TOPPER WAS RIGHT

TERRI SUTRO

They just showed up.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Well, they did just show up.  But it wasn’t exactly a surprise.  Well it was a surprise, I mean I woke up and there they were standing at the end of my bed smiling those smiles.  But all in all, I guess I sort of expected them.  And if you think this is confusing to you, imagine how confused my relatively simple life got during and after that summer in Wyoming.

***************************

It had been a really tough year.  Too much stress personally and professionally had finally driven me out of the city to a three-month respite in a quiet place.  Or so I thought.  Some silly fantasy borne out of an old television show made me click on Wyoming cheap fares.  Apparently Wyoming in summer wasn’t high up on the places everyone wanted to visit list.  To this day, I don’t really know why I kept clicking until I had the tickets purchased and the jeep rented.  I started a search for a hotel and almost fell out of my chair when up popped “Cabins at Devil’s Hole”.  Well it was that or the Holiday Inn and the latter did not conjure up images of two gorgeous outlaws I fantasized about as a kid.  So, a couple more clicks and I was set. 

An easy flight and a fun ride brought me to a dirt road with a sign that said Devil’s Hole Cabins – 20 miles ahead.  I was thinking I had been had real good.  I was thinking I had put the $100.00 deposit on my credit card and I was about to find that I was gonna be stuck in the Holiday Inn anyway.  Cause the cabins weren’t really going to be there.  Except they were.  Or it was.  There was only one.  And a note.  Here’s the key – have a good summer.  I opened the door with a major case of the you’re such an idiot blues.  There was a cabin in the middle of nowhere and you, a single woman, opted to rent it for three months and of course you’d be fine.  Norman Bates was out of commission wasn’t he? 

Summoning up just the tiniest bit of bravery, I entered.  Clean, overstuffed country plaid furniture in forest greens and deep reds, huge stone fireplace, lots of deep toned oak book cases filled with mysteries and adventures and sci-fi and Louis L’Amour.  I decided I was a brilliant travel planner. 

The bedroom’s focus was a large four-poster bed.  Tall enough to need a step stool to climb onto.  Colorful quilts covered it and more were stacked on a small table.  The bath had a sunken tub and a view of the mountains covered in green and summer flowers.  I decided I should chuck my former profession and take up travel planning as a career. 

My hosts, I never did actually meet them, had stocked the fridge.  How they knew what to put in there I never did figure out.  I figured it was just part of the fantasy.  I wasn’t complaining. 

I unpacked, had a long bubble bath and a light dinner.  I lit the fire and put on my newly acquired midnight blue silk sleep shirt and settled on the sofa with a lovely cabernet and a book, ironically entitled, Ghost Story.  Spooky stuff for a woman alone in the Wyoming wilderness in a place called Devil’s Hole.  I found it amazingly peaceful – quiet.  No city sounds, no city lights.  It was great.  About midnight, I stretched and decided to call it a day.  Yes, indeed.  I could just feel that stress melting away.

**********************

The whispering woke me up.  At first I figured it was a dream – that stupid book.  But then I realized I was awake.  And I could still hear it.  I didn’t move.  Maybe Norman Bates had been paroled. 

“Think we should wake her up, Heyes?”  One voice whispered from the left side of the bed.  It was a nice voice. 

“Nah Kid, let her sleep.  Ladies always get cranky when their beauty sleep is disturbed.”  A deeper voice.   

The second voice was on the right side.  It sounded like he was right next to me in bed.  But there wasn’t anyone there – I think I would have been able to tell if there were men lying on either side of me. 

“We’ll introduce ourselves in the morning.”  Nice of him to be so considerate.

This voice was a husky baritone.  Something told me it belonged to the type of man my mother told me I should avoid at all costs.  Wait a minute, did the voices say Heyes?  Kid?  Oh brother, I am dreaming.   ASJ.  Well it could be worse; you could have dreamed Kyle and Wheat were in bed with you.  I rolled over, commenting to my dream apparitions, “Don’t take more than your share of the covers fellas.” And went back to sleep.

“Heyes, can she see us?”  Kid was confused.  This ghost stuff was pretty unfamiliar to him.

“I don’t think it works that way Kid.  At least that’s not what the rule book says.”  Heyes had studied the rulebook very carefully.  “Says that people can’t see us unless we want them to.”

“Well I wouldn’t mind it if she could see us, Heyes.”  Even as a ghost, Kid really liked women. 

Heyes just sighed.  ‘Eternity was just gonna be a continuation of their earthly existence.’  “In the mornin’, Kid.  And I’m looking forward to seeing how you go about romancin’ anyone.  You’re not even real.”

“Well Heyes, as Grandpa Curry used to say, where there’s a will…”

They finished in unison, “...there’s a way.”  Smiling at one another they vanished. 

***********************

I opened my eyes to find sunlight streaming in through the windows and myself all alone in bed.  See, it was a dream.  Coffee, I can get a cup of coffee, crawl back into bed and read.  No phones, no computers, no irritable people, no road rage.  This was getting better by the moment. 

So there I was, carrying my mug and an Agatha Christie novel back to bed.  I decided that maybe I’d postpone any more ghosts for a while.  All seemed right with the world.

“Good mornin’, ma’am” It was the baritone. 

I dropped the mug of coffee. 

“I told you she’d be scared.”  It was the nice voice.

 I whirled to face my attackers.  Except they weren’t there. 

Ok, that’s why I’m up here.  Stress.  ‘Cept I’ve never heard voices before.  Maybe I’m still asleep.  All right, enough, this is ridiculous.  “OK, whoever is playing this really stupid game, I’m not buying.  So either come out or go away.  And you’d just better do it now.”  I looked around.  Nothing.  Well that was that. 

I turned to clean up the coffee.  Strange, it just occurred to me I hadn’t heard it crash.  Well, that was the reason.  The mug was suspended midway between where it left my hand and the floor.  ‘OK, I am nuts.’  I spoke to the coffee mug, floating gracefully in space. 

Well, I thought, if I packed right now I could probably be home in time for the commitment papers to be finalized.  Never mind, in for a penny…I reached for the mug.  It floated just out of my reach.  I reached again; it escaped in the other direction.  I sighed.  I couldn’t even seem to win with a coffee mug. 

“Heyes cut it out.  Let the lady have her coffee.”  I was beginning to like the nice voice. 

“Will ya look at that Kid?  Imagine what we could’ a done if we could’a done stuff like that when we were robbing banks and trains.”  The baritone sounded like a little boy with a shiny new video game. 

Wait a minute.  Heyes?  Kid?  No, that would not be possible.  They were fictional.  Even though I was at Devil’s Hole, Heyes and Curry did not exist.  “Ok, whoever’s doing this, I’ve had it.  Show yourselves right now.”  I shouted this at an empty room.  I made one more lunge at my coffee mug and caught it.  “There, gotcha.”  Shaking my head, I turned.  “I’m talking to a coffee cup.”

 

 That’s when I saw them.  Standing there as big as life and just as gorgeous.  Smiling at me.  I lost the coffee again.  This time it floated safely to the table and set itself down.  I watched its travels.  I returned to the two men standing in front of me.  Still smiling. 

“You’re not here, are you?  I’ve completely lost touch with reality.” 

“No, ma’am.  You’re not crazy.  We really are here.”  Kid floated forward.  I walked backward.  He stopped.  So did I.  “We’re ghosts.”  He said it so matter of factly he might just have said, pancakes or scrambled eggs.  “Heyes you explain it to her.” 

“Well ma’am, don’t rightly know how it happened, but it seems we gotta do a few more good deeds ‘fore we can move on.  We’ve been hanging around here for a long time.  Just waiting for someone to show up that we could rescue.”  He paused and looked at me with something of a curious look on his face.  “You do need rescuin’ don’t you, ma’am?”  The curious look gained momentum as he noted my lack of clothing.  “That sure is pretty ma’am.” 

“OK, this was really funny – but whoever’s doing this you can stop now.”  It wasn’t fair.  I mean.  There they were.  The same gorgeous fellas I drooled over so long ago.  Same hats, same black shirt on Heyes and blue one on Kid, same smiles, same eyes which were looking at me in my blue satin sleep shirt.  “Cut it out” I snarled in my best Nordstrom’s Half Yearly that sweater is mine voice.  I pushed past them in a fit of bravery.  Except I really sort of pushed through them.  Literally.  My hand went through Heyes’ shoulder.  I stopped and turned back to them.  They were still there.  And still smiling.  “Oh my God.  You’re real.”

“Well not exactly ma’am.”  Kid had taken his hat off. 

“You’re still polite,” I said sitting down.

“Ma’am?”  He floated towards me. 

“You were the polite one.”  He was sitting next to me.  Boy, those eyes were certainly blue.  “You were always so polite.”  His smile was making me smile.

“What was I?”  I turned at the voice and found Heyes sitting on the other side.  I voiced a silent prayer that if I had finally slid over the edge, could I please stay wherever I had landed. 

“Come again” His eyes were so dark and his eyelashes so thick I wanted to reach out and touch them. 

“If whatshisname was polite, what was I?”  He was looking at me with a look that described exactly what he was. 

“You were, um….”  How could I say he was the devious one?  I think he read my mind, he was smiling.  His smile gave me goose bumps.  “Dangerous.” 

“Me, ma’am?  Dangerous?  Can’t believe you’d feel that way.”  His voice was laughing, so were his eyes.

Looking in those eyes, I knew exactly why I’d feel that way.  “Wait a minute.  You two aren’t real.  You never were.  Someone made you two up.  And I’m sitting here talking to you.  Oh boy.  I think I should have checked into a nice quiet home for a few months.”  I shook my head and closed my eyes.  They’d be gone when I opened them.  They weren’t.  Of course.  Now I’ll check into the home. 

Heyes was sitting next to me.  Kid had floated to the heavy oak coffee table in front of me.  I kept looking at them.  They were still smiling.  Both looking at me expectantly.  Like I should know what to do now.  Lord, they were handsome.  “OK, I’m really not dreaming you both?”  They shook their heads. “But I don’t get it.  A writer made you two up.  How can you be real ghosts?”  I know.  That didn’t make a lot of sense to me as I said it, but, well nothing had so far so this wasn’t all that much of a stretch.

“We were real to you, weren’t we?”  Kid looked sad.  I wanted to comfort him.  Boy did I want to comfort him. 

“What he means is that you believed in us, right?”  Heyes spoke softly.  There was something in his eyes that told me my answer had better be the right one or something awful would happen.

“Well of course I did.  I mean do.  I mean, you two were real and were magic.  Hey, it’s magic.  Is that it?”  I was really hoping that was the right answer.

Their smiles broadened. 

Bingo! 

The polite one spoke.  “Thank you.  No one else ever did answer that the right way.  We figured somebody who really needed rescuin’ would come up with the right thing to say.”  They both relaxed.  Well, I mean it looked like they relaxed.  Well they were ghosts, oh never mind.

“So, what now?  Give the right answer, win two ghosts?  And what do you mean really needed rescuing?  I don’t need rescuing.  I’m doing just fine.”  I was going to figure out what was going on.  Really I was. 

“Well kind of.”  Kid floated my coffee towards me. 

“Thanx….   They’d love you at Burger King.”  He looked confused.  OK, so I had two ghosts.  At least they weren’t gross or deformed or wearing sheets.  They were my fantasy.  I was beginning to like this.  “So why do you think I need rescuing?”  I sipped my coffee.

“That’s what the rule book says.  Says once we find the person we’re supposed to rescue, and do the rescuin’, we get to move on.”  Heyes was eyeing my coffee cup.

“Move on where?  Hey, do you guys eat or drink?”  What do you feed two fictional/real hundred year old ghosts? 

“No, ma’am.  Shame too.  That coffee smells really good.  Heyes never could make a cup of coffee worth drinking.”  Looked like a century or so hadn’t changed some things.

“Was that true?  I mean was your coffee like tar?  And was your appetite enormous?”  Wow, this could be great.  All those miserable discrepancies people fought over for years – I could solve them. 

“My coffee was just fine.”  Heyes looked hurt.  Gee he was so cute.  You just wanted to make it better.  And better.  And better

“Oh sure, if a posse got too close you could set fire to it.  Smoke from that stuff alone’d kill anything within ten miles.”  Kid was grimacing with the memory.

“Well you’d eat anything that couldn’t move quicker than you.  Ma’am when he got hungry the rumble from his stomach was enough to scare away full-grown animals.  Why it’d shake the ground itself.”  Heyes looked dead serious. 

They glared at each other.  I started laughing.  “This is priceless.  I’m sitting here with the ghosts of Heyes and Curry.  Me.  Perfectly rational professional woman of the 21st century.  And you’re exactly like you should be.  I mean – if someone else had given the right answer would you be like their memories of you?”

They looked confused.  Heyes pushed his black hat up on his dark hair.

“Oh, do that again.”  I loved it when he did that.

“Do what again?” He sounded testy.

“That hat thing.” 

“Huh?”

“Oh you know.  What you just did.  Push it back on top of your head.  God, that’s wonderful.”  I heard myself gushing.  Something I never did.  He was turning red.  “Wow, you’re blushing.  I didn’t know ghosts could do that.  This is really neat.”  Now he was glaring at me.

I turned to Kid, he was laughing.  I could certainly see why women fell over themselves looking to be rescued by this one.  Guess I must have stared at him a bit too hard.  Now he was turning red.  Amazing.  Shy outlaw ghosts.  Only I could find that combination.  Not that I was complaining.  I mean could be talking to Beetlejuice. 

“So what now?”  I asked both of them.  “I mean do I get to keep you permanently or do you stay here when I leave or when I leave you just vanish?”  I was flexible.  I could do this.

“Well ma’am, don’t know rightly how it’s supposed to work.  Kid’n me figured we’d just rescue you and see what happens.”   

“Yea, but I keep trying to tell you both.  I don’t need rescuing.  Really.  Rest.  Long walks.  Bubble baths.  Hey…”  I turned to Kid.  “How come they kept putting you in bubble baths?  I mean you had your clothes off more than on.” 

Kid looked embarrassed.  That was not helped by Heyes’ laughter.  “Well and you, I mean we got what twenty seconds of you in the tub.  Good line though, I know a lot of ladies that would have been happy to pin you to their Christmas trees.”  This was beginning to be fun.

“I just had more dignity.”  Which was what Heyes was trying to recapture at this very moment.

“Right, Heyes.”  Yep, nothing had changed. 

“OK, ok the both of you are hopelessly adorable.”  They smiled at me.  I really loved those smiles.  I wanted to keep those smiles.  I thought I’d put off being rescued for a while.  “Hey, can you leave the cabin?”  They nodded.  “Can you show me where things were around here?” 

“You mean like the layout of Devil’s Hole?”  Said the leader of the gang.

“Uh, huh.”  They nodded again.  “Cool.  I’ll get dressed.”   It suddenly occurred to all three of us that I wasn’t exactly dressed for company.  “Uh, do you have to be visible all the time?”  I was tugging at my new blue satin sleep shirt wishing suddenly I had gotten the ankle length version. 

“No, ma’am.  Why we can vanish pretty much any time we want.  Like this.”  Kid smiled gently and vanished.  I turned.  Heyes was gone too.  “But we’re still here.”  Said Kid’s disembodied voice.

“Now that’s weird.  So how will I know you’re not watching me when I’m…, well when I don’t want you to be watching me.  I stood up.   They reappeared.

“Well ma’am.  Whatever else we were, we were always gentlemen.  And we’d never look at anything you didn’t want us to.”  Heyes had a look on his face that I wouldn’t have trusted if he had been wearing a cleric’s collar.

“I beg your pardon!”  Now I was turning red.  Well I suppose that was only fair.

They were both grinning.  Yes, and that certainly helped my trust level go up.

“OK, ground rules.  Bedroom and bathroom are off limits.  Got it?  I catch you in there and I’ll do a spell to make you disappear.”  Like I could do that.  Or would.  Boy, that was lame. 

They looked hurt.  “Even if someone or something breaks into the cabin and is gonna hurt you?”  Oh, that was good.  I could see Heyes’ mind working.

“Is that likely to happen, Hannibal?”

“Just Heyes, ma’am.” 

“Yea, that’s something else I gotta find out about.  How come everybody only calls you Heyes?  Oh no you don’t.  No sidetracking.  If some wild beast is breaking into the bedroom, then you can come in.  Other than that – you both get this room, the kitchen, outside.”  Stay focused.  No, no, not on them.  On the issue.  Will ya look at that dimple?  It was really easy to glaze over with these two.

“Well if that’s the way you want it ma’am.  But we were sure hopin’ to find out how all that new stuff in room with the tub worked.”  Kid looked very earnest. 

 

“All the stuff….  Oh.  I guess I could show you what it does.  Shame there’s no TV.  You could watch yourselves.”  I laughed.  They didn’t.  “Sorry.  Hey, you weren’t around when I was taking a bath last night were you.”  I eyed them suspiciously. 

“Us, ma’am.  We’re shocked that you’d think so low of us.”  Heyes’ silver tongue was in full glory.  It still wasn’t working. 

“Brother.   Peeping Toms.  That’s all I need.”  I was hoping to sound disgusted.

“No ma’am.  My name’s Jed and my cousin’s is Hannibal.  No Toms here.”  Kid looked at me with an incredibly serious expression on his face. 

“Even better.  I get to play straight man to the two of you.”  It was getting harder not to laugh.

“Ma’am.  No one would be mistakin’ you for a man under any circumstances.”  Ah, silver tongue and legendary charm too.  I gave up.

“OK, ok boys.  I yield.  But as of now – off limits.  Right?”  They nodded vigorously.  They really did look like little boys.  “So you’ll stay here while I get dressed?”  The heads bobbed again.  Why didn’t I believe them?  Maybe because of the looks in those eyes.  I think I groaned.  I know they grinned again.  I retreated into the bedroom. 

I grabbed some clothes and was unbuttoning my shirt.  “Hey you guys.  Say something.”  I looked around.

“Will ya look at that Heyes, her toes are red?”

I screamed.  “Out, out now.  Out or I’ll leave and then where’ll you both be?”  No there wasn’t a chance I was going anywhere.  But a deal was a deal. 

“Well you don’t have to holler at us.”  They were kinda stretched out on the bed.  They looked hurt again. 

Brother.  I knew the game.  Guilt.  It didn’t matter.  They won.  “Oh, all right, I’m sorry.  But you guys have to cut that out.  Now shoo.”  I waved my hands at them.  “And you have to promise.  You never broke a promise.”   

“Yes ma’am, we promise.”  They said in unison and vanished.

“Uh Heyes?”

“Yea Kid”

“Should we have told her we did break a promise now and again.

He thought for a second.  “Nah, Kid.  It’s good that she thinks we’re perfect.”

The two mischievous outlaw spirits smiled at one another and floated away. 

**************************

The summer passed much too quickly.  We never did figure out what I needed to be rescued from, but it didn’t matter.  I gave up trying to get dressed or undressed in the closet.  I showed them how all the appliances worked.  We almost lost the microwave when I tried to pop popcorn and Kid tried to return fire.  I was left wondering if spirit bullets really worked. 

I begged, pleaded, cajoled and even threatened them to give me answers to those questions that had bugged my friends and I for ages.  What was Heyes pointing to in the credits?  What was with the pink pirate shirt?  And why did those suits keep showing up.  What was the magic of the saddlebags?  What was with Kid’s hair?  He sulked a bit after that one.  It got worse when I mentioned that there were probably dozens of women who’d give an awful lot to run their fingers through Heyes’ hair.  Poor Kid, wouldn’t take his hat off for days. 

 I wanted to see the coin.  I really wanted Heyes to flip it so I could witness the result myself. 

He said there had to be a real good reason to flip the coin like the choice between a good and a not so good job or a lady. 

I pounced.  “You mean you really flipped for a woman.  That’s so chauvinistic.”  They stared.  “So male,” I explained.  They continued to stare.  “Treating a woman like a piece of property to be flipped for.” 

They smiled and explained that it made more sense than fighting over her.  There didn’t seem to be an answer for that.  

They figured out how to levitate me which was great for changing light bulbs or getting things out of high cabinets or picking apples. 

I swam in the lake and they watched.  They even joined me.  Well they dunked their feet in the water.  They refused to take their clothes off.  I explained about skinny-dipping.  They said ghosts didn’t do that, but I could go right ahead.  I told them no way. All or none.  I think I almost had Heyes talked into it, but an unexpected summer rain ended that. 

I read to them or they to me.  Heyes’ voice was so hypnotic, I occasionally found myself dozing while he was reading.  Only to find he’d stopped.  That was usually when they’d levitate me into bed. 

We figured out that if Kid sat in the corner of the sofa where the pillow was, I could lean against the pillow and pretend I was leaning against him.  OK, we all knew it was pretend, but it was pretty cool. 

Heyes taught me poker.  He didn’t even get too annoyed when I drew to an inside straight and actually won.  Kid found that really funny. 

Kid wouldn’t teach me to fast draw.  I could tell he was sensitive about that so I didn’t press him.

Never did find out where they slept.  Or if they slept for that matter.  Sometimes if I woke up at night I would sense them in the room with me.  They never spoke and I never asked.  I figured, they weren’t real.  I felt kind of safe with them there.  I figured, what the heck. 

We gave up on the boundaries.  Well no one was following them anyway.  They sure were curious.  About everything. 

I decided that I needed more time and opted to take October off too.   We would go for rides.  Sometimes I’d ride double with Heyes and sometimes with Kid.  I began to really love horseback riding. 

The summer turned to fall.  Blazes of color I was unused to - living in a city that knew no seasons.  It was crisp.  I suddenly understood that weather term. 

We’d read Poe at night while the fireplace crackled and cast shadows in the room.  I was happy to have my two friends around to protect me from dreams of ravens and tell tale hearts. 

Finally, I could put it off no longer and I started packing for the return.  No longer stressed, but sad that I would be leaving my outlaws.  They seemed sad too.  And concerned.

“But you can’t leave.  We haven’t rescued you.”  Heyes kept insisting. 

“Yea, you want us to be stuck here forever?”  Kid was pretty insistent himself. 

“Well yes, if you must know.  That way, I can come back and you’ll still be here.”  I knew I was being selfish, but hey it was my fantasy.

“Not if someone else shows up and we rescue her.  Then we go to wherever we’re supposed to wind up and that’s it.”  Heyes was levitating my suitcase out of the jeep. 

“I guess.”  I watched the suitcase land at my feet.  “Cut that out.”  He moved it back very slowly.  I hesitated getting in.  We all kept shuffling our feet and pretending there was just one more thing to check or one more thing to do before I could actually drive off.  Finally it was time.  “I just wish I could at least have a hug and a kiss before I leave.  I mean you guys have been in my fantasies forever.  It just isn’t fair.”  Yes I was sulking, but I didn’t care.  I’d seen Ghost.  I figured it was possible. 

They smiled.  “We were hopin’ you might say that.”  Kid looked eager.  But then again, he always looked eager. 

“You mean….  Wait a minute.  Do you mean I can kiss you?  Or touch you?”  There was a very silly moment that ensued.  “Stop looking like you’re the cat that just found out the dog left home.  That’s not what I meant.”  Which was a terrible lie, cause of course touching them would have been exactly what I meant.  “What exactly do you mean?” 

“Well, if someone we’re supposed to rescue asks real nice, our guide said we could make an exception.”   Heyes was grinning a decidedly wolfish grin.

“An exception to what?”  The light bulb went on.  “Do you mean to tell me that all I had to do was ask and you could be real?  I mean, like really real?”  They nodded.  Many thoughts ran through my mind at that moment.  The primary one being I was going to cut my wrists.  I’d been in a solitary cabin with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, two incredibly gorgeous men, for a four month period and all I had to do was ask and they could have been mine.  And I’d have to go through the entire rest of my life knowing that. “And there was a reason you chose not to tell me that until I’m leaving?  What, wasn’t I good enough?”  Now I was mad.

“No, no.  It doesn’t work that way.”  Heyes was holding his hands up.  What did he think, like maybe I was going to slug him?  If possible, ok yes, I probably would have.  I mean I was leaning against the pillow that was Kid.  I was sitting next to Heyes dunking my feet into the lake.  Ack!   This was awful.  Holy…I mean, they were lying next to me in bed.  Good grief.  Now I did want to slug someone or something. 

“Well how exactly does it work?” 

“Don’t be mad.  We can’t use it all the time.  Just when it’s special.”   Kid had floated up next to me.  Damn, was it possible to be mad at that face? 

“And by special, you’d mean?”  OK, no it wasn’t possible. 

Heyes drifted to the other side of me.  Never mind.  That face was equally impossible to be mad at.  Especially when it was pretending to be an eight year old.  Looking as innocent as the Christmas Angel. 

I sighed.

They smiled.  They knew victory was theirs. 

They put their arms around me.  One each.  I swear I felt them.  All right maybe it was lack of breakfast. 

“Special is when someone we’re supposed to rescue hasn’t been rescued and asks for a kiss.”  Heyes suddenly didn’t look as transparent as he did before. 

I turned

Neither did Kid.  “Who goes first?”

There was a glimmer in Heyes’ eyes.  Lord those were beautiful eyes.  The most intense kind of dark chocolate, I would have followed him just about anywhere.  What am I saying?  I would have followed him over a cliff. 

“Oh no, you wouldn’t.  I told you that’s revolting.  The whole idea….”  I was arguing in futility.

Kid laughed.  His eyes were the blue of the Caribbean ocean.  That amazing clear perfect sapphire blue that sparkled with laughter.  The kind of warm that would melt Alaskan glaciers, except that right now the only thing that was melting was me. 

Heyes reached in his pocket.  He grinned at me.  Yea, well I wouldn’t have been fighting real hard with him either.  I found myself suddenly laughing.  I was going to get kissed by Heyes and Curry. 

“Flip the damn thing, then.”  Enough.  I wanted my kisses.  And I suddenly didn’t care that I was the prize that the coin flip was being waged to win.  I think I liked it.  I think I liked it a lot.  I mean heads or tails.  I still won. 

Up it went.  Flipping for what seemed like hours.  I wanted to grab the thing, but I overcame that.  Kid said “heads.”  Heyes just grinned.  Finally he caught it and covered it with his hand. 

I was hoping there was not too much desperation in my eyes.  I was also hoping I could overcome my sudden urge to just tackle them both. 

“Heads” Heyes looked amazed. 

Kid looked like he won the prize at the county fair. 

I was feeling like I won the Superball lottery. 

I reached out and there he was.  Man, I could feel his arm.  Both arms as they slid around me.  There certainly were a lot of muscles there.  I felt really safe all of a sudden, like this man would stand before hoards of invaders to protect me.  OK, I was wrapped in the arms of a thirty year old fantasy.  I can feel whatever I want. 

He kissed me.  For a long time.  Could’a just stayed for all I cared.  He reminded me of innocence.  Of lazy summer days.  Of swinging from a rope and dropping into a cool lake.  Of crisp apples.  The only problem I encountered was my ability to remain standing after he stopped.  When I opened my eyes, he was still there. 

“You do that really well.”  Those were the incredibly stupid words I heard myself saying to this gorgeous man.

He smiled.  There wasn’t much left of me to melt.  But it did.  “It was all right, then?  I’d hate to disappoint you.”

“Huh, disappoint?  No…I wouldn’t say that was a disappointment.  An epiphany, maybe.  Any chance, we could try that again.  Just to make sure I got it right?”  And then we could just keep practicing.  Oh, maybe in a few decades we’d have it down. 

“Sorry, just one.”  He still had his arms around me.  I decided I could get used to that really quick. 

Heyes cleared his throat.  “My turn.”  He took my shoulders and turned me around.  He held my face in his hands and drew me to him.  Then he kissed me. 

I remember the eyes framed by thick curling lashes.  There was no innocence here.  I felt like I was riding a lightening bolt.  And I had no desire to stop the ride.  Or to fasten my seat belt.  It was the jolt from a straight shot of espresso, taken in a single gulp.  The only thought that ran through my mushed brain was ‘Oh God, take me now if it means I get to stay here with them.’  He stopped.

I couldn’t open my eyes.  I heard him laugh.  That throaty laugh that reminded me of all the resolutions I was now willing, heck, eager to break.  I finally risked opening my eyes.  I nearly lost it.  They really were almost black.  “If you could bottle that, Starbucks would be bankrupt.”  All right, what would you have said?  I’m not the ‘more, darling’ type. 

“Sure you can’t stay another month.”  Heyes whispered in my ear.

At that moment I could have happily stayed there until the twelfth of never.  Oh boy, I was lost.  I’m quoting Johnny Mathis.

The unthinkable happened.  I don’t know why I even brought it with me.  I’m standing there.  Having just been kissed passionately I might add by two men who could bring new meaning to the word hunk.  And the miserable cell phone rang.  I forgot I had it.  I was sure I turned it off.  But there was the Flight of the Bumblebee ringing in my pocket.  I almost threw it across the compound. 

“What’s that?”  Kid asked. 

Heyes looked fascinated as I pulled it out and responded.  “What and this had better be good.”  I snapped to the cell phone.  “@#$%!(*&%^ wrong number!”  They looked shocked.  “Sorry.  Where were we.”?  I threw the phone into the jeep.  They followed its travels. 

“What is that?”  Heyes levitated it to a place between he and I.

“A miserable, useless invention.  Hey I could stop Edison from inventing that thing.  Nah, someone else would just do it.”  They were staring as I grabbed it.  “You talk in here and someone on the other end gets annoyed.”  They looked perplexed.  God, they were cute perplexed.  And in addition, God, can I take them home with me.  Hey prayer never hurt.

“This is a telephone.  You can dial the number of someone else and they pick up their telephone and you can talk to them.”  They looked impressed.  This could be a lot of fun.  I was imagining explaining electric blankets and hair dryers and, well the list could be selective. 

“Really, can we try it?”  Kid really did look about six. 

“Oh, honey.  You sure can.”  Boy, that would be a call worth recording for posterity.

I knew I had to go.  It was that or chuck it all and live with two outlaw spirits for eternity or at least another forty or so years.  Believe me it took a while to decide.  I got in the jeep. 

I started the engine.  I looked at the two of them.  They floated next to the car.   I was going to cry. 

“But we didn’t get to rescue you.”  Kid looked miserable.

“And now, we’ll never get to leave Devil’s Hole.”  Heyes didn’t look much happier.

“Guys, I have to go home.  I didn’t need rescuing.  Or maybe you did rescue me.  I mean you gave me something I always wanted.  Couldn’t that be a rescue?”  They weren’t buying it. “How ‘bout I come back.  In Spring.  Maybe I’ll need rescuing then.”  I was feeling like I was letting them down.  Guilt is an ugly thing.  Especially when two ghosts are the ones doing the guilt trip thing. 

“Well, I suppose if that’s all you can do.  But if someone else shows up here and we rescue her, don’t think we did it on purpose.  We just don’t get a choice on some things.”  Heyes the logician. 

“How ‘bout one for the road?”   Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The smiles were back.  I was going to be dreaming of those smiles for years.  “Take care of yourself” I felt Heyes hands again and thoughts of espresso returned.    “Bye, darlin’” I had those blue eyes and sunshine again. 

I drove off.  I couldn’t look in the rear view mirror.  I knew if I did, I’d take up permanent residence in Devil’s Hole.

*********************************  

The flight home was long and uneventful.  Well considering everything, I could have found a pink flamingo flying the plane and that would not have fazed me.  I dozed dreaming of dark eyes and dimples.  After lunch, I dreamed of sunny smiles and a body carved out of marble.  I woke up feeling wonderful. 

*********************************

“Heyes, what d’ya suppose happens now?” 

“Don’t know, Kid.  If we were supposed to rescue her from something, I sure couldn’t figure out what it was.”

“I know Heyes.  Wish she’d stayed.  Kinda quiet here without her around.”  Kid was looking around the cabin. 

“Yea I know Kid.  Pretty quiet.  Uh, Kid you look different.”  Heyes had a strange look in his eyes as he stared at his partner.

“Heyes, I can see through you.  You’re fadin’ away! What’s goin’ on?  Heyes?”  Kid was shouting.

“Kid, I can’t see you.  Kid!”  Heyes sounded panicky.

The cabin was quiet and empty.

*********************************

“Yea well, I have to go to the grocery store anyway.  Yea, the vacation was great.  Huh, new men?  Well kinda.  Yea, totally.  Two.  Yea, seriously bad.  No.  Dark and Light.  Hey, I gotta go.  Yea, drinks.  Saturday’s good.  See ya.”  I hung up the phone and sat on the bed.  

Boy things were going to be dull around here.  I supposed I should unpack.  And go to the grocery store and the dry cleaners.  Suddenly what I wanted to do was find those old videotapes.  Well actually what I wanted was to be back at a cabin with a couple of ghosts.  Hey, it was a fantasy, stop dreaming about it and get back to reality. 

I opened the suitcases but changed my mind.  I managed to start the laundry, make the grocery list and scan the mail.  I thought about picking up e-mail and voice mail, but decided against it.  That much reality was not really needed. 

I attempted to start the car.  Yes.  My friends had indeed babysat both the house and the engine as requested.  Fired right up.  I backed out, checking the rear view mirror as usual.  And almost drove into the rose bushes.

“Hi” Heyes said and smiled at me

“Hi darlin’.  Guess you’re stuck with us till we rescue you.”  Kid removed his hat.

I screamed.  I threw the car into park and practically vaulted into the back seat.  Of course I vaulted right through them, but I didn’t care.  I had them back. There was a God and He liked me.  He really did like me. 

“Damn.  I keep forgetting.  How did you get here?  Why are you here?  Oh, man I’m so glad you’re here.  Are you staying?  Can you guys do that thing where I can kiss you again?”  It was like a tennis match.  From one to the other.  My outlaws were back.   And I was going to keep them.  I didn’t know how.  But I was determined.   There must be something on the net to tell me how to do it. 

“Well we don’t rightly know why we’re still here.  Maybe you still need to be rescued and we still need to do the rescuin’.”  Heyes was looking around the car, trying all the buttons and knobs.

“Sure is nice to see you again, darlin’.  The cabin was real quiet when you left.”   I couldn’t remember when the back seat of a car had been so interesting. 

“What is this thing?”  Heyes had opened the door and floated out of the car.  Kid joined him. 

Darn.  I wouldn’t have minded practicing those kisses again.  I got out of the car.  “It’s a car.”  They looked perplexed.  “Like a train car, except this isn’t as large or as noisy.”  Oh yea, that was a good one.  “You get in it and drive.  Quicker than a horse.”  Look, you try to explain an automobile to two ghosts from the 1880’s. 

“Are you all right, dear?”  I was startled by the voice of my elderly neighbor who was staring at me talking to myself and gesturing at the car.  “Did you have a nice rest?”  What she really wanted to ask was if the medication was still working or if the men with the funny jacket with long straps were on their way.

“Yes, Mrs. Dooley.  I’m fine.  Stupid car.  Never did work.”  I smiled hoping she’d take the hint and leave. 

“Who were you talking to dear.”?  She peered into the car and then at me. 

Every part of me wanted to shout ‘Two ghosts you nosy old bat’.   Control yourself – there, that’s better.  “Ha, ha.  Just to myself, Mrs. Dooley.  Don’t you do that?  Talk to yourself?”  I was trying to be serious.  Heyes and Curry on the other hand were laughing.  I could hear them.

 “She thinks you’re crazy.”  Heyes said. 

“Shush” I said to him.  And closed my eyes.  And turned back to Mrs. Dooley.  Smiling as though I was perfectly normal.  “Can I help you with anything, Mrs. Dooley.

“Why no dear.  I just came to deliver this letter.  It was in my mailbox, but it’s yours.” 

She handed me a letter.  It was from my bank.  Great.  A perfect end to what could have been a perfect day.  “Thanks Mrs. Dooley.  Appreciate your bringing it to me.”  I glared at the two spirits who were still chuckling.  I was being reminded of how shiny Heyes’ hair was in the sun.  Boy, he was some gorgeous man. 

“Who do you keep looking at, dear?”  She peered at the two, except of course she was seeing air. 

“Nothing, Mrs. Dooley.  Just thought I heard the cat.”  I refused to respond to the choking sounds from behind me.  I’d find a way to get even.  She was backing away from me.  Well, fine.  Now the entire neighborhood would think I was nuts.  Gee, it wasn’t like I was talking with ghosts of an old television show or anything.  I shook my head.  So, maybe the time was right to move.  Devil’s Hole was sounding better and better.  Finally she was gone.  I whirled to confront them.  Of course, they weren’t there.  Cowards. 

I stomped back into the house.  “Ok, where are you?   Don’t even try to pretend you’re not here.  I know better.”  I was shouting as I walked through the house.  Not in the living room.  Not in the kitchen.  The bedroom.  Oh sure.  Where else?  Yep, there they were.  Sprawled out on my king size waterbed.  They were kind of bouncing up and down on it.  Laughing like little boys on Christmas morning.  Everything was sort of moving.  I was trying to remember why I was so mad.  I was trying to remember they were only figments of my imagination.  I was trying to remember my name.  I decided memory loss was ok and made a leap for the bed.  I landed somewhere through Kid’s chest and Heyes’ legs.  Not a bad jump.  “Please, please be real again.  Just for a while.  I’m not asking, here.  I’m pleading.”  Actually I was whining and begging. 

“Aw, honey.  Don’t you think we would if we could?”   Kid looked like he would if he could.

“Sorry, darlin’ it doesn’t work that way.”  Heyes looked like if he knew how to make it work that way he would. 

 I always hated it when men called me honey or darlin’.  Very condescending.  Very chauvinistic.  At that moment, I thought I’d never heard such lovely words.  I sat up.  “That’s not fair.”  I was going to sulk now.  I rolled off the bed through Heyes.  I groaned at the thought of that.  I rolled through Hannibal Heyes.  I wasn’t going to be able to take much more of this. 

I walked out of the room and into the kitchen.  Ice Cream.  There had to be ice cream in the fridge.  My dark chocolate with espresso beans.  Espresso.  Just like Heyes.  Oh, man.  I was in a lot of trouble.  No ice cream.  Lemonade bars.  Lemonade.  Just like we sold at the corner when we were kids.  In summer.  Oh yea, summer, just like the color of those curls.  Stop it.  You’re dwelling.  You’re obsessing.  You’re hyperventilating. 

“Hey.  That’s cold.  Heyes will ya look at that.  It’s a cold box.  You put food in there.  Bet it’d taste a lot better than what we used to eat.”  Kid was examining everything in the fridge.  Levitating yogurt cups up and turning them around. 

I tried to explain that shaking the soda cans was not a good idea.  But he was being ten and wouldn’t hear it.  He kept floating them around in circles.  Until they popped and we had Dr. Pepper all over the floor.  I sighed.  It didn’t matter. 

It occurred to me that had any women been in charge in the 1880’s these guys would have been safe forever.  Well at least they wouldn’t have had to worry about going to jail.  Exhaustion.  Yea, that would have been a worry.   Chapped lips.  Real good possibility.  Jail.  Not likely.

“What’s this?”  Heyes had found the remote control and was pushing all the buttons.  He hit the one for the CD player.  From relative quiet to the sounds of Carlos Santana blasting out.  Next thing I knew, they were floating on the ceiling.  I think it startled them.  Ha.  My turn to chuckle.  “Gee that was fun.  You guys ever seen a clothes dryer?  No, well it works like this.  You get in and I turn it on.” 

They looked suspicious.  Nah, I wouldn’t do that to them.  But it was a funny thought. 

I retrieved the remote and turned the music off.  They returned to ground level. 

“That wasn’t nice.”  Kid was good at the guilt thing.

“We didn’t do anything to hurt you.”  Heyes was better. 

The phone rang.  We all jumped.  I grabbed it.  They stared.   “What?  What do you mean my check bounced?  It can’t bounce.  Look, there’s been a mistake….  Listen mister, I’ve had a bad day.  The bank screwed up.”   The bank.  The letter.  Oh my God, what happened?  “Look, just deposit it again.  Yea, you have a good day too!” 

I threw the phone onto the sofa and started looking frantically for the letter.  “The letter, where is it.  I had it when I came into the house.  The bedroom.”  I ran down the hall.  They were waiting when I got there.  “Boy, if you two could market that you’d be millionaires.”  They looked curious.   ‘Never mind.  The letter.  Where the….  It’s got to be here…  There.”  I found it under the bed.  Must have been the leap.  I tore it open.  They were bouncing on the waterbed again.  I couldn’t look. 

“Oh my God.  Oh my God.”  I sat on the bed.  This time I was sitting through Kid’s legs.  I hadn’t even noticed. 

“What’s wrong?”  Kid asked.  He sounded very concerned.  

“What’s the bank say?”  Heyes had floated in front of me. 

“I’m overdrawn.”  I looked up at Heyes.  “I’m overdrawn.”  I turned and looked at Kid. 

“Well, that’s not so bad is it?  Once you put some more money into the bank, you won’t be overdrawn any more.”  That was my Heyes.  Clear precise thinking.  I started laughing.  I was back playing tennis with them.  Looking from one to the other.  Laughing hysterically.

They both frowned.  And looked at each other.  Great.  Now they thought I was nuts too. 

“Can we get you anything, darlin’.  You seem a little out of sorts.”  Kid was kneeling in front of me.

“Don’t you understand?  I’m overdrawn.”  I tried again.

“Yea, we understand, but….”  Heyes tried too.

“By $315,426.32.”  I got it out.  Then I started laughing again.

*********************************

There had been a lot of quiet after my announcement.  Well except for my laughter of course.  I noted that Heyes and Kid kept looking at each other.  Now I was sure they thought I was nuts. 

“Uh, darlin’?  That’s sure a lot of money.  Anything you need to tell us?  I mean we’re still ready to rescue you.”  Kid had put his semi-transparent arm around me.  I turned to put my head on his shoulder.  Which would have been fine of course had his shoulder really been there.  When my head went right through that beautiful broad shoulder and hit the footboard, I’d had it.  I stood up and stormed to the door. 

“That’s it.  I’m supposed to be unstressed now.  I just got back from vacation.  I will not let this make me crazy.  I will not let this bug me.”  I whirled around and stomped back up to my two visitors.  “And you two will stop saying you’re going to rescue me and do something constructive!”  I glared at each of them in turn.  Daring them to argue.  They didn’t.  So there.  I stormed from the room.

“Irritable, isn’t she?”   Heyes hovered in the doorway of the bedroom. 

“Now Heyes, maybe she doesn’t know why she’s $300,000 overdrawn.” 

“$315,426.32 overdrawn, Kid.  Think maybe the bank made a mistake?”

 

“Well of course the bank screwed up.  Do you think I have $315,462.32 in the first place?”  I had returned to finish yelling at them.  No I didn’t think they were at fault and no I wasn’t really mad at them, but they were the only ones there.  What choice did I have?

“$315,426.32.”  Heyes said to me.

“What? That’s what I said.”  If he kept this up, it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“No, you said $315,462.32.”  He smiled. 

“What the hell difference does it make?  Sixty-two or twenty six.  It’s still three hundred thousand dollars.”  I was about an inch away from him.  An inch away from those eyes.  That met mine and kept laughing.  Eyes that never wavered.  That wasn’t fair.  I fell in love with those eyes so long ago.  I dreamed of those eyes.  I turned away.  And met the other eyes.  The blue ones.  The other set that delighted my dreams.  I lost it.  I started crying.  I wanted them to put their arms around me and tell me it was all going to be all right.  I wanted to not have a stupid letter from a stupid bank.  I wanted to be at Devil’s Hole again.  I managed to note I appeared to be whining a lot lately. 

“Ya know, this is probably the reason we got to follow you home.”  Heyes spoke quietly. 

I turned to look at him.  “You followed me home?”  He nodded.  I turned to Kid.  He nodded too.  Suddenly things didn’t look so bad.  “So, I get to keep you, right?”  That was the plan.  I mean it was in all the rulebooks.  Finder’s Keepers and all that.

I was rewarded with smiles that made me believe that just maybe I could.  Please God make that so and I’ll never ask that the idiot that took the last parking space at the mall on Christmas Eve be blown away by a crazed elf.  Honest.  I’d be really good.  Then another light bulb went on.  I had Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  I mean if they couldn’t handle one crummy bank, who the heck could? 

“Hey, can you guys maybe help me with the bank?”  I asked hoping it came out casual and innocent.  Knowing how really unlikely that was.

“Bank?”  Heyes reminded me of my cat the day I came home to find every ornament on the Christmas tree on the floor.  The ‘boy, I’m sure innocent’ look.  He did that really well.   “Why darlin’ we’d really enjoy helpin’ you with a bank.  Just how much of a withdrawal did you have in mind?”

I giggled.  The house shook.  I headed for the doorway.  The outlaws floated behind me.

“Hey, we’re sorry.  He didn’t mean it like that.  We went straight.  We’re just trying to rescue the lady.  OK, cut it out.”  Kid was shouting to my ceiling.    “Heyes, tell ‘em you’re sorry.  You know where they said we almost went.  I don’t like heat.  Come on Heyes, tell ‘em you didn’t mean it.”  He did not look happy.

“No, boys….”  I started to explain.

“OK, I was just kidding.  Don’tcha got a sense of humor.  OK, I’m sorry.”  Heyes didn’t look sorry.  Just annoyed.

“No, really.  It isn’t them.  Hey, who exactly is ‘them’?  Are there really like angels who watch over you to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to?  Wow, that’s cool.  What do they look like?  Do they have wings and are they really beautiful?”  It just occurred to me that I could get answers to questions that plagued civilization for eons.  More than the pink shirt and why they never had any money.  The very answers to life itself.  I could do infomercials.  I could make zillions.  Then I could retire and tell my current boss off.  Oooh, this was good.

The shaking stopped.  They removed their hats and stared at me.  “We can’t talk about that.”  They said almost in unison and very solemnly.  “If we did, what just happened will happen again.  Bigger.”

“And we’d go somewhere really hot.”  Kid was fanning himself with his hat for emphasis. 

“No, what happened was an earthquake.  Get them all the time.  Hardly even notice anymore.  Well not unless it’s the big one and then it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Hey, stop distracting me.  So you can tell me.  I’ll keep it a secret.  Did you see an angel?” 

They looked at each other.  Guilty little boys about to do something they knew they shouldn’t but were going to anyway.  Was there a woman alive who wasn’t in total lust with these two.  Hah, and they were mine.  All mine.  And I wasn’t planning on sharing. 

I led them back to the waterbed.  Oh my what a wonderful ring that phrase had.  This time I sat first.  They leapt.  Everything jiggled.  Don’t ask me how.  I mean they weren’t there.  “Hey, how come the bed jiggles like you’re really on it when you’re not and I can’t like throw my arms around you and really feel you?  That’s not fair.  Are you two holding out on me?”  No, I hadn’t forgotten my original question, but this was just begging to be answered. 

“I don’t know.”  Kid replied dead seriously.

“It’s a mystery.”  Heyes did the same.

Both looked like they were going to explode with laughter.    Men.  It didn’t matter whether they were real or fictional.  They never did get older than six.  I stayed between them on the bed.  Well why not.  And tell me you’d have made a puritan choice of a straight-backed chair across the room. 

“OK, that was an earthquake.  That’s all.  No them.  Not a single solitary them.  So now answer me about an angel.  Who was the first one you saw when you got to…. Hey, where did you get to?  Was it Heaven or some stopping place?”  That infomercial was going to be something great.

“You really want to know?”  Heyes kind of floated to his side so he was facing me. 

“You sure?”  Kid floated on top of me.  OK, I know how that sounds.  But he was at least three feet on top of me and floating.  And not really there.  And I hadn’t had anything to drink or smoke.  And why am I trying to explain this?  You really had to be there. 

“Yes, I’m sure.”  The only thing I wasn’t sure of was where to look first.  Blond?  Brunette?  Eyes of Azure or Chocolate?  Decisions, decision. 

“OK, then.  Here goes.  After it was all over and we’d been laid to rest...”  Heyes started. 

I interrupted.  “Oh, I didn’t think.  That was really stupid.  I’m so sorry.  I mean you’d have to, well, you had to, I mean, well how did you actually…”  I couldn’t say the word.  “Wait.  You two weren’t real.  So you didn’t have to actually, uh, expire.”   I couldn’t look at Kid, floating up there.  I knew he was doing that on purpose.  I was learning an awful lot about these two. 

“I wish you wouldn’t keep saying we weren’t real.  Don’t we look real?”  Heyes looked like he’d just been told that the Easter bunny didn’t really deliver chocolate eggs. 

“That’s not what I meant.  You both know that.  You were very real.  You’re still very real.  Can you stop doing that?  I directed that last bit to Kid who was floating up and down and side to side.  He was making me seasick.  Well he was making me other things, but that’s another story entirely. 

“Sorry.”  He floated down and landed behind me. 

I turned just for a moment to locate him.  When I turned back,  Will the two of you stop fooling around?”  Heyes was now on top.  I had to stop thinking thoughts like that.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep in that bed ever again. 

“Sorry.”  He floated down gracefully and sat cross-legged through my feet.  And don’t even go there.

“OK, where did you wind up, whenever you wound up there.”?  I no longer cared.  I wanted an answer.  I didn’t need all the details. 

“Devil’s Hole.”  Heyes answered.  He looked me straight in the eye when he said that.  I could detect no humor. And believe me I looked.  I checked Kid.  Nothing there.

“You’re telling me that Devil’s Hole is the stopping place on the way to Heaven?”  OK, I could buy that I was sitting on my waterbed talking to the spirits of two fictional outlaws.  But Devil’s Hole?  Come on.  How stupid did they think I was?  And I was not going to press them for an answer to that.

“Uh, huh.”  Still nothing.  No laughter.  No giggling.  No nothing.

I sighed.  “All right.  Suppose for a moment I buy that.”  I drew my legs up out of Heyes.  I was going to need therapy really soon.  “Who was the angel?  And don’t even think of telling me….”

“Lom Trevors.”  Kid said. 

Well of course.  Who was it going to be Harry Briscoe?  No, I figured I knew where he had landed.  Hope he had sun tan oil. 

“That’s it.  I’m done with you both.”  This time I rolled of the bed through Kid.  And no, therapy was not going to help.  I knew that for a fact.  I walked as well as I could out of the bedroom.  I heard laughter but I was not going to dignify it with a smart comeback.  Even if I had one.

I retrieved my purse and the letter from the bank that had started this whole thing, left the house, slamming the door.  Well that would teach them.  I returned to my car.  Looking longingly at the back seat.  No, I was not going to encourage them any further. I got in and slammed that door too.  I started the car and this time I did take out the rose bushes.  You ever have a day that starts quiet and boring and very quickly becomes part of the Twilight Zone? 

I drove down the street.  Alone.  Well fine.  Don’t help me.  I can do the bank myself.  Just because I wanted to say I’d been to a bank with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  Did I need them?  Hah.  I only said that a dozen times.  I had just about convinced myself of it when I thought of them floating around.  ‘Out damn thought.’  I shouted.  Scaring the kid on the skateboard in the crosswalk where I had stopped.  Great.  I’m paraphrasing Shakespeare. 

 

I managed to get to the bank without running anyone or anything over.  I had turned the CD player up and was blasting Motley Crue.  Well if that didn’t chase two gorgeous outlaws out of my head, nothing would.  It didn’t.  What it did was give me a headache.  I looked up.  “Lom, if you’re up there, do something.”  The security guard in the parking lot was looking at me strangely.  I mumbled something about medication and went to the door.  

I waited patiently for the green light to allow me to enter the holding pen.  When it was my turn I stepped in and waited for the second green light to allow me to actually enter the bank.  Why did I always feel like I was being scanned for contraband when I was waiting?  Maybe because I was. 

“Hi, did ya miss us?”  Kid’s voice was a happy whisper. 

I jumped and kind of yelped.  And whirled around.  I was sort of blended with the two of them.  Valium injected directly into my vein would not have stopped what was going through my brain at this moment.  The security guard was watching me from outside and talking into his radio.  I tried really hard to calm down, but the second door chose that moment to open and I practically fell into the bank. It was a terrific entrance.  I certainly had everyone’s attention.  Whether I wanted it or not.  I glared at the two.  No, no.  Not this time.  Those cherubic faces weren’t going to get me.  I was going to remain mad.  It was my turn.  I ignored them. It was safer. 

“Can I help you ma’am?”  The second security guard was being overly polite. 

He had his hand on his gun.  Obviously he’d been talking to the first security guard.  People certainly frightened easily.  Anyway, I wasn’t scared.  I had Kid Curry behind me.  Maybe I should tell him that.  No, you can’t help me you rent a cop.  I’ve got the fastest gun in the west three paces and a foot off the ground behind me.  I knew I was getting irritable.  I needed food.  I needed gentleness.  I needed the bank to apologize profusely for making a mistake and swear it wouldn’t affect my credit rating.  I didn’t need a security guard with a strong case of the paranoids.

“I need to speak to the manager.”  I was calm, but firm.  I still wasn’t looking behind me. 

“The manager is busy.  Can I help you?”  He was persistent.  Outgunned, but persistent. 

“Is he botherin’ you, honey?”  Heyes whispered in my right ear.

“Want me to flatten him for you darlin’?”  Kid whispered in my left ear. 

“I can handle this.  Don’t do anything.”  I muttered back to them.  The guard took a step back.  He unclasped the catch from his gun.  Great.  I was going to be killed while trying to explain a six-figure overdraft to my bank while I was talking to two outlaws who weren’t even there.  I’d like to see what my tombstone read.  Did they still do tombstones?  I wanted one.  Actually that sounded pretty cool.  Stop it.  I really was losing touch with reality.  I just knew it. 

“Sorry.  It’s been a terrible day.”  I tried my best helpless female voice.  “I just came back from medical leave.  Yes, perhaps you could help me.”   Weak, perhaps ill female voice.  It was working.  I could tell he was unclenching his teeth. 

“Medical leave?”  Yea, I know.  He was thinking psycho ward.

“Female things.”  I averted my eyes.  God, I could do helpless.  I’d seen Steel Magnolias. 

“Oh.  I’m sorry, ma’am.  The manager is at lunch.”  Well that’s were I wanted to be.  A big one.  With a double Cadillac Margarita.  “Can the assistant manager help?” 

“Oh thank you.  That would be wonderful.”  He was my hero.  Sometimes men were so easy.  Oh, not the two beside me.  No, annoying, maybe.  Irritating.  Oh yea.  Incredibly gorgeous.  Big yea.  Easy?  No way. 

 

He led me to a waiting area.  He got me some water.  He gave me a cookie.  I think he might have adopted me.  I wasn’t looking for a father right at that moment.  I was looking for two outlaws who had vanished.  Literally.  They were whispering to each other.  I saw the grins.  Then I saw nothing.  Oh, Lord.  Or oh Lom.  I didn’t care.  Whoever is on duty, can you please make them not do anything?  Please. 

I sat there trying really hard to watch for anything that looked out of the ordinary.  In fact, I was the only think in that bank that looked out of the ordinary.  The guard was watching me watch everything and reconsidering adoption.  He was talking to a weasel faced man.  They were both looking at me as though I had alien stamped on my forehead.  Well now that you mention it, it did sort of feel like an X-File. 

The weasel-faced man introduced himself as Harry Burbank.  I started laughing.  I could have sworn he said Briscoe.  Nah, not a chance.  “Can I help you?”  Even his voice was weasely.

“I, uh, got this notice in the mail.”  I handed it to him.

“Oh my.  Yes, that’s terrible.  You do have the money to deposit to cover this?”  He was holding the notice as though it was covered with Ebola germs.

“Uh, no.  I mean I don’t have the money to cover it.  I mean, it’s a mistake.”  Great.  Not only a weasel, but a snotty one. 

“Of course it is.  A serious mistake.  I mean, you shouldn’t be writing checks for this enormous sum of money if you don’t have it.  How do you intend to pay this back?”  He was being really irritating.

“No, you don’t understand, I didn’t write a check for anything.  You’ve made a mistake.”  I was going to remain calm.  Where the hell were those two?

“I’m sorry Miss.  The bank never makes a mistake.  Now if you don’t have the money to cover this, I shall have to report you to the proper authorities.  The likelihood is that you’ll be prosecuted for theft.  The bank always prosecutes thieves.  We’ve been around for over a hundred years and we always put thieves away.” 

He was puffed up like one of those funny lizards that scurry around and puff out to impress another lizard.  Problem was I wasn’t a lizard. 

“Look, Mr. Briscoe, uh, Burbank.  I didn’t write a check that overdrew my account for $315,462.32.”  Why did I have a feeling that a hundred years ago some other Burbank had been just as irritable with my two really annoying outlaws. 

“$315,426.32.”  He just had to do that.  

I took a very deep breath.  “Whatever.  I didn’t do it.  Your bank made a mistake.  Just take a look at whatever it was that you posted to my account and you’ll see that some person probably input a wrong number.  Then you’ll say you’re sorry and I’ll leave and we’ll all be happy.”  And I’ll close my account in the morning and hope you get fired in the afternoon or at least reassigned to Alaska.  I stood up.

“Guard.  Please hold this woman while I call the authorities.”  He was backing up.  The guard drew his gun.  I found my outlaws. 

All hell broke loose.  Boy was that ever a true statement.  The sprinklers went off.  The doors blew open.  Cash flew in all directions.  People screamed like it was free gas day at the Union 76 station.  They scattered in all directions, scooping up bills.  Mr. Weasel ran shrieking into the melee.  The guard waived his gun and shouted for calm.  Oh yea like that was going to help.  The alarm started ringing.  I wished I had a video camera.  Talk about Real Life Dumb Scenes. 

“Are you all right, darlin’?”  Kid was back at my side. 

“Think we should be leavin’ now.”  Heyes was in front of me.

I knew at that moment I would never love anyone quite as much or in the same totally devoted, unabashedly lustful, follow them anywhere anytime way as I did these two outlaws.  I wanted to throw my arms around them so badly.  I asked.  “Please just one hug.  I really need it.  And I need it now.  Please.”  I returned to whining.  Well it worked the first time. 

“Now darlin’?”  Heyes looked around at the chaos.

“Yes, please.”  I reached out both arms.  “I’m closing my eyes.  I’d better have one or both or you in them by the time I count to three.  One.  Two.  Th….  Mmmmm.”  It was Heyes.   I knew I could have been sent to walk through the Mojave in August without water now.  It didn’t matter.  I had found Nirvana.  God, he could kiss. 

“Can we leave now?”  He asked. 

“Huh?”  I was having trouble focusing. 

“Leave.  Think it might be time.”  Leave it to Kid to be the calm voice of reason. 

“Uh, don’t think so.”  I pointed outside where a dozen or so police cars had arrived. 

“That the posse, honey?”  I really liked it when Kid called me honey.  Or darlin’.  Something about the way he said it.  Made me feel warm.  But then again, I’d been having hot flashes since I found them. 

“Uh, huh.”  Posse.  What a cutie.  They vanished.  “Hey, you guys don’t have anything to worry about.  Remember?”  They reappeared. 

“Oh yea.”  Kid looked a bit embarrassed. 

“Habit.”  So did Heyes.

They came running in.  Lots of them.   I sat down with an outlaw on each side of me.  Suddenly I was enjoying this. 

A very handsome man in a uniform stood before me.  “Miss, are you all right.”

I looked up into the bluest eyes and the darkest shiniest hair I’d ever seen.  Except of course for the ones that belonged to the fellas I was sitting between.  Thank you God.  I had three of them. 

“Yes, I’m about as good as humanly possible to be.  But I could use some help with that weasel faced man who thinks I stole a lot of money, but I didn’t.” 

“Well maybe I can help get this all straightened out.” 

“Yes, please.”  I said.  He smiled.  I smiled.  Life was good. 

“Yes please?”  Heyes was staring at me.  Abandonment etched on that handsome face.

“What about us?”  Kid looked hurt.  “I thought you were gonna keep us.”  He did lost puppy really, really good. 

“Aw, come on guys.  Give me a break.”  I couldn’t fight adorable and guilt.  “You know I’ll always love you.  But I mean really.  He’s…”  I couldn’t say real.  “…here.”  I kind of muttered.

“We’re here.”  Heyes looked at me.  Yes they were.  I certainly did remember just how here they were.  I remembered a lot.  I was having trouble breathing I was remembering so good. 

“And I didn’t even get a second turn.”  I turned to Kid.  Well, never let it be said that I was unfair.   He could have had as many turns as he wanted. 

I have no idea why but I suddenly had the most delicious thought of the priest that had tormented me as a kid.  ‘Father Hackett is lust ok if it’s directed at two outlaws who didn’t really exist, but came back anyway?  Yea, that would’a done him in all right.   Hmmm, wonder where he wound up.’  I giggled.   

I surfaced to find Kid’s blue eyes still locked at my glazed ones.  Maybe the coin toss idea really did have merit. 

“Uh, ma’am.”   A very nice voice said.

“Absolutely Kid.  Your turn.”  I said.

“Beg pardon, ma’am.”  I turned to find my Officer Gorgeous staring at me.  His eyes reflected concern.  No, not why do I get all the nut cases, but the kind that said he’d make me chicken soup when I was sick.  Man, I just had to figure out what I did to get two outlaws and a cop.  Cause I was going to go back and do it again.  And again.  I wonder how he’d feel about living with the three of us.  What, you thought I was going to give my outlaws back?  Not without a fight.  I may be nuts, but I’m not crazy.

“Nothing officer.  I’m fine.  Did you need me for something?”  Anything, please, anytime.  I chose not to look at my outlaws.  I could sense they were shaking their heads in annoyance and disappointment that I would stoop to such lack of subtlety.  That’s ok.  I’d apologize later.  And try to explain.  And I was going to take notes because that explanation should be a real gem.

“Just checking to make sure you were all right.  Mr. Burbank’s real upset.   But we’re going to get him calmed down and re-glue his toupee and if you’ll just wait a few more minutes maybe we can get this all cleared up.”  

“Why I’ll be happy to wait.”  For days, I thought.  “I’d certainly like to get this cleared up.  It’s terribly upsetting.”  But I’d let you hold my hand and make me feel all-better.  Yes I would.  I smiled. 

He smiled back and walked away.  I turned to face my accusers.  Who weren’t there.  Boy, that was getting annoying. 

“OK, where are you.”  I whispered.  “Come on fellas.  I’m sorry.  I mean, I’m on a roll.  You know I’ll never love anyone like you two.”  There they were.  It was nice to know that in over a hundred years of evolution, men’s egos remained the same. 

“And you’re still plannin’ on keepin’ us?”  Kid looked hopeful. 

“Can I?  I mean, will Lom let me?”  They grinned.  I had them.  “You lied to me.”  They tried to look innocent.  “Forget it.  I’m not buying that any more.  Devil’s Hole, indeed.” See I could do guilt too.  They were squirming.  Now that was a lovely sight. 

“It was all her fault officer.  She stole the money and when I told her she had to pay it back or go to jail, she set off the sprinkler and the money started blowing around and, and…I demand you arrest her!”  Weasel face was back.  With Officer Gorgeous.  His face was red.  His eyes were red.  His toupee was crooked.  I tilted my head trying to make it straight.  I stopped myself from laughing.  He turned redder.  “Arrest her.  I absolutely demand you take her away.”  His voice was rising.  My outlaws were laughing.  They were not going to make anything easy.  I went back to helpless. 

“I just came in to find out what had happened.  The bank must have posted something wrong.  They said I was $315,4…” 

“26.32” Heyes said with a definite smirk. 

He looked adorable smirking.  I was beginning to like them again.  “…26.32.  And this man…”  I pointed at weasel.  Hoping my voice had cracked sufficiently to convey fear and confusion.  “… accused me of stealing and threatened to have me arrested.  Well I was really scared.”  I heard choking behind me.  “And, then well I don’t know what happened.”

“Where’s her accomplice?”  Weasel was looking behind me.  I looked too.  I mean I don’t know what he was seeing.  But I wouldn’t ever turn down an opportunity to gaze at those two.  My two angels.  Literally.  I could almost see halos.  OK, I said almost.  “The man.  The man in black.  The one with the black cowboy hat and wearing a six gun.” 

Now I choked.  I looked at Heyes.  He frowned and started waving at weasel.  Kid was waving too.  I thought I might join them.  No, don’t do that.  They shrugged.  Weasel was looking at the empty sofa.  Well, it was full of outlaw, but oh, never mind.  Hmmm, maybe the lucky and the crazy got to see them.  We’d both qualify.  Some in more than one area.  OK, it didn’t explain why he couldn’t see them now.  Maybe Lom was playing tricks.  I made a mental note to ask them if that was possible. 

“’Scuse me, sir.  You’re saying that this young lady…”  I could be in love.  Young lady.  Either would have been nice.  Both, well, I was really going to learn to support my local law enforcement.  One cop at a time.  I’d start right here.  “…was in the company of a man in black…”  I looked at Gorgeous.  Channeling my thoughts.  Man in black, oh sure, I’d seen that movie too.  Although, it did deal with aliens and … no, I was normal.  Just living with two ghosts. “…who was wearing a black cowboy hat and a six gun.  Is that right?”  Weasel nodded vehemently.  “What were they doing?”

“He was kissing her.”  He leered at me.  I couldn’t help myself.  I shuddered.  The boys smiled broadly.  Heyes blushed, just a little.  Right, like he was suddenly embarrassed. 

“Ma’am were you kissing a man here in the lobby?”  Gorgeous was clearly telling me he had to ask this. 

I put on my very best oh boy, he’s really crazy face.  “Officer, I can honestly tell you that my lips touched no living person.”  Boy, I was good.  So that was an easy question.  I was still able to say it with a straight face.  My outlaws had drifted to my side.  I was surrounded by gorgeous.  Everywhere I looked. 

“Thank you ma’am.  That’s what I thought.”  He looked at weasel.  Yippee, he believed me.  Well at least I had real hair.   “Can you just write down your name, address and phone number?  And could I see a Driver’s License.  Just to verify your identification.”  He wanted my name and address.  I was picturing the honeymoon.  Or at least a hot weekend. 

He handed me a notebook and turned back to Weasel who was shouting.  “You’re letting her go.  She’s an embezzler.  A thief.   She’ll leave the state.  With my money.”  He was bouncing up and down.

 It reminded me of the waterbed.  Except of course, the waterbed was infinitely more attractive.  I looked at the two outlaws standing on either side of me.  I sighed.  Yes.  I was keeping them.  I’d waited long enough.  I was due for a good thing.  Maybe a couple of good things.  I decided to forgive them too.  For Lom and Devil’s Hole.  That really was cute.  They were cute.  Oh, boy were they cute. 

I smiled at Heyes.  I smiled at Kid.  I was rewarded with return smiles that made me forget Gorgeous.  They knew that.  They smiled bigger.  I was thinking materialization.  I had to learn how I could make that happen. 

“See, she’s doing it again.  She’s talking to someone else.”  He was pointing at Heyes who made a very funny face at him.  Boy, did I want to throw my arms around him and that funny face. 

“Calm down, Sir.  There’s no one else here.  Is there?  I mean do you see anyone else?  No.  That’s good.  And we have this young lady’s address and I’m sure she’s not leaving town anytime soon.  Are you ma’am?”  He turned back to me and reached out.  It took me a second to figure out he wanted his note pad back.  I giggled.  My outlaws looked disgusted with my display.  Then they started pointing.  And smiling.  And laughing. 

“Ma’am?”  Gorgeous was still reaching.

“What?”  They were really laughing now.  Maybe I’d forgiven them too soon.  “Oh yes, I mean no.  I’m not going anywhere.  I just got back.”  What were they laughing at?  I followed their eyes.  There it was.  Right there.  A ring.  Of the marrying kind.  Betrayed.  And my outlaws were standing there.  Laughing.  My life was over.  I glared at them.  “From vacation.  It was horrible.  Full of really unfunny people.”  So there.  They vanished.  Well good.  Who needed them anyway?  Well I did.  But they’d been mean.  “Can I go home now?”  Can I go anywhere now?  From three to zero in a second.  All I was left with was Weasel.  No, I think not.  Not even in complete desperation.

“Of course, ma’am.”  Suddenly he didn’t looks so gorgeous.  No, that’s not right, he was still gorgeous.  But married.  I have limits.  I mean ghosts were ok.  Oh, what difference did it make?  I guessed I’d been rescued and everyone was gone.  I was left alone.  Miserable.  Maybe if I confessed to robbing the bank, they’d have to come back to rescue me from a life behind bars for a crime I didn’t commit.  Ya think?  Sounded promising.  Nah, with my luck I’d wind up in a cell with the ghost of Clementine.  Never could figure out what the boys saw there.  I slumped.

“Are you all right ma’am?” 

No, I’m not all right.  I lost my ghosts and you’re married.  Life sucks. 

“I’m fine.  Bye.”  I walked out of the bank through the puddles and damp bills on the floor.  To the sounds of Weasel yelling something about lawsuits and law enforcement and men in black.  The car.  They’d be in the car.  Sure, that was it.  They wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.  And Kid deserved his second turn.  I ran to the car.  I knew they all were watching.  So?  Did I care?  Not hardly.  I looked in the car.  “Heyes?  Kid?  Fellas?”  Nothing.  “Please.”  Bigger nothing.  I got in.  And sighed.  Well it was good while it lasted.  And I did get more than most others would ever have.  I mean I got to kiss them.  They flipped that coin for me.  OK, well if it were over…wait a minute, here.  Over nothing.  I found them once.  I’d find them again.  Devil’s Hole here I come.  I gunned the engine and sprinted home.  I figured I was safe.  I knew where all the cops were. 

I got home.  Damn.  Mrs. Dooley.  I got out and inched to the door, keys in hand.  “Hi Mrs. Dooley.  I’m in kind of a hurry right now.”  I was planning on blowing this pop stand and making tracks for the hills.  The hills where my outlaws played. 

“Someone ran over your roses dear.”   No really?  I usually like them flattened on my driveway. 

“Yes, what a shame.  I really have to go, Mrs. Dooley.”  I had the key in the lock.  She moved to the porch.

“Are you all right, dear?”  She shuffled closer.  I had the door open.  She twisted to get a look inside.  I out maneuvered her.  Well I did have at least 40 years on her. 

“Yes, Mrs. Dooley.  I’m fine.  Really.  Just in a hurry.  A big hurry.” 

“Well dear, you shouldn’t hurry so much.  Life’s too short.”  She turned to leave. 

I looked inside.  I looked back at her.  “Mrs. Dooley?”  I ran and gave her a hug.  “I may be leaving for a while.  Maybe you could make sure the roses are ok?” 

She smiled.  “Of course dear.”

OK, I wimped out.  But she was an old lady.  And I was going to get my two outlaws back.  Why not do a little nice here and there? 

“Bye, Mrs. Dooley.”  I went inside.  Hannibal?  Jed?”  Anyone?”  All quiet.  Damn.  No matter.  I was going to find them.  I went to the bedroom.  Maybe they were there.  I mean that’s where I’d have put them.  I practically ran down the hall.  All quiet on the waterbed.  Double damn.  OK, it was back to Devil’s Hole.  There could be worse things or places to be.   Boy, I was glad I hadn’t unpacked.  I could be on a plane in hours.  

I was throwing some stuff in the make up bag when it floated into the room.  Followed by another and another.  The first one, red.  Then yellow.  Then white.  Then pink.  I got lost watching the roses dance around me.  Lots and lots of roses.  Wait, roses don’t do that on their own.  They were back.  My outlaws.  Hannibal!!!  Jed!!!  Where are you?  Come on.  Show yourselves.  Please.  Come on.  Whatever I said, I’m sorry.”  There they were.  I ran to them, directly into the wall.  OK, I deserved that.  “Please materialize.  Please, please, please.”  They were laughing.  Then they were real.  I was surrounded by outlaw.  I was in Heaven.  And it wasn’t Devil’s Hole.  It was my house.  I got hugs.  I got kisses.  I got dizzy. 

“I thought I’d lost you both.  How did you do the rose thing?  And where did you get them.  Never mind, I don’t want to know. That was so cool.  Can you keep them moving like that?  What am I talking about?  I’m so glad you’re back.”  I was babbling.  I didn’t care.  My outlaws were home.  And I do mean home.  This time I wasn’t going to screw up.  I was keeping them.  Yes I was.  If that meant celibacy, so be it.  And if they could really materialize and I had the kisses to prove they could well maybe that wasn’t going to be an issue. 

“Well darlin’.  We weren’t sure you needed us any more.  Having that other fella around and all.”  Kid was very earnest.  I really liked him as earnest.  I liked his as Kid.  I liked him as Thaddeus.  I would have liked him with no name at all. 

“Could you say that just one more time?  The ‘darlin’ thing.”  And stay earnest please. 

“Think I could have my second turn now darlin’?”  OK, I liked him funny and sweet too.  I nodded.  Heck, I bounced.  He laughed.  I liked that laugh a whole lot.  He wrapped his arms around me.  Time stopped.  Movement stopped.  My heart stopped.  Wow.  “Ya know.  If we practiced that enough, we could get it patented.  Can’t be many who can do that.”  I rested my head against his chest.  Yep, I was going to visit that occult bookstore in the morning.  No way they were going to vanish this time. 

“You two having a good time?”  Heyes had been quiet for long time.  I don’t think he was used to it.  “My turn.”  Well I wasn’t going to argue with him.  I figured we could just keep doing this.  Eventually we’d stop.  Oh yea.  I’d say in a year or two.  Heyes then Kid then Heyes.  I was dizzy again. 

How could you choose? They were night and day.  Innocence and danger.  Sunshine and moonlight.  Oh Lord I was in a lot of trouble here. 

Heyes cupped my face in his hands.  And very slowly kissed me.  Oh boy.  Oh boy, oh boy.  I must have been breathing.  I have no recollection of anything but that face.  Moving slower and closer.  Those eyes obliterating anything else in the universe.  I’m sure he stopped.  I couldn’t feel his lips any more.  I couldn’t feel anything anymore.   I didn’t care. 

How did we exist before or after these two?  Magic was so rare and they just had it.  I know it sounded awful.  I wanted both of them.  I wanted the magic.  I wanted the special.  That was it.  I wasn’t giving them back.  Lom could do whatever he wanted.   They were mine.  Material or not.  I no longer cared.  As long as they were around.  That would be enough.

I felt Kid next to me.  I didn’t have the guts to open my eyes.  We all just stood there.  Arms around each other.  Talk about special.  It could have all been over at that moment.  It would have been ok with me. 

****************************

It was a week later.  We were stretched out on my waterbed.   The boys couldn’t get used to how it bounced.  OK, don’t get the wrong idea.  Every now and again, they slept with me.  Slept being the key word.  They didn’t believe you could sleep on water.  I felt strangely safe.   Odd considering how I really felt about them.  And that whenever I woke up during the night I found one of them next to me.  I was never sure when I was dreaming or awake when that happened.  I really liked this fantasy, I refused to analyze it. 

Officer Gorgeous stopped by.  His ring glinting in the sun.  How could I ever have thought he was that cute.  Maybe because he was.  Forget it, he’s married.  Mr. Weasel had been committed.  Checked himself in, babbling about men in black with six guns.  Sad case.  I nodded, frowning in sympathy.  The bank wasn’t pressing any charges. They found the problem.  The computer.  And Mr. we’ve been here for 100 years and always prosecuted thieves, Weasel.  Brother.  You couldn’t trust anyone these day.  Yes, very sad.  Yes, I was glad it was over.  I was polite.  Only a little chilly.  But polite.  And I had actually closed the door before I started laughing. 

They never told me who had found the sprinkler controls.  I had my suspicions.  I told them they could have anything they wanted for that little one.  They wanted the Western Channel.  Well that seemed safe.    I gave them the Home Shopping Channel as a bonus.  I mean what could they buy?  I got a really nice reward.  They certainly did understand about rewards. 

We were watching videos.   We watched Ghost.  I liked that one.  They did too.  We watched Beetlejuice.  We danced with Winona Ryder.  Now that was cool.  They moved well for hundred-year-old ghosts.  We watched Blair Witch.  Nah.  Not the right feel.  We didn’t watch ASJ.   Didn’t seem right.  I mean I had them.  Why watch videos? 

We were watching The Bishop’s Wife.   I love Holiday movies.  

OK, it was a silly, mushy movie.  Did I care?  No.  It was about angels. And I had two. Right there. Next to me.  I liked being on the bed.  In the middle.  Watching them bounce.  And watching them smile.  Watching them play with the remote control.  And watching them laugh.  I liked teasing them about saddlebags and outlaws and banks and women and Kyle and Wheat. Especially Kyle and Wheat.

I told them about all the ladies who loved them.  Who dreamed about them whether they had been born or not when the two of them showed up in our lives.  I told them just how real they were.    Their magic.  Their chemistry.  Their partnership.   I told them how much we loved them.  OK, I was getting pretty mushy.  I mean, I had opened the bottle of merlot.  They weren’t drinking.   I was.  I woke up between them.  I know.  Boy do I know.  But there you go.  I got lucky.  Oh yes did I get lucky.

Well at least until the popcorn was ready.  Well at least Kid wasn’t drawing on the microwave anymore. 

OK I started it.  Well not really.  But that’s what they always said.  I mean I always cried at the part in the movie when the boy’s choir sang.  It was so beautiful.  Then Kid materialized.  And threw popcorn at me.   And I laughed.  And I cried.  Well, like I said, I always cried during that scene so you can’t hold that against me.  And I threw popcorn at him.  Heyes sided with his partner.  “Oh, fine – so it’s me against the two of you.  Well I’ve had practice.”  And I got him good with the raisons. 

Heyes fired back with the milk duds.  It was going to take forever to find all the food.  I hadn’t had a food fight in years.  And never in bed.  And never with two outlaws. 

****************************

        “What happens now?  I mean, do I really get to keep you?  Do I have to write a letter or promise to be kind to small children or anything like that?  Or, well or what?  I gotta know this stuff.  I don’t want to come home one day and find you’re gone cause I didn’t do something I was supposed to.  And will you two please stop throwing popcorn at me and help me pick this stuff up.”  They stopped throwing popcorn.  It was nice when they obeyed.  They started with the milk duds.  I sighed.  I’d never had kids, but I was beginning to understand what it must be like.  Except of course these two, well they gave new meaning to the word playpen. 

        They loved teasing the visitors.  Of course my utilities would probably be turned off thanks to their playful levitation of the man who came to read the meters.  It was amazing to see a man that size move that quickly. 

        I did have to scold them when them dumped the pool cleaning man into the pool.   And their explanation that gentlemen didn’t look at ladies like that was pretty poor.  I mean I saw their expressions when the female postal carrier left my mail.  And I explained that to them.  They said it was different.  Yep, a thousand years of evolution wouldn’t change some things. 

        We were getting into a comfortable routine.  Although how this could be considered routine still amazed me.  I’d go to work and they’d stay out of trouble.  Oh sure.  I hoped they would find enough to keep busy with the television and the books I’d collected over the years. 

I had to restrict television access when I came home to find a complete collection of Chia pets on my doorstep.  They explained they’d really enjoyed the Home Shopping Channel.  And did I know what kind of stuff the TV sold? 

Well at least I wouldn’t have to worry about Christmas shopping.  And I was sure all my friends really wanted those stupid things.  Especially the one with the man who grew green plant hair.  I also had to learn not to leave credit cards lying around.  Boy, these two learned quickly. 

It was pretty funny to watch them, though.  Every time I turned around, they were discovering something else to have fun with.  And we eventually got all the ice cream off the ceiling.  Well that was sort of my fault.  I guess I should have explained about putting the top on the blender. 

A dog appeared at the door one day and decided she liked them.  They decided we were keeping her.  I said it was true.  Animals could see spirits.  They said it looked that way.  I said could we call her Clem.  They did not look amused.  I explained it was an affectionate thought.  They did not look like they believed me.  The dog looked irritated.  I was wondering if she’d actually met Clem.  Then figured nah, with luck old Clementine was with Harry in the hot place.  They said that wasn’t a nice thought.  I froze.

“Hey, can you two read my thoughts.”  Oh God.  Please not that.  I’d never be able to face them. 

“Why honey, would that bother you?  A lady like yourself.”  I hated it when Heyes was annoying.  He did it so well. 

“Are you reading my thoughts right now, darlin’?”  I glared at him. 

He laughed.  Guess he was. 

“Anyway, can you?”  No I really needed an answer to this one. 

“No, but maybe that comes later.  We’re still learning this stuff.”  Kid always came to my rescue.  I kept picturing him on a white steed.  OK, I had an active fantasy life. 

“Well if you get a choice of what to learn next, promise me you won’t take that class.”  Not that a promise really actually meant anything here.  But it was a start. 

“What exactly are you thinkin’ about us, darlin’?”  Heyes remained persistent.  I kept thinking of ways to outsmart him.  I was usually unsuccessful. 

“Oh, about you in that bathtub with that silly grin on your face.  And about how if there’d been any females writing you’d have had a lot more time with at least your shirt off!”  He turned red.  OK, so every so often I could get a good one in. 

It had been raining.  And raining.  And raining.  Well at least it felt more like the season.  We had a fire in the fireplace.  Clem found her spot on the hearth.  Yes, I stuck with Clem.  And I won one.  And we decorated.  Boy was it was a lot easier to hang the ornaments way high up on the tree when they just sent them there.  And moving them around was easier too.  I could just stand back and direct.  We let Kid put the angel on top.  He had the funniest expression on his face.  Well not funny, but, you know.  Wistful.  He really looked like a little boy.  I looked at Heyes.  He had the same expression.  I was glad they were here. 

“What can I get you two for Christmas?”  I mean, what do you get two ghosts for presents.   We were back on the waterbed.  Yes I know how that sounds.  But I liked it there.  Oh go ahead, tell me you’d be sitting at the dining room table.  Even Clem was there.  She sat at our feet.  I think she was a little confused when she sat on mine and through theirs.  She gave up too.

They discovered if they bounced at different times, they could make me really seasick.  They said they only did it when I was being obnoxious.  I think they did it when I asked questions they didn’t want to answer.  And there were a lot of those.  And yes, I did buy a really big bottle of Dramamine.  Well they were obnoxious too and I couldn’t make them seasick.  What the heck was I supposed to do? 

I convinced them that they should just stay material at least when we were watching videos or reading.  Mama didn’t raise no fool here. They said they’d try.  I told them to try real hard.  Seemed to work.  It was much better than pretending with the pillow.  

“We don’t need presents, darlin’.”  Kid smiled at me.   I curled up next him.  Why did I feel so safe with him?  I mean he was an incredibly gorgeous man.  And we were on a waterbed.  There was just something so wonderfully nice about him. 

“We got to stay here.  That’s enough.”  I’d never heard Heyes sound so serious.  And there wasn’t any mischief in those eyes.  Somehow, I felt safe with both of them.  Why couldn’t I find a man in real life who could do that for me?  

“What do you want?”  Kid floated over next to Heyes, so that they were both looking at me.  Gee that was a nice picture. 

“Guys, I’m looking at my presents.  I can’t imagine wanting to unwrap anything that could be better than you too.”  They looked at me.  “That’s not what I meant.  I mean the unwrapping part.”  They kept looking.  Smiles growing broader as my face kept exploring new shades of red.  “I mean, I wouldn’t need to unwrap anything other than you two.”  Oh, yes that cleared it all up.  They were really smiling now.  You could just tell what they were thinking.  Yes, that’s right pure and innocent thoughts of Christmas.  “What I mean is that…”  I stopped.  “Why does this keep happening?  I make a completely innocent comment and you two, well you two look like you look and everything gets all muddled.  I mean all I said was unwrapping you two would be the best present I could get.”  They started laughing.  And bouncing.  I popped a Dramamine.  “Oh, I give up.” 

“Anyway, I have more videos.”  I found changing the subject usually worked.  At least for me.  Their expressions usually reminded me that I still had feet sticking out of my mouth. 

“More ghost ones?”  Heyes stopped bouncing.  Thank you God. 

“Uh, huh.  I like ghost stories.”  I went to the VCR and popped in the tape.

“That’s good.  Maybe you’ll write your own one day.”  Kid stopped too.  Relief was mine. 

“Yea I can just see it.  My life with Heyes and Curry.  A Ghost Story.  Hey, that’s not too bad.  Think anyone would buy it?”  I crawled back to the middle.  Believe it or not, I was getting used to moving through them.  OK, no I wasn’t.  But I had to try.  Every time I accidentally turned around in the kitchen and walked through Kid or sat down and found myself blended with Heyes, it cause me to re-think many parts of my life.  Not to mention that I was unable to think clearly about anything for a long time after. 

We watched It’s A Wonderful Life. 

“Ya mean that if we hear bells, we’ll get our wings and go wherever it is we’re supposed to go?”  Kid and Heyes had watched the movie really closely.  Almost like an instruction manual. 

“Sweetie, I don’t know.”  It was harder to tease Kid.  He always seemed too earnest.  Well not always.   But more than Heyes.  It was really easy to tease him.  He seemed to bring it out in me.  “I’m thinking you’re right where you’re supposed to be.”  And I’d already heard bells.  Bells, whistles, fireworks.  The whole enchilada. 

“Yea, but what happens if we hear bells and then we have to leave to go wherever it is we’re supposed to be?”  There were times when I’d really have preferred Heyes to not be so analytical. This was one of them. 

“Look, if Lom shows up and tries to make you go away, he’ll have to deal with me.  And you know how calm and rational I am where you two are concerned.”  We’d agreed that I could keep calling the mysterious ‘them’ that the boys refused to clarify for me Lom.  Well I had to call them something, and it was sort of comforting to think Lom was still looking after the two of them.  Now if Lom actually showed up, well I’d deal with that if or when it happened.  And yes, I was willing to put up a fight. 

“Want to watch another video?”  I had one in mind.  I’d been saving it. 

“Can we make popcorn?”  Kid asked just a bit too innocently. 

“Give me a break.  It took days to get all the food up the last time we did that.”  And yes I knew it was useless.  Heyes was floating in front of me.  Kid behind.  Then they sort of circled me.  Boy that was strange.  Heyes and Curry – round and round and round.  Dizzy wasn’t even close.  Although I had to admit I’d been dizzy since they arrived.   Why did I even bother trying?  They always won.  “OK, OK.  Popcorn.  But I get the bowl.  And no more milk duds.” 

“But I like milk duds.”  Heyes could do innocent little boy better than anyone I’d ever met.  And you believed him.  Just until you met those eyes.  And then of course milk duds were only one of the things he could have had.  “They’re chewy.” 

OK, I had absolutely no comeback.  I mean I had a comeback, but I just couldn’t.  Well I could have.  But I just couldn’t.  I retreated.  They followed me.  “Stop following me.”  Boy, I was just getting cleverer and cleverer.  But they stopped.  “Good.”  Eventually I had to win one.  The law of averages pretty much said that.  OK, it had been months and I hadn’t.  But I was willing to keep at it.  I looked around.  I hated it when they disappeared.  You never knew where the heck they’d show up. 

“Ah.  There you are.”  I stood at the kitchen door watching milk duds floating in the air in front of me.  I caught one.  They certainly were chewy.  And chocolate.  And caramel.  And I was never going to explain to them what that meant.  If they could read minds, they knew.  If not, then…well a girl’s got to have some secrets doesn’t she?  I figured that one of these days I’d make chocolate and caramel fondues and figure out how to make my own milk duds.  And if you don’t think that was a dream that kept coming back, sometimes even when I was wide-awake, you’re crazy. 

“Milk duds?”  Heyes voice was behind me.  I turned.  No Hannibal. 

“Please.”  Kid’s voice was now behind me.  I turned.  No Kid.

“Cute, fellas.  Really cute.”  It was so entirely weird to be talking to a space filled only with two voices.  I shook my head.  It never helped clear anything up.  I grabbed another milk dud as the little chocolate spots made their way down the hall to the bedroom.  “OK, you win.”   As usual, I muttered.  “Show yourselves.”  Why did I even ask?  I followed the milk duds.  They stopped about halfway down the hall.  I ducked to avoid them. 

Yep.  There they were.  I sighed.  Nope.  No way, now or ever.  I doubt that any female could look at them and stay even slightly irritated.  I rolled through Heyes.  I wish I could say I was getting used to that.  But to be honest, every time I found myself doing that, with either of them, I melted.  And they knew it.   I knew they knew it.  Cause they did that thing, ya know, the Heyes would smile at Kid or vice versa thing and we all knew what everyone was thinking.

“OK, we all know you’re both irresistible and that I have no chance to outwit you.   So who’s got the popcorn?”  I looked at Heyes who shrugged.  I looked at Kid who shrugged.  Which of course was when I got pelted with popcorn from both sides.  I screamed.  If they had been material at that moment…well I don’t know what I would have done.  But it would have been good.  Real good.  I owed them.  “Just for that, I think I’m not going to show you this movie.  So there.”  I rolled off the bed through Kid.  Well, I liked to keep things even.  I stomped away.  I almost made it to the door before my feet left the ground. 

“Put me down.  Heyes.  Kid.”  I glared at them.  And yes the bed was swishing.  I floated over the bed.  This was a new one.  “OK, cut it out.”   I used my most authoritative voice. 

“Whatever you want, honey.” Kid laughed.

“Sure, darlin’.  Ya know we’d never do anything you didn’t want.” Heyes was laughing too.

Splat.  Well it wasn’t exactly a splat.  It was more like a splash.  They dropped me back between them.  The bed was at high tide. 

“Can we watch the movie now?”  Heyes materialized. 

“Yea, if we promise not to throw any more popcorn.”  Kid did too.

I watched them change from transparent to flesh and blood.  Well, close enough anyway.  I poked Kid.  I poked Heyes.  He laughed.  Ticklish.  Hmmm, I’d have to remember that one.  I stretched up and grabbed some milk duds.  “Candy, fellas?”  I handed one to each of them.  Uh, huh, candy making at home.  I’m sorry to say I probably leered.  Well no I’m not sorry to say it.  OK, I leered.  You would have done the same.  They were tossing the candy back and forth between them. 

The milk duds moved up in line.  Now that was convenient.  Chocolate and caramel that delivered itself to you.  I choked.  They looked at me.  I turned really red.  They looked at each other.  I pushed the button on the VCR.  No, I wasn’t going to go there.  At least not yet. 

The theme music started.  We watched Topper.  Lots of Topper.  The TV show and the original movies.  They laughed at all the trouble George and Marion got Topper in.  I began to wonder if it was such a good idea.  Some of the tricks George and Marion played on poor Topper.  I had a feeling I’d be experiencing some of those tricks fairly soon.  Ah well, at least life wasn’t dull.  And my ghosts were decidedly cuter than the others. 

They liked Topper.  They wanted to watch it all again.  I told them I had to get some work done around the house.  They looked at me.  I made more popcorn.  I kept the bowl.  The milk duds were replaced with baby carrots.  Hey, give me a break.  I was running out of things small enough to float down the hall. 

We were going to have to visit the grocery store again.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I was running out of grocery stores to go to, I mean they were only having fun.  And Kid just couldn’t stand seeing those lobsters in that little tank.  And that woman didn’t have to start screaming; I mean the lobster just nipped her ankle.  I suppose when Heyes tipped over the tank and flooded out the deli section, the manager was within his rights to start yelling.  But he was only trying to help.  I mean the lobsters needed to stay wet. 

And try as I would I couldn’t help but laugh.  I mean it was the bank all over again.  Everywhere we went.  They just needed to try out things and somehow it never quite worked out the way we all planned.

I decided not to try to explain anymore.  It only made me look nuts.  I practiced a ‘Gee, I don’t know’ expression with the boys until they thought it was right.  And those sessions were a whole ‘nother story.  I didn’t think I’d ever stop laughing. 

We had a lot of time to talk about why we all thought they were still around.  They kept saying that their guide, I know, he’ll always be Lom to me, said they could stay until I didn’t need rescuing anymore.  I figured that if I played my cards right I could make that extend until I was at least eighty.  I could turn into a regular disaster, needing rescuing all the time.  Why between the bank and the grocery alone, that was worth at least a dozen new rescues.  And I hadn’t even taken them to the mall yet.  Or to my office.  Boy I was looking forward to that one.   And before you knew it, it would be vacation again and you all know how unsafe it is for a single woman to travel alone.  Yep, I figured I’d be needing a lot of rescuing.  At least that’s what I told Lom.  No, I hadn’t seen him.  But I talked to him just the same.  I mean, what could it hurt?

But then it came and we figured this was the big one.  This had to be the reason they were here.  I was really scared.  I mean if they rescued me from this one, would they have to leave?  I put it off as long as I could.  But I had to schedule the meeting.  There wasn’t a choice. 

“Darlin’ tell me again what this Internal Revenue Service is”.  Heyes was re-reading the dreaded letter.

“It’s an agency that takes a piece of everything you earn or will earn or hope to earn.”  I sounded mad.  Well why not. 

“Sounds like what we did. ‘Fore we went straight, of course.”  Kid was reading the letter over Heyes’ shoulder. 

“Yea, legal robbery.  And not one of them is even close to looking like you two.”  Well I didn’t know that for a fact, but given everything, it did seem unlikely. 

That don’t seem right.”  That was Kid.  Always the knight out to set things right.  “Does it Heyes?”

There was something in his voice that made me look into those blue eyes.  Of course every time I looked into those blue eyes, I tended to forget why I was looking.  Boy, they were blue.  And they were always smiling.  Well so was I when…see what happens.  Rational thought to blue eyes to mush brain.  I was jerked back to reality by Heyes voice.  And such a lovely reality it was too.

“No, Kid.  Sure don’t seem right.  Darlin’ tell me again what this word ‘audit’ means.”  He had the most serious expression on his face.  And the most adorable frown.  I was thinking up other things I could show him to make him frown.  Cable bill, video purchases – well they were making me frown. 

“Hmmm?  What?  Sorry got lost there for a second.”  I was always getting lost.  It was getting found that I kept putting off.  Well if tomorrow was good enough for Scarlet, it was sure as heck good enough for me.

 “An audit is where you have to defend your life.”  They looked at me.  No they didn’t believe me.  “Well sort of.  You have to tell the IRS everything you earn and they tell you how much you have to pay them to keep it.  And every so often they get grumpy and make you go in and prove that you haven’t hidden anything from them.”  Well that was close enough anyway. 

“And if you can’t prove that you haven’t hidden anything?”  Kid came and sat next to me.  That was always so nice. 

“Of if you have and they find out?”  That was my Heyes.  Always thinking.  He sat on the other side.  I really liked bookends.  Something every girl really should have – a matched set of outlaw bookends.  I sure had mine and trust me, you’d never find these artifacts on E-Bay. 

“Well the answer is sort of the same for both.”  I looked at Kid.  “If you can’t prove that you haven’t hidden anything or…”  I looked at Heyes, “if you have and they find out, they make you pay more.  And if you can’t they can be really mean.”  I discovered that helpless worked.  If I didn’t over do it.  Or over use it. 

“You weren’t thinkin’ of going in there alone, were you darlin’?  Kid put an arm around my shoulders.  Gee, that was nice.  He really did like to rescue people.  I suspected he liked rescuing women more – nicer rewards, but it was just in him.  Simple math.  Someone in trouble plus Kid Curry equals a rescue. 

“Doesn’t sound real safe.  Maybe Kid’n me otta go along.  Just to make sure you don’t get hurt.”  Heyes voice was really soft.  That voice gave me goose bumps on my goose bumps. 

“No, really.  If you make them mad, they just look harder.  It’ll be ok.”  I stopped.  Heyes had a really funny look in his eyes.  Well he always had some look in those eyes, but this one was really funny.  “Oh my God, I’m watching it happen!”  I kept looking.  The look kept growing.  “Is it like this all the time?”  I asked Kid. 

“Yep, all the time.”  He kinda drawled the words.  Guess he was used to it.  How could you get used to it?

“This is so cool.  I mean, to watch.  When do you know it’s done?”  I kept talking to Kid, but hadn’t stopped looking at Heyes. 

“Oh, I expect you’ll know.”  I knew he was grinning.  I loved that grin.  But I couldn’t stop watching Heyes.  I had to see it happen.  I mean how many chances do you get. 

“Oh God there it is.  Isn’t it?  It’s done.  Right?  Come on guys.  You’ve got it.  Hannibal, tell me.  Please.  I’ll even buy more milk duds.  I’ll let you guys play with the lobsters.  Please.” 

Heyes’ smile covered his entire face.  From forehead to chin.  Those gorgeous eyes were sparkling.  The dimples were…well boy were they.  The mouth, ok, maybe we shouldn’t go there.  “You’ve come up with a plan, right.  A Hannibal Heyes Plan.  Right?  Right?”  I was pounding his chest.  Purely in an attempt to make him answer me, ok?  And yes they were material again.  “I got to watch a real Hannibal Heyes plan get born.  Right here.  That is so cool.  Damn, I should have recorded it.  I could have watched it again.”  Over and over and over and over.  For the dimples alone.  Oh boy! 

“Think so.”  Was all Heyes said.  But boy, those eyes said about twenty zillion plots and schemes. 

“And I get to be part of it right?  Right?”  OK, I was excited.  And you’d have been calm, cool and collected.  Yea, sure.  “What are you going to do to them?  Destroy their computers?  Change the figures so they owe everybody something?  Hey we could become legends.  We could rob from the IRS and give to everybody.  This is so cool.  What do I get to do?  Should I get a gun or something?”  Yes, I was babbling.  But I got to be part of a Hannibal Heyes plan.  This fantasy/reality blend was really intoxicating.  Who needed alcohol or drugs?  A couple of outlaws and I was buzzed all the time. 

They just looked at each other.  Then they looked at me.  Do you have any idea what it feels like to be sitting between two of the most gorgeous men God put on earth and have them look at you like you’re a small child they should be kind to right before they lock you in a closet so they can go off and have adventures and not have to deal with you. 

“No, honey, I don’t think you should get a gun.”  Kid was being very kind.  Well he was always kind.  And sweet.  And really, annoyingly brotherly right now. 

“I think I have something in mind that won’t require guns anyway, darlin’.”  It was worse when both were being brotherly. 

I hated when they got brotherly.  These guys were not brother material.

 

“And I can play too, right?”  They smiled at me.  “OK, stop that.  I don’t want you guys to be big brothers.  I want to be part of the plan.  I can do it.  Tell me what it is.  And I’ll do it.  OK?”  See, I could be perfectly rational.  And adult.  And mature.  And I was going to convince them to let me be part of the plan.  Yes, I was. 

So Heyes told me.  And I giggled.  And Kid laughed.  And Heyes smiled.  That, yes, thank you I am brilliant smile.  The one you wanted to do things to.  But in reality he was right.  Boy, he was good.  He was really good.  I mean at planning stuff.  OK, probably at other things too, well yes of course at other things.  But he was really good at planning devious ways to make the IRS miserable.  And I got to play.  It was a small part.  Well, actually, I just got to watch, something about them not being able to visit or rescue me if I got sent to jail.  But at least I got to know what they were going to do.  And all of a sudden I couldn’t wait for my big date with the IRS.  That had to be a first.  Eagerness for an IRS audit.  I almost felt sorry for the IRS.  I said almost.  I mean, they didn’t even know what they were in for. 

So we went.  The three of us.  Do you know the feeling of bliss walking into IRS central with all those black suits knowing that chaos was just a step away.  Actually four steps.  Walking on either side of me.  I was giggling as I told the receptionist I was ready for my appointment.  She looked at me as though she was measuring me for a prison issued jump suit.  Little did she know. 

And ya know, it wasn’t too bad.  OK, so the FBI took my name and address.  And there were certainly a lot of cameras; slow news day, I guess.  And I understand that they ultimately found every bit of information and those two IRS agents.  Well they didn’t have to use that kind of language.  Kid just hated it when anyone was rude.  And Heyes, of course, well his reaction was always don’t get mad, get even. They sure worked well together.  Well I expect they worked well separately too.  But together, wow!  Devil’s Hole hits the IRS.  It was a riot.  No, really, it was a riot.

 We were laughing so hard as the nice policemen escorted me from the building and to my car.  Even nicer was the fact that as I drove home, they were still there.  We were all a little worried about that.  But it looked like Lom was feeling generous.  I told them to make sure he knew how grateful I was. 

They grinned at me.  Those grins that clearly said, Lom, uh, huh.  Boy is she gullible.  That was ok.  I was getting better at getting even myself.  I had a couple of new ideas that I just couldn’t wait to try out on them. 

I was working out chapter titles on the way home.  Yes, I had started writing a novel.  Well, my life with these guys was just starting.  I just knew they’d be around for a long time.  Kind of like Captain Gregg in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Ya know, I hadn’t realized there were so many ghost movies out there, until I had two of my own. 

 

 

Anyway, I had a feeling there’d be an awful lot of adventures to remember and I had a really bad memory.  And then I did remember the sailor’s story Mrs. Muir wrote that was really Captain Gregg’s story.  And how that gave her enough money to live on.  Well I had two really cool outlaws.  They must have had enough adventures to make a fairly decent novel.  And if I really did get to keep them, well a lifetime was just about what I figured I’d need to get them to answer all those stupid questions.  I was thinking retirement with these two could be really nice.  Uh, huh.  Really nice.  I looked at them.  They smiled.  And I’d have plenty of time to figure out if they really could read minds. 

        I guess the bottom line was really simple.  In the immortal words of Cosmo Topper, “Great God What's next?”  I walked over and sat between my outlaws.  I looked at Heyes.  I looked at Kid.  They were laughing with their eyes again.  They weren’t telling me the joke.  I started laughing too. I didn’t know what was next.  But I figured between the three of us, we’d be able to come up with something.