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Join date : 2013-10-13
|Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 1|| |
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry and
Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes
Brett Tucker as Nathan Tremayne
Amber Chardae Robinson as Stagecoach Mary
Alex Karras as Shorty
Katherine MacGregor as Prudence
Barry Fitzgerald as Henry
Rory Calhoun as Will
Monty Laird as Joe
Michael Weatherly as Cedar Falls Sheriff—Robert Crandall
Tom Payne as Deputy Mike
Nat Zang as Deputy Jesse
TBA (in episode) as Chance Cooper
Robert Taylor as Timber Ridge Sheriff—John Larsen
Fred Gwynne as Circuit Judge Micah Johnston
Rex Lease as Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Baker
Richard Long as Defense Attorney Samuel Westmore
Wally Cox as Mr. Marlowe Brandon Smith
Trouble in Cedar Falls
“Put your hands in the air nice and slow!” Sheriff Crandall ordered as he pulled his Colt from his holster and pointed it in the direction of the table. The six deputies were quick to follow suit, leveling their weapons at the table.
Curry dared another surreptitious look at the man next to him, but his partner's eyes were still glued on the lawman.
Then, with an imperceptive shake of his head, Heyes began to raise his arms very slowly. Only Curry heard his partner's quiet sigh of resignation.
The Kid tossed his cards on the table and followed his partner’s example.
The blond-haired stranger exited the train that he had taken from Jackrabbit Junction and glanced at the sign hanging from the wooden beam overhead. “Timber Ridge,” he muttered aloud. “One more small town...” He paused on the boardwalk to survey the activities of the local inhabitants. The corners of his mouth crinkled up in a smile as he watched a group of young children playing Rabbit-In-The-Hole.***
Behind the stranger, somewhere in the distance, a faint voice could be heard calling out, “Hey, Coop!” Pause. “Cooper!” the voice called louder. Pause. “Chance—CHANCE COOPER!” This time the voice managed to catch the attention of several of the townsfolk, their heads turning to see who was raising all the ruckus and why.
Looking both ways, the stranger shifted the heavy bag he carried from his right hand to his left before he stepped down into the street.
“Hey, Coop!” the persistent voice bellowed. “Would ya wait up?!”
The sound of stagecoach wheels and pounding hooves stopped the stranger dead in his tracks. He took a quick step backwards to avoid being hit as the coach rounded the corner. Forced to wait while the conveyance passed, an impatient sigh escaped him. He reached into his vest pocket for his watch as the stagecoach pulled up parallel to the boardwalk across the street and glanced at the time before pocketing it. A moment later he began to make his way across the street once again.
“Coop! Dagnabbit all to blazes, man—would ya hold yer daggone horses! I ain’t no spring chicken, ya know!”
A split second later the stranger felt himself being grabbed from behind and engulfed in a great big bear hug which pinned his arms to his sides while he was lifted off his feet high into the air. To his further dismay, he was then swung around in a wide arc before being deposited back upon the boardwalk he had just vacated moments before. Two large hands then spun him around in a half circle. Head reeling, the man had to hold onto his attacker’s arms for support; he gave his head a few shakes to chase away some of the wooziness.
“Boy, I shore am glad that stage is on time for once!” a deep voice boomed like thunder from somewhere above his head. “Otherwise I mighta missed ya altogether—I didn't think I'd ever catch up with ya!”
The disoriented stranger blinked a time or two in an effort to dispel the stars circling his head in a kind of frenzied war dance. Once his vision had cleared and the world began to swim back into focus, he found himself staring into the broad plaid-covered chest of one of the most massive men he had ever seen. Twice his own width, his ‘assailant’ also dwarfed his six-foot height by a good eight inches. He found he had to tilt his head back in order to look up into the big man’s face.
“Whooweeeee… ol’ Shorty shore got the jump on ya this time, didn’t he? Bet yer shore surprised to see me, ain't ya?”
“Shorty?” the man echoed in disbelief. As his eyes once again traversed the length of the giant’s body, they widened even more.
“Yessiree, ya mangy ol’ son-of-a-biscuit eater!” Shorty enthused. He engulfed the stranger’s hand in his own massive paw and began to pump it up and down with vigor. “I can’t believe it’s really you, Coop—last I heard ya was over in Jackrabbit Junction. Say, how long’s it been?”
Like a fish out of water, the perplexed man opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.
“What’s the matter?” Shorty chuckled. “Cat got yer tongue? Well, never ya mind; it don’t matter none. Ya know, ya shore are a sight fer sore eyes!” He took a step back. Starting with the top of the new hat which rested upon the blond man’s head down to the toes of his shiny leather boots, Shorty eyed the other man up and down. “Purty fancy duds yer wearin; betcha got somethin’ in the ol' fryin’ pan, dontcha?” Winking a conspiratorial eye, he elbowed the man none-too-gently in the rib cage, an action which caused the blond to wince.
Not bothering to wait for a reply, Shorty rushed on. “I’ve got me a few things that need tendin' to first, but I’d shore like to buy ya a drink—or two.” He made to elbow the stranger in the ribs again, but this time the other man was ready for him and took a step back just in the nick of time and caused Shorty to chuckle. “For old time’s sake, ya know. We could meet up back here in a while so we can talk an’ get caught up with each other. How’s ‘bout later this afternoon? Yer free, ain't ya, Coop?”
“Uh… I’m afraid I’m not—”
“Oh…” Shorty’s face crumpled, his expression transformed to that of a man who had just lost his best friend. “Well, that’s alright, Coop,” the crestfallen man mumbled, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. “Under the circumstances, I s’pose I understand. Guess ya jus’ don’t wanna be seen hangin’ ‘round with the likes of me no more, huh? Well,” he heaved a deep, drawn-out sigh, “it shore was nice runnin’ into ya again… Oh, an’ don’t worry,” he peeked out from beneath the shock of brown hair that had fallen down to cover his eyes, “I won’t bother ya none no more neither–-ya can bet on that!”
“But I don’t—” the man began.
“Never ya mind, ya don't havta explain,” Shorty continued on as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “I’d say see ya ‘round,” he shrugged his massive shoulders and heaved a deep sigh, “but a man don’t need to get smacked upside his head with a wooden board to know when he’s not wanted.” With shoulders slumped and a woebegone expression upon his face, Shorty stuffed his hands into his pockets and shuffled off, shaking his head and muttering something about ‘ingrates’ under his breath.
Eyes still wide, the blond stranger followed the giant until he disappeared from sight when he turned around the corner of the building. “Well, now, if that don’t beat all…” He rubbed the back of his neck and retrieved his bag from where it had fallen in all the confusion, brushing at the dirt. After looking both ways, he darted a quick look over his shoulder before he began his trek across the street to the building where he was to meet up with the owner. Ten minutes later, his business transaction completed, he emerged and, without further mishap, approached the window of the stage depot.
The driver pulled the coach door open and began to assist the passengers out. After the third one had exited, the man poked his head through the doorway. “Fellas,” he addressed the two passengers who remained inside, “I'm not sure how many passengers we’ll be pickin’ up here in Timber Ridge yet, but the stage is gonna be headin’ out in 'bout ten minutes, so if you’ve a mind to get out an' stretch your legs, make sure you’re back here by then. If you don't need to get out, jus' stay put. Nothin's changed; same story as Jackrabbit Junction. We're still runnin' way behind schedule so the stage ain't gonna wait for you if you're late.”
The sandy-haired man inside the coach gave an absent nod before he inched his way to the edge of his seat, craned his neck slowly towards the corner of the window, then dared to edge a bit further and took a furtive look around.
A few yards away, a matronly woman who had just exited the stagecoach stood on the boardwalk. She turned to give the conveyance a haughty glare of indignation.
Curry was quick to duck his head back inside. “Whew,” he whispered in relief. “That was close!”
The small-statured man standing next to the woman turned and raised his hand in a timid wave. The woman swatted it down with her hand, then tugged on his arm and began to tow him along behind her like a wayward child.
“Come along, Henry,” she reprimanded the man sharply, the loud rebuke ringing out loud and clear for all to hear. “And for heaven’s sake—quit your dawdling! I tell you, it is simply intolerable that we should be forced to share our accommodations with them and that we had to breathe the same air as them.
Pausing only long enough to take a deep breath, her rant continued. “The worst travesty of all was that we had to sit next to those… those uncouth ruffians and remain in such close contact with them for the entire trip! The imposition placed upon us is beyond the pale, even without taking into account the added indignity of you trying to be civil with the likes of them! I simply cannot believe that you had the audacity to speak to that—that transient!”
“Yes, Prudence,” Henry answered in a meek tone.
“Yes?!” She pivoted around with a frowning expression and arched an arrogant brow at the miscreant.
“I mean no! No, Prudence, my dear—I—”
“Why, I have a good notion to give them a piece of my mind!” she snapped. “Especially the one in the brown hat!” The heat of the fierce scowl she directed at the coach would have scorched it to smithereens and dispatched its two occupants to the fiery pits of Hades if she had her way.
“But, Prudence my dear,” the man began in a placating tone. The mild protest went unheeded as it fell upon deaf ears. Henry turned around to send an apologetic smile towards the coach, but even that modest gesture of politeness was thwarted when his attention was reclaimed by his verbose wife’s shrill tones.
“And another thing….” she continued as she dragged her harangued spouse away down the boardwalk.
“I don’t think that woman should try to give away somethin’ she don’t have!” Kid Curry commented with fervor as he once more peeked out from behind the stagecoach window now that the coast was clear.
A snort of laughter erupted from beneath the black hat that covered the face of the man seated next to him.
Curry reached outside and pushed the stagecoach door shut with his hand just to be on the safe side. He then switched his position and made himself comfortable in the seat across from his partner. “I think the temperature inside the stagecoach jus' went up ‘bout twenty degrees!” he added with a shudder.
“At least,” Hannibal Heyes agreed with a yawn as he removed the hat and sat up to stretch. “I must admit, I’m glad they’re not traveling any further with us.”
“You an’ me both!” Curry assented with a vigorous nod.
“Yep, I’d sure hate to have to break in a new partner; good ones are hard to find.”
“That’s not funny, Heyes!”
“Sure it is, if you think about it.”
“Don’t wanna think about it!” Curry answered glumly.
“Aw, cheer up, Kid; look on the bright side. You made one nice new friend and one formidable new enemy—and it’s not even dinnertime,” Heyes teased. His words were met with a silent scowl. “The next time a man shows an interest in your gun, you might want to make sure his wife’s not around first,” Heyes advised, his grin broadening.
“I was jus’ bein’ friendly,” Curry protested defensively. “Who’d’ve ever thought she’d get madder’n an ol’ wet hen over a measly ol' gun? Sheesh, it was bad enough when she was scoldin’ her husband, but when she lit into me it looked like she was gonna hit me over the head with that great big ol’ handbag of hers—I thought I was a goner for sure!”
“So did I, Kid,” Heyes chuckled, “so did I.”
“Poor guy. All Henry wanted to do was hold my gun an' look at it! Why, the way she treated him—” Curry shook his head. “I dunno, Heyes, I’m not sure I’d ever let a woman talk to me like that, ‘specially in front of other people!”
“Ah, but that’s what love will do to you, Kid.”
“Love?” Curry snorted. “That’s not love! That man is hen-pecked! An’ she’s a mean, beady-eyed, spiteful, ill-tempered, grouchy ol’ sour puss—that’s what she is!”
“You know, you really shouldn’t sugar-coat your feelings like that,” Heyes observed with a wry grin.
“Those are her good points!” Curry retorted. “Wonder how he ever ended up with the likes of her anyways? Henry was such a nice, friendly man; I liked him!”
“One of life’s great mysteries, Kid,” Heyes yawned. He stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles and pulled his hat down over his eyes. He settled down with his arms folded across his chest, all set to continue his nap. Just visible under the hat brim, a smile turned up the corners of his mouth.
“Must be an awfully good dream to put a grin like that on your face,” the Kid teased.
Heyes lifted the hat from his face a fraction to eye his partner. “Remember that cute little blonde-haired saloon girl with the green eyes that I spent time with last night?”
“Uh huh,” the Kid winked. “You shared more'n time with Rose, Heyes.”
Curry's comment coaxed Heyes' dimples out of hiding and a deep sigh of contentment escaped through his lips as he let his hat drop back down to cover his face. His voice was muffled as he added, “Well, that's who I was daydreaming about. Rose had just wrapped her arms around my neck and I there I was, leaning in to give her a long, passionate kiss—”
Loud voices outside the stagecoach interrupted Heyes.
“Now what?” the dark-haired man muttered and heaved a deep sigh of resignation mingled with regret. “Whatever it is, I hope it hurries up and gets over and done with so I can get back to Rose!” he snapped.
“Not on my stage ya don't!” a deep voice declared.
“But why?” a second voice protested. “I only want to—”
“I don't care what ya wanna do; I done tole ya, mister, an' that's jus' what yer gonna do!” the first voice snapped in reply. “My stage, my rules; an' 'sides that it's company policy for the comfort of the passengers. All luggage gets stowed up top—an' that includes that bag o' yourn!”
His face still sheltered beneath his hat, in spite of his eagerness to get back to his daydream, Heyes found himself eavesdropping on the conversation. He frowned in concentration as he mused aloud, “I know that voice. Can't quite put a name or face to it, though,” he added and cocked his head to the side.
“I was thinkin' the same thing.” Curry nodded. “I'm sure I've heard that gruff voice before.”
“But as I've explained to you, this is very valuable—as well as extremely breakable,” the second voice insisted. “It simply cannot go up there!”
“Either it goes up there, or ya ain't gettin' on my stage, mister. Better decide real quick—this stage leaves in exactly five minutes—with or without ya.”
Unable to stand not being able to place the voice, Curry scooted across the seat to look out the window. Immediately the corners of his mouth crinkled up in a smile.
A short silence followed the ultimatum, then the second voice was heard again. “What if I were to give you five dollars? Would that make a difference?”
“Make it ten, mister, an' ya got yerself a deal.”
The man reached into his pocket and handed the money to the driver. “So much for company policy,” he grumbled in an undertone.
The driver pocketed the money with a big white-toothed grin. “Sure hope that bag was worth it, mister.”
Curry pulled his head back inside, a twinkle in his eyes and excitement in his voice. “You'll never guess who's out there, Joshua!” he exclaimed.
Before Heyes could answer, the stage door was jerked open.
A flurry of activity commenced, which mainly consisted of the newcomer attempting to make his way inside the opening along with a bulky valise. After several bungled tries he finally managed to accomplish his goal. The out-of-breath stranger collapsed in the spot next to Heyes, huffing and puffing from his exertions. He reached down and attempted to maneuver the bag into a better place for the journey.
In the process of the stranger getting settled, Heyes was jostled around enough to knock his hat off his face. It hit the seat and toppled down to land on the floor of the stagecoach. With his nap interrupted and the saloon girl once again banished to dreamland, Heyes sat up and, with another deep sigh of resignation, bent down to retrieve his headgear.
The stranger leaned forward at the same time and picked up the black hat, beating Heyes by a second. “I’d like to apologize…” He froze when he caught sight of the gunbelt around the man’s waist and eyed it with some trepidation. He gulped before he spoke again. “I mean, I’m awfully sorry for my clumsiness, mister—it was an accident, honest!”
Pulling a clean handkerchief from his breast pocket he began to brush the dust off the hat and rushed on. “I didn’t mean to hit you—I mean to knock your hat off—or to cause you any trouble... Here you go.” He held the hat out, tentatively offering it to Heyes. “Good as new.”
Heyes took the proffered hat with a disarming grin. “No harm done; no offense taken. My name's Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”
The stranger held his hand out to Heyes, his expression one of relief. “My name is Nathan, Nathan Tremayne.” After shaking hands with Heyes, he turned to Curry. When he saw the holster tied down on the second's man’s leg in the same manner as the first, he held his hand out with a faint smile.
Curry smiled in return and shook the man’s hand. “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to put that up top?” He inclined his head towards Nathan’s bag.
“Much,” Nathan readily agreed. “Except for the fact that it has some breakables inside that will help me with a series of articles I'm writing about my experiences here out west. I also give lectures, and since it has been my experience thus far in my travels that these drivers don’t take much notice when you tell them to be careful, I must deal with the inconvenience it causes me to keep them in one piece.”
With skyward rolls of their eyes, Heyes and Curry nodded.
“We understand.” Heyes went on to explain. “Not too long ago we were in the same predicament with a marbled bust of Caesar we were responsible for when we helped our friend, Big Mac McCreedy.” He glanced outside, then turned to his partner. “Hey, where'd our driver go? Weren't you going to tell me something about him?”
“Yep,” Curry's grin was smug. “Bet you'll never guess who it is.”
“Well,” Heyes mused, “the voice did sound kinda familiar but—”
“Here's another clue, it's not a him.”
“Not a him?” Heyes echoed in surprise. “You're telling me our driver is a—”
At that moment the topic of their conversation came back and interrupted them again.
“Howdy there, gents. Jus' lettin' ya know there's been a change in drivers. You'll be ridin' with me to Cottonwood. The next, an' last, stop after that is Cedar Falls. Sure hope ya don't mind none.” Pearly white teeth, clutching a cigar between them, gleamed in a face as black as a burnt-over prairie. “Not that it'd matter if ya did; jus' wanted to let ya know. My name's—”
“Stagecoach Mary!”** Heyes enthused and edged closer to the door so he could put his arm out the window. Even from his seat in the stage he was forced to look up to see into the woman's face.
Standing at six feet tall and weighing nearly 200 pounds, Mary presented quite a figure.
“Joshua!” She stuck her hand out to give Heyes' hand a vigorous shake. “Ain't ya a sight for sore eyes!” She turned to eye the other seat. “I shoulda known you wouldn't be far away, Thaddeus—long time no see!” She grabbed his hand, gave it an energetic pumping and grinned. “Ya never know when ya get up in the mornin' what the day'll bring, do ya? I wondered if we'd ever meet up again. What's it been, two, three years now?”
“At least,” Heyes nodded.
“Told you that you wouldn't guess, Joshua—an' I was right!” Curry chuckled. Where've you been, Mary? We've been on lots of stagecoaches an' we haven't run into you anywhere.”
“Well,” Mary shrugged her massive shoulders, “doubt ya would've. Our paths couldn't cross 'cos I ain't been doin' the runs 'round here for some time. Been back up 'round Montana for a spell. I'm jus' in these parts for a short bit, then I'm headed back on up to Cascade. Nice little town; fact is, I'm thinkin' of settlin' down there when I get too old to do this anymore.”
“Hey,” Curry grinned, “you still have Moses an' Sam?”
“Sure do,” Mary nodded. “Moses' up front leadin' the team jus' like he always does. Had to leave Sam with some friends back in Cascade; he was actin' a bit poorly.” Seeing Nathan's look of confusion, she explained, “Sam's an eagle who usually rides with me an' Moses is my mule. Me 'n him been together for a real long time now. Kinda lost track of the years, but I sure hope we has lots more before I has to bury him.” Her grin disappeared for a few seconds, then returned twice as wide.
“Well, we best quit jawin' or we're never gonna make it on time. An' ya know me, boys,” she winked at the men, “I'm never late. Might havta make up a bit of time out there on the straight roads, so make sure ya have a good hold on those seats.” Removing the stairs, Stagecoach Mary secured the door.
“Next stop, Cottonwood,” she called out and climbed up top to start the next leg of the journey. “Hold onto yer hats, boys!” She gathered up the reins in her hands. “Gee up!” she yelled. “C'mon, Moses ya ornery ol' thing you—yaw, mule!”
Silence filled the coach for a full minute before Nathan blurted out, “Our stagecoach driver is a woman!”
Heyes and Curry grinned and nodded simultaneously.
“Yes, but you better not ever let her hear you call her that,” Heyes advised with a wink.
“Not if you wanna keep all your teeth,” Curry added.
“Are you serious? You're not just pulling my leg now, are you?”
“Dead serious. Nobody kids about Stagecoach Mary,” Curry warned with a solemn look, accompanied by a shake of his head.
“But... she is female. And she's black. Not only that, but she drives a stagecoach and delivers mail?” Nathan raised a questioning brow. “The west sure is full of curious things.” There was a slight pause before he spoke again. “Isn't she afraid of getting attacked or robbed?”
“Not Mary!” Curry snorted. “It's the other way 'round. She carries a break-top five-shooter Smith & Wesson .38; keeps it under her apron at all times.
“Under her apron?” Nathan echoed, then paled. “You mean that...she...right now...out there...” He gestured with his hands. “When we were outside arguing— she had it with her?”
“Sure did,” Curry nodded. “Never takes it off, not even when she sleeps.”
“But how—?” Nathan stopped and blinked several times. “Nevermind.”
“Oh, but that's not all,” Heyes added, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “She also has a well-worn ten-gauge shotgun that sits right in her lap while she drives. According to her, it can 'cut a man in half at close range.' I choose to believe her,” he chuckled. “And sometimes she has a revolver strapped to her waist.”
“Can't forget that flask of whiskey—she's never without that either,” the Kid put in. “Keeps it real close, too. Also under her apron.”
“Then there's that cigar she keeps clenched between her teeth,” Heyes added.
“She makes 'em herself, you know,” Curry winked.
“They're so potent,” Heyes continued, “hardly anybody else has the stomach to smoke them.”
“Wanna know how we know?” The Kid shared a grin with his partner.
Still in a daze, Nathan nodded.
“'Cos we both tried 'em. That was before we knew better. Sure gave Mary a good laugh.”
“She's quite a character,” Nathan surmised.
“She has to be tough on the outside, but deep down inside, Stagecoach Mary's a real good person,” the Kid reflected. “Leastwise that's how she's been with us.”
“Stagecoach Mary...” Nathan mused. “That's another curious thing. Where did she ever get a name like that? Doesn't she have a regular one?”
The sound of the horses' hooves pounding outside drowned out any chance of being overheard, nevertheless, Heyes leaned forward and dropped his voice. “Her full name's Stagecoach Mary Fields,” he began in a confidential tone. “Some folks call her Black Mary. She earned the name because she's never missed a day of work, never failed to deliver a single letter, and has never been late—not even once. She's extremely reliable; people say no one else even comes close to her record. She's pretty proud of it, too.”
“Yeah,” the Kid joined in, matching Heyes' low tone. “An' the way we heard tell is that Mary was hired as a mail carrier 'cos she was the fastest one to hitch a six-horse team.” As he warmed to his role of storyteller, Curry continued, “See, the story goes that she applied for a job with the postal service, delivering mail all through the Montana Territory. Now they say for her job interview, her an' a dozen cowboys half her age, were asked to hitch a team of six horses to a stagecoach as quick as they could. Stagecoach Mary left 'em all in the dust! She hitched the horses an' still had time left over to run to the saloon, grab a shot of whiskey, come back an' smoke a cigar while she laughed at the others as they tried to catch up.”
“But surely that's just a fabrication?” Nathan scoffed. “A yarn that cowboys tell around the campfire at night to amuse each other. It can't all be true, can it?”
Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance, shrugged, then settled back in their seats.
“Why don't you ask her?” Heyes grinned and tipped his hat forward so that it once more shielded his face.
Nathan glanced sideways at the Kid. “Joshua's kidding, isn't he?” he asked hesitantly.
“One way to find out,” Curry answered, a twinkle in his eyes.
Nathan sat back in his seat with a deep sigh. “So, Thaddeus, do you know any other interesting stories you'd like to share?”
The stage reached the outskirts of the town and began to slow down. Once the conveyance came to a full stop, Stagecoach Mary jumped down and poked her head in the window. “Welcome to Cottonwood, gents. We'll be here long enough for me to change the team an' for you fellas to take care of any personal business that might need tendin' to so you'll be comfortable for the long ride ahead.” She turned to Heyes. “He still pack it away, Joshua?”
Heyes grinned and nodded. “Maybe even more,” he winked.
“Should I stow some extra supplies jus' in case?”
“Might not be a bad idea; you know how cranky he gets when he's hungry.”
“Ya don't havta remind me, Joshua; I has a real good memory.” Mary mock shuddered. “Can't nobody even come close to his bad mood.”
“Hey,” the Kid protested, his expression pained. “I'm right here!”
“Why so ya are, Mr. Jones.” Mary's grin flashed his way. “I suggest ya spend yer time findin' some grub to tide ya over til' ya can get a proper meal in Cedar Falls.” She set the stairs down and opened the door. “There ain't nothin' between here an' there fit to be called food, an' we won't be makin' any more stops along the way iffen I has anything to say 'bout it.”
The Kid turned to Nathan. “Don't believe a word either of 'em says. C'mon, Nathan, let's go find something to eat; they can fend for themselves.” He climbed out of the coach and stood waiting for the other man.
Nathan looked at Curry outside, then turned to Heyes, who was still sitting inside the coach, but he didn't move. His eyes dropped down to his hands clasped together in front of him.
“It's okay, Nathan, we joke around like that all the time. You won't be taking sides if you go along with Thaddeus; I'll be right behind you.”
Nathan swallowed and raised his eyes to look at Heyes. “Thanks, Joshua; it'll take a bit of getting used to; I don't have a lot of experience with joking around.”
“If you're around us for long you'll get used to it real fast.” Heyes grinned. “After you,” he gestured with his hand.
Once Nathan had exited the coach, Heyes climbed out to join the other two and the trio headed towards a building with a sign that read, “Cottonwood Cafe.”
Heyes and Curry were both dozing, having been lulled to sleep by the warm day and the swaying of the stagecoach.
Nathan was occupied with watching the scenery as they moved through the different settings. Spying a sign ahead, he quietly read the words aloud, “The Town of Cedar Falls Welcomes You. Sounds like a real friendly town.”
A few moments later Stagecoach Mary pulled into the depot and pulled the horses to a stop.
The cessation of movement woke up the two ex-outlaws.
The Kid opened his eyes, sat up and stretched, then looked at his partner and grinned when he saw that the black hat still covered his face. He nudged Heyes' foot with his boot. “Time to wake up; you can finish your dream later.”
“Wasn't a dream,” Heyes retorted and came to a sitting position, the hat put back in its rightful place once again. “Rose is very real.”
“Was, Joshua. She's back in Salt Creek; we're here in Cedar Falls.”
Amused by the pair's banter, Nathan smiled along with them as Stagecoach Mary dropped the steps by the coach and opened the door.
“Ya stay in there any longer an' I'm gonna havta start chargin' the three o' ya rent,” she warned. “Better git goin', boys!”
“No need to threaten us,” Curry grinned. “We're leavin'”
“You haven't changed a bit, Mary,” Heyes chuckled. “You're gonna give our new friend the wrong idea about you if you're not careful.”
“I 'spect he's already got a real good idee 'bout me,” Mary retorted and looked at Nathan. “Ain't that right?”
Nathan swallowed and offered her a timid smile as Heyes and Curry moved past him to exit the stage.
Once the three men were standing on the ground, Heyes glanced around until his eyes lit on a sign that read “Ace In the Hole Hotel & Gambling Room.” “Guess we'll be heading that way, Nathan. You coming with us?”
“I've got some business to take care of first, but I'll be over there in about half an hour.”
“Once we get our room, we've got to check at the telegraph office and see if there's a message from our friend, Big Mac McCreedy. He said there was a job coming up soon that he wants us to do. After we're done at the telegraph office, Thaddeus and me will be downstairs in the saloon. You're welcome to join us.”
Curry, who had been busy checking out the rest of the buildings, turned back. “Yeah, an' maybe we can have supper together at that diner over there, if you wanna?”
“Gentlemen, I'd enjoy spending some more time with you after I get this business over and done with and get my room for the night. Supper sounds like a great idea, too, Thaddeus. Those sandwiches we got at the cafe were good, but my stomach's already growling.”
“Mine, too,” the Kid nodded vigorously in agreement. “In that case, I vote we eat first.”
“You always want to eat,” Heyes chuckled. “Guess I'm outnumbered two to one, huh?”
“It's nice to have someone else on my side.” Curry's smirk was smug as he added, “At least we don't havta flip a coin this time.”
With an eye roll and a shake of his head, Heyes picked up their saddlebags and tossed one to the Kid.
Nathan retrieved his bag from the stagecoach and gave them a wave as he took off down the boardwalk.
“We'll see you later, Nathan,” Heyes called out as he and the Kid headed towards the hotel.
AFTER SUPPER, INTERIOR OF THE “ACE IN THE HOLE HOTEL & GAMBLING ROOM”
It's a fairly large establishment for a saloon. Situated around the room are various gambling tables for poker, blackjack, roulette, etc., each occupied by players, surrounded by saloon patrons watching the games, saloon girls weaving their way through the melee delivering drinks and other workers doing their jobs. It’s a typical busy afternoon in the saloon: a crowded bar, a piano player pounding out music, drinks flowing, a cacophony of noise.
Heyes and Curry are seated next to each other at a poker table, their backs to the wall with a clear view of the door. Nathan is seated across from them. There are three other players at the table.
Having just finished the hand, the dealer gathered the cards from the table and began to shuffle the deck.
While he waited for the next game to start, Curry took a swig of his beer and gave a desultory glance around the room. Then, with an ear-to-ear grin, he tapped Heyes' arm with the back of his hand to get his attention. When his partner turned with a questioning look, the Kid inclined his head towards the bar. “Look over there.”
Heyes glanced that way and a dimpled smile spread across his face. Catching Nathan's attention, Heyes pointed. “Look behind you.”
Nathan turned around. His eyes and mouth widened when he saw that Stagecoach Mary had walked into the saloon and was making her way through the crowded saloon on her way to the bar.
Heyes rose to his feet, gathered up his winnings and headed towards the bar.
A few seconds later the Kid did the same and rounded the table. “C'mon, Nathan, hurry up—you're not gonna wanna miss this!” Curry grabbed their new friend by the arm and pulled him along as he and Heyes pushed past people to get a bird's eye view.
Once again in the throes of bewilderment, Nathan had no other choice than to follow along, being towed behind the Kid holding tight to his sleeve. He offered apologies left and right as he bumped into strangers. “I'm sorry, excuse me, begging your pardon...”
Their quick pace enabled them to beat most of the other patrons; the trio had a front row view of whatever was going to transpire.
Not being small of stature, Mary stood out in the sea of faces. That, along with the fact that she was a black woman inside a saloon, caused quite a stir among the customers and saloon workers alike. As she passed, they turned to stare and watch her with their eyes as she approached the bar. It grew more and more quiet as she continued to make her way through the crowd and bellied up to the bar. She leaned on it with her left elbow. A dropped pin could have been heard in the silence.
“I'd like a whiskey, please.” Her request carried easily throughout the oddly quiet saloon.
The barkeep froze, his mouth agape. In the process of wiping the glass he held in his hand, he stared at her as if he'd seen a ghost.
Not so for the two ranch hands who approached her, one on either side.
“You're gonna havta go find someplace else to get that drink,” the ranch hand in the brown shirt sneered. “Ain't that so, Will?”
“Yep, that's right, Joe,” Will nodded, his manner surly. “We don't serve your kind here in Cedar Falls.”
Not turning around, Mary pinned the barkeep with a look. “Is what they say true? Ya ain't gonna give me a drink—even iffen I has the money to pay for it?”
Before the barkeep could answer, Joe intervened. “You heard right; your money's no good here!”
Will took a threatening step closer. “You'd best turn 'round an' walk right back out those doors, 'cos there's only one of you, an' there's two of us,” he sneered. He looked around at the crowd that had gathered. “Maybe more,” he added with a sly grin.
Mary turned around slowly and looked Will straight in the eyes. “What if I should wanna make a bet with ya? An' what if I won that bet? Could I stay an' have my drink then?”
“Now, what kinda bet could someone like you possibly make with me?” he laughed scornfully.
“It's not jus' any bet, Will—she says it's one she thinks she can win!” Joe crowed.
Will looked Mary up and down, then spat in the spittoon near her feet. “I have to admit, you've got me a mite curious. Let's just say I'll at least listen to your bet, then I'll decided whether or not you get to stay.”
“Sounds fair to me,” Mary shrugged. “I betcha a dollar that I can lay ya out flat in one punch.”
The whole room broke out in hoots and hollers, as well as raucous laughter, but Will laughed the hardest and the longest. He clutched his belly and bent over double, holding onto the bar for support. When he finally raised his head, there were tears of mirth running down his cheeks. “Whoowhee... I ain't laughed that hard in years!” he gasped, still chuckling as he wiped his eyes. “So, let me see if I've got this straight now. The bet's on you knockin' me to the floor in one punch. Is that right?”
“Less'n ya don't wanna muss up that pretty smile of yours,” Mary countered, never taking her eyes off Will.
“Jus' wanted to make sure. Alrighty, then; here's my dollar.” Will took the steps necessary to bring him up front and close to his opponent and slapped the money down on the bar. A cocky grin plastered on his face, he shoved his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels and waited.
Mary pulled a dollar from her apron and placed it on the bar next to his. “One punch, one dollar,” she repeated.
“And, uh, what happens when I don't go down?” Will smirked and turned to wink knowingly at the crowd, an action which brought forth more snickers of laughter.
Mary also looked around the room before she answered, her voice calm. “Oh, I imagine your men have thoughts on that already.”
“Not if we have anything to say 'bout it!” Curry muttered under his breath.
“Easy, Thaddeus,” Heyes cautioned and put a hand on his friend's arm.
“So, how do I know when you're—”
Mary's closed fist connecting with Will's face put an end to whatever he had been about to say.
The man dropped as if poleaxed and fell backwards, flat out on the floor. He lay there stunned, his mouth bleeding profusely. Amid moans and groans of pain, he moved his jaw around gingerly then, emitting an even deeper groan, he turned and spat a tooth out onto the floor.
Mary walked forward and bent down to pick it up. After giving it a quick perusal, she straightened up and tucked it into the leather pouch she wore tied to her belt. “Any other takers on my bet?” she grinned. “It's only one dollar, an' I've gotta mighty powerful thirst...”
There was some weak laughter and, by the bitter expressions on their faces, a few of the more foolish men looked as if they might be considering it, but none stepped forward.
“I thought so,” Mary chuckled. Seeing Heyes and Curry at the edge of the crowd, she winked at them and turned back to the bar.
Mumbling and shaking their heads, the crowd of people slowly began to disperse.
Heyes, Curry and Nathan turned away and began to walk back to their poker game.
“I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen that with my own eyes,” Nathan declared in awe as he trailed behind Heyes. “And I sure would have lost my dollar on that bet!”
“What would you say if I told you that Mary's never lost that bet in all the times she's done it?” Curry quipped from behind Nathan. “She never has to buy her own drinks, neither; there's always some poor walk-off who thinks he can win.”
“Never?” Nathan stopped so abruptly that Curry ran right smack into him. He turned around to face the Kid. “Sorry, Thaddeus. I guess I would have to say that you were telling me the truth after what I just witnessed.”
Curry turned him around and gave him a friendly shove before he brushed past him to take the lead. “C'mon, let's get back to our game.”
Nathan trailed behind him, shaking his head. “I think that's enough excitement for one day as far as I'm concerned. A nice, quiet card game will be a pleasant change of pace.”
Her back to the crowd, Mary looked at the barkeep as she picked up her dollar along with Will's. “So?” She pocketed the money into her leather pouch.
The barkeep glanced upwards and, at the two-fingered signal from the saloon owner, nodded then stepped forward and set two glasses of whiskey on the bar. “Here's the one you won fair 'n square; the other one's compliments of the house. The owner sends his congratulations, uh... ?” he hesitated, then finished, “ma'am.”
“An' if I wanted to thank him personally, jus' where might that owner be?”
The barkeep pointed to the balcony.
Stagecoach Mary turned, then raised her glass in a toast before she tossed it back and released a deep sigh of satisfaction. “Ahh, that sure do hit the spot!”
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.
Last edited by royannahuggins on Sun 03 Feb 2019, 1:27 am; edited 6 times in total