Stories: Alias Smith and Jones
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 A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw

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royannahuggins
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royannahuggins

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Join date : 2013-10-13

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PostA Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw

Starring

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Ben_an10
Ben Murphy as Kid Curry and
Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes


Guest Starring

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Curly10
J.K. Simmons as Curly

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Sherif10
Clint Walker as Sheriff Waites

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Wheat10
Earl Holliman as Wheat Carlson

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Kyle10
Dennis Fimple as Kyle Murtry

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Lom11
James Drury as Lom Trevors
 


A Familiar Face
by Inside Outlaw


Early morning sunlight filtered through the rippled glass saloon window and slashed across Hannibal Heyes’ face.  He blinked several times, then peered over his cards at the grizzled man facing him on the other side of the rickety pine table.  Heyes yawned, shook his head, and smiled.  “I’ll see you and raise you ten dollars,” he said wearily.

The man grunted and tossed in his money.

Another man to his right laid a bill down on the large pot of money centered on the table.  “Gimme two, Dan.”  He put down two cards and picked up the two the grizzled man dealt him, incorporating them into his hand with a frown.  

A third man, wearing a split cowhide vest, threw his cards down on the table.  “I’m out.”  He glared at Heyes.  “Smith, you sure you ain’t professional?”

Heyes smiled.  A pile of coins and cash was in front of him.  “I’ve never gambled for a living; a meal, maybe, but never a living.”

Dan snorted and scratched the stubble on his cheek.  “Well, you sure don’t look too hungry to me.”  He turned to watch the vested man roughly fling open the planked door and leave.  “Don’t mind Enos.  He’s always a sore loser and he loses a lot.”  Bright sunlight briefly lit the gloomy interior of the wood-framed building before it sank again into shadows.  “Looks like the storm’s stopped.  What say we start thinkin’ ‘bout headin’ home to our beds after this hand, Walt?”

“Fine by me.  The missus ain’t gonna be happy with me bein’ out all night.  ‘Specially, if’n I miss church,” said Walt.  “Where you stayin’, Smith?”

Heyes turned to the man on his left with a slight frown.  “I’m not.  My partner was supposed to meet me yesterday, but he must’ve been delayed.  I’m just killing time waiting for him.”

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Vs_ful10

“You can come on back to my place if’n you like,” offered Dan.  “I don’t have a missus makin’ breakfast but I can put together some flapjacks.”

“Thanks, Dan, I might take you up on that.”  Heyes started as the plank door banged open and the vested man plunged through it followed by a tall, stern-faced man wearing a big, brass badge.  The poker face Heyes wore didn’t falter, but his eyes turned darker as the pupils widened.  

“That’s him, Sheriff Waites.  Just like I told you,” said Enos, dramatically pointing at Heyes.  “That’s him, Smilin’ Mike Payson, and I’m claimin’ that ree-ward.  One thousand smackeroos.”  

Dan and Walt looked at Heyes speculatively but said nothing.  They, too, had poker faces.  

“Hold on a minute, Sheriff.  It’s plain this gentleman has mistaken me for someone else.”  Heyes stood up and held out his hand to the lawman.  “Joshua Smith, at your service.”

The sheriff looked down at Heyes’ hand, didn’t take it, and raised his eyes to the earnest brown ones looking at him.  “You got some way of proving that, Smith?”

The smile slipped slightly as Heyes said, “I got a friend coming who can vouch for me.  He’ll be here any time now.”

“That’s real convenient.  What’s his name?”

The smile fled.  “Thaddeus,” said Heyes.

The lawman leaned closer and his expression hardened.  “Your friend got a last name?”

Heyes responded, “Yessir, he does.  It’s Jones, Thaddeus Jones.  Folks always laugh at us.  Smith and Jones.  What are the odds?”

The sheriff gave a tiny smirk.  “Not good, I reckon, and I ain’t laughing.”  He grabbed hold of Heyes’ upper arm.  “You mind coming over to my office, Mr. Smith?  I’m sure it won’t take more’n a day or so to clear up the confusion.”

Heyes looked at Dan and Walt but they wouldn’t meet his eyes.  He turned to Enos.  “Sheriff, you know how it is; Enos here is a terrible poker player and I’m afraid I might’ve rubbed him the wrong way simply by playing better than him.”  He turned to the vested man.  “There’s no reason to hold a grudge, Enos.  Let me just collect my winnings and I’m sure we can smooth things over.”  His glance cut to the large pile of bills and coins by his seat.  

“Leave it, Smith,” growled the sheriff, pulling him away from the table.  Instantly, Dan and Walt started grabbing at the money on the table and stuffing it into their pockets.  Even Enos ignored the sheriff and Heyes, diving in to claim his own share.

“Sheriff, that ain’t fair!  I won that cash fair and square!” protested Heyes.

“If you’re Payson there wasn’t anything fair about it.  You come along quiet now or I’m slapping a pair of cuffs on you and dragging you out.  Your choice.”

With one last, regretful look at his winnings, Heyes sighed and meekly allowed the lawman to steer him through the door.



XXX


“Don’t seem like your pal’s gonna show, Smith,” said the sheriff as he lowered himself to a chair behind a large desk.  He put his feet up and watched his prisoner pacing back and forth.  “Guess I’m just gonna have to make up my own mind who you are.  I’ve been going through my wanted posters, but they haven’t helped much.  Hell, who writes these things?”  Waites picked up the poster on top.  “Dark-haired, dark eyes, five foot eleven inches, one hundred sixty pounds.”

Heyes stopped for a moment, his attention frozen on the sheriff.

“That’s the description for at least twenty men so far.  You could be anybody from Snake Thompson to Hannibal Heyes.”

Heyes relaxed and resumed his pacing.  “But I’m not.  I’m Joshua Smith.”

“That’s what you’ve said.”

“No, that’s who I am.  Lom Trevors will tell you as soon as he gets here.”  The sound of hammering outside caused them both to look out the front window.  Scaffolding was being constructed in the town square and it appeared many people had turned out to help.  Heyes swallowed thickly.

Waites was still holding up Heyes’ wanted poster studying it carefully.  “You know, I was on a train once that Heyes and Curry held up.  Got a real good look at Curry.  I’d know him anywhere.  Never got a peek at Heyes,” Waites snorted and laid down the poster.  “Don’t matter.  No one’s heard from those two in years.  Probably dead or outta the country by now.  Somebody by the name of Carlson runs the Devil’s Hole gang these days.”  His gaze shifted to Heyes.  “Funny thing about that.  I wired Trevors just like you asked, seems Carlson and his gang just tried to pull a job in the sheriff’s territory.  First Bank of Medicine Bow.  They were run off empty-handed, but he’s out after them so he can’t vouch for you.”

“Deputy Harker knows me.”

“Well, Deputy Franks don’t and he’s the one who replied.  I’ll hold off until I hear from Trevors himself, but I’m only one man and if the whole town decides they’re gonna hang Mike Payson, I doubt I’ll be able to stop them.  Won’t matter who you are.”

Heyes grimaced, “Thanks, Sheriff, anybody ever tell you how reassuring you are?”

“Why, yes, they have,” preened the lawman.

Heyes heavily sat down on his bunk.  “They were lying.”


XXX


“Bluebird, population 60, Friendliest Town Around,” said Kid Curry, tipping his brown hat back and wiping his brow with a dirty bandana.  He stuffed the cloth back in his pocket and stroked the neck of the sweaty, muddy, sorrel gelding he sat on.  “We’re gonna do all right together, boy.  I hated losing Jasper like that, but it was the humane thing to do.  I just hope Heyes isn’t too prickly about us bein’ a few days late.”  The horse snorted.  “You know, I’m almost lookin’ forward to him chewin’ me out.  Ten days in the saddle and no one to talk to will do that to a man.”  With a soft cluck, the Kid urged his mount into a half-hearted jog.  

As they neared the weather-worn buildings looming up out of the prairie grass, the sun beat down on horse and rider.  Walking along the dusty street, the Kid took note of his surroundings.  Signs proclaimed the Bluebird Livery, the Bluebird Hotel, the Bluebird Café, and the Bluebird Mercantile.  His bemused visage turned to one of dismay as he passed the barred building simply signed Jail.  Pulling up in front of the Bluebird Saloon, he dismounted and tied off his horse.  His gelding reached greedily for the filled water trough in front of him and drank deeply as the Kid loosened his girth.  

A woman crossed the street, surreptitiously fluttering her eyelashes at Curry, and continued on her way.  Smiling, he politely removed his hat, then slapped it against his leg before stepping up onto the boardwalk and into the darkened saloon.  The barkeep was sweeping the floor around tables stacked with chairs.  “You servin’?” asked the Kid hopefully.

“Day or night.  What’ll you have?” replied the bald man, wiping his hands on his grimy apron as he stepped behind the bar.

“A beer would be mighty appreciated.”

“Ten cents for a cold one, five for warm.”

“The colder, the better,” said the Kid, putting ten cents on the bar and setting his hat next to it.  He reached for the pickle jar.  “I’m supposed to meet my partner but I’m a few days late.  Dark-haired fellow goes by Smith.”  He saw the friendliness drop from the bartender’s face and his hand withdrew from the open jar.  “What’s wrong?”

A frosty beer mug was plunked down on the counter and the coins snatched away.  “You Jones?”

“I am.  Why?”  Fear crept onto the Kid’s face.  “Did somethin’ happen?”

“I’ll say.  Your friend’s in jail.  Sheriff arrested him.”

Curry gulped his beer.  

“Enos says he’s Smilin’ Mike Payson.  That true?”

The Kid choked slightly on his drink before putting it down.  “Naw.  His name’s Joshua Smith.”

“And you’re Jones,” flatly stated the barkeeper.

“That’s right….”

“Save it.  Look, I don’t know who you are or who your friend is, but Smith and Jones are the stupidest aliases anyone could go by.  Sheriff Waites thinks so, too, and he ain’t the type to let things slide.  Unless your friend is a real good friend, I’d ride on out of here and forget you knew him.”

The Kid groaned.  “He’s a really, really good friend.”

“Then, if I were you, I’d figure out another way to straighten things out, because the sheriff aims to throw you in the cell right next to Smith’s until he knows exactly who you two are.”

“Why are you tellin’ me this?” asked Curry.

The bald man laughed and refilled the Kid’s beer before speaking.  “’Cause my name ain’t Curly even though the sheriff thinks it is.  Let’s just say I’m doing a fellow traveler on the road of life a real big favor.”

The Kid reached into his jacket and pulled out a five dollar bill, putting it down on the bar top.  “Thanks, Curly.”  He swept up his hat and went outside.  Pausing on the boardwalk, he looked across the street at the jail just as the door opened and a tall man wearing a sheriff’s badge stepped out, locked the door, and turned away from him before walking up the south side of the street.  

After untying his horse’s lead rope and gathering up the reins, the Kid mounted and slowly followed far behind the sheriff until he reached the alley next to the jail.  Turning quickly into it, he rode up to a barred window and tried to peer inside.  He heard the squeal of bedsprings and a moment later, Heyes was looking at him with both hands gripping the iron bars.  

“About time you got here!  You were supposed to be here three days ago!” hissed Heyes accusingly.

“I ain’t in the mood, Heyes.  Jasper broke a leg.  I had to put him down and walk twenty miles in a rainstorm to the next town and ride twenty miles back to my gear with a new horse before I could get here,” said the Kid with an edge.  “And now I find you’ve gone and gotten yourself arrested.”

“It wasn’t my fault!  The sheriff thinks I’m somebody else!”

The Kid lowered his voice, “Well, that’s lucky, ain’t it?  ‘Cause if he knew who you really were, you’d be on your way to Wyoming or a hangin’.”

“It’s not funny!  He thinks I’m a gambler named…”

“Smilin’ Mike Payson.  I heard.”

“You need to get me out of here quick.”  

“I can’t just waltz in and let you out.  Bartender tells me the sheriff’s waiting for me to show so he can lock me up, too.”  Curry's gaze shifted to peer behind his partner.  “You alone?”

“For now.  The sheriff’s doing his rounds but he’ll be back soon.  Kid, listen, you can’t hornswoggle your way in, the sheriff saw you once.  He’ll likely recognize you.  But you better think of something fast!  Payson isn’t just a gambler; he’s killed people, too.  The townsfolk are lobbying hard for a necktie party.  They think it’ll be good for the economy.”

“Why didn’t you tell him to wire Lom?  He could’ve been here in less than a day or so.”

“I did!  Lom and Harker rode out after – guess who?  Our old friends – the Devil’s Hole Gang.  Seems Wheat decided he’d rob the bank in Medicine Bow, only he bungled it.  Lom took exception and he’s on Wheat’s trail.  Better yet, his brand new, idiot deputy has never heard of Smith and Jones.”  Desperately, Heyes tried to rattle the bars, but it was futile; the jail was made of granite blocks and the bars didn’t give an inch.

“Don’t worry, Heyes, I’ll figure somethin’ out.”

“Well, do it fast.  The undertaker’s already taken my measurements.  And, Kid…”  They both heard the front door of the jail open.  Heyes lowered his voice to a whisper.  “If I get hung, kill Wheat for me.”

Blue eyes locked solemnly onto brown ones until the Kid nodded and grinned, “Happy to.” He heard his partner growl in frustration as he rode off.



XXX


The campfire had burned down to glowing coals softly lighting the Kid’s face as he mechanically scooped beans into his mouth from the small pot nestled between his crossed legs.  Finishing, he stood up, scraped the remains of meal into the fire, and threw another log on top.  He blew on the embers until a flame caught the new wood and the fire was resurrected.  Satisfied, he rinsed out his pot and spoon and went over to where his horse was tethered, tucking his utensils inside his saddlebag.  

Curry pulled out a brush and began grooming his animal, smoothing its hair, and rubbing its sore muscles.  As he worked, he confided in his only companion.  “Heyes has got himself in a real fix, Red, and I’m not sure how to help him.  Trouble is, the sheriff knows I’m comin’ and he’s waitin’ for someone to show up to help Heyes.”  The horse nibbled the branch he was tied to and blew a blast of air through his nostrils.  “I know…I know.  He’d just lock me up right next to Heyes.  Then we’d both be in the same fix.  

But I can’t just sit by and let things work out…what if the sheriff figures out who Heyes really is?  Or worse, what if those bloodthirsty townsfolk get tired of waitin’ to make money off a hangin’?  Then I’ll have to go blastin’ my way in there and that’d be the end of our amnesty.”  The Kid leaned harder into his horse’s hide.  The animal stepped away from the pressure and Curry paused, the brush held in midair.  “Yeah, that might just work.  We ain’t that far.  If I can find the gang, I’ll find Lom.  Thanks, Red, you’re a whole lot easier to talk things through with than Heyes.”



XXX


The afternoon sun glinted off the shiny sorrel coat of the galloping horse.  Curry leaned over the animal’s neck, letting the wind slip over his back as he urged his gelding to keep up the pace.  The terrain had changed from prairie to rolling foothills as the earth swept upward towards the mountains to the west.  More miles went by until the horse could no longer manage more than a walk.  Finally, the Kid pulled up at a stream crossing and led the sweat-flecked beast to water.  “Go ahead and drink.  We’ll rest up here awhile.  It ain’t that far to the Hole now.  You done real good.”  While the horse slaked his thirst, the Kid looked around.  Scrub oak, dense brush, and scraggly pines dotted the landscape.  His hand dropped to his six-gun and he slipped it slightly free from its holster.  He sat down with his back to one of the larger pine trees and tipped his head down, but his eyes remained open and alert.



XXX


“Well, I’ll be doggone,” Kyle Murtry peered through the brush at the man resting under a tree.  “Wheat, that’s the Kid!”

“Shh, you wanna git your head blowed off?” said Wheat Carlson.  He stealthily moved to his right putting a tree between him and the Kid.  Nervously, he cleared his throat, opening his mouth to speak.

“You two ain’t gotten any quieter,” said the Kid lifting his head, his Colt already in his hand.  “Why don’t you step out here where I can see you?”

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Vs_kid10

Kyle stepped out of the brush with his hands held high and a tentative smile on his pinched face.  Wheat peeked around the trunk making eye contact with the Kid but not moving from the safety of the tree.  “Hey Kid, what brings you to these parts?” he asked in a semi-friendly way.

“You do.”  Curry stood up, his gun still trained on Kyle.  “Can I put my gun away or are you two gonna do somethin’ stupid?”

“That ain’t no way to treat old friends,” protested Kyle, lowering his hands but keeping them well away from his weapon.

“Just makin’ sure we’re still friends.  Wheat?”

“Put that shooter away then I’ll come out,” said Wheat.

The Kid holstered his Colt with a flourish and smiled for the first time.  “Good to see you, Kyle.”

“You, too, Kid.”

“Wheat, you can come out now.  I won’t shoot.”

“I know that,” blustered Wheat, stepping into the clearing.  “I was just keepin’ Kyle covered, you know, just in case you were in a bad mood or somethin’.”

“If I wanted to shoot you, you’d already be dead,” said Curry, not unkindly.

A quick glance passed between the two outlaw partners and both turned shades whiter.  Wheat cleared his throat again and puffed out his chest.  “What’re you doin’ in the Hole, Kid?  This here’s my gang now.”  

“I’m not here for the gang, Wheat.  I’m lookin’ for Lom and he’s lookin’ for you.”

“Well, he ain’t here.”

“Good, that means he will be soon.  What were you thinkin’ robbin’ the MedBow bank?  You knew that’s his territory.”

“We was thinkin’ that’s where the money was, Kid,” grinned Kyle, then he frowned as he added, “Only we didn’t get none of it.”

The Kid walked up to his two former companions.  “Wheat, you knew Lom couldn’t let that lie.  He had to come after you.”

“We needed the money, Kid.  The boys are hungry and when they’re hungry they get mean.  You know that!” Wheat’s voice rose defensively.  “Jobs have been scarce since you two left.  Everyone’s skittish ‘bout gettin’ robbed and those dang telephones poppin’ up everywhere ain’t helpin’.  

“Why do you think me and Heyes got outta the business?” Curry chuckled.

Wheat scowled in return.  “You’re bein’ pretty smug for someone who needs our help.  What d’you need Lom for?”

The smile dropped from the Kid’s face.  “Heyes got himself arrested.  Sheriff thinks he’s someone else.  Someone wanted for murder.”

“So?  How come you don’t just bust him out?  I could help,” offered Kyle hopefully.  “We’ve got lots of dynamite back in the Hole.  Wheat never lets me blow nothin’ up no more.”

“Not after that time you blew up the wrong train car!” interjected Wheat.

“That weren’t my fault!  Lobo told me it was the right one!”

“Hold on, you two,” interrupted Curry.  “All I need is for you and the gang to take a little trip south, say in the general direction of Bluebird, I’ll do the rest.  I’ll even make it worth your while.”

Comprehension dawned on Wheat’s face and avarice quickly replaced it.  “How worth it?”

The Kid pulled a heavy leather pouch from his pocket and held it up.  “I got two hundred dollars here.  It’s yours if you lead Lom to Bluebird.  After that, you can take off and lay low for a while.”

Kyle and Wheat shared another glance before slow smiles formed on their faces and they looked back at the Kid.  Wheat nodded.  “If Heyes needs our help, I guess we can give it.”

“I knew you’d wanna help an old friend,” said the Kid sarcastically.  “I’ll be waitin’ for you on the north road just outside of Bluebird.”

“Got it.”  Wheat started to turn away, but Curry reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him back around to face him.

“Get Lom there before they hang Heyes, Wheat,” he growled menacingly.

The big mustached man paled and searched the penetrating blue eyes drilling into his, but managed a curt nod.  “We will.  Quit worryin’.  Geez, you’re worse than an old biddy.”



XXX


Lom Trevors held up a hand and reined in his roan.  The horse slid and spun on its heels so its rider was facing a small group of five men.  “Hold it up!”  

The men came to a stop and looked at him expectantly.  The posse had halted in a clearing a few hundred yards from the imposing red clay cliffs that rose to their west and extended as far as the eye could see to the north and south of where they stood.

“We’re going to be going into Devil’s Hole territory soon.  Pair up, side by side; stay close behind me, and keep your eye out for anything that doesn’t belong,” cautioned Lom.

A sandy-haired man tentatively held up a hand.  “Sheriff Trevors?”

“What is it, Peterson?”

“Well, sir, I…um…I…I,” stammered Peterson before he hung his head.

“What he’s tryin’ to say,” chimed in another gray-haired man, “is we didn’t sign up for a suicide mission, Trevors, and everyone knows that’s what goin’ into Devil’s Hole will be!”

“Now see here, you’re sworn deputies and…” retorted Lom angrily.

“No!  You see here,” snapped a third man wearing a filthy black bowler.  “We was the only ones you could find dumb enough to try’n run down the Devil’s Hole Gang.  Ain’t that what you said, ‘We’ll run ‘em down easily enough’?  You didn’t say nothin’ 'bout cornerin’ 'em in the Hole and lettin’ ‘em use us for target practice.”

Deputy Harker had watched silently but now he spoke up.  “You yellow-bellied cowards!  Say one more word and I’ll-”

“Harker that’s enough!” snapped Lom.  He glared furiously at his small band of men.  “Leave now if you’re going to; stay, and we’ll get the gang and you’ll get the reward.”

Harker rode up next to Lom, but the others hung back grumbling amongst themselves.  The gray-haired man was the first to reach up and unpin the brass badge affixed to his lapel.  He tossed it toward Lom and it pitched up a small puff of dust as it hit the ground.  He turned tail and rode away, not looking back.  The rest of the men followed his lead with Peterson bringing up the rear.  He stopped a short distance away and looked back apologetically.  “I got a family, Sheriff,” he said glumly before turning away.  

Lom silently watched them go until they disappeared over a rise, then he turned his horse in the opposite direction, his eyes on the ground following a deep set of hoof prints.  Harker watched him go then dismounted and retrieved the discarded badges before following his boss.



XXX


“Well, that didn’t go so well,” said Harker, riding up next to Lom.

“Humpf.”

“We aren’t going in there by ourselves are we, Lom?”

Lom glared at him but defeat rose in his eyes.  “No, that really would be suicide.  Our best hope now is to wait them out and quietly pick them off one by one as they come and go.”

“What if they’re holed up for a while?”

“Then we’ll wait.”  Managing a small, tight smile, Lom said, “Wheat Carlson had the audacity to try and pull a job in our jurisdiction, Harker.  If I don’t teach him a lesson, he’ll keep trying until he gets it right and that could take a whole lot longer than us waiting him out.”

“You don’t think much of Carlson, do you?”

“He’s no Hannibal Heyes.”  Lom turned quickly away from his deputy.  “I’m pretty sure the entrance to the Hole is about a mile or so south.  We’ll set up camp here where they can’t spot us and take turns keeping watch.”

“You sure you know where it is?  I heard tell it’s nearly impossible to find.”

Lom nodded.  “It’s not the first time I’ve been here.”  Dismounting, he led his horse to a nearby scrub oak and tied it up.  He quickly pulled his gear from the saddle, setting it against a tall pine tree.  Sliding the saddle off the horse, Lom carried it to a small clearing and put it down.

Harker had dismounted and untacked as well.  Joining his boss, he laid his own saddle nearby Lom’s and then turned to him.  “Another posse?”

Lom shook his head.  “A group of guys I used to ride with who knew this country real well.”

“What happened to them?”

“We parted on good terms.” Lom smiled and added, “We keep in touch from time to time.”

“They sound like nice friends.”

“Yeah, we had some good times.”



XXX


Heyes knelt by his cot, diligently working at the coils attached to the bedframe as the day’s light was fading in his cell.  He paused for a moment.  The staccato sound of hammering floated through the bars.  Returning his attention to the coils, he hastened his efforts.  A few minutes later, he crowed triumphantly as he held up a small length of iron pinched between his fingers, but he nearly dropped it when he heard the latch of the front door open.  Quickly, he sprang up onto the cot, tucked it into a pocket, and pretended to be napping.

Sheriff Waites entered the office and crossed to his desk, tossing his Stetson onto its surface and lowering himself into his swivel chair.  With a contented sigh, Waites put his boots up on one corner of the desk and pulled a cigar out of his vest pocket.  Using a wooden match from his desk drawer, he lit the cigar and blew a plume of smoke towards the ceiling.  He enjoyed his smoke for a few minutes, then stubbed it out on the worn sole of his boot before tucking it back into his pocket.  Sated, he stood up and walked over to Heyes’ cell door.  “Smith, you awake?”

Heyes opened his eyes and faked a yawn, stretching his arms and sitting up.  “What’s up, Sheriff?”

“Bad news.  I heard from Deputy Franks again.  Seems your friend’s posse quit on him.”

Heyes crossed to the bars and casually gripped them.  “Why’s that bad news?  He’ll get here quicker.”

“I’m afraid not.  Seems his men said he was bound and determined to go into Devil’s Hole.  That’s the reason they quit him.  That’s a death wish if you ask me, but even if it isn’t, it means your friend isn’t going to be able to help you.”

White knuckles tightened around the iron bars.  

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Vs_hey10

“Is there someone else?  Maybe an employer or a minister who can identify you?” asked Waites.

“No.  Me and my partner have been on the road awhile.”

“Drifters, huh?  I guess your partner’s drifted on down the road,” snorted Waites.  “Look, you’ve been a pretty good prisoner.  Heck, I’m even beginning to believe you aren’t Payson, but folks around town see it otherwise.  They’ve been putting the pressure on me to have a fast trial and, well, there’s no good reason I can give them not to do it so you’d best get your story straight.  The judge will be here tomorrow afternoon and he’s not one to waste time coming to a decision.”  

“Why do we need a trial?  I told you Enos is a sore loser.  It’s his word against mine.”

“I’m afraid Enos has a lot of friends and a couple of them are willing to swear you’re Payson.”

Heyes couldn’t keep the fear from his voice.  “That’s a lie!  They’re after the reward money!”

“That might be true but, the trouble is, no one knows if you’re lying or they are so we’re having a trial.”

The sheriff retrieved his hat and started for the door, then stopped and turned back around.  “You want me to send over the Reverend?  He’s a good man.  It might offer you some comfort knowing you’re straight with your maker.”

“I haven’t been convicted!” yelled Heyes.

“Never hurts to be prepared.”

“I’d rather be alone for a while,” groaned Heyes despondently as he crossed to the cot and plopped down on it, dropping his head in his hands.

“Fair enough.  I’ll fetch you some dinner after I finish my rounds.”

“Thanks, but I think I’ve lost my appetite.”

Waites left quietly.  

As soon as the door clicked shut, Heyes lifted his head and waited, listening to the lawman’s footsteps fading away.  As soon as all was quiet, he sprang to his feet, fished his thin piece of iron from his pocket and went to work on the cell’s lock.  It opened almost immediately.  Heyes grabbed his hat and jacket, hastily putting them on.  He went to the sheriff’s desk, opening and closing the drawers until he found a set of keys in the last one he tried.  

The smallest one opened the lockbox he’d seen the sheriff put his gun into and, inside the box, he found his Schofield along with his gun belt and wallet.  A bundled stack of twenties was resting there, too.  Heyes grabbed it and pulled it out, fanning the bills, inhaling deeply, and letting the breeze ruffle his hair.  He started to slip the money inside his jacket, hesitated, and then reluctantly returned the cash to the lockbox quickly shutting the door and relocking it.  The keys were replaced in the correct drawer and Heyes cautiously left through the back door of the jailhouse.



XXX

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


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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Fri 28 Feb 2020, 8:23 pm by royannahuggins

“You see ‘em?” growled Wheat, keeping his eyes forward on the narrow trail winding down the hillside.

“They’s followin’ us,” replied Kyle, riding behind his friend on his small roan mare.

“Of course they are,” said Preacher.  “They’ve been waiting on us all night.”

“I don’t get why we’re letting Kid Curry tell us what to do.  I thought you were leading this gang, Wheat?” sneered Lobo, bringing up the rear of the small group of outlaws.

“I am leadin’ it!  I didn’t hear you grumblin’ about takin’ the Kid’s money,” snapped Wheat.  “Now shut up and pretend like you don’t know they’re there.”

“What am I gonna pretend when they start shooting?”  Lobo looked back over his shoulder, but he couldn’t see anything beyond the forest undergrowth closing in around them.

“Hush up,” admonished Kyle.  “That’s Lom back there.  Me and Wheat rode with him and Heyes and the Kid.  He ain’t gonna shoot nobody in the back.”

“What about in the front?” questioned Preacher.  “If I’m going to get shot dead, I need some time to get right with God.”

Lobo snorted derisively, “There ain’t enough time left in the world for you to get right with God.”

“The good Lord forgives the truly repentant,” intoned Preacher.

“It’s the ‘truly’ part that’ll git you,” snickered Kyle.

“Quiet!  It’ll be dark soon and nobody’s gonna be shootin’ anybody less’n I hear one more word outta any of you, then I’m gonna be shootin’ y’all dead.  Front or back,” threatened Wheat.



XXX


“You see them?” asked Harker.  “There’s only four.  Where’re the rest of them?”

“Shh, keep your voice down,” hushed Lom.  “They’ll hear you.”  He shifted his position so he could get a better look at the riders disappearing down the darkened trail ahead of them.  “Carlson’s in this bunch, that’s good enough for me.  Besides, we wouldn’t have a chance against the whole gang.”

“I don’t get why we didn’t just open fire when they rode down past us.  It gonna be too dark soon.”

“I didn’t know you were a backshooter, Harker,” chided Lom with humor.

The deputy bristled defensively.  “I ain’t.  I just think we could’ve wounded them a little is all.  Now we’re gonna have to stumble around in the dark after them.”

“You really want to get into a shootout?”

“I guess not, but when are we gonna make our move?”  

Harker sounded impatient and Lom glanced at him.  “When the time is right, I’ll let you know.”

Not looking too happy, the deputy fell silent.



XXX


Hannibal Heyes used the oncoming night to cover his progress to the edge of town pausing once or twice before he slipped into the shadows of a large farmhouse on the outskirts.  The night was nearly silent with only the faint music from the saloon’s player piano discernible.  The moonlight glowed softly and Heyes could see several horses milling about in a small corral a few hundred feet away.  He started to move from the shadows, but the cold, hard steel of a pistol chilled the back of his head as the sound of it cocking froze his heart.  

“Don’t move or it’ll be the last thing you do,” said the gravelly voice of Sheriff Waites.  Heyes complied then slowly raised his hands as the gun prodded him.  The sheriff snapped his cuffs on Heyes’ right wrist before pulling it back and cuffing his left.  Waites spun his prisoner around.  “As far as I’m concerned, you just proved you’re guilty.”

“Sheriff, I can ex-”

“Save it, Payson.  I’m taking you back and telling the judge we got our man.”

“What about my trial?!”  Heyes couldn’t keep the shock from his voice.

“You just pled guilty when you busted out of my jail.”  The sheriff’s big hand had a tight grip around Heyes’ bicep as he pulled his prisoner back through the gloomy street.

“But….”

“No buts.  I’d shoot you right here except that would rob the town of revenue.”  

“I didn’t steal your cash!  Doesn’t that count for something?”

“I admit that was a surprise, but it doesn’t change things.  Only a wanted man would run.”

Heyes groaned but he didn’t reply.



XXX


Dawn broke brilliantly with a harsh, clear light illuminating the town as Kid Curry scanned the length of it through a pair of field glasses from atop a small rise.  He frowned deeply as his eyes passed over the completed scaffolding in the middle of the main street.  An empty noose dangled obscenely and the black skirting around the platform gave the structure an imposing appearance.  

No one was about and the town was still asleep.  He pulled the glasses from his eyes, rolled over, and scanned the north road leading into town—also deserted.  Scrambling down the rise, he ran to where his horse was tied, stuffed the glasses in his saddle bag, and mounted.  Swinging his horse towards the road, he put his heels to the animal and galloped north.



XXX


“They still followin’?” whispered Wheat to Lobo.  Kyle and Preacher rode ahead of them quietly chatting in the morning’s light, their mounts shoulder to shoulder.

“Yep, but they’re keepin’ their distance.”

“That’s good.  We’ll keep ours so we stay just outta their reach.”

“Lucky for us, no one’s gotten trigger happy,” grumbled Lobo.

“Ain’t luck.  You don’t know Lom Trevors.  I rode with him when he was with the gang.  The man’s too upstandin’ for his own good.”

“Folks change, Wheat.”

“Not Lom.  From what Heyes told me, he’s only gotten worse.”  Wheat harrumphed, “No self-respectin’ outlaw would ever turn law.”

“I hope you’re right, but I got a twitch in my back that’s screaming you’re wrong.”



XXX


“Rider coming,” said Harker, pointing beyond the men they were following at a distance.

Lom squinted, but he could barely see the dust spiraling into the air.  He reined up.  “Let’s circle around to the left.  There’s high ground there and maybe we can get a better look at what’s going on.”

Harker nodded and followed Lom as he left the trail and rode towards a forested hill.



XXX


“Wheat, rider’s comin’!” called out Kyle, violating the still of the morning.

“Shut up, Kyle, I got eyes!  Y’all wait here,” admonished Wheat, picking up a jog and passing his men to ride out and meet the incoming man.  As the rider neared, Wheat picked up a slow lope to meet him.

Both men reined up next to each other.  

“Kid.”

“Wheat.”

“Thought we was meetin’ outside of Bluebird.”  The big, mustached outlaw looked suspicious.

“The plan’s changed.  Town’s fixin’ to hang Heyes and it looks like they’re almost ready.”  The Kid nodded at his former gang members waiting a short ways away, and looked around without moving his head.  “Where’s Lom?”

“On that tallest hill to your right.  Him and another big fella, hunkered down.”

“Only two men?!”  Curry couldn’t keep the dismay from his face.  “Are you sure?”

“Well, it ain’t like I could ride up and take a head count but, yeah, I’m sure.”  Wheat shifted in his saddle.  “What’s your plan?”

“I’m gonna try to convince Lom to vouch for Heyes.  But, first, you have to draw on me and hold me up.”

Wheat looked the Kid as if he’d sprouted horns.  “What?  Why?”

“’Cause Lom is gonna be suspicious if you and I chat all nice and part ways.  Besides, Lom knows who I am, but his deputy doesn’t and I don’t want Harker wonderin’ how good ol’ Mr. Jones knows the leader of the Devil’s Hole gang.”

“Lom ain’t dumb enough to buy me robbin’ you,” sneered Wheat.

“He doesn’t have to buy it.  I just have to make sure he can’t prove you didn’t,” grinned the Kid.

“What if he won’t help you?”

Curry’s hand brushed his holster.  “Then I’m going have to convince him and his deputy with Plan B.”  



XXX


“What are they jawing about?” asked Preacher, pausing to drink from his canteen as he waited.

“Don’t know…hey, Wheat’s drawin’ on the Kid!” hissed Kyle, his hand dropping to his pistol.

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Vs_kyl10

“Hang on.  Wheat ain’t that dumb,” said Lobo, reaching out a hand as though to restrain Kyle.

“Look, the Kid’s just raisin’ his hands, meek as a puppy.”  Preacher’s brows drew down in puzzlement.

“Well, I’ll be…”  Kyle watched as the Kid handed over a small, obviously heavy pouch he recognized and which Wheat quickly tucked into a pocket.  As soon as it was stowed away, Wheat swung his other arm and knocked Kid Curry out of his saddle with the butt of his pistol.  All three outlaws were stunned into silence, but started at the sound of another voice.

“Hold it right there!” yelled Harker as he rose from his hiding place.  “I’m placing you all under-”

“C’mon!” yelled Wheat, pivoting on his horse and riding off the trail into the scrubby forest.  His gang members didn’t hesitate to plunge their own mounts into the tall underbrush and melt away under the cover of the heavy vegetation as several shots were fired, all of them shredding leaves and harmlessly whistling past the outlaws.  Within seconds, the Devil’s Hole gang had disappeared although the sound of snapping branches and muffled curses lingered.

Lom rose more slowly than his deputy had, his eyes riveted on the man sitting in the middle of the trail watching the outlaws ride away.  Holstering his gun, he snapped, “Harker, stop shooting!  You’re wasting ammo.  Fetch the horses and meet me down there.”  Then he proceeded to walk down the hill to the fallen man.

“Kid,” Lom said cautiously as he drew near to the sitting ex-outlaw.  “What are you trying to pull?”

The curly, blond-haired man at his feet grinned up at him audaciously and said, “The name’s Jones, Sheriff, and I was just robbed!”

“Yep, by the Devil’s Hole gang.  The same gang you aren’t supposed to have any contact with.”  Lom turned slightly as Harker led the horses down the hill.

“Lom, can I help it if my old friends are holdin’ a grudge?” The Kid stood up slowly and dusted the dirt from his pants.

“Uh huh, Wheat Carlson just happened to get the drop on Kid Curry?”

“Surprised me, too,” agreed the Kid.  He also watched Lom’s big deputy approaching.

“Mr. Jones!  I didn’t recognize you,” said Harker, coming to a halt in front of the two men, the two horses standing quietly behind him.  “Are you all right, sir?”

“Deputy Harker, good to see you.  Thank you for runnin’ those scoundrels off,” said Curry with a broad smile.

“Happy to!”  Harker turned and looked at Lom who was still frowning at the Kid.  “Sorry, Lom, I guess we ain’t gonna get the Devil’s Hole gang after all.”

“The Devil’s Hole gang?!  I just got robbed by the most famous outlaws in the West?” gushed Curry.

“Oh, shut up, Jones, and tell me why you’re here,” growled Lom, taking the reins of his horse from his deputy.  “Harker, why don’t you go and see if you can pick up their tracks?”  

“Right, Lom.”  Harker led his horse up the trail to where the outlaws had left it to enter the forest.  Lom and the Kid watched him vanish into the tall shrubs and willows.

All amusement dropped from the Kid’s face once the deputy was far enough away he couldn’t hear their conversation.  “I was comin’ to try to find you.  Heyes has been arrested and I need your help to vouch for him.”

“Arrested for what?” asked Lom, tensely.

“He’s been mistaken for Smilin’ Mike Payson, wanted for murder.  The sheriff wired you for identification, but your other deputy told him you were out roundin’ up our,” the Kid emphasized ‘our’, “old gang.  The town’s pushin’ to have a fast trial and get to the hangin’ quick.  The sheriff doesn’t think he can stop ‘em if they try to take things into their own hands.”

Lom crossed his arms and glared at his former gang mate.  “How come you didn’t vouch for him yourself?”

“The sheriff saw me once during a job,” admitted the Kid, sheepishly.  

“So you can’t let him see you now.”

“We need an upstandin’ lawman to tell that sheriff who Heyes is, like you or Harker there.”

“You mean lie about who he is.”  Lom’s face was unfriendly as he spoke.

“C’mon, Heyes hasn’t done anythin’ wrong ‘cept he won money from a man who plays bad poker and holds a grudge.  This fellow is swearin’ Heyes is Payson and he’s got two of his pals swearin’ the same.  If you don’t help, Heyes will swing,” pleaded the Kid as his hand casually hung next to his thigh; the thigh next to his holster.  “Lom, we’ve been holdin’ up our end of the bargain, stayin’ on the straight and narrow.  If the governor’d held up his, we’d be free men right now.  All I’m askin’ is for you to help us outta a jam we didn’t make.”

Lom’s shoulders slumped.  “You’re right.”  He whistled loudly towards where Harker had gone off trail then looked back at the Kid.  “Where’s Heyes?”

Not able to conceal his pleased smile, Curry answered, “A little town about two hours south of here called Bluebird.”

Harker reappeared and Lom waved at him to hurry.  “All right, let’s go.  But I’m telling you right now, soon as we’re done, I’m going after Carlson.”

The Kid nodded.  “I suspect he knows you will.”

Lom stared at him for half a beat and sighed.  “He led us here as sure as he’d laid bread crumbs, didn’t he?”

Curry smiled.

“And that money you handed over…you paid him to do it.”

The Kid said nothing.

“Just when you think that big lummox is dumb as a box of nails, he goes proving you wrong.”  Mounting, Lom waited as the Kid swung into his saddle then turned to Harker.  “Change of plans, Harker, we’re going to Bluebird.”

“What about Carlson?  I found a trail!” said Harker, putting his foot in his leather clad stirrup and groaning as he pulled himself up into his saddle by his horse’s mane.

“They’re halfway back to the Hole by now,” replied Lom.  “Carlson will have to wait; we have a friend who needs our help.”



XXX


After riding hard for half an hour, the gang pulled up and let their horses rest.  

“What was that all about, Wheat?” asked Preacher.  “You play-robbin’ the Kid?”

“He asked me to.”

“We knowed that.  If’n he hadn’t, you’d be dead,” snickered Kyle.

Wheat glared at his smaller friend, but went on to explain.  “The Kid wanted Trevors and his deputy to think it was an accident we ran into him.  Him and Heyes can’t be seen with us ‘cause of their amnesty, but the Kid needs Lom on his side so he don’t want to rile him.”

Kyle looked pensive for a moment, “Maybe we should help.  I’d sure hate to see Heyes git hung.”

“We did what the Kid asked,” said Lobo.  “Heyes is his problem.  Those two are making a habit of almost getting strung up.”

“How could we help?  We’re wanted, too,” said Preacher.  

“I don’t know.  I just thought maybe we could give ‘em a hand,” said Kyle.  “You know, hang ‘round in case the Kid needs more guns.”

The four outlaws fell silent for a while before Wheat spoke again, slowly and tentatively.

“Hmm, there’s one thing we could do…” he began.  The others leaned in to hear his plan.



XXX


Heyes watched from his cot as Sheriff Waites entered the jailhouse with a large covered tray balanced on his left hand.  The lawman sniffed it appreciatively and then stooped to slide it into the opening at the bottom of Heyes’ cell door.  “Stella down at the café fixed you up a mighty fine meal, Payson.”

“What’s the special occasion?” asked Heyes, sarcastically, his eyes straying to the window where he could glimpse a corner of the scaffolding.

Visibly offended by Heyes’ tone, Waites straightened up and said, “Hey, ain’t my fault you up and decided to bust out of jail.  The judge heard that, he ruled you guilty in a heartbeat.  Did it by telegram, too, don’t that beat all?”

Heyes gave a weak, sardonic smile.  “Ain’t that something?”

“Anyway, it won’t be long.  Town’s been sending out word ever since the verdict came in that the hanging’s tonight.  Seven p.m. on the dot.  This could be your last meal.  It’d be a shame to let it go to waste.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Waites nodded and retrieved the tray taking it over to his desk and sitting down.  He pulled off the cover, tied it around his neck like a napkin, and picked up the knife and fork inhaling the aroma of a juicy beefsteak.  “Um um, smells good!”  He glanced at his prisoner.  “You must’ve known it would end like this, Payson.  You can’t go around killing people and expect to get away with it.”

“I’m not Payson and I haven’t murdered anyone!” snarled Heyes.

The sheriff blinked once or twice and put down the silverware.  “Be that as it may, you’re wanted for something and it must be something big or you wouldn’t have tried to make a break for it.  Payson or not, I suspect you figured you were going to hang one way or the other.”

Heyes looked at him blankly.

“That’s what I thought,” said Waites, picking up his utensils and carving a big slab of steak.  He shoved it all into his mouth and chewed laboriously.

“I got scared,” said Heyes, quietly, “and I panicked.”

Still chewing, the lawman watched him as he stood up and gripped the bars at the window.

“It was stupid of me and I wished I hadn’t, but should I really swing for it?”  Heyes turned to look at his captor.

“Well, you also worked loose a bit of coil from your bedsprings, picked a lock and opened my safe to get your gun.  Yep, I know about that chunk of iron.  Took me a while to figure out what you’d done and I’m betting it took you a while to figure out how to do it.  That don’t seem like panic to me – that seems like a plan to bust out.  How’d you know how to pick that lock anyway?”  The sheriff swallowed.

“A friend taught me.”

“A friend on the wrong side of the law?”

Heyes looked at him angrily.  “Does it really matter now?”

“I guess it doesn’t.”  Waites sawed off another piece of meat, picked it up with his fork and then gestured with it.  “If you ain’t Payson, who are you?”

“I told you, but you don’t believe me.”

“If we put it on your headstone, are you gonna be happy being Joshua Smith for all eternity?”

A thoughtful look crossed Heyes’ face and it was a few moments before he responded.  “I reckon I’m proud of who I am.  Joshua Smith is a good man.”

“Good or bad, I reckon it don’t matter much anymore what we call you,” chuckled Waites, plunging the fork into his mouth.

Heyes sat down on his bunk and dropped his head in his hands while the lawman finished his meal.



XXX


Harker sat on a rock whittling and watching the Kid jittering in front of him.  “Have a seat, Jones; Lom will straighten things out.”

“I sure hope so.”  Curry pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time.  Next, he lifted his field glasses and peered through them at the activity around the scaffolding.  Women were setting up tables displaying baked goods and Curly from the saloon was serving whiskey from a large barrel he’d rolled out onto the sidewalk in front of the saloon.  He was doing a brisk business and several men were already unsteady on their feet and yelling loudly, their voices carrying to where the Kid stood.  A crowd had gathered around the platform in the center of town and more people were arriving as he watched.

A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw Vs_sca10

“Waiting’s hard,” smiled Harker.  “I wonder why Lom wanted us to wait here instead of riding in.”

The Kid glanced at him sharply.  “Um, maybe he thought the sheriff might be put out if we all showed up.  You know, like a show of force.”

“Hmm, maybe so.”  The big deputy returned to his carving.  A small train was emerging from the block of pine he held.

“Harker, what if something goes wrong?” asked the Kid.  “Maybe we should get a little closer to town in case Lom needs our help.  That crowd’s gettin’ drunker by the minute and they want a hangin’.”  

Looking up at him, Harker nodded.  “You might be right, Jones.” He put away his tools and stood up.  “Let’s go see if we can help.”



XXX


The door to the jail swung open with a bang and Lom Trevors strode in.  The crowd outside in the street could be heard calling drunkenly and impatiently for the fun to begin.  When the door shut, the sound was abruptly cut off.

Sheriff Waites, who’d been dozing, had startled at the noise and nearly fallen out of his chair.  He straightened himself and frowned at the tall, dark mustached man before noticing the badge he was wearing on his vest pocket.

Heyes sprang off his cot when he saw who walked in.  He stood with his face pressed against the bars of the door to his cell, his knuckles turning white as his fingers clenched the cold iron.

“Sheriff Waites?  I’m Lom Trevors, Porterville,” said Lom as he thrust out his hand.

Waites stood and shook it firmly.  “Trevors, huh?  I’ve been trying to reach you.”

“So I’ve heard.  I’m here now.”  Lom looked over at Heyes.  “Smith, I hear you got yourself in a mess of trouble.”

“Hey, Lom,” said Heyes weakly.  “Thanks for coming.”

“Don’t thank him yet,” said Waites.  “I need to see some identification, Trevors.”

Reaching into his vest pocket, Lom pulled out a piece of paper and held it out.

The sheriff took it and scanned it carefully.  “Hmpf, signed by the governor no less.  Guess you are who you say you are.  So he really is Joshua Smith?”

“You have the wrong man, Sheriff,” stated Lom factually.

“Dang it all, I got a crowd out there all worked up for a hanging.  They ain’t gonna like hearing it’s not happening,” groused Waites, reaching for his hat.  “Well, I guess I should at least be grateful I didn’t hang the wrong man.”  He tossed the cell keys to Lom.

Heyes rolled his eyes at Lom.

“At least,” replied Lom agreeably.

“Well, give me a moment to settle things down.”  With that, Waites stepped out of the building.

Lom and Heyes listened intently and, at first, they could hear Waites begin to speak and there was a quiet murmuring in answer, then they glanced at each other as the sound rose in volume, and both of them sprang into action as a roar drowned out the sheriff.  Lom fumbled with the keys, then yanked open the cell door as Heyes rushed out grabbing his arm and leading him towards the back door.  The front door crashed open and Waites fell through it followed by a mob.  

Reaching the back door, Heyes started to pull up the bar securing it, but slammed it back in place as the knob turned and the door cracked open.  Rough hands grabbed him from behind and hauled him backwards, his hands scrambling to hang onto the bar.  Several angry men seized Lom by both arms and restrained him as he watched Heyes being dragged out the front door.  Waites was on the floor, semi-conscious, but protesting vociferously.  Lom screamed, “Stop!  You’ve got the wrong man!  Stop!”  His face contorted in horror when his words had no effect.  



XXX


The Kid and Harker had crept down the alleyway next to the jail in time to hear Sheriff Waites' attempt to appease the crowd and they’d been stunned at the violent reaction to his words.  It had only been a matter of seconds before they saw Heyes emerge in the grip of several men and they watched as he was swept off the ground by the furious mob.  Curry started to rise, but Harker held him back, sadness in his face, “Jones, no, they’d kill you both.”

The Kid ripped his arm away.  “I’ve gotta do somethin'!”  With that, he plunged into the maddened crowd and disappeared from Harker’s view.  

The older man waited a few more moments, drew his gun, and crept around the corner into the jail only to find Lom and Waites being restrained by four men whose backs were turned to him.  Both sheriffs fought their captors, but the men were fighting back, punching and kicking the lawmen.  “Hold it right there, partners, next man to throw a punch gets his head blowed off.”  All six men turned to him, shocked by his appearance, but Lom quickly regained his sense and herded the four vigilantes into the cell Heyes had been occupying.  

Harker helped an unsteady Waites to his feet, but the sheriff was batting away his hands.  “Go after them!  Go!”  

Lom and Harker ran out the door in time to see Heyes dragged up the recently erected stairs and onto the center of the platform.  The former outlaw leader looked dazedly at the trapdoor under his feet and then out at the crowd.  The wind picked up and billowed the black draping that had been installed around the base of the scaffold, rippling it like a dowager’s fine gown.  A silence fell on the crowd as one man stepped forward and placed a thick noose around Heyes’ neck.

“Mike Payson, you have been found guilty and sentenced to die for your crimes.  May God rest your soul.”

“Hold on!” cried Heyes.  All eyes were on him.  “Don’t I get a few last words?”  He saw Enos front and center, avidly enthralled, further on he saw Harker and Lom pushing through the crowd.  As if in slow motion, Waites barreled through the door of the jail and onto the sidewalk.

The man replied, “No,” and Heyes caught sight of a pair of familiar blue eyes looking at him in horror as the door swung open under his feet.  He fell, the noose tightened, and his body bounced up as he literally reached the end of his rope.



XXX


The Kid never knew he drew, never felt his trigger pull, but the recoil jolted his arm.  He could smell the acrid gun powder, and his eyes watered.  Not from the smell.  The rope dangled through the opening, pulled taut by the weight of Heyes’ body – out of sight – hidden by the curtain.  He’d been too late.  Hot tears welled in his eyes and he wiped them on his sleeve, unable to look again.  Lom and Harker reached him at last and hustled him away, hurrying him down the alley opposite the jail.  A cheer rose and guns went off.  

“Aw no, aw please…,” cried Curry, trying and failing not to sob as he sank to his knees and clutched his head in his hands, his eyes clamped shut but unable to prevent the tears.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” said Lom, over and over.  

Harker waited near the mouth of the alley, covering their escape.  The random gunfire had blossomed into a fusillade and shouts were heard again.  “The bank’s being robbed!  Over here!  There they are!”  Harker turned back to them while four men galloped mercilessly into the mob sending people flying in all directions.  As though drawn by the force of their passing, the crowd chased after the outlaws, some mounting horses, other racing after them on foot, all of them screaming bloody murder.  Sheriff Waites was already in pursuit as the Kid and Lom reached Harker and peered around the corner.  

“I have to get him, Lom.”

Lom searched Curry’s face and then nodded, “I know.  Harker, Smith’s horse and gear should be at the livery.  We’ll need them for the body.”  He and the Kid ran into the street against the vicious current of humanity.  

The rope swayed in the wind, free of its burden, and Curry hesitated before he ripped back the fabric.  He closed his eyes and yanked as hard as he could.  

“About time you got here,” rasped Heyes, sitting up and holding his abused throat with bloodied, broken-nailed hands.  Deep coughs racked his body but he smiled as the Kid flung himself at him.  

“Heyes!  I thought – ”

Heyes lifted up the end of the noose still hanging around his neck.  Half of it cleanly sheared, the other half frayed and frazzled.  “You’re getting rusty, Kid.  Thought I was a goner until it finally snapped.  Please don’t do that again.”  Dissolving into coughs, Heyes allowed himself to be bodily lifted by his best friend and endured a massive bear hug with Lom patting them both on their backs.  

The Kid let go of his partner.  “Heyes, we better go before the undertaker comes lookin’ for a body.”  

“Where do we go?” asked Lom, putting Heyes’ arm over his neck and wrapping a supporting arm around the wounded man’s waist.  “We need to get Heyes to a doctor and let him rest.”

“Closest town with a doctor and a bed is Pikesburg.  If we ride all night, we can get there by mornin’, but… Lom, I’ll have to borrow some cash.  I don’t have any money left,” the Kid said apologetically.

“What?!” croaked Heyes. “You didn’t get paid again?”

“Oh, I got paid,” said Curry, “but that’s a long story and you’re gonna have to wait to hear it.”  

The two men hustled Heyes back to the alley where Harker was waiting with their horses.  Once mounted, they rode quietly out of Bluebird, Heyes hiding his face with a bowed head and struggling to control his coughing.  No one saw them go.  The streets were empty, deserted by the men now in hot pursuit of the bank robbers.

“Was it just me or did those bank robbers look familiar?” asked Harker once they’d left the town limits.

Lom and the Kid grinned at each other.  

“Nope, never saw them before!” they said at the same time.

THE END
Penski
Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Sat 29 Feb 2020, 1:24 pm by Penski
Boy, 'o boy, was that close... TOO close! I was at the edge of my seat the whole second half, Inside Outlaw. That was good reading (but I haven't read anything from you that wasn't a good read). Loved seeing Lom, Harker, and the Devil's Hole Gang all involved. That town sure was blood-thirsty taking the word of a disgruntled loser to string up an innocent man. Even when Lom identified Heyes not as the person they thought, the sheriff is disappointed that there wouldn't be a hanging. Sent shivers down my spine. Obviously, Kid's gonna have to practice a tad more. Thanks for an awesome VS story! thumbsup
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Writing
Post Sat 29 Feb 2020, 8:39 pm by AKeays
I always enjoy your writing, InOut. Thanks for a nice break from cutting mats and framing paintings.
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A Familiar Face
Post Sun 01 Mar 2020, 1:05 am by LittleBluestem
Wow! Great episode, Inside Outlaw! A nice twist, Heyes getting arrested for being recognized -- but as the wrong outlaw! You lulled me into complacency with his initial escape, then had me on the edge of my chair awaiting the final one -- and it was as close a call as humanly possible! Phew, Kid! Gotta shoot through the whole rope, not just part of it! Loved seeing so many of our old friends (more familiar faces...) and meeting a new one, Curly. If it weren't for his warning, it would have been all over for both our boys! And even though it was intense and dramatic, your story also had a lot of humor, especially involving Wheat and Kyle. And having the whole gang show up to rob the Bluebird bank at the end was pure genius. Best final line ever. Really enjoyed it.
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Great!
Post Tue 03 Mar 2020, 9:20 am by rachel74_Cz
I really enjoyed this episode. Too close for comfort! Great read.
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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Fri 06 Mar 2020, 3:18 pm by Nightwalker
"I reckon I'm proud of who I am. Joshua Smith is a good man." Of course, he is and we love him for it. But today the silver tongue failed and our favorite ex-outlaw leader ends up in jail, waiting for his trial. A pretty short trial. One could easily lose faith in the law system considering what happened to poor Heyes, who really was innocent - at least considering the charge.
Poor boys, that really was a close call. No wonder the Kid couldn't hold back his feelings this time. I'm just glad he still is such a good shot. I absolutely love the intensity in which you described the execution and the following scene.
It was good to see the boys from the Devil's Hole gang again who, after causing some trouble, helped to save the day in the end.
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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Sat 14 Mar 2020, 4:28 am by Dan Ker
What an excellent read, InsideOutlaw!
Throughout the whole story you manage to increase tension. Especially in part two the story is climaxing until the readers nerves are on edge.

In your story there are some points different than usual which diverge from the norm.
Kid, in his distress not to be able to confront the sheriff, tries to speak to his horse (which, by the way, has a name!) to get support for his thinking usually done by his partner. It's perfectly conceivable to imagine he's missing his babbling partner after being a longer time alone..
But he proves to everyone he can think things through!
He remembers Harper only knows his alias. And a fake robbery enables him to hand the money over to Wheat AFTER the job he's asked for is finished. Cleverly done!

Wheat has to do some planning on his own.
Uproar in the gang; never good for an outlaw leader. But he handles the situation even if it's out of fear of the Kid. And in fact, with a little persuasion it's easy money he earns which enables him to feed the other gang members and restores his reputation as a leader. Very much in character, I love the whole part.

Wheat's leadership is questioned as well as Loms. He can't hold the members of his pissee and he has to deal with Harper to disguise his own intentions and purposes of his doing.

I very much like the way you point out the behaviour of the townsfolk. First the members of the possee want to enjoy the excitement and the promised reward but by the sheer sight of danger decide to leave...
Your description of the bloodthirsty, sensation-loving crowd which can pressure the sheriff and almost lynch Heyes is as well thrilling as scaring.

With your story you're proving again what for an experienced author you are.
It doesn't matter if it's the part of Kid waiting for the DHG, or watching the scaffold build in town, or the part where Heyes puts the money first in his pocket und then back into the lockbox.... the pleasure lays in the readers imagination with the help of your precise description of these scenes. One of the great advantages of the VS rules.

I'm really glad the boys have enough old friends to help them more or less voluntary. And why do they have to do it all?
Because our well known ex outlaw leader doesn't have one of his best days... Very well written his careless manner to win too much money at poker. Funny, but believable, his silver tongue fails.
And to escape out of jail wasn't a wise thing, either.
The ex leader is "leaded" by the sheriff now...
Great sentences :
"The undertaker has already taken my measurements"
"Don't I get a few last words?"
"No."
Always wonderful : "About time you got here".
I'm sure both of them have to practice their special skills a little bit more...

Heyes will learn later on everyone helped in a way he could... I guess never in his life before he was more glad to see some "Familiar Faces".
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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Sat 21 Mar 2020, 9:42 pm by Laura
Talk about edge of your seat and holding your breath, oh my gosh! I liked Kid's plan about how to bring Lom to him. Heyes' escape and Waites finding him, rotten luck. what about innocent until proven guilty, that didn't seem to matter. Poor Kid, thinking Heyes was dead and then "about time you got here", things are finally back on track. Loved it.
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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Mon 20 Apr 2020, 11:56 pm by ladkiss
clap wow I thought I had left a comment on this story but then I realized I had not read it all the way through. I love this story and as always I love your style and the way you capture the boys and Lom and the rest of the gang. I enjoy your shorter stories but you really shine when you write the longer ones.
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Re: A Familiar Face by Inside Outlaw
Post Tue 30 Jun 2020, 10:57 am by Uk_rachel74
Oh that was too close. Wonderfully written, had me on the edge of my seat. Stopped breathing for a second I think- the ending was perfection too. What a great read.
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