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 Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2

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royannahuggins
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royannahuggins

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PostTrouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2

Starring

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Pete_a14
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry and
Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes


Guest Starring


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Brett_10
Brett Tucker as Nathan Tremayne


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Amber_10
Amber Chardae Robinson as Stagecoach Mary


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Alex_k10
Alex Karras as Shorty


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kather10
Katherine MacGregor as Prudence


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Barry_10
Barry Fitzgerald as Henry


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Rory_c10
Rory Calhoun as Will


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Monty_10
Monty Laird as Joe


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Michae11
Michael Weatherly as Cedar Falls Sheriff—Robert Crandall


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Tom_pa10
Tom Payne as Deputy Mike


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Nat_za10
Nat Zang as Deputy Jesse


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Myster10
TBA (in episode) as Chance Cooper


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Robert10
Robert Taylor as Timber Ridge Sheriff—John Larsen


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Fred_g10
Fred Gwynne as Circuit Judge Micah Johnston


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Rex_le10
Rex Lease as Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Baker


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Richar10
Richard Long as Defense Attorney Samuel Westmore


Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Wally_10
Wally Cox as Mr. Marlowe Brandon Smith




Trouble in Cedar Falls - Part 2
by moonshadow


Stagecoach Mary continued to watch covertly from the stage depot as first the blonde stranger went down the street and turned into the alley and then, a moment later Thaddeus followed behind.  She busied herself with pretending to re-check the reins, straps and lead lines, all the while keeping an eye out for Thaddeus to reappear.  When the man walked out alone and crossed to go inside the mercantile, Mary frowned.  Her eagle eyes followed him as he exited the store a while later and walked to the livery.  She glanced back at the alleyway.  Still no sign of Thaddeus.

Her frown deepened when the stranger drove the team out of the livery onto the road behind the buildings.  Not long after that, the wagon continued down a road that led towards the hills.  She glanced back toward the alleyway, but all was quiet.  Warning bells went off in her head when enough time had passed and nobody else came out of the alley.

“Where are you, Thaddeus?” she whispered.  “This stage is due to leave at two an' these passengers ain't gonna wait 'round for me to play detective.”  As her eyes scanned the streets, they lit upon the telegraph office and a grin lifted the corners of her mouth.  “I might not be able to, but I know someone who can.”  She stepped around the coach, smiled and addressed the waiting passengers.  “Won't be but a few minutes, folks, then we'll be loadin' up.”


*~*~*~*~*


Heyes had just finished visiting with Nathan and was buckling his holster when a young boy came running up to him.

“Are you Joshua Smith?” he panted as he tried to catch his breath.

Heyes smiled at the boy.  “I am.”

“Whew!”  The boy heaved a deep sigh of relief.  “I'm a pretty good tracker, but daggone it, mister, you sure are a hard fella to track down!  First, I went to the hotel, an' Mr. Johnson said you'd gone to have breakfast, so I ran to the diner.  But Miz Maisie said you'd left an' gone to the sheriff's office, so I ran there an' Sheriff Crandall said you'd already left an' he didn't have no clue where ya was goin' next...”  He stopped to catch his breath again and bent down to rest his hands on his knees.

“Well, you finally found me.  Why were you looking for me?”

The boy straightened up and fished around in his pockets.  With a gap-toothed grin he held up a piece of paper and waved it triumphantly in the air.  “Here it is!  I'm s'posed to give ya this.  Mr. Parsons at the telegraph office said it was ur...”  The boy's brow puckered with the effort to remember.  “Emergeen?  Urget?  No, that's not it either!” he cried in frustration.  “I'm sorry, it was so long ago, I done forgot what it was!”

“I think maybe you mean urgent?” Heyes suggested.

“Yeah, that's it—urgent—whatever that means.”

Heyes pulled a coin from his vest pocket.  “Here's something for all the trouble you went through to find me.”  He smiled as the boy handed him the telegraph and grabbed the coin from his hand at the same time.

“Thanks, mister!” the boy called out as he turned and ran off towards the mercantile.

Heyes unfolded the telegraph and read the words aloud,

Joshua Smith, Cedar Falls <stop> T.J. in trouble <stop> See sheriff Timber Ridge <stop> Mary

“The sheriff?” Heyes groaned as he shoved the paper into his pocket.  “Kid, what kinda trouble have you gotten yourself into this time?!”  He went to their room and tossed a few things into his saddlebag.  Just as he reached the train station, he heard his name being called out.

“Mr. Smith!”

Heyes turned to find Sheriff Crandall striding towards him at a fast clip.

Panting from his exertions, the lawman took a moment to catch his breath.  “Sure glad I caught up with you before you got on that train.  I've got some very important news to tell you.”

“What is it, Sheriff?”

“I just got a telegram saying that Circuit Judge Micah Johnston will be here sooner than expected.”

Heyes frowned.  “How soon?”

“Three days from today.  I'm getting a jury together tomorrow and the trial will begin on Wednesday morning, ten o'clock sharp.”

“I thought the judge couldn't be here until next Monday.”

“Once he got wind of what had happened, he cleared the time.  Just re-arranged his schedule so that he could get here as soon as possible.  Since we have a suspect in custody who has been identified by an eye witness, that's good enough reason for him.”

“But that doesn't give us much time to clear Nathan's name!” Heyes protested.

“Mr. Smith, it's nice that you and your friend want to help Tremayne, but even you must see that the cards are stacked against him; he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell.  Nothing short of a miracle will save him from the hangman's noose.”

“I've had some personal experience with miracles, Sheriff; they show up just when you need them most.  So, you go ahead and get that jury together; I'm not ready to give up on Nathan just yet!” Heyes snapped, then pivoted about on his heel and strode towards the ticket office.

“How much for one ticket to Timber Ridge and how soon does the train leave?”

“Timber Ridge?  You're in luck, mister.  It's just about ready to pull out of the station right now.  That'll be five dollars, but you'd better hurry if you want to be on board.”

Heyes shoved the money through the window, grabbed his ticket and sprinted towards the train.  Finding a seat, he sat back and watched the scenery pass by in a blur as the train gathered steam.  “Don't worry, Kid,” he whispered.  “I'm coming.”


*~*~*~*~*


Heyes barely noticed the sign that flashed by welcoming him to Timber Ridge.  Finding the sheriff's office was easy; forcing himself to walk inside was the hard part.  He glanced up at the name above the door and relaxed a bit.  “Sheriff John Larsen.  Good; nobody I know.”  He stepped up onto the boardwalk.  Taking a deep breath, he turned the knob on the door.

The first thing Heyes saw when he stepped into the room was the Kid's familiar tan hat sitting on the corner of the sheriff's desk; he swallowed hard.  “Uh, excuse me, Sheriff; I got a message that I should come to see you about my friend.  His name's Thaddeus Jones.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kids_h11

“You must be Joshua Smith, then?” the sheriff inquired as he looked up from a paper in his hand.

“Yes,” Heyes nodded.  “All the message said was trouble—but not what kind.”

“Well, that's what I'm trying to get to the bottom of,” the lawman answered, giving Heyes a thorough looking over.  He picked up the Kid's hat.  “This hat belong to your friend?”

Heyes stepped forward and took the hat from the sheriff's outstretched hand.  “Yes, this is Thaddeus' hat; I'm sure of it.”  He found it hard to swallow when he noticed the blood stain on the side of it.  “Is he... here?”  Heyes glanced back at the cells behind him, but both were empty.

“No, just his hat.”  The lawman stood up and placed his own hat on his head.  “Follow me.”

Heyes set Curry's hat back on the desk and followed the sheriff.

Larsen pointed across the street.  “We're heading for that alley over yonder.”  

His brow furrowed, Heyes strode side-by-side with the lawman until they reached the alley.  He looked around.

The sheriff pointed to a dark spot in the dirt.  “That's where I found the hat.”

Heyes squatted down and touched the spot.  When he pulled his fingers back, he found them stained red.  “Blood,” he murmured.

“Yeah,” the lawman nodded.  “It doesn't look good for your friend, especially if you factor in the condition of his hat.”

“This might not be Thaddeus' blood,” Heyes countered.  “Maybe it was the other fella's.”  There was a slight pause before he continued.  “Nobody saw or heard anything?”

“The stagecoach driver saw some of it.  Mary had to leave with her passengers but she said to let you know she'll be coming back right after she gets them to their destination.  Mary also asked me to tell you something that, according to her, is very important.  I have to say,” the lawman scratched his head, “it sounds kinda strange to me.”

Heyes stood up.  “Strange or not, if it helps me find my missing partner, then go ahead and tell me.”

“Mary says that even though she knows Nathan's in jail, she swears she saw your friend follow him into this alley.”

Heyes' brows shot up into his hairline.  “You're sure she said Nathan?”

The sheriff nodded.  “Positive; even made me repeat the name.  I have to ask, what did she mean by that?”

“Well, Nathan is in jail; I just left him there.”  Heyes drew a deep breath and decided to lay his cards on the table.  “Sheriff, I'm sure you know about that bank robbery that happened in Jackrabbit Junction?”

“Doesn't everybody?  Heck, it's the next town over.  It sure is a shame 'bout that bank manager, too.  Why do you ask?”

“The Sheriff in Cedar Falls has a man in custody that an eye witness identified as the killer.”

“There was an eye witness?  First I've heard of that,” the lawman frowned.  “There hasn't been any mention of it in the newspapers.  Why aren't they announcing that he's been caught?  You'd think it would help put folks' minds at ease.”

“I believe they're intentionally keeping both the eye witness, and the fact that a suspect is in custody, out of the news since they're still gathering more evidence.  So far, all they've got to go on is that someone who claims to be an eye witness has positively identified a man as the robber; that man's name is Nathan.  Sheriff, Thaddeus and me met Nathan on the stagecoach into Cedar Falls.  We spent quite a bit of time with him.  During the trip we had the chance to get to know him pretty well.  When we arrived in Cedar Falls it wasn't long before the sheriff and six deputies approached him, accusing him of the bank robbery and murder.  Nathan denied it, but the sheriff had an ace up his sleeve: that eye witness.”

“What makes you so sure that a man, who you yourself admits he just met, isn't guilty?”

“Sheriff, Nathan doesn't even wear a gun.  He's mild-mannered, soft-spoken and very friendly.  In fact, I'd even go so far as to call him timid.  He backed down when he was confronted and right now he's sitting alone in a jail cell scared to death that he's going to hang for something he didn't do.  Like I said, Thaddeus and me spent quite some time with him and he doesn't strike me as the kind of person that would shoot and kill a man over money.”

“Sounds like this Nathan is pretty lucky to have you and Thaddeus on his side.”

“If you met him, you'd probably feel the same as we do.  Sheriff Crandall didn't have much choice but to lock him up once that eye-witness identified him.  The thing is, Thaddeus and me believe he's innocent, but we lack the proof.  Without it, we can't do him any good; we can't prove we're right.  If Mary says she saw Nathan here today, there's something very wrong; there's no way he can be in two places at the same time.”

“Coincidence maybe?” the lawman suggested.  “Someone who looks like this Nathan; resembles him enough that she thinks she saw him?”

“No, sheriff,” Heyes shook his head.  “I think there's another possibility; one that never crossed my mind until now.  If I'm right, then the real Nathan is telling the truth and should never have been put in jail.  An innocent man is behind bars for crimes he didn't commit.  I thought we'd have plenty of time to get things figured out, but just before I left Cedar Falls, Sheriff Crandall told me Nathan's trial is going to be held three days from now.  Add that to the fact that Thaddeus is missing and we don't stand a ghost of a chance to help Nathan.”  He stared down at the ground thoughtfully; his eyes narrowed as his glance traveled to the end of the alley.  “That door back there, where's it lead to?”

The lawman turned to look over his shoulder.  “Should lead to another alley that goes around the back part of the town.  Why?”

Heyes pointed.  “See these grooves here in the ground?  They look like drag marks, as if someone had something too heavy to carry so they had to drag it all the way back to that door.  Thaddeus isn't a lightweight; boot heels could make marks like those.”  Heyes dug his heel into the ground and walked backwards a few steps.  “See?”

Larsen studied Heyes' example as well as the trail and nodded.  “You make an excellent point; let's follow the trail and see where it leads us.”

The two men walked to the door and the lawman pushed it open.  He stepped through the doorway with Heyes close behind.  Both men scanned the area.

Heyes pointed to the ground.  “These look like wagon wheel tracks.”  He swallowed before adding, “And there's more blood drops, too.”

“You're right, Mr. Smith,” Larsen answered and pointed to the left.  “And they're heading out of town that way.”

“What's in that direction?”

The sheriff scratched his head thoughtfully.  “Nothing really.  The road ends at the base of those mountains, about twenty miles out.  There's a few abandoned mines out there; not much else of interest except for a couple working mines.  Can you think of any reason this man would want to hurt your friend, or drag him through an alley and cart him away in a wagon?”

His brow furrowed in thought, Heyes shook his head.  “No, as far as I know, the two of them would have been total strangers to each other.  Something made Thaddeus follow the other man into this alley, though.  From the looks of it, there was some kind of scuffle...”  The ex-outlaw paused as he tried to put puzzle pieces in the right places.

“The man must've needed my partner out of the way.  Maybe he didn't want him to talk to anyone.  Could be Thaddeus saw something he wasn't supposed to see or heard something he shouldn't have.”  He looked into the lawman's face.  “I don't know, Sheriff; there's a lot of questions that we don't have any of the answers to.”

“That reminds me, I have another question for you.  Why was your partner here in the first place?”

“He was supposed to find someone who might be able to help Nathan.  A rather big man named Shorty; do you know him?”

“There's not a soul in this town who doesn't know Shorty,” Larsen grinned.  “He's the kind of man that tends to stand out in a crowd.  We've nicknamed him 'the Gentle Giant.'”  He pulled out his pocket watch and glanced at it.  “It's almost six o'clock; Shorty's probably at the saloon.  Why don't we start there while we're waiting for the stagecoach driver to get back?  I can have some supper sent down from the cafe for us while we're waiting.”

“Sounds like a plan, sheriff, but I don't think I can eat right now.  I'm too concerned about my partner.  Mary left here around two,” he mused aloud.  “And Thaddeus has been missing for at least three hours already.  Maybe this Shorty can shed a little light on what might have happened to him?”

“You should have something to eat,” Larson admonished, “even if it's only a few bites to help keep your strength up.  You're going to need that strength to help you find Thaddeus.”

Heyes shrugged, his brow still furrowed trying to sort things out.  “Maybe,” he answered absently.  “Right now all I can think about is that Thaddeus might be at the mercy of a man who murdered an innocent banker just to cover his tracks; who knows what he's capable of if he feels cornered?  Then there's Nathan, who is depending on us to save him from the hangman's noose.  Neither of those thoughts help my appetite at all.”

“I'll order you something just the same,” Larsen insisted as the two men left the alley.  The lawman led the way to the café, where he ordered food to be sent over to the saloon.  Next, the pair headed towards the saloon.

As they walked, Heyes glanced up at the rapidly setting sun.  “Sheriff, if we do find out that Thaddeus might be in one of those abandoned mine shacks, any chance that we can ride out tonight and check it out?”

The lawman shook his head.  “That road's treacherous enough in daylight; it'd be dang near impossible to navigate by horseback in the dark.  It's ten miles of groove-rutted road that folks around here call The Devil's Shortcut to Hell.  We wouldn't even have the help of a full moon; it was only a sliver last night.  I'm real sorry, Mr. Smith, I truly am.  I know you want to find your missing friend as soon as possible, but it won't help anyone if a horse breaks a leg or it stumbles and throws one of us.  Waiting is the hardest part.”

“I understand, but I don't have to like it.  Sitting around and waiting's not one of my stronger points.  I tend to chomp at the bit when I'm forced to wait things out, especially when it comes to my partner and whatever trouble he might be in.”

“Well, Mr. Smith, we'll just have to keep you busy so you don't notice the time passing slowly.  I've got one thing guaranteed to take your mind off things, at least for a little bit.  I can't wait to see your face when you first meet Shorty,” Sheriff Larsen grinned as they pushed their way through the batwings.  “And you might as well call me John since we're going to be spending some time together,” he added as he led the way to a table off to the side of the saloon.  “Hey, Shorty!” the lawman called out as they neared the table.  “I've got someone here I want you to meet.”

Walking behind the sheriff, still preoccupied with thinking about the Kid, Heyes reciprocated with, “You're right; Mr. Smith is too formal, you can call me Joshua.”  As the sheriff stepped out of his way, Heyes stuck his hand out in greeting.  “I'm glad to me—” he lifted his head to look at Shorty and his voice died off as he realized he was poking the man in his belly.  He tilted his head back and looked up to find the owner of the stomach grinning down at him.  Heyes pulled his hand back hastily.  “Pardon me, I didn't mean—”

“Aw shucks, it ain't nothing new to me,” Shorty chuckled and bent down to engulf the ex-outlaw in a bear hug.  “Any friend of the sheriff's a friend of mine, too; we're real friendly 'round here.”

“Yes, you are!” Heyes managed.

An ear-to-ear splitting grin on his face, the lawman performed the introductions.  “Shorty, this here's Joshua Smith.  He's a friend of that other fella you met earlier today, Thaddeus Jones.  Joshua wants to sit down and talk with you a bit about something important that you might be able to help him with.  That is, he will if you turn him loose before he passes out,” Larsen chuckled.

“He's still breathin' Sheriff.”  Shorty looked down in amusement at the dark-haired man and released him.  “Ain't ya mister Smith?”

Heyes stepped back and looked up in awe, rubbing his ribcage.  “Yes, there's still a few breaths left in me, Shorty.  Please, call me Joshua,” he continued.  “As the sheriff explained, I really need your help.  I sure hope you can help me find Thaddeus.”

“Why?” Shorty frowned, his expression troubled.  “Did ya lose him?”

“He's missing,” Heyes nodded.  “We think you were the last person he talked to before he disappeared.  I'd be willing to buy you a beer for your trouble if you'll help sort things out.”

“Ya don't need to buy me no drink, Joshua.  I'll help ya all I can for free; I like Thaddeus.  He was real nice to me today; didn't poke fun at me the way some people do.”

The sheriff signaled to the barkeep to bring a round of beers and the men seated themselves at the table.  While they waited for the drinks to arrive, Heyes turned to Shorty and asked his first question.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_27

“What can you tell us about your meeting with Thaddeus, Shorty?  What did the two of you talk about?”

“Well, not much really,” Shorty shrugged.  “He asked me 'bout a friend of ours, a man named Coop.”

Heyes nodded.  “I'm familiar with that name, too.  Can you tell me what this Coop's whole name is?”

“Well, mostly he goes by Coop.”  Shorty scrunched his face up, thinking.  “But sometimes he uses another name—Chance, Chance Cooper.”

Heyes glanced at Larsen, but the lawman just shrugged and shook his head.

“And what did you tell Thaddeus about Coop?” Heyes queried.

Drinks and food arrived and, once everyone had a mug and a plate in front of them, Shorty answered Heyes' question.

“Told him that I'd run into Coop a while back but he sure wasn't the same ol' Coop I used to know,” the giant sighed deeply into his drink.  “Nope, he sure ain't the same no more.”

“What do mean by not the same?” the sheriff asked.

“He was all slicked up in fancy duds like some city fella.  Had a brand-new fancy hat an' boots, too.  Talked kinda funny.  Well, leastways the few words he said didn't sound like him at all to me.  He went an' hurt my feelin's real bad; said he didn't have no time to have a drink with me.”  Shorty took a swig of his beer before he added, “Coop an' I used to spend a lotta time together, back in the good ol' days.  Guess those days are gone forever,” he heaved a morose sigh, took another drink and fell silent.

When the silence continued, Heyes pressed Shorty for more information.  “Can you remember anything else that happened after that?  Maybe something that might explain why Thaddeus can't be found?  Maybe he said something to you before he left?”

Shorty's brow furrowed.  “Well, I told him that I'd seen Coop go into the mercantile just before I came into the saloon.  Thaddeus seemed pretty interested in that bit of news, an' when he left I saw him go over to the mercantile.  I left to take care of a few things, an' I never saw him after that,” he said sadly.  “Maybe Coop an' Thaddeus are together somewhere?  Guess Thaddeus couldn't talk Coop into comin' back here to have a drink with me neither.  He said he was gonna try.”

Sheriff Larsen shot an inquiring look at Heyes.

“Thanks, Shorty,” Heyes smiled at the gentle giant.  “You've given us a couple pieces of the puzzle we didn't have before; you've been a big help.”

“Wish I knew more.  Sure hope ya find Thaddeus real soon an' that he's alright.  Like I said before, I like him.”  He polished off his drink and rose to his feet.  “It was sure nice meetin' ya, Joshua.”  He nodded at Larsen.  “Let me know how this all turns out, sheriff,” his words ended on a yawn.  “Sorry fellas, but I've gotta head on home, gotta work tomorrow an' I get up at the crack o' dawn.  Enjoy your evenin'.”  With a wave in their direction Shorty moseyed his way towards the door.

Heyes watched him go and shook his head.  “That's one big man!”

Larsen grinned.  “Now you understand why I told you I wanted to see your face when you first laid eyes on him.”

“You were right,” the dark-haired man agreed.  His expression turned serious.  “He gave us a few more things to go on.  At least we know that Thaddeus might've found this Coop over in the mercantile and then followed him.”

“And Coop was acting strange, according to what Shorty saw.  That's another real odd piece of this puzzle.”

“It's not enough to prove that Coop had anything to do with Thaddeus' disappearance though; just that my partner went over to check him out.”

“True,” the lawman agreed.  “But it doesn't clear him of it either.  Now that we've talked with Shorty, this Coop might well be the last person to see or speak to Thaddeus.  That alone makes him at least a person of interest, if not a suspect.  We might get more pieces of that puzzle after that stagecoach driver gets here,” he added.

Heyes nodded in agreement.  “Maybe Mary can fill in some of the missing gaps.”

The two men sat in companionable silence, lost in their thoughts.  Neither noticed the silence that fell on the saloon, each intent on trying to piece things together.

“I wish Mary was here now,” Heyes mused aloud.

“Guess wishes do come true after all,” a familiar voice teased.

Heyes looked around and grinned as he got to his feet.  “Mary!” he exclaimed and pulled her over to the table.  “Sit down and start talking!”

“You're sure gettin' awfully bossy, mister Smith!”  Mary gave him an eye roll and directed her next remarks to the lawman.  “Ain't that a fine howdy-do?  Not so much as a how are ya?  Or it's good to see ya.”  She turned back to Heyes.  “An' here I thought ya had manners...”

“You know me better'n that, Mary!” Heyes retorted.  “I do have manners and to prove it, I'll even get you a drink without you having to flatten some poor soul.”

“That'd be a start, Joshua.”  Mary flashed him a grin.

Once that was taken care of and the three of them sat with mugs of beer in front of them, Heyes once again took charge of the conversation.

“I got your telegraph, Mary.  Sheriff Larsen and me have been working on trying to make sense out of everything.  We don't have much to go on, just some guesses, but we're hoping you know more of what went on with Thaddeus before he disappeared.”

“Wish I didn't,” Mary's grin disappeared as she set her mug down and looked into his face.  “I know enough to get that Nathan look-alike into trouble, an' iffen he's done any harm to Thaddeus then he's gonna have his hands full dealin' with me!”

“That's the one piece of the puzzle that's making things complicated,” Heyes nodded.  “What did you mean by that part about the look-alike?”

“Jus' what I said, it's as plain as the nose on yer face, Joshua.  The man was a dead ringer for Nathan, 'cept for his clothin' an' the way he talked an' acted.  He was a mean one too, nothin' like the man I met before—the real Nathan.”

“You mean he looked enough like Nathan that he could fool most people?” the sheriff asked, a troubled expression on his face.

Mary nodded and took a drink of her beer.  “His looks had me fooled 'til he opened up his mouth when he tried to get on my stage.”

“Tell us what happened, Mary,” Heyes prompted.

“It was almost like the day I first met Nathan an' you two,” Mary began.  “He walked up to me with a big ol' bag an' started to get in the coach so I stopped him an' reminded him that he knew how things were an' he'd havta pay if he wanted to keep his bag.  I was teasin' him since I thought he was Nathan, but 'stead of goin' along with the rules, he got up in my face an' tole me that no one, 'specially the likes o' me, was gonna tell him what he could, or couldn't, do.

“He started to get in again, so I told him I was jus' gonna get the sheriff an' let him take care of it.  Boy, did that ever get him all riled up!”  Mary chuckled at the memory.  “He gave me a look that coulda killed.  I told him there was other ways to get where he was goin' an' he gave me 'nother ugly look an' high-tailed it outta there.  I was pretty confused by this time, wonderin' how Nathan had got outta jail an' why he was actin' an' talkin' so strange-like...”  Mary looked at each of the two men in turn.  “It wasn't Nathan, was it?”

“No, it wasn't.” Heyes shook his head.  “We're pretty sure it's a man named Chance Cooper.  Did anything else happen after that?  Did you see Thaddeus with him?”

Mary nodded.  “Sure did.  Well, at least I saw Thaddeus follow him into the alley.  I had to leave with my passengers right after that, but I never saw Thaddeus or Cooper come back out 'fore I left.  That's why I sent ya that telegraph.  Whaddya think happened, Joshua?  Do ya think he hurt Thaddeus?”

“We can't be sure, but whatever happened, this Coop fella has something to do with it—I'm positive!” Heyes snapped.

“It's sure beginning to look that way,” Larsen agreed and pulled out his pocket watch.  “It's getting late, folks, and if we want to get an early start in the morning, we'd all better hit the sack.”  Returning the watch to his pocket he added, “There's one more person I want to talk with in the morning before we leave, Joshua.”

“The liveryman?” Heyes quirked his brow.

“Correct,” the lawman confirmed.  “Cooper would have needed to rent a wagon and Tucker's Barn is the only place in town to do that.  It's closed for the night, so we'll have to wait until morning.”

Heyes rose to his feet.  “Mind if I go along with you to talk to him?”

The sheriff nodded.  “Meet me at my office around eight; that's when Tucker starts his day.”

“I'll be there, John, but there's something I've got to do tomorrow before we leave town, too.”

“Oh?” the lawman quirked a questioning brow.

“Remember when we were talking with Shorty and I said there was a possibility that we hadn't thought of?”

Larsen's brow furrowed.  “Yes?”

“I'm going to send a telegram to Sheriff Crandall and ask him to check with Nathan about my hunch.  He can work on it while we're tracking down Thaddeus.  If I'm right, it will go a long way to help Nathan in court.  On the other hand, if I'm wrong, there's no harm done.”

“Grady has the morning shift and should be in the telegraph office around seven o'clock.  Tell him you're sending it for me and he won't charge you.”

Heyes grinned.  “I'll be sure to tell him.”  He turned to Mary, who had just stood up.  “You have an early morning, too?”

“Sure do.  I'll be headin' out at daybreak; I need to get back to my startin' point so I can do my run an' get back here to see how things turn out.  Ya be sure an' let me know if there's anything else I can do to help ya find Thaddeus, ya hear?”

“Don't worry, Mary, we'll be sure to leave you a message so you know what's happening.  Thanks for all you've done so far.  You take care out there and we'll see you soon.”

The trio parted ways after they exited through the batwings.


*~*~*~*~*


INTERIOR OF AN ABANDONED MINE SHACK; NIGHTTIME

Puffing on a cigar, Chance Cooper stood just outside the doorway looking out into the darkness that surrounded the one room shack.  A muffled groan from behind him made him turn to look over his shoulder.  “'Bout time you woke up.”  He took one last drag on the cigar, dropped the stub and ground it into the dirt with the toe of his boot before he entered the shack and shut the door behind him.  Crossing the room to stand before his prisoner, he removed the blindfold that had covered the Kid's eyes, but left the gag in place.  Grabbing a handful of hair, he jerked Curry's head back and leaned in close to examine his face.

Despite one eye that was swollen shut, Curry managed to glare back at the other man.

“You'll live... for now.”  Coop released the hair and took a few steps back.  “Bet that eye hurts something fierce, don't it?  Powerful headache?  I did hit you pretty hard.  Bet you wish you could hold your head in your hands right now an' rub it, dontcha?” he taunted his prisoner.  Silence filled the room as he studied Curry.  “Wait, I know whatcha really want; you wish you weren't all tied up so you could flatten me, dontcha?”

The Kid's muffled answer was unintelligible; the look in his good eye spoke volumes.  He strained against the bonds that held him tight to the chair.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Coop shook his head.  “Go ahead an' struggle all you want; waste your strength an' the time.  You can try, but you'll never get outta those knots.”  Walking over to the table, he picked up a canteen.  Turning sideways so he was in full view of Curry, he took a long, leisurely drink from it, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and turned to face his prisoner.  “Ahhh... cold water sure hits the spot when you've got a powerful thirst, don't it?  I'd offer you a drink, but I only brought enough for myself; you see how it is dontcha?  No need for both of us to suffer now, is there?”

Curry didn't attempt to answer; he just favored Coop with a cold, hard one-eyed glare.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kid_gl10

“Have it your way, what’s-your-name.  We have the next few days to get acquainted.  On the other hand,” he mused, “maybe I should make up a name for ya?  Let's see...”  His gaze traveled from Curry's head to his boots and back up again.  “Not much to work with,” he snorted with derision.  His eyes narrowed as he pondered his choices, then all of a sudden he snapped his fingers and grinned.  “Got it—I'm gonna call ya 'One Eye' since that's all ya got!”

The Kid did his best imitation of an eye roll under the circumstances, then let his gaze drop to the ground, his shoulders sagging in defeat.

“You're not givin' up already, are ya?  Whatsa matter, One Eye?  Dontcha like your new name?” Coop guffawed.  “Well, too bad, you're stuck with it.  Guess it's time for me to bring my supper in from the fire.”  He favored Curry with a stern look and wagged an admonishing finger at him.  “Now dontcha even think 'bout tryin' to escape.  Even if ya did, there wouldn't be any place for ya to run to; we're 'bout twenty miles away from anything or anybody.  There's nobody to hear ya if ya hollar an' there's nobody ya can count on to help ya neither.”

Coop left the room and a few moments later came back inside carrying a sizzling skillet.  The tantalizing smell of fried steak filled the room as he set it on the table next to another pan filled with beans.  From a third pan he cut a huge slab of cornbread and seated himself at the table in a chair that faced Curry.  “Um, um, um... sure looks good,” he announced cheerfully and dug into the slab of meat on his plate with gusto.  “Boy howdy” he added, smacking his lips, “it tastes even better'n it looks!”

Still chewing the piece of steak, he glanced at the Kid.  “Sorry,” he said, not sounding in the least bit remorseful.  “Same thing as the water; I wasn't 'spectin' company so I only brought enough for me.”  Scooping up some beans he shoved them in his mouth and took a big bite of the cornbread.  Washing it all down with water, he addressed his prisoner again.  “Hey One Eye, ya don't blame me for not sharing, do ya?”

The Kid turned away and closed his good eye, wishing his nose was closed as well to the smells that were making his stomach rumble and growl in protest.

“Ohhh... ya do blame me, dontcha?”  Coop chuckled as he put another piece of meat into his mouth then pointed the fork at Curry.  “Well, soon as supper's finished, you an' me, we're gonna have us a nice little talk.  Got some stuff we need to discuss; set things straight, if ya get my drift.”  Taking a bite of cornbread, he added, “If you're smart, you'll tell me the truth.  Otherwise, I jus' might havta get rough with ya.”

Lifting his head, the Kid directed a baleful look in Coop's direction as he continued to work at the ropes tied around his hands and wrists.  He'd already made some progress; the ropes were slick with blood from where they'd rubbed his skin raw and were sliding more than they had before.  Not that it helped much, but he turned to look out the window at the inky darkness so he didn't have to watch his captor shove any more food into his mouth.


*~*~*~*~*

_________________
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.


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Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 :: Comments

royannahuggins
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2
Post on Fri 08 Feb 2019, 9:55 pm by royannahuggins


“Well One Eye, now that supper’s over, it's time for that li'l chat I promised ya we'd have. I jus' need to get a few things ready an' then we'll see what ya have to say.”

In his mono-vision condition, Curry watched warily as Coop laid a long-handled knife on the table, along with some matches, a candle and a bottle of whiskey. The Kid squinted at the bright light when his captor brought the lantern to the end of the table nearest his prisoner.

“Don't go gettin' too excited 'bout that whiskey now neither,” Coop cautioned. “That's all for me, not you.” He glanced around the room and his eyes lit on his saddlebag. “Oh yeah, almost forgot 'bout something I wanted to show you.”

The Kid watched as his captor crossed over to his saddlebag and removed something. Coop had his back to him, shielding the object so Curry was unable to see what it was.

Coop walked back to stand right in front of him. “Yep, plumb forgot all about this,” he chuckled as he held Curry's gun near the lantern, then whistled. “Ain't this a nice piece of work!” He glanced at the Kid. “You do this yourself, One Eye? All the balancin' an' stuff?” He turned the weapon this way and that, looking it over. “I'll give ya credit; ya sure do keep it clean. An' I sure am gonna enjoy addin' it to my collection. Can't wait to rob something or shoot somebody with it.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Coop_w11

The gag prevented Curry from speaking, but his eyes sparkled with daggers of anger as he managed to make threatening sounds in response to Cooper's taunts.

His back to his prisoner, Coop set the gun down on the table next to the knife, then turned to face Curry. “Sorry,” he shrugged, “but I can't understand a word you're sayin'.” Hands on hips, he stared at the Kid. “Guess I'd better start with takin' that gag outta your mouth if I wanna hear what ya havta say, huh One Eye?”

Curry was quick to tug his sleeves down to cover his bloody hands and breathed a sigh of relief when Coop didn't notice or bother to check to see if the ropes were still secure.

Coop stepped behind Curry and undid the knots, pulling the bandana free when he was finished, taking skin from his prisoner's lips with it.

The Kid winced and ran his tongue over his raw, cracked, dry lips and swallowed several times to get the saliva flowing in his mouth again. As he took his first few unrestricted breaths, he sucked in air and began to cough.

Coop turned away, poured himself a glass of whiskey, then sat down to wait for the coughing bout to pass. When it finally did, he immediately began his questioning. “Guess the first thing I should ask is your name. Can't keep callin' ya One Eye, can I?”

“Jones,” the Kid rasped. “Thaddeus Jones.”

“I like One Eye better; guess I can keep callin' ya that. But Jones will come in handy if I need to let your kinfolk know where to find your body,” he smirked. Without preamble he went straight back to his inquiries. “Okay, next question: why were ya following me in Timber Ridge?”

“I wasn't—”

“Let me stop ya right there, One Eye.” Coop set his whiskey down, then leaned forward in his chair. “If your brain ain't too scrambled from that little tap on the head I gave ya yesterday, ya might remember that I told ya you'd better tell me the truth or there'd be consequences. An' don't think I won't know if it's the truth or not. Tell ya what, I'll let that first one pass, but that's all you're gonna get. Now, I'll ask ya once again, why were ya following me?”

“I thought you were someone I knew,” the Kid prevaricated, the dryness of his throat making his voice hoarse.

“This someone, he have a name?”

Curry remained silent.

“Not answering also has consequences,” Coop warned as he stood up and crossed to Curry's side. Without any warning he hit the Kid's jaw with a swift uppercut, the force knocking Curry sideways, as well as toppling the chair over.

Righting the chair, Coop stepped back and frowned when Curry's head remained down. Coop slapped his cheek. “Hey? One Eye, wake up!” He shook his prisoner roughly, but there was still no response. “Maybe I'll get that knife an' see if you're playin' possum, huh?” He grabbed the knife and brought it back over to the Kid. “Now's your chance to save yourself,” he warned and put the point of the knife to Curry's chest. When nothing happened, Coop once again grabbed a handful of hair and pulled the Kid's head up to scrutinize it. He leaned, in close, then let Curry's head drop back to his chest.

“Guess I hit ya harder than I thought back there in that alley,” he shrugged. “It's okay, One Eye, I can wait.” His words ended on a yawn. “Guess I might as well get me some shut-eye while I can. Tomorrow's another day an' you're not goin' anywhere, so we can pick right up where we left off. I havta admit though, I'm real curious about why ya were followin' me.”

Checking to see that Curry's ropes was still secure, Coop discovered the bloody wrists and that the knots were beginning to slip. “Good thing I checked; you're full of surprises, One Eye, ya know it? Sneaky, too. Well, I can fix that. When I'm finished with ya, ya won't be able to get outta these knots no matter how hard ya try or what ya do.” He stood back and stared at his prisoner for a moment. “Think I'll add one more thing guaranteed to keep ya from tryin' to escape.” He got another rope, made a slipknot and pulled it tight around the Kid's neck. Next, Coop looped the rope around his prisoner's feet and brought it up to wrap around his hands. “There, that oughta do it; no matter which way ya wiggle there's no way ya can move without choking yourself. You'll still be here when mornin' comes, one way or another.”

Coop turned out the lantern and made his way to his makeshift bed on the floor. Before laying down he directed a glare towards his prisoner. “It's all your fault I'm out here sleepin' on the floor 'stead of a nice, comfy bed, One Eye. I'm gonna make your life as miserable as I can to make ya pay for it, too,” he promised. I've got places I need to get to an' a whole bag full of money I'm itchin' to spend.” After another yawn, his eyes closed and sleep overtook him.

*~*~*~*~*

MORNING AT THE MINE SHACK

“Wakey, wakey, time to open your eye!”

It was the shock of cold water thrown in his face that woke Curry. Disoriented at first, he blinked through the water droplets running down his face, searching around with his good eye until he saw Coop; everything came back in a flash. He struggled against his ropes until he felt the one around his neck tighten and constrict his breathing.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Curry_13

“Not that I want to, ya understand, but I havta untie ya long enough for ya to take care of any business ya need to outside. No funny stuff either or you'll be so full of holes you'll leak like a sieve if, an' when, ya do get a chance to drink, understand?”

The Kid nodded, careful not to jostle the ropes too much.

“Good; let's get this over an' done with so I can have my breakfast an' we can get back to our little game of questions and answers. We can pick up where we left off an' see what happens this time.” Coop untied the last knot and nodded at Curry. “I'm gonna untie your hands an' bring 'em 'round front; then I'll tie 'em up again. You best keep in mind no tricks if ya want your hands to stay in front,” he warned, looking the Kid straight in the eye.

Once that was done, he stepped back and picked up his gun. “Okay, ya can stand up now; I'm leavin' that rope 'round your neck there as a reminder.” When the Kid swayed, Coop grabbed his elbow to steady him, keeping his weapon well out of reach. “Like I said, no tryin' to escape or you're a goner.” He released Curry and followed far enough behind that he wasn't within arm's reach.

Standing briefly alone behind a group of trees, the Kid dared to whisper quietly, “Heyes, I hope you've got one of those miracles handy; I could sure use one right 'bout now!”

Once the trip outside was out of the way and his prisoner was back in the chair, Coop re-tied Curry's hands and feet. He gave a hard yank to the looped rope around Curry's neck, causing the Kid to grimace as it cut into his neck before it was left to dangle, hanging down like a leash. After surveying his handiwork, Coop got his breakfast ready and sat down in the same manner as the night before, only this time he had bacon and fried potatoes, coffee and a huge chunk of bread to taunt the Kid.

Curry tried to pretend he was somewhere else—anywhere else but where he was—but try as he might, he couldn't escape the smell of the bacon as it fried or the aroma of the coffee as it brewed. His stomach was in full-fledged rebellion, clamoring to be heard and fed. His mouth watered, salivating with every breath he inhaled.

Coop wasted no time once his meal was finished and, true to his word, he picked up where he had left off the night before. His joking manner was nowhere in sight as he got in Curry's face and snarled, “Jus' a reminder, One Eye, if I havta keep askin' every question twice, we're gonna be at this all mornin', not to mention you're not gonna look very purty when we're done. If ya think you're hurtin' now, think again—this ain't nothin'! You're gonna be wishin' ya were dead,” he warned and stepped back. “Now, for the last time, who did ya think I was?”

The Kid swallowed and tried to moisten his lips with a sandpaper tongue. When Coop took a step towards him, he answered quickly, “A man named Nathan.”

“This Nathan, he have a last name?”

Curry nodded. “Tremayne.”

Coop appeared to be thinking that over, then he shook his head. “Never heard of him. What made ya think I was him?”

The Kid pursed his lips and stared straight ahead.

“Stubborn, hard-headed an' stupid.” Coop shook his head. “Guess we'll be doin' this the hard way, then.” He stepped forward to punch Curry in the abdomen.

The Kid doubled over as far as his bonds would allow and tried to breathe through the pain.

“I'll give ya a minute, then we'll try again,” Coop warned as he headed back to the table.

Still reeling from the blow, Curry lifted his head enough to watch his tormentor pick up the knife and run a finger slowly down its blade, causing a trickle of blood to trail down his hand.

Coop turned around. “Ya were jus' 'bout to tell me why ya think I look like this Nathan fella...”

*~*~*~*~*

MORNING, TOWN OF TIMBER RIDGE

The sun was just beginning to peek over the nearby mountains when Heyes stepped into Sheriff Larsen's office. “Ready, John?”

In the middle of taking a sip of coffee, the lawman pointed to a chair. “Sit down, Joshua. It's not quite time to go see Tucker.”

Still standing by the door, Heyes pulled out his watch, then looked across at the livery. “It's eight o'clock,” he announced pointedly and returned his watch to his pocket.

Suppressing a smile, the sheriff nodded. “It may be eight o'clock, but I'll know when it's time to go.”

Arms akimbo at his hips, Heyes turned to the lawman. “How?”

“The last thing Tucker Brown does is raise the flag up on the flagpole. That's his signal that he's ready for business. Until then, we wait. Shut the door; have some coffee.”

Heyes waved the suggestion off and dropped down in the chair. A second later he stood up and began to pace.

“Joshua...”

Heyes continued to pace.

“Joshua!” the sheriff repeated, louder and more forceful this time.

Heyes stopped and looked at him. “What?”

“Sit back down and relax; you're gonna wear a hole in the floor if you don't,” Larsen chided.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Impati11

About to argue, Heyes closed his mouth and sat back down, his expression rueful. “Told you I don't do waiting very well.” He propped his elbow on the arm of the chair, his hand near his mouth. His body might be at rest, but his mind refused to. A moment later he crossed one leg over the other with a frustrated sigh. “It's the not knowing what Thaddeus might be going through while we sit here. This Coop is a cold-blooded killer and my friend isn't known for keeping his temper under pressure. Every minute we waste here is another minute his life is in danger!”

“It won't be long, I promise.”

As if to prove his words true, as the sheriff took another drink of his coffee, he watched as the flag was run up the flagpole and began to flap around in the early morning breeze. He set his cup down and rose to his feet. Putting on his hat on his head, he grinned. “Time to go, Joshua.”

Before the sheriff said his name, Heyes was up and out the door, waiting on the lawman to follow.

The two men crossed the street and went inside the livery where a man was busy mucking out a stall. He turned as they entered.

“Howdy, Sheriff,” the man greeted them. “What brings you in so early? Trouble?”

“There's always trouble,” the lawman responded wryly. “Mornin' Tucker. Today it's business and I hope you can help.” He turned towards Heyes. “This here is Joshua Smith. Joshua, Tucker Brown.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Tucker12

The two men shook hands and exchanged nods.

Larsen asked the first question. “Tucker, did you rent out any buggies or wagons yesterday afternoon?”

Tucker nodded and leaned his arm on his pitchfork. “Sure did. It was a slow day; the only thing I rented out was a wagon and it was in the late afternoon.”

“Can you tell us the name of the person who rented it?” the sheriff continued.

“Sure can. It was a fella named John Smith,” Tucker answered.

Larsen and Heyes exchanged a look.

“What?” Tucker exclaimed. “Lots of folks are named Smith!”

“Yes, they are,” Heyes said wryly. “I hear that a lot.”

“Oh, that's right,” Tucker chuckled. “Forgot you're a Smith, too.”

“What'd this fella look like?” Larsen queried.

“A bit rough looking, had a gun strapped to his leg, tied down. He was about your height, John, with blond hair.”

“Did he happen to mention where he was going?” Heyes asked.

“Sure did,” Tucker answered assuredly. “He asked about the old mines an' when I told him they were pretty well abandoned, he said he liked that kind of place. He never even batted an eye when I mentioned there were ghosts out there. He wanted to be alone and not be bothered. Said he might even do some mining of his own while he was out there.”

“Did he say if he was going alone?” Heyes prompted. “Or maybe he mentioned that he might take someone with him?”

Tucker scratched his chin thoughtfully. “No, he never said anything 'bout anybody else goin' along. I only gave him enough supplies for one man and the two horses for three days. He said that was all he'd need and that he'd have the wagon back by the third day.”

Heyes and Larsen exchanged a look.

“Did you see which way this Mr. Smith went when he left?” Sheriff Larsen asked.

“Sure did, but only 'cos I was brushing down a horse out in the corral. Now that you mention it,” Tucker reflected, “I do recall thinking it odd that he'd go that way 'stead of going—”

“Which way was that,” Heyes interrupted impatiently.

“Well now, after he left the livery, he took the alleyway behind the buildings. Don't you think it's strange that he went thataway?”

“Yes!” Heyes and Larsen answered together.

“Did this fella do something wrong, Sheriff?”

“Can't say for sure,” Larsen shrugged, then added, “Probably.” He turned away; Heyes followed close behind.

“Wait a minute!” Tucker called out and joined them at the door. “Something jus' occurred to me. He had his own horse tied up behind the wagon; that means he could jus' go ahead and ride off and not have to bring my wagon back at all!”

Larsen turned to Heyes. “Well, Joshua, good thing I got our supplies all ready; looks like we're going for a long ride.”

Heyes nodded. “The sooner the better,” Heyes concurred tersely. “Let's go!”

*~*~*~*~*

About an hour into their ride, the sheriff cast a sideways glance at the man riding beside him and cleared his throat.

Heyes turned in the lawman's direction, his brow arched in question.

Larsen pulled back on the reins and brought his horse to a stop.

Heyes followed suit. “Something wrong, John?”

“Not exactly,” he answered, looking uncomfortable. “I need to tell you something.”

A quizzical look on his face, Heyes cocked his head to the side. “I'm listening.”

“Actually, I need to ask you a question before I tell you.”

“Alright, ask away.”

“How much do you trust me?”

Heyes looked taken aback by the query. “In the time I've known you, you've never given me any cause to mistrust you. You're helping to save a man you've never met solely by what I've shared with you. You didn't hesitate to volunteer to come along to help me save Thaddeus. I'd say I trust you very much. Is that the answer you were looking for, John?”

“Yes, but it doesn't make me feel much better about what I'm about to tell you,” Larsen admitted.

“Well, if it helps any, you're not making me feel better by what you're saying—or not saying either,” Heyes countered.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_25

“I know,” the sheriff nodded, took a deep breath and rushed into his explanation. “I can cut our time out to the mines in half by taking a short cut.”

Heyes was silent for a full minute as he stared at Larsen. When at last he did speak, his words were deliberate. “In half? You knew this yesterday when I asked if we could make it out to the mines before dark and you didn't tell me? Why?”

Squirming under Heyes' heated glare and scrutiny, the lawman nevertheless raised his head and met his companion's eyes with his own. “For the same reasons I gave you last night, Joshua. Even taking my shortcut we wouldn't have been able to get there before dark. We've traveled on this rutted road for the past two hours and we're just now getting to where we can turn off to take the shortcut. I knew that if I told you this yesterday, with some daylight left, you would have ignored all my warnings, thrown caution to the wind and tried to do it anyway.” He offered Heyes an apologetic half-smile. “You would've, right?”

“Sure would've,” Heyes nodded. “So why are we sitting here talking about what I would've done when we should be doing what we're going to do?”

“So, you're not too mad?”

“Mad? No. Impatient to get going? Yes. How can I stay mad at a man who's willing to ride with me to tangle with a bank robber and murderer to save my friend?” Heyes grinned to add credence to his words.

“Follow me; the trail's not very visible and it's hard-going, but like I said, it'll shave our time in half.”

“Sounds like a good plan, I'll be right behind you; lead on, John.”

*~*~*~*~*

MEANWHILE, BACK INSIDE THE MINE SHACK...

Coop approached Curry slowly, holding the knife in his hand. “Well?”

The Kid swallowed but maintained eye contact. “Yes, you look enough like Nathan to be his twin.”

“Really now? That much, huh?” Coop cocked his head to the side. “I never had no brothers or sisters, so I guess it's jus' some kinda coincidence that we look like each other.” He turned away, still pondering what Curry had just told him and laid the knife on the edge of the table. “So, is there anything 'bout my looks that's different than this Nathan's?”

“No,” Curry answered quickly.

Coop walked towards the Kid. “You answered that one way too fast, One Eye. Makes me think your answer should've been yes.” Without warning he punched Curry on the cheek bone, just under his injured eye.

The Kid bit down on his lower lip until he tasted blood in an effort to keep from crying out.

“Let's try that again; what's different about me that would make someone think I wasn't Nathan?”

Still reeling from the blow, the Kid breathed through the pain to answer. “I swear I told you the truth! The only thing—an' it's not even that much—is that your hair is a different way.”

“Okay, I'll give ya that one. Can't take the punch back though,” he shrugged. “I have a feelin' I'll owe ya more than that before we're finished.” Coop paced as he pondered Curry's words. “Ya know,” he mused thoughtfully, “that information could come in pretty handy—if it were used in the right way. What else do ya know 'bout him. Tell me about his clothes; do we sound alike? Maybe how he does things. Stuff that I can do to be more like him, in case I decide to rob a train or maybe a stagecoach.” He cocked his head to the side. “Yeah, a stagecoach; I already have one in mind... got a score to settle with a driver who caused me a whole bunch of grief.” He looked at the Kid, his brow raised. “Well?”

“I know that even though you might look like him, you don't dress like him an' you sure don't talk or act like him. Anybody who knows both of you would notice the difference immediately.” Curry did his best to glare at Coop. “He would never even consider robbin' anyone or gettin' revenge like you're talkin' about.”

“Ya don't say? Hmm, guess we can't let that happen either, can we?” Coop turned back to face his prisoner and gave him a calculating look. “So, One Eye, how many people would ya say know both of us?” Coop leaned casually back against the table and picked up the knife, turning it back and forth in his hands so that it glinted in the light, casting metallic rays on the shack walls.

All of a sudden, the Kid's head dropped forward as he fought against a wave of dizziness. Coop's voice faded off, replaced by a buzzing sound in his ears.

“I mean how many besides you, of course.” Coop walked up to the Kid and leaned down, resting the palm of each hand on the arms of Curry's chair. He slapped Curry's cheek. “Hey, look at me!” The Kid wearily lifted his head. “You must have at least one other person who knows; there's no way you'd be doing this all on your own. Don't worry, I promise you they'll never know how I found out about 'em,” he vowed. Standing up straight, he drew an X on his chest. “Cross my heart, One Eye, only you an' me'll know about it; it'll be our secret,” Coop chortled.

At the sound of his captor's laughter, Curry lifted his head a bit further, enough to look into his captor's face; all he saw was the cold starkness in Coop's eyes. He swallowed hard.

*~*~*~*~*

EXTERIOR SURROUNDINGS OF THE MINE SHACK

As Sheriff Larsen and Heyes drew near the deserted mine shacks, they brought their horses to a stop and studied the dilapidated buildings.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Old_mi11

Heyes stood in his stirrups and held his hand above his eyes to shield them from the sun. “Over there!” he pointed to the furthest one way. “There's smoke coming from some kind of fire.”

“You're right, Joshua; that's got to be where Coop's holed up. He sure didn't take any precautions; guess he didn't figure anybody'd come looking for him or his prisoner, huh?”

“Maybe we can get close enough to see where Thaddeus is; hopefully out of the way.”

Larsen nodded. “And we can also check to see if there's more than one way out. If there's only one, we'll go in with our guns a-blazin' and catch him by surprise.”

The two men dismounted and tied their reins to nearby bushes. Staying low to the ground, they made their way cautiously towards the shack. Stopping by some rocks, the lawman motioned for Heyes to get his gun out and he did the same. Putting his finger to his lips for silence, Larsen led the way towards the only door and windows they could see from their position. Once they arrived at their destination, the two men stationed themselves where they could look inside.

They could hear Coop talking, but he had his back to them, blocking their view of Curry.

The Sheriff motioned to Heyes that he was going to check out the back and for him to wait for his return.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_22

Heyes nodded and eased his way up to look in the window again.  He watched as Coop picked up a knife while talking to Curry.  “Move outta the way so I can see the Kid!” Heyes hissed.  As Coop started walking forward, the knife still in his hand, Heyes whispered, “Touch him and you're a goner, Coop!  Hang on just a bit longer, Kid; we're coming for you!”

A hand touching his shoulder almost made Heyes leap through the window as the sheriff returned.  He turned to face the lawman, his expression questioning.

“That door is the only way out,” Larsen whispered, “unless Coop's desperate enough to try and bust through the rotted walls.  I think we can get the drop on him easy enough since there's two of us.”

Heyes nodded.  “Coop has a knife and he's heading towards Thaddeus.  We'd better go in now before he has the chance to use it on him!”

“Ready?  On the count of three. One... two...”

*~*~*~*~*

MEANWHILE, BACK INSIDE THE OLD MINE SHACK...

“What's the matter?  Cat got your tongue, One Eye?  Or are there too many to name?”  He stared at Curry's face.  “Oh, so that's it.  Ya wanna protect the ones who do know—right?”  He shook his head.  “Earlier I called ya stupid, an' I was right.  You'd die rather than tell me their names.”  Coop smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.

“You haven't answered me yet.  Remember those consequences I told ya 'bout earlier?”  Coop tucked the knife into the sheath on his belt, then crossed over to the table and picked up Curry's gun.  Shoving it into his holster, he stood still for a moment before he did a quick draw, twirled it on his finger, then dropped it back into the holster with a flourish.  He stared down at it thoughtfully for a moment before he turned to face his captive.  “Say, you're real good with this, ain't ya?  Well, as the sayin' goes, 'all good things come to an end' an' since ya ain't in the mood to cooperate, guess this is the end for you.  Yeah, think I'll start with a finger.  But not just any finger.  The one on your gun hand first; your trigger finger.”

He pulled the weapon from his holster and set it down with deliberation.  Then he unsheathed his knife and took a step towards the Kid.  “'Course that means I'll havta tie your right hand up nice an' tight.  Wouldn't want ya to lose more'n one finger at a time; that'll take all the fun outta it.”  Coop wasted no time and went behind Curry, freed the right hand, then secured the left one back to the chair.

The Kid wasn't going to go down without a fight.  Taking advantage of the opportunity, he pulled his arm free, pushed up with his feet and managed to knock Coop to the ground, landing halfway on top of him, fighting with all he had left in him.  Using only one hand, he fought to keep Coop pinned long enough to get to the man's gun in his holster.

*~*~*~*~*

“...THREE!”

Heyes and Sheriff Larsen burst through the door, guns in hand.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_23

So caught up in their fight, neither of the men wrestling on the floor noticed the new arrivals.

Larsen fired a shot at the wall.  “Hold it right there, Cooper—you're under arrest!”

Still holding onto each other, Curry and Coop both froze and turned to stare at the sheriff in surprise.

Curry's glance slid over to Heyes; their eyes met and the Kid's body sagged in relief.  He pushed himself off Coop and collapsed on the floor beside his captor, his one hand still tied to the chair.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kid_in10

Coop pulled his gun free from his holster.

“Don't be stupid, Cooper!” Sheriff Larsen shouted.  “You've got two guns pointed right at you; you won't be able to get us both before one of us gets you!  Toss it towards me!” he ordered.  “Stay right where you are, and put your hands above your head where I can see 'em!”

Coop glared daggers at the lawman and reluctantly did as he was told.

Larsen walked forward and slid the gun further away with his boot.  He pulled a set of handcuffs out of his jacket pocket and turned to Heyes.  “Here, Joshua, make yourself useful while I make sure he doesn't try anything stupid.”

Heyes took the cuffs and snapped them around Coop's wrists.  Once that was done, he hurried over to Curry, who was still laying on his side with his back towards Heyes, trying to get free of the chair.  Heyes tapped him on his shoulder.  “Hey... you okay?”

“No, Joshua, I am not okay!” Curry snapped.

“Where does it hurt?”

“It'd be easier to tell you where it doesn't hurt,” the Kid grumbled.

“Okay, where doesn't it hurt?”

“My little finger on my left hand,” Curry groused petulantly.

“Don't sound so glum,” Heyes chided his partner with a grin.  “That's a good thing, Thaddeus; at least you can still joke about it.”

“Who says I'm jokin'?” the Kid countered.

“C'mon, let's get you untied and off this floor; maybe then more than your little finger will feel better.”  Heyes began to untie knots as he subtly checked over what he could see of his partner for injuries.

“I doubt that very much!” the Kid snapped.  “Ouch!  Hey, watch what you're doin'—that hurt!”

“I'll try and be more careful.”  Heyes' attention was diverted momentarily as he turned to watch the sheriff gag Coop, get him to his feet and march him outside.  When he turned back to his partner, Heyes noticed the rope that was tied around the Kid's neck.  “What in the devil?” he growled; his teeth clenched tight in anger.  Not wasting another second, he slid the knot away from Curry's neck enough to slip it over his head and threw the rope against the wall, where it hit with a resounding thwack.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_24

“Wish I'd seen that before the sheriff took Coop outside,” he growled.  “I might have saved him a trip!”  When Curry didn't answer, Heyes gripped his shoulder.  “Kid,” he said quietly, keeping an eye on the door.  “Talk to me; tell me, what did Coop do to you?”

“Too much to talk about now,” Curry answered wearily.  “Later, maybe.  Just get me up for now, okay?”

“Okay,” Heyes answered.  But, as he helped his partner extricate himself from the chair and Curry rolled over, Heyes got his first real look at the Kid's face and frowned, his anger mounting.  “He did all that?”

With support from Heyes, Curry got up from the floor, made it to the table and sank wearily down into a chair.  “Not sure what 'all that' looks like, but I can sure tell you what it feels like,” he murmured, as he put his head down on his crossed arms.  “It hurts like the dickens!  I feel like I was run over by a herd of stampeding beeves.  Good thing you came along when you did, Coop was jus' 'bout to cut off my trigger finger!”

“He what!?”  Heyes' brows arched up into his hairline.

“Yeah,” Curry raised up, leaned back in the chair and closed his good eye.  “Said he was startin' with my trigger finger, an' if I didn't tell him what he wanted to know, he'd cut 'em all off one by one.”

“What did Cooper want to know that was so important he'd threaten to cut a man's finger off?” Heyes wondered aloud.

“All about Nathan an' who knew, an' who knew what, an' why I was followin' him...”  Curry shrugged.  “I think he had some loco plan to rob banks, trains an' stagecoaches, then let Nathan take the blame for it all.  I wanted to tell him how stupid his plan was because Nathan was in jail and would have an alibi, but with him holdin' that knife an' usin' me as a punchin' bag...”  The Kid sighed wearily.  “He was spoutin' a bunch of other loco stuff that don't matter no more.”  There was a moment of silence before he added, “I could sure use a drink of water... haven't had any since he got me.”

Heyes found the canteen and handed it to Curry, who sat up slowly.  “He didn't give you any water?  None at all?”  His concern deepened as his eyes took in the yellowing bruises on the Kid's face and the cut lip.  Anger flashed in his eyes at the discoloration of the black eye which was still swollen shut.

After quenching his thirst, the Kid lowered the canteen and shook his head.  “Nope, not even one drop.  Drank it right in front of me; said he only brought enough for him.”  He glanced around the shack, then wrapped his hands around his stomach.  “He never gave me anything to eat either,” he grumbled.  “My belly thinks I'm tryin’ to starve it to death!”

“That explains everything!”  Heyes shook his head and finally allowed his grin to show.  “I'll look around and see what I can find to tide you over until we get back to town.”  He rummaged through Coop's supplies and brought a few over to the table.  “We don't have time to cook anything,” he apologized.  Picking things up one by one he named them aloud.  “Here's an apple, some bread and—”

“Heyes, look at my mouth!” the Kid snapped.  “Does it look like I can eat an apple or chew on bread crusts?”  He heaved a deep sigh as he looked at the food and his mouth began to water.  “Hungry as I am, I'm in enough pain as it is; I don't need no more,” he grumbled petulantly.  “Sheesh, can't you at least—” Curry caught himself and looked up at his friend.  “I'm sorry, I—”

“Hey, you have nothing to apologize for!  I don't blame you, after all you've been through, you've earned the right to grumble a little.  We both know how you are when you don't get to eat so how 'bout if I take the crust off the bread?  I think I saw some jam somewhere...”  Heyes set about doing what he said and soon he had a makeshift jam sandwich soft enough for the Kid to nibble on.

Sheriff Larsen walked back into the shack.

Curry stopped eating long enough to send a questioning look Heyes' way.

“Thaddeus, this is Sheriff John Larsen.  John, this is Thaddeus Jones.  We've been working together to find you and catch Cooper.”

“Sheriff,” Curry nodded at the lawman before he pinched off another small bite of his sandwich and carefully put it in his mouth.

The lawman returned the nod and turned to Heyes.  “We need to get started back real soon, Joshua.  Thaddeus doesn't look like he's in any shape to ride, and we can't take the shortcut with the wagon.”

“If gettin' on a horse means we can get back to Timber Ridge faster an' I can get something decent to eat sooner, then you jus' watch me get on a horse, sheriff!”

Larsen looked to Joshua for confirmation.  Heyes glanced at Curry before he nodded.  “If Thaddeus says he can sit a horse, then let's get going.  We need to get back to Cedar Falls in time to stop Nathan's trial.”

“Nathan's trial?” Curry echoed in surprise.  “I thought we had plenty of time—”

“Not anymore,” Heyes cut in.  “Change of plans; the Circuit Judge is getting there day after tomorrow.”

“We'll make it in time,” Larsen assured them.  “Cooper's got his own horse, there's the horse from the wagon and we've both got ours, so nobody has to ride double.  However, we are minus one saddle, so someone will have to ride bareback.  Joshua, it's between you and me; shall we flip a coin for it?”

“Whose coin?” Heyes and Curry chorused together and shared a grin.

The lawman cast them a curious look.

“Never mind, John,” Heyes waved a dismissive hand, “it's an old joke.  I'll ride bareback;
that way you'll be free to handle Cooper.”

Larsen nodded.  “Good; we'll make better time this way and should be back in Timber Ridge before it gets dark.  I'll go get Cooper up on his horse.  I can tether him behind my horse, that way he won't need his hands; they can stay tied up.  See you boys out there in a few minutes.”  He turned and walked out the door.

“C'mon, Kid; let's get you up in the saddle.”  Heyes helped his partner to his feet and steadied Curry when he swayed.  “You sure you're okay to ride?” he frowned and searched the Kid's face.

“I'm jus' a little worn out, Heyes, that's all; I can ride,” he assured his friend.  “We need to be there for Nathan or all of this,” he waved a hand around and ended up pointing to himself, “will be for nothin'.  Nathan is innocent and Cooper needs to answer for all the wrong that he did.  If anyone deserves to be punished, it's him; it's time for this to end.”

“Okay then, partner; let's go save Nathan.”

The party of four were all soon in their saddles and ready for the trek back to Timber Ridge.

*~*~*~*~*


Last edited by royannahuggins on Fri 08 Feb 2019, 10:27 pm; edited 2 times in total
royannahuggins
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2
Post on Fri 08 Feb 2019, 10:05 pm by royannahuggins

A LITTLE PAST EIGHT  O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, INTERIOR OF SHERIFF LARSEN'S OFFICE & JAIL

“Thaddeus, you look a hundred per cent better!” Heyes exclaimed as he entered the sheriff's office.  “Amazing what a bath, shave and clean clothes can do for a man.”

“I may look a hundred per cent better, but I sure don't feel like it!”  Curry gave his partner a long-suffering look.  “Eatin’ has a lot to do with it, too,” he reminded the other man.  “I've gotta several missed meals to make up for.”

“That you do,” Heyes grinned.  “Hey, I saw Mary on my way to the train station; she was in the driver's seat and ready to head out.  I told her that we found you and she said to tell you that she was real sorry she couldn't come over to see you, but she'd catch up with us on the return trip.”  Heyes looked his partner over with a critical eye.  “She also asked if you were alright.  I hated to lie to her, but if she knew half the truth, she'd break her perfect record and Coop would be in real bad shape for his trial.  I figured by that time he'd be safely behind bars and outta her reach.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kid_al10

“I'd hate to be in his shoes if she gotta hold of him!” Curry shuddered.

“You and me both, Thaddeus,” Heyes chuckled.  He turned away to call out, “Sheriff, I got those tickets for the next train to Cedar Falls.  It leaves in thirty minutes so we'd better get a move on.”

Larsen came out from the back room, pushing a handcuffed and surly Coop in front of him.  “We're ready to go,” he announced, putting his hat on his head.

“Thaddeus and me are ready, too.”  He turned to Larsen.  “Did you get an answer from Sheriff Crandall about my hunch?”

“Yes, I did,” the lawman nodded.  “I wired him back and told him we had another suspect in custody—the right one.  I also told him that no matter what he had to do, he had to stop the Circuit Judge from passing judgment until we had the chance to get there and present our new witness and evidence.”

“What'd he say?” the Kid asked.

“Two words,” the lawman answered tersely.  “I'll try.”

“He'd better do more'n try!” Curry snapped.  “This is Nathan's life we're talkin’ about!”

“Let's hope we're in time to stop an injustice being done,” Heyes said as they left the office and headed for the train depot.


*~*~*~*~*


TOWN OF CEDAR FALLS, EXTERIOR OF THE SALOON/COURTROOM
THE CLOCK IN THE CENTER OF TOWN SQUARE SHOWS THE TIME TO BE TWO-THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON


A large banner, freshly painted with the words, “Court is now in session” hung across the front entrance of the saloon.  Underneath, it proclaimed, “Circuit Judge Micah Johnston, presiding.”  On the side of the building, another sign bore these words: “Prosecuting Attorney: Mr. Andrew Baker, Defense Attorney: Samuel Westmore.”  Further down, the sign read, “The public is invited to attend until all seats have been filled.  A ‘Standing room only’ sign will then be posted and it will be first come, first served.”

INTERIOR OF THE SALOON/COURTROOM
PROSECUTOR ANDREW BAKER IS IN THE PROCESS OF FINISHING HIS CONCLUDINT STATEMENTS...


“... and, as it has been proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that Nathan Tremayne did in fact commit the crimes of bank robbery as well as cold-blooded murder, I beseech the jury to find him guilty and that he be given the harshest punishment the court will allow!  The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”  Baker inclined his head first to the judge, then to the jury and walked back to his seat.

“Thank you, Mr. Baker.”  Circuit Judge Micah Johnston glanced around the courtroom, then arched a brow at the defense lawyer.  “Well, Mr. Westmore?”

Shuffling the papers in front of him, Westmore gulped and looked up.  “Well, your honor, it uh seems...” his voice trailed off as he glanced sideways at Nathan who sat beside him, grim-faced and staring straight ahead.  “Your honor, if it would please the court, I'd like to ask if you would allow me a few words with my client before we proceed?”

The judge pounded his gavel.  “Five minutes!” he snapped and addressed the courtroom.  Pointing a finger, he admonished, “You will all remain seated.  Anyone leaving this courtroom will not be allowed to re-enter.  You may speak quietly among yourselves, but if there is any disruption you will be escorted out immediately!”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Circui10

Samuel Westmore turned to the man seated beside him and said in a low voice, “Mr. Tremayne, we've stalled as long as we dare; isn't there anyone you can think of that might be able to speak in your defense that is here in the courtroom?  Anyone at all?”

“You mean besides you?” Nathan replied wryly and shook his head.  “I've already explained that the people I thought could help me probably did what they could and when they discovered there wasn't anything they could do, they decided it was better not to have to face me and tell me the truth.”

“But surely you have something to say in your defense, don't you?  I've already said all I can but it's not enough.  I'm going to be very blunt with you: if we can't come up with something else, you're going to hang and I don't want that on my conscience!” he hissed and fell silent.  A moment later his face lit up.  “I know, maybe we can go with temporary insanity?” he suggested hopefully.

Nathan pinned him with an exasperated look.  “I was not—I mean I am not insane!  That's a ludicrous ploy, as well as a falsehood.  I will not lie, or make up something just to avoid the truth!”

“But you said the truth is that you didn't—”

Circuit Judge Johnston banged his gavel on the table.  “Your five minutes are up, Mr. Westmore.  Do you, or your client, have anything else to add before I order the jury to be sequestered so they can come up with a verdict?”

Westmore sent one last beseeching look at Nathan, but when Nathan gave a negative shake of his head, he turned back to the judge.  “No, Your Honor.  It seems that we've said all we—”

“Sheriff,” Judge Johnston interrupted and directed his attention towards the lawman.  “Do you have anything to add?   I believe you mentioned something about new evidence?”

Crandall stood up, clutching his hat in his hands and looking ill-at-ease.  “Well, your Honor—”

“Do you or don't you?” the judge asked, his voice laced with thinly veiled impatience.

“We tried your Honor, but we kept hitting brick walls.  In fact, Sheriff Larsen asked me—”

“The court does not care what the sheriff asked you to do or not to do.  You've answered my question, now sit down so we can get on with this trial.  Mr.—”

“Hold on—stop everything!” boomed a loud voice as the doors of the saloon were thrown wide open.  Everyone started talking at once and turned in their seats to see who was brave—or stupid—enough to interrupt a murder trial.

“Order!  Order in the court!”  Judge Johnston was forced to bang his gavel down hard several times before it was quiet enough for him to be heard.  “What is the meaning of this?  Who dares to disrupt this court?”

Sheriff Larsen was first, dragging Coop alongside him with a burlap bag over his head, followed by Heyes and a slightly limping Kid Curry.

“Sheriff John Larsen, Your Honor.  And I beg the court's forgiveness, as well as indulgence, for the interruption, but we have new evidence to present that will clear Nathan Tremayne of all charges, if you will let us have a few moments of the court's time?”

“You may approach the bench, Sheriff.  Since neither Mr. Westmore nor Mr. Tremayne have presented much in his defense, I'm willing to at least listen to what you have to say.  I must warn you though, if this is some kind of chicanery, a trick, or what you have to say doesn't amount to a hill of beans, I will have you arrested and put in jail for a week—do you understand?”

“Yes, Your Honor, I do.”  Larsen pushed Coop forward until he stood in front of the judge.

Andrew Baker had risen to his feet at the newcomer's entrance, but wisely held his tongue until the judge finished speaking.  “Your Honor, I really must protest at this interruption!  It is highly irregular, not to mention unethical, to allow new evidence at this stage of the trial.  Furthermore—”

Judge Johnston pounded his gavel down hard on his desk.  “Mr. Baker, are you suggesting that I do not know how to perform my court duties or that I do not know what is, or is not, ethical?”

“No, sir, Your Honor, nothing like that at all.”  Baker backpedaled quickly.  “But we have already proceeded through most of the trial.  We were just reaching the stage where we let the jury decide the defendant's fate.  Now—”

“Now we have new evidence to be introduced that can aid the jurors in making a more informed decision.  If the new information warrants it, we will start all over at the beginning with a new trial.”  He pierced Baker with a stern glare.  “Do you have a problem with that?”

“No, Your Honor.”  Baker ran a finger around his shirt collar.

“Then sit down and let us get on with this trial and hear the new evidence.”

The attorney did as directed.

Heyes and Curry quickly took the empty seats next to Nathan, who gave them a look of gratitude and grimaced when he saw Curry's bruised face.  When he would have spoken to Curry, Heyes raised a finger to his lips and nodded to the front of the courtroom.  Nathan turned away and gave his full attention to what was going on.

“Your Honor,” Larsen began and pulled the bag off of Coop's head, “I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Chance Cooper.”  Coop was still gagged, but he managed to sound madder than a wet hen as he fought against the bonds that constrained him.

There was a collective gasp from everyone in the courtroom as they looked first at the man called Chance Cooper, then their heads swiveled to the other side of the courtroom to gape at Nathan Tremayne, who was staring wide-eyed at the newcomer as if he were seeing a ghost.  Voices were loud as everyone talked at once.

Judge Johnston pounded his gavel.  “Silence—or you will all be thrown out of here at once!”  When silence once more prevailed, he glared at Sheriff Larsen.  “Is this some kind of trick?” he demanded.  “I warned you—”

“No, Your Honor, it is not.  We don't have time to share the full story now, but at a later date and time when it is more convenient, we would like for Your Honor to hear a more detailed version.  The short version, which will get us to the truth the quickest, is that this man, Chance Cooper, is Nathan Tremayne's brother; his twin brother.”

There were more gasps from the spectators, but before Johnston could react, it died down and silence once again filled the saloon.  “Go on,” the judge instructed Larsen.

“It was a race against time for us to get here with the information since it was only a few of hours ago that we received a telegram confirming a hunch that Joshua Smith had.  Mr. Smith's one of the men helping us with this case.   Acting upon that hunch, as well as relevant information that Nathan Tremayne supplied Sheriff Crandall with, we were able to contact the proper authorities who could provide us with details pertinent to this case.  Information that no one present in this courtroom knew about until just a very short time ago.

“Your Honor, the facts are that it seems shortly after Chance and Nathan were born, their parents were in an accident which killed them both.  Having no other kinfolk, the boys were put in an orphanage.  They were adopted separately; Chance by the Coopers, who took him west with them, and the Tremaynes, who took Nathan east with them.  The truth of the matter is that up until just now when I revealed what we found out, neither man was aware of the other's existence.”

Nathan had paled at the sheriff's words.  Numb with shock, all he could do was stare at Coop's back in disbelief.

“Mr. Westmore,” the Judge instructed, “would you please escort Mr. Tremayne up to the front of the court.”

The attorney rose to his feet but Nathan remained seated.

From his position next to Nathan, Heyes laid a hand on the man's shoulder and gave it an encouraging squeeze.  “Go on,” he whispered.  “We'll be right here for you.”

Nathan took a deep breath before he rose to his feet to join his attorney.

While Nathan was making his way forward, Sheriff Larsen removed the gag from Cooper's mouth and shook it in front of him.  “You'd better behave,” he warned “or else this is going right back where it came from!”

“That's easy for ya to say with my hands cuffed an' my feet shackled!”  Coop glared belligerently at Larsen but his words were spoken with deadly calm.  “I'd like to see ya try it, lawman.”

“Go ahead,” the lawman hissed.  “Just give me a reason.”  The two men eyed each other in hostility a moment before the sheriff turned away as Nathan approached.

When Nathan was standing next to Chance, both men turned to look at each other.  Disbelief, denial, wonder and shock warred with each other as the twins took stock of one another.  Finally, acceptance overcame all other emotions as Nathan offered Chance a tentative smile.  He reached out with his cuffed hands to touch his brother's arm in a gesture of understanding and compassion.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Nathan12Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Coop_i11

Coop recoiled from Nathan's hand as if it were a rattler ready to strike, backing away as far as the sheriff's hold would allow.  His lip curled up, he snarled, “Get away from me, I don't owe ya anything!  Jus' 'cos someone says we're brothers don't mean we —it don't mean a daggone thing to me!  An' jus' 'cos we might share the same blood, that don't mean we havta get all cozied up with each other neither!”

“Don't you at least want to give me a chance?” Nathan ventured quietly.

“Ya pokin' fun at my name now?”  Coop looked Nathan up and down.  “Hmph!” he snorted scornfully.  “Ya don't look like anyone I'd ever lay claim to as a relative!  Truth be told, ya look like you're some kinda goody-goody two shoes!  'Sides that, I've been alone so long I don't need nobody an' I sure ain't got no time to be spendin' with someone as pathetic as you!  You'd better stay clear of me if ya know what's good for ya—or else!” he warned.  “Jus' ask ol One Eye over there,” he jutted his chin in Curry's direction.  “Ask him what happens to someone that don't do what I tell 'em!”

Coop's words rang out in the courtroom, causing the Kid to scrunch down in his seat in an effort to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.

“Ignore him,” Heyes advised quietly.  “Nobody's even looking your way, so sit up and watch what happens next.”

“I know what's gonna happen next,” Curry snapped as he sat up and slid to the edge of his seat.  “If he says one more rotten thing to Nathan, I'm gonna—”

Heyes laid a restraining hand on Curry's arm.  “You're not going to do anything,” he hissed quietly.  “We are in a courtroom, surrounded by lawmen and we're not going to do anything that will draw the attention to us, right?”

The Kid shook off Heyes' hand.  “Are you gonna sit here an' let him talk to Nathan like that?”

“No, we are going to sit here.”  Brown eyes stared into blue.

Disgruntled, Curry flopped back into his seat, arms crossed against his chest.  “Fine!” he groused.

His eyes still on what was taking place near the front of the court, Heyes added quietly, “I don't like it any better than you do, but this time we have to stay out of it.  This is Nathan's chance to get things straightened out so he can be a free man.  That's how we got involved in the first place, remember?”

With a sigh of resignation, Curry nodded and turned his attention back to the front of the courtroom where the judge was speaking.

“... so in light of this new evidence that has been introduced, I would like to call Mr. Smith to the stand again.  Mr. Smith, would you please approach the bench.”

“Why does he want you—”

“Not me,” Heyes hissed out of the side of his mouth.  “The other Mr. Smith.”

“Oh, yeah... him.”  The Kid leaned forward.  “Wonder what he'll have to say this time?”

“For Nathan's sake, let's hope he says the right thing,” Heyes whispered.

Mr. Smith made his way down the center of the room.

“Sheriff Crandall has imparted information to me that Mr. Smith is an alias you've been using to protect you and your family.  Would you please state for the record your true given name.”

“Yes, Your Honor,” he answered in a steady voice.  “My real name is Marlowe Brandon.”

“Swear him in,” Judge Johnston instructed the deputy and looked at the jury.  “We have already established that Mr. Brandon is a credible witness so please listen to what he says and take it into consideration when we get to the deliberation stage.

“Now, that the swearing in is done, Mr. Brandon, I want you to take a real good, long look at these two men.  Then I want you to tell the court which one you saw rob the bank and murder Jerome McAllister.  You can get closer,” the judge urged.  “You don't have any reason to be afraid.  Both men are handcuffed and there are enough lawmen in this room to protect you from any possible kind of danger that you can imagine.  Take your time; I want you to be absolutely sure, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the man you identify is the right one.”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Marlowe answered.  He turned and took three steps in the direction of Chance and Nathan.  He stared intently at each man in turn.  His eyes flicked back to Nathan; he studied him for several minutes before his gaze slid over to Chance.  Then, as Marlowe cocked his head to the side to study the man, Chance smirked at him.

“That's him!” Marlowe gasped, taking an involuntary step backward.  He pointed a condemning finger at Chance.  “That's the man who murdered Jerome McAllister!  Now that I see them side-by-side, I can see the difference for sure!  I'd recognize that smirk anywhere—that's the same expression he had after he shot Mr. McAllister down in cold blood!”

The courtroom erupted into chaos.

Judge Johnston pounded his gavel several times until he pounded it so hard it broke in his hands.  Nonplussed, the judge stood up and yelled for quiet at the top of his lungs.  It had the desired effect and he sat back down.  “If there are any more outbursts like that I will clear the courtroom immediately and close the saloon for the next three days!  You'll have to read about how this case ends in the newspaper!”  Turning his attention back to the man who still stood in front of the bench, he addressed Marlowe.  “Mr. Brandon, you pointed to Chance Cooper, is that correct?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“And there is no possible doubt in your mind at all that Chance Cooper is the man guilty of robbing the Jackrabbit Junction Bank and killing Jerome McAllister—is that also correct?”

Marlowe nodded.  “Yes, Your Honor.”

“Why ya little—” Coop growled and strained to get loose from Sheriff Larsen.

Marlowe stood his ground, piercing the man with a heated glare.

“Sheriff, get the gag back in that man's mouth immediately!” Judge Johnston ordered sharply.  “Mr. Brandon, you are free to go now, but don't leave town.  We will be calling you back to give your testimony once the new trial begins.  Thank you for your part in putting that man behind bars.”

Marlowe nodded and threaded his way through the crowd of spectators to the door that led out of the courtroom.

“Mr. Westmore, I have what may seem to be a slightly unorthodox proposition for you.  In lieu of the fact that Nathan Tremayne has been cleared of all charges, and in the interest of time and expediency, would you be willing to take on Mr. Cooper as your client?”

Mr. Westmore looked taken aback by the judge's request at first.  A moment passed before he answered.  “Well, Your Honor, under the circumstances, since Mr. Cooper deserves to be represented, I shall accept.”  He looked at Coop.  “That is, if Mr. Cooper has no objection?”

All attention focused on Coop.

Sheriff Larsen gave him a rough shake.  “You were asked a question.  You can either answer or I'll haul you off to jail right now!”

Coop turned to glare sullenly at him and muttered something unintelligible through his gag.

“Mr. Cooper, just a simple shake your head yes or no,” Judge Johnston instructed.  “That will suffice.”

Coop gave a curt nod, accompanied by more garbled words.

“Well then, I guess if Mr. Tremayne wouldn't mind vacating his seat?”  Westmore glanced at Nathan for confirmation, then turned to Larsen.  “And if the sheriff would escort Mr. Cooper to my table, I'd like to ask the court to give me a few minutes to explain a few important things to my client before we consider this a done deal.”

The Judge nodded.  “Under the circumstances, that is certainly a request I can grant.  Sheriff Larsen, you may escort the prisoner to the defense table.”

Heyes motioned for Curry to follow him.  They rose from their seats and moved to stand against the nearest wall.

Once the sheriff had Cooper seated, he unlocked the cuffs on Nathan's wrists.  Nathan rose quickly and joined Heyes and the Kid by the wall.

Judge Johnston turned to the jury members.  “Now that we have new evidence, as well as a new defendant we will have to begin the process of a new trial.  I'll give you the choice of staying on the jury or vacating your seat.  Think your decision over carefully; I will poll the jury for your answer in a short while.”

The Circuit Judge turned back to the courtroom.  “Once the poll is taken, if we have to choose new jury members, the trial will be postponed until the day after tomorrow.  However, if we keep all twelve jury members, we will break for dinner and begin the new trial later this afternoon.”  He searched for and found Nathan.  “Mr. Tremayne, you have been cleared of all charges, you are free to go.”

Heyes led the way with Curry and Nathan following behind until they were free and clear of the packed courtroom via a side door.  Once they were outside, he turned to face them but before he could utter a word, Nathan had grabbed his hand and was pumping it up and down, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

“Thank you so much, Joshua!”  He turned to Curry and did the same, but not as enthusiastic, mindful of the Kid's injuries.  “And you, too, Thaddeus!  You don't know what it feels like to be free of that jail!”

Heyes and Curry shared a look.

“I imagine it's a very good feeling, Nathan.”  Heyes grinned.

“It's only because of everything the two of you did that I'm standing right here and not preparing myself to hang at the end of a noose!”  He turned to the Kid and grimaced as he surveyed Curry's face.  “I can't even begin to express how sorry I am that you had to go through what you did at the hands of such an evil-minded man, and all on my account.  I can never repay you for your sacrifice, Thaddeus, nor can I ever thank you enough!”

Curry waved a dismissive hand and shrugged, embarrassed by the raw emotion in Nathan's words.

“No, I mean it,” Nathan continued.  “Both of you put yourselves at great risk on my account but you, Thaddeus, you really paid the price for helping me.  Not many people would do what the two of you have done for a complete stranger.  What means the most to me is that you believed in me.  That's a lot to ask a stranger.”

Curry sent Heyes a beseeching look as he squirmed uncomfortably when Nathan looked like he would continue on in the same vein.

Taking pity on his friend, Heyes put his hand on Tremayne's shoulder.  “You're not a complete stranger, Nathan.  In the short time we've known you, you became our friend.  And that's what friends do; they help each other.”

It was Nathan's turn to be embarrassed.  “You don't know how much that means to me,” he smiled and then continued.  “All I ever knew was that I was adopted by the man and woman who raised me; the people I called my mother and father.  This has been a very momentous occasion for me; it isn't every day a man discovers he has a brother and two very special friends.”

“No, it isn't,” Heyes concurred.  “About Chance... are you going to be okay knowing what he's done and what's going to happen to him?”

“I guess you can say that, in a way, I'm relieved, to tell you the truth.  I didn't know who or what Chance was until today, so I was spared the indignity of being related to someone who can rob a bank and kill an innocent man, as well as kidnap and torture another man who's only mistake was trying to help clear my name.”  Nathan paused to collect his thoughts.  “Don't get me wrong, he is still my brother and I know he's family, but you don't get to choose your relatives, nor what they become.  I'll always regret that we never knew about each other when we were younger.  Maybe if I had known that he existed he wouldn't have turned out the way he did.  I also understand that he has to pay for his mistakes.”

“You're not responsible for what he did with his life, Nathan.”  Curry shook his head.  “Not everybody who has a rough life turns out the way Coop did.  Joshua an' me didn't have it so good when we were younger, and we did some things we're not proud of to survive, but we're trying to make up for all that now an'—”

“What Thaddeus is trying to say,” Heyes broke in with a pointed look at the Kid, “is that some people can change.  Given the opportunity, I don't think Coop would be able to do that.  He is what he is and that's it.  Are you going to stick around for his trial?”

Nathan shook his head.  “No, I already know the outcome and I don't think I need to stay and watch the train wreck happen.  He made it very clear in the courtroom what he thinks of me.”  His words were laced with sadness.  “It's enough for me to know that I did have a brother, just not the kind one likes to brag about to others.”  Nathan summoned up a smile.  “Let's not dwell on Chance anymore.  I think I'd rather do something to take my mind off all of this.”  He looked at each man in turn.  “Thaddeus, I told Joshua that I had a bit of money saved up that I'd like to give you two for all your troubles.  Tomorrow, when the bank opens, I can make good on that promise.  But until then, would it ruffle your feathers too much if I offered to buy you both supper?”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Heyes_20

“No, it would not!” Curry was quick to respond.  “I'm hungry enough not to mind my feathers gettin' ruffled at all.  My stomach is way ahead of us an' it's already tellin' me what it wants to eat,” he added with a grin.

Heyes and Nathan chuckled at both Curry's words and his obvious enthusiasm.

“You just said the magic words to Thaddeus, Nathan.  Feed him and he'll be your friend for life,” Heyes winked.

“That sounds like the perfect way to end this adventure.”  Nathan returned the wink and wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders.  The trio made their way to the cafe, still laughing and joking with each other, enjoying their newfound camaraderie.


*~*~*~*~*


THE END




NOTES:

The Town of Cedar Falls:
I lived in NC for nine years and I would pass by the building shown below on my way into town.  It's tucked away among a large group of trees situated at a crossroads.  Nothing else is around it, just the building.  I was always intrigued by the name (even though there aren't any falls nearby, just a large river), and looked up the history of the town.  I really liked the name Cedar Falls and wanted to use it in a story; I finally got to for this one.  A brief description of the town:  “Home of the first cotton mill in Randolph County.  Built here in 1836.  During the Civil War, the Cedar Falls Manufacturing Co. produced more cotton cloth for the Confederacy than any other mill in NC.”
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Cedar_10Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Close_10

*Rex Lease: When I needed someone for a small bit part, I found this interesting guy on a site for minor B movies and bit characters in westerns.  To read about him, he's #10 at this link (or if you need your own bit actor): https://sites.google.com/site/moviesfreedownload/home/minor-b-western-cowboy-stars

**“Stagecoach Mary” Fields, aka “Black Mary” was a real person and lead a very remarkable, as well as fascinating, life especially when you take into account the fact that she was a black woman delivering mail and driving a stagecoach in the 1800's.  I've waited quite a while to be able to use her in a story and I'm very pleased with the part she played in this ASJ VS.

As the AMC TV show, Hell On Wheels did, and as Roy Huggins and his writing team also allowed many times, I had to alter history a tad in order to have Mary's stagecoach collide with Heyes and the Kid, as well as adjust the timeline to allow them to be in the same place at the same time.  I figured that if it was good enough for AMC and Roy to get away with it, then so can I.
Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2 Kind_o10

According to the description, the photo above is captioned “An example of the kind of folks Mary rolled with.”

I hope you'll have the time to look her up and read about some of her qualities, characteristics and many adventures.  She was quite a woman; I guarantee you won't be disappointed!


*~*~*~*~*


***Rabbit-In-The-Hole”  In case you're interested: is an old game, played similar to modern day Freeze Tag.  The object of the game is for the rabbits to avoid being caught by the fox.  Depending on the number of children playing, circles are drawn in the dirt big enough for a player to stand in.  (Note: if being played on grass or cement, hoops may be used.)  These are the “rabbit holes” and are designated “safe” spots.  For example, if you have 10 players, there should be 2 circles.  Only 1 rabbit at a time may stay inside a circle.  A rabbit inside the circle can get “bumped out” if another rabbit jumps in to escape the fox.  

For strategy, the fox may decide at any time to “guard” a rabbit hole by waiting near it for any rabbits that try to jump in or out.  At any time, if the fox catches a rabbit (by tagging them) they must freeze in place until the end of the game.

Boundaries are established.  Rabbits may not go outside them and, if seen doing so, they must freeze in place.

Once the number of rabbits decrease to the number of holes, time out is called, everyone freezes and a hole gets erased/removed until there is only one hole and one rabbit for the fox to chase.

A winner is declared when 1) the fox catches the final rabbit or 2) the rabbit makes it to the last hole and is safe.


(Writers love feedback!  You can comment on moonshadow’s story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen.  You don't have to be a member of this site and you can be anonymous.  You can type any name in the box.)

Penski
Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2
Post on Fri 08 Feb 2019, 10:47 pm by Penski
What a great ending to your story and this Virtual Season, moonshadow! I love how the twins were exact opposite. You really beat up the Kid - you and Maz McCoy enjoy hurting the one you love. Gotta love a Heyes to the rescue for Nathan and Curry. Loved it!
goodone
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Bravo!
Post on Sat 09 Feb 2019, 5:19 pm by LittleBluestem
Great episode to end the season, Moonshadow! I read it very, very  slowly to try to make it last!  I always enjoy a story where our two "pretty good bad men" show that they really are good guys at heart. (And I volunteer to nurse poor Kid back to health!)

I also enjoyed your casting, especially Sheriff John Larsen. As a big Longmire fan, I liked picturing him and Heyes riding to the Kid's rescue.

Loved the inclusion of Stagecoach Mary, too After first hearing of her existence on HOW, I looked her up and was quite impressed. One helluva lady!

Thanks for a great story! clap
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Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2
Post on Tue 12 Feb 2019, 2:12 am by ladkisso
clap goodjob I enjoyed your story and especially being introduced to Stagecoach Mary. I will certainly be looking for more history on her, she seems like an admirable person. Thank you for a great VS.
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Re: Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2
Post on Thu 21 Feb 2019, 3:14 am by Nightwalker
Great episode and great ending for the Virtual Season.  clap

What fantastic story about twins that were separated, when they were too young, to remember each other. The brothers had the same bad start in their life and it's interesting, how different they turned out, just because of the way they grew up. You gave the boys - and us - really a lot to think about.

And thank you very much for the historical background information. It's always interesting to learn new things about the life in former times.
 

Trouble in Cedar Falls by moonshadow - Part 2

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