Join date: 2013-08-25
|Subject: Turnabout Is Not Always Fair Play Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:22 pm|| |
Turnabout Is Not Always Fair Play
Thunder and torrential rain accompanied two riders on a late afternoon as they rode their exhausted horses toward the unknown town. Daylight had seemingly long departed, but one would not know it. The all too frequent lightning illuminated the trail ahead into the middle distance, as would a lantern in the night. Gusts of wind whipped the weary men and mounts from all sides. It was, indeed, a dark and stormy night.
They just barely made out a faded "Cimarron" on the sign outside town. Seeking shelter, they found the hotel. One dismounted and quickly grabbed saddlebags, bedrolls, and rifles from both horses, while the other took the reins of the now riderless mount and steered it and his own in the direction of the livery.
Entering the hotel, Jed "Kid" Curry dropped his parcels just inside the door, then stepped outside again briefly, removing and shaking out his slicker under the shelter of the canopy. Folding it up, inside out, he draped it over one arm, the better not to get the dry part of him wet. Dripping anyway, he strode to the desk and rang the bell. After a long minute, a clerk appeared.
"I'd like a room, please."
The clerk regarded the young man. His dark blond hair and boyish countenance drenched beneath a dripping brown hat, Kid Curry appeared, for all intents and purposes, a drowned rat. Looking beyond the prospective guest at the pair of everything heaped on the floor, the clerk asked, "For how many?"
"Two. My partner'll be along in a couple of minutes."
"Just sign right here," the clerk said as he offered Cury a pen and pushed the register in front of him. "Really didn't expect anyone on a day like this. It's been real quiet. One bed or two?"
"How much for two?"
Kid sighed. The rates were high, but beggars could not be choosers. "Does either one come with a bath?"
The clerk smiled. The young man suddenly seemed more acceptable than at first glance. "Oh yes, sir, we have a room with two beds and a bath, for $3.50. But, unfortunately, because of the storm, we're short staffed, and there's no one to draw the bath."
His disappointment showing, Kid Curry sighed. "Will there be someone to do that in the mornin’?"
"There should be, uh," the clerk turned the register toward him, "Mr. Jones. Depends on if the storm passes or not."
"All right, we'll take the two beds and bath."
"You won't be sorry, Mr. Jones. Room 14. One of our best."
Kid rolled his eyes as he handed over the money. "At that rate, it oughta be!"
"How many nights will you be staying?"
"Depends on the weather."
The clerk handed Kid a key. "Very good, sir. Is there anything else I can help with?"
Kid thought a minute. "Yeah. Haven't been through here in a while … Who's the sheriff these days?"
"Name's Jim Lawson. Been sheriff going on almost four years now. Do you know him?"
Kid appeared deep in thought for a few seconds. "No. Been a while since I was here."
Turning to gather their gear, Kid saw his partner, Hannibal Heyes, walk through the door, slicker inside out under his arm. "You're just in time."
Heyes yawned, then smiled, his dimples deeply set. "I see. Let’s get up to the room."
Stooping to help gather their belongings, Heyes was interrupted by the clerk. "Sir, please sign the register before going upstairs."
Heyes complied and signed his alias.
"Mr. Joshua Smith. Very good. Is there anything else I can help you gentlemen with?"
Heyes yawned again. "Sorry, guess I'm kind of tired. Umm, is there some place to get a hot meal? Looks like your dining room is closed."
"Yes, Mr. Smith. In the next block, the cafe. Essy said she'll be open as always; the storm won't change her hours. And it’s on this side of the street, so you shouldn't get too wet."
"Or at least not too much wetter," Heyes acknowledged.
The partners nodded in thanks and gathered their luggage. Heavily climbing the stairs, they reached Room 14. Leaving the door ajar, they dropped their gear on the floor.
Kid fished some matches out of his pocket. "Good thing for slickers … The matches are dry." Striking one, he lit the oil lamp in the wall sconce. Replacing the glass chimney, he turned into darkness. "What happened?"
Heyes shrugged. "Must be drafty in here."
Kid lit another match and the lamp. Again, it glowed for several seconds before extinguishing itself.
Heyes stood with arms folded across his chest. "Kid, don't breathe so hard!"
Curry scowled. "I'm not breathing hard. And these matches aren't wet, either. Must be a draft from the hall." For a third time, he lit the lamp. "Ahh, and then there was light."
Closing the door, Kid turned to his partner. "Well, not sure about you, but I'm looking forward to some dry clothes and a good book."
"Book? How can you be thinkin' about readin' when we haven't had dinner yet?" Heyes was incredulous.
"Dinner? Not hungry." Kid turned to his saddlebags, pulling out dry pants and socks. He started to change.
"And how could you not be hungry? We haven't eaten since breakfast 'cept for some jerky on the trail. I don’t know, Kid, a man's gotta eat!" Heyes was red in the face.
Kid grinned at his partner. "Don't worry, Heyes. We'll go the cafe and you can eat. I'll just have some coffee."
Heyes rolled his eyes and set to change out of his own wet clothes. When both were finished, they strode to the door and Kid reached to turn down the lamp. He stopped in mid-motion and stood, unmoving.
"Kid, you okay?"
Turning to his partner, Curry looked perplexed. "Heyes, I feel kind of – strange."
"Strange? In what way?”
"I don’t know. Just strange." Kid's countenance was a jumble of confusion.
"Aw, come on, Kid. With that silver tongue of yours, you can't explain it better than that?" Heyes laughed.
"No. I'm supposed to be a genius and all, but I feel like I can't even begin to figure this one out." Kid still stood rooted.
Heyes chuckled. Walking the few steps toward his partner, he put both hands on Curry’s back and maneuvered him toward the door. "Let's go, genius."
Kid shook his head to clear the cobwebs. Leaving the hotel, Heyes took the lead to the cafe. The canopies of the buildings kept them relatively dry. But for the one unprotected alley they had to cross, the quick stroll could even be described as storm-free.
Once inside, they seated themselves at a table near a fireplace and basked for several minutes in the warmth. A pleasant-looking, middle-aged woman approached. "Evenin’. I'm Essy. We stayed open, and I'm glad we did." She smiled warmly. "Now how about some coffee? And for dinner, we have beef stew or fried chicken."
Kid wasted no time. "Thank you, ma'am. I'll have one of each with all the trimmings."
Heyes ordered next. "I'll have the beef stew, please."
"Such nice manners! Comin' right up." The woman walked toward the kitchen.
Heyes frowned at his partner. "Two meals? I thought you weren't hungry."
Kid grinned. "Aw, come on, Heyes. What are you talkin' about? You know I could eat a horse!"
Heyes shook his head in confusion. "Yeah, Kid, I guess you could."
Back in their hotel room after dinner, it took four matches to light the lamp. Both men busied themselves with unpacking their saddlebags and arranging their wet clothes, outerwear, and gear around the room to dry.
Noticing the tub in a small alcove off the main room, Heyes looked longingly. "You know, Kid, a bath would be really nice tonight."
"Well, Heyes, guess that'll just have to wait 'til morning. Why don't you just get ready for bed. That way, morning will be here before you know it."
"Not yet. Gotta clean my gun. Clean yours too, if you want." With that, Heyes reached into Curry’s saddlebags for the oil and rags he used in the daily ritual of cleaning his gun. That he was taking things out of his partner's bags did not faze Heyes in the least, nor did the chore he was preparing to start.
Kid regarded Heyes, and shook his head. "You do that every day. Don't you think that’s too much, maybe?"
Heyes smiled. "Kid, you'll just never understand. There's nothin' like a clean gun."
Curry sighed. "I know a gun needs to be cleaned, but every day? But I do appreciate you doing it for me, and it does seem lighter afterwards.”
Heyes' eyes twinkled. "Of course it does. All that dirt and grime's gone. Shoots better clean than dirty."
While Heyes set up for his task, Kid settled into bed with a book. Opening it, he stared at a page for several minutes before looking up. He scanned the room.
"Does this room feel funny to you?"
"No. Seems fine. Feelin' okay? You weren't before."
"Don't know … Feelin' a little strange again – and now the room feels kind of funny, too."
Heyes looked up from his chore. "Kid, that silver tongue of yours back yet? Sayin' you're feelin' strange and the room feelin' funny doesn't give me a lot to go on."
Curry shrugged. "No. Can't say it any better than that."
"Well, if it'll help any, I wouldn't mind ya readin' out loud. I always like that. If my company ain't enough, maybe your voice'll be like another person in the room."
Kid jumped at Heyes' words.
"Kid, you sure you're okay? You seem kinda jumpy – or maybe a cold or somethin's comin' on?"
Curry sighed – and shivered. "No, I don't think so. I'm tired, but I'm not. Feeling like I should be the one cleaning the guns, but I don't want to. Want to read, but can't get past the first page. What's going on?"
Heyes resumed his task. "No idea. It all seems right to me. Read out loud. I really think it'll help."
Kid pulled the blankets up a little further. Maybe the unceasing storm was unnerving him, or maybe he was just overtired. Whatever it was, he would try to put it to the back of his mind. He started to read out loud.
Heyes smiled. When Curry paused, he interjected, "I always like it when you read Tom Sawyer to me. That's my favorite book."
The levity did Kid good. He chuckled. "You mean after all those dime novels?"
Heyes answered, thoughtfully, "No. I think I like Tom Sawyer better than the dime novels."
Kid read aloud for the next fifteen minutes or so, until Heyes finished the job and cleaned up. Reaching again for Curry's saddlebags, Heyes replaced the cleaning supplies exactly to the places from whence they came. He placed the guns in their respective holsters, then yawned and stretched.
"I'm gonna hit the hay. Lookin' forward to that bath in the mornin' and a nice big breakfast."
Curry contemplated his partner. "How can you even think of breakfast at this hour of the night?"
Heyes' feelings seemed genuinely hurt. "Kid, a man's gotta eat!"
Kid just shook his head.
"And sleep … I am tired!" Yawning, Heyes stripped down to his long johns and got into bed, pulling the covers over his head. "Kid, turn down the lamp when you're done, will ya? And get some sleep … I think ya need it, bad!"
In less than five minutes, Kid heard his partner's even breathing. He was always amazed how Heyes could sleep so much. After all, Curry always did his best thinking and planning at night. He chuckled to himself at the times he would wake Heyes up from a sound sleep to tell him of some inspired thought. After all, he was a genius – albeit, right now, an uneasy one.
The blond man attempted to read, but again just stared at the pages. Scanning the room for the umpteenth time, he got up to turn down the lamp, went back to bed, and got comfortable.
A particularly loud series of thunder claps rolled unmercifully, jolting Curry awake. His heart racing, he sat straight up in bed. Lightning illuminated the room almost as if it were day. A creak – and another. Kid grabbed his pistol and scanned the room. He saw nothing, but felt something staring at him …
Turning, Curry aimed his gun – at his partner!
"Kid? What're ya doin'? I'd appreciate your puttin' the gun down." Heyes' calm voice was in marked contrast to his partner's agitated state.
Curry glanced at the gun in his hand, then at Heyes, then again at the gun, and lowered it. Sheepishly, "Sorry, Heyes. Thought I heard something."
"Ya did. The same thunder that woke me up must’ve woke you as well."
"No, it was more than that. Heard a creak – a few."
"The beds creak. You gotta calm down, Kid. You're spookin' me."
"Heyes, do you think this place is …?"
"Haunted? Doubt it."
"Why not? It's taken more than one match each time to light the lamp, which just blows out by itself. There's creaking in the middle of the night, the hair's standing up on the back of my neck, and I've been feeling strange ever since we stepped foot in here." Kid sighed.
Heyes sat up. The light from the storm still flickered in the room, giving it an otherworldly appearance. "Kid, there's an explanation for everything ya mention. It's drafty, so the light blows out. The bed frames creak, so that's what you’re hearin’ and thinkin’ it's somethin' else. You're nervous, so your back's up, and as for feelin' strange, I don’t know. That I can't explain, except maybe sleep'll help."
Curry holstered his Colt and slumped against the pillow. "Don't think sleep's going to agree with me tonight. Just wish the weather would let up so we can get out of here." Then, wistfully, "Although we did just get here, and I was hoping to give the poker tables a try."
"Well, Kid, I always let ya do my thinkin' for me. So, if you want to leave as soon as it clears, guess that's what we'll do." Heyes shrugged and nestled down in the bed again. "Just try to sleep, okay?" Within seconds, he was snoring softly.
Kid lay down to a fitful doze, awaking often to more thunder, creaks, and the occasional groan. He envied Heyes his seemingly peaceful rest. When dawn broke, a bright ray caught the blond man's eye. He yawned, ready for a good night's slumber, but more ready to leave. He would sleep in the saddle.
After waking Heyes, Kid wasted no time readying for the trail. Realizing his partner's need to put this town behind them, Heyes made haste as well. His bath would wait until the next town.
After checking out of the hotel and packing up the horses, the partners stopped for breakfast at Essy's cafe. Both hungrily eyed the menu and ordered up big meals, Kid's almost sleepless night not hindering his appetite. Indeed, he seemed decidedly calmer.
"Kid, you're in better spirits this morning than last night."
Goose bumps of a sudden appearing on his arms, the blond man looked up from his food and regarded his partner. He swallowed hard. "Heyes, don't mention that word."
Curry whispered, "Spirits."
Heyes chuckled with realization. "You know I didn't mean it that way, Kid."
Kid's look was accusatory. "Didn't ya?"
"No, I didn't," the brown-haired partner said emphatically.
After they ate in silence for a few moments, Essy arrived with the coffee pot for a refill. After pouring, she stood by the table. "You two are such nice boys. Wish I had sons like you."
Curry smiled, while Heyes grinned and thanked her.
"You're leaving suddenly, though. Everything all right?"
Kid let Heyes take the lead. "Ma'am, everything's fine. Just have to move on."
"Well, you'll miss all the excitement. Trial's starting tomorrow. And as soon as that one's done, the other'll start right on its heels."
The partners shared a look, and gave their full attention to Essy.
Heyes asked, "Trial, ma'am?"
"Well, sure. A cowboy's accused of murdering his trail boss over at the hotel last month; his trial's first. Then there's the one of the widow charged with killing her lover, a married man with eight kids! Over at Lambert's as well. Now that's the one I'm most interested in."
"Lambert's, ma'am?" Kid asked.
"Sure, Lambert's Inn – the hotel you stayed in last night. The widow killed that man in room 14. Heard tell the poor man isn't resting in peace. But I don't believe in that kind of nonsense. Matter of fact, I heard some talk of strange doings in the hotel, but no one could rightly say what."
Kid dropped his fork.
Author's note: The St. James Hotel, formerly Lambert's Inn, in Cimarron, New Mexico, is considered haunted. Twenty-six men were killed within its walls. The killings referenced herein are fictional.