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Join date : 2013-10-13
|Ill Met By Moonlight by Calico|| |
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are summoned by Governor Moonlight for yet another 'important meeting'. Their only problem: they have1,089 miles to travel and only two days to get there. Starring
Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry
Richard Schiff as Samuel West
James Drury as Lom Trevors
Earl Holliman as First Outlaw
Dennis Fimple as Second Outlaw
John Candy as ‘Portly’
Monty Laird as Monty
Forrest Tucker as the Sherriff
John McGiver as the Bank Manager
Steve Martin as the Railway High-Up
Ill Met By Moonlight
Trains, Plains and Oughta Be Miles
TYPICAL WESTERN STREET
EARLY FRIDAY MORNING
Two familiar figures lounged opposite a telegram office. Hannibal Heyes scanned a local newspaper. Kid Curry watched a motherly-looking woman turn the sign on a small restaurant from closed to open. A growl sounded from beneath the sheepskin jacket. He licked his lips.
“Anything in help wanted?”
“Nuh uh. Nothing new. Ranch work. More ranch work. Book-keeper.”
“You could do that.”
“What would you do?”
“I could keep your books – y’know, when you get paid.”
Kid Curry received the look.
“It says – must bring excellent references.” Heyes mused, “You want to write me an excellent reference?”
“Not sure they’d take it from me.” The Kid’s turn to muse, “Even supposin’ I could think of anything to say.”
“Fella here hiring for a cattle drive.” Heyes' eagerness was underwhelming.
“Kinda dusty. And…” Curry shrugged his distaste.
“Yeah. Hauling job for the mine?”
“It don’t say. Just – experience with explosives preferred.”
Blue eyes met brown. “Nitro,” they decided in unison.
“Escorting a party of archy-ologists…” read Heyes.
Kid Curry shot a suspicious look at his partner’s innocent face. “D’you make that one up?”
Heyes grinned. “Sorry, Kid. If there’s still nothing from Lom today, it’s eating cattle dust, or hauling nitro. Take your pick.”
Their eyes met again. Once again, in unison, but with no enthusiasm whatsoever, “Nitro.”
Heyes looked at the opening time displayed in the door of the telegraph office, then squinted over at a town clock. “Nearly nine. He should be…”
A bespectacled gentleman hurried along the street, key in hand.
Heyes tucked the newspaper into his jacket. “Let’s hope there’s something from Lom, huh?”
The two ex-outlaws strode over to the telegraph office.
INSIDE THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE
“You boys sure are punctual.” The clerk adjusted the glasses on his nose. “Now, let me see…” To the Kid, “Mr. Smith?”
“I’m Jones – that other fella, he’s Smith.”
“Smith and Jones?”
“There’s a lot of fellas called Smith and Jones. We just…” Heyes stopped. He sighed. “D’you know what? Skip it. Same old, same old. Anything for either of us?”
The clerk checked one pigeonhole after another. “Nope, nope…”
“Same old, same old…” murmured the Kid.
The partners reacted.
“One for Mr. Smith.”
Heyes took the message. The boys stepped outside. On the boardwalk, their eyes met.
“It prob’ly says nothin’ new,” warned Curry.
Heyes nodded. He opened it.
“Good news from our mutual friend,” he read. “Meet me at the Nolan Ranch, before the third.”
“We’ve been here before,” said Curry. “It don’t mean…”
“No, it don’t mean…” Heyes still stared at the message. “It sure beats no news, Kid.”
“Dunno. I can take the disappointment, Heyes. It’s the hope that gets to ya.”
Heyes gave a rueful grin. “Don’t it just.”
THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION – A WAITING ROOM
THREE DAYS LATER. TUESDAY MORNING
Heyes and Curry sat spruced up in familiar chocolate brown and light grey-blue suits. They stared at an imposing door, displaying a helpful brass plaque – Governor Thomas Moonlight.
Heyes brushed an invisible speck from the brown derby resting on his lap. The Kid shifted in his seat. Lom cleared his throat.
Kid Curry gazed at the wall opposite. “Why d’you reckon all the clocks?” He frowned, “And, why is only one of ‘em right?”
“They’re all right somewhere, Kid. Just only one of them is right here, right now.” Heyes pointed. “Mountain time.”
“I guess the Governor likes to know what time it is back East in the boss’s office,” suggested Lom.
“And out West where the rest of the money is,” adds Heyes.
A pause. A clock ticked. No, make that five clocks.
“So, what’s this proposition?” asked Kid Curry.
“I already told you all I know,” said Lom. “Governor Moonlight wants to meet with you; he has a proposition. It’s good news.”
“Does it involve fetching anyone’s daughter away from – from anywhere?”
“That’d be quite a co-incidence, Heyes.”
“Does it involve fetchin’ a murderess back from Mexico?”
“Kid, which part of – I told you all I know – are you having problems with?”
The door opened. A prematurely balding, bearded gentleman stepped out. “Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, you can come in now.”
The ex-outlaws stood and shot an enquiring glance at Lom. He answered their mute question with a shake of his head. This was NOT the governor.
The threesome trooped into the office.
“Samuel West,” the gentleman introduced himself. “Please, have a seat.”
“Where’s Governor Moonlight?” asked Lom.
“The Governor left for Sacramento Saturday.”
“I thought he wanted to see these two?”
“Wouldn’t that be a mite easier without him putting 1,000 miles in between?” suggested Heyes.
“He’s asked me to meet with you first, Mr. Heyes. Unless I advise him otherwise, he will meet you in Sacramento. Then, if everything goes to plan, give you amnesty.”
There was a pause while that sunk in.
“No offence,” said Kid Curry, “but, what’d make the Governor take your say-so?”
“And, what’d make you advise – otherwise?” added Heyes.
“It may be easier if I start at the beginning,” said West. “I’ve worked for Thomas Moonlight for several years. When he was appointed Governor, he brought me with him from Kansas as Communications Director.”
A questioning look from Kid Curry.
“I write speeches. Draft articles. I advise on how to handle the press. How to make bad news seem not so bad and good news seem even better. There are many people always trying to make any politician look bad. So, they all hire professionals, like myself, to work the other side – make them look better.”
“Meaning,” said Heyes, “every time we’ve been told that our amnesty would make the Governor look bad politically – it’s someone like you pulling the strings.”
“More like explaining when and how to pull the string without it untying the knot holding things together – but, yes.”
“Is the when, now?” asked Curry.
“It could be tomorrow. Mr. Trevors raised your case right after Governor Moonlight took office. We know you’ve had half-promises from one Governor after another, and that the original arrangement of a one-year probation was – well, several years ago…”
“And the rest,” murmured the Kid.
“Governor Moonlight has fellow feelings with you as Kansans…”
“I thought he was Scottish,” said Lom.
“As an adopted Kansan,” amended West. “Mrs. Moonlight also feels her shared Irish roots with Mr. Curry, here.”
The Kid blinked in surprise.
“Sure, and don’t we all be having Irish roots,” chipped in Heyes, with just the hint of a brogue. Curry and Lom glanced at him. Blue eyes rolled.
“The difficulty has always been that, like his predecessors, Governor Moonlight cannot afford to alienate the railroad lobby. However, we have put out feelers…”
“And…?” prompted Heyes.
“There is to be an anniversary celebration of the Golden Spike event held at the State Capitol in Sacramento. It's twenty years since the country was joined by rail east to west. The original Associates will entertain the great and the good…”
“You’re talkin’ about the big four?” asked Curry.
“Anyways, the three that are left?” added Heyes.
“They prefer the nomenclature, The Associates,” said West. “Anyone who is anyone in the railways has an invitation. The Governor will be there, naturally. And, there is a window of opportunity as the Lieutenant Governor of California is a fellow Democrat. As I say, soundings have been taken. Stanford, Huntington and Crocker have all indicated a willingness to use the occasion to be seen tempering justice with mercy. Handled correctly, as a magnanimous gesture on their part, your amnesty could enhance their reputations and they will undertake to smooth over any objections from current rail interests.”
There was a short silence. The ex-outlaws exchanged a glance.
“I expected more – well, enthusiasm,” said West.
“The folks running the railways – it kinda sticks in our throats doing them a favour,” said Heyes.
“May I suggest the feeling is mutual, Mr. Heyes. Hence the importance of choosing a time when they feel able to swallow it.”
Heyes gave a facial shrug, indicating the man did have a point.
“They’re bigger crooks than we ever were,” said Kid Curry.
“May I suggest, IF that is true, their – shall we say – scale of operation is why they are the ones able to offer an amnesty and you are the ones who need it. If you intend to wait for an offer from the wholly pure of heart, and free of any quid pro quo, you will wait long indeed.”
“Quid pro quo?” repeated the Kid.
“They scratch our backs, we scratch theirs,” translated Heyes. “I reckon we can live with that.”
“So, provided your statements of contrition are acceptable, all that remains is to…”
“Our what?” interrupted Curry.
“Statements of contrition – for publication. You are, in effect, accepting a joint pardon. That requires an admission of guilt, and evidence of both regret and reform.”
A short silence.
“The thing is,” said Lom, glancing at the expressions of the ex-outlaws. “The boys think they’ve already earned the amnesty, staying straight – mostly – all this time.”
“They think wrong,” West did not raise his voice, but his tone sharpened. “Not breaking the law – mostly – and doing an honest day's work is, while admirable, not in itself exceptional. Most citizens manage it every day.”
“You mean we gotta grovel?” demanded the Kid.
“Mr. Curry, you will be expected to say ‘I’m sorry for my crimes’ and ‘thank you for the pardon’. In exchange you will be excused your debt to society which is currently set at twenty years hard labour. I do not think that is unreasonable – and it is not grovelling.” He met Kid Curry’s eyes, squarely. “I was brought up to say, please, thank you, and I’m sorry. How about you?”
“There IS a lotta truth in there,” admitted the Kid.
“You have quite a way with words,” said Heyes.
“That is what I’m paid for.” West stood. “The plan is I escort you to Sacramento. You clearly still have reservations. However, if we do not leave now, we will miss our train. May I make a suggestion? During the journey, you promise to be honest with me about – about your reformation. I promise to use all my skills to help you draft dignified statements that meet the Governor’s needs and that you can put your names to with a clear conscience. If you decide, after all, to refuse the amnesty, we simply part company.”
“How do we know you won’t double cross us – if we change our minds, we end up in jail?” asked Heyes.
“Firstly, because I give you my word…”
The boys looked sceptical.
“Secondly, because I want all publicity for the Governor to be good news. The last thing I want are wasted headlines on two Kansan criminals finally getting arrested and articles wondering what’s so wrong with Wyoming law enforcement that it didn’t happen years ago. Do we have an agreement?”
He held out his hand. After a moment’s thought, Heyes shook it.
MILES TRAVELLED: 0 MILES TO GO: 1089
Heyes, Curry sat, side by side, in a plush private car. Sam West was opposite to them. Through the window it is seen the train was stationary and, as a sign showed, still at Cheyenne station.
Heyes reads one of several slim booklets laid out before him.
The Kid frowns at a station clock out on the platform. It's ten past nine. “So, if we don’t make it to Sacramento in time for this fancy event, the deal’s off?”
“It would be – delayed – until another opportunity arose.”
“And it’s 1,000 miles?”
“A little more.” Heyes’ finger ran down a listing. “This makes it 1089 miles. Of track that is. A little less as the crow flies. Our first stop to take on coal will be Rawlins. That’s about 130 miles…”
“You hadta buy him a set of timetables at the station, huh?” The Kid eyed Samuel West. “That’s one honest regret you can put down for me in this contrition statement. I’m truly sorry for all the hours I spent listenin’ to Heyes readin’ out train times before jobs.” He sent another glower in the direction of the station clock. “1,000 miles – that’s a lot of land to cover.”
“Relax, Mr. Curry, we have two full days. We don’t need to be there until late tomorrow afternoon. And, we’re hardly the Donner Party. All we have to do is sit on cushioned seats all the way. I’ve even booked a hotel for a decent night’s sleep in Elko.”
“It sure is nice to travel in style,” said Heyes. “Did you know this car has the patented paper wheel layer system, Kid? To keep the noise down while we’re eating our steak dinner, all served on the finest Pullman bone china.”
“What’s keepin’ the noise down is us not movin’.” Kid Curry pulled down the window and leaned out. “We were s’posed to set off at five after nine. It’s twenty after now. And, since the driver and fireman are both still standin' on the platform lookin’ glum – somethin’ tells me we aren’t movin’ any time soon.”
Indeed, at that very moment, a very apologetic railway official entered.
To the ex-outlaws, his tone implying he believed them to be VIPs, “Excuse me, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones.” Then, “Mr. West, could I have a word, please, sir?”
Heyes, Curry and West were in the same seat positions, but in a much more ordinary train carriage. Across the walkway two cowboys snored gently. Further along, a tired-looking woman smacked a child’s hand away from a covered basket. The train went over a noisy coupling and rocks, gently. The snores turned into snorts, then reverted to a steady rhythm.
“I do apologise for this,” said West.
“Not your fault,” shrugged Curry.
“Well, I do feel local government should take responsibility for making the trains run on time.”
“The fella told me it was a freak stress fracture in the piston,” said Heyes. “These things happen.”
“There’s no dining car, but I can pick us up sandwiches at Rawlins.”
“Fine with us,” said Curry.
A pause. The carriage swayed gently. “An interesting fact about Rawlins,” said West. “It’s where the infamous George Parrott was lynched.”
The two ex-outlaws exchanged a glance.
“And turned into a pair of shoes and an ashtray. We know,” said Curry.
“Have I been tactless?” Quietly, after a glance to check the two cowboys were still asleep. “Was he a friend of yours?”
“Not so much,” said Curry. “But we’d met. He was a mean drunk, but he didn’t deserve that.”
“No one deserves that. I hope it goes without saying, I would never approve of desecrating a body. Even that of a murderer.”
“We’re not like him, y’know,” said Heyes. “In all the trains we robbed, we never shot anyone.”
“Neither had Big Nose George, until a robbery went wrong, and those lawmen found his hideout.” West’s tone sharpened. “Are you telling me you never shot at a posse?”
“Not to kill,” said Curry.
“The accurate placement of a Colt .45 bullet, fired from a moving horse in the direction of other moving targets at well over 100 yards distance being so legendary.”
“We were lucky,” admitted Kid Curry.
“And, we decided to go straight before our luck ran out,” added Heyes. “That’s why we’re here.”
“This decision of yours, was it to get you out before a stray bullet turned you into murderers? Or, so you’d never yourselves be fancy foot-gear for a show-off politician?”
A mute conversation between brown and blue eyes.
“Mostly to save our own skins, but, a little of both,” said Heyes.
“Thank you. That had a ring of truth. I can work with ‘a little of both’.”
MILES TRAVELLED: 135 MILES TO GO: 954
A shrill whistle. The car shook as the wheels began to turn. A sign seen through the wisps of steam showed the train about to pull away from Rawlins.
Kid Curry lifted a grease-proof paper package from the seat and unwrapped it. He took an appreciative bite. “Hot beef,” he identified. “With mustard.” He chewed. “This is good.”
“I bought biscuits and pie too,” said West, laying two further packages on the seat between the two ex-outlaws. “And hard candy.”
Kid Curry gave him a slightly hamster-cheeked nod of thanks and, without glancing down, pocketed the paper bag of candy and, nonchalantly, shifted the other packages a touch closer.
“We’re right on time.” Heyes tucked his pocket watch back into his vest pocket. “Next stop, Rock Springs.” He pulled a timetable from his jacket. “We should make our connection in Salt Lake with a good hour to spare.”
“Knock on wood,” said West, suiting the action to the words. He, in turn, pulled a notebook from his jacket. “We need to get started on those statements. About one or two thousand words should be ample.”
“Two thousand words?” protested Kid Curry. “I thought all we hadta say was Sorry and Thank you. That’s three words.” A slightly mustard-smeared finger indicated first himself then the other fella. “Six if you figure it as three each.” The finger was licked clean.
“A few specific examples of incidents you regret will not go amiss…”
“Still don’t sound that long.”
“Along with reminiscences of some of your more well-known, and, may I say, ingenious, robberies, which will capture the public interest…”
“You’re not expecting us to name any names – except our own?” Heyes frowned.
“Incriminate other members of your gangs? No, no, nothing like that. Just talk about yourselves.”
“I can do that,” said Heyes.
“He can do that,” concurred Curry.
“And I explain how I’m a genius?”
“I can do that.”
“Trust me, before Rock Springs, you’ll be beggin’ him to quit.” Kid Curry received the look.
“Another thing that will not go amiss,” said West, “is some explanation of why you robbed all those banks and trains.”
“It’s where they kept…”
“…The money. I can do flippant without any help, thank you, Mr. Heyes. What I have in mind, as you well know, are any mitigating factors.”
Curry looked a question.
“Any reasons you first got into out-lawing. Anything that, without being a justification, might yet win some public sympathy.”
“Uh huh?” The Kid swallowed his last mouthful of beef sandwich and opened the biscuits. “Mr. West, if all you need is Heyes talkin’ ‘bout how smart he is and comin’ up with excuses for nothin’ that goes wrong ever bein’ his fault – we’re home clear.”
Heyes blinked in affront. The Kid grinned.
“It has to be sincere, Mr. Curry. It has to be the truth.”
Curry chewed thoughtfully. “We may have a problem,” he decided.
MILES TRAVELLED: 243 MILES TO GO: 846
EARLY TUESDAY AFTERNOON
An establishing shot of a station sign shows our threesome were now leaving Rock Springs. The train was fuller. Much fuller. Heyes was squished against the window by an extremely portly gentleman.
Portly mopped his brow with an already damp handkerchief. “Sorry to crowd you, son.”
“Not a problem.”
“They make these seats so narrow – and, lord knows, I ain’t been narrow for years. Good job you’re on the skinny side, son.”
Heyes wriggled, but managed a smile.
“Hot, ain’t it, crowded like this? Brings me out in a real muck-sweat.”
Heyes tried in vain to edge himself away.
“Half of us were waiting on the 9:05 outta Cheyenne, but it got cancelled.”
“Stress fracture on the piston,” said Heyes. He straightens his hat which has been knocked over one eye.
“You don’t say? They told us engine issues…”
“Well, it is in the…”
“Still, I always say – you can’t believe a word the railways tell ya. Where are you travellin’ to, son?”
“Uh huh?” Pause. “Not much of a talker, are you, son?”
A laugh broke from Sam West. Heyes gave him the look.
“May I help you with that, ma’am?” Kid Curry lifted a suitcase onto a rack. And another. He was handed an unwieldly parcel by a glum looking youngster. With difficultly he managed to find a space for it. He examined his hands and wiped them on his pants.
“Thank you, sir.” A different, even more tired-looking mother, shepherded her brood into seats. To the eldest boy, “Jonny, you need to sit across the aisle – with this kind gentleman.”
Jonny slumped into the seat next to the portly gentleman and began nasal exploration with a grubby finger.
“’Scuse me. Comin’ through.”
An entity that appeared to be mostly unkempt beard and mane of hair under an ancient hat, and a collection of stained buckskins, edged into the seat next to Sam West.
West, Heyes and Portly all drew back. Heyes visibly switched to mouth breathing.
A hirsute paw was held out to Sam West. “Monty Marsh. Trader in skins, pelts, leather…”
West stared at the paw for a moment, then shook it. “Samuel West.”
“Glad to meet you, Sam West.” Cheerfully, “I shoulda been on the 9:05, but I guess those jokers out in Cheyenne City Hall can’t even make the trains run on time, huh?”
“This fella reckons it was a fracture in the piston,” sweated Portly, indicating Heyes with a moist finger.
“That so?” Monty leaned over to shake hands with Heyes. “Monty Marsh.”
“Joshua Smith,” supplied a reluctant Heyes.
“What business you in, son?”
“I’m an assistant speech writer.”
West blinked. Kid Curry rolled his eyes.
“Temporary like,” added Heyes, aiming a smile at West.
The train began to chug.
“Oh, dear, oh dear…” The distress came from the mother opposite.
“Is there a problem, ma’am?” Kid Curry, who had – gingerly – lowered himself back into his seat next to Monty, rose, and swaying a little, touched his hat.
“Oh yes, now we’re moving – I didn’t realise before… Jonny can’t sit with his back to the engine. He’ll be sick. Don’t do that, Jonny. It’s rude.”
A finger was temporarily extracted from a nostril, examined, and then wiped on the seat.
“You sick on trains if you ain’t facin’ front, son?” asked Monty.
“Sick as a dawg,” confirmed Jonny.
“Whaddya know? So am I! You fellas – you don’t wanna see what I heave up if’n I ain’t facin’ the right way.”
From the expression on Heyes’ face, Monty was correct. He didn’t.
The mother looked, pleadingly, at the Kid.
“Sir, you’ve been so kind – could you possibly?”
“Sure. Swap with me, Jonny.”
Jonny wiped one more nasal offering onto the seat he was leaving and slumped into the space pre-warmed by the Kid. Curry, after some hesitation, perched in the abandoned spot.
“Sorry, I’m crowding you,” sweated Portly.
“Not at all,” said the Kid, polite – if not entirely truthful.
“Say thank you,” instructed the mother.
“You stink,” Jonny remarked to Monty.
“Jonny! That’s rude.”
“It’s only the skins, ma’am,” said Monty. Conversationally, “This un is skunk.”
“Oh dear,” she sighed.
“It won’t do him no harm, ma’am – it’ll be the heat settin’ it off.”
“Sure is warm,” chipped in Portly. He searched his pockets, pushing Heyes so his nose flattened against the window and making the Kid struggle sideways to keep his bottom in contact with the seat. A fresh handkerchief was extracted. A forehead was mopped. Portly settled. Heyes and Curry wriggled back.
“Oh dear!” Maternal eyes pleaded with Kid Curry. She had a baby on one knee, a toddler on the other, and four further children crowded into the seats beside her. Opposite her sat, a very, very frail old gentleman, a forbidding spinster with a ferocious glower and a friendly looking cowboy, who, however, had his ankle in a plaster cast, and his arm in a sling.
The cowboy met Kid Curry’s eyes.
“It were one real ornery bull,” he offered.
“Oh dear.” This was no longer a sigh. It was too loud for that. “Oh dear.” The expression in the mother’s eyes would wring pity from Herod.
Kid Curry opened his mouth, then visibly, braced his shoulders, pressed his lips shut and turned away.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” It was Sam West.
“Oh, sir. You see – you don’t have to buy a ticket for under-fives, they count as babes in arms. Usually there is plenty of room – but, what with the 9:05 being cancelled…”
“Stress fracture in the piston according to this fella,” contributed Monty.
West braced himself. “I can take one on my lap, if it will help, ma’am.”
“That is SO, kind. This is Annabelle.”
A small girl, who shared her older brother’s nasal investigatory habit, was handed to Monty, who dumped her on West’s lap.
“Hello Annabelle, my name is Sam.”
He was examined by hostile small eyes.
“Oh!” West lifted Annabelle up slightly and felt his trousers. “Oh dear,” he echoed.
The mother was still struggling. Kid Curry looked at his partner. Heyes was feigning deafness and examining the countryside beyond the window with an expression of innocent oblivion that earned a blue-eyed scowl.
“Oh, dear me,” yearned the mother.
Kid Curry’s head dropped. His shoulders slumped. To a second grubby toddler of indeterminate sex, he said, “How’d you like to come sit on my lap, er – son?”
The toddler stared in utter disbelief at Kid Curry and answered with a howl of anguished protest. Nevertheless He? She? It? was handed over by a grateful mother.
“This is Jess(i)e,” she supplied. So, that was no help.
The train began to chug.
“He REALLY stinks,” remarked Jonny. Then, to his sister Annabelle, “So do you.”
“NoooaaaaawwWWWWWW!” howled Jess(i)e. “SHHHHAAAAAAN’T”
“Never mind,” dimpled Heyes. “Only 186 miles and a little under three hours to Salt Lake.”
Stoicism settled on all the passenger faces.
SOMEWHERE EAST OF EVANSTON
MILES TRAVELLED: 333 MILES TO GO: 756
The interior of the car was the stuff of nightmares. Portly was melting, but unbelievably, also snoring, stentoriously, on Heyes’ shoulder. Monty was visibly steaming – surely those were gnats buzzing round? The tired mother had abandoned any efforts at discipline and developed a facial tic. Annabelle and Jess(i)e were howling, mucus-smeared bundles of fury. Jonny was not merely nostril exploring deeply enough to make one fear his brains would fall out, but was rhythmically swinging his feet in a manner that, every so often, caught Kid Curry a kick on the ankle.
“Hold on there,” tried Heyes, above the cacophony. “We’ve passed halfway. Less than an hour and a half to go.”
Undisguised horror settled on all the passenger faces.
SOMEWHERE WEST OF WASATCH
MILES TRAVELLED: 360 MILES TO GO: 729
Except that everyone was, if possible, more dishevelled, drool-covered, sweatier, and wild-eyed, the scene was unchanged. Suddenly, the howls and snores were joined by nerve-jangling squeals from the brakes. The train juddered, jerked, slowed. The squealing rose in pitch – as did the toddler and baby bawling.
Portly snorted, spluttered, awoke. “Are we there?” he drooled into Heyes’ ear canal.
“You wish! Unless I’m much mistaken...” Heyes opened the window and leaned out.
In the far distance, was heard, “SSSTTTAND and deliver!”
“Who sez so?”
The two ex-outlaws exchanged a mute conversation.
“You have GOT to be kiddin’,” groaned Curry.
STILL SOMEWHERE WEST OF WASATCH
MILES TRAVELLED: ABOUT 360 and a few yards MILES TO GO: 729
LATE TUESDAY AFTERNOON
Disgruntled travellers huddled in the meagre shade of a few scrubby trees. The tired mother sat on Kid Curry’s jacket. Portly fanned himself on a handy tree stump.
In the distance several outlaws buzzed around one of the freight cars.
Much closer, two outlaws who might, just possibly, remind one of Wheat and Kyle, kept a desultory eye on the passengers. There was an untidy scatter of four or five guns – presumably confiscated – behind them. The atmosphere was one of grumpy, but resigned boredom.
Heyes, Curry and West moved a little away from the other passengers.
“How long we been stuck here now?” grumbled Kid Curry.
“Ten minutes longer than the last time you asked, so – close on an hour,” said Heyes.
“We’re gonna miss our connection in Salt Lake.”
“It’s almost as if these criminals have no consideration whatsoever for how stopping the train disrupts the plans of ordinary people,” remarked West.
“Yeah, I bet they think it’s only hurtin’ the railways …” started Kid Curry.
“Sam was pulling your chain, Kid,” interposed Heyes.
A moment, then Curry nodded. “What goes around comes around, huh?”
“Poetic justice,” agreed Heyes. To West, “In our speeches, I reckon you can put us down as sorry we never thought much on how irritating interrupted journeys can be.”
“Are you sorry?”
The ex-outlaws exchanged a mute conversation.
“Right this minute I reckon we’re more annoyed we can’t even be mad at these fellas without lookin’ chumps,” said Curry. “But, we take your point.”
“They’ve chosen a good spot,” remarked Heyes. “Decent distance from any station. Round a bend for cover, but still a safe stopping distance for the driver. Nice.”
Kid Curry stared at him.
Heyes blinked. “Just saying.”
They all gazed at the outlaw activity in the middle distance.
“What d’you reckon they’re after?” asked Curry.
“Silver from the mines at Rock Springs,” said Heyes. “About $25,000 worth. Only two guards.”
“How do you even know that?” asked West.
“I take an interest in – in my surroundings. Call it force of habit.”
“Call it plain old larcenous,” muttered Curry. A pause. “Acceptin’ this is poetic justice and all, we’re still gonna miss our connection in Salt Lake.”
“We can get the next one.” Heyes studied the timetables. “Not for much longer though. The one after that, we miss any stopover in Elko.”
“How long until we miss the one after?”
“A while.” Pause. Heyes checked his watch. “Hey, hey…” He walked away and beckoned the guarding outlaws. “Hey, you two…”
After exchanging a mute conversation, the outlaws approached.
“No offence, but, what’s taking your friends so long?”
“They’re – let’s say, liberatin' – a little freight,” said Outlaw One. “You folks just rest easy; we’ll be on our way soon enough.”
“The safe is only a plain Two-Oh-Two,” said Heyes.
“How the Sam Hill d’you know?” asked Outlaw One.
“He takes an interest in his surroundings,” said Curry. He received the look.
“Whoever you have turning tumblers in there,” Heyes nodded in the direction of the freight car. “With a Two-Oh-Two he should have been done in twenty minutes. Thirty minutes tops. If he knows his business, that is.”
“We’re not exactly havin’ our best day,” apologised Outlaw Two. He received a scowl from his partner and pipes down.
“You could do better, could ya?” scorned Outlaw One to Heyes.
“Modesty forbids, but…” dimpled the self-satisfied one. He caught the shaking head of Sam West and the utter disbelief stamped on Kid Curry’s face. He changed tack, without missing a beat. “Not at all. All I’m saying is, maybe it’s time you went over and persuaded your friends it’s time to break out the dynamite?”
Outlaw One folded his arms and glowered at Heyes. “Maybe you’d like to go over yourself, tell ‘em exactly how much to use?”
“For a Brooker Two-Oh-Two, five ounces, with another two on the hinge side ought to do it.”
Outlaw Two nodded. “He ain’t wrong, Buck. That’s pretty much how much I’d…” A furious glance from his partner shut him up.
“Any more advice, fella?” asked Outlaw One.
“Yes, you should…”
“No!” interrupted West.
“Nope. He’s done!” decided Kid Curry, in unison, pulling Heyes away.
“Good. ‘Cos I’m thinkin’ it’s about time I took me a little collection.” Outlaw One’s gun pointed at West. “Hand over your wallet. And the gold watch. And the cuff-links. And that fancy tie-pin.”
“You said you weren’t going to rob the passengers!” protested West, unfastening his cuffs.
“We weren’t. But your smart-mouthed friend here persuaded me.” Outlaw One grinned as he took West’s well-stuffed wallet. “This feels real heavy. I’m doin’ you a favour carryin’ it for ya, huh?”
“Please, don’t rob us…” pleaded the tired mother. “I need every penny to get back to…”
“Don’t fret, ma’am,” said Outlaw One. “It’s only these three.” To Curry, “Call it a lesson in knowin’ when to keep your mouth shut.”
“I never said a word!”
“Call it a lesson in gettin’ HIM to keep his mouth shut.”
The Kid rolled his eyes. He dug deep into his jacket and handed over two notes and two coins.
“Two dollars fifty? That all you got?”
“Unless you want close on six skinny feet of annoyin’ in a brown suit, yeah.”
“We’ll pass.” To Heyes, “Your turn – hand over the watch.”
“Please, it’s my last memento from my poor dead wife.” Brown eyes moistened convincingly. A manly upper lip was visibly stiffened.
Both Sam and the Kid blinked.
Outlaw One exchanged a glance with Outlaw Two whose eyes indicated, Give it back. It was handed back.
Sam West rolled his eyes.
“What else you got?”
Heyes handed a crumpled note from his left jacket pocket.
“One dollar? That it?”
“Check him, Fred.” The gun motioned Heyes to raise his arms.
Outlaw Two frisked the talkative one. “Two dollars in his pants, three bits in his vest,” he reported, handing them over.
“You stingy old thing!” scoffed Outlaw One.
A yell went up in the distance. “We got it! Time to move out!”
Outlaw One became business like. “You three, back over there with the rest. Move it.” He raised his voice to address all the passengers. “This is nearly over folks. Me and my friend are headin’ back to the train now. We’ll be leavin’ your guns by the track. Once we’ve rode off – y’all wait ten minutes then you can go back to the train for shelter. Where’s the driver?”
The driver stepped forward.
“You know the drill, huh? No one follows us. It won’t take long to clear the logs from the track, but, when you do, we’ve pulled up a section further on – that’ll need fixin’ before you risk movin’ the engine. I’m tellin’ you so you don’t risk it. No need for anyone to get hurt. The closest town is Wasatch – twelve miles in that direction.” He pointed. “Some young fellas should have plenty o’ time to fetch help before dark. There’s a river close by in that direction,” he pointed again. “So, you’ve plenty of water.” His voice rose again to be heard by all. “Tell your friends – if they ever get robbed by the Gentlemen Hellriders, all they gotta do is follow orders and no-one gets hurt, no one gets robbed.”
“Ahem,” coughed Outlaw Two
“No one who don’t got himself a friend with a real smart mouth gets robbed.”
Both West and Curry scowled at Heyes. The outraged innocence in the brown eyes had to be seen to be believed.
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.
Last edited by royannahuggins on Fri 26 Mar 2021, 12:41 am; edited 5 times in total