“I don’t care, I’ll take anything. If it’s a garbage wagon, I’ll jump on it.”

“Howdy, neighbors,” said the white-bearded man who was driving the wagon. He pulled back on the reins, and the plodding mules came to a halt and stood patiently. “Need a lift there, boys?”

“That’d be obliging of you, friend,” Curry said. “We’d surely appreciate a ride into Marston—you going that far?”

The old man brightened. “Sure am,” he said with a wide grin. “Hop in boys. Glad to have some company. Gets a little lonely, all by my lonesome all the time.”

“Thanks,” said Heyes. “We’re on a tight schedule, so maybe you could speed it up some?”

“Why, sure,” said the old man. “Boy, this is great!” he added, as they scrambled aboard. “Not just one, but two bodies to talk to. No one ever wants to ride with me. Sure does get lonesome.”

“Well, we certainly appreciate this,” Heyes began, but the Kid interrupted him. “What do you mean, no one ever wants to ride with you?”

“Well, son, most folks get one look at the load I’m carrying, and they plumb just chicken right out.”

“Why, what do you mean?” Heyes asked uneasily, standing up in the wagon bed. “What’s in these boxes?”

“Why, you can read, can’t you, boys?” The old man cackled merrily. The Kid jumped up too, and they both bent to peer at the wooden crates in the faint light. The driver shook the reins. “Gee up, there, Bill! Come on, Sam!” he shouted. “These gents is in a hurry!” The wagon lurched forward, and Heyes and the Kid both crashed to the wagon floor, amid a pile of crates painted in red with the letters “TNT.”

The wagon bounced down the potholed road in the last light of sunset. The little town of Marston looked pretty much like any other—a wide main street with a neat row of houses, flanked by a saloon, a hotel, a bank, and a livery stable. The clock was striking seven as they passed the church.

The wagon hit a stone with a bump and crash, and came to a halt with a final bone-jarring jolt. Heyes and the Kid climbed out of the back hastily. “Well, thanks, neighbor. We appreciate it.”

“Oh, anytime, pal,” said the old man with a toothless grin. “Anytime at all. See you soon, I hope!”

“Not if we see you first,” Curry muttered. The old man flapped the reins, and resumed his lonely journey with a sigh.

The two of them looked around the deserted streets. Lamps were coming on in windows of the houses, as the dusk deepened. “Okay!” said Heyes, slapping his friend on the shoulder. “We’re here at last. Let’s relax for a minute. There’s the train station, just down the street—and we’ve got an hour to spare.” He sank down on a nearby bench, and stretched his legs out. “We’ve done it.”

“Yep,” said Curry joining him on the bench. “It’s in the bag now.”

“Hope there was enough excitement for you,” Heyes said, grinning.

Curry grinned back. “Nope, Heyes, you’re right for once. I’ve had all the excitement I want on this trip.” He leaned back on the bench, tipped his hat over his eyes, and sighed with pleasure. “Thank God that’s over, and we can have some peace.”

Boom! A massive explosion shattered the stillness of the quiet street. The front windows of the bank exploded outwards, hailing broken glass in all directions. The force of the explosion blew the bench backwards. Heyes and Curry rolled on the ground, covering their heads against the shower of glass splinters.

A man emerged from the bank, coughing and staggering out of the smoke. “Help! Robbery! Help!” he called. They both recognized the man who had made the bet with Curtis, way back where they started—Jonas Randall.

Heyes and Curry stared at him, then at each other, brushing themselves off dazedly. Randall pointed at them, staggered back as if in fear, and bellowed at the top of his lungs “There they go!“ He pointed a shaking hand at the bewildered outlaws. “They robbed the bank!” A crowd was starting to assemble, shouting and gesturing at the two bedraggled figures picking themselves up from behind the overturned bench.

“Get them! Stop them!” he bellowed. “It’s Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry!”

A tall man with a star on his chest shouldered through the crowd. He began to run towards them, pulling a gun from his holster. “What on earth…” Heyes gasped, staring at the figure that looked ominously familiar.

“No time to discuss the matter,” Curry shouted in his ear. “Let’s go!”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Heyes said, scrambling to his feet. They raced down the street, the sound of pursuing footsteps close behind.

Elmer Curtis sat in front of the fireplace, sipping a glass of amber whiskey, and smoking a cigar. He leaned back in his comfortable chair, and then half-turned his head as if he heard a noise. Nevertheless, the room was silent; the only sound was the ticking of the clock on the mantel.

At the open window a curtain rustled. He turned sharply in his chair, but there was no one there. He went back to his cigar, the smoke wreathing through the quiet room.

“Sorry to disturb you.” The voice came from behind him. He looked over his shoulder, and his eyes widened as he saw Heyes and Curry standing just inside the window.

“Well,” he said, after a pause. “This is an unexpected pleasure.”

“We thought we’d do ourselves the honor of paying you a visit,” Heyes said pleasantly.

“How nice! An unexpected pleasure, I confess.” Curtis gave a little bow in his chair. “You’ll pardon me for not getting up, I’m sure. What can I do for you gentlemen?”

“Oh, cut all the sweet talk!” Curry yanked the gun out of his holster. “You played us for suckers, pal, and we’re not having it.” He felt a little guilty about holding a gun on a crippled man, but reminded himself that Curtis was as slippery as an eel.

“Well, to speak plainly,” Curtis admitted, “Indeed I did. And you took the bait very readily, you know. You’re really far too trusting. Once Sheriff Lomax pointed you out to me, I knew you two could be the answer to all my prayers.” He tossed his cigar into the fireplace. “I have had a few regrettable reverses on the Stock Exchange, you see—quite unforeseen. And I fear that a few of the investments had been with—ah—money that was not quite my own. So I needed to acquire the cash to pay back my losses—to rob my own bank, in effect.”

“And you needed us as scapegoats,” Curry added bitterly.

“Well, yes, I think that puts it very well. But I’m not greedy, you understand, I’m willing to share. I do apologize for any inconvenience, and I can make it well worth your while. I paid Lomax and the fictional Jonas Randall equally well. The money is in the safe, right over there.” They both turned their heads to glance at the safe.

Heyes eyed the safe, noting the make and model with professional interest. He heard a soft footstep behind him, but before he had time to spin around, a gun jammed into his ribs.

“You’re much too trusting, both of you,” a voice said in his ear. “How many times do I have to point that out? Hold still, now.”

Heyes stood frozen. Curry turned to see the banker standing just behind Heyes. “Why, you lying snake--,” the Kid exclaimed.

“Did I ever say I was crippled?” Curtis protested. “You just leapt to a conclusion, that’s all.” He pulled the gun from Heyes’s hand. “Now, Mr. Curry, just drop that gun, if you please.”

The Kid ground his teeth but could see no way out. He let the gun fall at his feet with a heavy clunk.

“You see, you left the element of surprise out of your calculations. You should always plan for the unexpected.” Curtis gave such a smug smile that Kid Curry yearned to hit him.

“Yes, Mr. Curtis, that’s true,” Heyes agreed. “But you left a little something out of your conclusions, too, you know.” Heyes spoke in a relaxed tone that the Kid recognized instantly. That casual, don’t-worry-about-a-thing attitude was the infallible signal that Heyes had a plot in mind.

Curry stiffened, ready to move whenever Heyes gave him a clue to what was up. “You see,” Heyes went on, sounding as though he was sitting with a drink and a cigar instead of standing in front of a loaded pistol. “You see, we brought along a friend. Well, not just a friend, a witness. He’s been hiding behind those curtains all along.” Curry heard the swift intake of Curtis’s breath.

Heyes raised his voice a notch. “I think you could come out now, don’t you, sheriff?”

Curtis spun towards the window. The instant Heyes felt the pressure of the gun in his back lessen, he jammed an elbow in Curtis’s stomach. The man gave a grunt and doubled over. Curry lunged across the room, and grabbed the gun from his hand. He cracked the man over the back of the head with the pistol butt, and Curtis slumped to the floor.

“You’re feeling reckless this evening,” Curry said, panting. “Give me a little more notice when you’re doing something like that, would you?”

“Sorry,” said Heyes. “It’s an old trick, but I had a feeling he might fall for it.”

Curry retrieved his own gun, and spun it smoothly back into his holster. “Very nice indeed,” he said, glancing at the curtains that blew in the breeze from the empty window. “You had just the right note of sincerity in your voice.”

Heyes looked around the room, spotted a window sash, and yanked it down. He tied Curtis’s hands behind his back, and added a gag for good measure. “I think we’ve heard all we need to from you,” he said, pulling the knot tight. “Now, let’s have a look at that safe…”

“Easy as pie, that was,” Heyes remarked as he pulled himself up into the saddle. “That kind of safe always is. There’s something about those tumblers that’s just like rolling off a log.”

“Now what?” Curry inquired, mounting up beside him. “We’ve got our saddlebags stuffed with thousands of dollars, and no one knows where we are.” He gave Heyes a sidelong glance. “We’re not that far from the Mexican border, you know.”

Heyes nodded, sighing. “Well, that thought did cross my mind, too, I have to say. You mean it?”

Curry sighed, too. “Well, almost. You’ve got a better idea, I suppose.”

“Well, I figure we’ll just drop a note off at the sheriff’s office, along with the cash, and that’ll be the end of it. They’ll find Curtis tied up in his office, and he won’t have a leg to stand on. If you’ll pardon the expression.”

Curry nodded, and shook the reins. “All that effort, and we’ve got nothing to show for it.”

“Ah, well,” Heyes said cheerfully. “We did break the record of travel from St. Louis to Denver. Across the West in only eight days.”  

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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Across the West by Anita Sanchez :: Comments

CD Roberts
Re: Across the West by Anita Sanchez
Post on Sat 01 Mar 2014, 5:41 pm by CD Roberts
From the prior story site:

Across the West
Dec 1 2009, 6:38 AM EST
Enjoyed this very much! Very unusual and clever story. Thanks a lot!

1. RE: Across the West
Jan 6 2012, 5:50 AM EST
A double-double-cross... very clever! I quite enjoyed this story, with its fast pacing, good action and surprises. Look forward to reading more of your exciting tales.


Across the West by Anita Sanchez

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