Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 Moguls by Ghislaine Emrys

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Join date : 2013-10-13

20131027
PostMoguls by Ghislaine Emrys


Starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy





Big Mac McCreedy     Burl Ives


Owen Todd      Robert DeNiro


Letitia Carleton     Helen Mirren


Minerva Carleton      Meryl Streep


Sven Hillstroem     Sverre Anker Ousdal


 Lucas Granby      Kiefer Sutherland


Cole Phillips     Mark Wahlberg


Ambrose Pettigrew     Clint Eastwood



Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones were smoking cigars and drinking excellent brandy, but they couldn’t fully enjoy the situation because Big Mac McCreedy was treating them too well and that made them suspicious.

“Boys,” Big Mac began. “How’d you like to take a vacation and earn five hundred dollars at the same time?”

As usual, Smith took the lead in the negotiations. “We’re listening. Go on.”

“Well, it’s like this. A friend of mine just opened a real fancy hotel for rich folk who want to relax and spend some time outdoors in the fresh mountain air…”

Jones interrupted, not quite believing what he was hearing. “They’re choosin’ to be outdoors in winter? Whatever for?”

Big Mac smiled. “Thaddeus, some people like winter. Now, of course, they don’t ride horses all over the countryside in the cold weather like you and Joshua here, and they certainly don’t sleep outside on the ground or wash in rivers like you two.” Big Mac paused while he regarded Smith and Jones, whom he also knew as Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. “Rich folk who come by their fortunes honestly can afford to spend money on nice hotels and good food, even in wintertime.”

“You’re rich, Uncle Mac. How about sharing some of that wealth with your dear nephew?” Heyes asked sarcastically, emphasizing the family relationship. “Then we wouldn’t have to dodge a posse to get here. Wouldn’t you like to have your nephew living right here, so you could support him in the style to which he could easily become accustomed?”

Curry glared at Heyes. The last thing he wanted was to live under the nose of Big Mac McCreedy. And he knew Heyes felt the same way. Heyes was just needling Big Mac, trying to get him off-balance so he could get the upper hand in whatever Mac wanted them to do.

“Well, you know that wouldn’t work, boys,” Big Mac demurred. “But what I’m offering you is a chance to live it up for one month, so how about it? All you have to do is get to know some people and make sure everyone has a good time.”

“Uh huh,” Curry and Heyes said, simultaneously and doubtfully.

“Look, Mac,” Heyes began, “We need to know a lot more before we say yes. Such as who this friend of yours is, why he needs us there, and who we are supposed to be if we go there.”

Big Mac sighed. “Okay, fellas, I’m going to level with you.”  

Heyes and Curry looked at each other skeptically.

“Owen Todd is a business friend of mine. He owns some property up in Colorado and decided to open a hotel near Durango; he’s calling it the Durango Dream.”

“I still don’t understand what’s so special about goin’ there in winter,” Curry muttered.

“Todd decided his hotel would offer guests the opportunity to go skiing. Seems it’s become popular in California and Todd thinks it could be real profitable in Colorado, too.”

“So what does all this have to do with us?” Curry asked, trying to get back to the subject of the job.

“Oh, right.” Big Mac refocused. “Todd’s been having some issues with his neighbors. They’re not too happy about his hotel.”

“What kind of issues?” Heyes asked.

Reluctantly, Big Mac told them. “Well, sometimes his supplies don’t get delivered on schedule. There’ve been a few accidents and …”

“What kind of accidents?” Heyes interrupted.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Big Mac hedged. Curry stared at him. Big Mac decided he could provide more information. “Apparently, some of the skiing equipment was damaged, and there was a fire in the kitchen, and a guest slipped on some ice that shouldn’t have been there and broke a leg. Just a few incidents but Todd’s worried.”

“They sound like common accidents. What makes him think there’s more to it?” Heyes knew Big Mac was still holding out.

“Todd’s had some threats from the other businesses in the area.”

“And you were goin’ to tell us this, when?” Curry snapped, not bothering to hide his annoyance. His “uncle’s” tendency to try to put one over on them had worn thin a long time ago.

Heyes smiled at his partner. “Don’t worry, Thaddeus. I’m sure Mr. Todd wouldn’t be paying us five hundred dollars each if it was a simple job.”

Big Mac sputtered, “He’s not paying you five hundred dollars each! That’s five hundred dollars total!”

“Oh, he’s paying five hundred apiece all right,” Heyes retorted. “If he’s told you all about it and you’ve asked us, that means he doesn’t know what to do and he needs help. We have to go all the way to Colorado…”

“In the middle of winter…” Curry glumly interjected.

“And stay there for one month to find out what’s going on and put a stop to it. So Mr. Todd is clearly prepared to pay well for our services.” Heyes looked Big Mac in the eye, confident he would back down.

Big Mac shrugged. “Oh, all right. I have been authorized to pay you that amount. Todd also wants you to know that he will provide a suite for you and all your meals while you are working for him. You’ll be staying there as the relatives of his business partner down in Texas. That’s me. That way, you can mingle with the hotel guests and no one will wonder who you are.”

A trace of a smile showed on Heyes’ face and he turned to his partner. A silent discussion took place, a decision was made, and Heyes spoke for both of them. “Okay, Mac, we’ll do it.”

“Glad to hear it, boys. There’s just one more thing.”

Curry rolled his eyes. There was always “just one more thing” with Big Mac McCreedy.

“If you are successful and find out who’s behind all this, and the Durango Dream has no more accidents, I have agreed with Todd to pay you a bonus of five hundred dollars.”

Heyes made sure. “Each?”

Big Mac reluctantly nodded. “Yes. Each. But you’d better be worth it, boys.”

Heyes laughed. “Oh, we are, Mac, a lot more than that!”

Curry just rolled his eyes again.

* * *

“Heyes, I don’t think we should have taken this job. Somethin’ just don’t feel right about it.”

Heyes sighed. “Kid, I know you don’t like the cold. But we need the money. And look at this place.” He waved his arm around the well-appointed suite, with its two large beds and fireplace and separate sitting area. “Don’t you want to spend a whole month in a place like this? I mean, this is a whole lot more comfortable than we usually get.”

“Yeah, but Big Mac’s jobs always end up costin’ us a lot. I’m just wonderin’ what the price is gonna be this time.”

“Relax. We’ll walk around, talk to people, figure out what’s going on. Shouldn’t take too long but we don’t have to tell Todd right away. He’s hired us for the month so let’s stay the month.” Heyes looked at his partner. “Don’t worry, you won’t have to dance a jig for your meals here. I’m sure the hotel has its own entertainment,” he grinned.

Curry glared. “I’m just sayin’…”

“I know, but Big Mac knows who we are and I don’t think he’d do anything to risk us getting caught. We’re too useful to him. He knows he can get us to do his dirty work and we won’t complain.” Heyes paused, not really liking how that sounded.

“’Cos we can’t,” Curry agreed.

“Yeah, well.” Heyes was trying to convince his partner but he became more doubtful about it the longer they discussed it. “Anyway, the food’s bound to be good and there’s gotta to be some rich folks who don’t know the odds in poker, so let’s just try to enjoy it while we can, huh?”

“Okay, Heyes.” Curry sighed deeply, and let himself be persuaded. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

* * *

Heyes knocked on the door to Owen Todd’s office. The middle-aged man who came around from behind the desk to meet them apparently enjoyed the finer things in life. Curry hoped his ample waistline was an indication of the quality of the meals offered by the hotel restaurant.

Todd noted the low-slung gun belts tied to the legs of the two men standing before him. He was smoking and offered his guests cigars before gesturing for them to sit down.

“Owen Todd,” he introduced himself, and poured two glasses of whiskey, which were accepted with pleasure. Taking a sip from his own glass he asked, “Did Mr. McCreedy tell you what I want you to do?”

“Yes, sir,” Curry began. “My uncle said you were havin’ some problems and he thought we might be able to help.”

“But we’d like to hear from you what’s been going on,” Heyes added.

“Well,” Todd began. “It seems some people in town don’t like having a luxury hotel around here. Everyone was for it when I was building the place, hiring workers and buying materials from all the local businesses. But it seems some of them changed their minds once they saw the Durango Dream begin to make a profit,” he added bitterly.

“That’s when the rumors and accidents started. Twice, the food that’s brought up here weekly hasn’t arrived and I’ve had to put in a replacement order,” Todd explained.

“How do you get the food, sir?” Heyes inquired.

“My employees buy whatever we need in Durango. Then it’s loaded onto the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and delivered here. Anything that comes in on the railroad gets dropped off at the station where you boys got off. We have wagons that bring everything to the hotel from the station. But two times the food wasn’t on the train and I haven’t been able to find out what happened to it. Oh, we still had plenty of food and the guests didn’t know about it, but it cost me money that I can’t afford to lose.”

“Is the train the only way anything gets up here?”

“No. Guests, of course, come by train and then we have coaches that meet them at the station and bring them to the hotel. But when we need anything from Durango, we send a wagon down to fetch it. Sometimes the mail comes by train if there’s a heavy load but more often it gets delivered by men on horses, if it’s summer, or on skis, if there’s snow on the ground that’s too deep for the horses.” Todd said, with admiration, “Sure is something to see, the way those men move through the snow!”

He shook his head. “Food can be replaced. What’s more serious is the damage to the skis.” Todd glowered. “The whole point of the Durango Dream is to provide guests with a ski experience. I hired, at great expense I might add, a Norwegian from Sacramento to teach the guests here how to ski. He also chaperones them to ski races that some of the local silver mines hold for their workers.

“Well, Mr. Hillstroem, that’s the man I hired, after he gives his lesson, the guests are allowed to ski for half an hour. That’s included in the cost of the lesson, see. It gives them the chance to practice and makes them come back for more lessons.”

Curry looked skeptical. He was still having a hard time understanding why some people wanted to do such a thing. Heyes, on the other hand, was beginning to see the potential in such an activity and had a gleam in his eyes that Curry knew did not bode well for their future.

“Anyway,” Todd said, bringing Curry back to the present difficulty, “One of the guests was skiing after his lesson when he fell. Normally, Mr. Hillstroem wouldn’t have thought much of it, because, to be honest, the guests aren’t very good.” Todd laughed and added, “Too bad for them, very good for me!”

He stopped chuckling as he continued. “But then he saw that the binding, that’s the leather piece that your foot goes into, well, the lacing that kept the binding attached to the ski had been loosened.”

“And that wasn’t an accident?” Heyes asked.

“Mr. Hillstroem was certain it wasn’t. There have been other accidents as well with the skis. Sometimes the guests were involved, sometimes it was just the skis that were damaged. So far, no one’s been seriously injured. And I aim for it to stay that way!” Todd jabbed his cigar at Heyes and Curry to emphasize the point.

“What do you know about Mr. Hillstroem?” Curry decided it was his turn to ask a question.

“He was highly recommended. I’m sure he’s not involved.” Todd regarded the two men in front of him. “It’s not just my reputation at stake here but Mr. Hillstroem’s also. It’s not to his advantage for people to think accidents happen when he’s in charge of the skiing.”

“That makes sense,” Curry agreed. “Who are the guests here now?”

Todd did a mental reckoning. “Let’s see. There’s Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Anderson III; they’re from Denver. Then we have the…”

Heyes interrupted, with raised eyebrows, “The third?”

Todd pursed his lips. “Yes, definitely the third. Now, as I was saying,” he continued briskly, “We also have Mr. and Mrs. Jasper Conkling and their children; they’re a well-respected family from New York. Then we have the Misses Carleton; they’re sisters from Colorado Springs. Lastly, we have Mr. Cole Phillips and Mr. Lucas Granby; they’re in mining, from Virginia City.”

“Don’t sound like too many people are here, Mr. Todd,” Curry stated.

“It’s those blasted rumors! People in Durango are saying it isn’t safe. They’re saying the hotel is going to close real soon so no point in spending money coming here. The Durango Dream can hold a candle to the finest hotels in San Francisco, not to mention Denver, and I’m not going to be forced out of business by some local tradesmen who are jealous of my success!”

Heyes and Curry said nothing, waiting for him to calm down.

“You’ll also want to talk to Mr. Hillstroem.” Todd looked at his new employees. “I hope you realize how serious this is. If people in Denver and beyond hear we’re having problems, I could be ruined.”

Todd leaned back in his chair. “Also, you’ll need some spending money so I’m giving you each fifty dollars. The men usually play poker in the evenings and I’m sure you’d be welcome to join in.”

Heyes looked thoughtful at that last comment.

“That’s very kind of you, sir. Thank you,” Curry said. He and Heyes stood up, realizing their meeting was at an end.  

Todd walked them to the door. “Kindness has nothing to do with it. I want these problems stopped. One more thing. I’ll expect a report from you every day on your progress. Come here to my office before dinner. It won’t look unusual for us to have drinks together at that time. I’m not sure why Mr. McCreedy thinks you may be able to help me but if he says you can, that’s good enough for me.”

“Well, sir,” Heyes smiled, “We’ve had some experience in matters like this.”

“We’ll do our best to find out what’s goin’ on, Mr. Todd,” Curry assured him.

“You’d better do more than that, boys. I need to put an end to these problems and you’re my last hope.” Todd looked at the men in front of him again. He liked what he saw. “You find out what’s going on and I’ll be very grateful.”

“You got yourself a deal, Mr. Todd,” Heyes responded. “Come on, Thaddeus, let’s get to work.”

* * *

“Heyes, you got any ideas?”

“About what, Kid?”

Curry glanced at his partner. They were walking the perimeter of the hotel and checking the layout of the grounds.

“About who’s causin’ all these problems.”

“Not yet. But I will soon.”

“Yeah? How you know that?”

“’Cos I got a brain, Kid, and I can figure things out.”

“Well, have you at least figured out what we’re gonna do first?”

Heyes turned and looked at his friend. “Kid, we’ll see all the guests at dinner. We’ll play poker afterwards and size up the men.” Heyes reconsidered. “Maybe it’d be better if I was the only one playing poker.”

“Why’s that, Heyes?” A hurt look crossed Curry’s face. “I can play poker almost as good as you.”

“Yeah, but you’re better at gabbing with the ladies than you are at poker. Wouldn’t you like the chance to get to know them a little better?” Heyes asked mischievously.

Disappointment was replaced by a look of anticipation. “You’re right, Heyes. I gotta do my share. You go play with the men and I’ll take care of the ladies.”

“I’m sure you will,” Heyes grinned.

Curry decided good manners meant he needn’t respond.

Having completed their walk around the hotel, Curry and Heyes next made their way to the barn. Opening the door, they saw several horses and cows tethered in stalls. A ladder led to a hayloft and Curry climbed up to see what it held.

“Just some hay bales and farm tools,” he called down.

“What’d you think’d be there? A written confession explaining who was behind everything?”

Curry glared as he stepped off the ladder. “Someone coulda been usin’ the place to hide stuff. It don’t look like it gets much use.”

“Guess so.” Heyes conceded the point. “Come on. Let’s check out that storage shed.”

The building was about fifty yards from the barn, closer to the area where the guests had their ski lessons. The door was padlocked.

“Now what, Heyes? We don’t have the key.”

“Kid, you do remember who you’re talking to, don’t you?”

“Yeah, Heyes,” Curry sighed, deeply. “But how you gonna explain to Todd we went inside, when he knows he didn’t give us the key?”

“Simple. We won’t tell him. Come on.” Heyes picked the lock and entered the shed.

Curry looked back towards the hotel to make sure no one saw them and then followed Heyes inside.

“Ow!”

“Will you watch what you’re doing?” Heyes snapped.

“I would if I could see! Sheesh, Heyes, don’t you have any matches?” Curry rubbed his leg.

“What, and burn the place down? That’s a sure-fire way to let Todd know we been in here. Settle down, will you, Kid?”

Curry grumbled in annoyance. “Let’s just hurry up and get outta here. It’s gettin’ close to dinnertime.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake! It won’t hurt you to miss a meal once in a while. We need to look at this stuff.”

Heyes went over to a rack that held ten pairs of long, thin wooden boards. They ranged in length from eight to ten feet and were about six inches wide. Heyes examined one ski and noted the leather strap about halfway down from the tip attached to either side of the ski. Kinda like a stirrup, he thought. A piece of wood a few inches behind it was also attached to the ski. Apparently they worked together to hold the foot in place.

“Kid, take a look at this.” Heyes was intrigued but Curry didn’t share his enthusiasm.

“They’re the skis, right?” he asked. “What about ‘em?” Curry didn’t know why Heyes was so excited.

“Yeah, must be. What do you think?”

“About what, Heyes? I don’t know nothin’ about skis.”

“Don’t you want to try it, Kid? Mac was right; it does look fun.”

“No, it don’t. But I don’t suppose that’s gonna stop us from doin’ it, is it?” Curry knew there was nothing he could say that would prevent Heyes from trying out the skis the first chance he got. “No matter how cold it is, you just gotta try it, don’t you?”

“Uh huh.” Heyes’ brown eyes sparkled in the dark.

“Fine,” Curry gave in. “Can we go back and eat now?”

“Sure, Kid. We’re done here.”

* * *

The hotel restaurant was less than half-filled when Curry and Heyes arrived. They scanned the room and chose a table in the back, where they could observe all the other guests.

“Looks good,” Heyes said, eyeing his fillet of beef with mushrooms appreciatively. A baked potato and sliced tomatoes filled his plate, and buttermilk rolls were on a platter next to it.

“Um hmm.” Curry was already digging into his roast beef and mashed potatoes. The stewed beans and soda biscuits were also soon devoured.

The two men focused on their dinner, but not so much that they didn’t see what was going on elsewhere in the restaurant. They quickly identified the Conkling family, although the children were in their teen years, not youngsters as Heyes and Curry had expected.

“Look over there.” Heyes nodded his head slightly at two men sitting near the door. “You suppose that’s Phillips and Granby?”

“Reckon so.” The first thing Curry noted was that both men wore guns under their ill-fitting suit jackets. The second thing he noted was that both men were looking at him and Heyes. He smiled at them, acknowledging their mutual curiosity, before turning back to his food and his partner.

“I think we ought to find out about everybody who’s here,” Heyes proposed. “I doubt the Conklings are involved but it won’t hurt to know more about them.”

Heyes’ eyes swept the room and rested on two older women, one with reddish-brown hair and the other with hair turning gray. “Now there’s two suspicious people!”

Curry followed Heyes’ gaze. The women spoke quietly to each other and were clearly enjoying their meal.

At the last occupied table sat a couple, presumably Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. From the way they looked at each other, they were not having a pleasant dinner conversation.

“What do you think they’re arguing about, Kid?”

“I dunno. The weather, maybe? Can’t be the food! This is one of the best meals I ever had!” Curry leaned back in his chair and signaled to the waiter that they were ready for dessert. “Just think--a whole month of this, Heyes!” He sighed with contentment as his apple pie was set in front of him.

Heyes took a bite of his blackberry pie before responding. “Changing your mind about the job, are you?” he teased.

“Well, we can’t let Uncle Mac down, now, can we?” Curry grinned.

Silence ensued until they finished their dessert and coffee.

The two men rose and Heyes said, “Guess I’ll go see about that poker game.”

“Try not to win too much tonight, Heyes,” Curry reminded him.

“And don’t you go off rescuing the ladies from some imaginary problem.”

Heyes followed the men into the game room and Curry heard him being made welcome. He smiled to himself and wondered how much money his partner would manage to win. He tried to figure out how to approach the Carleton sisters, who were walking ahead of him in the hotel lobby.

“Pardon me, ladies.” They turned when Curry spoke. “I couldn’t help but hear you,” he apologized, “And if you’ll permit me, I’d be happy to escort you. It might not be safe to walk around outside by yourselves,” he explained. “It being dark, and cold, and, and all,” he finished lamely.

The two sisters looked at each other, amused. “Well, Mr…?”

“Jones, ma’am. Thaddeus Jones, ma’am.” Curry nodded to each woman.

“Well, Mr. Jones, thank you for your offer. We’ve been taking nightly walks for the past week and nothing’s happened so far,” the reddish-brown haired woman tried to discourage him.

“But,” her gray-haired sister continued, “It would be a pleasure to talk with another guest for a while. You are a guest, are you not, Mr. Jones?” She didn’t wait for his answer. “It does get a bit tiresome talking with the same person for days on end, don’t you agree, dear?” She introduced herself. “My name is Minerva Carleton and this is my sister, Letitia Carleton. Shall we go?”

* * *

Heyes, meanwhile, was thoroughly enjoying the poker. The entertainment provided by the piano player and singer also put him in a good mood.

“You’re doing well tonight, Mr. Smith,” Granby nodded at the pile of money accumulating in front of Heyes.

“Beginner’s luck, I’m sure.”

“I hope that’s all it is,” Phillips scowled. When he saw the look on Granby’s face, he added with a half smile, “Wouldn’t want to lose all my money the first night you’re here.”

“You’re doing well yourselves,” Heyes pointed out.

Granby laughed. “Cards are in our favor tonight, that’s all.”

The conversation flowed, whiskey was consumed, money was lost and won, and Heyes was eminently satisfied.

“Gentlemen, I think I’ll call it a night,” he announced an hour later. “Don’t worry,” Heyes said, looking around the table and noting their concern. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”

* * *

The clock on the dresser read 10 o’clock when Heyes returned to their suite.

“How much you win, Heyes?” Curry asked, not bothering to look up from where he was sitting in his chair, cleaning his gun.

“Three hundred.” He held out his winnings and grinned.

“Oh, Heyes!” Then a thought occurred to Curry. “How’d they take it, you winnin’ so much? I thought you were goin’ to go slow tonight. What happened?”

Heyes sat down in the other chair. “There were some pretty big pots on the table and I made sure I didn’t win them all. Everyone was real friendly-like.”

“So what’d you find out?”

“Well, it seems Owen Todd and the Durango Dream aren’t doing near as well as it looks. And some of the guests have heard talk in town about it. Gilbert Anderson said some of the prettiest waitresses at a couple restaurants quit their jobs because the wages are better at the hotel.”

“Anderson said that, huh? Maybe that’s what they were arguin’ about. His wife not likin’ him lookin’ at other women,” Curry chuckled.

“And,” Heyes went on, “Conkling said the livery in town lost some employees, too. Todd hired them to work in the stable here and as drivers for the wagons and coaches.”

“Todd’s got himself a lot of people in town who ain’t too happy with him,” Curry said thoughtfully.

“Right. But here’s the interesting part, Kid. All that money Todd’s paying out, it ain’t his own. Granby said Todd got a loan from the bank and hasn’t paid it back yet. Phillips said Todd got a line of credit to buy building materials for the Durango Dream at the mercantile and he owes a lot of money there, too.”

Curry asked, “But how would Granby and Phillips know about that?”

“Exactly! That’s what makes it interesting! There’s a couple other things to consider…” Heyes hesitated.

Curry narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“Well…”

“Come on, Heyes. Just say it!”

“Well… If Todd is overextended and having money problems, maybe he’s the one behind all these rumors and accidents.”

“How’s that?”

“Think about it. What better way to avoid paying back money he don’t have? Make it look like the hotel is a failure and then collect the insurance on it.”

“There’s a surprise; a dishonest businessman,” Curry muttered. Louder, he said, “But that don’t make sense. Why would he hire us, then?”

“I don’t know,” Heyes admitted. “I don’t have that part figured out yet.”

“Well, if that’s what’s going on, we got a problem. How’s he gonna pay us if he don’t got any money?”

“Yeah, that occurred to me, too, Kid. But we got an even bigger problem.”

“Bigger than not being paid for a job? What’s bigger than that?”

“Getting recognized.” Heyes let that sink in.

“Who? Granby and Phillips?”

“Yeah. When Conkling asked why I’d come here and I said I was here with my business partner to learn about managing a hotel, ‘cos your uncle was thinking of opening one in Texas, Granby and Phillips looked at me kind of strange and started asking all sorts of questions. Kid, something just ain’t right about them two.”

“What do you want to do about it?” Curry deferred to his partner.

“Let’s go down to Durango tomorrow and check things out for ourselves. But now, tell me what you found out from the ladies.”

“Heyes, it was really easy! Minerva Carleton, that’s the gray-haired one, she knows all about everyone. She and her sister, Letitia, live in Colorado Springs. You remember, where Harry Briscoe said they have those springs people go to for their health?” He waited until Heyes nodded. “Well, Minerva said the Andersons go there every year during the season.”

Heyes raised his eyebrows. “The season?”

“Yeah. The time of year the springs are best for people.” Curry shrugged. “Never mind that. Minerva said the Andersons are well-known because Gilbert owns some hotels in Denver and Colorado Springs.”

“So maybe he’s looking to expand in Durango,” Heyes mused. “Forcing Todd to sell the Durango Dream cheaply would be good business for him.”

“Yeah. Then Minerva told me about the Conklings. Heyes, Edith Conkling’s father was a senator! They can’t be involved,” Curry contended.

“Did Minerva say what Mr. Conkling does?” Heyes asked.

Curry deflated. “Owns a bank north of New York City.”

“So he could be involved in some way.”

“I suppose,” Curry acceded. “But they got kids. And they’re famous, and rich, and from the East. Why would they bother with a hotel in Colorado?”

“I don’t know, Kid. But maybe there’s a connection somewhere. What did Minerva tell you about Phillips and Granby? And how’d you get her to tell you so much, anyway?”

“It was no problem at all, Heyes,” Curry smirked.

After waiting in vain for the details, which were not forthcoming, Heyes repeated his question.

“That was interesting. It was Letitia who talked about them. She said they said they were businessmen from Virginia City, something to do with mining. But she wasn’t sure she believed them, she said, because they didn’t look like they were in mining.”

Heyes laughed. “What does she think miners should look like?”

“Dirty and smelly. She actually sniffed when she said it!” Curry smiled as he recalled Letitia’s response when he’d asked that same question. “Letitia doesn’t talk much but I think she sees a lot that goes on around here.”

“Well, considering the way Phillips and Granby acted in the poker game, she might be right,” Heyes agreed.

“There sure are a lot of people we got to investigate.”

“So let’s get a good night’s rest and start bright and early tomorrow.”

* * *

After breakfast the next morning, they boarded the train to Durango. Kid sat facing his partner. “We robbed this train, didn’t we, Heyes?”  

“You know we did. Twice.” Heyes glanced around to make sure no one could hear them. “But it was closer to Denver, not around here, so I think we’re safe.”

“You think maybe another gang is robbin’ Todd of his supplies? Or maybe someone from the railroad is involved in robbin’ him?”

“I don’t know, Kid. We have to check out every possibility.”
fleaning forward. He had a pack on his back and was holding a long pole in one hand.    

“That must be one of those mailmen Todd was telling us about. So that’s what skiing looks like,” Heyes said, fascinated. He decided that knowing how to ski might come in handy if he and Curry ever had to leave a town quickly in winter. He doubted a posse would be able to catch them if they were on skis.

Curry watched the mailman until he was out of view. He also realized the advantages of being able to ski and some of his earlier reluctance disappeared. “Okay,” he grudgingly said, “I get it.”

The train arrived in Durango and the men split up to investigate the rumors they had heard from the hotel guests and to learn whatever else they could about Todd’s business dealings with the people of the town.

They met up again a few hours later. Curry had checked out the saloons and restaurants and Heyes had looked into the various businesses mentioned by his fellow poker players. He also made a stop at the telegraph office. Both had learned that Owen Todd was not a popular man in Durango.

“A lot of people don’t like him,” Curry stated. They sat in a saloon eating lunch and discussing what they had found out.

“I know,” Heyes agreed. “But it seems more like it’s just talk. I don’t think most of the people here in town realize how shaky his financial situation really is.”

“Well, if you’re rulin’ out the townspeople, who we got left?”

“I’m not ruling all of them out just yet. There’s still the hotel guests and staff. And maybe there’s someone we haven’t thought of.” Heyes wiped his face with his napkin and looked at his partner, who was almost finished. “Let’s take a ski lesson from Hillstroem when we get back and find out what he thinks is going on.”

Curry thought about eating more slowly but decided he couldn’t put off the inevitable forever.

* * *

_________________
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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Re: Moguls by Ghislaine Emrys
Post on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 12:58 am by royannahuggins

Sven Hillstroem selected two pairs of skis from the rack next to the storage shed. Hefting them onto his shoulders, he carried them over to where Heyes and Curry were waiting and dropped them on the ground.

“Here you are, gentlemen. These are a good fit for you. Let me show you how to put them on.” Hillstroem first demonstrated with his own skis and then helped his students to properly fit their feet into the bindings. They stood awkwardly, using the poles Hillstroem gave them for support and to anchor themselves in one place.

“For your first lesson, you will learn how to go forward and how to stop. It’s really very simple,” Hillstroem assured them. “Watch what I do.” He turned his legs so the tips of his skis almost touched each other and pushed off with his pole, then leaned forward and skied several yards down the hill before stopping.

“Did you see what I did to stop?” he yelled back. Curry and Heyes shook their heads.

“Watch me again,” Hillstroem instructed and he skied partway down the hill, then climbed back up. “What did I do when I wanted to stop?”

Curry answered him. “You dug your skis in. You bent your knees so the inside edge of the skis dug into the ground.”

“You used the pressure of your legs on the skis to create friction against the snow, and that made you stop.” Heyes gave a more scientific answer. “And you also used your pole to slow you down.”

Hillstroem nodded in approval. “Ja. Now, who would like to try?” he asked.

“Me!” Heyes eagerly responded. Curry was more than happy to let his partner go first.

Heyes twisted his legs so his skis were at the appropriate angle, pushed off with his pole as he had seen Hillstroem do, moved about two feet, and fell down.

Curry burst out laughing.

Heyes glared at his partner. He scrambled back onto his feet, not without difficulty, and got into position again. He pushed off and this time he managed to glide about ten feet before falling.

“Shut up, Thaddeus,” Heyes warned him. “I haven’t seen you try it yet.”

Curry promptly stopped laughing.

“You have to always lean forward, Mr. Smith,” Hillstroem told him. “You’re falling because your center of gravity is in the wrong place.”

Heyes thought about that, then tried again. This time, he skied several yards down the hill and was even able to remain on his feet when he stopped. But now another problem presented itself. “Uh, Mr. Hillstroem, how do I get back up the hill?”

Hillstroem smiled and Curry hid his own grin. “That’s the second lesson. For now, you can just take your skis off, Mr. Smith, and walk up with them.”

Heyes reached the top of the hill. “Your turn,” he told Curry, looking forward to seeing him fall down.

Curry positioned himself as he had seen Hillstroem do, leaned forward, pushed off, and skied partway down the hill before gracefully stopping. He took off his skis and climbed back up to where the two men were standing.

“Very good, Mr. Jones,” Hillstroem praised him.

“You’re right, Joshua, this is a lot of fun,” Curry smirked. “Think I’ll try it again.” He skied away before Heyes had a chance to say anything.

When Curry arrived at the top of the hill again, Heyes was scowling. “Just ‘cos you were the one jumping on moving targets all the time don’t mean I can’t do this, too.”

“Never said you couldn’t.”

“You were thinking it.”

“You’re the one who thinks, remember? I’m the man of action,” Curry reminded him. “That’s why you were leader of the gang.”

“Gang?” Hillstroem questioned.

Heyes and Curry flinched; they hadn’t realized he was so close by.

“Uh, yeah. When we, uh, were kids, we, uh, had a gang,” Curry improvised. “Joshua here was the leader. He was always dreamin’ up crazy things for us to do. Seemed like I always got the dangerous jobs,” he added wickedly.

Heyes glowered but Curry gazed back blandly, knowing his partner couldn’t say anything outright in front of the ski instructor.

Hillstroem laughed. “Ja, I know what you mean. I have four younger brothers and I was always telling them what to do.” He looked at Heyes with sympathy. “They never appreciate us, do they?”

Curry snorted.

“So, Mr. Hillstroem,” Heyes began, glad to change the subject, “Is skiing really safe?”

“Of course, ja. We have for many years been skiing in Norway; it is very safe.”

“Well, we heard there’ve been some accidents…”

“And we don’t like to take a lot of risks anymore,” Curry added.

Hillstroem jabbed his pole into the ground. “Ja, some skis were damaged. The bindings were loose and some poles were broken. They were not accidents!” he said angrily.

“What happened?” Heyes asked.

“I don’t know! But if I find out who is responsible…” Hillstroem didn’t finish the sentence. After a moment, he continued. “I am in charge of the skiing here. If someone uses damaged equipment, he could be seriously hurt, and I would be blamed.” The ski instructor was clearly incensed at the thought. “I have a good reputation in your country and I will not have it ruined!”

“Joshua, my feet are gettin’ frostbite.” Curry got Heyes’ attention and shivered dramatically.

“You haven’t been outside for even one hour! What’s the matter with you? Can’t tolerate a little cold in your old age?” Heyes mocked.

Curry ignored him and returned his skis to the rack. “Thank you, Mr. Hillstroem.”

“Yes, thank you. We’ll be back tomorrow for another lesson,” Heyes promised.

* * *

“So, gentlemen, what have you found out?”

Heyes and Curry were in Todd’s office drinking his whiskey which, along with the baths they’d taken earlier, were helping to finally thaw them out. At least, Heyes reflected, listening to Todd’s problems meant he didn’t have to hear Curry complain any more about how cold he was.

“Well, sir, we went into town this morning,” Todd nodded to show he already knew, and Heyes found that rather interesting. “We talked to quite a number of people but we don’t have a clear idea of who’s behind your problems.”

Todd wasn’t happy to receive this information. “Surely you must have some sense of who is causing all this trouble?”

Curry backed up his partner. “No, sir, not yet. As soon as we do, we’ll let you know.”

“We want to be absolutely certain,” Heyes said, “And if we can get proof, that’d be better. We don’t want to make a false accusation and ruin someone’s reputation.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Todd reluctantly acknowledged the truth of what they said. “But work quickly. Some of my friends in town tell me there’s a rumor going around that I borrowed money from the bank and can’t pay it back. That’s not the kind of news I need right now.”

“We did hear that rumor, yes,” Heyes admitted. To his disappointment, but not his surprise, Todd neither confirmed nor denied it.

“Is there anything else you can tell me, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones?”

“Well,” Curry avoided looking at Heyes, “We tried the skiing today and it actually was kinda fun. I think you may be on to something, sir.”

“More importantly,” added Heyes, “We don’t think Mr. Hillstroem is involved. He’s very angry about the damage to the skis and we don’t think he’s faking it.”

“Well, that’s good news!” Todd was relieved. “At least I don’t have to worry about that.”

Todd looked at the men he’d hired. They had done very little, it seemed to him, and he hoped his confidence in them hadn’t been misplaced. He kept his uncertainty from showing on his face as he dismissed them. “Thank you, gentlemen. Please give me an update this time tomorrow.”

* * *

When they entered the hotel restaurant, Curry and Heyes found all the other guests had already arrived. As they stood at the entrance trying to decide where to sit, the Carleton sisters waved to Curry.

He and Heyes approached their table. “Ladies?” he questioned.

“Do join us, Mr. Jones, you and your friend,” invited Minerva Carleton.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Curry accepted. “This is my business partner, Mr. Joshua Smith.”

“Pleased to meet you, ladies.” Heyes charmed them both.

The men sat down and ordered their meal. Curry and Heyes subtly questioned the sisters about the hotel guests and employees as they ate and were not unaware that the ladies were, in turn, delicately interrogating them about their backgrounds. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening for everyone.

Afterwards, the ladies retired to their room and the men joined the poker game, which was just beginning. Curry played well, Heyes played better, and each was satisfied not only with the game but also with what they learned about the other men sitting at the table.

Back in their suite, they discussed the day’s events.

“You’re right, Kid, they are nice ladies. A bit old for you, though, I think,” Heyes teased.

Ignoring that, Curry said, “You heard what they said about the Conklings. We can rule them out, don’t you think, Heyes?”

“Yeah, probably. It don’t seem like they’re involved, but we need to make sure.”

“How we gonna do that?”

“Oh, I had an idea about that. Just need to wait a few days to see if it works.”

Curry grinned as Heyes explained his plan.

Then Heyes asked, “So what’d you think of Phillips and Granby?”

“You’re right about them. They were lookin’ at us when they thought we wouldn’t notice. It wasn’t that look that means they recognized us. But I still don’t like it.”

“Yeah. They know we’re not real businessmen but they don’t know who we really are.”

“What I’d like to know is who they really are. Letitia Carleton read them right. They sure aren’t miners. Did you see the way they wore their guns?”

“Uh huh,” Heyes confirmed. “What do you think?”

“I think we need to be careful.”

“I’m in complete agreement with you there, Kid.”

* * *

Later that week, Curry and Heyes were summoned to Todd’s office in mid-morning. The hotel owner was livid.

“What have you been doing since you got here?” he yelled. “When are you going to solve these problems, or are you too incompetent to do that?”

“We’ve been working,” Heyes said coldly. “We’ve ruled out the Conklings, the Carletons, and the Andersons.”

“That’s all you’ve managed to do?” Todd scoffed. “Not good enough! That still leaves Granby, Phillips, and all the townspeople. I can’t afford any more problems, is that clear?”

“What happened, sir? Has there been another accident?” Heyes tried to calm him down. He was not successful.

“What happened? I’ll tell you what’s happened! My train’s been robbed, that’s what happened!”

“Your train?” Curry echoed.

“Yes, my train!” Todd shouted. “The Denver and Rio Grande. I own it.”

Todd had to slow down to catch his breath. “Well, part of it.” He explained, “I’m one of the owners. Mr. McCreedy is another. That’s how we know each other. From stockholder meetings.”

Heyes and Curry shared a horrified look.

“Sit down and I’ll fill you in.” Todd himself sat down heavily in the chair behind his desk.

Heyes and Curry gladly sank down into the other chairs in the room.

“I was expecting a food shipment today,” Todd began. “But the train arrived without it and the engineer told my man who was waiting that the train had been stopped after it left Durango. The thieves made him take the food for the hotel off the train, and then they rode away with it. That was a week’s supply, gentlemen. It costs a considerable amount of money to buy fresh food in the winter and I want it back!”

“Could the engineer describe the men who did this?” Heyes asked.

Todd shook his head. “No. He said there were only two of them but they covered their faces. He didn’t think he’d recognize them if he saw them again.”

“But this train has been robbed before, gentlemen,” Todd continued. “The Devil’s Hole Gang robbed it a few times, up near Denver. Could be they decided to try their luck here; maybe they thought it’d be easier away from the city.”

“Uh, how do you know it was the Devil’s Hole Gang that robbed you, sir?” Heyes avoided looking at Curry.

“Because they were stupid enough to announce who they were, that’s how. At least, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry did. If I ever find out what those two miserable outlaws look like, I’ll personally make sure their pictures are on all their wanted posters in Colorado. In the meantime, all I can do is offer that reward and hope someone catches them soon.”

Curry winced. Heyes managed to smile as he replied evenly, “I heard Heyes and Curry gave up robbing trains. From what I’ve heard of those two, stealing food isn’t their style. I don’t think the Devil’s Hole Gang is involved in this.”

“No, I suppose you’re right,” Todd agreed unenthusiastically. “I never heard of them stealing anything but money from the trains they robbed. No, it’s probably some other gang.”

“Yeah,” Heyes said with relief. “Let’s go talk to the engineer, Thaddeus. Maybe he’ll remember something useful. We’ll see you later, sir.”

Heyes and Curry escaped from the office.

* * *

Back in their suite, Curry let out his breath. “Heyes…” He couldn’t continue.

Heyes brushed his hair back with his hand. “Yeah, Kid, I know.”

“How could Mac do this to us?” Curry shook his head in disbelief. “You don’t think he told Todd who we are, do you?”

“No. You heard how angry he was about the Devil’s Hole Gang. If he knows who we are, do you think he would’ve let us walk out of there?”

“Maybe he does know who we are and he’s just waiting for us to find the real thieves, then he’ll take us all in to the law at the same time.”

“I don’t think so but that’s a risk we’re going to have to take, Kid. We can’t just leave now. It’d look too suspicious.”

“Sure we can, Heyes. You can think of a good excuse.”

“I could, but I’m not going to.” Heyes looked at his partner. “Kid, don’t you think it’d look odd if we left now? Besides, you want that money he’s going to pay us, don’t you?”

“I want to stay outta jail more than I want the money, Heyes.”

“Well, I also want go back to Red Rock and see what Mac has to say about this, and we’d have a much stronger hand if we solved Todd’s problems first.”

He didn’t like it, but Curry trusted Heyes to know what he was doing. “All right, Heyes, we’ll do it your way. I just hope you’re right.”

* * *

The next day, the guests from the Durango Dream, accompanied by Sven Hillstroem, stood with other spectators at the top of a mountain.

A well-dressed man made his way to the line where three men with very long skis waited. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “I’m Ambrose Pettigrew, owner of this silver mine. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the first longboard race of the season. We have several races lined up for today and I’m proud to announce that the winner of each race will receive $250.00.”

The spectators gasped at the generous amount of prize money. Heyes decided he had to get a lot more proficient at skiing real soon. Curry wondered if he could enter one of the upcoming races.

Pettigrew was still speaking. “And so, I recommend that after you watch a few races from up here, you go down to the bottom of the mountain so you can see the racers ski across the finish line. Believe me, folks, it’s not something you want to miss. Ladies and gentlemen, on the count of three, the first race will begin. One… Two… Three!” He banged a gong to signal the start.

The racers pushed off with their poles. It took them three or four pushes to pick up speed but when they did, everyone was amazed at how fast they went. The race was over in less than twenty seconds.

“Sheesh, did you see that, Joshua?”

“Barely,” Heyes replied dryly.

“The dope the racers put on the bottom of their skis increases their speed,” Hillstroem explained. “Everyone has their own secret formula but I know some of the ingredients are cedar oil, spermaceti, and turpentine.”

Heyes was curious about something he’d seen the racers do. “There was one place when it looked like the racers were jumping up and down when they were skiing. Why were they doing that?”

“You mean the moguls?” Hillstroem asked. “Sometimes there are bumps in the snow and when there are a lot of them close together, it creates that effect. Some racers like to ski over them but I prefer deep powder myself.”

“Maybe we’ll see things better if we’re at the finish line.” Curry decided he was enjoying himself and looked forward to seeing more races.

“I doubt it.” Nevertheless, Heyes followed the rest of the spectators down the mountain.

“Hey,” he said, grabbing Curry’s arm to slow him down. “Look over there.” He nodded to where Pettigrew was talking with Granby and Phillips, near the bottom of the mountain.

Curry observed the three men talking animatedly. “Looks like they know each other. What do you think they’re talkin’ about?”

“Somehow, I don’t think it’s the price of silver,” Heyes responded.

A few minutes later, Heyes and Curry joined the other spectators at the bottom. Looking around, they spotted Granby and Phillips and sauntered over to them.

“Enjoyin’ the racin’, fellas?” Curry asked.

“Sure,” Phillips replied.

“Nice of Mr. Pettigrew to tell you all about it himself,” Heyes added innocently.

“Huh?” Granby said. “Oh, we, uh, just wanted to talk to him about his silver mine. Seein’ as we’re in the mining business too, you know.”

“But he said he didn’t have time now; he was too busy with the races.” Phillips shrugged. “He told us if we made an appointment with his secretary, he’d be happy to talk to us another time.”

“Oh well,” Heyes laughed. “You know how some businessmen are.”

“Well, we’re not like that!” Phillips assured him. “If someone asked us for help, we’d be right happy to give it, wouldn’t we, Lucas?”

“Sure would,” Granby confirmed. “We’re real good at persuadin’ folks to do what’s best for them.”

“Glad to hear that, boys. Makes doing business with some people a real pleasure,” Curry put in.

As Heyes and Curry left them to join the ladies, they were more convinced than ever that Granby and Phillips were hiding something.

After the last race, Hillstroem made an announcement. “Since you have now seen some real ski races, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to be in a race. You’ve all been taking skiing lessons and have made much progress. If you are interested, please tell me and I’ll arrange everything for a race tomorrow at the hotel.”

There were excited murmurs from all the guests except the Andersons. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. We will start at ten o’clock. Please come to the ski area at that time.”

* * *

“Wake up, Kid.” Heyes pulled back the quilt from his partner’s bed.

Curry moaned and pulled it back over his head. “Leave me alone, Heyes. I’m tired.”

“Well, who told you to stay up all night watching the storage shed?”

“You did.”

“Well, yeah, but you could’ve come and got me. I would’ve kept watch too, you know.”

“After the way you went on and on ‘bout that poker game and how much money you could win? Don’t think so.” Curry made no move to get up.

“Fine. Sleep some more. Maybe I’ll have a better chance of winning the race if you’re so tired.”

That roused Curry and several minutes later the two of them went down for breakfast.

Promptly at ten, they and the other participants, along with a number of hotel employees who’d been given time off, assembled at the ski area.

Hillstroem organized the racers. “Mr. and Mrs. Conkling, you have the honor of skiing first. The children will go after their parents. We’ll have the Misses Carleton next, followed by Mr. Granby and Mr. Phillips, and Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones will be the last racers on the program. Good luck to everyone!”

After the Conkling family finished racing, it was the Carleton sisters’ turn. Todd pronounced Letitia the winner, and Minerva looked on proudly as her older sister accepted her prizes: a certificate and a freshly-baked pumpkin pie from the hotel kitchen.

Granby and Phillips were already impatiently waiting at the start line. Phillips pushed off before Hillstroem finished counting to three and had to be called back. Granby scowled as Phillips put his skis back on. They had a clean start the second time and Granby won.

“I spotted Phillips cheating at poker,” Heyes murmured.

“Man like that don’t deserve to win,” Curry stated.

He and Heyes walked over to their skis, put them on, and crouched down into position at the start line.

“May the best man win!”

“Good luck to you, too, Thaddeus.”

They pushed off and Curry, unsurprisingly, took an early lead.

Heyes concentrated on staying upright as he watched his friend ski down the hill.

Suddenly, Curry fell and wasn’t able to stop tumbling over and over as he slid down the mountain and towards the trees at the edge of the slope.

“Thaddeus!” Heyes yelled, willing his skis to go faster. But he couldn’t make a sideways turn to reach Curry so he deliberately fell down to stop himself. He shook off his skis and tried to run through the snow but it was too deep for him to go very fast.

A blur went past him and Heyes realized it was Hillstroem, who reached Curry first. When Heyes finally got there, he was relieved to see Curry sitting up.

“You okay?” Heyes asked him, concern evident in his eyes.

Curry reassured him. “I’m fine, Joshua. Just a little sore is all.”

Curry tried to stand up but Hillstroem stopped him. “Just a moment, Mr. Jones. Let me make sure you’re all right.” He patted Curry’s legs and looked at him in confusion when he felt cloth instead of expected bone.

Heyes smiled and admitted, “We were expecting something to happen.”

“Someone could’ve been seriously hurt! Why didn’t you warn me so I could prevent it?” Hillstroem’s relief that Curry wasn’t injured was overshadowed by his anger.

“Well, if we’d done that, how would we know who was responsible?” Heyes asked logically.

“You do want them stopped, don’t you?” asked Curry pointedly.

“Ja, of course, but…”

“Mr. Hillstroem,” Heyes cut in, “We’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything about this to anyone. We’re going to go meet the others now so Thaddeus can tell them he’s all right.”

“Mr. Smith has a plan and if it works, all these problems will be over real soon,” Curry soothed the ski instructor.

At the top of the hill, the Carleton sisters, Todd and even the Conklings solicitously crowded around Curry to make sure he hadn’t been injured badly. Heyes noted with annoyance how his partner basked in the attention.

“Thaddeus, you need to rest after your ordeal,” Heyes told him. Curry shot him a glare that no one else saw.

“You’re right, Joshua. Could you help me up to our room?” Heyes rolled his eyes, knowing Curry was perfectly able to walk on his own. But, following the plan, Heyes let his partner sling an arm around his shoulder and he took Curry’s weight as they slowly walked over to the hotel.

* * *

“Heyes, were we right?”

“Yup. I didn’t see them after you fell and they didn’t come back to the hotel with us.”

“We got enough evidence to prove it?”

“We just need to tell Todd and the sheriff can deal with that, Kid.”

They knocked on the door to Todd’s office and entered to find him staring out the window.

“Mr. Jones, I’m sorry you had such an unfortunate accident,” Todd apologized. “If you need a doctor, I can send for one in Durango.”

“Actually,” Heyes responded, “We’re here because we know who’s been causing all your problems.”

Todd’s face registered first surprise and then impatience. “Well, don’t just stand there! Who is it?”

Curry and Heyes took that as an invitation to sit down and made themselves comfortable.

“Mr. Todd,” Heyes began. “You made some enemies when you built this hotel. A lot of people in Durango weren’t too happy when you hired their workers away from them.”

Todd flushed. “That’s just business. Surely your uncle taught you how to make a profit, Mr. Jones.”

“I have learned a lot from him,” Curry acknowledged. Heyes considered what those lessons were and smothered a wry grin.

“Several people in Durango made threats and we had to look into all of them. We also had to consider that a hotel employee could be behind your problems. And then there were the guests.”

“So there were lots of people we had to investigate,” Curry summed up.

“Did you know that the Andersons are looking to buy hotels in this area? They want to expand from Denver and Colorado Springs and heard land was cheap here. Even cheaper to buy a hotel that’s already built,” said Heyes.

Curry took over the narration. “And the Conklings, well, Mr. Conkling owns a bank that just bought a big stake in the First National Bank of Denver.”

Todd blanched.

“Something wrong, sir?” Curry asked.

“No, no,” he said unconvincingly.

“Mr. Todd,” Heyes said sharply, “We know you have a loan from the Durango branch of the First National Bank. We know this hotel isn’t making enough money to pay back the loan.”

Curry looked his employer directly in the eyes as he said, “So that kinda got us thinkin’ maybe you had somethin’ to do with all this.”

“How dare you!” Todd rejected the accusation. “That’s slander!”

“No, Mr. Todd,” contradicted Heyes. “Thaddeus only said your financial problems made us wonder. We haven’t accused you of anything.”

“In fact, we know you weren’t trying to close down the Durango Dream,” Curry told him.

Mollified, Todd sat back and motioned for them to continue.

“When we went down to Durango last week, I sent a telegram to a friend of mine. Got a reply a couple days ago.” Heyes smiled with satisfaction. “It confirmed our suspicions but we still didn’t have any proof.”

“Got it this morning at the races, though.” Curry unconsciously rubbed his leg.

Todd was getting tired of waiting. “Well, who is it, then?”

Heyes held up one hand. “In a moment, sir. First, you need to know that Minerva and Letitia Carleton had nothing to do with any of this. Neither did Mr. Hillstroem or any of your other employees.”

Todd sighed with relief that he could trust his staff. “You haven’t said anything about Mr. Phillips or Mr. Granby.”

“No, we haven’t,” Curry agreed. “Because they were involved. Mr. Todd, you told us they were in mining.”

“But even we know more about mining than they do. We’ve had some experience with gold, silver and diamond mining,” Heyes laughed. “And we know they’re not miners.”

“But why would Granby and Phillips do all this? Why try to ruin me?”

“Oh, they were just the hired help,” Heyes told Todd. “They did the dirty work but it wasn’t them who was behind all your trouble. It was Ambrose Pettigrew, the man who owns that silver mine near you.”

“Pettigrew?” Todd shook his head in disbelief. “Are you absolutely sure? He’s always been a right friendly neighbor. Always coming over, telling me what a great place this is.”

“Mr. Todd, the Durango Dream is sitting on top of a rich silver vein. It starts in his mine and Pettigrew discovered it continues onto your land. He’s been trying to make you leave ever since.” Heyes had more to say. “Pettigrew figured if he could force you off, he could buy your property real cheap.”

Curry filled in some details. “Pettigrew got the townspeople talkin’ about you, spreadin’ rumors, knowin’ you couldn’t find out who started them. Then he sent Phillips and Granby here; they’re hired guns.”

He added, when Todd opened his mouth to ask, “We’ve had some experience with that, too, sir.” Todd’s eyes slid down to where Curry’s gun was tied to his leg, and believed him.

“We suspected they were involved but we didn’t know who they were working for,” Heyes continued. “That telegram I got gave me some answers. Seems Pettigrew has a reputation. He was forced to leave Virginia City when a business deal went bad but the sheriff couldn’t prove anything. That’s probably how he knew Granby and Phillips.”

Heyes went on. “So when we saw them three talking to each other yesterday, and it looked like they were trying to hide something, we figured they were going to create another accident. We figured it’d probably be at the hotel races today ’cos if someone got hurt then, that’d be real serious. But we didn’t know what they would do so we kept watch the whole night.” He ignored Curry’s snort.

“I saw them go into the storage shed after it got dark. They were in there twenty or thirty minutes and when they came out, they looked mighty pleased,” Curry said. “So I went inside and saw they’d loosened the bindings on all the skis. I fixed everything except on one pair, and I used those skis myself.”

“When I fell, that was intentional.” His face hardened. “We wanted to see what Granby and Phillips would do when it looked like I got hurt. I made sure I wouldn’t be hurt bad by wrapping some padding around my legs but they had to believe I was injured for the plan to work.”

“When Thaddeus was the only one who had an accident, they must’ve realized someone saw them last night. We haven’t seen Phillips or Granby since morning and I don’t think they’re going to come back here,” Heyes concluded.

“Well, that’s some story. Oh, I believe you,” Todd reassured them. “Makes too much sense not to.” He rang a bell on his desk and when one of the reception clerks came in, asked him to find Hillstroem.

They waited in silence until Hillstroem entered. Todd briefed him and asked him to go tell the sheriff in Durango about everything. “The train won’t leave until late afternoon and I don’t want to wait that long. No telling what might happen between now and then. But if you ski down the mountain now, the sheriff can arrest Pettigrew today and he can go look for Phillips and Granby, too.”

Hillstroem agreed and left. Todd looked at Heyes and Curry.

“Gentlemen, I owe you my deepest thanks. If it hadn’t been for you two, I probably never would have found out who was causing these problems.”

“You’re welcome, sir,” Heyes said.

Curry added, “We’re glad we could help a friend of my uncle’s.”

“But you’ve presented me with a problem.” Todd hesitated.

“Oh?” Curry didn’t miss the edge in Heyes’ voice. “What’s that?”

“Well, you’ve been here less than two weeks and, uh, well…” Todd felt himself wilt under Curry’s stare. “You know I’m having a bit of difficulty financially and,” he gathered up his courage, “And I just don’t have the money to pay you right now. Surely you can appreciate that?” he pleaded.

“No, Mr. Todd, we don’t,” Heyes said tightly as Curry continued to stare at Todd. “We had an agreement and we expect you to live up to it.”

“Now, please,” Todd tried to placate them. “I’ll be happy to pay you but I just can’t afford it at this time.”

“I reckon we can stay at the Durango Dream until he’s able to pay us, right, Joshua?”

“Sure, that’s fine. We were supposed to stay two more weeks anyway. You won’t be having any more problems so I bet lots of people will come and stay here now. You’ll have plenty of money in no time.”

Todd looked at the men in front of him and tried not to look at the guns they wore. “Gentlemen, you weren’t the only ones who did some checking. I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but,” he sighed, “There’ll be a train to Durango at 4:30 and I suggest you be on it. I expect the sheriff’ll come by sometime this evening and I don’t think you want to meet up with him, now, do you?”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other. In unison, they stood up and said, “Good-bye, Mr. Todd.”

“Give my regards to Mr. McCreedy!” he called after them, before the door to his office closed.

“You can count on it,” Curry promised.

* * *

Heyes and Curry rode into Red Rock several days later and went directly to the McCreedy ranch. Big Mac congratulated them on a job well done.

“If we did such a good job, we should’ve been paid for it,” Heyes retorted.

Curry just glared at his “uncle.”

“What’s the matter with him?” Big Mac asked, unnerved by Curry’s silence.

“Oh, we’re just trying to figure out why you never told us you own part of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. And if you told Todd who we are. ‘Cos when we left, it sure seemed like he knew.”

“Now, boys. I told you when we first met I owned part of the railroad. Not my fault you didn’t ask which one. What difference does it make, anyway? You know I’d never tell anyone who you really are. I don’t want to put you in any danger.”

Curry’s eyes widened and he opened his mouth as if to speak, but he managed to control his temper.

Even Heyes caught his breath at that blatant lie.

“Isn’t he going to say something?” Big Mac peevishly asked Heyes.

“He’s trying to decide if he can ever trust you again,” Heyes said. “Gotta say, I haven’t made up my mind on that, either. But, you know, I think we can. ‘Cos if it ever got out that Big Mac McCreedy, owner of a bank and a railroad, knew Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, and didn’t turn them in, well, I guess he’d just about be ruined as a businessman.”

Curry finally spoke. “So we’ll just take that bonus you promised us and be on our way.”

“Well, that’s true, I would be ruined. But you’d be in jail, so…” Big Mac smiled, “Here’s what I’ll do about your bonus. I’m going to give you something better than money. It’s called freedom, boys. As long as you keep quiet about me, I’ll keep quiet about you.”

Big Mac’s laughter followed them as Heyes and Curry strode out of the house. At the hitching post, they looked at each other and saw resignation mirrored in their faces.

“Where you want to go, Kid?”

“It don’t matter, Heyes, as long as it’s warm.”

They got on their horses and rode south.
 

Moguls by Ghislaine Emrys

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