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 The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit

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Lana Coombe

Lana Coombe

Posts : 33
Join date : 2013-09-27
Location : UK

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20140409
PostThe Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit

A series of challenges, written as a continuous story, using the given monthly title - a challenge in itself!

Beating the Odds


The beat of their hearts echoed the rhythmic drumming of the horses’ hooves, as they pounded the dry, cracked ground. Clouds of dust rose into the air behind them, floating upwards, hanging for a moment, until they had passed, before descending and settling once more, showing the route they had taken. Every so often they pulled their horses to a stop, as one of them tried to disguise their tracks, by disturbing the dirt with a branch, before remounting and heading on their way, at a swift pace.



The last three days had been spent like this, with only an occasional reprieve, to drink some water and chew on some jerky. The continual exertion and eternal heat was beginning to take its toll, on both men and horses. 



Wordlessly, they had pulled their horses to a stop at the top of a bluff, each scanning the surrounding area in the hope that there would be nothing to see, but once again they were disappointed. The ominous dust ball on the horizon signalled that the twelve, strong posse was still on their trail. With heads hung low, the horses strained for breath, their flanks rising and falling, causing their riders to rock gently in their saddles.



“They sure are a persistent bunch, ain’t they?!”



It was more of a statement than a question and, as such, the man’s partner merely answered with a thoughtful, “Hmm!” as he narrowed his dark eyes, in contemplative thought.



“What d’ya think we should try next, Heyes? These horses ain’t got much left in them and it won’t be long until they get too close for comfort.” He looked hopefully across at the dark, haired man, hands resting on the horn of the saddle, in a seemingly relaxed pose. But neither man felt anything like relaxed, at this moment, each facing a possibility of twenty years in prison or even death. The wanted posters said ‘Dead or Alive’ and it meant just that and most posses weren’t too particular when it came to bringing in wanted outlaws. Especially ones with such a reputation and a substantial reward on their heads.



When no answer was forthcoming, Kid Curry reluctantly offered, “Do you think we should split up?”



He was taken by surprise at Heyes’ quick and sharp response of, “No!” but at the same time, relieved. Their partnership was what had made them so successful and it seemed only right that they should stay together. The Kid waited patiently, watching the approaching dust cloud, apprehension tightening his stomach, as it got closer and closer.



Heyes gathered his reins and gave his partner a reassuring smile, showing the familiar dimples in his cheeks. “Well, we can’t sit here all day waiting for them to catch us up!” he said with a false cheerfulness, as he wheeled his horse up the trail. The Kid sat for a moment, feeling amazed at his partner’s ability to keep good humour in their present predicament, before following faithfully behind.



By the time the skies had begun to darken, with the onset of night, they had reached the rocky foothills of some higher ground. Neither man had spoken for some time, exhaustion and strain getting the better of them.



Eventually, Heyes, who had been leading the way, stopped his horse and untied the bandana from around his throat. He splashed a small amount of water from his canteen onto it and wiped his face and the back of his neck. His partner sat motionless in his saddle, fighting to keep his eyes open, shoulders sagging and stomach rumbling, loudly.



Heyes proffered the canteen in his direction, asking, as he did so, “Reckon we might be able to lose them in the dark over this harder ground?”

The Kid took the canteen and took a small sip, knowing there was little water left and unsure when they’d have the chance to refill it again.



“At this stage, anything is worth a try,” he answered, wearily, passing the canteen back to Heyes, who took a small mouthful himself, before snapping on the lid. 



“Right!” he said, decisively, trying to maintain a positive attitude, as he prepared to urge his tired horse further up the trail.



The horses slowly dragged themselves up the incline, heads down, on a loose rein. Heyes and Kid both clung grimly to their saddle horns, as the horses stumbled their way forward, in the encroaching darkness. After about an hour of this tiresome task, the Kid’s horse finally gave out and stopped in its tracks, refusing to take another step. Its rider didn’t have the energy or will to drive it on and sat forlornly in the saddle, with chin drooped down to his chest. 



Heyes’ horse continued to plod on a little further up the trail, but sensing that the other was not behind it, stopped also. Its rider glanced over his shoulder, at his dejected partner. Heyes felt pretty much the same but he refused to give in now, not after all they had gone through, in the hope of getting amnesty. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself to rally Kid for one last push up to the top of the ridge.



“What you waiting for?” he called down amiably. As he sat and waited for a reply, something caught his eye on the plain below. The flashes of light told him that the posse were still following, carrying torches, so that they could see their trail. Heyes cursed under his breath and then, in a more forceful tone, “Come on, Kid, we’ve got to keep moving!”



The urgency in his partner’s voice galvanised the Kid into action. Taking a deep breath, he gathered the reins and encouraged his horse onwards. They had only gone a short distance, when the trail petered out, to nothing but rock and scrub. The tired horses were finding it nigh on impossible to find space, between the rocks, to place their hooves and finally Heyes and the Kid conceded defeat and dismounted.



The Kid pulled at his horse’s ear and spoke soothingly to it, more to calm himself, than the animal. Heyes stared at the rocky terrain above them, thoughtfully.



“What d’ya reckon’s on the other side?” Heyes queried.



“Knowing our luck, another posse!” came the Kid’s despondent retort. Heyes gave his partner an appreciative smile. Their sense of humour was one of the things that had kept them going through all the troubles of their lives.



“Best not disappoint them then!” came the droll reply, making the Kid let out a small laugh. Without a further word between them, they retrieved what they needed and turned the horses loose. Hopefully, they would move off and leave a false trail that the posse would follow. Together they began to scramble up the rough ground, having to use their hands to steady themselves, in parts.



After about half an hour of climbing they stopped, to take a breath and check their back trail. They were unnerved to see the glow of the posse’s torches coming up the hill but had a brief moment of joy as they began to move off, in the wrong direction, following the horses’ tracks. 



“You reckon we lost ‘em, Heyes?” the Kid asked, breathlessly.



Heyes narrowed his eyes in the darkness, peering into the gloom, in the direction that the glow had come from, saying, “Only for a while, Kid. Posse like this don’t give up too easy.” He reached out in the darkness and gave his partner’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze before continuing his scramble up the incline. Kid Curry took one last glance down the hillside and then followed behind.



Onwards and upwards they climbed, hand over foot, in a desperate effort to distance themselves from their pursuers. Beads of sweat, from the exertion, chilled almost instantaneously, in the cool of the night, intensifying the misery at every step, but still they kept climbing. They neared the pinnacle of the ascent some time later, just as the cold light of dawn began to creep across the rocks, casting lengthening shadows. Finally, Heyes sank down on a boulder, bracing his hands against his knees, struggling to breathe. The Kid joined him, laying back against a larger rock, throwing back his head to rest against it. Both men were having to haul in every breath they took.



“We need to rest, Heyes,” the Kid gasped, between breaths.



“I know,” his partner rasped back, unscrewing the top of the canteen and lifting it to his lips. As he tipped it fully upwards, only a single droplet trickled out. Heyes shook the container with frustration, before tossing it angrily aside.



The Kid pushed himself off the rock and slid down to sit next to Heyes, letting his arms rest loosely on his knees, tipping his head forward, to shield his eyes from the rising sun.



“It’s going to be a hot one today,” he murmured in a soft, low voice. Then, in an equally quiet voice he added, “What we going to do, Heyes?” Memories of a small, tousled, fair-headed kid came back to Heyes, as he remembered the day that had formed their lives, when Jed Curry had looked to him for a reassurance that he wasn’t sure he could give. He felt the same now. 



Not wishing to let his friend down, he replied, “I think we should keep moving and keep as far away from that posse as we can!” Standing up, he reached out his hand and took the Kid’s arm and pulled him to his feet. Wordlessly they began to continue their climb. 



The air was warm and still and both men were parched. The only sound was the click of boot against rock and the draw of their breath. Suddenly, they heard a noise echoing from further down the hillside. It was the reverberation of men’s voices, calling to each other. Their trail had been found and the posse was continuing its pursuit on foot.



A resolute look passed between the partners before they, slowly, continued on their way. A sort while later they reached the top of the ridge, which was formed with vast, craggy rocks that rose upwards, with hard, blank faces. Heyes searched for a way through to the other side, so they could descend down into the valley below, but each way he turned seemed impassable. Panic rose into his chest as he scrambled about the rock face, trying to find a gap wide enough to squeeze through. The Kid looked too, but there seemed to be no way through at this particular point.



“There’s no way through, Heyes,” the Kid said, finally.



“There has to be!” replied his partner, trying to control the desperation he was feeling.



“I could give you a push up,” the Kid offered.



“And how would you get up?” Heyes answered, irritably.



“I’d find a way,” came the nonchalant reply.



“I know what you’re trying to do!” his partner retorted. “I ain’t leaving you, so you can get that idea out of your head!”



“Look, at least if one of us gets away then there would be a chance of helping the other. As it is, we’re pretty much cornered here and …”



“No! We’ll just to have to go back down and try in another place.” Heyes was already making his way down the rocks, hunting for another possible way through. The Kid gave a sigh and began to follow him again when he suddenly froze. A flash of light, a short way off, had caught his eye. He stilled himself and watched again. A movement to his left drew his attention. It was a little way down the hillside but he was pretty sure it had been a man, rifle in hand, moving between the rocks. Taking his own gun from its holster, he checked it was fully loaded. The coolness of the metal in his hand calmed and reassured him that he was still in control. Making his way forwards, he kept scanning the hillside for any further movement, until he reached Heyes, who was about to crawl across a large, smooth rock, making him a visible and open target to anyone who was following.



“Heyes!” the Kid called in a harsh whisper. Heyes looked over his shoulder irritably at his partner. “It ain’t safe to go across there. The posse’s right on our heels.”



Heyes’ eyes widened with this news. He took another desperate look up the rock face at the top of the ridge.



“We’ll never make it. They’ll be able to pick us off like bottles on a log! I think we gotta go back further down and try and make it over to that next ridge,” the Kid said, indicating another group of rocks with a nod of his head.



“And how we gonna make it across there, huh? You thought about that?” Heyes asked impatiently.



“We’ll have to make a run for it. You go first and I’ll cover you. Then you cover me when I run across.” The Kid purposefully did not meet Heyes’ eye, but instead concentrated on checking his gun once more. He did not need to look at his friend to know the expression that would be on his face.



“Oh! You’ve really thought that one through, ain’t ya?” Heyes raised his eyebrows in exasperation.



“You got any better ideas?” The Kid gripped the butt of his gun firmly.



“Nope!”



Heyes manoeuvred himself into a position where he would have a clear run to the other rocks, allowing the Kid to cover his back. He suspected that there were still twelve men out there, all too eager, to do their best, to stop him. His partner stood calmly by his side, with that all too familiar look of stoical concentration on his face. It was at times like these that Heyes understood why he trusted his friend so implicitly.



“Ready?” the Kid asked calmly.



Heyes swallowed hard, wishing they had some whiskey to settle the fear in his stomach. “As I’ll ever be.”



Their eyes met and the Kid nodded his head and gave a soft smile of encouragement. Heyes smiled back and turned to look at the ground he had to cover. It wasn’t that far but he’d be out in the open for a good few seconds, but he’d have Kid covering his back and have the element of surprise on his side. Even if he did make it across, Kid wouldn’t have the same benefits. They’d be waiting for him and Heyes wasn’t such a good shot. He turned to his partner and began to say, “You know, I’ve been thinking! Perhaps you ought to go first …” but the Kid stopped him with a stubborn look.



Heyes readied himself once more. As he made his move, the first deafening shot echoed around the surrounding rocks. He focused on the path ahead of him and began to run as fast as he could, feeling the motion of bullets as they whistled past him and ricochet off the surrounding rocks. Heyes had been a gambler all his life but, for once, he wasn’t sure they could beat the odds …

_________________
'If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor.'


Last edited by Lana Coombe on Thu 10 Apr 2014, 6:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Lana Coombe
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 2
Post Thu 10 Apr 2014, 6:21 pm by Lana Coombe
The Lie


“Are you OK?” 

Hannibal Heyes was crouched down behind a large rock. His partner, Kid Curry was a little ways off, behind a similar rock. 



“Yeah! You?” Heyes sighed with relief at the sound of his partner’s voice.



“Yeah, I’m fine. Can you see them?”



Having been pursued by a relentless posse for the last three days, they had made a desperate attempt to loose them once and for all. Heyes had made a run for cover through the rocks, while the Kid covered him with his gun. Next, Heyes covered the Kid as he made the dash across the open ground. Once the again the crack and ping of bullets had resonated about the surrounding rocks. With a lunging dive, the Kid had found cover behind a nearby boulder.



Both men gasped for breath, winded by sheer exertion and breathless with anxiety. The Kid rolled himself on his side and peered around his rock. The sharp snap of a bullet ricocheting passed him made him draw his head back swiftly. He closed his eyes and found his head was swimming. Taking in several deep breaths he tried to calm himself.



Heyes pressed his back against his rock and closed his eyes also, so as to help him think more clearly. He reckoned that it would not be that much further to the top, so that they could descend into the valley below, giving them a little time to widen the gap between themselves and the posse, who would take a little while to climb to the top and find their tracks.



“Kid?” he called.



“Huh?” came the faint reply.



“I reckon we can make it if we go now and you cover me again. When I get to the top, I’ll cover you. I’m getting low on bullets though. How about you?”



The Kid swallowed hard as he shifted position to check his belt for ammunition. He counted about ten bullets - not many, but enough. “I’ve got a couple of rounds,” he told his partner. “Think we need to move as quickly as possible before they get too close. When I say ‘Go,’ you start running while I keep ‘em busy. You just keep running, Heyes. D’ya hear me?”



“Yeah, I hear you. I’ll take it up when I get to that rock at the top,” he answered. 



“No!” the Kid’s reply was sharp. “When you get to the top, you just keep going as I’m going to be right behind you and I don’t want to be tripping over you! You understand? You just keep running, Heyes. Head for the river, as that’ll be our best chance of loosing them once and for all.”



“Don’t you want me to cover you?” Heyes questioned.



There was a pause for a moment. Heyes smiled to himself, picturing Kid thinking this through behind his rock, checking every detail, ensuring the safest route for them both.



“No. I figure with both of us running we’ve got a better chance of avoiding getting hit as they won’t be able to track both of us.” The Kid bit his lip and wiped his shirt sleeve across his now perspiring brow and gritted his teeth. ‘Please, Heyes, don’t be stubborn about this,’ he pleaded quietly to himself.



“Well, if you’re sure that’s the best way to play it …” Heyes deferred to his partner’s superior understanding of these situations and always trusted him on such matters.



“Yeah - I’m sure,” came the definite response. “You ready?” he continued.



“As I’ll ever be! You?” 



Another pause. Kid Curry gulped mouthfuls of air before checking his gun was fully loaded one more time. “Yep, ready!” 



“Right!” The Kid heard the scratch of the dirt as Heyes shifted himself into position. He did not move but merely let his eyes drift slowly down his body to his left leg and the glaring, dark, red patch on his jeans that was now slowly spreading across the ground. The bullet was deep and he was beginning to loose feeling. His leg felt like a great weight tied to his body, one that refused to let him move. He winced once more at the throbbing ache, clenching his teeth as he tried to manoeuvre himself, so that he would have a clearer shot down the hillside.



Gathering his breath and squeezing his eyes shut against the piercing pain, he called out, “Remember, Heyes, just keep running. I’ll be right behind you!”



Heyes shoved his hat more firmly on his head and prepared himself for the next dash. Just as he was about to run, the Kid called out, “Heyes? You take care of yourself, you hear?”



“You too, partner,” came the reply.

As Heyes began to run, he heard the first few shots from the Kid’s gun ring out and him call, “Keep running, Heyes. I’m right behind you!”.
Lana Coombe
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 3
Post Sun 13 Apr 2014, 2:24 pm by Lana Coombe
No Love Lost

“Keep running, Heyes!”



The words echoed through his head but all he could see was swirling darkness. A groan. Realisation the sound had emitted from his own mouth. Aches and pains, shooting through his body. A resolute pounding in his head. A swallow, constricted by the dryness of his throat.



As consciousness slowly crept back, so did fragmented recollections.



The sharp crack of gunfire, the splinters of rock as shots ricocheted around him. His own gun clicking uselessly after firing his last bullet. The desperation and fear as he tried to crawl away, as they closed in and descended upon him, like a pack of dogs. His obstinate leg, which had refused to let him move. The searing pain as hands grabbed and pulled, twisting his body onto his chest. The wrenching, as his hands were yanked behind him and securely fastened with strips of raw hide, pulled so tight his fingers tingled almost instantaneously. The taunts and the clouts inflicted on him as he was dragged upwards, only to fall to the ground again, hampered by the bullet in his leg. The whoops of excitement and celebration at the quarry having been caught.



Then came a shout. 



Standing on top of a ridge, silhouetted against the sun was a lone, dark figure. A shot rang out, sending the men scurrying for cover behind various rocks. He remembered the air being driven out of him when he was pushed against a rock, landing heavily on his side. The feel of cold steel against his temple, as one of his captors pressed a gun to his head. The whistles, hollers and the sound of boot on rock as the rest of the posse spread out, towards the ridge. 



His breath had become laboured, as it was now, his chest tight as he tried to draw air into his lungs. The tension unbearable. More joyful cries as the men reappeared with a restrained man. 



Heyes! He hadn’t kept running!



More shouting. Heyes yelling about someone needing a doctor.



The Kid caught his breath as he remember the struggling form of his partner, being held by two men, while a third fisted him, first in the face and then in the belly. He groaned at the memory and stared into the darkness trying to recall the next events.



Heyes’ face, full of fury and turmoil, just like those times in Valparaiso, when he’d tried to stop him getting another beating. The Kid screwed his eyes shut, trying to remember. His leg ached. The bullet. Was it still in there? It hurt like hell but he couldn’t be sure. Someone had kicked him, or his leg to be more accurate.



Now he remembered. Heyes had gone berserk, lashing out and managed to strike one of the men, causing the others to set upon him like a gang of wild coyotes, punching and kicking. His useless leg kept him pinned to the spot and all he’d been able to do was watch as the violent assault on Heyes continued. He’d endeavoured to help, knocking the man standing over him, on the ankles with his good leg, toppling him to the floor. There hadn’t been much more he could do with his hands fastened behind his back. His memory blurred ….



The Kid’s head protested once more. A recollection of a sharp pain on the back of his skull filtered through. They must have knocked him out, he concluded. He had come to, from time to time, as he had some notion of lying across a horse on his belly, feeling the jarring pain course through his leg and invade his whole body and then …. darkness again.



But what had happened to his partner? Where was Heyes?



Turning his attention to his present surroundings, or rather, what he could see of them, he tried to focus his eyes and his mind. The gloom was receding and the dim light of dawn caressed the walls. He twisted his head a fraction to his left. Bars! Somehow that didn’t come as a great surprise. Beyond was a door, slightly ajar, through which the yellow, beam of a lamp glowed. He could just make out a chair and the edge of a desk -an office. 



Drawing a breath, he slowly rotated his head to the right. More bars. There were two cells. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, he could just make out a shape in the adjacent cell. The figure wasn’t moving. He couldn’t make out who it was too clearly but had a very good idea. The discarded battered, black hat, with silver trim, confirmed his suspicions. He studied the form intently, looking for any sign of movement. A faint rise and fall of the chest told him his partner was still breathing. He strained to see the extent of his condition but the shadows refused to reveal any visible injuries. It was then that he noticed the metal cuff securing Heyes’ right wrist to the bars of the cell, his hand hanging limply from its binding.



Kid Curry groaned quietly. The situation was going from bad to worse. This was one mess that he could see they’d have real trouble getting out of! His own guilt at having got shot, his inability to escape and protect his partner, played heavily on his mind. Now Heyes was in a really bad way too. His frustration and trepidation made him curse silently to himself and at his partner. ‘Damn you, Heyes! Why’d you come back? You should’ve kept running. You could’ve been outta there! Now we’re both stuck in this place!’



The jail appeared quiet so the Kid chanced trying to get Heyes’ attention. At first, he could little more than a soft grunt, his parched throat still protesting. Summoning what moisture he could, he managed a hiss. When he got no response, he hissed a little louder and called Heyes’ name, but still there was no reply from the figure in the next cell.



Suddenly he heard the scrape of a chair across the floor and the room darkened slightly, as a figure appeared in the doorway. Heavy footsteps echoed ominously as a man approached his cell.



“You ain’t dead then?” came the dispassionate remark. “Weren’t sure you’d make it after the Doc dug that bullet outta your leg!”



The Kid stayed silent, observing the man. He remembered him now. This was the man who had kicked him. This was the one who had beaten Heyes, while the other men held him. The Kid’s jaw tensed but still he said nothing. The man could not see his blue eyes blaze dangerously, in the darkness.



“Who’d have thought it? The notorious Kid Curry, caught like a rabbit in a trap! It was quite a chase you gave us and the end was disappointingly easy!” he said scornfully.



The Kid pressed his lips tightly together, trying to keep his mounting anger under control.



Not getting the rise he’d hoped for, the man continued, “Thought Hannibal Heyes was the smart one! Why in tar- nation he come back like that? Didn’t do his self any favours!”



The Kid knew the answer but did nor share it with the man.



“Your friend there put up quite a fight! Had to knock him out in the end. May have hit him a little too hard! Look at the state he’s gotten himself into now!” the man sneered, indicating the prone figure in the next cell with a jerk of his head, before turning and walking back to his office.



Disdainfully watching the retreating back, the Kid felt no love loss. In fact, at the first given opportunity he planned to settle the score with that ******* who had done this to him and his partner. He’d think of a way out, somehow. There was no way he’d lose the best partner he’d ever had because of that man! He owed it to Heyes for what he’d done, coming back for him the way he had and he aimed to pay him back - with interest. 



***************





Author’s note: This series of stories relies totally on the given writing challenge titles and I have no preconceived ideas of what will happen next, which makes it exciting and interesting to write. I hope to be able to continue to entertain the reader!
Lana Coombe
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 4
Post Wed 16 Apr 2014, 4:14 am by Lana Coombe
Bad Things Happen When We Separate



He wrapped his fingers around the iron bars and held them tightly. The cool of the metal felt good against his too warm forehead, as it rested against them.



It had taken Jed Curry a good deal of effort to raise himself from the bunk. It had not been the most comfortable of resting places, with its thin, hard mattress, doubled with the constant throbbing ache in his leg. He had taken some measure of tortured pleasure in the pain he felt, as he reckoned it was because of his injury that he and his partner were in their present predicament. He had to confess the doctor had made a pretty good job of removing the bullet and, although he had a fever, as he fought against the infection, it was mild in comparison to some he had experienced in the past.



A soft moan from the adjacent cell had caught his attention. His partner, Hannibal Heyes, had been out cold for the best part of the day - not that he had missed much. Little had happened within the four walls that enclosed them. The only interlude had been a quick visit from the doctor who had given Curry’s leg a cursory glance, deeming it satisfactory. When examining Heyes the doctor had done little more than place his hands on various parts of his body, with the occasional “Hmm” and “Uh huh,” before making to leave. The Kid had tried to elicit some information from him, as to his partner’s condition, as he made his way back towards the sheriff’s office but all he would say was, “Time will tell,” a response that was wholly unsatisfactory to Curry.



So, at the first signs of Heyes waking, the Kid was instantly alert. He gritted his teeth as he manoeuvred his body, on the bunk, so that his legs hung over the side. Next, using his arms as levers, he managed to push himself into a more upright position. By pulling against the bars of the cell, he finally hauled himself to his feet, swaying as he did so, as the blood rushed to his head. Still gripping the bars for support, he half limped and half hopped his way to the other side of the cell, where he could get a better look at Heyes.



In the small amount of daylight that had penetrated the inner realms of the jailhouse, the dark bruising to Heyes’ face was more evident. His left eye was red and swollen and tattered scratches crawled down his arm, from beneath the sleeves of his grubby henley.



The Kid tried calling his name, softly at first and was rewarded with a small movement of the head. He called again a little louder but this time there was no response, so, still clinging to the bars, he watched and waited. As he shifted his weight, to relieve the ache in his injured leg, Curry felt a sharp pain stab in his thigh. He closed his eyes, resting his forehead against the bars and drew a breath through clenched teeth.

He stayed in this position for a good while until a familiar, yet rasping voice said, “You able to sleep standing up now?”



Curry’s eyes instantly flew open and met the steady gaze of his partner’s intense brown ones. Giving a soft laugh of relief and a small smile, he retorted, “Well, you can be pretty tiring at times!” His expression became more serious and his brow furrowed. “How you doin’, Heyes?”



“Feel like I’ve been hit by a train!” came the ironic reply. He shifted position, trying to ease the ache that seemed to invade his whole body, only to be pulled up short by his manacled hand. Frowning at the offending restraint, he sighed. “Guess they want me to stick around a little longer!”



Curry smiled weakly at his friend. He had a feeling they were both going to be staying put for a good time yet!



Both men lapsed into thoughtful silence until it was eventually broken by Heyes.

“Why’d you do it, Kid?”



“Huh?” responded a confused Curry.



“Making me leave you like that? You know bad things happen when we separate.”



Curry leaned his weight against the bars and looked down at the floor, not wishing to see any disappointment in his partner’s face.



“Thought it’d be for the best. Give you a chance to get away and come up with one of your plans.” He raised his head now and met Heyes’ gaze but saw no look of disapproval, only one of acceptance.



“Why’d you come back, Heyes?” It was the Kid’s turn to question his partner’s actions now. 



Heyes lifted his free arm and rested it across his forehead. “You know the rule. Never leave a man behind,” he said flatly.



“Seems to me it might have been better if you’d kept going. Bad things might happen when we split up but it seems to me we ain’t doing so good now we’re together!”



Removing his arm, Heyes turned his head to look at his friend. “I’ll think of something,” he assured him.



“Yeah!” the Kid said despondently, shaking his head and turning to limp back to the bunk.



Once again, Heyes tried to shift into a more comfortable position, only to feel a stabbing pain in his chest. “Think I’ve busted a couple of ribs!” he commented, through gritted teeth.



“You’re lucky that’s all you got, the way those fellas laid into you,” Curry replied scornfully. “You hurtin’ anywhere else?”



“Got a thumping headache. Could do with a drink.”



“You want me to call for some water or something?” came the concerned response.



“I was thinking more in the way of whiskey!” Heyes mumbled. “Leave it for a while. I’d like to be feeling a little stronger before I face anyone,” he continued.



Curry nodded in understanding, resting his elbows on his knees and linking his fingers contemplatively.



They stayed in companionable silence for a while, each assured by the other’s presence. No matter how bad things got, they both knew they were better together, working as a team. They’d wait and seize the first opportunity to get themselves out of this mess, whether it be by Heyes’ silver tongue or the Kid’s strength.



The sound of heavy footsteps interrupted their thoughts, as the sheriff entered the jail, gun drawn.

“On your feet, Curry,” he commanded.



The Kid exchanged a look with Heyes before complying, awkwardly standing up.



“Move to the back of the cell, face the wall and put your hands on your head,” he was instructed.



“Hey, what’s going on?” asked Heyes, unable to hold his tongue any longer.



“Nice of you to join us, Heyes,” quipped the sheriff, placing a key in the lock of the Kid’s cell, gun levelled at his back. “I was a little worried you weren’t never going to wake up, not that’d make much difference!” he added callously.



Moving into the cell, he produced a pair of handcuffs. “Alright, Curry, put your hands behind your back now, nice and easy.”



The Kid risked a sideways glance at Heyes who raised an eyebrow, questioningly in response, but saw no alternative than for the Kid to obey.



While the sheriff placed the metal bands about his partner’s wrists, Heyes probed again.

“I think we’re entitled to know what’s happening, don’t you sheriff? I mean, it isn’t as if we’re in any position to do anything about it but a person likes to know ….”



“You ain’t in a position to do nothing’ but shut your mouth, Heyes,” was the gruff reply, as the cuffs snapped shut with a resolute click, making the Kid wince at the implication rather than the physical hurt.



The sheriff took his arm and swung him round, unbalancing him, causing him to stumble as his injured leg refused to support him. Tightening his grip, the sheriff manoeuvred the Kid towards the cell door.



Heyes managed to raise himself onto his arm and called out, “Hey, what’s going on? Where you taking him?”



“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” the sheriff replied, a look of self-satisfaction on his face. “The Doc considers Mr. Curry here, fit for extradition to a more secure prison, pending trial. You, however are to stay here until he gives the okay for you to be moved, owing to your extensive internal injuries!” he said mockingly, a derisive grin on his face.

 “Now, move it!” he growled, urging the Kid forward with a prod of his gun barrel in the small of his back.



With one last look over his shoulder, his lips thin and hard in contempt, the Kid staggered through the door, while Heyes could only lie and watch him go.

 Bad things seemed to happen to them whether they were together or separate these days, Heyes surmised.
Lana Coombe
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 5
Post Wed 16 Apr 2014, 4:28 am by Lana Coombe

Fool Me Once ...

A sharp tug on his wrist and the scrape of metal against his skin, wrenched Heyes back to his senses, from a restless sleep. Clenching his teeth, glaring resentfully at the metal band, which secured him to the bars of the cell, he gave a deep sigh at the harsh reality of his present situation. Allowing his gaze to drift towards the now empty adjacent cell, he closed his eyes and drew a long breath through his nose. The stale air of the jail clawed at the back of his throat and he screwed up his face in sheer frustration. He yanked his bound hand angrily, making his sore ribs jar with the motion, causing him to gasp with the pain.



Steadying his breathing, he stared vacantly ahead, hoping some flash of inspiration would come to him. Life had never felt so hopeless. He was in a jail cell, handcuffed to the bars, with a couple of broken ribs and some further possible internal injury. This was bad enough but what galled him most of all was he was alone. The Kid didn’t say much but he listened and having no one to talk to bothered Heyes. He concentrated on the silence, straining to hear the slightest sound - a heavy wagon rumbling passed in the street, the scuff of a chair, the low murmur of voices.



“Hey!” he called out, unable to bear the hush any longer, tiring of the solitude. There was no answer, so he called again and waited. After a few moments one of the deputies appeared in the doorway, wiping his mouth with a chequered napkin.



“Quit your hollering’! What d’ya want?” he asked. Heyes looked at the man with disdain - or rather, he looked at the half-chewed food in his mouth.



“Any chance of removing the fancy wrist attire?” Heyes asked pleasantly, with only a hint of the sarcasm he wanted to hurl at the man.



“Huh?” his gaoler replied, emitting a spray of bread from his mouth.



“The handcuffs - can they be taken off? I don’t think they’re really necessary,” he stated, flatly.



“Sheriff said you weren’t to be trusted and that I weren’t to get too close to you so them cuffs will just have to stay on until the sheriff gets back,” the deputy replied earnestly.



“I need to go,” Heyes told him dispassionately.



“You ain’t leaving here for quite some time, mister!” the young deputy replied, astounded at Heyes’ assuredness.



“I need to go p***,” came the more blatant response.



“Oh!” The young, fair-haired deputy looked perplexed for a moment as he considered which course of action to take. He disappeared to the back of the jail room, reappearing a minute later with a tin washbowl. Placing it on the floor, before the door of the cell, he unceremoniously slipped it into the cell with the toe of his boot.



Heyes peered at it sceptically.

“I know I’ve impressed a few ladies in my time but I reckon I’m going to have some trouble reaching that!” he commented.



The deputy flushed at the remark and pondered the situation once more. 



“If you don’t mind, I’m in a bit of a hurry here,” Heyes goaded him. 



After a few more moments, the deputy went back to the main office, returning with a large bunch of keys. He fumbled with them before producing a single key. He advanced around the cell and neared Heyes’ cuffed hand.



“Don’t you make a move now, mister,” Heyes was told. With arms outstretched, the deputy cautiously placed the small key into the lock of the cuff.



“What’s your name?” Heyes asked, making the deputy jump with a start and almost drop the key. A plan, of sorts, was beginning to form in Heyes’ mind and, if this deputy was the fool he thought he was, the first part should be fairly easy. As the key turned in the lock and the cuff fell from his wrist, Heyes felt a gratifying sense of accomplishment. Releasing him had been his first mistake - more fool him!



“Name’s Tatler, Ned Tatler, not that it’s any of your business!” the deputy told him as he took a step back, away from the cell, concern and doubt at his own action written all over his face.



Heyes smiled at the young man pleasantly. “Much obliged,” he commented.



Ned Tatler sniffed, nervously, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. “I’ll leave you to your business then,” he said, shuffling towards the office door. Heyes nodded his head in response and waited until he’d left before attempting to rise from the bunk.



He knew moving was going to hurt but he hadn’t anticipated how much. As he manoeuvred his body onto his side, in preparation of swinging his legs to the floor, a searing pain shot into his chest, like a red-hot poker. He let out an involuntary cry, which he managed to stifle by biting his lip. For a few moments he held his breath, mouth gaping, willing the pain to relent and for his body to relax. Slowly he released his breath and in measured, deliberate breaths took in air once again. The grip about his ribs gradually yielded and he began to breathe more easily.



Swallowing hard, Heyes prepared himself for the pain that he knew was to come as he attempted to get to his feet once more. He decided to get it over with as quickly as possible, so, wrapping his left arm protectively about his stomach, with one swift movement, he swung his legs to the floor. Taking a sharp intake of air, through gritted teeth, he pushed himself with his right arm, into a sitting position. For a few moments, he stood rigidly, waiting for the pain to subside. Slowly it eased - just a little, enough so he felt he could take a breath again. With his arm still clasped about his belly, he took hold of the bars of the cell with his free hand, holding on so tightly, his knuckles turned white. He stared towards the floor, concentrating on a deep scratch in the stone, anything to distract him from the pain he was enduring.



He knew it was imperative to appear fit and well if he was to have any chance of getting out of this place and getting to wherever they had sent the Kid. Heyes felt that they would have a better chance of escape once back together again and in his present state of health, it was more crucial than ever, to have his partner by his side.




Calling for the pot had been a rouse to get the cuff removed, but to allay any suspicions he knew he’d have to use it, something he wasn’t keen to do. Carefully he took his arm from about his stomach, whilst still gripping the bars for support, and tentatively tried to release the button on his pants. His fingers fumbled uselessly, slipping over the metal of the fastening until his thumb finally got a purchase. Even that small movement caused him to wince. Heyes had never felt so inept, his usually dextrous fingers functioning so ineffectively, but eventually the button slipped through the hole. Having completed the ordinarily mundane task, Heyes peered discontentedly into the pot. The bright red streaks were not a good sign. With a regretful sigh, he slumped against the bars, rescuing the buttons of his pants with a now trembling hand.



He knew, in his present condition, there was little chance of his being moved to wherever the Kid was, but that was where he needed to be. It would take all his powers of deception to persuade them he was fit to travel. Just as Heyes was considering this quandary, he heard the door to the Sheriff’s office being opened and a voice announcing he was here to see the patient. The Doc! Heyes immediately roused himself, running his hand through his hair and planting a convivial smile on his face, suitably masking how he was truly feeling.



This was the image which greeted Doctor Crawley as he walked through the door to the cells. A brief look of incredulity crossed the medic’s face as he took in the appearance of the man he had come to visit.



“Well Mr. Heyes, I have to say I’m happily surprised to see you on your feet! I had you down as possible coffin fodder there for a while!” The doctor’s disposition was upbeat and Heyes fed off it.



“Take more than a few over enthusiastic lawmen to lay me in the ground, Doc!” he replied genially, giving the man the benefit of one of his best dimpled grins. As he did so, the deputy shuffled in, searching through the keys in his hand, looking for the key to Heyes’ cell. He too looked suitably stunned at seeing the prisoner on his feet and faltered in finding the key.



“You sure you want to go in there, Doc?” he asked. 



Frowning in response, the small, grey haired man merely said, “Just open the door, Ned!” 



Ned scuttled forward and placed the key in the lock and turned it. Nothing happened. Crawley gave a sigh of exasperation but said nothing, while Ned fumbled with the keys once more. Sheer determination was all that was keeping Heyes on his feet, as he stood waiting patiently, an impassive expression on his face. All he wanted to do was lie down again but the need to get out of this place strengthened his resolve to maintain his composure.



Finally, the lock clicked and the doctor was able to enter the cell. Ned stood warily in the doorway, his hand wrapped nervously about the handle of his holstered gun. Crawley glanced over his shoulder impatiently. “I think we’ll be fine, Ned,” he told the younger man.



“Think I’d better stay, if it’s all the same to you, Doc,” Ned replied, with more assertion than he was really feeling.



The doctor shrugged and turned back to Heyes to start his examination. “You want to sit down, son?” he asked.



“Just fine standing, thanks Doc!”



“Uh huh,” came the unconvinced response. “It’s just that you look a little peaky!”



With a dimpled smile, Heyes retorted, “So would you, iffen you’d been treated as I have and kept locked up in here!” A more serious expression came over his face as he continued, “What I need is to be allowed to join up with my partner.” The doctor was a little surprised by the sincerity of the outlaw’s request and the look of determination in his dark eyes.



“I see. Well, let’s take a look at you and see if that’s going to be at all possible,” he answered mildly. He indicated that he needed Heyes to sit on the bunk and was obliged by the younger man.



After he had completed his examination, the doctor looked Heyes straight in the eye, with concern. “How bad you want to get out of here, son?”



“Pretty bad.”



“Badly enough that it may kill you?”



Taken aback by the directness of the question, Heyes hesitated before replying “We’ve all gotta die sometime, Doc!”



Pressing his lips together in contemplation, the doctor pondered the situation. There were no guarantees that even if he kept the man here, that he’d be able to do much for him and as he wanted to be back with his partner so badly, it almost seemed the kinder thing to do, to let him go.



“Well, I guess sitting in a different cell isn’t going to make to much difference if you’re that keen to meet up with your partner. I guess I can pass you as fit to travel.” He gave a small smile to the dark haired man whose eyes sparkled with satisfaction. “Can you get me a pen, Ned, so as I can sign the release papers?” Crawley asked.



“Sure thing, Doc,” said the deputy as he went to fetch one from the office.



“Thanks, Doc! Means a lot to me to be able to see my partner again. Appreciate you signing those papers,” responded Heyes, as he buttoned his shirt with difficulty.



The doctor frowned at the man before him, still debating his decision. He felt it was his duty to do the best by the man, outlaw or not but there appeared no benefit to keeping here either.



Ned returned with the pen and the doctor pulled some papers from his bag. Pausing, with the nib just above the paper, he took another look at his patient before resignedly signing his name and saying, 

“Although I must warn you it’s not going to be an easy journey. You still have some internal injuries, which I cannot be sure of without a more comprehensive examination. I’ll wire ahead to the prison requesting another doctor sees you there,” he told Heyes, as he placed a firm dot after his name and handed the pen back to Ned.
 “Just take it easy for a while.”



Heyes was nodding his compliance with the Doc’s request when the deputy interjected, “There won’t be much chance of that where he’s going! Didn’t they tell ya? Curry got sent to Aurora!”



The doctor’s face paled visibly and became etched with concern. Heyes frowned, not understanding the significance of the statement.



“Doc?” he queried.



Ned laughed at the look of consternation on both men’s faces. “You not heard of it? Considering the hole in his leg your partner had when he left here, I’d be surprised iffen he’s still alive any ways! Aurora’s a hard labour camp with a reputation for low tolerance of any sort of slacking! Think you’ve just got the Doc here to sign your own death warrant too!” 



Ned might be a bit of a jerk but it was Heyes who was feeling mighty foolish now.
Lana Coombe
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 6
Post Wed 16 Apr 2014, 4:33 am by Lana Coombe
Another Hard Lesson

Crack! The hammer met the stone with a resounding smack, which sent reverberations up the arms and through the whole of his body. He lifted the hammer once again, letting its weight bring it down to meet the hard surface with another blow. He gritted his teeth as he imagined the heads he was striking - the sheriff and his deputies, the governor, Lom and…. Pausing for a moment, his thoughts turned to his partner.

Although he knew he was not to blame for the circumstances in which he found himself, Kid’s anger was so overwhelming that he couldn’t help feeling some irritation towards Heyes. It was irrational but then, things weren’t very coherent for him at the moment.

More than once, this grim day, he had thought ‘if only…’ If only he hadn’t got shot in the leg, if only Heyes hadn’t come back for him, if only he and Heyes hadn’t robbed all those banks and trains, if only he hadn’t allowed Heyes to persuade him to do those things, if only their parents hadn’t been killed in the raids. It was one helluva lot of if onlys to take in and it had only proved to provoke the Kid’s frustration, and ultimately his resentment, at his present situation. As the one constant factor in all of these situations was Heyes, it was logical that the Kid’s antipathy should be directed at him.

As he swung the heavy apparatus, yet again, a sharp stab in his thigh drew his breath and he let the hammer fall to the ground. Grasping its handle tightly, he bent over, trying to ease the pain. His red, sweat soaked henley clung to his body, dark damp patches spreading from beneath his arms and across his back and chest. The grit trapped between the fabric and his skin scratched irritably, causing him considerable discomfort. Now he had stopped working he realised how parched his throat was and swallowed, trying to create some modicum of moisture in his mouth. Just as he was drawing his forearm across his brow, to prevent the salty perspiration trickling down and stinging his eyes, the wind was knocked from his body, by a blow to the small of his back. Staggering forward a few steps, he nearly fell but managed to regain his balance just in time.

“No slacking, Curry! You got a whole lot more rocks to bust before you’ve earned yourself a break!”

Glancing over his shoulder, the Kid eyed Hacker dispassionately, who stood gripping a rifle provocatively behind him, a malicious grin on his face. It wasn’t often that a criminal of Curry’s caliber came his way and he intended to take full advantage of his position as line guard. With one last defiant look, the Kid turned back to the large lump of rock before him and sized it up as he would an opponent in a gunfight.

Curling his fingers firmly around the handle of the lump hammer, he drew a resentful breath and gritted his teeth, before swinging the tool. If there was one thing Heyes had taught him over the years it was to wait and watch for the right moment to act. Take your opportunities where you could and use them to full advantage. Now was not the right time.

“Iffen your gonna survive in this place Curry, you’ve got a lot to learn!” Hacker taunted.

Kid tried to block the sound of the man’s voice from his head. He wondered how much longer he had to endure Hacker and his jibes. It must only be a couple of hours until he could finish, although all he had to look forward to at the end of the day was a plate of some indescribable slop to eat and a hard, cold bunk. This was possibly one of life’s hardest lessons he’d had, apart from when his folks had died. That had been the hardest, closely followed by the time he’d been in Valparaiso. But on each of those occasions Heyes had been with him. Now he was alone. Perhaps it was better that way.


***************

The Kid had only been in Aurora for a couple of days but guards and fellow prisoners alike had certainly noted his presence. He had been treated both with disdain and animosity, as well as with awe and respect. Due to his notoriety and reputation, he had been given a cell to himself. Without his partner by his side, it was thought he would be more easily broken, once confined to solitary. Even when on the chain gang, he had been kept separate from the other prisoners, with only the constant guards for company. The solitude suited him just fine. He needed the time alone to gather his thoughts and contemplate his situation.

Later, as he sat in isolation, in the dark, dank cell, his thoughts once again turned to his partner. Now, there was a word! One simple word that meant so much. Within it was a lifetime of shared experiences, both good and bad. His and Heyes’ lives were so inextricably linked it was almost impossible to imagine a life without him. But it was looking mighty possible that might be the case now. Kid was only too aware of the state his partner was in when he had last seen him and the deputy, who had escorted him from the jail, had taken a great deal of pleasure reporting what he had heard the doctor say about Heyes’ condition. Although the details were sketchy, the one phrase which stuck in Kid’s head was ‘possibility that his injuries are life threatening.’

Throughout the years their lives had been threatened more times than Kid was willing to admit but they had been together. It was always Hannibal Heyes AND Kid Curry. From the moment he had arrived in this godforsaken place, almost everyone had asked ‘where was the great Hannibal Heyes?’ The man had a legendary standing amongst the outlaw community, as one of the most successful ever to have committed crime. The Kid had his own reputation, as notorious gunman, but where as his partner inspired admiration of his intelligent mind and quick tongue, he was acknowledged for his fast draw and marksmanship. The difference was Heyes was regarded with deference, while the Kid was treated as a challenge or with fear.

Kid stretched out his injured leg, carefully placing his hand on the grubby and tattered bandage, which the doctor had applied. He couldn’t see that it was doing much good now so started to remove it. As he slowly unwound the fabric, he winced as it stuck to the dried blood from his wound. With one assured movement, he ripped it away, letting out a small gasp as he did so. It was a mess but the Doc had done a good job and there was no sign of infection.

Consideration of his own ailments brought his thoughts back to Heyes. He’d tried to find a way to find out what had happened to his partner, by questioning the guards but none of them would give him the time of day, with the exception of Hacker, who seemed to think it his duty to try to antagonize him at every given opportunity. Kid thought maybe he could use this to his advantage. He couldn’t lose control now; he had to keep his temper in check. He had to think smart – like Heyes. Knowing he had few options, he goaded the man, in the hope he would let slip and tell him something. All he got in return were more cuts and bruises, from the jabs and blows from the guard, whose sole mission seemed to be to make his life more miserable.



The Kid was coming to the conclusion that perhaps the time had come to start planning his future without his partner, not by choice but necessity. It would be the hardest lesson in life he’d have to face but there was one thing he had learned from being with Heyes - nothing in this life ever comes easy.
Penski
The Outlaws That Wouldn't Quit - Part 7
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:07 pm by Penski
Starter Paragraph

Kid Curry slumped over his whisky in yet another shabby saloon, in yet another small town, in the middle of nowhere much.

A saloon gal wandered over to try her luck at getting a little business on a dreary midweek afternoon. One look at the hostility born of utter misery in those blue eyes, scowling out from under a rain-splattered brown brim changed her mind. This was a man who didn't want to talk. Not yet anyhow. Maybe not for a long time.

Kid tapped his glass to order a refill of the whiskey so far removed from being the 'good stuff' he reckoned they oughta pay him to drink it. He didn't care. He just wanted to get drunk and do it quick. He wanted to forget. Forget about what had happened. Forget about Heyes. Forget about their years together. Forget he'd ever had a partner. Forget he was alone. Alone forever. Heyes was the past. Gone. Done with.

A WEEK EARLIER...

“You can’t do this! Let go of me!” Kid Curry struggled to get free from the grip of the two guards, who held him securely, as they manhandled him towards the door. Trying to get a foothold, he dug his heels into the ground but the two mostly burley guards had been selected for the task and even the Kid’s grim determination wasn’t going to prevent them from carrying it out.

As they approached, another guard opened the door and the Kid was so forcibly ejected through it, he fell to his knees, onto the dusty ground. By the time he was back on his feet, the door had been shut and bolted. Pounding on it, with clenched fists, he shouted, “This ain’t right! I’m not leaving! Let me in, you hear!”

A small portal in the door opened and a guard’s face appeared.

“Get going, Curry! You crazy or something? You’re a free man. Now get outta here!” The portal door slammed shut once again.

With teeth clenched, he gave the solid, wood door a frustrated slap and shouted, “Damn you, Heyes!” He stood motionless for some minutes, staring angrily at the entrance to the prison, completely at a loss as to what to do next. He knew he should leave but just couldn’t bring himself to, knowing Heyes was still inside.

Turning, he slumped down and sat with his back against the door. The sun had crept passed the horizon by now and the first rays began to spread across the land. If he was sensible, he should start walking now, before it got too hot.

He had been taken totally by surprise when the guards had come to his cell so early, just a short while ago. Before he knew what was going on, they had dragged him from his bunk and marched him along the metal-bar lined corridors. At first he thought he was in for some sort of physical punishment, for what had occurred the previous day but they just kept on hauling him through doors and down walkways, until they eventually came to the main entrance and he had been pushed out! Shaking his head at the irony of his being thrown out of jail, he let his head drop dejectedly and held his head in his hands. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. How could Heyes let this happen?

His fury at his partner rose again and he gabbed a handful of dirt and tossed it angrily into the air, watching the breeze carry it away. A movement in the distance caught his eye and he watched as a rider approached, leading a horse. As the figure drew closer, the Kid realised it was Lom.

“Thought you might need a ride,” the sheriff said, as he brought his horse to a standstill, a couple of feet in front of the Kid.
Without responding, the Kid turned his head to the side and stared off into the distance.

“It’s a long walk to town and I thought you’d appreciate a bath and a good meal after being in there,” Lom continued, with a nod of his head in the direction of the prison.

The Kid remained taciturn.

Lom removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Gonna be a hot one!’ he commented, putting the hat firmly back on his head. He looked over at the Kid and sighed.

“Come on, Kid! You can’t stay here. Come back to town with me and …..”

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere with you! “ the Kid suddenly spat, angrily. “Ain’t you done enough?”

The glare directed at him, from the man sitting on the ground, made Lom feel decidedly uneasy but he had faced that look before and now wasn’t the time to back down. He felt some measure of responsibility for what had happened but ultimately it had been Heyes’ decision.

“Let’s go and talk this through and maybe you’ll understand a little better …”

“Oh, trust me, Lom! I understand perfectly well already,” the Kid snarled. “I’m sat out here while my partner’s still in that place where he’s going to spend the rest of his life, which, by all accounts, isn’t going to be very long!”

“And that’s exactly why he decided what he did! Don’t you owe him some sort of respect for what he’s done? He did it so you could have a life, so get yourself on this horse and start getting on with it!” said Lom, proffering the reins towards the Kid, trying to control his frustration.

“I owe him more than that, Lom and you know it! Why the hell d’you let him do it?”

“Kid, I know you’re not happy about this but ….”

“Too damn right I ain’t happy about it!” the Kid interjected. “He didn’t leave me behind when I got shot. He’s never left me behind, so I ain’t gonna leave him behind now! You don’t leave a man behind, Lom – you know that, especially not your partner!”

The Kid had got his feet now, and glared up at Lom, who remained sitting patiently on his horse. The intensity and resolve in the blue eyes which stared at him, momentarily unnerved the sheriff but he managed to maintain his composure.

“Get on the horse, Kid,” he stated calmly.

The events of the last few weeks, days and hours finally caught up with Kid Curry and exhaustion hit, like a rolling boulder. All of a sudden he didn’t have the energy to argue anymore. Knowing little could be achieved by staying, he reluctantly took the reins from the sheriff and wordlessly pulled himself into the saddle. With little more than a cursory glance back at the high walls of the prison, he swung the horse round and rode quietly away.

*********************


Had it really been only a week? A week of riding aimlessly around, from one nameless town to another, drinking gut rot whiskey, trying to numb his brain to stop him thinking? He wanted to stop thinking, to stop remembering, to stop hurting.

Draining his glass for the third time, he called for another. He wasn’t where he wanted to be yet – in that muffled world where nothing seemed to matter and you could forget everything. No more hurt, no more anger, no more misery.

Lom had tried to stop this self-inflicted destruction, which is why he had left. So great was his wretchedness, he couldn’t trust himself not to control his temper and do something stupid. No amount of talking could persuade him that what had happened was inevitable and eventually he had drawn his gun on Lom. He knew then he had to leave.
The Kid had spent the week going back over the events of the last month, trying to work out how it had all gone so wrong and if there was anything he could have done to prevent it from happening. Each time he drew a blank. He’d just have to face the fact his and Heyes’ luck had finally run out.

Those last days in Aurora kept running through his head, every action and every word etched into his memory. He had been there almost a week when, after another gruelling day of breaking rocks for the new railroad, he returned to find a new prisoner in the adjacent cell.

The man sat hunched over, wrapped in a thin, worn, grey blanket and made no effort to move, even when the sound of Kid’s cell door slamming shut resonated within the confines of the walls. The Kid was so exhausted that, at first, he couldn’t be bothered with the other man, falling onto his own bunk. He lay for a few minutes, eyes closed, fore arm across his brow. Curiosity over came him eventually and he sneaked a look from beneath his arm at the other man, who still remained in the same position. The Kid studied the bent form until a flicker of familiarity in the dark, floppy hair and broad shoulders beneath the blanket, hit him.

Instantly he was on his feet and pressing his face against the bars separating the cells.

“Heyes?” he called tentatively.

There was no response so he tried again. “Heyes? That you?”

His question was met with silence but the sag in his friend’s shoulders, showed he’d heard.

Slowly the man’s head turned to look at him and the Kid was simultaneously both relieved and shocked to realise it was his partner. The glazed gaze, which looked his way, came from red- rimmed eyes, set within a porcelain-pale face.

Tightening his grip on the metal bars, the Kid was left speechless for a moment, shocked from his partner’s unexpected appearance.

“It’s good to see you, Heyes!” he said warmly.

The relief was palpable when he was rewarded with a side ways glance and a twitch of the mouth, as Heyes tried to muster a smile.

“Hey!”

It was a simple greeting but meant more to the Kid than one small word could ever mean.

“Hey yourself! Glad you could be bothered to join me! Although I’m kinda tired of meeting like this!” The Kid gesticulated towards the bars with a bob of his head.

His partner gave a desultory nod of the head.

“Heyes?”

“Give me a minute here, Kid. Guess I wasn’t as up to the trip here as I thought!”

It took Heyes a good five minutes to gather himself together and feel prepared to look at the Kid properly. Putting an unconvincing smile on his face he gingerly pushed himself to his feet and awkwardly make his way to his friend. On reaching the dividing bars, he held on to them and took a steadying breath.

Instinctively the Kid placed a hand on Heyes’ arm and peered into his face.

“You okay? Hell, Heyes, what’s happened? Jeez, they said you were hurt pretty bad but I thought they were just sayin’ it to rile me! You look terrible! How bad is it?”

“Been better! Thought it was just a couple of busted ribs and that the doc was exaggerating some but I have to say the journey here wasn’t too good!” Heyes’ voice was strained and husky. The Kid knew he was hurting.

“So, what did the doc say?”

“Oh, nothing much really.”

“Heyes?” The Kid gave his partner a stern look, expressing to him, as strongly as he could, that this was not the time to be evasive.

“Doc thought I might have done some damage internally but without a thorough examination he couldn’t be sure,” Heyes replied in a flat but resigned tone.

“So why didn’t he give you a thorough examination then?”

Heyes looked sheepishly at his partner. “Managed to convince him it wasn’t as bad as he thought.”

“Why d’you do that? You could’ve stayed put. At least there might have been a chance of getting away in town. Can’t see no way of getting outta this place!” The Kid hadn’t meant to sound so exasperated but he had to admit he was beginning to feel a little desperate. Though he was delighted to see his partner again, with his arrival had died the hope he may have been working on a plan to get him out of this place.

“I guess I got lonely!” Letting their eyes meet briefly, neither man spoke. The mutual respect and gratitude they held for each other did not need to be stated.

************************


Over the following days, Aurora strived to demonstrate how it had achieved its reputation. The Kid remained on the chain gang, unremittingly breaking rocks but now he had Heyes to worry about, the work became more demanding and relentless.

Although Heyes was not able to do the more arduous manual work, he had to earn his keep, as the Warden had been keen to point out to him. His work duty was in the kitchens, hot and draining work, preparing vats of barely edible soup.

The gruelling routine and physical endurance was taking its toll on both men but Heyes’ decline was rapid. By the end of the first week the Kid was seriously worried for his partner. Requests for medical attention were met with dismissive responses from the guards, telling them the prison doctor wouldn’t be available until the following week.
After another punishing day, Heyes lay on his bunk, while the Kid sat on his, knees drawn up, back against the wall staring blankly at the steady trickle of water, which seeped its way down one of the walls.

“Kid?”

“Hmm?”

“I saw a doctor today.”

The Kid shot a look at his partner. “When?”

“Called me from the kitchens.”

“What he say?”

The lack of immediate response concerned the Kid. Getting stiffly to his feet he made his way across the bars dividing his and Heyes’ cells.

“Heyes? What he say?” he repeated.

“It’s not great.”

It was the Kid’s turn to fall quiet. Heyes turned his head to look at his friend.

“Saw the Warden too.”

“The Warden? What he want?”

“He’d got a letter from the Governor.”

“The Governor?” The Kid gripped the bars. “And?” His anticipation of the response was all too clear in his voice.

“Seems there’s an election coming up some reporter got wind of our amnesty deal. Been a lot of publicity apparently.”

Heyes pushed himself into a sitting position, wincing as he did so, as the stabbing pain he’d been feeling in his stomach for the last week or so, grabbed his gut once again.

The Kid waited, searching his friend’s face for an indication of the news. Heyes kept his expression impassive, hiding the turmoil that screamed inside of him.

“The Governor’s agreed to honour the amnesty deal ….”

“That’s fantastic!” the Kid interjected, with exhilarated relief but then realised that his partner did not look over the moon.

“What?”

“He’ll honour the agreement for only one of us. He feels as we’re both in prison, to release us both would not help his cause with the hard liners, those who think justice should be served. “

The Kid felt physically sick as the hope of a lifeline was snatched away. He could find no words to express what he was truly feeling, so merely slunk back to his bunk, where he sat dejectedly.

“Think you should take it.”

“Take what, Heyes?”

“The amnesty.”

The reality of what his partner had just said struck.

“No way, Heyes! I ain’t leavin’ you in this place!”

Heyes got unsteadily to his feet and looked squarely at his partner.
“Kid, what the doctor had to say wasn’t good. At least you’d have a chance of a life out of here, where as I …”

“No!” the Kid shouted.

“Come on, you’re not thinking. At least with one of us on the outside then there’s some hope that something could be done ….”

“Then you should be the one to go. You’re the one with the plans and silver tongue. Don’t think I’d have much chance of shootin’ you outta here!”

“I don’t think I’d have enough time to achieve much before I ….” Heyes words trailed away and he averted his gaze.

The directness of Heyes’ response shook the Kid to the core as the reality of the situation really hit home. There was nothing he could do or say to change the facts. The tension and frustration took hold of the Kid, in an explosion of fury. There were few items in his cell but all that there was, and he could get hold of, he started to wreck, throwing the thin, soiled mattress to the floor, kicking over the piss pot, hurling the wooden stool against the bars.

“Kid! Please!” Heyes pleading fell on deaf ears and the Kid only stopped his tirade when a couple of guards appeared.

“He’s just a little upset, is all,” a vexed Heyes told them. He watched anxiously as three guards entered the cell and cornered the Kid, pinning him against the wall and cuffing his hands behind his back. He had tried to fight back but, in his weakened state, he could do nothing against three strong men.

He was pushed to the floor, in the corner of the cell before the guards left. Heyes watched the rise and fall of his partner’s shoulders as he tried to regain his composure.

“We’ll talk some more tomorrow,” Heyes said softly, as he lay down and closed his eyes.

*****************


The Kid drained his fourth whiskey. Heyes had done the deal without even talking it through with him, because he knew how the Kid would react – exactly as he had! Heyes must have known they were coming for him early that morning– probably told them how it was to be done!

If that’s the way he wanted it, he could rot in that place and to Hell with him! Kid Curry pushed back his chair, placed his still damp hat back on his head, turned up the collar of his jacket and walked out into the rain – alone.
Penski
The Outlaws That Wouldn't Quit - Part 8
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:12 pm by Penski
Independence

He fought the sensation in his throat, as it constricted against the rising wave of nausea, which threatened. The bitter taste of bile filled his mouth and he swallowed down the wetness, keeping his lips pressed firmly shut. His head throbbed and the air felt warm and dry as he inhaled, his breath coming hard and fast.

Clenching his fists closed, he realised his palms were moist with sweat. That wasn’t good, not if he had to use his gun, as his grip would be slippery. Beads of perspiration gathered on his brow and he wiped them away with his shirtsleeve. It had never been like this before; he’d never felt this nervous or perturbed by what he was about to do. What was so different now? He’d done it before. It was what he did, what he was known for, his profession. It was how he used to survive. Well, he needed to survive now, didn’t he? So, what was it that had changed? He knew the answer. The question didn’t really need to be asked but he was having trouble admitting the reason to himself.

As he lurked in the dark shadows of the alley way and looked across the street, he knew the difference was that no-one was there to talk it through with, no–one there to watch his back, no-one to share the spoils. He was on his own.

Perhaps he should have another drink? No. That was why he was here. His funds had finally run out and there was no chance of getting any work the state he was in. He had decided against contacting past employers. There would only be questions, memories dragged up. He was alone now and wanted to forget – to move on.

He caught sight of a reflection in a store window. At first he thought there was someone else standing nearby until he realised that the face, which was looking back at him, was his own. He looked a mess. His clothes were dusty and grubby, he was unshaven and his hair was dirty and dishevelled. Heck – he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d cleaned his gun.

He’d feel better if he had a bath, cleaned himself up a bit. He’d get a hotel room and sort himself out. But he had no way of paying for it, which was why he was standing in this alley, in this town, contemplating the bank.

The rhythmic thump of footsteps could be heard, coming down the boardwalk and he slunk further into the shadows. The lady passed by without noticing him. She sure was pretty, he thought. He was glad she hadn’t seen him in his present condition.

He looked towards the bank once more, with its imposing stone pillared entrance, leading to large wooden doors. His hand reached down and his fingers wrapped about the butt of his gun. He held it there for a moment or two, the contact offering comfort and reassurance.

He watched as the last of the customers left and the bank prepared to close. Now was the time. Steadying himself, with a deep breath, he stepped out of the shadows and onto the street and started walking. The bank loomed closer and closer. His chest felt tighter and tighter. His steps felt heavier and heavier.

As he drew nearer, the door of the bank opened and a woman emerged. A small boy ran to greet her, a wide, happy grin on his face. A man, who was also smiling, joined them. The man and woman each took one of the boy’s hands and the family strolled down the boardwalk together.

Watching them walk away, he hesitated. Family. He hadn’t had one of those in a very long time. The closest thing he had was locked up in that prison, waiting for it all to end – alone. No one there to watch his back. No one there with which to talk things through. No one there to care. It wasn’t right and he couldn’t let that happen.

In an instant, the decision was made and he spun on his heel, away from the bank, down the street, towards his horse. With a look of determination, he pulled himself into the saddle and took one last look at the bank. The answer to his troubles wasn’t inside those four walls, it was inside some altogether higher and more impenetrable walls, but the gain would be much greater.

Riding out, he paused, reflecting on the name of the town, Independence. The irony of the name was not lost on him. There had been times when he’d yearned to be independent, but that had been some years ago now. It had always seemed right, the two of them riding together. What wasn’t right was the way they had been forced to part. They had both dealt with the adversities, which life had thrown at them and managed to over come them but that was because they had been partners and they still were.

Glancing back at the town, where he had nearly made one of the biggest mistakes of his life, he allowed himself a small smile, as he thought, ‘If this is Independence, you can keep it!"
Penski
The Outlaws that Wouldn’t Quit - Part 9
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:18 pm by Penski
Stand Off


Long, slim fingers fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, shaking slightly with the effort. As the last button slipped through the hole, he lifted his dark eyes to meet those of the man standing in front of him.

“Well?” he asked.

The man raised an eyebrow at him briefly, before returning his attention to the notebook he was holding, writing something down.

“Afraid I’ve got some real bad news for you, Heyes,” the doctor said eventually, dotting a full stop, exuberantly. “You’re fit for heavier work duties. The infection in your kidneys has cleared up. All this good clean living in here, has done the job!” he told him, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Heyes merely nodded his response and slid from the table, on which he had been sitting. The guard, who was also present in the room, stepped forward and Heyes automatically raised his arms to allow the manacles to be replaced about his wrists.

“Your attempt at exaggerating your injuries was wasted on me I’m afraid! Did you really think you’d get away with it? Thought you were supposed to be a clever sort!”the doctor said, shaking his head in bewilderment.

“Had my reasons,” Heyes replied.

“Well, whatever your reasons, it didn’t do you much good! You’re still stuck in this place for the next twenty years! You can’t be too happy about them releasing Kid Curry either! Some partner he turned out to be!” he continued. Heyes shot the man one of the looks, which had sustained his reputation as an infamous outlaw leader.

The doctor sniffed uncomfortably. “You can return him to his cell now,” he instructed the guard, turning away, missing the contemptuous parting look Heyes gave him, before being ushered out of the door.

Slowly ambling down the dark, dank walkways, leading back to his cell, Heyes began to wonder why he had done what he had done. It was true, he did have his reasons and perhaps only he would ever be able to understand them.

It had seemed right at the time but there were moments, like now, when he thought he must have been crazy! It wasn’t that he minded the Kid being released, it was more the fact that he really missed him, having someone to talk to, someone who let him talk, someone who understood him so well that some things didn’t need saying. They had been together so long and through so much, at times it seemed they knew what the other was thinking.

The irony was the Kid had not known what Heyes had been thinking a few weeks earlier. When he had first arrived at Aurora, Heyes had genuinely thought there was something seriously wrong with him, as he hurt so badly. Turned out the doc in the town had misread his symptoms and there had been no permanent internal damage, just some bruising which had resulted in a kidney infection, but nothing that wouldn’t heal in due course. The prison doctor had confirmed this when he’d seen Heyes that day, the same day the warden had sent for him. It was only when the warden had informed him of the governor’s communication, granting one of them amnesty, Heyes had decided to carry out the deception, knowing full well the Kid would not comply willingly. He’d always looked out for the Kid and old habits die-hard. That night, when he had lied to his partner, it been one of the hardest things he’d done in his life.

When the guards had come to restrain the Kid, he had felt physically sick, having to tell himself, it was being cruel to be kind. He hadn’t felt kind though. It had felt downright wrong. It had felt even worse when the guards had come to take the Kid away in the early hours of the morning. Heyes had pretended to be asleep at first but no one would have been able to sleep through his partner’s protests as he was dragged from the cell, his frantic shouts echoing through the prison. The fearful look, coupled with one of anger, on Kid’s face, as he was taken away, would live with Heyes forever, along with the guilt.

He went through the first few days in a state of numbed disbelief, trying to come to terms with the repercussions of his actions. He was alone, in prison, for the rest of his life. There was some comfort in the thought that the Kid had a chance to live a free and normal life. He only hoped that he would take it and use the chance wisely. The only thing, which worried him was no one would be there to watch his friend’s back and, when you were a gunfighter, with a certain reputation, it was a definite advantage.

The days had passed and changed into weeks. Heyes kept pretty much to himself, where possible. His renown earned him an instant respect among many of his fellow inmates, so they complied with his wish to be left alone.

Just over a month after arriving in Aurora and nearly three weeks since the Kid had left, Heyes was told he had a visitor. It was a Sunday and all prisoners were granted a well needed day of rest, to attend church and see to their personal upkeep. Heyes was attending to a large blister, which covered the whole of the ball of his right foot, trying to burst it with a good pinch of his fingers, when a guard appeared at his cell door.

“On your feet, Heyes,” the guard instructed.

“Easier said than done!” Heyes retorted, reaching for his ill fitting, regulation boots, which were the cause of the blister. “S’pose you’re gonna tell me to hop to it!” he mumbled disconsolately, pulling on his other boot. The guard chose to ignore him but was a little rougher than usual as he placed the cuffs about Heyes’ wrists.

Heyes winced but said nothing. He was learning fast to keep his head down and not rile the guards. It was safer that way.

“Get going,” he was told gruffly, as the guard gave him a shove on the shoulder. Heyes limped his way along the walkway until he came to a barred doorway. Another guard unlocked the door and he was ushered through.

“Stop here,” he was instructed, a little further down the corridor. He was surprised when a set of leg irons was produced and placed about his ankles and secured to the manacles about his wrists, with a length of chain.

“This visitor of mine must be pretty special!” he remarked, as the guard secured the final lock.

“He ain’t special at all but I ain’t taking no chances with you, Heyes.” he was told, as the door to a small room was opened.

The room was dark, with only one small slit of a window allowing any light to enter. The guard stood in the doorway, letting in a little more light and Heyes could just make out the form of a man standing deep in the shadows of a far corner.

“You’ve got ten minutes. I’ll be right outside.” The guard closed the door behind him, making the room even darker. Heyes began to feel somewhat nervous of this unknown visitor but then an all too familiar voice came through the gloom.

“How ya doin’, Heyes?”

For a brief moment Heyes was speechless. “Kid?” His voice was hoarse with the emotion that threatened to well inside him. He made to step forward, causing the chains to rattle noisily. “How’d you … I mean, I can’t believe they let you see me.”

“Took some persuadin’” Kid replied, coming out of the gloom.

An awkward silence ensued. The Kid looked closely at his partner, taking in his unkempt appearance, pale complexion and thinness. “So, you gonna answer my question?”

“What question?”

“How ya doin’?”

“I’m doing okay.”

“Have to say you look a lot better than I expected …. considerin'.”

“Considering what?”

“That you’re supposed to be dyin’.”

The tension hung in the air like a noose. Heyes shifted awkwardly at the comment, making the chains clink once again, the sound almost deafening in the silence. His gaze dropped to the floor, unable to meet his friend’s steely stare.

“I spoke to the doctor.” The Kid’s tone was flat but Heyes felt the sharp edge. Still he did not respond.

“Why’d d’you do it, Heyes? Why’d you lie to me, especially about that?” The sharpness was gone, replaced with a sombre bluntness. Heyes could feel his friend staring at him, without having to look up.

“You know how much it cost me to bribe my way into this place? Least you could do is talk to me!”

“Got nothing to say. What’s done is done. It’s over.’

“And I say it ain’t!”

Heyes lifted his head to meet the Kid’s blue eyes. Yep, there it was – that stubborn, determined look of intent he had seen many times over the years. He had faced it before and he faced it again now. “There ain’t nothing can be done. Governor was only offering one amnesty. You got it.”

“I didn’t get much choice!”

“Knew you wouldn’t take it unless I forced your hand a little.”

“And what gave you the right to make that decision for me, Heyes? You could have at least talked it through with me, like we always do ….. like we did.” The Kid ran a hand through his hair and turned away but could not conceal the bitterness in his words.

“I thought what I did was for the best,” Heyes said lamely.

The Kid spun back to face him. “Best for who? It sure don’t look like it’s for you and it’s not best for me neither. Do want to know what I was doing last week? I was piping a bank.”

Heyes’ eyes widened and his jaw dropped open. “What the hell d’you want and go and do that for?”

“I don’t know!” the Kid shouted in reply. “Guess it was because that’s where the money’s kept!”

Their eyes met and the corners of Heyes’ mouth twitched. It was enough to make Curry snap. “Damn it, Heyes, I thought you were dying! Thought there wasn’t much point in going straight any more, not without you there ….” His words trailed away, suddenly embarrassed by his outburst.

It was Heyes’ turn to be annoyed now. “Think you owe me a little more effort considering what I’m going through so you can be free!” he shot back, shaking his cuffed wrists angrily at his partner.

The Kid’s eyes darkened. “I didn’t ask you to do it!” he growled, through gritted teeth.

Heyes’ shoulders sagged. “No, I guess you didn’t,” he sighed.

There was another silent interval.

“What we gonna do, Heyes?” the Kid asked plaintively.

“Don’t reckon there’s much can be done.”

“And you talk about me not making an effort! You’ll think of something and in the meantime I’ll go talk to the Governor and plead your case. It can’t hurt,” the Kid said thoughtfully.

“There ain’t no point, Kid. We made the deal and it’s done. Best thing you can do is make a life for yourself. Governor’s never gonna let me out.” Heyes’ head hung dejectedly.

“I didn’t make no deal - with anyone! Perhaps it’s my turn to make a few decisions.” The stubborn look was back.

The sound of the bolt on the door being drawn back, with a loud clunk, interrupted their discussion. The guard pushed the door open. “Time’s up, boys!”

Taking a breath, Heyes fixed the Kid with a look. “He’s right. Time’s up, Kid. It’s over. Get out of here and move on.”

“Hurry up, Curry before someone sees you. You’ve gotta go – now!” the guard told him forcefully.

The Kid moved towards the door and as he passed Heyes, put a hand on his shoulder, leaned in close and, in a low voice, said, “This ain’t over. One way or another, I’m going to get you out, Heyes, whether you like it or not!”

Shrugging his way passed the waiting guard, he went out of the door, leaving Heyes standing alone, with his chains and shackles.

Penski
The Outlaws that Wouldn’t Quit - Part 10
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:23 pm by Penski
A Proverb or two


The sound of the door slamming shut behind him, resonated through Heyes’ entire body. He clenched his teeth, grimaced in frustration and quietly cursed. Standing disconsolately in the middle of the gloomy visiting room, he glared at the shackles about his wrists. The meeting had not gone as he would have wished, far from it in fact. He had not meant to be so defensive but the surprise visit had caught him off guard.

Even though he had been pleased to see the Kid, it had been a jolt. Why’d he have to come now? Not that it wasn’t good to see him – heck, he was the one person in the world he did want to see and there lay the crux of the problem. Having resigned himself to a fate of his own making, he had tried to emotionally detach from any thoughts and memories that appertained to the outside world. If he was going to survive his time in Aurora he needed to succumb to the rules and routines of the place and forget his past.

Seeing his partner had reawakened feelings he had tried to suppress and had reignited the desperate yearning for his previous unconstrained life. Taking a deep breath, he looked heavenward, as if for inspiration. Many times, throughout the long, lonely hours he had searched for answers but they evaded him and there seemed nothing could be done while he was interned in this place. All he could do now was wait and put his trust in his partner.

Heyes knew Kid would be true to his word and would endeavour, by what ever means possible, to get him out. He just didn’t see how it would be possible. Heyes let out a slow soft sigh. The Kid had always been there for him whenever he was needed and was the best partner a man could have, indeed, he was a true friend.

***************

The Kid stopped outside the same large, wooden gate, he had been escorted through some weeks earlier, wincing at the clunk of the lock sliding shut. An overwhelming sense of finality came over him as the last bolt was secured. The visit had not gone as he had planned. He had hoped to discuss a means of getting Heyes out of that place but his infuriation with his partner, for deceiving him, won through. When he had seen his usually self-assured and genial partner standing before him, looking pale and subdued, manacled hand and foot, he felt angry. It angered him that Heyes, a supposedly intelligent man - some would say genius, had got himself in this mess. It galled him further that it had purportedly been for his benefit.

Raking his hand through his hair, he took an appreciative breath of the cool, clean air, trying to clear the stench of the place, which hung about him. It had taken him days to lose the smell when he had been released previously. It seemed to linger and cling to you, holding you in its grasp, not letting you forget. With Heyes still inside its foreboding walls, there was no way he could forget Aurora, not until he had got his partner out of there.

There was a lot to think about and do and he wasn’t really sure where to begin. A visit to the governor might be a start but he knew it wasn’t going to be that simple.

Placing his hat firmly on his head, he started to walk towards his tethered horse. This was just the first single step of a long journey but it was one he was prepared to take, for the sake of his partner.

Penski
The Outlaws that Wouldn’t Quit – Part 11
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:27 pm by Penski
One Dark Night


Once again, he shifted position. Through the night he had tossed and turned relentlessly. The more he tried to sleep, the greater his agitation grew. How many times had he turned from his right side to his left? How many times had he stared into the darkness hoping sleep would come to claim him? He lay on his back now, listening to the sounds in the night – the creaks and whispers, magnified in the stillness, playing tricks on his imagination. As a diversion, he let his thoughts wander, from mundane tasks, which he had to perform the next day to more distant memories. He tried to ignore the one thing that troubled his mind. He did not want to think of it, could not think of it as it was something which required a momentous decision, one that he was not sure he should take, not at this present time.

Turning onto his left side once more, he stared blindly at the soft glow of moonlight, peering round the heavy drapes at the window. He closed his eyes against the light, willing sleep to come, so his mind could rest and stop. His closed eyelids trapped the images, which troubled him. He could see the bars and the miserable hunched figure behind them, alone and hopeless. The idea that it was due to him, that the man found himself in his present circumstance, vexed him greatly.

Unable to stand his restlessness any longer, he flung back the sheets and swung his feet to the floor. He padded softly across to the dresser, not wanting to disturb any other members of the household. Striking a match, he lit the oil lamp, turning down the wick, so it gave off a low light. Next to the lamp lay a bound folder. He unwrapped the leather ties and the folder fell open, allowing a bundle of papers to spill out. Picking up the first dozen or so pages, he flicked through them, shaking his head sadly as he noted that most were covered with the same scrawled script. Placing the papers back inside the folder, he picked it up and took the lamp in his other hand and went back to his bed.

With his back rested against two plumped up pillows, he began to read the letters. He had received so many now that the handwriting was reassuringly familiar. These were not the writings of a highly educated man but they were written in an open and sincere manner. Each held a story from a sometimes complicated and troubled life but, at the same time, expressed a joy. They told a story of two boys, who, through no fault of their own, had learnt the harsh realities of life, due to misfortune and mistaken decisions. These boys were now men and had learnt a valuable lesson in life, to be true to themselves and make the right choices. For a few years they had struggled to show they were prepared to do this, striving to be better men, even though they were in constant danger.

The letters told of events where temptation had been laid in their way but they had resisted. They told of hard times, sad times and of humorous times. They told of good deeds and incidents, which had been well intentioned but hadn’t always gone to plan. Through all these trials and tribulations, celebrations and commiserations there had been one constant. These two boys had been together.

There were other letters too, from people offering their support of their endeavours. Amongst them were businessmen, a sheriff and even a judge. What was most evident in these correspondences was these two men were a team - partners.

Until this afternoon, the letters had merely been an interesting account of two people’s lives, but then he had walked into his office. At first he had been just another appointment, having kept his true identity hidden. He had walked into the office, wearing a well fitted, but threadbare, grey suit, with an assuredness and a look of caution in his steady, blue eyes. Approaching the desk, he held out his hand, startling the recipient as he calmly introduced himself as Jedediah Curry. There was a moment of stunned silence, as the man on the other side of the desk gathered himself, taken aback at having the notorious outlaw and gunfighter stood right in front of him.

“I’m sorry for deceivin’ you, sir and makin’ the appointment under a false name and business, but I wasn’t too sure you’d agree to see me and it’s mighty important that I get to talk to you in person,” the young man said politely.

Still in a state of shock, the man said nothing but indicated a nearby chair. Kid Curry nodded his thanks and eased himself into the chair.

“There was no need. You are, after all, a free man now, Mr. Curry.” He couldn’t help but think the man before him certainly lived up to his name of ‘Kid’ Curry, with his youthful good looks.

"I got your letters,’ the man continued, feeling a little braver.

Kid Curry gave a small smile and held the man’s gaze, bobbing his head in appreciation.

“They made for some interesting reading!”

“There’s not a word of a lie in them,” Curry told him.

“Oh, I wasn’t insinuating there was!” the man replied nervously.

“I just wanted you to know all the facts, straight from the horse’s mouth, you might say, so as there’d be no misunderstandin’.”

“No, no, quite!”

“I know how these fancy lawyers and officials can turn the words around so as they can look to mean something totally different from what was intended and I just wanted you to know the facts.” Curry trailed off, aware he was rattling on some. Truth be told, he was a lot more nervous than his demeanour suggested.

Taking a breath, the man got to his feet and went to a side cabinet and brought out a decanter of whiskey and a couple of glasses. Pouring two large measures, he offered one to Curry, who took it gratefully. Both men took a sip of the liquor. Curry studied his glass and its contents while the man studied him.

Coming to the conclusion that the ex-outlaw posed no threat and interested in seeing what else he had to say, the man perched himself on the edge of the desk, keen to regain control of the situation. “I have a pretty good idea what you’ve come to talk to me about, so why don’t we make a start?” he told him.

Kid Curry looked up. “That’d be good,” he replied in a low voice. The man could see the desperation in his face and hear it in his voice, but all the while he maintained an air of dignity.

The man asked questions and Curry answered, as honestly and accurately as he could. He maintained his composure throughout, only faltering a few times, when the questioning dragged up things he would rather forget.

It was over an hour later when Kid Curry left the office.

****************

For about the hundredth time that day he took the paper from the folder and studied it. All he had to do was put his signature at the bottom. His head said not to, as it would be political suicide, making him out to be a weak man who went back on his own policies. His heart, on the other hand, told him it was the right thing to do, to give these men the chance they had earned.

If he signed, then his political opponents would hound him. If he didn’t, then the ghosts of Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes would follow him to his grave and possibly beyond. If these two weren’t given the break they deserved, the guilt would be with him for the rest of his days.

Governor Warren put the paper to one side and crawled back under the sheets of his bed. Whatever he decided to do, it would be sure to haunt him for the rest of his days.

Penski
The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit - Part 12
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:32 pm by Penski
Counting Blessings


"God damn it! Son of ....!"

It was not the first time that day Heyes had let out a volley of involuntary curse words. This time the cause had been a splinter of rock, flying up and catching him on the cheek. The red stain of blood on his hand assured him the words had been warranted.

"Whatcha hollerin' ‘bout now, Heyes?" asked Wilbur, his assigned guard for the day, leaning lethargically on his rifle, cheek bulging with chewing tobacco. Heyes looked over at the plump, balding man, furrowing his brow and gritting his teeth.

William Wilbur was about as happy as Heyes at being here, in Aurora, but lack of any other suitable employment had driven him to take the job as prison guard. They had formed an alliance of sorts. As long as Heyes didn't cause him no trouble, Wilbur was happy to go a little easy on his notorious charge.

"You wanna take a turn at this?" Heyes said, indicating the large boulders surrounding him, which were his assigned work duty for the day.

"Nope!' Wilbur replied cheerily. "Ain't ya forgettin', I'm the guard and ya're the prisoner. It's yur job to crack them rocks up real small, for the railroad and mine to make sure ya do it right," he finished with a wide, gapped tooth grin.

"There's no need to look quite so pleased with yourself," Heyes retorted, gingerly touching his cheek with his finger. "Couldn't you have gotten me another work duty, one that ain't quite so hard on the back?"

"Not down to me what job ya git. I'm just told to watch ya. Seems to me ya should count your blessings."

Heyes looked at the man incredulously. "Could you enlighten me to what blessings you're referring?"

"Now there ya go, talkin' all fancy again. That there's one of them blessings I was talkin' about. ‘Cos ya can talk all fancy, ya got yaself that cosy job doing the prison books. Iffen it wasn't fur that, the warden wouldn't have gotten ya to play that darn game with him."

Heyes allowed himself a smug grin. That little privilege had indeed been a blessing, excusing him from more arduous tasks and work assignments. He had taught himself to play chess one cold, miserable winter, when they had been holed up at Devil's Hole. The long spells of concentrated silence had near driven the Kid mad. Heyes had tried to teach his partner the basics of the game but Kid had become so frustrated he had eventually drawn his gun on Heyes' queen, which had his own king in check mate, after about a dozen moves. Even Heyes had to concede chess wasn't the Kid's game.

There again, he wasn't playing chess, with or without the Kid today. Heyes' expression clouded and he lifted the sledgehammer once more and brought it down with a hard smack.

"Well it didn't do me too much good, did it? I mean, just cos I beat him last time he's assigned me to rock splitting for the foreseeable future, so I don't feel very blessed at the moment!"

"Ain't no one botherin' ya, is there? In this place I'd call that a blessin'," Wilbur responded.

"Only you and you sure ain't a blessing!" Heyes said sarcastically.

During his incarceration at Aurora prison, Heyes had quickly learned that it was best not to fight the system but to make it work for you, by whatever means possible. There was no telling how long he could be there, or indeed, whether he'd ever leave, therefore the best policy was to keep his head down and keep out of trouble, which wasn't easy with his kind of reputation. He achieved this by stringently adhering to the prison rules, maintaining good relations with the guards and fellow prisoners as best he could and keeping himself to himself. So far, it seemed to work. It did mean that he hadn't been able to forge any real relations with anyone. Forging a friendship made you susceptible. Not that he needed any friends. He had one of those. A pretty good one but he wasn't here and that was another thing he could count as a blessing.

"Come on, Heyes. Iffen ya don't swing that hammer a few more times, we're both gonna be in trouble." Heyes looked over at Wilbur, giving him a small smile of resignation and lifted the heavy, headed hammer once more.

***************

Some hours later, Wilbur was escorting Heyes back through the large, wooden doorway to the main part of the prison. Both men had slumped into a weary silence, the heat of the day having taken its toll. There didn't seem to be a bone in Heyes' body that didn't ache in some way and, strange as it may seem, he was looking forward to being confined to the cool and quiet of his cell for the night.

"Wilbur!" The loud shout caught their attention. "You're to take him to Block C," one of the other guards instructed, inclining his head in Heyes' direction.

"What fur?" Wilbur asked, frustrated that the tail end of his shift had been disrupted.

"I don't know," came the irritated response. "Just been told to tell you."

Wilbur sighed deeply and Heyes gave him a sympathetic smile, even though he was equally annoyed at the interruption of routine, which was the one thing you could depend on in this place usually. With a resigned shrug of his shoulders, Wilbur gestured in the direction of their assigned destination.

It was commonly known that the purpose of Block C was as a holding area, for prisoners awaiting further trial, transfer to other institutions and in some cases, before execution.

Once inside the block, both were surprised at being greeted by a disgruntled warden and a couple of unknown men, dressed in suits.

"At last!" the warden exclaimed. "You can go now, guard," he told Wilbur, who cast a worried glance at Heyes. After giving a respective nod of the head in understanding, Wilbur retreated back through the door.

"What's this all about, sir?" Heyes asked politely, belying the nervous tension, which was building inside.

"You'll find out soon enough," came the brusque reply. The warden turned on his heel and headed out the door, leaving Heyes confused and feeling somewhat uncomfortable. The two smartly dressed men looked him up and down, taking in his miserable countenance and pallid complexion, even though he'd spent the day in the sun, his dusty, threadbare, prison regulation uniform, hanging from a skinny, undernourished, bony body.

The taller of the two men stepped forward and took the handle of the door of a nearby room.

"In here," he stated simply, turning the handle and pushing the door open. Heyes looked cautiously inside.

As the door swung open, a figure inside spun around. A rush of emotion surged in Heyes as Jed ‘Kid' Curry stood before him. He was only vaguely aware of the door closing behind him as he entered the room, his eyes firmly fixed on the fair-haired man.

"Hi!" Heyes' inadequate greeting hung in the air as the Kid stood tense and grim faced.

"Good to see you, Kid," Heyes persisted. "How much did this little visit cost you?"

"A good deal."

"Well, I hope it's money well spent. How'd you come by it, anyhow? Not been tempted by anymore banks recently I hope?"

The Kid let a smile slip. "Nope, been busy doin' other things."

"That's good. Good to know you're keeping busy."

"Oh, I've been real busy."

"Good."

"How you been?" the Kid asked, concern clouding his blue eyes.

"I've been doing okay."

"Yeah, looks like it!" The Kid indicated the cut on his partner's cheek.

Heyes frowned for a moment until he realised to what the Kid was referring. "Mark of a hard day's graft," he informed him, with a resigned smile. "So, what you been busy doing?"

"Writing letters."

Heyes let out an involuntary guttural laugh. "Who to?"

"Just about every one we know ... and the governor." The Kid's expression remained passive. Heyes' did not.

"The governor!" he exclaimed loudly.

The Kid nodded meekly. "Yep."

"Why ... I mean, what were you .... I .... Kid?"

"It was worth a try, Heyes. I thought if he got to know some more about us, and what we've been through, he might look on our situation a little more favourably, consider letting you go free."

Heyes regarded his friend and his shoulders sank. "Well, you tried, Kid. Writing never was you're strong point but I appreciate your trying."

The Kid stared at his feet.

"So, who are the suited fellas outside?" Heyes continued dismally. "They come to make sure to don't try and break me out?"

"They've come to make sure everything is signed and approved right," the Kid answered.

"Huh?"

The Kid raised his head and blue eyes met brown. He fished inside his inner jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "I did it, Heyes. I got you out, all on my own!"

"Huh?"

"The governor signed the amnesty papers. You're a free man."

The wide, dimpled grin that creased Heyes' face said it all. He gazed at his partner, searching his face to make sure he'd heard right. The sparkling blue eyes and warm smile told him he had.

"I knew I could count on you, Kid."

Penski
The Outlaws that Wouldn’t Quit - Epilogue
Post Fri 24 Jan 2020, 9:34 pm by Penski
Glad Tidings


The rhythmical clatter of wheels, on the driveway, announced the arrival of the carriage as it drew closer to the house. Inside the cab, the man reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out the card he had received just over a week ago and checked the address. The heading on the invite proclaimed ‘Glad Tidings’ in bold type. Reverend Spencer smiled to himself. It was indeed good news that Hannibal Heyes and Jed ‘Kid’ Curry had both been granted amnesty. He was proud that the letter he had written had some part to play in the proceedings. He had been delighted to receive the invitation to attend the official signing of the necessary papers and the celebration party, which would follow.

The carriage pulled up outside a large mansion house, in a desirable street location, in San Francisco. The Reverend was surprised two ex-outlaws had connections with someone of such obvious wealth and standing. As he stepped down, he was greeted by a smartly dressed man and was informed that Mr. Saunders was waiting to receive him in the sitting room. Following the man inside and entering the hallway, the Reverend gazed about him in astonishment at the sheer opulence of the house. The muffled babble of voices could be heard coming from behind a set of large double doors, which swung open to reveal a group of about a dozen people. A small, older man with a pointed nose, a warm smile and an outstretched hand approached. Clasping the Reverend’s hand in both of his, he introduced himself as the host, ‘Soapy’ Saunders and bid Reverend Spencer to make himself at home and come and meet more of Heyes’ and the Kid’s friends. The honoured guests were not due to arrive until early evening.

After being released from prison, Heyes had needed some recuperation time so they had spent some time in the town of Rock Falls, staying in a small but comfortable hotel. They were due to meet Lom Trevors the previous day and would be travelling the last part of the journey together.

The afternoon passed pleasantly, the guest explaining how they were acquainted with the ex-outlaws. As each story unfolded it was clear the boys had had an interesting and demanding couple of years. The one thing, which everyone agreed upon, was that the amnesty was well deserved.

As time passed, the anticipation grew and heads strained around whenever the sitting room door opened, only to have Soapy’s butler enter to bring more food and replenish drinks. The atmosphere became buoyant and the chatter and laughter louder. Eventually, Silky O’Sullivan shushed everyone and peered through the heavy brocade curtains, into the gloom of the evening, announcing he could see horses coming up the drive way and instructed everyone to get ready. All the guests gathered round the doorway and fell quiet, save for the stifled giggles from the Jordan girls.

The knock at the front door was clearly heard within the room, followed by the click of the latch and a deep husky male voice. Footsteps were heard coming closer, clomping across the marble floor of the hallway, but there was a moment’s pause before the door opened. Lom Trevors stood in the doorway. He looked at the gathered party, his lips pressed tightly together, his eyes narrow, fidgeting with his hat which he clasped in his hands.

“Well, where are they?” Silky demanded loudly. Lom’s eyes cast around the group of eager faces before him before he let them drop to the ground.

“They’re not coming,” he said, in a low voice.

“Not coming?” Silky boomed. “Don’t tell me – Heyes got into a poker game that was just too good to pass up and the Kid found himself some young floozy to spend time with!” he responded brusquely, with more than a hint of disgust.

Lom shifted uneasily on his feet. “There was a bounty hunter who hadn’t heard about the amnesty. They didn’t stand a chance. He shot Heyes in the back and before the Kid even had time to realise what was going on, he shot him too.”

Clementine Hale’s hand flew to her mouth as she ran from the room, not wishing to hear any more.

And neither do we.



Author's note: This is the last installment of the series. As it was written as part of a writing challenge I decided to do something unexpected. I hope you readers aren't too disappointed but I had to end it some how!


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Re: The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit
Post Fri 07 Feb 2020, 2:51 am by Nightwalker
I just finished reading this sequence of stories for the first time. It's no secret that I enjoy it dark sometimes. It was a great challenge to write a story only along the lines of monthly challenge prompts and you managed it perfectly. I love your style, the plot, the way you captured the boys and their relationship.
Of course, the ending is hard to take. If someone wants to end the story with a happy ending, they just can leave out the last part of it - "Glad Tidings" - and be fine.
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The Outlaws that Wouldn't Quit

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