“Tails!” The word was blurted from the mouth of Kid Curry.
Hannibal Heyes caught his lucky coin and slapped it onto the back of his wrist.
“Dang!” the Kid began. “Every time!”
“Well, I’ll be! It’s tails, Kid. Looks like you’ve finally done it.”
“Every dog-gone ti…Huh? I won? You sayin’ I finally won a coin toss? Lemme see that thing.” Curry inspected the infamous doubloon. Sure enough, heads on one side, tails on the other. A wide grin spread from cheek to cheek. “Looks like your luck finally run out,” he chuckled.
“I don’t understand it,” Heyes remarked, slipping the prized possession back into his vest pocket.
“Me neither.” His partner agreed with a shake of his head. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred…”
“More like a hundred times out of a hundred, Kid. This coin, it’s always been my sure thing. Something I count, just like you count on your fast draw and accuracy, one hundred percent of the time.”
“But there’s always that hundred and first time, Heyes. Every gun fighter knows that.”
The Kid’s attention was momentarily diverted as the door of the stage office creaked opened. Five people stepped from inside to make their way toward the waiting stage.
“And now you know it too. Looks like the infallible Hannibal Heyes ain’t so infallible after all, don’t it?” Curry grinned again, but this time his smile was directed at two women walking slowly, very slowly, arm in arm, over the rutted street.
Three men in business suits hustled past the women, anxious to be on their way.
While Heyes climbed up top with the driver, Curry stepped forward. “Ladies,” he greeted, tipping his hat before offering assistance, first to the elderly woman, then to her young traveling companion.
Deep brown eyes adorned with long lovely lashes batted Curry’s direction, then gave him an encouraging smile as the young lady accepted his hand.
Curry looked up to his partner and winked. “Have fun ridin’ shotgun, Joshua.”
The door of the stage gave a loud bang when the Kid swung it tightly shut. His eyes adjusting to the darkness inside the stage, he took note of his fellow travelers. The three businessmen, each seated in a forward-facing position along the rear bench, busied themselves with a variety of activities. The man seated nearest Curry pulled a book from inside his jacket pocket and, very deliberately, set his focus on reading, while the man on the far side opened his satchel and began pouring over documents. The man in the center acknowledged the Kid with a slight nod before pulling his bowler over his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall of the stage.
With a holler from the driver, the team of horses jumped into motion and the stage lurched to a start.
“Whoopsie daisy,” the young woman in the center of the rear-facing bench remarked as she latched onto the right arm of Kid Curry. She gave a nervous giggle. “I nearly lost my balance.”
“No problem, ma’am,” the Kid drawled, flashing her a charming smile. “Since we’re gonna be cooped up in these tight quarters all day, guess we might as well get to know one another.”
The man across from them lifted the brim of his the bowler hat momentarily, shooting a fish-eyed look the Kid’s way.
Curry regarded the man with a puzzled glance. “The name’s Jones,” he said, freeing his right arm from the woman’s grip long enough to offer his hand to her in greeting. “Thaddeus Jones.”
“Abigail Blare.” The young woman placed her small hand into Curry’s. “MISS Abigail Blare.” She smiled ardently. “And this,” she tapped the shoulder of the elderly woman at her right, “is my aunt, Agatha Edgewater Blare.”
The Kid addressed the elderly woman. “Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Blare.”
The elderly woman looked at Curry and smiled, but said nothing before turning her attention back to the scenery outside the window.
“Please excuse Aunt Agatha. She can’t hear a word we’re saying. Lost her hearing completely a couple of years back. Poor thing.”
“That’s a shame,” Curry agreed. “Are you and your aunt traveling on business or pleasure?” he inquired.
Again, the man with the bowler hat shot him a look of warning and again, the Kid returned a puzzled glance.
“I guess you could say we’re traveling on business, since we had to settle Great Uncle Barton’s estate, that’s Great Uncle Barton Edgewater, Aunt Agatha’s father. Lived to a ripe old age, he did. Then one day, Poof! He was gone, just like that. Eating his breakfast porridge one moment and the next, Poof!” She snapped her fingers. “Just like that.”
“But our trip was not without pleasure,” Abigail went on, “because we saw a wonderful stage show while we were in the city. Have you ever seen a stage show, Mr. Jones?”
“Sure have,” Curry nodded. “Me and my partner, Mr. Smith, that’s him ridin’ up top with the driver…”
“Stage shows are so exciting. The theater, the orchestra, not to mention the elegant costumes. So much splendor all in one place, why, it fairly sets the soul to bursting!”
“I know what you mean, Miss Blare. Out in San Francisco…”
“Is that where you and your partner are from, Thaddeus? You don’t mind if I call you Thaddeus, do you? And you may call me Abigail if you’d like. Some folks call me Abby for short. Why, back home, that’s in Arkansas by the way. Why, back home in Arkansas where I grew up, they used to call me Gabby Abby.” Her giggle ended with a snort. “Can you imagine that, Thaddeus? I’ll bet you can’t,” Abigail continued without pausing for breath. “Anyway, Aunt Agatha and I have been there too. San Francisco, I mean. We’ve been to concerts and plays and, oh, my, what wonderful shopping! Beautiful silks in vibrant colors, and restaurants with fish, caught fresh from the Bay. Yes, indeed, San Francisco is one amazing city. You and your partner are lucky to be headed there.”
“This stage is headed to Wyoming.”
“Without a doubt, Wyoming or bust. Oh, by golly, look at the time!” Abigail searched through her carpetbag and found a bottle.
While Abigail poured some of the contents into a cup, Curry read the label. “Carter’s Cure-All.” One whiff confirmed his suspicions. Whiskey. A second whiff caused his eyes to water.
“Aunt Agatha!” Abigail shouted. “It’s time for your medicine!”
As Abigail administered Aunt Agatha’s medication, the Kid glanced at the man with the bowler hat. Even though the hat remained pulled low over his eyes, Curry saw a grin tugging at both corners of the man’s mouth.
“You and your aunt been on this stage long, Abigail?” the Kid ventured.
“Days and days and days. Since St. Louis. Mr. Coburn,” Abigail lowered her voice and gestured to the man beneath the bowler, “has been with us longest. Since Tuesday, I think. He was friendly enough that first day but now, well, I guess he must be feeling poorly because he sure seems to need an awful lot of rest. And the other two fellas, that there is Mr. Woodward, reading the book, he got on the stage on Wednesday. He must love reading because when we stopped in town he bought a whole sack full of books! Mr. McFarland over there, I guess he must be a lawyer or something from the amount of work he brought with him. He doesn’t say much. Been quiet ever since he boarded this stage. Just works, and works, and works.”
“You took a stage all the way from St. Louis? Why didn’t you take the train?”
“Oh, Aunt Agatha never travels by train! Not since the incident. Back before I came to stay with Aunt Agatha, she and her husband, that was my Uncle Roland, they were on a train that was robbed! Can you believe that? I never knew anyone else in all my days who was actually on a train that was robbed. But ever since, Aunt Agatha has refused, I mean stubbornly REFUSED to set foot on a train ever again. Can’t say that I blame her. Uncle Roland lost all the cash in his wallet and Aunt Agatha, she lost her mother’s heirloom brooch and her wedding band, not that her wedding band was REAL gold, it was imitation, but the thieves didn’t know that and they took it. Nevertheless the band had sentimental value. The brooch too, seeing as how it belonged to Great Aunt Min.”
The driver called out a “whoa” and the stage began to slow.
“We’re stopping. You don’t suppose we’re being robbed right NOW, do you, Thaddeus? I don’t know what I’d do if we were robbed, not that I’m carrying loads of cash or jewels on my person, but…”
“We’re stoppin’ to rest and water the horses,” Curry barked.
Heyes and Curry stretched their legs at the stage coach way station.
“Thaddeus!” a familiar voice called.
Heyes watched the pretty brunette heading toward them. “Looks like your lucky stage ride is paying off, eh Kid?”
The Kid furrowed his brow. “Not now, Heyes,” he muttered, then turned and pasted a smile onto his face. “Abigail Blare, this is my partner, Joshua Smith. I’ll just let the two of you visit for a bit.” Curry stepped toward a very tiny building.
“But Thaddeus,” Abigail insisted, following him. “I wanted to ask a favor.”
Curry stopped, his hand on the door latch, and Abigail bumped into his back. “Can it wait, Abby? I’m kinda busy right now.” He pointed to a crescent moon carved into the door.
“By all means,” Abigail replied, stepping back.
The Kid went inside and shut the door behind him.
The crescent moon door opened and the Kid emerged to see Abigail, seated under a nearby tree with her aunt, flashing him a smile and waving him over.
“I wanted to ask you a favor, Thaddeus. Do you think you and your friend would be able to keep an eye on Aunt Agatha while I help the way stationer’s wife prepare our noon meal? The sooner we get the meal cooked, the sooner we can eat. And the sooner we eat, the sooner we can be on our way. Otherwise we won’t make Wyoming before nightfall, and if that happens, it’ll mean another day on the stage, not that I’d mind another day on the stage visiting with you. You’re so nice and SUCH a good listener. I feel like I could talk to you all day and all night, on and on forever. You’re just… Did anyone ever tell you you’re sweet?” She kissed his cheek. “Thanks for keeping an eye on Aunt Agatha.”
Abigail walked toward the way station house while Curry remained under the tree with Aunt Agatha. Heyes joined them.
“This is Aunt Agatha,” the Kid said, gesturing to the elderly woman seated on a blanket.
“Pleasure to meet you, Aunt Agatha,” Heyes began. “My name is Smith, Joshua…”
“Forget it, Heyes. She can’t hear you. Aunt Agatha’s deaf. Been deaf for a couple of years. And if I were to guess, I’d say she probably lost her hearin’ ‘bout the same time ‘Gabby Abby’ came to live with her.” He tugged at his right ear lobe. “Heck, I think my ears are bleedin’ after just one mornin’! I swear, Heyes, if I have to get back into that stage with that woman, I’ll…”
“I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t shoot her ‘cause shootin’ her would only add a charge of murder to my wanted poster! Although if any judge had to put up with listenin’ to her yammerin’ on, I’ll bet he’d call shootin’ her justifiable homicide!”
“Kid, I’m surprised at you! I’m sure Abigail Blare is a very nice young woman. Not bad to look at either. She can’t be near as bad as you’re making her out to be.”
“Yeah? You try sittin’ with her. When the stage pulls out of here I’m sittin’ up top with the driver and you’re takin’ a turn sittin’ with Abby and Agatha.”
“That’s AUNT Agatha to you, young man.”
Heyes and Curry froze and exchanged a worried glance, then lowered their eyes to the woman seated on the blanket.
“If you think you’ve had a difficult morning listening to my niece ‘yammering on’ as you call it, you ought to try living with her!” She rummaged through Abigail’s carpet bag. “Make yourself useful,” she directed the Kid, “and find my medicine. That girl’s continual chattering could drive a saint to drink.”
“Mrs. Blare, I hope you don’t think that I… that WE… that my partner and I…”
“I heard what you said. You’re Kid Curry and he’s Hannibal Heyes. Don’t even try to deny it. I’d have known who you were even if you hadn’t slipped up, saying each other’s names out loud in front of a witness.”
“Ma’am,” Heyes began, “I don’t know what you THINK you know, but…”
Curry cut in. “She was on a train we robbed, Heyes. Way back. Somebody in the gang stole her weddin’ band.”
“The way I see it, you two young fellas owe me, so here’s what you’re going to do…”
The stage pulled out of the way station, Wyoming bound. The three gentlemen in business suits sat together on the forward facing bench, each occupied with the same activities that had kept them busy during the morning leg of their journey. This time, however, Aunt Agatha Blare lounged comfortably on a cushion alone, legs stretched out on the bench to her side.
Several yards behind the wagon, two horses rode side by side. Atop one horse sat Kid Curry. On the other, Abigail Blare.
“It’s SO nice of you, Thaddeus, to think of riding the rest of the way to Wyoming. I just LOVE horses. If I had my way, I’d have ridden the entire country, from east to west and back again. And it’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it? I think we’ve REALLY bonded, Thaddeus, don’t you agree? We’ve become such GOOD friends in such a short time. If you’d like, we could ride on all the way to San Francisco. Oh the things we could talk about on the way! All the adventures we’d have. This is absolutely the BEST trip I’ve ever been on, in my whole entire life! I mean, what do you supposed the odds are of you and me meeting and becoming friends and…”
Curry glowered in silence.
From the top of the stage, next to the driver, Heyes pulled his special coin from his vest pocket and gave it a kiss. “Sorry I doubted you, friend. I should have known that I can ALWAYS count on you! One hundred percent!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.