The Treasure

Terri Sutro

“Well, will you look at that?"  Kid Curry bent over and picked something up from the dusty ground.  “Hey, Heyes, look at what I got.”  He quickened his pace to catch up with his cousin who showed no signs of stopping.  “Heyes, will ya slow up. I want to show ya this.”

“Kid, unless it’s a beer or a brunette, I don’t want to see it.  Or maybe a horse.  Or maybe a soft bed.”  Heyes’ voice was weary.  He just kept walking, ignoring his cousin’s request.

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

They had been minding their business.  Having a quiet beer in a quiet saloon in a quiet town in Arizona.  The Sheriff’s name didn’t mean anything to either man.  He didn’t even look twice at the dusty men sitting at the corner table in that saloon.  It was pure luck that Kid happened to get up to get another beer.  And even better luck that he noticed the man talking to the Sheriff.  The man whose wallet was considerably lighter after last night’s poker game. The man who kept looking at them in that funny way they had grown to know and hate.   The man who was now very excited and pushing the Sheriff towards the Saloon.  Both men had learned the hard way that when luck presented itself, you didn’t turn it away.  They found the back door and their horses and headed west.  Just in time.

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

The posse chasing them had finally given up.  A few days late for their horses.   One lost to a bullet.  The other to exhaustion of two riders.  They were walking.  They had been walking for three days.  Being at least thankful that it was April not July.  Full heat didn’t arrive till mid day.   They put one foot in front of the other and forced themselves to move.  They kept thinking this desert had to stop.  That a town had to be around somewhere.  Unfortunately,  somewhere hadn’t shown itself yet.  So they kept walking. 

 

 

Drinking sparingly of the little water they had.  Finding small bits of luck in water holes that kept them going forward.  Eating what they could catch or pick.  Not bein’ real fussy as to what that might be.  Kid had to agree with his cousin that he hadn’t been exactly overjoyed with whatever it was Heyes had cooked last night.  Sleeping on hard, cold ground, which if you listened to Heyes was getting harder and colder every minute they were on it. 

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

Heyes was trying real hard to ignore Kid.  Real hard.  He wasn’t having much success.  But he was trying.

“Yea, but Heyes, I think our luck is gonna change.  Will you stop walkin’ so durn fast.  It’s hot enough, without working up anymore of a sweat.”

Kid finally caught up with his partner, passed him, turned, faced him and stopped.  Heyes had no choice but to stop or walk right over him.  Kid was grinning.

Heyes stared resignedly at his cousin and partner.  His only living family.  He didn’t think it was too mean spirited to wish at this moment that his cousin was a horse.  He just sighed.   A very put upon sigh.  “All right, Kid.  I know it’s not that beer or that brunette, and I know you just had to stop me from getting to whatever town I sure hope is over that next hill, so just what treasure did you find in this God forsaken wilderness.”  He swept his arm around the bleak scene. 

Kid’s smile faded.  “Well, if that’s the way you’re gonna be, I’m not gonna show you.  Ya know, Heyes, sometimes you can be the most disagreeable person known to man or beast.  And maybe I’m just gonna keep this luck to myself.  Yep, maybe that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.  So you just keep bein' as miserable as you want.”  He turned and strode off. 

 

 

 

 

Heyes watched him walk away.  He looked up at the heavens.  ‘Why does this always happen?’  An answer was not forthcoming.  He stared at his cousin’s back and shook his head.  “Kid, all right Kid, I’m sorry.  I’m just hot and dirty and tired.  Come on, Kid, don’t make me run.  My blisters have blisters and I think I’ve got about half of this desert in my boots.  Please Kid, give me a break will ya.”  He limped as quickly as he could to catch up with the other man, his voice a hoarse plea. 

 It appeared that he didn’t see the way the ground kind of sunk, being so intent on catching up with Kid, cause the next thing he knew he was sprawled out face down in the dirt and his cousin was standing over him, laughing.  A big laugh.  A laugh that said serves you right for being so ornery. 

Heyes pushed his black hat back on his dark hair, propped himself up on both elbows and scowled at Kid.  “I expect you’re happy now.”  Kid just kept laughing.   “Are you gonna help me up or should I just stay here.”

“See you’re still miserable.”  Kid turned and started walking away again.

Heyes dropped back onto the dirt.  He finally gave up.  “Ok, Ok, Kid.  I’m sorry.  I want to see what you found.  Really.  Ok?  Kid I don’t have the inclination to argue much more.” 

Kid walked back to him, grinning again.  “Well, you’re gonna feel better when ya see it Heyes.  Here let’s get you up.”  He grabbed Heyes’ arm and pulled him to his feet.  “There, that better?”  He was dusting Heyes off.  “Here, look.  Can you believe it?  Out here.  Why there isn’t any green for miles and miles and there it was, just lying there.”  The heat was momentarily forgotten.  The lack of food or enough water was pushed aside for a moment.  He held out his hand, it was balled up into a fist.  The expression on his face was that of a small boy who just won the prize agate in the marble contest. 

“Well then, let’s see it.”  Heyes was getting exasperated again.

Text Box:  Kid slowly opened his fist to show Heyes his treasure.  It was a four-leaf clover.  The smile on his face was enough to dazzle a small town.

 

Heyes just looked at the small green spot lying in the middle of Kid’s dusty hand.  He looked at the smile that lit up his cousin’s face.  He started laughing.  He laughed until he had to sit back down on that hard ground.  He was laughing so hard, tears welled up in his eyes.  “Kid you’re amazing.  We been runnin' for weeks.  Almost got shot dozens of times.  Lost our horses. Had no comforts for days.  And you, you ... a four leaf clover, Kid you’re just amazing.”  He dissolved into laughter again.

Kid Curry was an imposing man when he was smiling.  Tall, blond, broad shoulders, muscular, few men would go up against him.  Few women wouldn’t.  Right now he wasn’t smiling.  That was worse.  When those blue eyes got mad they turned ice cold stormy.  Men who saw those eyes usually found a different place to be.  Women, well women usually didn’t see those eyes.  Kid would never hurt a woman.  He liked them way too much. 

The blue eyes he was wearing now would have given an ordinary man the shakes.  Unfortunately, Heyes was too busy laughing to notice the storm clouds.   “Ya know Heyes, my ma told me that if I ever found one of these, I’d find good luck; that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  And I don’t take kindly to your finding this so dad gummed amusin’.  Sometimes I just don’t know you at all.”  He shook his head, and walked away. 

Heyes once again looked up at his cousin’s back as it walked away from him.  Realizing that maybe he had gone too far, he ran to catch up.  He caught Kid’s arm to stop him.  When he faced his cousin, he didn’t see anger.  He saw sadness and memories.  Memories of days when their mothers had told them stories of their families in Ireland and England and how they came to the United States to start a new life.  Stories of the little people and the magic they possessed. 

“Aw, Kid I’m sorry.  I’m just tired and sore.  You’re right.  Maybe this will bring us luck.  Finding that pot of gold sure would come in handy right now.  Hey, will you look over there.  A town.”  He shielded his eyes from the sun and pointed at something that looked like buildings in the distance.   “Looks like that shamrock has already brought us some luck.  Come on Kid, I’ll buy you a steak.”  He was walking backwards talking while Kid kept walking forward, ignoring Heyes entirely.  Not watching where he was going he found another hole and wound up on his backside. 

“Damn and blast, I hate this desert.”  Heyes tossed his saddlebags off to the side and crossed his legs in front of him.

“That should teach you not to make fun of the four leaf clover, Heyes.”  The storm passed.  Kid’s eyes were showing summer again.  He smiled as he offered Heyes a hand.  “Let’s go find that steak.”

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

“Think this place is real Heyes?”  They were at what appeared to be the main street through town.  Stopping, they looked around.  A few horses, a wagon in front of what looked like the hotel, but few signs of human habitation.  “Don’t look real busy.  Where d’ya think everyone is?  Think there’s a saloon?  Maybe it’s one of them mi-rages.”

“Nah, we both wouldn’t be seeing the same thing.  Anyway, this sounds real.”  He knocked on the building they were standing beside.  “I’d imagine if they’re smart,  maybe the folks that live here are inside outta this heat, which is where we should be.  Come on, Kid.  I want a drink.  I want a lot of drinks.  Hell, if that horse trough wasn’t empty I’d be in it.  He grinned at the other man. 

“No argument with that Heyes.  I’d most likely beat you to the trough.” 

The two men moved as quickly as their tender feel would allow to the relative cool of the saloon.  Croaking out  a request, they sank into the hard chairs at a corner table.  A pretty girl in a tight, short red dress brought two pitchers of beer, maneuvering so that they had a clear view of her attributes as her poured.  Neither man was looking at anything but the golden liquid as it foamed into the mugs. 

They simultaneously reached out and she smiled at the prospect of choosing one of two very handsome men.  Unfortunately, neither man was reaching for her.  They finished the  first beer and poured a second , downed it and set down their mugs.  Sighing happily. 

“Kid, I think life may just be worthwhile after all.”  Heyes rested his head on his folded arms on the table and closed his eyes. 

“Yea Heyes, I think you just may be right.”  Kid was leaning back, eyes blinking back sleep.                                                                       

Heyes looked up and over at Kid.  He knew how tired and sore he was.  He had no reason to believe Kid was doing any better.  He sat up.  “Come on Kid.   Hotel’s ‘cross the street.  Let’s get us a room and a bath and a bed.  If we feel like it we can look for that steak later.”  He smiled at his cousin who just nodded. 

A tumbleweed sped past them as they walked down the main street.  Entering the hotel, they found a sour faced clerk. 

“Yea, what’d'ya want? 

“And good afternoon to you sir.  My friend and I would like a room, a double, if you have it with a bath, two baths.  And directions as to where a couple of hungry men can get the best steak in town.”  Heyes gave the man his very best smile.

“Room, bath and steak, huh?  Well if that don’t beat all.  Sure fells, just like you’re right there in San Fran –cis – c0.”  He drew out the last word, picked up a newspaper and turned his back on them.  ‘Steak, next thing they’ll be wantin’ clean glasses.’

Heyes looked at Kid and found an irritable expression looking back at him.  He shrugged and tried again.

“Uh sir.  We’ve been walking in that desert for three days, and whatever you’ve got that resembles a room and a bath, then that’ll be just fine with us.  And I’m sure the town has a fine restaurant.”  There was just a note of desperation in his voice. 

The clerk scowled at them and slapped his newspaper down on the counter.  “That’s real funny.  Yep, you’re a real funny fella.  Rooms we got, plenty.  Nobody’s passed through here for months.  I suppose we could figure out how to get enough hot water for two baths.  Steaks?  Well, if you can pretend real good, you can probably pretend a plate of beans looks like a steak.”  Seeing the disappointment on their faces, he smiled.  “No matter to me.  Ya, want the room or not?” 

“Don’t suppose there’d be another hotel in town?”   Seeing the clerk’s face, Kid frowned.  “Nah, I didn’t suppose there was.  Sure sounds like we don’t have much choice.” 

“Well, ya want it or not.”  The clerk reached for the newspaper.

“Yea, yea we’ll take it.  Can’t be as bad as sleeping on that hard ground.”  Heyes took the key the clerk offered.  He had to admit he didn’t understand why the clerk seemed to find that so funny.   But he just smiled back at him.  He figured he’d find out the answer to that pretty soon.

“Come on Kid, it’ll be fine.”  Heyes was doing his best to convince both of them.  They climbed the creaky stairs to the second floor and arrived at Room 205.  “I mean, after all, a room’s a room.  Can’t be that bad.  You’ll feel better after a bath and some rest.  So will I.  Then we see what kind of trouble we can avoid in town.”  He smiled.  Kid did not respond.  “It’ll be all right Kid.    That clerk can’t possibly know everything’s that’s going on.  Barely looked like he knew what was goin’ on here.  We’re gonna find that steak and a couple more beers.  Who knows, maybe even a poker game.”  He looked hopefully at Kid.  “But right now we’re gonna find a bath and a couple of beds.”

Kid looked skeptical.  “Uh, huh.  Sure Heyes.  Here it is.”  They looked at the room number hanging by one nail on the splintered door.

A bit of smile faded from Heyes face.  He opened the door and stepped in.  Just in.  The smile faded entirely.   “Uh Kid, ya know, on second thought, maybe a different room would be a better idea.  Never liked the number 205.  Bad luck, can’t have that, not with that shamrock of yours.”  He backed out of the room and right into his partner.

“Heyes, what’re you talking about.  A minute ago you said a room’s a room. It’s better than the cold ground isn’t it.”  He pushed past Heyes and stopped.  He surveyed the room.  “Ya know Heyes, I’m thinking the ground isn’t so bad after all.”  His voice was humorless.

 

 

 

The room was a square of no more that fifteen feet in any direction.  The extent of cobwebs told them that some enterprising spider had been in residence here for some time.  The dust that had been kicked up by their entrance indicated that the room had possibly been cleaned at some time – it would have been hard to determine when with any certainty.  There were two beds – sunken in the middle from too much of something neither man wanted to know about.  Something small with a long tail ran by Kid’s boots.  He did not seem surprised.  He did look at Heyes with an expression that spoke volumes.  It said hard ground and your coffee is looking pretty darn good.

Heyes nodded as though he heard Kid’s thoughts.  “Yea, Kid.  Exactly what I was thinkin’.   We’ll just go right on down there and see if they have a better room.  And if they don’t we’ll just look for a different hotel.  Must be another one.  And if not, well who needs a stuffy hotel room anyway?  Sleeping out under the stars.  All that fresh air.  And we got some jerky left.”  He didn’t sound like he was convincing anyone, including himself. 

They retreated down the hall.  “Don’t say it Heyes.  I know what you’re thinking.  Just don’t say it.”  Kid’s voice held a certainty that Heyes was just waiting to make some remark for the sole purpose of irritating him. 

“I’m not thinking anything, Kid.  ‘Cept maybe I’m glad not to share a room with that little furry fella back there.  Let’s just get outta here.”  He stopped.  “Oh, you mean the shamrock.” 

Kid tensed up and closed his eyes, waiting for whatever Heyes was gonna say.  He relaxed a bit as Heyes continued. 

“Nah, Kid, I got nothing to say.  Maybe we’ve gotta finish out some bad luck before the good luck can start.  All I really want is a bath and a bed.”  He smiled.  Few could resist Heyes when he was smiling.  Kid wasn’t in the mood to try. 

He smiled back.  “Sure Heyes, me too.” 

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

 

 

The screams startled them both.  “Oh, please sir.  I’m a good girl.  I just came to deliver me vegetables.  Please let go of me arm, you’re hurtin’ me.”

Running down the hallway, they broke into the room where the screams came from.  She was lying on the bed; the man was kneeling over her, his intent clear.  She was crying and trying to push him away. 

“ ‘Scuse us.  The lady doesn’t seem to be enjoying your company.  Perhaps you should get off her and find a more willing companion.”  Heyes always tried reason first. 

Kid, on the other hand, never let reason stand in the way of rescuing a damsel in distress.   He grabbed the man and flung him to the floor. 

“I paid for her, she’s mine.  Get your own girl.”  He was very drunk.  And very foolish in getting up.  He lurched towards Kid. 

“Kid…” Heyes started, took one look at is cousin’s face, shrugged and leaned against the doorjamb.

Kid’s first and only punch sent the man reeling.  He stayed down this time. 

“Ma’am, are you all right.”  He took his hat off and sat on the bed next to the girl. 

“Oh sir, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank you.  That man, he just dragged me up here.  Said he’d paid for me.  Oh, sir, I’m a good girl.  I don’t know how he coulda gotten such an idea.  Oh sir, if you hadn’t stopped him…”  Her eyes grew wide and filled with tears.  She threw her arms around his neck, and started crying.   

 “Don’t cry, you’re safe now.  He won’t hurt you any more.”  He looked helplessly at Heyes.   For his part, Heyes had seen this coming.  Having seen it dozens of times in the past.  He just pursed his lips and nodded.  ‘Yea, Kid so far that shamrock sure has brought us good luck all right’ he thought.  ‘Glad ya only found one of them things or we’d just be rolling in more luck than we could stand.’ 

He did take a close look at the girl, still clinging to Kid.  Well she was beautiful.  Young no more than twenty, pale porcelain skin, red hair curling past her shoulders and from what he could see, very green eyes.  Irish from the sound of her voice.  What would someone like this be doing in a town as dead as this one?  In the middle of the desert.

Heyes thought it seemed like a good time to rescue his cousin.  He had to admit Kid didn’t look like he either wanted or needed rescuin’.  But Heyes was sure Kid would thank him for this later.  He moved from his post at the door towards the bed.  “Uh, ma’am?  Do you live around here, with your family, I mean.  My friend and I would be happy to make sure you get home safely.” 

She looked up at him through tearful eyes and rewarded him with a beautiful smile.  “That’s so kind of you, sir.  Sure, you’ve saved me life from that horrible man.  It would be shameful to ask you for just one more thing.”  She looked back to Kid, her arms still around his neck and a hopeful look in her eyes.

“Why ma’am, you just tell us how we can help.  We’ll be glad to do whatever we can.”  Heyes’ charm was legendary and he was using every bit of it here.

She turned back to him.  “Well, sir, I live just a wee bit south of town, in a lovely little valley.  With me uncle and sister.  Well, ordinarily I wouldn’t be so trusting, but ya both bein’ such fine gentlemen and all.  If you could just make sure the hotel manager, evil man that he is, always giving me looks, like, well you know the kind.”  She re-focused on Kid.   Well, if you can make sure he’ll be letting me leave the hotel without any more trouble, if that isn’t too much to be askin’ of ya both?”

 “Course, we’ll make sure you get anywhere you want.  A real sad thing when a young lady like yourself has to be afraid to be walking around alone.”  Kid’s glare at Heyes was pretty clear.  Forget it Heyes, I found her first.

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

“You’re both so kind, how shall I ever repay you?”  She was walking down the stairs between them her arms through theirs.  “Surely, you’ll not be stayin’ in this place?” 

“Well we were going to, but to be honest, the ground looks like it might be cleaner.” Heyes smiled at her.  “There wouldn’t be any place in town to stay, would there?”

She smiled back.  “That’s true enough.  Tis a terrible place.  Hardly fit for walkin’ through much less sleepin’ in.  Now there’s a boarding house just down the way a and it’s passable clean”  She paused.  “Wait, I know the very solution.  You’ll both stay with me and me family.  We’ve plenty of room and me uncle would welcome the company of a couple of fine young men such as yourselves.  Poor fella, all he’s got to keep himself company is me sister and me.”

She stopped as they reached the front door of the hotel.  No one had tried to prevent their leaving, as a matter of fact, there wasn’t a soul in the lobby.  The men looked around, curious as to why even the clerk wasn’t around.

“Ah, probably drinking himself into sleep.   She disengaged her arms from theirs and turned to them “If I do say so myself, my sister and I are good cooks.  And we keep the house as clean as the finest hotel.  Aah, please gentlemen, me uncle will want to be thanking you personally for saving me virtue.  You’ll be saying yes, won’t you?”  She looked from one to the other. 

“Well, ma’am we wouldn’t want to be putting you and your family out.”  Kid was always polite where a lady was concerned.

“Oh, but sir, you’d be doing me a great favor by letting my family repay your kindness.  You’ll just be coming along with me.  My wagon’s just outside, just over there.”  She pointed to a sturdy wagon, two sturdy work horses hitched to it, tethered to the hitching rail outside the hotel.  “It’s just a short ride to the valley.”  She stopped again.  “Heavens, where are my manners.  We haven’t even been introduced.  My name’s Briana O’Rourke and I’m pleased to be making your acquaintance.”  She gave them a small curtsy.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss O’Rourke.  I’m Thaddeus Jones and my friend’s name is Joshua Smith.” 

“Jones, you say.”  She looked at him quizzically.  At his nod, she continued.  “Not the name to match those eyes.  There’s some of the old country in those eyes.  Where are your people from, Mr. Jones?”

Kid looked surprised.  “Why from Ulster, ma’am.  Londonderry.  My family came here to escape the famine and to start a new life.”  There was a trace of sadness in his voice.

She stopped and looked directly into his eyes.  “Aah, a common tale.  Indeed, as did mine own.  My own Dadai was murdered by the heathens.  My Mathair, may she rest in peace, died on the ship not three days from this glorious new land.  So it’s down to my Uncle Seamus and me sister.  Runnin’ from the troubles to a new land.  Still, they’re at peace now.”  She directed her attention to Heyes.  “And you, Mr. Smith, sure there’s the devil in your eyes, do ya have the old sod in your bones, as well?”

Heyes gave her his most brilliant smile.  “No, ma’am, my family’s English.”

For a moment, she looked sad for him.  “Aw, well, ‘tis a pity.   But you needn’t be worried, Mr. Smith, we won’t be holding any grudges against you yourself just for the sake of your family.  We’re in a new land.  And we’ve vowed that the troubles won’t be following us.”  She smiled at him kindly, as one would smile on a child who had to shoulder a great burden not of his own making.

She brightened again.  “Ah, there’ me wagon.  And me home’s not more that a wee bit away.  Why thank you Mr. Jones.”  Kid helped her into the wagon. 

Kid smiled broadly as he joined her on the seat leaving Heyes the back.  Heyes just frowned. ‘Fine, Kid.  But when you get into trouble, and we know you will, you can just get yourself out of it.’

Tara

 It was indeed a short ride to the Valley the girl described.   “It’s just around that next bend, boys.” She said smiling happily and pointing.

“Can’t believe you’re excited about living in a place that’s so dry and parched.  Why just this morning, I think I found the only green…”  Kid stopped talking suddenly.  Sure enough, there it was.  Kid drew up the reins and stopped the horse on the ridge.  He gave a low whistle.  “Well will you look at that?”

Text Box:  There before him was a beautiful valley.  The hills were covered in green.  Flowers bloomed in wild bunches everywhere they looked.   Thatched roofed houses sat in clusters and shops lined what looked like the main street of the town the entrance to which was where the wagon was stopped. 

“Ma’am, I don’t believe I’m seein’ this right.  Is that real?”  Even Heyes, noted for his agile mine was struck dumb at the sight of the quaint almost perfect town sitting in the middle of a desolate area of desert in Arizona.

“It is lovely, isn’t it?  It’s called Tara.  A little spot of Eire in this desert.”

“Oy, Bri, who’ve ya got there in your wagon?”  A male voice called out.

“Never you mind, Iain.  I’ll be by later and you can meet me guests.”  She answered the young man who took hold of the reins.  He laughed and walked on.  “Here now, we’ll have plenty of time to show you off.  We should be getting home. My uncle will be getting worried.”   She pointed straight ahead through town.

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

The cottage she directed them to was picture perfect and sat in the center of a lush meadow.  It was surrounded by flowers and trees and looked well tended and comfortable. 

“Here we are, safe and sound.  Come along boys, my uncle will be eager to meet you.”  She accepted Heyes’ hand and easily jumped down from the wagon.  She called out, “Uncle Seamus, it’s Briana and I’ve brought guests.”  She started walking towards the cottage door, calling out brightly. 

“Have you now, girl.  Well it’s about time you got yourself home.  Your sister and I were beginning to worry.  And just who have you brought to us?”  A tall man approached the pair.  The girl ran over and hugged him. 

“Ah, Uncle these two saved me from a terrible fate.  This horrible man thought I was one of them poor unfortunate ladies…” 

“Who is this man?  No one takes liberties with my niece and lives to see another day.”  The man’s voice was raised and his face was red with anger.

“It’s all right Uncle.  These two gentlemen saved me.  I told them they could stay with us.  As repayment for protecting my virtue, ya know.”  She patted his arm to calm him down. 

“Saved you, did they?  Well then we surely do owe them a debt.”  He looked the two men up and down and seemed to make a decision.  “And I won’t be hearing of your staying elsewhere.  All right now, get yourself in there girl and help your sister with dinner.  I’ll see to our guests.”  

Uncle Seamus was about 6’ tall with hair that once had been red.  It was now a salt and pepper mixture.  He had a thin face framed by a  long beard and as many wrinkles as a man can have and still have a face.   He was smoking a long stemmed pipe.  “Seamus Flynn O’Rourke, at your service.  Tis a pleasure to be meetin’ with ye.  And a blessing to be sure.”  He stretched out his hand.

“Joshua Smith and believe me, it’s our pleasure.”  Heyes accepted the hand with a smile.  “My friend, Thaddeus Jones.”

“Smith and Jones, eh?”  O’Rourke said with a smile as he shook Kid’s hand.

“Yessir.  Two simple straightforward names.”  Kid always felt they should come up with some really good reason for those names.

“Why of course they are and why shouldn’t they be?  Honest names, same as my own.”  There was a peculiar twinkle in O’Rourke’s eyes as he said those words.  “Well, boys my Briana wouldn’t have brought you here if you hadn’t shown her a great kindness.  Come in then and have a pint with me.  You can tell me how you saved my girl.”

“Thank you sir, if you’re sure we’re not intruding.  We’ve been traveling for some time now and would certainly welcome your offer.  Your niece was very kind in thinking we might be able to stay here for a few days.  We wouldn’t want to inconvenience you, though.  And we’ll gladly work for room and board.”  Heyes turned his most ingenuous smile on the older man. 

“Now, I won’t be hearing none of that.  My Briana’s a trusting child.  Saints alone know what might’a happened to the girl if the two of you hadn’t happened along.  Aah, we can talk about all that later.  Here we are boys.  Nothin’ I like better than lively conversation over a cold pint.”  He led them into a comfortable parlor furnished with simple but solid looking furniture.  “Sit, sit.  Where’s the ale?  How can a man expect to be comfortable in his own home when he has to beg for a meager pint of ale?”  He was shouting, but there didn’t seem to be any anger in his voice. 

“Quiet now, uncle.  Here’s your ale.”  The girl was laughing, obviously comfortable replaying a familiar scene.   O’Rourke handed out the ale, two mugs with white foam spilling over the top.

“Here ya both are.”  He raised his glass.  “A drink to your health – here’s a health to your enemies enemies.  Sit yourselves down, boys and tell me how you came to save my girl.”

Heyes and Kid just looked at each other with grins that said maybe that little shamrock really does work after all.  Heyes started the story.  “Your niece had the bad fortune to meet up with a man who thought she was something she wasn’t.  We merely helped him to understand how a lady should be treated.”  He settled back in one of the chairs.  He was really hoping there hadn’t been some mistake and that this valley wasn’t just some desert heat induced dream.

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

A while later, they were laughing over a story O’Rourke was telling, when a voice rang out,  “Supper will be ready in an hour, so those who are hungry had better be ready.”

“Are ye hungry boys?  Why that’s a foolish question, two strappin’ young fellas like yourselves.  My girls do a supper proud, if I do say it myself.”  O’Rourke was refilling his own mug and turned to offer the same to the two men.

Heyes stood up and shook his head.  “Actually Mr. O’Rourke, we’ve been on the road a long time.  Would it be possible for us to wash up before we join your family for supper?”

“I must have left my manners behind in Eire, sure enough.  I’ll have the girls run baths for you both.  We’ll just keep supper till you’re good and ready.”  He laughed, a funny high-pitched cackle.  “You just follow me, boys, you’ll be feeling like brand new in the blink of an eye.”  He led them through the house and pointed towards a room at the end of the hall.  “Aah, I can see the girls have beaten us again.  You just go on, now and take your time.  Supper will be waiting.”

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

When they entered the room they saw two shiny brass tubs already filled with steaming water.  Masses of bubbles frothed on top of the water.  Briana was just emptying a final pail of water into one of the tubs.  The room was full of a scent – floral but not quite.

She looked up at the pair as they stood in the doorway.  “I thought you might be needing a tub.    Tis an extravagance to be sure.  Two of them.  The tubs I mean.  But my system get to chatterin’  and…well there I am doin’ it again.”  She laughed.  “I’ve put a special oil in the tub for ye.  Heather from the old country.   Make ye both soft and sweet.” Her smile was infectious.  The two men were grinning. 

“Well my friend could probably use it, more’n me”  Kid laughed. 

“indeed now.  Well from the looks of you, ye both could be using something sweet just now.”    She eyed them thoroughly.  “Don’tcha be worrying ‘bout supper either.  It isn’t nearly as ready as we said.  You just leave your clothes right outside and I’ll be getting them cleaned for you.  We put the rest of your things in your bedroom, right through there.”  She pointed through a connecting door. 

Laying out a stack of fluffy towels, she walked towards them.  Giving them both another careful appraisal, her voice teased,  “Sure, ye won’t be needing anyone to wash your backs?”  Her slightly wicked smile was the last thing they saw as she stepped between them and disappeared through the door.           

“Kid, hit me.”  They were alone in the room.

“Huh?  Why would I want to hit you Heyes?”  Kid was stripping off his dirty clothes in eager anticipation of the warm water.

“’Cause we must be dreaming.  This can’t be real.”

Kid laughed as he cautiously opened the door and dropped the dirty clothes into the waiting basket.  “Heyes, we can’t be having the same dream.  And even if we are, I’m getting into that tub, then I’m gonna put on some clean clothes and then I’m gonna have what smells like a great supper.  Then I’m gonna see if Briana would like to take a walk and show me the town.  Now if you wanna stand there and figure out why this isn’t happening, you just go on ahead.”  He stepped into the tub and sighed happily.

Heyes watched his for a second, then stripped off his clothes, deposited them on top of kids and got into his own tub.  “Kid, you’re right, if this is a dream, then it’s the nicest dream I’ve had in a long time.”

“Only thing missing is a cigar.”

As if on cue, the girl entered the room holding a cigar and a silver cutter.  Looking at both of them as if trying to decide, she walked towards Heyes. 

“Uh, ma’am, we, uh…” Heyes was blushing and his silver tongue deserted him as the girl walked around the tub until she was behind him.  She squatted down until she was level with the back of his head.   Heyes was trying to turn around, but gave up as every one of his movements also kept moving the bubbles that were the only defense his modesty had. 

Kid was watching he with a look of wry smile on his face.  It was seldom that he got to watch Heyes complete caught off guard.  But he sure was disappointed that the girl apparently favored Heyes. 

“I thought you boys might be wantin’ the enjoyment of a cigar.”  She carefully clipped the tip and slid both arms around him, resting them on his shoulders.  Heyes was beginning to enjoy this, his initial blush and modesty fading.  She slid the cigar into his mouth, lit the match smiling at the sizzle it made; she placed the fire to the tip of the cigar and leaned closer to him.  “Is there anything else that I can get for you, darlin’?” she whispered in his ear.  

Heyes took the cigar from his mouth.  Favoring her with a dazzling smile, the one that many women had fallen victim to, he turned to her and spoke softly, “Many things, beautiful lady.  But we’ll talk more about those if you’ll allow me to share some of your time, say after supper.”  Few women could resist both the smile and the charm of Hannibal Heyes. 

“Why, I’d love to.  We have many lovely things to see in town.”  Her chin was resting on his shoulder and her voice soft in his ear. 

“Aah, nothing, I daresay that could match the beauty I’m looking at right now.” 

She laughed and rumpled his hair.  “Are you sure you don’t have a bit of old Eire in you, darlin’?  Your eyes have a devilment in them.”

“No, ma’am.   And I’d never tell anything but the truth to a lady such as you.”  His voice and expression reflected a cherubic choirboy who always told the truth.

She laughed again and stood up.  She turned to Kid.  “Would you be liking a cigar as well?  Ah, never you mind, shan’t be but a moment.”  And she was gone. 

“Looks like the lady had a change of mind, Kid.  Probably just came to her senses.”  Teasing his cousin was one pleasure Heyes enjoyed immensely.

“Some day, Heyes.  One of these days, I’m gonna find a way…” He was interrupted by the door opening again.  She was back.  This time Heyes got to watch as she stepped behind Kid.  Carefully preparing the cigar and presenting it to him.  Nuzzling his ear and resting her hands on top of his shoulders, she whispered,  “Such beautiful golden curls.  The ladies must love running their fingers through those curls.”  She demonstrated what she meant.  “Will you be wanting to see the town?  I’d be pleased to show it to you after supper.”

Kid’s smile would have warmed the coldest of winter days.  “It would be my pleasure ma’am.  A man would have to be plum crazy not to want to share some time with you.”

She drew a finger across his chest and laughed softly.  “Then I’ll be leaving you to your bath, ‘till later darlin’ ”.

And they were alone again.  Neither man spoke.  Both stared at the door as if expecting, what?  Neither of them seemed to know entirely what to say. 

“Uh, Heyes? 

“I have no idea, Kid.  I got absolutely no idea what just happened. ‘Think we should be worryin’ about it?”

“Well, mebbe it’s just like it looks.  For once.

“Mebbe, Kid.  Maybe we’ll just see what happens.  Who knows, maybe we really did get lucky.”                                        

They were both silent for a long time, sitting in those tubs, smoke from the cigars gently drifting upward, looks of blissful wonder on their faces. 

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

They sat in the tree whose branches spread outside the house.  It allowed an unobstructed view of the room where the two men were bathing.

“Pretty aren’t they?”

“Hmmm.  And young.  And trustin’.   They believe everything we’ve shown them.” 

“Aye, the spell we’ve cast has caught them well and fair.”

“I think they’re sweet.”

“Hmmm, very sweet.”

“Will Seamus let us keep them?”

“I wouldn’t be getting’ my heart set on that.  You know he only wants one thing from those two.”

“Aye, but t’were us that found ‘em.  And now that they’re ours, if we’re wanting something else?”

“Well it would be a powerful shame to trouble poor old uncle with our silly girlish plans, wouldn’t it now sister?”

They smiled at each other. 

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

The Twins

The boys shaved and dressed.  Feeling altogether better, they walked down the hall towards the smells of supper.  Looking around expectantly, they saw no one in the large room.

Seamus O’Rourke  entered from a side door.  “Why there you are boys.  Sit down, sit down, make yourselves ta home.  Where’s the ale, aah, can’t a man expect some simple comforts in his own home.”  He bellowed at no one in particular. 

“Here now Uncle, there’s no need for ye to be bellowing like old Mary’s prize bull.  Here’s your glass and the same for our guests as well.”  She handed the three frothing pints of ale to the men.  Sighing, she smiled gently at the two younger men.  Twice in the same day, the smile said.  When she handed Heyes his glass, she favored him with a different smile; one that left little to the imagination.  They watched her as she flitted from the room.

“Your niece is lovely, Mr. O’Rourke.”  Heyes spoke the words, but both his and Kid’s eyes were focused on the girl as she left the room.

O’Rourke’s eyes narrowed and an odd smile creased his face.  “Indeed, my boyo.  And as innocent and pure as her sainted mother, may she rest in peace.  Now I know you’re young men with young men’s eyes, but don’t be getting any foolishness in your heads now.  I don’t mind a bit of fun now and again, but …”  

He was interrupted by the girl’s return.  They did not catch the scowl she leveled at her Uncle.  And there was nothing but a sunny attitude in the voice that announced, “Supper’s on the table, if you’ll be wanting’ it hot, you’d best be sittin’ down.”  She linked her arm in Kid’s and led him to the table.  “You sit right here, Thaddeus, by me.  I’ll be getting the roast.” 

Text Box:  Heyes and Curry exchanged glances.  The girl seemed to be unable to make up her mind which man she favored.

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

They sat on opposite sides of the table, Seamus at the head.  She re-entered carrying a platter laden with a huge roast surrounded with vegetables.  The scent was making their mouths water.  She stepped to the table next to Kid and set the platter in front of him.  “P’raps you might do the carving for us Thaddeus.”  She leaned over and handed him the carving tools, managing to brush his cheek with her hair in the process.  

“And p’raps you might help yourself and then pass the potatoes, Joshua.”   She bent over and handed him a bowl of potatoes fragrant with herbs.

Kid’s mouth was open.  So was Heyes’.  There were two of them.  Identical.  Twins.  “Identical twins.” Heyes found his voice first.  The girls laughed as though this was so obvious that only the poor fool without a mind would have had difficulty in figuring that out.

“Well of course, surely you knew that!”  The one next to Kid spoke. 

“Her eyes aren’t as green as mine.”  Heyes’ added.

But my hair is curlier!”  Kid’s countered.

“But mine…” 

“Girls, girls, where’re your manners.   Put an end to this terrible noise and let us enjoy this wonderful food.” 

“Excuse me, Mr. O’Rourke.”  Heyes looked at the girls, one then the other.  “We know one of you is Briana.  Who might that be and who’s the other?”  Heyes still looked amazed.  Kid looked like that shamrock had just delivered the treasure he always dreamed of.

 

O’Rourke was laughing at their confusion.  “Pardon me boys.  T’is nothing but a bit of fun we’re having with ye.”  He waved his hand at the girl standing by Kid.  “The sweet one there is Briana Flann.”  Directing his hand towards the one next to Heyes he announced “and that mischievous beauty is Ceara Maeve.  A miracle when their dear mother brought them into the world.  A pity she never saw what lovely and dear girls they’ve become.”

The girls lowered their heads and looked sad in unison. 

“I’m sorry, ladies.  Joshua and I lost our parents when we were just kids too.”  Kid covered Briana’s hand with his own.  She smiled shyly at him.

“Joshua, perhaps you’d do the honor of saying grace.”  Seamus said as the girls sat down.

Ignoring the ‘Oh I gotta hear this’ look that was on Kid’s face, Heyes stumbled over a reply.  “Uh, well we haven’t been regular church goers, Mr. O’Rourke.”   Kid swallowed a smile as Heyes glared at him.

“Never mind that, you just go right on.”  O’Rourke persisted.

  Heyes nodded.  “Well all right.  I’ll try.”  He cleared his throat.  His voice was still husky as he began,  “Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us to find this welcoming house and these generous people at a time when friends are so few.  And please guide us as we find a way to repay them their great kindness to two lonely strangers.”  There was silence when his voice stopped. 

“Oh, Joshua, that was lovely.”  Ceara looked like she might cry.

 “Indeed, my boy, a fine start to a fine meal.  Well, Joshua, Thaddeus, ye don’t mind if I call you by your given names do ye boys?  We’ve never been much on formalities in this house.  We’re plain, simple folk.”  His smile and voice radiated sincerity.

“Not at all, we’re not much into formal things ourselves.”  Kid agreed.

“Good, good.  Well then, may you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, quick to make friends, but rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward!!”  He lifted his glass in a toast.

It felt like family.  There was laughter, conversation and genial teasing.  Supper itself was very enjoyable.  The food was hearty and there were quantities of roast, potatoes and vegetables enough to satisfy even the legendary appetite of Kid Curry.  The girls paid rapt attention to every word that Heyes or Curry said.  The men seemed entranced by the two girls.  Heyes was trying to ignore Ceara’s hand which seemed to have found a permanent home on his thigh.  Briana burst into giggles any time Kid smiled at her. 

Supper finally at an end, Briana and Ceara shooed the three men to the main room.  O’Rourke lit his long stemmed pipe, a dudeen[1], he called it.  “Sit boys and enjoy the fire.  The girls will be bringing out some sweets soon.”  The blazing fire made the room warm and comfortable. 

“So, Mr. O’Rourke, what line of work are you in.”  Heyes was sitting on the overstuffed sofa across from the man.  Kid stood next to the fireplace.

“A humble profession of cobbler, Joshua.  And if ye persist in calling me Mr. O’Rourke, I shall be thinking you’re not intending to be friends.   It’s Seamus.  Aah yes, and shoemakin’s not a fancy trade but an honorable one.  Been passed from one O’Rourke t’another for generations.  T’is a blessing t’ave had it now that we’re in this new country.   It’s kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. 

Then by the most fortuitous bit of luck we found this little spot of heaven just when hope of finding any kindred souls was about run out.   Aye, a bit of the old country.”  He looked wistful.  “Everyone helpin’ each other.  Well at least almost everyone.  But that’s a story for another day.  And mebbe there’s a way you can help me out.”  He looked at them with narrowed eyes.   “It’s the girls I worry about.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’re both good girls and will make good wives.  But they’ve not shown they care for the boys in town.  Plain simple men, not much to excite two young girls.”

Heyes started to ask about Tara.  This place shouldn’t be here.  They’d been in this part of the world before and never run across it.  He wanted to know more.  “Mr. O’Rourke, about this place….”  He was interrupted by one of the girl’s voices. 

 

“Uncle, are you talking about us again?”  The girls re-entered the room carrying a platter of fragrant apple fritters and mugs of steaming coffee.  “Will ye be wanting some dessert, boys?”  Briana asked the question, looking directly at Kid.

The girls were gigging as they served their uncle first then the two younger men.  The sofa got crowded as Ceara curled up close to Heyes and Briana pulled Kid over to join them. The mischievous looks that passed between the girls were not missed by their uncle. 

“Don’t tell me that you made these fritters?”  Heyes was on his second.

“Haven’t had anything that tasted this good in as long as I can remember.”  Kid was finishing his third. 

“Why sure enough we did.  Who else would be making the food in this house?  But we thank you for the sweet words.”   Briana dusted some powdered sugar from Kid’s chin and smiled coyly at him. 

“Well boys, would you be interested in joining me at the local pub for a pint and maybe a game of Magpie?”[2]  At their confused looks he continued, “Sure you learned that game when you were boys?  No? Why tis a crime, to be sure.  There, it’s settled, once you’ve had a chance to learn it, we might even play for money – oh, just pennies.”  He smiled through a puff of smoke from his pipe. 

“Uncle I was thinking that maybe Joshua will be wanting to join me for a walk.  It’s a lovely warm evening.”  Ceara looked intently into those dark chocolate eyes. 

“I can’t imagine that any man would be able to turn down such an invitation from a lady as lovely as you are, Ceara.”  He met the intensity of her look. “That is, of course, Seamus, if it’s all right with you.” 

“Oh, Uncle lets us make own evening plans.  Don’t you Uncle?  As long as our chores are done.  And you can go to that old pub any time.  Come along Joshua, I know a lovely quiet spot where we can talk.”  She slid her hand up his forearm and leaned into him.  

“Uh, well then, yes, that would be a perfect end to the day.  Sir, I promise to have Ceara back early.”  Heyes smiled at the prospect of a quiet evening with a beautiful girl. “Will you need a coat Ceara? Wouldn’t want you to get cold.”

She gave him a smile that clearly said she could figure out ways to stay warm that did not involve a coat, but only said, “Thank you darlin’.  I think I shall be just lovely as I am.”

“Well, I hope you’ll not be makin’ any such promise, Thaddeus.  There’s a dance in town and I can’t think any way of making those other girls green with envy but to arrive on the arm of such a handsome young man.”  Briana certainly looked like dancing would be one of the adventures she’d like to experience this evening.

Kid looked like he could use an adventure or two himself.  “Then, I guess we should go.  Wouldn’t want to miss that dance.”  

“Well that’s the way of the world, you young people go off and have a good time.  Don’t be worrying about me.”  O’Rourke was almost pouting.

“Oh we won’t be worrying, Uncle” Ceara kissed him on the cheek.

“Don’t be waiting up, Uncle” Briana kissed him on the other cheek.

O’Rourke watched the two couples walk off arms linked and snuggling close to each other.  Heyes and Ceara in one direction and Kid and Briana in the opposite. 

‘Oh I’ll be waitin’ up sure enough and we’ll be having a talk.  Changing the tale just when we’ve got those boys believin’ the world as we’ve made it.  Makin’ your own plans, are ye?  I saw those looks, me lovelies.  Thinking you’ll be pulling the wool over on your poor uncle.   We have a use for those boys, and may I be afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch with, before I give up on those plans.  I want me treasure back, and those lovely boys are just what I need to get it.” 

 

He spoke to the moon, full and bright.  And it was in the shadow cast by the moon that had one been watching, one might have noticed a strange change in Seamus O’Rourke.    A strange glow and a reflection of a pointed hat and buckled boots.  But O’Rourke and the moon had been keeping this secret for a long time and mistress moon never shared her secrets with mortal man.   

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

“It was a lovely evening, Joshua.”  Ceara was holding onto his arm with both hands and walking very close to him.  They had talked for hours.  Hannibal had told her much about he and Kid.  He found himself almost confiding the truth about their identities to her a number of times.  He fought off the urge, not knowing why he trusted her so quickly.  He knew he liked her, liked her a lot.  More than he was willing to admit.  He didn’t know how that had happened either.  Normally suspicious about people, things were moving a lot quicker than Hannibal Heyes was used to or liked.  He couldn’t seem to make them slow down and what was worse he was having difficulty remembering why he wanted them to slow down.

They stood at the door of the cottage, arms around each other.  “Oh Joshua m’love.    It was fate that brought us together, darlin’.”  She kissed him gently on the lips.  Tracing his mouth with her finger, she slid her arms around his neck and kissed him again, longer and more fervently.  When they separated, Hannibal seemed unable to move.  He gaze fixed on her eyes.  She had her hands in his hair, playing with the silky locks. 

“Ceara Maeve.  Your name sounds like music.”  His voice was a husky whisper. He held her shoulders, his hands moving to caress her neck, then to hold her face close to his.  He was losing himself to the green eyes that engulfed him. 

“What sweet words.  Some of the local boys just cut it off.  Ky’, they say.  Oy, Ky, how are ye?  Oy Ky will  ye be goin’ for a walk with me?.  I like the way you say my whole name.  My second name means intoxicatin’, did you know that?”  She was tracing his cheekbones with her fingers.  “Do I intoxicate you, Joshua?”  Her lips moved against his cheek.  He shivered at the feel of it next to his face and the whisper of her voice.

His answer was to pull her lips to his.  “Entirely” he murmured their lips touching. 

It was her turn to lose herself in a kiss.   Hmmm, this wasn’t supposed to be happening.  She was the one in control.  It was her spell. 

“Ceara, I don’t know how this is possible.  I don’t know how I can feel so lost in you when we’ve just met.  Ceara, I think I’ve fallen in love with you.  Can you possible feel anything for a stranger you’ve just met.”  His eyes pleaded the words to her.  He held her tightly, burying his face in the soft red hair curling at her neck.  She drew back slightly and smiled softly at him, her eyes almost glowing in the moonlight.  He blinked – what had he said, she looked different, something sparkling in the dark.  Then it was gone.  All there was was her voice. 

“Oh yes, Joshua, me sweet.  Tis magic, that’s what ye are.   But truth, I have strong feelings for you.”  She looked around.  “But m’love, we shall have to be careful.  Uncle won’t approve.   So you mustn’t tell him of your feelings.” 

“But Ceara, I don’t understand.  I can’t offer you much, but I’m serious in my feelings.  I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”   Heyes shook his head – there was a strange buzz – faint, but persistent. 

The door to the cottage opened.  An angry Seamus O’Rourke approached the couple.

“Tis about time you brought my girl home.  Ceara Mauve get yourself to yer room.  I’ll brook no argument, girl.  Get along with ye.”

She gave her uncle a cold hard look, but said nothing as she kissed Heyes softly, stepped past the older man and entered the cottage. 

“Seamus, I meant no harm, we didn’t, I mean, nothing happened, we just talked.  Seamus, I believe I’m in love with your niece.   I know this is sudden, but, well, to be perfectly honest with you, I can’t explain it.  One moment we were talking, the next, I just felt….  Well I just don’t know what I felt.  I’m not making much sense am I?”  Heyes threw up his hands and surrendered. 

 

O’Rourke squinted at Heyes.  When he spoke it was a calmer voice that Heyes heard.  “On the contrary, me boy.  You’re making perfect sense.  Here join me in a pint and rest a spell.  I believe Thaddeus will be returning soon.  The three of us will have a nice talk.  I believe I may have a way you and Thaddeus can repay my family.  If you’re still of a mind to do that.  To prove you’re intentions, of course.” 

Heyes was quiet.  ‘What was the buzz in his head.’  He shook it off.  Ceara was the only thing that was important.  He couldn’t get her eyes out of his mind.  “Of course Seamus.  We’ll help you however we can.”  He followed the man into the house. 

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

There was no conversation while the two men waited.  Heyes studied the  gold and red flames dancing in the large stone fireplace and O’Rourke studied Heyes.  He rose at the sound of the door opening.  Heyes continued sipping the dark ale, eyes closed, lost in thought.  He opened them as he heard Kid’s voice. 

“Briana honey, you’re so beautiful.  I can’t believe we’re really going to do this that this is really happening.”  He sounded happy. 

“Hush,  Thaddeus m’darlin’.  We’re going to be together and that’s that.  I won’t let Uncle separate us.”

“And why would I be wanting to separate the two of you, unless of course, it’s because you’re out past the time when any respectable girl should be in her own bed, sound asleep.  Shame on you, Thaddeus, what are ye wantin’ to be doing to my girl’s reputation. 

“Seamus, you don’t understand.  We were at the dance.   The room was so crowded that we went for a walk.  Everything was spinning…”  Kid looked back at O’Rourke.  He remembered getting to the dance, but after that all he remembered was the way Briana felt when he kissed her and how he felt when she had kissed him back.  And how he didn’t want to let go of her.  And the faint buzz that seemed to follow him wherever he went.  “We didn’t do anything, Seamus.”  Kid leaned against the door jamb and looked at the girl.  “Briana, tell him I didn’t do anything.” 

“Never ye mind now.  Briana, girl, get you to your room.  Your sister’s already there.  I’ll be in shortly to bid you a good night.  Thaddeus, do me the kindness to wait in the great room.  Joshua’s already there.  There’s a pint waiting for you.  I want to bid the girls sweet dreams and then you and Joshua and I will have a nice talk”  His voice was soft, but there was no mistaking seriousness of his intent. 

“Uncle”  there was a warning in her voice.  Her eyes met those of O’Rourke.  Then she turned to Kid.  “Till morn, m’love.”  Standing on her toes she kissed him gently and moved into the house. 

The two men entered the cottage.  Seamus firmly closed the door behind them.  He followed the girl down the hall, Kid walked slowly in the opposite direction towards the great room.  They did not speak.

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

“Well girls.  So you think you can outsmart your old uncle, can ye?” 

O’Rourke entered the room where the two girls sat close together on the bed.  His eyes were not those of a kindly cobbler.  They were dark and angry.  He appeared different.  He was smaller, more wrinkled. The tip of his nose was red and he was wearing a pointed hat.  He still smoked the dudeen, but the aroma was foul.  His green eyes burned into the girls.

The girls did not look frightened.  They too were different – red hair now golden and flowing past their waists topped with tight green caps that sparkled; their simple cotton dresses had become sheer gowns, green and beaded with crystals that cast rainbows whenever they moved; their green eyes larger and almost feline in shape, luminous with an otherworldly glow. 

The leprechaun and the two fairies were once again themselves. 

 “Cast a wee bit of fairy dust on those boys, haven’t you?   Been plannin’ on yer own.   Selfish girls.  What about me?  What about me treasure?  How’ll I get me treasure back ?  No gratitude, that’s it.  Takin’ them all fer yourselves.   And after all I’ve done for you.”  His voice had taken on a high pitched whine. 

 

 “All you’ve done for us?  Why, you wouldn’t even have known about them if it hadn’t been for us.  Don’t be forgetting that “uncle”.  And maybe Briana and me were just lookin’ to have some fun on our own.  And it’s our treasure you’re guardin’.[3]  Don’t go forgettin’ that.”  Ceara’s eyes flashed. 

Briana looked at her sister.  “Uncle, they’re a might prettier that the others we’ve had to practice with.  Oh, Seamus, don’t sulk and scowl so.  Ye know Ky and me will help you with the treasure.  Can’t we just have a little fun with the boys before it’s finished?”

“And don’t ye be forgettin’ that it was Bri and me that spun the spell, Uncle.  They’re darlin’ boys, so sweet and carin’.  We aren’t forgettin’ it’s all just sparkling dust and magic.”  Ceara went and stood next to the man, smiling gently at him.

The man calmed down.  “Aye, girls.  Well you’ve made your old uncle feel better.   Ye both want to play with the boys for a spell, d’ya?”  He looked at both of them.  Then nodded.  ”Sure and why not?  The treasure will be there in a few days as sure as its there now.  But no longer.” 

“So, me lovlies, have yer fun before the treasure’s returned.  Take the days to be practicing the powers that infernal Lianhan Shee[4] is showin’ ye.  Just ye be remembering the consequences of creatin’ that kind of love.  And the penalties those boys will be paying for it.  It’s not our way to be hurtin’ mortals, less’n of course they treat us poorly.  These boys aren’t mean spirited.” 

He stopped his scolding as he saw the looks in those green eyes.  “There, there.  Never mind now.  Don’t be troublin’ yourselves.  I’ll be telin' the boys what we’ll be needin’ them to do.  And you two will be givin’ them a few days of pleasure, to be sure.  Happy sleep me sweets.”

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

“Heyes, I just don’t understand.  I’ve never felt quite like this.”  Kid Curry was pacing around the room like a tiger in a too small cage.   “It’s Briana. Heyes, I think I’m in love with her.  I know what you’re gonna say.  We just met, we’re still wanted, we gotta leave.  Doesn’t matter Heyes.  So don’t go tryin' to talk me outta this.  ‘Cause it won’t work.”  Kid finally stopped pacing in front of his cousin. 

“Relax, Kid.  I’m not gonna try to talk you outta anything.  Truth be told, I feel the same about Ceara.   Kid, I think that shamrock you found really worked.  Two beautiful women, one for each of us.  And this place.  Kinda like a dream”  It was Heyes’ turn to start pacing.  “And I can’t exactly say I’ve felt like this before.  Can’t say exactly why I feel like I do.”  Heyes looked at his cousin.  The lost expression in his eyes met a similar one in Kids.  “Kid, I almost told Ceara who we were.   I didn’t, but I sure wanted to.  We gotta tell ‘em, I mean if we’re serious about them.  They gotta know.”  Heyes was even more animated than usual.  He was pacing in front of the fireplace, the light reflecting his dark eyes. “We are serious about them, right?”

“Well, sure we’re serious.  I mean…well, course we’re serious.   And I know Heyes, I know.  We should just tell Seamus now, while we’re thinkin’ clear.”  Kid met his cousin’s eyes.  “We can just explain everything.  I mean you’re the expert at blarney.  It’ll work out Heyes.  I got that shamrock, right?”

“Sure Kid.  It’s worked so far hasn’t it?  No reason it won’t just keep working.  Can’t rightly believe this Kid.  Yesterday, we were broke, alone, walking in the desert.  Today, we’ve maybe found a new life.   Kid remind me to never make fun about your Irish superstitions again.  And you just hang onto that four leaf clover.”  He was smiling.  “We just gotta explain to Seamus, that’s all.  Blarney, huh?  Think that would work?”  He paused for a moment, the devious glimmer in his eyes fading to confusion.  “Kid, we are thinking clear, aren’t we?  I mean it was just yesterday.”

Whatever Kid might have wanted to say was cut off as O’Rourke returned to the room.  But the look he gave his cousin was not.  A curious look that wondered if Heyes might just have a point.

“Explain what to Seamus, boys?  Here, your glasses are empty.  No man goes thirsty whilst in my house.  Here, have another pint.  Now, boys, what is it you feel you need to get off’ov your chests.”  He refilled their glasses from what seemed to be a never emptying jug of ale.

 

 

Kid looked at Heyes who looked at the froth on the top of the glass he held in his hand.  He took a deep breath.  “Well Seamus, it’s nothing we’re proud of.  But we, Thaddeus and me, care a lot for Ceara and Briana.  I know we’ve just met.  And I don’t know exactly how this all happened, but it did.  We were thinkin’ of maybe staying here in Tara, findin’ jobs.  Well, we can’t be starting out on a lie.” 

“So, I thought there might be something more to the both of ye.  Well tell me then boys, none of us is so pure as ta make judging others easy.”  O’Rourke’s eyes held that curious squint as he looked from one man to the other.

Heyes took a very deep breath and looked straight at O’Rourke.  “Well Seamus, after our families were killed, we wandered around a lot.  And maybe if we’d had someone to put us on the straight and narrow, things woulda been different.”   He stopped and looked at Kid with a tiny smile.  “No, no stories this time.”  Sighing, he looked directly at O’Rourke.  “Our real names are Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.  We’re wanted for robbing some banks and trains.”

O’Rourke said nothing.  He continued puffing the foul smelling pipe, staring at the two. 

“Seamus, I know we’re not exactly what you would want for the girls, but that’s not all there is to our story.” 

“Indeed, now, Thaddeus.  Bank robbers you say.  No, I can’t say I’ll be happy knowin’ my girls are runnin and hiding from the law.  Ya should’a told me, boys.  Ya should never have led my girls on.  Ye never meant well by them, did ye.”  His voice was getting louder and higher.  ”You’ve used them poorly, boys.  What respectable man’s gonna want them for wives after you both are on yer way.  Robbers, oh my saints.  What’s to become of me poor girls?”  The last part was a heartbroken wail.  He turned his back to them.  Which prevented them from noticing the delighted look that crossed his face.  When he turned back, he had returned to being the epitome of despair. 

 

 

“But Seamus, we don’t do that any more.  We got this deal with the governor of the Wyoming Territory.  We’re going straight, and he’s gonna give us an amnesty.  You gotta give us a chance Seamus.  What can we do to prove that we’ve changed our ways.”  Somewhere in the back of Heyes’ mind a warning shot had gone off.  Why was he telling this man everything.  It was fleeting and disappeared as Ceara came in the room.  Suddenly it didn’t matter.  What mattered was her. 

He looked at kid, who was watching Briana walk towards him with a look that bordered on adoration.

“Is everything all right Uncle?”  Ceara spoke the words, but there were two sets of eyes on the old man.  Both girls moved slowly towards Heyes and Kid. 

Seamus ignored the girl’s comment and continued looking at the two men with a devious gleam in his eyes.  He shook his head.  “Well boys, I can’t fault you for your mistakes.  And my girls have strong feelings for you both.  It would be a blessing to know me girls are happy.”  

Hannibal and Kid, their arms around the girls, practically leapt towards the man.  “Seamus, how can we ever thank you.”  They were shaking his hands and slapping him on the back.

“Ay, well there is just one problem stopping yer happiness.  And I just don’t know how we can ever fix that.”  O’Rourke laced his words with just a tint of sadness.

“Uncle, we’re in new land.  Whatever mistakes you think Joshua and Thaddeus have made shouldn’t matter.”  Ceara was pleading.

“Please Uncle, must we let old traditions stop us from being happy.”  Briana’s eyes were filled with tears.

“No, girls.  It’s not their mistakes that are troublin’ me.  If the boys are truly serious about you, in an honorable way, I mean, then the dowry has to be discussed.  And I won’t be talking about anything further until it’s settled.”

“Seamus, I don’t understand.  Aren’t dowrys something that’re important when someone’s getting married.”  Heyes spoke slowly.

“Why, o’course.  I mean, that is what you had in mind now isn’t it?  I mean, you do want to do the honorable thing by my girls don’t ye?”  O’Rourke voice was rising, full of concern.  

Heyes looked at Kid.  He looked very confused.  Kid looked back.  He looked even more confused.  They both looked at the girls who were sitting very close together, looking  up at them, their eyes wide and full of tears, childlike in their trust, afraid of the answer the men would give.   

“Well sure, I guess.”  Heyes seemed to have lost his gift for spinning words into gold.

“Oh Uncle.”  Both girls ran sobbing to O’Rourke, who fixed Heyes and Curry with a baleful glare.  Inside he was howling with glee, thinking his plan was going very well, indeed.

“Ceara, that’s not what I meant.  Honest.  Why sure we meant to do the right thing.  I guess it was just a minute of being scared.  I mean we only just met you.  This all happened so fast.”  Heyes was no longer sure of what was happening.  He just couldn’t make it stop.

“Me too Briana.  You know I wouldn’t do anything to make you feel bad.”  Kid was nearly in tears himself watching the girls crying.

“Well, that’s better boys.  Now, girls.  You run along to bed.  Me’n the boys have some talking to do. No, I won’t hear another word.”  He nearly shoved them down the hall towards their room.

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

“Dear girls.  But this is man’s talk. Sit, boys.  There is something.  It’s just a little thing, but if you could see your way clear to be helping me, I’d be able to give me girls to you knowing your true character.”

“Anything, Seamus.  What is it you need us to do?”  Kid was fervent in his offer of help.

 

 

 “Boys, there’s this man.  Aah an evil sort.  He tricked me into giving him my trea, uh me savins’  Everything I had been putting by for the girl’s dowrys.   If you could only help me in getting it back, I could rest easy and the girls could be yours.  You’d have to steal it of course, but it’s an honorable act.  Why didn’t he steal it from me?  What do ye say, boys, can ye help an old shoemaker?”

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

Tranquil Times

“’Tis a wonderful thing the two of you will be doing.  Helping Uncle.”   Briana and Kid were arm and arm walking through a meadow fragranced with flowers. 

“Oh, yes.  Twas a lucky day to be sure when the two of you were sent to us.  A lucky day indeed.”  Ceara and Heyes were a few steps behind the other couple. 

It was two days later.  Two sweet and tranquil days that found the two men falling further and further under the spell wound by the two fairies.

There was something though.  Heyes was growing more and more uncomfortable about the events of the past seventy-two hours.  Something was wrong and he just couldn’t get a fix on what it was.  He told Kid he felt like he was in a dream.  At first Kid had laughed and teased him about not believing in anything good happening to them.  As the days moved forward, however, even Kid was beginning to feel like things were out of their control.  Neither man could figure out what was wrong. 

It had been a wonderfully peaceful couple of days though.  Even someone as suspicious and cynical as Heyes wouldn’t begrudge that.  Days that started with fresh made scones and jam, or bowls of oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar or maple syrup. 

The couples would picnic in the meadow laughing over stories that Heyes would tell of their adventures.  Days that would find the couples separating, seeking quiet corners and moments full of passionate embraces and sweet kisses; ‘Family’ dinners, where spells and relationships were sealed.

There were slow walks through town, wandering through the shops, taking tea at the local restaurant.  Everyone seemed so friendly.  Mayor Grogan had teased Kid about tracing his ancestry – a hobby he called it.  But how could he trace the name Jones.  Briana had piped up that the mayor could trace a friend of theirs, a fella named Curry.  The two men, usually so cautious, simply laughed at the inside joke and bid the mayor good day. 

The country surrounding the town was beautiful.  It was a the first time in a long time either man could remember not being chased or cold or hungry.  Still, Heyes’ disquiet caused him sleepless nights. 

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

“I’m still not entirely sure why Seamus just can’t go to the sheriff in town, explain what happened and get his money back.  Stealing it back, well it just seems as bad as having it stolen in the first place.  And we promised this friend of ours, not to mention the governor, we’d go straight.”  Heyes was not averse to a bit of larceny if it were for the right reasons.  These sure seemed like those.

Maybe it was that infernal buzz he kept hearing.  Like a bee, buzzin’ in my ear.  He kept looking for it, but never did see anything.   Kid agreed with him, but didn’t have an answer for anything that was happening to them. 

“Oh, Hannibal, we told ye.”  Ceara was close to him as they walked slowly through the flower filled meadow.

They had shared their true identities with the girls.  ‘Just seemed proper’ Kid had said.  It didn’t seem to matter to them.  They just laughed and hugged the boys, telling them how special they were to be trying to mend their ways. 

She looked up at him with eyes that he was finding harder and harder to resist.  “You know how the Irish are looked upon, even in this new world.  Poor Uncle, he did try to ask the Sheriff for help.  He just laughed at our trials.  Said it served him right for trying to swindle an honest towns man.  The town’s people don’t like those of us who live in Tara.  They think we’re odd.  If you don’t help us, we’re doomed.  Oh, please m’love, don’t abandon us now.”  Ceara had tears in her eyes. 

Hannibal Heyes could ignore many things; a tearful woman was not one of them.  Especially the woman he thought he loved.  ‘Thought he loved?  Where did that come from?  Of course he loved her.  He did?  Why was he suddenly not so sure.’   “Of course, we’ll do it, Ceara.  Don’t cry.”  He put his arms around the sobbing girl. 

“Oh please Jed, you must say you’ll help too.  Our happiness depends on it.”  Briana too, was close to tears. 

“Course we’ll do it.  Why your uncle’s just a simple shoemaker.  What does he know about gamblin’?”  He put his arms around the girl.  “He says he was cheated and that’s enough for me.” 

Briana brightened as Kid gently wiped her tears away.   “I don’t want to be talkin’ about this any more.  It’s such a lovely day.”

“There’s truth in what you say, Bri.”  Ceara looked up at Heyes and closed her eyes as he kissed her tears away.  She rested her head on his chest for a moment before laughing gaily and slipping out of his arms.  She skipped ahead to the other couple and took her sister’s arm.  “Briana found out the real truth about you, Mr. Jedediah Curry”, she teased.  “Would ye be wantin’ to know just what we know?”

Hannibal had caught up with the three and stood behind Ceara, his arms around her waist.   

“Is that so.  And just what exactly did you find out.”  Kid swung Briana around and lifted her off the ground.  The momentary gloom lifted.  All four returned to enjoying this day. 

“Careful, Kid.  She might have found out about all those other ladies.”  Heyes decided to enjoy the playful mood that seemed to overtake him.  “Then I’d have to work out how to make both of these ladies happy.”

“Shame on ye, Hannibal Heyes.  Suggestin’ that I’d abandon my sweet Jedediah.  And that even if I did, you’d be the man I’d turn to.”  Briana feigned shock at the very thought.

“Or that I’d be lettin’ something like that happen, dear sister.”  Ceara turned in Heyes’ arms and kissed him.

They all laughed. 

“All right, so what exactly is the big secret?  And how exactly did you come by the information.”  Kid was curious now.

“Jed, m’darlin’.  Did you know your family has a coat of arms?”  Briana was standing on her tip toes and tracing patterns on Kids shoulders with her fingertips.

“Huh?  What’s a coat of arms?”

“Why that’s your family’s crest and motto, sure, it’s who you are, inside.”  She placed her palm over his heart.  “Aah, tis very old, why it’s from the very beginning of time.  And it means you’re a gentleman.  As though we couldn’t already tell that.”  She leaned forward and kissed the tip of his nose. 

They were sitting in the shade of a large tree.  The men sitting next to each other, backs propped against the broad trunk, the girls curled up next to them.  Ceara was resting against Heyes’ chest, holding his arms that were around her.  Briana, who was doing the talking, was facing Kid

“What d’ya know Heyes?  I got a coat of arms.”  He grinned at his partner.

Briana, settled next to Kid and continued.  “Well you remember when I teased Mayor Grogan about our friend Mr. Curry.  Well, he went and looked him up, in his book.  Sure, isn’t that why he came by so early today.  Poor dear, I couldn’t tell him we were just teasin’ now could I?.   And when I looked at what he had found, I just knew it’d be such a lovely surprise for you.  So, I told him I would be sure to tell Mr. Curry the next time I saw him.   So, I suppose I’m just doin’ what I said I’d do.”  She smiled mischievously at Kid who bent over and kissed her. 

Smiling at the two, Heyes teased, “So Briana, tell us all about the gentleman, Mr. Curry.”                                             

 

 

 

She looked at Heyes and then at Kid.  Her green eyes sparkled.  “I shall then.  The name Curry belongs to the clan O’comhradihe.    Aye, Jed look at it.  It’s all green and gold.  Those colors mean hope, joy and loyalty in love and generosity and elevation of the minds.”  Briana was reading from a sheaf of papers she had taken from the pocket of her dress, rolled up and tied with a bright green ribbon.

“Elevation of the minds?  Kid ya missed your calling.  Should’a been a schoolteacher.”  Heyes laughed at the glare Kid directed at him.

“Never mind him, Bri, he’s just jealous, cause he doesn’t have a coat of arms.” Kid pulled the willing girl closer.  “Tell me some more.”

“Well your clan motto is ‘sursum corda’.  That means shunning envy, the just shall prevail.  Isn’t that beautiful.  You fight wrongs.  Oh, Jed it’s just like what you’re doing now, helping.  See it is the truth.”  She laughed and hugged him. 

“Yea fighter for justice.  That’s us all right.”  Heyes looked distracted.  That errant thought was still wiggling around in his brain.  ‘What was wrong?’

Text Box:  Ceara silenced his distraction with a long kiss.  Thought running through her head.  ‘Aye, this one was a fighter.  Sure, that’s why I’m so fond of him.’  She hadn’t let go of him.  ‘Used to bein’ in charge.  Truth, tis a shame to be breakin’ him.  She sighed.   Well, a challenge was always good for the soul.  He’d succumb soon enough.’  She kissed him again.  Aloud she chimed in, “Never ye mind.  Your coat of arms is beautiful, Jed.”

Pointing out parts of the crest, Briana continued.   “That creature is a griffin.  He means valor and death defying bravery, vigilance.  The estoile”, she laughed at his perplexed look, “the six point star is the mark of celestial goodness and nobility.”

“Why, tis the crest of a hero, Jed.   My very own hero. Twas in the stars, that we were supposed to meet.”  She finished and looked at Kid with such trust and adoration that any doubts he was feeling were entirely lost.  She glanced at her sister making sure the other understood that the weave of her spell was tight; he was hers.

Feeling other eyes were watching, Kid looked over at Heyes who was smiling gently at his younger cousin.  He turned a deep red.  With an embarrassed laugh, he unfolded himself from the girl and stood.  He offered her his hands to help her up, putting them around her waist as she rose.   “Come on, time we got home.  Seamus was going to tell us more about how he thought we could help him.”

“Ah, yes my lord.  Shall I carry your coat, my lord?”  Heyes laughed as he teased Kid into an even deeper blush.  And he ducked as Kid threw the coat directly at him.  Inside, Heyes was in turmoil.  He had always wanted this for Kid.  A beautiful girl and a chance.  Was he being to suspicious?  Maybe he should be more like Kid.  Accept that maybe finally something good had indeed found them. 

He reached for Ceara, standing quietly watching him.  Looking into her eyes, it suddenly didn’t matter.  Right now all he wanted was her.  He pulled her close, smelling the aroma of heather, playing with the milky pearls she wore at her throat.  The kiss they shared was passionate and more than sufficient to convince both that everything they wanted was within their grasp.  Of course, that everything was not necessarily the same for both. 

They ran to catch with Kid and Briana.  Laughter prevailed as the four made their way back to the cottage.  

The Troubles

“Kid, wait a minute ok?”  They were hiding in the bushes outside a large ranch house just outside of town.  “You do know that if we get caught, our amnesty is gone.  All the work getting’ this far, for nothing.”  He looked at his partner who looked grim.

 

“Yea Heyes I had that figured out.  What choice do we have?  I mean, what can we do?  We can’t have the girls unless we help Seamus.  And the only way we can help Seamus is to steal the money back from this Doonan fella.”  He stopped, looking a bit lost.  “That’s right isn’t it.” 

“Yea, that’s right Kid.  Everything you said is absolutely right.  I just don’t know exactly how we got here.  I mean, I remember the desert and the town and that shamrock and you rescuin’ Briana.  It just gets fuzzy after that.  I mean suddenly being in love and everything.  Somehow it doesn’t make sense.  But I can’t figure it out.”  He ran his hand through his hair, leaving in on the back of his head.  “Kid, do you hear a buzzing noise?”

“ Yea, now that you mention it, still kinds sounds like bees.”  He blinked at Heyes.  ”Anyway,  I know what you mean about things getting fuzzy Heyes.  I’ve been feeling that myself.   Why would Seamus’ savings be in gold and why wouldn’t he put it in a bank?”  He saw Heyes raise his eyebrows and grin.  “Ok, so I guess that wouldn’t exactly insure its safety.”  He smiled back at his partner.  “But we don’t have a choice now.  Do we?” 

Heyes paused.  “I suppose not Kid.”  Letting his breath out, he whispered, “So, let’s just see what happens tonight and figure out how to get that gold and not get caught.” 

The two men settled down to watch the house and the comings and goings of its occupants. 

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

The two fairies hovered over the men, listening to their conversation.

“She didn’t say the spell wears off when they’re not near us.”  Ceara seemed disturbed. 

“Well, she didn’t seem too pleased to be tellin’ us anything at all, did she now?”  Briana countered.  “D’ya think she would’ov have told us everything?”

“I don’t know.  But we’ll just have to work harder at putting them under, won’t we.”

“D’ya think they’ll be all right once we’re gone, sister?”  I’m not of a mind to be hurtin them.”  Briana hovered above Kid

“Truth, sister, I wouldn’t have that.  They’re dear boys, sure enough.”  Ceara remarked as the green glow that was she and her sister floated away.

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

Heyes and Kid finished their surveillance of the ranch.  They felt comfortable that they knew how many people lived there and who lived at the main house and who lived in the bunk house.  Heyes had made a diagram of the house and identified the room he thought they should start in.  Satisfied with the information they now had.  They returned to the cottage. 

O’Rourke was no where in sight.  Probably still at the pub one of the girls had said.  So we’re all alone here tonight, the other girl had added.  They both giggled.  Such a fortuitous occurrence was not to be wasted.  A night for love, someone said.  Do you think we should?  Someone questioned.  There was no response, just quiet movements as the four separated into couples and, bidding each other good night, entered the two bedrooms at the end of the hall. 

 All four were fairly glowing when they arrived at breakfast the next morning.   And they continued glowing throughout the day. 

“Sealed the spell, eh girls?”  O’Rourke murmured as they passed by him in late afternoon.  But the two said nothing, merely smiled sweetly and ran to catch up with the boys who were waiting outside.

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

“So ye know how you’re gonna get me savin’s back, eh boys?”  It was the evening meal of the fourth day of the visit to Tara.  The roast made with a fine Irish whiskey had been perfect, as usual.  The apple fritters and coffee laced with whiskey had been perfect, as usual.  The girls had been perfect – even more so. 

The four, inseparable through the day, traded private looks throughout dinner.  Now the couples were talking in tones so soft that the old man could not hear.  O’Rourke looked suspicious, but said nothing, save his inquiry as to the plan for retrieving his treasure. 

“So, yer plan.  Tell me what you’re going to do, and don’t be leaving anything out.” O’Rourke repeated.  “Boys?” 

“What, oh, sorry Seamus.  Somehow, it’s just so easy to be distracted when your lovely nieces are in the room.”  Heyes’ eyes hadn’t moved from Ceara.

The girls giggled.  The four were sitting close together on the sofa.  

“Yes the girls can be distractin’, but not so much as to be persuading ye not to help an old man, now are they?”  O’Rouke’s voice was suspicious. 

Heyes sighed.  “Seamus, we’re going to help you.  It should be real simple.  Doonan plays cards almost every night.  All we have to do is wait till he goes to town, break into the house, find the safe, open it, find your money and come back here.  OK.”  He turned his attentions back to the girl in his arms.

“And can ye do that?  Can ye break into the house and the safe and get me savins?  Well can ye?” 

It was Kid’s turn.  “Seamus, that’s what we used to do.  Now don’t worry.  This will all work out.”  Kid was trying to concentrate on Briana and also to calm the agitated man down.

“When, when?  Tonight?  Will ye be goin’ tonight?”  O’Rourke was jumping up and down.  Both Heyes and Kid looked up at the screech coming from the man.  Blinking, they both looked at him.  Heyes shook his head.  Who or what was that.  O’Rourke looked smaller somehow.  And there was a strange glow in the room – a green glow and the buzz was louder than usual.

“Uncle, calm yourself.” Briana rose and went to O’Rourke, putting her hand on his arm.

“Yes, Uncle, you’ll be givin’ yourself a fit.”  Ceara put her hand on his other arm.

The man quieted down.  The glow disappeared.  Heyes rubbed his eyes.  Kid shook his head. 

“Sorry boys.  It’s all me’n the girls have.”  O’Rourke looked apologetic at his behavior. 

“It’s all right Seamus.  We’ll check out the house tonight and see if Doonan goes into town.  OK?”   Heyes didn’t know what else to say. 

“Thank ye boys.  Thank ye.  He reached out his hand and grasped theirs in turn shaking them heartily. 

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

And so it was that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry found themselves riding towards the house of rancher Frank Doonan on a clear night.  Neither man had said a word after they kissed the girls goodnight and started out.

“Heyes?”  Kid’s soft voice was crystal clear in the still night

“Yea, Kid.” 

“We’re doin’ the right thing, right?” 

“Well sure Kid, we talked about it, right?”  Heyes didn’t sound too convincing.

“We talked about it, yea.  Yea, I guess it’s all right.” 

“Anyway, it’ll be easy.  Why we’ll be in and out of there ‘fore anyone knows.   Right?” 

“Why sure.  I mean it’s not like it’s a bank or anything.  You can open the safe, right?”

“You’re suddenly questioning my ability to open a safe?”

“Nah, it’s, well it’s been a while.”

“I’ll open the safe, Kid.”

“First we gotta find the safe.”

“Well, how many places can it be, Kid?  We’ll find the safe, I’ll open it, you’ll watch my back.  It’ll be like old times.” 

 

 

“Yea, just like old times.”

Silence returned to the night.

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

“On your way to town Mr. Doonan?” 

“What, oh yes Carlos.  I’ll be playin’ cards at the Star.  You and the men can take the night off.  Should be plenty to do when the new stock arrives.  Might as well have some fun tonight.  Tell the men, all right?”  Frank Doonan was a large man with a genial manner. 

“The men’ll be grateful, Mr. Doonan.  Want anyone to stand watch here?”

“Nah, been pretty quiet all week.  You and the men go on.  Have some fun.”  With that he rode off.

Heyes and Kid looked at each other.  “Well I guess we’re still having good luck, right Kid?” 

“Yea, Heyes, that shamrock sure has been lucky.”  Kid no longer sounded like he entirely believed what he was saying.

They went back to watching the house. 

Within the hour they watched the house and out buildings empty.  “Kid, something’s wrong.  Maybe we should come back another night.”  Heyes had been fidgeting since Doonan left.  Looking back and forth from house to barn to bunkhouse.  From window to window in the main house.  “I don’t like it.  It’s too easy.”

“Heyes, you’re always looking for something to go wrong.  Maybe it is just the way it looks.  Anyway, we’re here.  And no one else is.  Can we just get it over with and get back to O’Rourke’s.”

“Yea, ok.  Sure.  Let’s just get it over with.”  Heyes sounded resigned.

 

 

The two men cautiously approached the house.  Hugging the shadows they found the large window in the room they had identified as Doonan’s study.  Heyes thought that was the best place to start looking for the safe.  He slid a thin metal bar through the space where the double windows met and grinned at Kid at the ‘snick’ the lock made as it flipped open.  He pushed the window open soundlessly.  Sitting on the ledge, he swung his legs in and stood in the dark room.  Kid followed watching Heyes light a candle he had brought with him.

“Close the window and pull the drapes.”  Heyes motioned to their entrance point.  Heyes dropped a couple of drops of candle wax on the base of a glass that was on the table in the corner of the room.  And set the candle now burning brightly on it’s crystal base on the desk.  Looking around, Kid watched his partner analyze all aspects of the room.  The dark eyes missed nothing.  They studied the paintings on the walls and the tapestry carpet on the paneled floor.  They stopped at a small painting about two foot square.  A smile creased Heyes’ face.  “That’s it, Kid”

“Heyes I don’t know how you do it.”  Kid’s voice expressed his admiration for his cousin’s prowess at finding the hidden safe.

“Aah it’s nothin’ Kid.  Just skill and brilliance.”  He smiled almost shyly at his own comment.   “And here we are…”  He moved the picture aside.  To find a blank wall.

“Heyes, I don’t know how you do it.”  Kid’s voice was a bit less admiring.

“Just testing the waters Kid.  Knew it wasn’t there all along.  Why, it’s right there.  Course, it’s behind that portrait.”  He pointed at a painting that had to be someone’s relative.  There wouldn’t be any reason for a portrait of such a pinch faced harridan to be hanging anywhere unless she was someone’s rich aunt.  “See, what’d I tell you.”  Kid didn’t see Heyes eyes close as he moved the portrait aside.

“Well, what’re you waiting for?  A brass band.  Are you goin’ to open it or what?”  Kid was beginning to sound annoyed.

Heyes opened his eyes and took a deep breath as he looked at the safe.  “Course I gonna open it” was what came out of his mouth; to himself he murmured, ‘at least I hope I’m gonna open it’

“What, you say somethin’?”

“Uh, no Kid, I’m gonna open the safe.”  He rubbed his hands together and coughed.  Pressing his ear to the safe he started working the dial.  Beads of sweat broke out on his upper lip and forehead as he tried to hear the tumblers click into place.  “Got it.” He said and frowned as the handle refused to move. 

“Uh huh.  Heyes, you sure you can still open these things?”  Kid was clearly nervous.

“Kid you’re showing remarkable lack of faith in my ability all of a sudden.”  He turned back and pressed his ear to the safe.  Minutes passed with the sound of two men breathing the only sound in the room.  “OK, this is it.”  He hesitated, feeling Kid’s eyes on him.  Once again, he closed his eyes and turned the handle.  The satisfaction that engulfed him as the handled turned and he pulled the door open was apparent to both men.

Kid just shook his head.   “Is that it?  In that pot?  Seamus said the gold was in a pot.”  He was pointing to a large iron pot in the center of the safe. 

“Must be.  Can’t imagine that there’d be more than one of them around.  Here, help me get it out.”  Heyes reached in the safe and pulled the heavy pot towards the opening.  Kid reached in and grasped the other side of the pot.  Together they lifted it to the desk.

Kid gave a low whistle.  The pot was full of hundred dollar gold pieces.  “Heyes, how much do you think is in this thing?” 

Heyes was running his fingers over the gold.  “Kid, I got no idea.  A lot.  Isn’t that beautiful.  Just look at how it shines.”  His eyes were fixed on the gold.

A noise outside brought both men back to their senses.  “How’re we gonna carry that thing without spilling the gold.”  Kid had moved to the window.  “Nothing.  We gotta get outta here, Heyes.”

“I know that Kid and I think I got just the thing.”  He had found a sling by the fireplace.  “Used to bring firewood in a little at a time.”  He announced. 

“Yea, Heyes I coulda figured that out.  Will it work to haul gold out?”  Kid was definitely annoyed.

“No reason it shouldn’t. Here, come help me.”  Together the two men lifted the heavy pot into the sling.  They made their way to the window and Kid climbed out still holding onto half of the pot.   When he was out he took hold of the pot and lifted it to the ground. 

Heyes returned to the safe, closed it, spun the dial and returned the portrait to its original position.   “Night Auntie” he whispered to the harridan.  He was sure she wouldn’t have anything kind to say about them.  He blew out the candle and put it in his pocket.  Moving cautiously letting his eyes adjust to the moonlit lit room, he returned the glass to its rightful place on the table and swept his arm around to disperse the smoke, took one last look around and climbed out the window.  He closed it, maneuvered the lock into place and joined Kid by the horses. 

Kid had found a heavy branch and slid it through the handles of the sling.  The branch rested on their saddles held fast by rope looped around the pommel.

And so Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry found themselves creeping back to the O’Rourke cottage the pot of gold swinging gently between them.

If silence had prevailed during the ride to the ranch, silence and tension filled the ride in reverse.  Neither man said a word.  Each concentrating on every step the horses took and each movement of the gold and on thoughts neither man felt inclined to express.

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

It felt like hours before they had found their way to the cottage.  O’Rourke ran out screaming.  The two girls close behind them

 

“Me treasure, me treasure.  Did ye get it?  Where is it?  If ye came back empty handed there’ll be a price to pay.  And if any is gone, you’ll live to regret stealing from Seamus O’Rourke.”  His voice was a screech and he was jumping from foot to foot.  The green glow was back. 

Heyes and Kid dismounted one at a time.  Very slowly.  Even more slowly, they lifted down the sling.  O’Rourke ran to them and grabbed Heyes’ arm.  He swung around.

“Seamus, no!!!” was all Heyes could get out.

“Me gold, me treasure.” O’Rourke cried as the gold spilled out onto the ground.  He fell into the golden puddle crying out in a language the two men did not understand.  “Go mba seacht bhfearr a bheas tú bliain ó inniu!” [5]

“Hannibal” Ceara cried and flung herself into his arms kissing him passionately.  “Come m’love.  Nothing need keep up apart anymore.”  She pulled him into the house

“Jed, A rún!” [6]  Briana echoed her sister’s actions.  “We can be together now, m’darling.”  They followed the other couple into the house.

The sound of two doors closing, soft laughter and O’Rourke’s screeching was all that could be heard in the still night.

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

Morning found two sleepy former outlaws sound asleep.  Each curled up next to a beautiful woman.  In soft beds, scented with Irish heather.  Blissfully dreaming of the prior night’s passion. 

Which was why it was such a surprise to suddenly hear male voices.  Shouting male voices.  Shouting, angry male voices. 

And an even bigger surprise when Heyes and kid opened their eyes to find they were staring at each other, not a beautiful woman.  And it wasn’t morning, but mid day.  And hot.  And they were lying on the ground, not in a soft bed.  And the only scent that was present resembled horses a lot more than heather.

“What the…?  Uh, Joshua.”  Kid started to sit up then saw the crowd.  He nudged Heyes with his boot.

“Don’t neither of you move or I’ll shoot you where you lie.”  Said the Sheriff who stood before them with his gun out and pointed directly at Kid’s chest. 

“I said don’t move.”  The sheriff did not seem to understand how confused the two men were.  “Is that the pot, Frank?”  He motioned his gun towards the big iron pot that somehow was lying on the ground at the feet of the two outlaws.

Heyes looked lost.  He was sifting the dirt between his fingers and looking around like he had no idea where he was.  Kid had managed to sit up and was sitting cross-legged looking at Heyes.

Heyes cleared his throat and ran his dusty fingers through his dark hair.  “Where’s Tara?”  Was all he could say. 

“Tara?  Son what’re you talking about.”  He started laughing.  He did lower his gun just a bit.  “This here’s Desert Springs.  Ain’t no place called Tara.  What there is though is you both and the jail in town, course, which is where you’re gonna be spending the day.  Get yourselves up.  Slowly”  The gun rose again. 

Heyes and Curry helped each other up, still sleepy and confused. 

“Just drop your gun belts on the ground and walk on over to me.”

They did as they were told, moving very slowly towards the sheriff.  They were looking around them as though they expected to see something that wasn’t there.

“Empty your pockets, boys.  You two got names?”  The Sheriff was still being polite.

“Uh, why sure we do Sheriff.  I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s my friend, Thaddeus Jones.  Heyes spoke while they both pulled out some coins from their pockets.  They looked at the Sheriff, holding the coin in their hands.

“Smith and Jones, huh?”  The Sheriff had a bad feeling about all this.

“That’s right Sheriff.”  He’s Smith and I’m Jones.”  Suddenly Kid really hated the fact that no one ever believed that line.

The Sheriff just stared at them, sighing to himself  ‘No, I won’t ask.’  What he did ask was, “That all ya got boys?”  The Sheriff squinted at the meager holdings.

“Yes, Sheriff.  That’s all.  Should there be more?”  Heyes’ head was clearing just a little.  He turned back and was looking at the empty pot. 

“Why’re ya bein’ so nice to them.  They stole my money.  And I want it back.”  They hadn’t even noticed Frank Doonan standing off to the side.  “There was over $25,000 in that pot, in gold.  And they took it.  And I want it back, Sheriff.  I don’t care if you have to beat it out of them.  I won it fair and square.” 

“Now Frank, there’s no need to be getting’ all excited.  These boys look harmless enough.  And they sure don’t have that kind of money on them.  Let’s just get them back to town and outta this infernal sun and we’ll just figure out what’s what.”  Turning his attention back to Heyes and Kid, “Now boys it’s hot and gettin’ hotter.  I’d hate to have to chase after you two in this desert, knowing there’s no place for you to go anyway.  If you give me your word not to do anything real stupid like runnin’ away, I won’t tie your hands and we’ll have a nice pleasurable ride back to town.  All right with you?”  The Sheriff nudged his hat back on top of his head and looked squarely at the two men.

“Uh, sure Sheriff.  We haven’t done anything wrong.  $25,000?  In that pot?  Why would we try to run away?  Anyway, we don’t appear to have transportation.”  Heyes looked behind him at empty desert.  “Sheriff, are you sure there’s no place around here called Tara.  Real pretty little town, green hills, flowers.”

“Yea, Sheriff.  And the O’Rourke’s.  Seamus O’Rourke and his nieces Briana and Ceara.  Briana delivered vegetables to the hotel in town.  Ya must have seen her.”  Kid was also looking around while he was talking.

“Twins, Sheriff.  Two of them.  Beautiful, red hair, green eyes.”  Heyes watched the Sheriff look at him strangely.  He knew how silly what they were saying sounded. 

“Now look boys.  I know it’s hot out here.  How long did you say you’d been out in the desert?  There’s no place called Tara around here.  And if there were beautiful twin girls anywhere close by, I’d sure know about it.   Nothing around here like what or who you’re talking about.  So, let’s just get you out of this heat.  Maybe all this will make more sense to you and you can tell us what you did with Mr. Doonan’s $25,000.  That sound all right to you?”

“Well Sheriff, getting in out of this heat sure sounds good.”  Heyes was putting the coins back in his pocket.  “But we didn’t take any money.  And there was a town.”

“And two girls.”  Kid wasn’t about to forget that.      

The Sheriff sighed.  “Well if that’s the story you want to stick with.  We’ll see how long you keep saying that stuff once we get inside.”

  “OK, now no sudden moves.  Let’s go, then.”  He allowed Heyes and Curry to move in front of him.  “Hold up.  You two will need to be ridin’ double.  We didn’t bring extra mounts.”  He held the men, while Doonan and the other towns men mounted.   They, in turn covered Heyes and Curry while the Sheriff mounted.  Finally, he signaled for the two to mount the remaining horse.  Kid first, Heyes following.  

And so it was that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry returned to the dry desert town they had thought never to see again.

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

“Heyes, where’s the house and the town?  Where are the girls?   And Seamus.  Heyes, what’s goin’ on?’  Kid’s voice was a taut hiss.

“Kid I wish I knew.  Did we dream all of it?  Nah, I remember the way Ceara…, uh I mean we’d know if we were dreamin’ right?”  One thing about Hannibal Heyes, he hated not knowing the answer to a question.  And this was a big question.  How can an entire town and all the people who lived there vanish in a single night?  And why would they?  And where was the gold?  And the girls?    Well the buzz in his head was still there.  He smiled in spite of their predicament.  At least that was still there.  

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

Behind them two spots of green floated over the desert watching their departure.    “Sure, tis a shame to be leavin’ the boys like this.”  

“Aye, so pretty and gentle too.” 

“True enough, sister, nary a bit of meanness in either of ‘em.” 

“Uncle will be unforgiving’ if we stay.” 

“Aye, but I’m of a mind to do it anyway.”

And the spots melted away in the wind.

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

The Tale Told

They drew quite a crowd as they had rode into town.  The town seemed to have a lot more people wandering around than the first time they had seen it.  Well why wouldn’t it?  They both looked at each other as if to say, sure, of course. 

“Well, at least it’s cooler in here.”  Heyes smiled at Kid, who glared at him in response.  They were locked up. 

The elderly woman who owned the restaurant brought them cold lemonade and fresh cookies, saying, “Such nice boys like that.  Shame they’re criminals.”

They’ weren’t entirely sure how to thank her, but they managed a polite “Much obliged, ma’am.” 

Heyes seemed to regain a bit of his good mood.  “See Kid, that hotel clerk didn’t know where the good food was in town.’  Kid failed to see the humor in his comment. 

The Sheriff, Doonan and the others had gone to get some lunch.  “We’ll be back in a while boys.   You want something to eat?”  The Sheriff was not one of those types who though beating and starving prisoners was a good thing.  He was a civilized man. 

“That’d be nice Sheriff, if you don’t mind.”   Regardless of the circumstances, Kid Curry could always eat. 

“Not at all.  We’ll see what Nancy’s got cooking today.”  And they left.

The Deputy dozed in his chair, leaving Heyes and Curry relative privacy.

“What’s goin on?”  Kid’s whisper was angry and confused.

“Kid I don’t know.”  Heyes shrugged his shoulders and held up a hand to quiet his partner.  “I don’t know.  Maybe it was the heat.  Maybe we did dream it.  Once the Sheriff gets back we’ll have him wire Lom.  That should be enough.”  He sat on the cot and held his head.  “I wish my head would stop buzzing.  What did we drink last night?  I don’t even remember having anything.”  He ran both hands through the long dark locks, leaving it tousled in all directions.  

“OK, let’s try and figure this out.  We went to Doonan’s.  And you opened the safe.”  Kid was being the reasonable one this time.  “And we didn’t have anything to drink, that I do remember.”  He stopped, then turned to look at his partner.  “Your head is still buzzing too?”

“Yea Kid, like I got an angry hornet up there.  And it’s making my head hurt.    OK, we got to Doonan’s, got the gold, went back to O’Rourke’s.  Right?”  He looked up at Kid, who nodded and sat down beside his cousin.  “Does it get a little fuzzy from there?”

“Yea, a little.  I remember Briana though.”  He looked at Heyes.  “I don’t remember much after she kissed me.”  A big smile crossed his face. 

Heyes looked up.  Wearing an equally dazzling smile.   “Yea Kid, after Ceara kinda jumped into my arms and kissed me, things to get a little foggy.  But I do remember we were in bed.”  The last words said emphatically.  His smile became just a bit sheepish and he blushed.  “Well, you know what I mean.”

“Yea, Heyes I know exactly what you mean.  Cause that’s were we were too. Heyes, I couldn’t have imagined that?  Could I?”  Kid looked earnestly at Heyes.

“Nah Kid.  Your imagination’s not that good.”  The two looked at each other with dead seriousness, until Heyes cracked and a tiny grin played around his mouth.  He slapped his cousin on the back.

Kid relaxed and smiled back.  “Well then where did the girls go and the town?  Heyes, this isn’t getting’ any clearer.”

“Kid, is the buzz getting louder or is it just me?”  Heyes went back to holding his head. 

“It’s getting louder.”  Kid put his hands over his ears trying to block it out. 

Holding their heads like they were was probably why they failed to notice the green glow or hear soft whispering voices that could both be seen and heard through the open door that led to the office.

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

“Think that will be enough, sister?” 

“Aye, more and we’ll never be rid of him.” 

The green glow dissolved to two ethereal figures with long golden hair, delicate figures and green eyes.  They were standing on either side of the deputy who was still dozing in the chair; he now had a big smile on his face. 

One of the figures sighed,  ‘Well, his dreamin’ will be puttin’ a smile on his face, sure enough.”  She said with a mischievous smile on her face. 

“Aye, the dream will be lovely.  But will he be doin’ what we want when he wakes up?”  They glanced down at the sleeping man and then back at the cells.

“Sister, I don’t imagine we should be visitin’ the two of them.” 

Looking longingly at the cellblock, the other said “Twas hard enough to leave them last night.  And if we stay with them, they’ll be lost.  Losin’ all power to think for themselves and just followin’ us around like lost puppies.”

“Not altogether a bad thing, sister.”  The figure shook her head – causing  green sparkles to sprinkle through the air.    “No, these two, they’re special.  And they’re not for us.”

“Maybe just one more dream for the boys too, sister.  For sayin’ goodbye.”

“Well for sayin’ goodbye, aye, that’s only mannerly.”  The figures vanished. 

The deputy slept on, the smile broadening on his unshaved face.

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

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were still sitting on the cot.  And they were still holding their heads.  They’d stopped talking.  Well there was no reasonable explanation, anyway, so what was to be gained from talking. 

Kid knew what he was in for.  Silently he thought of the days and weeks ahead.  Assuming they’d get out of jail, of course.  Well Heyes should be able to handle that.   After all they had no money when they’d been picked up.  Just that miserable iron pot.  And no Sheriff would think they could be stupid enough to steal $25,000 in gold and then fall asleep in the middle of the desert.  At least he hoped no Sheriff would be that stupid.  And Lom would vouch for them. 

No, what Kid Curry feared more than the Sheriff or the jail cell he now occupied was his cousin.  His cousin when there was a problem than needed solvin’ and that couldn’t be solved quickly and easily.  He knew there would be questions, endless questions - how’d that happen or when we did this, did this happen?  He knew Heyes would chew at this like a hungry dog chews at an old bone.  Trying desperately to find a fragment of meat he’d somehow missed at previous chewings.  Heyes would replay every moment of their time over and over until Kid would be close to punching him, just to keep him quiet.  He shook his head trying to lose the vision that kept surfacing in front of him.  He only hoped that the solution would be quick in coming.  He hated to think what he’d have to do to Heyes if it didn’t. 

 

 

Hannibal Heyes, on the other hand, was already working on the problem.  He was replaying every minute of everything that had happened over the past five days.  Five days.  How was it possible?  Five days.  He sighed.  And he went back to sorting out all the details and filing them in their appropriate places.  And putting big check marks next to all those details that didn’t have places to be filed and question marks next to all those details that didn’t have, well that just didn’t have. 

He glanced at his cousin who was shaking his head.  Poor Kid.  Heyes knew that Kid knew that life was about to take a turn for the difficult.  He wished he could assure his cousin that he’d let it lie.  That whatever happened wouldn’t plague him until he drove his cousin to violence.  But, of course, he couldn’t assure Kid of that.  Because they both would know he was lying.  And he would never lie to Kid.  So that was that.  He shrugged his shoulders.  Sometimes there’s just no way out of things.  He propped his face in his hands and closed his eyes to think.   

Text Box:  The sisters hovered behind the two men, the soft green glow lighting the cell.  It drifted closer to the cousins, who were so engrossed in their own thought, they were impervious to it.  What they were not impervious to was the buzz in their heads that seemed to come and go as frequently as coins in their pockets or the sudden warmth that flooded over them or the scent of heather that fragranced the cell or the feeling that they had just been kissed and the words ‘goodbye, m’love’ whispered into their ears. 

Together they looked up and around the cell and finally at each other.  Blue eyes met brown.  A thousand words passed between the two, all unspoken.  Tales of fairy dust and a leprechaun’s magic and a town that wasn’t there.  Two little boy smiles ended the conversation.  They still didn’t know how it all happened, but they agreed on one thing.  It sure felt good.

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

 

“Lamar, glad you’ve been watching our prisoners.”  The Sheriff was very intelligent and very sarcastic.  He’d had to spend a perfectly good hour listening to Frank Doonan rant and rave about pots of gold and thieves and not being able to trust anyone and the three wishes he was supposed to have but traded. 

He didn’t know exactly what that last bit meant, but if he were to be perfectly honest, he didn’t care.  Frank Doonan was a blowhard.  Likely as not he cheated someone out of some money and wasn’t willing to take the penalty for that.  And he had made the Sheriff gulp the cherry pie that Nancy Wilkes had made special just for him.  And which was now causing his insides to feel like he had swallowed a big piece of his Aunt Mary’s Christmas Fruitcake.  He shuddered at the memory.  “Are the prisoners still here, Lamar?”

“Why sure Sheriff.  No one’s moved an inch.  Nothing’s happened at all, ‘ceptin’ of course, that I figured it all out.”  No one would have ever called Lamar Fitch smart.  Dumb as a rock, yep that would have been closer.  Right now Lamar was hitching up his overalls and grinning as though the essential truth of life itself had been reveled to him.

The sheriff looked at his deputy.  He sighed deeply and uttered the words he just knew he would live to regret.  “OK, Lamar.  Tell us exactly what you know about what happened to Mr. Doonan’s money.” 

“The little people took it.”  He said those words proudly.  Matter of factly.  Smiling as broadly as the day some fool had pinned the star to the front of those same overalls. 

The Sheriff knew his mouth was open.  He just didn’t know what exactly to say.  He closed his mouth.  Then opened it again.  Words continued to fail to come to him.  He closed his eyes, hoping that when he opened them again Lamar Fitch and Frank Doonan and for that matter Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones would just have disappeared.  He opened his eyes slowly.  ‘Nope.  Lamar was still grinning like a complete fool.  Doonan was red faced and furious.  OK, well it was a thought, anyway.’

 

He took a very deep breath.  “Thank you Lamar.  Yes, that certainly would explain it all.”  He started down the hall to the cells to check the prisoners.  ‘Maybe the little people had taken them too.  He sort of hoped they had.  He’d really have to do something ‘bout Lamar.  Maybe the heat had gotten to them all.  Or maybe it had gotten to him and he was the one hearing things.’  He groaned and turned back for another look. 

  He met Doonan’s eyes.  They were not laughing.  They weren’t even angry.  They were scared.  ‘What the hell was goin’ on.’

“Frank, you know anything about this?”  He said evenly. 

“Me, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sheriff.  I demand you find my money and stop blaming me for all this.  I didn’t do anything but play a simple game of cards.  It was a simple trade.  You talk to those two.  And get my money back!”  Doonan was sweating.  Not unheard of in the desert in the afternoon.  But this was a different kind of sweating.  The kind that told the Sheriff he was in for an afternoon no one would believe even if he had the guts to tell them.

“OK, no one say anything.  I’m getting those two young fellas and we’re gonna have this all out.  Right here and right now.  And when we’re done I’ll know who stole the money, full grown men or little people or bats in the belfry for that matter.  All of you just sit down.  No one move.”  We’ll just see about this.  Sheriff Bradley Willright was master of this domain.  “Little people” he muttered disgustedly on his way back to the cells.

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

“Ok, you two.  Git on out here.  We’re gonna have this out right now.”  The sheriff unlocked the cell door and motioned the two men out.  “Let’s go.”

“Why sure Sheriff, nothin’ we’d like more than to clear our names.”  Heyes was all smiles. 

The sheriff just looked at them.  “Clear your names?  Smith and Jones? Those names?”

Heyes and Curry just smiled and nodded, looking as innocent as they could manage.

“Uh, huh.  Out there.  And the way things are goin’, I’d be just as happy to shoot you where you stand as listen to whatever tale you’re gonna give me.  So when I tell you it’s your turn to tell me what happened think real careful, ‘four ya open your mouth.  Got it?”  Sheriff Willright was fast becoming irritable.

“Sure do Sheriff.  And we won’t be doin’ anything to make you want to shoot us.”  Kid was the voice of reason.

The sheriff just nodded.  “Uh huh.”

“Sheriff I demand you lock those two back up until they tell you where the money is.”  Doonan started in again.

“But Sheriff Willright, I tell you it was the leprechaun.  It came to me real sudden.” Lamar was insistent.

“Leprechaun - you moron.  There’s no such thing as leprechauns.  Are you crazy?”  Doonan was equally forceful.

Doonan and Lamar were facing each other, shouting at the top of their voices.  Heyes and Kid looked at them, at the Sheriff’s angry face and made a decision.  They slowly walked to the chairs on either side of the pot-bellied stove, sat down and continued their attempts to look very innocent. 

The sheriff looked at his office.  Once a center of calm.  Now a sea of crazy people.  It was way to hot for all this exertion.  “Will you all just shut up!”  He shouted.   Lamar and Doonan finally did just that. 

“But Sheriff…” Lamar started.

Sheriff Willright held up his hand.   “OK, Lamar, seein’ as you’re so all fired excited.  Tell us all about the little people.”   He closed his eyes, thinking how much he all of a sudden regretted saying that.

Lamar Fitch sensed he was about to say something that could change his entire future.  He scratched his head.  And cleared his throat.  And looked around at the four other men. 

“Well, Lamar get on with it.”  Sheriff Willright ordered.

“Well, Sheriff, it’s like this.”  Lamar was working harder than he was used to.

Heyes turned to kid.  “Think Kyle has a brother, Kid?”  He whispered.

Kid choked on the coffee he had just started drinking.

They both were instantly cherubic when the sheriff glared at them.

“Lamar, just say what you know.  Don’t make no big fuss about it.”  It was better to pretend Lamar was about ten.

“OK, Sheriff.  It’s like this.  When you went over to Miss Nancy’s for lunch, I guess I musta dozed off.  And I had this dream, ‘cept it wasn’t.  It was real.  There were two of them…” 

Lamar was interrupted as both Heyes and kid choked at the same time.  “Two of who?”  Heyes got out.

“You two be quiet and let him finish.  Next man makes a sound that ain’t Lamar, I’m gonna hog tie and gag him.”

Without saying a word, Kid asked Heyes if he heard what Lamar said.  Heyes responded he certainly did, and what did Kid think he could do about it.  It was amazing to watch the two men communicate without saying anything.

“Two girls.  Well at least they looked like girls.  But they weren’t.  They had the prettiest green eyes, and hair, real long…” Lamar stopped.  He got lost real easy.

“Lamar.  You’re saying two girls visited you in this here jail.   While we we’re over eatin’.  That right?”  He waited.  “Lamar?”

“Huh? Oh, yea sheriff.  Well, no not exactly.  They weren’t real girls.  They were fairies and they lived with the leprechaun.  And they said that Mr. Doonan had stolen the leprechaun’s gold and these boys just took it back, and it wasn’t stealing or anything like that, and if it was then Mr. Doonan was the thief cause he got the little fella drunk and then just took the treasure instead of the wishes.”  Lamar stopped. 

Everybody stopped.

Doonan, who had inched closer to the door stopped.

The sheriff who was pouring a cup of coffee stopped in mid pour.

And Heyes and Kid just sat there with the oddest expressions on their faces, coffee cups in mid air.  Leprechauns and fairies.  Even Heyes who at the very least carried a bit of the blarney stone with him at all times couldn’t have come up with that story.  Problem was, they both knew it was the truth. 

Lamar looked like he was going to collapse from the exhaustion of telling the tale. 

“And they told you this, Lamar, because…?”  Sheriff Bradley Willright was not prone to fairy tales.  Later, when asked, he could not for the life of him figure out why he even asked the question.  His instincts were telling him to just shoot Lamar where he stood.  Not normally a violent man, the Sheriff really wanted to shoot something.

“Well, they said they didn’t want any harm to come to those boys.”  He looked down at the floor and shuffled his scuffed boots. “They was kinda sweet on them boys.”  He looked at Heyes and Curry with new respect. 

For their part, Heyes and Kid had gone from astonishment to wonder.  They looked up to find the sheriff looking at them.  Wonder changed back to astonishment and pure innocence.  They shrugged their shoulders.  “Uh, Sheriff…” Kid, started to explain, what he wasn’t sure. 

It didn’t matter.

“Quiet, Smith.” Willright waved the gun at him.

“I’m Jones, he’s Smith.”  Kid pointed at Heyes.

The sheriff just glared.  He was ready to shoot all of ‘em right now.  Whatever the consequences.  ‘What ever happened to a simple saloon brawl.  That’s what he became sheriff to deal with.  Men.  Saloons.  Guns.  Fights.  Not little people and fairies and half witted deputies.’

“Is that all Lamar?”  ‘As if that wasn’t enough.’  At the deputy’s nod, Willright looked at Doonan.  “All right Frank.  What do you have to say to all that.”

Four sets of eyes turned to the man who was standing by the door.   Who returned their stare with a look that tried to say, ‘You’re kidding, right? Leprechauns and fairies.  Dim wit Lamar and the little people.’  What came out was actually, “It was an honest card game.  You know I don’t need to cheat.  There was this fella and he was a little drunk.  Smoking this long pipe.  Boy that thing really smelled bad.”

Heyes groaned and closed his eyes.  Kid gave him a well that helps look. 

“What’s the matter with him?”  What Sheriff Willright did not need right now was a dead prisoner.  Unless of course he decided to shoot them all.  Well that would be different.  And he was very close.

“Heat.  He hates heat.”  Kid said earnestly.  Heyes looked up, gave the very best feeble grin he could.

“Go on Doonan.”  He stopped and sniffed the air.  “What is that smell?”

Heyes and Kid grinned.  The grins grew and grew until their faces were shining with full, warm smiles.  “Heather, Sheriff.  Irish heather.”  Heyes spoke directly to Doonan.  “Ya know.  The stuff that grows where the little people live.”

Sheriff Willwright glared malevolently at Heyes.  ‘Another crazy one.  Maybe it is the heat.  Maybe I shoulda taken that nice job back east.’  He just sighed.  “Irish heather or Spanish moss.  I don’t give a dad gummed… Now listen.  Doonan.  You finish up what you were saying.  And do it quick.”  Willright was waving his gun around frantically.

That didn’t matter either. 

Heyes’ words had not been lost on Doonan.  The man was shaking so hard it looked like he wouldn’t be able to speak at all.  Everyone knew that a leprechaun’s joy was a wonderful thing to share; a leprechaun’s wrath was a terrible thing indeed especially if it was a mortal man who had done the leprechaun wrong.    

 

 “Willright, you’ve got to protect me.  I didn’t get him drunk.  He did it all by himself.  I mean, it isn’t my fault if he can’t hold his whiskey.  And he was the one bragging about treasure.  And then all of a sudden, he wasn’t what he was.  He was all wrinkled and he had this pointed hat and I just had hold of him and he was sayin’ how I’d caught him fair and square and the treasure or three wishes were mine, and I know about leprechaun’s wishes so I took the treasure.  So it’s mine, right?  And then these two took it.”  And then just like Lamar, he stopped.

And the room grew quiet again. 

And Heyes and Curry were trying not to laugh. 

Lamar however, newly vindicated, was cackling like never before.  He’d bested the richest man in town and even better, he’d met a fairy.  Two.   Girls.  Pretty girl fairies.  He blushed at the thoughts in his head.

And Sheriff Bradley Willright threw his coffee cup across the room where it bounced off the wall and spun happily on the ground for a good two minutes until it finally clattered to a stop. 

All eyes followed the cup.

“Doonan – get out.”  The Sheriff was done with all of this.

“But what about my gold?”  Doonan was persistent, not too bright, but persistent.  At the look the Sheriff gave him, all he said.  “Never mind.”  He picked up his hat and left the office, mumbling something about how unfair all this was.

“You two!”  Two heads jerked up at the sheriff’s words.  One dark, one fair, as different as night and day, at the moment equally angelic and completely innocent.  They faced Willright.  The sheriff just muttered something unprintable under his breath.  “Get out.  Don’t say a word.  Just get out.”

“But, sheriff…” Kid had stood up as the Sheriff said “out” the first time.”

“I said, don’t say anything.  Or so help me I’ll lock you both up and forget where I throw the Key.”

“Sheriff, I think my friend was only going to ask about our guns.”  Heyes spoke quickly and softly, believing the Sheriff meant exactly what he said.

The only answer was a growl and a desk drawer being yanked open.  “Get ‘em and get out.”

“Where might we find some horses…?” Heyes spoke while tying down his gun.

“We’ll find them on our own, Sheriff.  Thank you for your hospitality.  We’ll just be on our way now.”  Kid took Heyes arm and nearly dragged him out of the office.

************************* 

The livery was more than happy to sell the two a couple of old horses and the even older tack they needed.   Neither man had the courage to look at the other when, in searching for money to complete the purchase, they both found five shiny $100 gold pieces in pockets where previously there had only been lint. 

Heyes offered one of the pieces to the stable man who looked at them differently and changed his mind about the availability of good horses and proper saddles and gear.

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

“Heyes?  OK, OK, I was only gonna suggest we get something to eat.”  Kid didn’t look like he wanted to talk about it anymore than Heyes did.  They were leading their horses out of the stable. 

So eat they did.  The waitress was that motherly woman, named Nancy who decided both boys were too thin and kept bringing food to the table until even Kid couldn’t eat any more.  She was rewarded not only with a very large monetary tip, but a kiss on each cheek from the two men.  It was easy to see which tip she preferred.  She may have been motherly, but she was still female.

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

Two hours after their unceremonious release from jail, Heyes and Curry found themselves on the dusty trail out of town.

‘Heyes, we can just ride in the other direction you know.”  Kid knew this was futile.  He just knew that he had to try.

“Nah, we can’t Kid.  Don’t you want to see if anything is there?  I mean, well, I don’t know what I mean Kid.  Do you?”  Heyes was genuinely perplexed.  And he didn’t like it.  Not one bit.

“Do I know what you mean?  Heyes, I don’t usually know what you’re talkin’ bout.  I sure don’t plan on startin’ now.”

“Yea, but we were there.  I mean The food was real.  O’Rourke.  That miserable pipe.  The girls.  Kid, the girls were real.  I know that.  I mean, that couldn’t have been a dream.” 

“Maybe old Lamar was right, Heyes.  Maybe it was a leprechaun’s spell.  And maybe the girls were fairies.”  He stopped his horse and looked out over the dry brown landscape.  Kid had finally said what both men had been thinking ever since the Sheriff had let them out of their cells. 

“Stop it Kid.  There’s no such thing as leprechaun’s and fairies.  Those are just stories.  It was the heat.  Just the heat.  Must have been the heat.”  He heard himself sounding desperate.  Hannibal Heyes was a man who needed to have facts.   ‘At least a heat induced dream was something he could believe in.’ He took off his black hat and wiped his forehead with his sleeve.   ‘No, that didn’t make any more sense than little people.’  His head hurt from trying to make sense of any of this.   “The rest is just superstition, that’s all.”

“You mean like the shamrock, Heyes?”  Kid suddenly felt in his pocket.

Heyes spoke almost reverently.  “The shamrock.  Ya know, I forgot all about that thing.  Ya still got it?”  His voice was very soft.  He didn’t look at Kid, but out at the landscape.  Something soft and green in the distance.  Moving towards them.

“Heyes.”  Kid was watching the same spot of green; the shamrock clutched in his fist.

Then they were there.  Floating next to the two men.  The green glow becoming the two girls.  Long golden hair floating in soft curls over porcelain skin covered by diaphanous green gowns, sparkling in the sun. 

And O’Rourke.  “Ah, me boys.  Never let it be told that a leprechaun doesn’t protect those that treat him well.  Thank ye, boys.”  With a cackle he was gone.

The men felt their eyes close.  Heyes felt something soft touch his face.  Kid felt soft pressure on his lips.  “Till tomorrow, m’loves.” They heard the soft lilt of the voices they knew.  And then there was nothing.   And when they opened their eyes, they had only desert in front of them.

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

Neither man said anything for a long time.  Both savoring the memory of that last kiss each had received. 

They rode in silence out of the desert.  Away from Desert Springs or Tara or whatever exactly it was. 

They camped that night close to another town.  Neither man spoke more than the minimum of words.  “I’ll start the fire.”  “You make the coffee.”

It was unspoken, that both wanted to be out under the stars this particular night.  Not in a hotel room.  Images of Irish eyes and intoxicating smiles followed their dreams through the night’s sound sleep.

*************************  

They were riding again at daybreak.  Towards San Francisco. 

“Say Kid” 

‘Yea Heyes”

“You still got that shamrock?”

“Yea Heyes.  Why?’

 

“Ya think that thing would work in a poker game?”  Heyes turned to his cousin.  His face was glowing with mischief.  His dark eyes positively dancing.  And the dimple, well that only appeared when Heyes was very happy, for whatever reason.

Kid studied his cousin for a moment.  Then matched his smile with one of his own.  And went beyond it with a laugh.  A hearty laugh that made his blue eyes sparkle.  “Well cousin, let’s go find out.”

A cloud of dust was Heyes’ response. 

************************* 

“Uncle?  Have you even been to San Francisco?” 

“Why, no m’dears.  But I understand it’s a wicked city…”

Text Box:

 

 



1A “dudeen” is the traditional pipe smoked by the leprechaun emitting an extraordinarily foul aroma

[2] Magpie is a famous board game of ancient Ireland.  Unless you have years of practice behind you, it is unwise to pay magpie against a leprechaun. He will usually let you win the first coupe of rounds, raising the stake each time, and then take you for all you are worth. 

[3] Leprechaun’s actually guard fairies treasure.  They just think it’s theirs!

[4] The Lianhan Shee is the love fairy.  The most powerful of fairies when it comes to casting spells over mortal men.  They are powerless to fight off her influence and ultimately end up destroyed when she’s though with them.

[5] May you be seven times better a year from today!

[6] O love